Insyriated : A Film Review


Insyriated

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

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

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

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

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

War in a day.

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

Our interior lives.

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

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

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

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Humanitarian chains.

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion ####4

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

        

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

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

John Graham

14 September 2017

Belfast

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

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The Farthest : A Film Review

The Farthest


Director and Screenwriter Emer Reynolds.  Camera (color, widescreen, HD): Kate McCullough. Editor: Tony Cranstoun. Music: Ray Harman.  Duration 2hrs 1min.   Genre. Film feature Documentary.   Completed 2016. Ireland.   Rating PG.

A Crossing the Line production, in association with HHMI Tangled Bank Studios, The Irish Film Board/Bord Scannán Na héireann, in co-production with ZDF, in cooperation with Arte, BBC, RTE, PBS. Distributed by Abramorama. Producer: John Murray, Clare Stronge. Executive producers: John Rubin, Keith Potter, Sean B. Carroll, Dennis Liu.

The Farthest – Worlds away
How do you tell a complex story?  This film achieves it by following the most precious measure of all. Time. They do it chronologically.  From the launch within two weeks of each other in August 1977 to today forty years of knowledge has been accumulated giving us insights and tools needed to survive.  In providing an extraordinary and educational insight to the Voyager Missions, the Irish Writer, Director, Emer Reynolds propels the viewer through an array of adventures in space, planet to planet. It is the story of Voyager 1 which set off second to Voyager 2 and soon went by its slower less functional twin, into our Solar system, setting a course for the Planets in a mission, confined in planning, to visit with no stopover, Jupiter, Saturn but by the technical and intellectual thrust of the missions authors and controllers, succeeded in going on further with some deft reprogramming to Uranus and onward to the 4th gas planet Neptune.  Voyager 1 apparently is 12 billion miles away currently though you would need to check with NASA to be accurate.


Flight

Each journey on flight was a discovery beyond the NASA teams wildest expectations.  Even now in this film the achievement is under appreciated.  The team participants – descriptions, titles of their respective roles are displayed, are telling the story in screened interviews, talking heads with brains planet size, while often emoting humuorously with visually amazement of what in meant and now means. Eyes are popping in aghast of some telling a story.

On “The Farthest” Emer Reynolds explains: “We wanted to speak to a general audience, not just super science geeks like myself.”   It is enhanced by his structure, honed while writing it and the steady intuitive grace of Kate McCullough’s excellent cinematography.   As you might imagine the photography at cinema screen 4K interpolated, from 2K is stacked full of outstanding display of the NASA images. We see a computer – like Excel infant – table frequently and it looks  like a child’s bookmark.  The layout is 1. A box with a picture in it. Top tag header is VG1 and across Saturn or whichever it relates to. Beside that image 2. are two small boxes one on top of the other giving a ‘wav’ – radio wavelength file – of the incoming signals which are transported to the first box as images. This is rudimentary but this is what we or the boffins/brains in Building 102 gets back from that distant small object which punches out extrodinary visions which are packed full of information it will take years to analyse wth much future help expected via. AI.

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The Golden Record

Look and Learn

The last photographic signals we know that will come from Voyager are back here on earth. The vessel carries on with radio signals returning information of it going ever more distant at a speed of 10 miles per second through interstellar space. Going Farthest.  The science is laid out here in a layman terms but you require and are pulled into it by the – if you had been paying attention to the story so far – the what happens next fix.  Jeopardy exists everywhere.  In the beginning was a Government, in the beginning there was a budget. Then they had to recruit the best minds to build it from its concept, inception, a vessel with three enormous arms that would unfold once through the Asteroid belt, like a lotus flower exploring the sky and seeking its life from beneath in the mineral mix of its own body and payload – the Human representing the nutrients – to the light it engages with as energy for the Sun our own life source.

The vessel is like a brain and inside it is what is called the Golden Record. This gets a lot of airtime and coverage mainly due to the fact journalists and non-geeks love to know how Johnny Be Good will be accepted and appreciated in the far of extra-terrestrial zone Voyager ventures into.  It is literally a half speed long playing record with boxed alongside a stylus and IKEA kit diagram of operating instructions without words.   In order that we keep with the complexity, as the film continues, short paragraphs appear and extend, dissolve as something needs clarified in the written word. The big picture paragraphs the author has highlighted above the spoken word. When the unexplained happens language requires stillness and read. There are no excuses or reasons why this film cannot fill the void of knowledge of non-geeks as those who have been ask to put their own words to their part of it advance thoughts which have been gathere, been dissected, altered and polished in their heads for forty odd years.  It is full of stimulating beautiful phraseology and delivered with enormous gravitas while being so matter of fact about it which it clearly emphatically is.


I interrupt this message

To any alien species Voyager could seem like, it is just a container of entrails, maybe of a body the vessel itself might seem only the outer form of an inner wonder.   It is animal like though one scientist will not allow himself to anthropomorphise the Voyagers 1 and 2.   Maybe the ‘encountered’ will have destroyed Voyager 1 as it is taken to be itself alien.  Then in its coat tails along comes another. Voyager 2 which ‘they/it’ we haven’t been introduced properly, might be less antagonistic to Craft 2 and take it for what it is – a vessel of minerals constructed and assembled of the earths finest skills, put together back in 1977 symbolic of our progress since inhabiting the earth.   The Golden Record is an ambiguous pictorial and written record. Not available through Amazon or other outlets.  It is unlikely it contains war or weaponry photos though one photograph is of a human stalking an animal with a spear.   No images of the Gamehunter slaying a tiger or Elephant form the back of a Land Rover Discovery or other SUV on their holidays.  Only one quote will go down here in this review – and only part – ‘if they even have heads!’ which obviously is regarding the unknown destiny.

The Golden Record is our message apparently of our place in the universe diagrammatically configured with the known universe laid out in a linear diagram.

It is this composition of Earths minerals and knowledge which will travel beyond our time and earths time into the interstellar universe of possibilities.  As the naysayers preceding Galileo/Copernicus’s theories may have had it, requiring modification of the Bible. (Galileo Galilei) 1564–1642, the Italian physicist only partially solved the solar systems behaviours. Voyager on the other hand could come to  the crunch as it hits a wall of termination and its progress it halted with the unknown on the other side multiples of billions, trillions, in a world away outside our Solar system.  Quantum physics tells us Neutrons pass through us and the globe is transmutable while the electron exchanges we only glimpse, possess us in our temporality.  They engage and construct us and we are each separate assemblies of their manifestations.

Much is given over in the film to the reasoning and compilation of this and many conjectures, as it is the missions task to learn and then inform of our limited time as a planet. 5 million years left!


Big energy

Voyagers power is tiny in comparison to the surrounding atmospheres.  The reach of its plutonium powered lights are on a trajectory taking it further than the 2 billion miles, 3 billion at Neptune, it has put between us and its current location. Outer outer space is where it has gone. That is known as the interstellar cosmos. As Galileo once redefined our vision, so this tiny Voyager full of the modern technology available in April 1977, is on a mysterious journey.  It is the mysterious traveller those wonderkids of the seventies thought would provide new possibilities they Part imagined and described as of the infinite kind. The achievement went to the boundaries of their dreams and beyond their expectations of its capacity to enlighten.  Light is emitted from the battery but the darkness it enters is dense and un-encountered and it no longer is live.
Part of the understanding developed with Big Bang theory is that everything has Big energy (dark matter) passing through it.  Neutrons bouncing through us and everything else. The darkness of space is an energy unknown but ultimately our survival is reliant – other than the human self-destruct button of climate and a habitable world being activated – appears as a possibility of being in reach of accessing its mystery.

Voyager is this composition of Earths minerals and knowledge which will travel beyond our time and earths time into the universe of possibilities.  All 735kg approx of it.

Its progress if not halted with the unknown on the other side multiples of billions, trillions, of a world away outside our universe it could inform again.  The intuition of it recalibratingbis already charted.  For humans to conceptualists the earth there has been scientists such as the late, unique and contributing scientist, Carl Sagan.   His son is a frequent visitor and contributor to the story telling.  His contexturalisation of what we see is the most convincing made and does not tolerate high blown speculation.

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Something’s are beyond us

The scientists insist frequently that the Voyagers will be the only record of us beyond our extinction.  They have set up an experiment to find out the composition of the nearest gas planets and then find themselves looking at the bigger philosophical questions to fill the outskirts of their mind.  The talk of sling shots, meaning mathematical continuance of the voyage, was decided upon by careful planning.  Each trajectory is explained in detail with never imaged results we can access through this film.  Yet it is on to the next discovery.  Each scientist explains and though the press conferences at each ‘staging’ post for public consumption is populated it seems, by mainly if not exclusively, men whereas the imbalance is treated by Emer Reynolds in the inclusion of very well informed women whose life work this also is.  Imagining Science is an institute contributing and currently relaying information openly about the mission and while the journey goes on the small in the big gets smaller as more miles are travelled.

There is a juncture when the Voyager team all turn to the Challenger Mission. On January 28, 1986 the space shuttle Challenger exploded shortly after take-off and killed seven astronauts.  It was the 25th shuttle launch since NASA started service in 1981. For the first time a teacher was a member of the crew. Christa McAuliffe had won a contest against thousands of other teachers. When they speak of it and Voyager is without that human element, the scientist loose their capacity for coherent language, one for example who can’t think straight, said of TV coverage, ‘replaying the event over and over again repeatedly.’
The Voyager mission was constructed by Caltech Engineering and Applied Science Department of Aerospace (GALCIT) with the context of origami a filed attribute. Based in Pasadena California – where two weeks ago the indomitable and beautiful human in her 84th year, Julie Newar attended her Catcon 2017 ahead of her birthday – as sublime as ever. She never made it as an image onto the spacecraft so remains hidden. That is the history post Homers Odyssey of time travel with a return in mind of a feline leveller of our naivety played for laughs and adventure escapism. After lift off and landing on the moon another generation of escape was projected onto screens but none so realistic or measured as what this film documentary delivers, even if it is only on the flat fourth wall.


Time flies

This object, as google will tell you, is The Voyager spacecraft weight, including hydrazine, at launch was 815 kg or about 1797 pounds. It was almost the weight and size of a sub-compact car. The current approximate weight of Voyager 1 is 733 kg and Voyager 2 is 735 kg. This was launched with the computer power of a car key fob and before the internet on which you can see the stars projected to your LED lit screen form NASAs data.

On the Golden Record their is one side of music.   A collection made within six weeks of launch comprises recordings from such diverse places as Zaire, India, Mexico, China, Japan, and an Indian raga from native America one of many. On the space shuttle set up using decommissioned ballistic missiles, the film shows the words United States of America as a tiered advert for earth consumption. After the asteroid belt this is thankfully gone.  Maybe a small Stars and Stripes lurks on the body of the craft. A message might have come back – What does United mean? – otherwise.

Voyager has a brain and is minded to correct anomalies. When perplexed at its own behaviors it goes back to the manual, the data programmed within it which has failsafes and parameters and extraneous what devices built in. It is more reliable than our own manual the Bible and contains only logical prognosis. Metaphor is out. By doing a reset it has survived numerous times. When launched it literally had birth pains as it – didn’t enter the world but entered space. If you imagine sitting on the outside of Voyager what you would se would be changing infinitely. If you looked then at what you were sitting on as a reference point it would be the familiar and static. The spacecraft itself and its unavoidable familiarity. Space cannot be weighed and densities are gravitational forces we cannot see or gauge in space yet Voyager is clean and clear of collision simply because of the unlikelihood of it ever colliding with any ‘thing’. What is realisable is that in, as one scientist puts it the chances of a collision are fifty years of a billion years, the chance of collision amounts to just that. Latin speaks otherwise. Tempus Edac Rerum – Time devours all things.

    
Planets discovery

The revelations from incoming data has put into visual context and most ‘gratifyingly’ reaffirms that all our known minerals exist in space. What is also very apparent is that they obey in kind, gravitational forces. In two for example : The Great Red Spot is a persistent zone of high pressure, producing an anticyclonic storm on the planet Jupiter, 22° south of the equator. It has been continuously observed for 187 years, since 1830. Also it conforms to a circular gravitas as an amorphous cloud of greater density as does the other clear example, making it no coincidence, the Great White Spot, also known as Great White Oval, on Saturn, named by analogy to Jupiter’s Great Red Spot, are periodic storms that are large enough to be visible by telescope from Earth by their characteristic white appearance. The spots can be several thousands of kilometers wide.
The Cassini orbiter was able to track the 2010-2011 instance of the storm, also known as the Northern Electrostatic Disturbance because of an increase in radio and plasma interference, or the Great Springtime Storm. What is read into that is our connectivity and when Carl Sagan asked as Voyager 1 was about to go beyond – to + 0.00.00 our time, and penetrate the globule which surrounds us and every gas planet a request to turn the camera around and position the spacecraft in a location to look back at the entire distance of its journey. When it was initially rejected by the Jet Propulsion Agency for one, he went as far as he could to achieve that and did. What is shown is extremely and of the most significant image probably ever taken. A selfie of ourselves as a planet n space. Then it left the globe of atmosphere the our universe exists in and continued as a straight line not like a mouse, (very short sighted, see Nature.com Through the eyes of a mouse) Voyager goes blind into space without hugging the skirting around the big room, it carries on with faith in the humanity that propelled it in a straight unfettered and unending line. When it reaches a border and is asked Where do you think your going? it will have some time working out how to to reply.


Emer Reynolds.  Juis sui en RockStar Writer Director.

Conclusion ####4

Space is spectacular and it is Voyager 1- 2 that conveys new discoveries of that wonder, all from the vessels trailing through space at 10 miles per second.  Seeing this enormous subject in a Cinema adds a vital level of understanding.  Even then the images are only shorthand for reality.  Only around 735 kg, these craft are continuing now, on their own, with 2 trailing way behind. As there is no clue so far, movie discusses, we don’t know if we are ‘alone’ in the universe and if anything exists in a time experience – back to that great utterance – ‘even if they have heads’ in the pathway of it on a fantastic journey which is described beautifully with an easy to follow chronological narrative.  It is told by the people who put the mission together and those who maintain contact and analysis of it speaking back to us.   I described how the data arrives, the grid ‘Excel’ like boxes and the narrative it tells is from simple zeros and ones interpreted by spectroscopes and out come images in astounding detail of the composition of the Gas planets it has encountered.  The majesty of a human constructed instrument, which if alien life encountered seems now more like a foreign object – an animal with eyes, the cameras tilting 26 and 200mm lenses on their arm, the plutonium charger which is the heartbeat and energy source and the strange antenna which talks back to the folk at home.

It is a spectacularly effective insight to our world and Solar system.

The film is relaying – ‘special effects’ get a credit – projections of space travel but the vast majority of the film involves telling the story through contemporaneous images of the assembly, launch, public updates and the teams descriptions of what it all means at least potentially.   The special effects utilised – it is so smooth an edit – are where I think the fly by digitally generated flights, which come in over the top of the frame and sail sublimely into an ocean of stars with the Voyager seen clearly with its unmoving unshifting composite self , travelling as that mysterious traveller obedient to its final instruction in finding, orbiting, the planets, instructed from within, then setting a new course to another, to the point where it goes beyond the globe protection of the planet Neptune.  That point is where all presence of it diminishes.  It is there now in another vast space journeying in a straight line for possibly (in terms of) billions of years.   The other factor informing theory is the formation of this expanding universe.  The talk of black holes at the formation of ‘multi-verse’ cosmos has an ‘event horizon’ commonly interpreted – at the boundary around a black hole on and within which no matter or radiation can escape.  Where the beginning and end is is unknown and even the question of them being the same point is what the film explores as a philosophical aspect of these discoveries.  For thousands of years the conjectures have been gathered by Astrologers informing our lives.  I have put a footnote which I hope expresses a nod to the ancient mariners of the Stars who stimulated all these participates interest in their own valued exploration.

Our knowledge is being acquired at a very fast rate. One hundred years of information and discovery in the 20th century is equivalent to the acquisition of the same quantity/qualities ty of discoveries made in as little as 12 years or even less. That is to say what was learnt in 100 years is now learnt in a tenth of that period and that is also being compressed.  The time it takes to discover things is itself reaching an apogee where we will be funtioning through reasoning taught via. artificial intelligence.

The next world altering discovery is very close.

The film has a dedication in the closing titles to Rhea Strong Fanning.

John Graham

31 August 2017

 

On at Queens Film Theatre from Friday 1 September through to and including Thursday 14 September 2017.  There are exceptions when there will be no screening on either Sunday 10, Tuesday 12, Wednesday 13.

The 6.00pm screening on Mon 4 Sept will be followed by a Q&A with director Emer Reynolds.

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Astrology

Mankind has come a long way. For more than two thousand years the sky has been laid out in a Planisphere of the heavens. The Planets names themselves speak to us in those radiant perpetual homilies stimulating inspiration beyond us. The sky is in mankinds eye a cast of astrological myths laid out in constellations. I have extracted (from The Witness of the Stars E.W.Bullinger) the interpretation given in the astrologers from Albumazer, Ulugh Beigh whose Arab astronomy laid out the principality taken on by Greek astronomers and more modern sciences.

The Sign Leo. (The Lion) note. The Lion is a maternal animal.  Messiahs consummated triumph.

Here we come to the end of the circle. We began with Virgo,(1) and we end with Leo. Belfast one who has followed our interpretation can doubt that we have here the solving of the Riddle of the Sphinx. For its Head is Virgo and its Tail is Leo!
In Leo we reach the end of the revelation as inspired in the word of God; and it is the end as written in Hea the heavens.

Bailly (Astronomy) says, “The Zodiac must have first divided when the Sun at the first Summer solstice was in the first (degree) Virgo, where the woman mans head joins the Lions tail”.

(1) Virgo. The Sign Virgo. (Coma as it is also called – is referred to in some texts as the coming of Jesus under the Star of Bethlehem.)  The Promised Seed of the the woman.

Here is the commencement of all prophecy in Gen. iii 15, spoken to the serpent :-” I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed : it shall bruise thy head, and thou shall bruise His heel”” …….. it lies at the root of all the ancient traditions and mythologies, which are simply the perversion of corruption of primitive truth. Virgo is represented as a woman with a branch in her right hand , and some ears of corn in her left hand. Thus giving a two fold testimony of the Coming One.

Everyone has a piece of the Stars and are in their own constellation.

So it’s apparent the Stars as first seen and interpreted were based on quasi religious affiliation. With superstitious though nevertheless philosophically imaginative and therefore believable to the ‘faithful’ followers of Astronomy the guides are still with us as is the mystery.

JG Sept. 2017

Maudie: A Film Review

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Director. Aisling Walsh. Produced by Bob Cooper. Mary Young Leckie. Mary Sexton. Susan Mullen. Written by Sherry White.

Cast. Sally Hawkins. as Maud Lewis. Ethan Hawke. as Everett Lewis. Kari Matchett. as Sandra. Gabrielle Rose. as Aunt Ida. Zachary Bennett. as Charles Dowley. Lawrence Barry. as Mr. Davis (Shopkeeper) Greg Malone. as Mr. Hill. Billy MacLellan. as Frank. Music by Michael Timmins. Cinematography Guy Godfree. Edited by Stephen O’Connell. Production companies, Rink Rat Productions, Screen Door, Parallel Films. Distributed by Mongrel Media. Duration. 1hr 46mins. Rated PG. Country , Ireland, Canada

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Maudie

In Canadian/Irish production the biographical story of Maud Lewis, Maudie, is told loosely dramatising what must have been a devilishly difficult life. Maudie became a folk artist heroine of great standing by observing Canada and its nature in simple naive art. Her art was picturesque ethereal and colourful. Working everyday she painted every season creating a world few imagined existed anymore. It was a form of magical realism without the realm of fantasy.

Maud Lewis is a determined individual as this story shows. With challenges of firstly chronic arthritis and spinal curvature which meant she struggled to move efficiently, also she was very small and accordingly was seen by her family as lacking the ability to look after herself so ended up being looked after by Aunt Ida in Digby, Nova Scotia. Itself a fishing town on the outskirts of a vast continent it was nevertheless a settlement which suited her outdoor nature loving heart I would suggest. The trouble was the arrangement brought about by a financial arrangement with her brother Charles lacked love which she seemed to crave and be absent from. There is one incident which ‘defines’ the notion, she couldn’t look after herself which is where the arrangement presumably came about.
We see Maudie from mid adulthood and nothing is suggested of her life before then or where her artistic skills we nurtured or became mature. The film’s arc is her adult life. Born in 1903 she lived until 1970.  Little is made of her early life and instead of taking a wider arc it puts aside any melodrama, and events which would have affected her enormously.  Nothing of her parents or struggles to survive the severe rheumatoid arthritis but enter the story when she is being cared for by Aunt Ida or early ventures if any into art.

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The town becomes a character as it provides the inspiration for Maud’s painting. In the local general store she overhears Everett Lewis played by Ethan Hawk, whose Hollywood haircut certainly looks out of place.  There are issues to be found throughout with the time passing element hardly depicting the 35 odd years Everett and Maud had time together.  When he puts out a requests for a housekeeper he  barely expects Maud to be the one putting it up to him as a woman who would do his chores when he is away on his wayfarer fish seeking and junk retrieval business.  He lives in a house about 8 metered square with a sleeping room in the apex of the roof.  It is very unkept but it is also a bit of a home.

Maud after an argument with Aunt Ida goes and takes the job and gets into a routine when Everett takes her onboard.  Everett has been brought up at an orphanage which he still calls into from time to time to get any useful junk they are throwing out.  He even sits down at a meal when it’s on offer with the children who are there.  This makes him very flawed when dealing with people an he has a temper which comes out as abuse with Maud.   Maud who has a number of ailments none of which would hardly be clear of pain.  Both characters are therefore set in an internalised world already with little notion or need foe wider ambitions.  So it is disapponting to see these two actors who are a neat fit spoil the exploration of the characters because ther are no scenes of deep recall or of their backstory.  Surely a major failing in gaining leverage.  Sarah Hawkinsat times seems affected which is far from what I would imagine her character to be.  The first instance of this jarring acting was early on when her brother Charlie is ‘negotiating’ the care of Maud.  She swings and swivels and then having caught this as a note twists her hair and this is often parlayed out later on.  Ethan Hawke places his ‘notes’ in picking up a piece f timber or a tool and chucking it behind him.  I got into a game of will he won’t he ‘discard this item’, it may work and maybe I’m over critical but small things matter as do the cars, the scenery and the seemingly implausibly long walks Maud especially takes to get around.

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The compressed into a series of chapters separated or punctuated by the seasons marching on. We see lots of beautiful wide scope sunsets, serenity of snow filled peaks and spreading landscape along with the tableau of wild flowers seasons arrival is announced by. Just this week the story of the flower received a ‘scientific’ attribution. All flowers it seems derive from one of around 130 million years ago. The first one it is believed was a white water-lily.

Artwork

Undoubtedly the film brings a broader perspective to the work produced by Maud.

Out of the small room comprising the living cooking dining and washing duties from the dark green distance of the walls would come shades of light green emerging into the daylight falling on objects.
As Liz (Dame) Smith once remarked about her loosing her mother when she was two, her mother only twenty three – it is an animal trait that if there is no one standing beside you, others can push you around without fear of confrontation.

 

Conclusion ###3

There has been a routinely good response to this film but I found it asking more questions than it answered.  The ‘family’ situation was totally out of the ordinary and the people in what is basically a two handed do not talk about their lives.  They jointly discover intimacy and it is left aside with moments of abuse entering into it.

I have to say it left me totally underwhelmed.

Go see you will most probably learn from it.

John Graham

4 August 2017

Belfast.On at Queens Film Theatre from Friday 4 August through to and including Thursday 17 August 2017

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Risk : A Film Review

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Risk  A Documentary film.  1hr 34mns.

Credits. Julian Assange |Sarah Harrison | Jacob Appelbaum | Joseph Farrell | Renata Avila | Jennifer Robinson | Erinn Clark.

Directed and produced by Laura Poitras. Produced by Brenda Coughlin, Yoni Golijov. Executive Producers. Sam Esmail, Vinnie Malhotra, Charlotte Cook, Aj Schnack, Michael Bloom, Adam Pincus, David Menschel, Jess Search, Josh Braun.

Risk is living.
Watching this film is to reveal the background and recent history of Julian Assange, the Wikileaks founder, as he continues, up to and including this films conclusion, to be confined within the British based Ecuadorian Embassy, Embadapa under continuing detention. It also take us to the USA and the recent Trump/Russian twists since Trump’s appointments were brokered.

For all the challenges making a film of this sort presents problems, of time and with changes arriving thick and fast it through recent revision stands solidly as an extremely informative documentary – regardless of the complex co traditions it presents.  “I thought I could ignore the contradictions. I thought they were not part of the story. I was so wrong. They’re becoming the story.” confides Poitras at some low hanging fruit of Julian Assanges –
firmly blethering (sorry Julian I couldn’t find another word!) views.  His on-camera intimate talk is a very uninteresting insight to his woolly, almost seeking alarm for the sake of alarm on camera in eyebrow raised marks (tumbleweed) and some sympathy is felt, given his imprisonment, when cameras rolls on.  It is after all though, a platform which cannot be turned away given his enforced hibernation.  It consequently shows the talk as uninteresting but the whole idea of a documentary is one at times of it becoming theatre and the actors are without a script.  Some people have been severely critical of the style and filmic indulgence of Laura Poitras whose shots take on the feel of a drama when misty window reflections and artfully caught shape and darkness illuminate the bleakness of a particular dilemma or circumstance.  I believe it entirely legitimate and it implies the truth is not what we are here to see but a construction dealt with a fixed deck.

Film Review Risk

Time discloses all.

The film starts of with a view of Julian Assange in the company of the Director mulling over the outline of their collaboration.  For Julian Assange this is a much healthier time as he has relative freedom and is (only!) under curfew in a friends house in deepest Norfolk with access to the beach.  It is 2011 and his trial concerning extradition to Sweden is being contested while sundry other things are about to unfold.  The main tiger in the room is the Wikileaks formation digital encrypted document Bradley Manning has placed on the site which a password protects.  The data document, it is learnt in this early part of the documentary, has been uploaded on the interface of Wikileals without password protection.  All of the USA secret files of operations accessed are unredacted and therefore contain good and bad data.  Essentially the window is open and paper is flying everywhere on natures wind – the global internet servers are available for anyone to see classified USA documents and make of it what they will.

The breach is on Hillary Clintons watch as Secretary of State and hurried anxious phone calls from Norfolk – Sarah Harrison, legal eagle, contacts the Whitehouse and try and alert the Presidential Office, as to the carrier pigeons in flight with her Governments information with the impending prospect of ever inquisitive persons monitors lighting up and printing off, for bedtime reading – prior to good wifi, sufficient storage, small tablets which go to sleep and produce real drama and most probably a rainstorm of dirty tricks and unscrupulous methodology which is without moral bounds.

The relationship between the film maker and Julian Assange is one of pragmatism.  He is in the clasp of legal and national sidetracking issues, and the drama of a documentary on one of the world’s most proflific activists probing the internet as a deconstructionist with exposé, after revelation, – high currency for any documentary maker.  So it has a purpose first of all which we must be well prepared for, is of hubris and confident trailblazing while underneath lies a story of individual imprisonment at the hands of powerful forces with his allies equipped with little more than a large corporations staffing levels – the volunteers are widespread and underground as they piece together support and inform the dialogue – they have unknown funds and heavyweight supporters probably.   The narrative is after all a needed platform.  All platforms are fair game and we get a glimpse of a pop star filming an amateur post type interview in the Ecuadorian embassy for fans and the interview is staged less formally than Assange initially conceived of it.  Then came the cringeworthy questions. Cleverly the talk was directed by Assange at the USA where the main audience of the video existed.

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Visionary in the dark

Laura Poitras is a very clever match of combatant for Assange as she disallows his taking over situations and firmly places the focus on the conditions and surrounding circumstances of the news not brought to the everyday exposure of the information war. Laura Poitras is also a fellow activist with the extraordinary film on Snowdon, Citizenfour, a groundbreaking style of news telling and undercover deliverance on her roster.  Then previously The Oath.  We are still not convinced or editorially equipped with disseminating this form of investigation and revelatory truth seeking and telling.  Every scene is chillingly real with absurdity of the everyday crashing in and out with natural dynamism having the alarming contrast just beside it.  It’s our reality of having without due process contrived to risk (first use of the word) allowing the Courts to remove him from the UK and place him in the unstable hands of a Swedish, see what way the wind blows, democracy. ‘… pretending they are a stickler for process.’ Assange.  Venues for the camerawork are Norfolk, Cairo, London, Fort Meade Maryland, (received footage?), Tunis, America (Democratic election convention), Berlin, all places where the Wikileaks narrative tales us.  Some of it is illustrative, such as conferences for nerdy hackers, or venues where Julian Assange draws crowds by his absence.  Frontline Club host large venue quasi conferences with speakers and networking possibilities.  Usually a tube stop or two away from mine hosts M16 and Foreign Office, Home Office spooks.  Although primary taps and surveillance is of more import.  The spies are everywhere and House of Cards needs a backstory.  A very unsavoury moment of trouble in the ranks is the overview of a parallel organisations leader also being wired for sexual misdealings.  Jacob Appelbaum is portrayed as a villain – (the film indicates no charges yet exist) – he drops a sexist comment in front of Muslim pupils of hacking talk.  It would just be as offensive in any location, private or public and here it is on film.  and he occupies another slot in this film, shot in Cairo, when he exposes the state run Mubarak directed, TE Data at a open symposium of internet providers, of shutting down Twitter traffic and platforms for media exchange.  This is accompanied by an outbreak in the room of rapturous applause.  Every country will have its internet traffic police while the ‘Engines’ of social media are themselves being censored or being controlled for improper conduct which a lot of will be politically slanted.

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Situation comedy

An interesting exchange is filmed in a quiet Countrylife inspired lounge, draped, scatter cushions with Dame Helena Kennedy and the non-speaking Gareth Peirce whose silence is equally – better than that actually – entertaining as the ultras trade axioms and lawyer psychology which is to prepare a Assange for his press a Court Appearance.  So Assange’s referencing of lesbian inspired ‘tag teams’ jumps out from the notoriously crass and febrile Assange speech which his blethering style exposes. The flushed and pyretic Kennedy does not know where to look and Poitras catches this English wordsmithing, with the same silence, the by now, presumably, dejected Gareth who has met real victims and fought tirelessly in the frontline of Human Rights sitting with controlled propriety.  Sublime and an example of ethicality.  No wonder Churchill wished Business to be written and agreement not based on conversation. Recall being everything.  The drink from which Wikileaks depends, so the contrast could not be more sweetly expressed.  Physician heal thy self.

The people who feature alongside Julian Assange were constant foils but most were equal to the Assange modus operandi.  The priority was to understand what was at stake. For this you need lawyers.  Not of the level and elevation of Peirce or Kennedy but the rookie type whose Court experience would be limited.  There is no validation of this but it was like having House of Cards interns at your beck and call.   Some were very much above the hubris and grandiose ‘I’m not a martyr’  but a conflicted human being type of projection Assange fronted up with.  Sarah Harrison is the Lawyer in chief.  Her steadiness and practicality and inmate wisdom was a valuable docking in the stormy waters.  Likewise the very clear headed forthright Renata Avila an articulate devilish driver of the nitty gritty and consequential.

In every sphere of public life corruption and catastrophic decisions amplify and Law is the stalking horse most rely on.  In the regimes and democracies it seldom abates. These islands can attest to the duplicitous role of Governance outflanking and disregarding Law and its victims are many.  Attribution happens on either side with the extensive new or relatively new form of scrutiny enabled by Wikileaks has opened up a whole extraordinary proof of this.  Recent events have presented with regard to dealings of nations intent on influencing anothers course.  Some may well be in relation to the safe storage in unblockchain protected localities of immense wealth, accumulated through regimes borderless dealings which have their nation’s looking vain for the money or restitution.  Imagine a prospective ‘West’ Presidential Candidate advising a sitting ‘East’ President (a perceived foe) where the accumulation can be secretly secreted.

Our information is incomplete
Our present dependence on fast electronic communication which is barely 40 years old, across continents and borders without the impediment of time or locality has made us evaluate the systems we use of governance and the open transmission of information.  Around 1960 TV was upon us as a window into other worlds and media dissemination of news and was authorially controlled by the license providers, there came in 1967-69 a western appetite to know what was going on in Eastern block countries, how civil society worked in China, Indonesia, with a vision exposed of inequalities defined in Human Rights terms.  Inwardly the USA became, with Civil Rights activism, a lantern for freedom fighters to demonstrate and to a lesser extent in Paris and London these voices for freedom exploded into living rooms instead of through newspapers but as barely 12 hour old news.  The crush came with the Eastern Czechoslovakian Dubjek being raised from obscurity as an opposition leader into a virtual figurehead for non violent revolution.

That was 1969 and what materialized was a culture of investigative journalism.  The story of much earlier news manipulator/manipulated ‘reporter, Roger Casement and news management comes to mind.  Alongside it the apartheid staining otherwise seemingly benign places such as South Africa and Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) and nowhere was out of bounds except the totalitarian nations such as China and by dint North Korea a hateful terrorising oligarchy which sat as a de facto attack dog for China and its wider interests.  Our story of Wikileaks contains a terrine of global pottage, c’est-à-dire, a conglomeration of mass ingredients cooking away with sometimes overspill and untasteful results.  The mix is toxic and it’s terrine is Wikileaks and it’s operators, head of which is it’s founder, the Australian Julian Assange.  His name is synonymous nowadays with a frontiersman like truth seeker.  He does not rely on God or mantras but his individual conscious is high toxically for him, developed to speak of the sins of the universe and their authors by revealing not their persona – because participation in the construct Assange wishes to disrupt and reveal its contents is consiratorailly under the control of a minority of the minority who have vast sales of self-identity, perceptions of nationhood and history which has accumulated to a self-representation and nullifying absurdity which is the twin of Julian Assanges own idealism.

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Despair and loathing

Both Assange and the people whose information is secretively held and the indictments of their corporate collusion is in the folder of the vast exchanges with reliance on technology sparing disclosure.  Wikileaks is a data hungry cyber animal and its food is
everywhere protected by insider traders like Chelsea (Bradley) Manning and Edward Snowden whose instincts for change and robust propriety were challenged by the information the American public, in whose name these revealed actions were being disposed, unaccountably, but had reached them – Manning, Snowdon – as persons of conscious whose instinct was to upload the information they had obtained via. protected routes to Wikileaks so they could decide on publication.   This film which must be itself be read as a document with T’s crossed, comas carefully placed, is a reveal of sorts.  It has a news management feel with a climateric cresendo worthy of an opera.  The tailpiece is well known with the election of Donald Trump being sullied by the interventions, presently denied of state sponsored data breaching which firstly created Fake News around Hillary Clinton and saw the infiltration of Fake News of her Democrat candidate runner Bernie Sanders be eclipsed as information became micro managed – now it is contagious with Donald taking to the Twitteriati to spell out in 120 characters his character at others expense.

Allegiances among the Wikileaks foundation are an engine room of Lawyers, high octane interns getting a fix on freedom of information as led by their ringleader Julian.  The film is a world wide documentary of events with certain areas seemingly out of bounds.  GCHQ has occasional moles but it is a minor pest control issue.  The unbearably influential rise of independent disenfranchised terrorists as written toxically in Northern Ireland as a template by the IRA is untroubled by any Wikileaks.  Whether it was the authorship of Protestant, State collusion, Catholic freedom fighters that period was when the nail bomb, coffee jar bomb and car bomb all were sworn in as terrosit devoces.  The car bomb as well as lorry-jacking with a driver virtually chained to a bomb became routine methods of attacking authority, consequences be damned, fellow human beings collateral appalling damage.  Property destroyed was not enough.  Institutions stood unaffected, they simply moved locations as and when.  Offices and civil life was targeted and an unwired network prevailed with murderous results.  A large Northern Ireland, British Establishment shaped hole exists in the Wikileaks story.

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Conclusion ####4

Cannes 2016 saw the release of this film which has been re-edited since the Democratic National Committee email leaks and also picks up on allegations about sexual abuse by another activist Jacob Appelbaum in a neat parallel to Assange difficulties which stem firstly from his own private life.  Where there they are to be believed or not is not part of Laura Poitras’s intention.  She must place testimony on the record where given and it is not avoided.  Primarily she has followed this phenomenon, the Wikileaks impact, since before the Edward Snowden film Citizenfour which went places the fictional one was intensely lacking in.  The balance of the film is caught well by the filmmaker and it is brilliantly effective in revealing the revealer insofar as ‘civility’ and privileges of privacy impose.  Having introduced it at Cannes as one thing required an updated version given the significance of revelatory exposés on the Democratic fight for the Presidency.  The reading of the film als needs adjusted.  It is very unfair to see this film as breaking conventions of documentary.  Every documentary you will have seen has a slant or tableau formed through the vision of its author. The Director here is in possession of a subject which intrudes her and delving into the minutiae behind Embassy doors is fascinating.  Not only for what it reveals but for us to see the double standards lives are made to comply with in any democracy.  Forgetting about the subject – temporarily – it becomes a portrait of human condition and conditioning unparalleled as information is our voice and rhetoric.  The everyday confrontation with falsehood is so theatrical.  Amal Clooney is witnessed from a roving overhead crowd shot of a congratulatory walk from the English Court by his side every step of the way.  The spectacle of the press is amazing to witness as we are not yet ready to screen courtroom proceedings and definitely not for tweeting out proceedings.  The knife edge is the Directors and she comes up with some close shaves.  Apparently some zoos have been doctored at the ‘actors’ request while it resonants later with the theatrical disguise of Julian Assange last public appearance.  The one adopted to go to the Ecuadorian Embassy.  The red post box seen outside is one he cannot use.  If he were to step onto the street to post a letter in the stout transmitter of private correspondence.  They were green before July 1874 when they were painted post box red.

It is an outstanding, at times electrifying piece of work and addresses the duality of providing another platform to hype the task undertaken by Julian Assange and the need for filmic storytelling to be compelling and it borders on a sitcom type of sedentary watch with mother at times as a lot of talking from the principal party is only watchable if some twist of narrative or misplaced meaning or word makes you pay acute attention because here is someone who has brought some riveting knowledge to our times.  Don’t blame the messenger.

A credit arose as it closed  –  In loving memory of Michael Ratner (1943-2016), who devoted his life to justice

John Graham

28 June 2017

Belfast

Screening at Queens Film Theatre     Showing: 30 June 2017 until 06 July 2017

Cardboard Gangsters : A Film Review

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Cardboard Gangsters

Director Mark O’Connor. Writers. Mark O’Connor and John Connors.  John Connors as … Jason Connolly, Fionn Walton … Dano, Kierston Wareing … Kim Murphy, Jimmy Smallhorne … Derra Murphy. Remainder of cast listed alphabetically: Paul Alwright … Glenner, Alan Clinch … Whacker, Stephen Clinch … Ross Kelly, John Dalessandro … Lukey, Damien Dempsey … Curley Murphy, Gemma-Leah Devereux … Roisin, Kyle Bradley Donaldson … Stephen Kelly, Graham Earley … Evers Dempsey, Tristan Heanue … Kieran, Fionna Hewitt-Twamley … Angela Connolly, Ryan Lincoln … Cobbi, Ciaran McCabe … Sean Murphy, Lydia McGuinness … Christina, Corey McKinley … Micka Dempsey, Laura Murray … Mrs. Wilson, Aaron Blake O’Connell … Wilson, Toni O’Rourke … Sarah, Cathal Pendred … Security Officer, Robbie Walsh … House Gangster.

Duration 1hr 32mins.  Cert. 18.

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Darndale story

The Irish crime drama Cardboard Gangsters plots the story of a Dublin community, Darndale, and the infiltration of drugs into its streets and homes.  The culture is at epidemic proportions across Dublin with a crime base largely destroying the communities they were brought up in and now have drug overlords with patches to deal and exploit. Feuds are common with assainations, kidnappings, overseas gang warfare and a public caught in the crossfire. It’s little wonder Mark O’Connor and John Connors want to tackle this subject and give it a treatment which delves into the minutiae of the drugs trade and the fall out as a reality met daily. Matt O’Connor, into his fourth feature, is a conscientious socially driven Director whose film making promises a format which is well paced, as this is, full of good characterisations, which this has, follows social reality without compromise and tailors a crew and cast to deliver striking stand out films. This is one which sets out with those same intentions. The drawback is it falls into too many cliches and formulaic characterisations filling the story with very strong emotional drivers and brilliant performances yet labours with the one dimensional menu.

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Unparalleled Mother Son performances.

Jay Connolly played superbly by joint writer John Connors  just has too narrow a set of markers to put down. He plays a 26 year old who is unemployed and is a part time DJ at nightclubs were drugs are an entry requirement. He makes little money on this skill but has a sideline dealing in soft recreational drugs plus some cocaine. He and his mates are similarly banjacksd by the country, city they live in which has cardboard cut out capitalism on every billboard franked by the receipts of the lowest corporate tax rates anywhere which shored up a decrepit and corrupt government over decades of sham luxury development and high escalating property prices. It began with Zoe Developments and never stopped until the 2008 crash and they wound the windows down and let out the stink of corruption which enveloped the whole shebang – the money trailer they all were on board. The stench was smelt across Europe to the US and the EU Bank removed Irish sovereignty as penance while debts were written off and money trails led everywhere with few debtors thrown into prison.

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Getting shafted

Nama was born as was austerity.   Jay and his friends live off dole money and it doesn’t last long as most of them are into drugs in a small way to escape the mill grinding them into the ground.  Jay is reported for ‘working’ as a DJ and he merits loosing any income he has through welfare while an investigation ensues. This is a major problem and he lives with his widowed mother Angela, played by a very soulful Fionna Hewitt-Twamley and the two share a pragmatic, but despairing state of limbo.  His mother is watchful of him and knows the local criminal background. The background which took away his father.  Both are still in grief after five or so years and it is not getting any easier.

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Early hopes of escape

When the film opens we see four lifelong friends as young boys of about seven and their lives are semi feral as the wilderness as well as derelict buildings, heaps of builders rubble and eventually the woods around their North Dublin homes.  The shift is swift to the present, as they stroll around the Darndale streets, weighing up the pros and cons of various criminal enterprises they rotate in their minds.  As things take that change of direction for Jay, no income, he is in desperate need of cash and his mother is not managing either which he is quick to spot.  Both are pivotal in this film and one of its strongest parts is their relationship.  They are born with this part of Dublin as an unshift-able genus loci of all of their live’s.  God does not feature as a healer for either but his mother has a mothers belief that – if she is true to herself and carries the sacrifices for which she has no reward – except Jay’s unconditional love – then there is no counter alternative.  Love and God’s, a spirits, unseen presence, imagined everywhere.  Whatever the conditions are there is almost an unwritten law held within that life/death exist in parallel for reasons beyond them all. The version preached by the Catholic Church up to a point when their debased behavior came back to confront them was the version most families relied on but it’s far from the simple form of love and peace Jays mum is clinging onto mentally.

Now Jay reaches a crossroads and their is no turning back. The poster says ‘Take back what’s yours‘ yet we do not know in all truth what that could actually refer to. Drugs most instinctively – obviously alluding to their patch – but also take back the stolen respect and dignity and is another John Connors cause célèbre which it is very hard to tease this out with this narrative, despite the presence of ever component of the drugs trade and its immorality and tragic effects on all who come in touch with it.  Undeniably the intentions to go deeper using the story vehicle are there.

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The Gang of Four

Failure of plot happen with the four. They portray types frequently visited. Jay is the quiet leader and decisive one. He acts after a sharp intake of nitrate polluted air when crucial decisions have to be made.  His reactions always are swift.  There is his sidekick, Dano – Fionn Walton, who is a wanna be Jay but lacks the smarts and has an overinflated idea of his strength and animal logistics.  To that pairing add one other pair with firstly,  coloured native Dubliner, (John Dalesanndro?) who is all Dub and a well rounded good natured citizen with his identity fully formed but with the continual racist deflection others make of his colour ever present.  His side kick is an ordinary kid still dreaming of being a rock star – Edge/Bono/Damien Dempsey (whose songs permeate and add very very strong messages to hang the plot and narrative on) while being a rapper with an attitude in the reincarnation of Snoop dog? as Joyce of the Street reborn on the Northside. Music is their escape too.  It is no less than another songwriter, Paul Alwright.

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These two are more passive and get in over there heads when the plan Jay concocts to take over all the heavy drug dealing in Darndale gathers pace. He intends to run rings round them and take over under the noses of two sets of dealers, one a long in the tooth – Derra Murphy,  so implausible as an active Gangster not to have been wiped out by this stage – who has been doing it for 30 years non stop. Around him are a narcissistic bunch of fellow delusional hoods and pastiche Gangsters like something out of the Sopranos junior prom. The other dealer of importance he has to float off in a boat is a Northern Irish itinerant family with a hierarchy also base on the Sopranos but with an implausible young gobby boy whose resemblance in demeanour is stolen from the kid in ’71. the one who bad mouths the army. It is a bit hard to swallow due to it being delivered as one dimension bites.

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There is no slack or nuance. There is of the first mentioned old timer Gangster, Derra a real wife, Gangsters Moll, Kim played with brass by Keirston Waring of Eastenders and her hang out Ricky from The Office. who is put into situations which are far too dangerous in reality to be convincing. Everyone is an informer and it is a very degrading and bedraggled performance by a woman who ticks all the boxes and convinces you of her emotional harm and physical fragility before the inevitable happens.  The main dealer gets on his horse.  His son Sean is a go-between on the streets and his life is also to be entangled in this world as his figurehead, mentor father is the wild old man Jimmy Smallhotne as Derra Murphy.  Not a nice guy when riled.

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Screw ups, RedemptionRevelations

Jay has hit the rails in this whole new environment of his own making.  At 26 he has not modified his survival instinct to accept it could all end very badly.  Why is this seen as possible in a guy as smart as him?  He has an alternate life in a relationship with Sarah played by Toni O’Rourke, again an outstanding believable piece of acting and he has a way towards a happier life but he does see it getting out of shape in screwing it up.

What I get is a story of redemption appearing.  In the void made by his father he sees it as a probable route out of the unbearable grief of losing his mentor – not great on that score – and feels obliged to do it for the sake of his mothers security. Into this path of a future with a cause and a faith in it being the right thing he sets up scenarios which is the embodiment of the phrase ‘Take back what’s ours.’ This is a task he takes on like the universal soldier without fear or idea of wrongness. He is oblivious and a totally different person. The violence of the film is ramped up and the heat is furious as the story moves towards its sorry end.

The twists, plots, betrayals, double crosses are thrown out in every direction and within it is framed Jays realisation of his fate and his journey. It is very audacious way to take on a story which is part of the everyday practically and make it new with edge and believability but it falls down by following – and this is a first go at feature length writing as a collaboration of O’Connors and Connor so it bodes well for more nuances and less predictable tropes. I was reading about the Cartel Wives, a true story written by two sisters married to twins and Mexicos biggest drug dealers into Chicago and much of America and they played the stereo types but we’re in a different league. There is also the Matthew McConagaghy Dallas Buyers Club which wrote an entirely weird and contemporary wildfire take on drug dealing Texas style which I thought superb and a whole Club of emotions entangled in a modern world.

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Conclusion ###3

I have to bite into my critical viewpoint and not become over run with sentiment.  Dublin, Ireland deserves a film such as this, just to lift the lid off ordinary life in the shameful presence of the drugs trade exploiting the wracked minds and medically uncared for addicts and the outpouring of huge societal problems accumulating year after year.  The film goes into a story partly based on criminality which even since it was made – 2016 – is on an unrelenting course of spiraling brutality.  From previous eras these stories also come into day to day conversation and filmmakers such as Mark O’Connor see the task of their own driving force the need to put onto screens in startling effective realistic storylines something of the view outside the cinema or home.  King of the Travelers became an opus in real story progressed film narrative.  This too is neither sentimental, glorified, sexed up, hyperrealised but a searching account without answers as none come forward.  Ever.  The account is full of bloody and messy translations of human fortune delivering a grueling watchable unfolding perspective of a life in Darndale.  It takes you into places beyond the limits its trope ridden script – it follows a formula without jettisoning the usual gangster movie traits for something extraordinary – which it is in proximity of without delivering.  The scenes are beautifully framed in tracking without settling but continuing apace when things get serious, by the wide frame and flowing cinematography of Michael Lavelle and Directorship of Mark O’Connor’s strength of compressive – no out but violent immmersion.  While it is flawed in several ways it is an opening of the view never properly taken before as Cinema material.  John Connors could play a priest or an American suited and booted crooked Businessman or a junkie Coach of a Football team or even I thought. – well your imagination will be challenged as this is pulled out of the fire by performances heart felt and convincing in the deepest way effecting.
On at Queens Film Theatre from 23 June 2017 and that screening will have an introduction by John Connor, possibly Q/A?  and will continue through to and including the 29 June 2017and on general release.

From a writer whose songs have crossed the world and is an inspiration at around 31 for lots of young Irish musicians I found myself looking at his website and a letter from Damo.

Heres a very insightful and thought provoking excerpt. Hope he doesn’t object to the cut and paste!  See it all at http://damiendempsey.com/a-letter-from-damo – he puts down what inspires him.

Sam was sent to Ireland as part of a food removal regiment. These regiments were stationed all over Ireland, guarding the rivers of food that was leaving Ireland all through this terrible period. Cattle, sheep, pigs, grain, wheat, barley, peas beans, rabbits and an array of different types of food was being shipped to England, as millions of Irish starved. Ireland at this time and for many centuries was known as the garden of England. That’s why it angers me that this period in Ireland from 1845 to 1850 is referred to by everyone and in Irish history books as ‘the famine’. The word famine means extreme scarcity of food, yet in one year alone, 1847,over 4000 ships brimming with Irish food left Ireland for English ports. The same year, 400,000 Irish people died of starvation. So I’d implore people to stop using that phrase. Lets call it what it really was. Mary McAleese has referred to this period as the great starvation; I think that’s a more accurate name. Half the British Empires army was in Ireland at this time guarding the foods passage to the coast, (many Irishmen numbered among them), and the soldiers all had to be fed, this gives you an idea of the amount of food that was in the land during this time. This is what Sam Jenkins was doing in Ireland. Like many soldiers from a poor background, he felt more affinity with the poor Irish than he did with the ruling class English (who tried to brainwash the soldiers into thinking that the Irish were white apes, sub human), and he suffered because of this.

If you have the chance my friends please vote for Jeremy Corbyn in the upcoming U.K. elections, a modern day Sam (if your reading this letter I’m sure you will). This leads me onto the song Simple Faith. I feel we shouldn’t have blind faith in institutions like the state and the church and believe all were taught in school. As you can see above the version of Irish history I was taught in school about ‘the famine’ and Oliver Cromwell and Drogheda’s 2000 dead (Cromwell’s new model army killed hundreds of thousands of Irish in the Cromwellian wars) were cover-ups and lies. And not one mention in an Irish history book of the 50,000 Irish slaves sent to the West Indies or their descendants still there today in Barbados, the Red Legs.

I had to find out these truths for myself through research. The same way I found 5HTP after Brian Cowen banned it in Ireland; I try to be questioning and open. I believe we’re on the cusp of a new dawn, new age of enlightenment. People are talking about who really runs the world and owns the banks and the media. Their talking about the poison put into food and the toxins put into the water. Their growing their own food and eating whole foods, getting into spirituality and nature and mindfulness, looking back in time for learning and wisdom. They’re recycling, glass, plastic, paper, food. The things we can learn now on the internet when we sift through the garbage and do a little research is incredible. A friend of mine Dee from my street told me the Shaman are waking up around the world. A South American Shaman told her this. I’m feeling it. I’m talking about this in the song Simple Faith. People are far more open to herbal remedies now and medicating themselves with them. Their looking at what their ancestors used to heal themselves instead of having blind faith in doctors, who often have the answers but not always.

People are far more open to using cannabis for healing than they used to be. Lots of older people I know are using it for pain relief and other sorts of conditions and ailments. This is another thing that rankles me about having simple faith in the government. Some guy in a suit tells us we can’t use the healing properties of a plant that grows out of the ground, that humans have used for thousands of years to heal all sorts of ailments. The government refuses to legalise it even with the THC taken out it. The THC gets you high but the vast majority of people across the land in pain or with a condition that cannabis can help with don’t want the THC, they want the CBD part of the plant. But the powers that be cruelly say no. Yet the same powers refuse point blank to stop dumping a toxic waste. They purchase this waste with taxpayer’s money from fertilising plants, which would have to pay to dump this fluoride if our government didn’t purchase it from them for our water supply. Saying that it’s good for our teeth (countries across the world have banned it out of their water). Maybe this was true in he 1950s when many people didn’t have toothbrushes or toothpaste or mouth wash. This same toxic waste lowers IQ in children, makes people more docile, and makes people sick. And a lot of people make a lot of money from sick people.How sick is that. That’s kind of the jist of ‘Simple Faith’ anyway.

I’ve an iPhone now my friends, I’ve nearly learned how to turn it on and off, so I hope to be posting more on Facebook, if I ever learn how to take a picture on it. And I just got handed a copy of my first ever vinyl album, mother of god, its so beautiful, tears in my eyes here X.

So from Damo to Samo to good old Jeremy!

 

Frantz : A Film Review

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Dir: François Ozon; Starring: Paula Beer, Pierre Niney, Ernst Stötzner, Marie Gruber, Anton von Lucke, Cyrielle Clair. 12A cert, 114 mins.

Setting of Post World War 1

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The opening passage of François Ozon’s elegant interwar romance invites us to second-guess the story that links Parisian musician Adrien Rivoire (Pierre Niney) to Anna’s late love, Frantz. Frantz is Anton von Lucke.

A melancholic period drama, Frantz, is an elegant reimagining of the story behind Ernst Lubitsch’s undersung 1932 drama Broken Lullaby.  It is Post World War One in a central German hillside town called Quedlinburg which is a UNESCO protected location.  It is the backdrop to the family home of the Hoffmeisters whose son Frantz was killed in action on French soil.  The elderly parents remain,  Doctor Hans and Mrs Magda Hoffmeister (Ernst Stötzner and Marie Gruber) are in the middle of the town and still Hans practices as a Doctor.  They have provided a roof over the head of Franzt’s intended bride whose daily visit to the grave erected in the hilltop cemetery is her place of comfort and the families only memorial.
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Complex emotive story

This is a deeply sad and complex war story told exquisitely by the twin hands of the principles, Anna (Paula Beer) and Adrien Rivoire (Pierre Niney) alongside a strong supporting cast.  The town Quedlinburg is a lost empty place without the middle aged and young men it has given to the war.  In one scene in the Hotel, Tavern, which is the centre of town life in some respects, it is notable when Doctor Hoffmeister goes along to a meeting of the menfolk, how with only one year having passed and pain, grief an anguish are all palpable and hurt is within the very bodies of the survivors.  Those with whom some responsibility lies in sending their young offspring to war.  This hurt regret, remorse, redress, reflection, is not a redemptive theme explored by the very masterful direction of François Ozon but one of conscious.  Retaining your sense of self and direction is troubling for everyone. Ozon’s past films are absorbing emotional spirited in theme as were, the sensuous Swimming Pool and Jeune & Jolie, with soon to be unveiled, Double Lover marking a return to those emotive personal tales after this more constrained and brilliantly balanced story of the melt within Europe over borders you cannot see in the Isra she shoots across the view from Quedlinburg.  At a height of thought also, he takes this story markedly into a melting pot of ideas and that it took place almost 100 years ago it’s a vision and offering for our own times.

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Anna and Adrien.

Centrally Anna and Adrien are brought together in this aftermath.  This is a summary position of dealing which their individual pasts.  The footsteps are first taken as we see Anna, after an opening shot of a hot simmering country wide view in one frame in colour, then into black and white of Anna buying flowers at he market stalls of Quedlinburg.  The streets rise to the cemetery through ancient narrow cobbles, up a steep set of steps to the open plain of the graveyard.  It is drenched in bright sunshine and François Ozon begins painting frames as an artist does with the drooping darkness of heavy topped trees branches shading parts of the graveyard and it’s random pattern of stones laid in rough rows seem to lend a peace and sense of ease as the order is lost and not heightened as was the third Reich.  This has a poignancy exacting of the sense of place, its genus loci being this infringement between the living and the dead in memories.

The compelling question from the outset is – Why is Adrien leaving flowers on the grave of a German soldier, Frantz?  With a sweep of a leafbrush the graveyard attendant imparts his identity as that f aFrenchman who is staying in the aforesaid Hotel.  The connections have to be pursued and it is the object of both to reach a point where they can talk.
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Skip comparative reviews.

There is a school of thought which I deplore, in some reviewers making connections – as they have done with this in respect of Vertigo, –  the displaced person in a love triangle, – of the other, a Hitchcock rumination akin to Rebecca – which in this film are totally useless. That viewpoint actually labours the point to actually attune it more to this misread being the theme of the film in scores.  The film is enfused with hidden truths, conceits, contrivances made to ease the pain and harm of things past. It is even seen by one as being like the work of another director preposterously so. Being unlike Ozon is very Ozon. It is in fact gloriously rendered which makes any pathetic correlation a nonsense.  The film stands alone as an art piece and while the artist, director have long connections through their own process of becoming directors themselves it is not a place to put those connections to the fore as ‘influences’, that is a tedious comparison.  This artwork speaks for itself.  …. One review has discovered it is nothing whatsoever led by the fore said but still posits …    (although his influence on the final film is undeniable).  As if this should or would have any relevance to a viewer allowing the piece to tell its own story.  Superbly.
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Anna’s horrible dilemma.

The perils of Anna whose life is in limbo, a short time after the war, is polemic.  Her past life and proposed future is totally conflicted by the grief she shares with Doctor and Mrs Hoffmeister.  The performance of Paula Beer is a colossal depiction of grief internally residual.  She holds her grief intact and in so doing is asking questions of herself, throughout the first, second and third acts as she deals with new developments and disclosures.  She, in so doing, makes herself vulnerable and inconsolable at times, internally so.  When she meets with Adrien after observing him from a distance at the cemetery, she is both shaken by his perceived closeness to her lost fiancé.  In seeking answers she also is caught in a despairing, unrelenting story of loss with no parties able to reach out to the truth.  Adrien is adroit at making things appear plausible and acceptable.  He is handsome, has an angular tautness, is eloquent, thoughtful, possibly well educated man.  Perhaps too thoughtful and naive in the possibilities that might arise from his actions.  He is brought into the family home and with that deepens his lachrymose impediment, his imbedded grief, disabling him to points of disclosure, as the hurt would be unbearable.  Seeing them is a barrier to telling what he knows in full, with their openness and hospitality having been satiated by Anna in advance making this dramatic encounter when it eventually is arranged profoundly heartfelt.  What lies beneath this surface is not known nor will it be shared for sometime if at all.  This is the magnificence of the story telling, unfolding in aching timbre emoted visually touching through the actors prearadness softly set out in slow framed consciousness.  The cinematography has a slight taint to it in that it uses cascade at times out of synch with the unfolding piece.  For instance the changes from black and white to colour, the cascade, are intended to visualise the positive and warmth in relations iincrementally developing.  Yet it sometimes remains in black and white while that positivity is surging.  There are flashbacks to scenes described between Anna and Adrien of Frantz in the prior period.  That advances War scenes in colour and disharmony on the part of the rhetoric.  It could have been the intention to depict falsehoods in colour but that is neither the case.

Station to station

The belle indifférence with the previous pre-war world is seen in the French sequences of Paris seen as a repairing regrenerating counterpoint to Germany with strolling through the Louvre.  Looking at Manets The Bathers with beneath it, Le Suicide.  The Parisienne fortunes appear secure until late we visit the city and see its invalided body shattered and barely functional.  Losses are in the second half now relater back to the French mirror image with raw torn hearts spilling with their own grief.  The lack of manpower to rebuild also is evident.  The Cafe Belle Époque of the prewar years have vanished as if they never existed.  These times in France are frequently visited as in Therese Discomany, the Francóis Maurice love story or romance and in England it spurred Hillaire Belloc to read into the French and German dilemma such things as were prescient as his boook simply called The Jews reflects.   The era is a classic place of adjustment on the continent.  The borders of the Versailles Treaty escaping the paper constructs of power brokerage and envisioning some relenting peace are to determine so many revisions and the place of starting over.  Such memories of that war were psychologically damaged stubbing for the human beings that survived and were born into it.  This is a point well travelled by François Ozon.  The tributes to people lie everywhere you step.  The consoling and consoled.  The embittered and the vengeful.  The hardened and positive, negative deniers.  The words of the script are beautifully sharp and breathing every btreath allowing the characters to deeply affect you.  There are no persons within it who are trivialised by being seen as perpetrators, or being the enemy.  Far from it the sensitivities are enlarger by the resort to poetry as in the Verlaine poem recited at one point and the rendition in a public place of La Marseillaise. Discomforting in its – subtitled English excentuates the folly of some heroic words – presence there, right in the time.  The immovable shape of the form of war.
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Conclusion ####4

The film of the year so far for me.  Frantz is a lesson for modern living.  The exploration of the psychological depths people go to to either convince themselves of a truth or naively embark on consuming someone else’s apparent truth are startlingly effective. It is a sad and remorselessly engaging heroic film.  Anna is a flawed heroine as indeed despite his misreading of the reasoning he puts to things, is also an essentially flawed person with a ruined perspective of life brought on undoubtedly by war.  The thought is inescapable as the war poetry of many follows in this malaise of mind tyranny in order to cope and construct something at terms with the present.  Writers like Michel Houllebecq make the morose sexual eaae methods deployed in and out of war a frequent tap root of sorrow. The novel in its 20th century incarnations after Stoker, Shelley, Balzac, Dickens have given literature many versions of the nation and the use of borders as an identity rising as a continual denier of the universal truth of equality before God.  

John Graham
17 May 2017
Belfast

On from this Friday 19 May until and including Thursday 25 May 2017

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Raw : A Film Review


Raw 

Director Julia Ducournau Writer Julia Ducournau Stars Garance Marillier, Ella Rumpf, Rabah Nait Oufella, Laurent Lucas, Joana Preiss, Bouli Lanners, Marion Vernoux.
Jean-Louis Sbille as the professor  Rating 18. Duration 1h 39m Genres Drama, Horror.


Probing the flesh

Raw is War in tooth and claw.  Red is cinemas greatest asset in showing in glorious technicolor our raw emotions that inhabit our conscious.  From the premise that within us is a primordial guilt and we seek revenge for the ills of our ancient past back to the dawn of existence we have been fascinated with the bloodlust of others and sometimes ourselves.  The driven kind features heavily and their appetite is satiated in a campus of post-revolutionary Europe.  In a University campus that of L’Universite de Liege, filmed over one summer, writer, Director, Julia Ducournau, in her debut feature film sees humans in a structure of hierarchy.  Garance Marillier playing Justine is dropped of by her affluent parents in a sprawling University campus.  They are past students of the same place and are perhaps aware of what lies ahead in more senses than we are initially lead to believe.   I couldn’t help thinking if they were in part authors or this rite of passage, being from the output from ’68, for their virginal daughter.  In a horrific incestuousness leading all back to the beginning.  Already at the University is sister Alexia (Ella Rumpf) a year ahead.


Journey to self

At the opening frames which we go back to later there is a similar opening to many films.  A open large perspective of a rural connection of a tree lined road seen anywhere in Europe.  There occurs an unexplained event. Cut to the car wth the dog lapping the cheeks of the open eyed Justine whose move from childhood to adulthood is officially stamped.  No longer at home she is on an adventure called life.  This is an enclosed tale of rule making and conformity layered with the very present hormonal discharges of Justines sexuality.  Into this is added the self image and her beliefs which are more or less intact.  As a vegetarian she is setting herself out as having a love of animals which is taken to the point of her enrollment and the family belonging to an ethic of helping all creatures on this earth.

In this environment it is easy to see the disgust of meat eating and it is but not questioned here, a method of exploring whether we are indeed carnivores or as the ancient history will tell us after the ‘original’ sin we became sinful in killing and eating animals.  The proteins of other sources being accommodated only by locational advantage.  The China Study is a book which shows us how to remove meat as a protein source and also shows us how location, China can support a food structure in balance while others hunt and fish plainly because they have an abundance of wild animals, rivers, forests in which flight is not sufficient to save birds, nor speed a reason to escape an arrow.  The Masai will eat from nomadic cattle by slicing off a piece of hind while they walk, covering the wound with mud and eating it raw.  Their choice is confined to an existence without much plant growth.  So how is it God our creator has it in mind meat is a legitimate source of our diet.


Outside life

Justine is confronted by the meat eating fraternity without the family protection.  As a set up we see the family enroute at a roadside cafeteria and out of her ‘veggie’ choice – her parents have moved onto meat eating – probably by obliging the instincts to masticate on flesh cooked into unchained protein as a demonstration of the common predication for eating meat.  In the school of Veterinary Studies there is a ritual and it is a basic condensing of human rules and conformity writ large.  In it the Upper year students in the Dead of Night ambush the entire intake and involve them in a series of initiation subjections which are both a release and an imprisonment.  Mindsare pliable and Alex, Justines sister is already into the camp of the meat eater.  This is despite her own beliefs and she suppresses what Justine still holds as a basic right to decide what she puts inside her body.  

The initiation I won’t describe as too many writers on this film have drawn out all the little details which make it a full on exploration of human instincts.  First time Director at 33 when she made it (at some critics take a youthful age apparently though it is not an age thing, directing chops!) is giving this story an arch violently expressive with some tremendous scenes setting out with accomplished subtlety at times – in the Student clinic for instance there is a great piece of observational writing, then there is the location itself with its optimistic, bunker like, confrontational raw materials of architecture, stubborn forms plain and as the film afore mentioned – ‘What you see is what you get’.  Julia Ducournau has this locked down into Form follows function in excruciating bodily functional detail.  In Train to Busan which is a brilliant zombie movie from a South Korea from last year I took it on to seek more references to the human condition which explored along very similar lines what were its driving forces.  I found it to be the backward launch of the human, back through their mothers, birth a journey to ancient loss.  That read is found by putting into the top right –  search box – Train to Busan. http://wp.me/p2R05n-Hh


Sexual appetite

There are scenes which see Justines sexuality spawn a million seeds.  The male leads in the film are similarly stuck by the new circumstances they find themselves in and their preconceptions are not so much challenged as replaced by alternatives.  Love stories, strange as it may seem develop.  Within this – it is not – mash up – there are several failed relationships and new ones. All concerned with orgasm lust which draws into the equation love and ritualized belongin, hurt and betrayal.  This is another strand not obvious at first but it’s very much there.  From what I’ve so far implied and set out strands of story direction I’ve gotten onboard with the liking community for this film.  At times it will irritate the chops off you, make you cringe at the banality of some use of others tried and rested cinema scoping – the entry frames are so often followed it is tedious to see them range into view again.  I won’t name them but I do have favorites of this intro and they are totally memorable putting this so far below in the lower deck it’s below the plimsol line. Annoying.  There are other beautiful scenes held flowingly with one or two faults, camera hungry playacting, like in the first dance/techno sequence.  The music is by Williams, (son of John?) and it once becomes too much as it is used to ratchet up a particular moment.  It could have blurred out sound or disfunctional sound but it chose the conformity.


Progression towards …. 

The story develops over one year at University and takes on a form utilizing the group without elder supervision other than a few Professorial types who are strangely not equipped or bothered to set anything other than experiments and pick up on grammatical error while also giving Justine further concerns about her outstanding alacrity, skills, understanding of veterinary techniques.  Unlike her  fellow rookies who begin to detest her or at least some of them.  Alex and Justine become strongly connected and share similar demons.  They get into extreme bother and trouble, inviting the entire college to come down on them in their interactions with them.  It keeps ramping up in its violence and portray of the communal internalization while setting out no answers or analysis of the behavior.  Critics so far have placed it in boxes to suit their view and none inclauding myself were able to fix it in a frame of mutual understanding.

 Doctors daughter Julia Ducournau!

Conclusion ****4

Julia Ducournau has composed an odyssey through a young woman’s journey from childhood to adult and survival.  She has used a very able crew and set of young actors who fail nowhere in convincing us of the, beyond recognition, behaviors they portray while putting more than many young actors should in order to be faithful to the task.  The experience must itself been ground breaking on the minds of these young people and Julia Ducournau has probably learnt through it of the many potential pitfalls and erroneous steps, some life changing that enter people’s lives.  The ground breaking element nearly stretches it out to become a genre free film though it is not long enough or dig into the medical, psychological straits of the human pathway.  It is gloriously rich in detail, too much in many people’s minds and plays the willfulness and inevitable harm inflicted mentally on the sisters as in faith.  Julia Ducournau holds the characters hands throughout without being exploitative.  It crosses many lines but being Cinema it’s not a dilemma for anyone. Of course there is revulsion and sickening components but that’s Cinema story telling unleashed with a courageously minded group.

John Graham

27 April 2017

Belfast

 

  

On at Queens Film Theatre from Friday 28 April 2017 and on general release.

Belfast Film Festival Short Films 2017


Belfast Film Festival : Short Films 2017

In order of screening at Queens Film Theatre 1 April 2017.

Briefing

Mystery, Death, Life and Reflection on all our natures. There is a rather loose rural life skirting each programme in contrast to the dramatic and dystopian type narratives of the previous year.!
The basic parameters of the short films selected to be shown in the Belfast Film Festival season have numerous presences and absences of the Irish film world. Seen through the direction and vision, the film screen can conjure with our local vision as a mythical or unintentional reality. Reality is frequently asserted as a starting point as it comprises characterisation, location, a foothold of a concept which will go forth and tumble and rise before us in a picturesque journey. The journey is sometimes held in a narrow gate, sometimes commonplace, sometimes unfamiliar yet known.
The road and genus loci are non specific (local does not require genus loci in my view – a spiritual sense is enough and the senses combined can detect it) in many giving us a wider view than the Ireland of the origins of the story or filmmakers output. Many of these films have been supported by Ireland based ‘film institutions’ and some with local authority, even Credit Union backing. The locality is in many senses not important for the universality of the psyche has no borders and the themes realise this time after time. It is worth bearing in mind the displacement while seeing contexts and settings we are normally overfamiliar with. Such is the wealth of new filmmaking we are getting used to seeing locally developing progressive waves of filmic thought being swept onto film, digital and otherwise and skilfully, beautifully realised. The acting, cinematography, music, direction and production capabilities are seen here as gaining traction year on year. This season is roaming into different melts of concept and vision than others, therefore directionally original. They stand as individual units too within the season itself and each differentiates between the alternative frequencies of thought they engage. To bring positive critique to each is difficult as there are a range of competencies and instilled vision coming out of them. They each however have a single story on screen and of it as well as having a future to penetrate and become more widely experienced.

I have tried to give a view which is helpful, of personal insight and each will differ according to the expectations of the viewer as it happens to be the case everyone’s view is different and valid. Chekhov said you should write everything – except denunciations. So do not read into these opinions as anything other than impressions.

Childer
This is a domestic comic thriller/chiller of a simple narrative form. Well shot and full of colour it has a simple theme of keeping nature including its unpredictability in humans prone to error at bay. Living on the outskirts of town in a nice elegant stone clad brand new house with lots of open space would seem a grand place to bring up your family. The childer refers to the children on the fringes of this dream home. In the house are mother and son. She is anxiety riddled and has a compulsive obsessive disorder she does not take pills for and is incessantly cleaning organising and vexing on her domestic chores.  In Persil freshness she hangs out the whites, no colours, (despite her penchant for – directors choice? – red dresses and clothing) which brings her into contact with, at the bottom of the freshly mown green sward garden, four children. Two boys, two girls aged possibly between seven and thirteen. When she sees them and is discomforted by their affinity with their surroundings, they goad her and disobey her retorts which makes her go on retreat and counter planning more strict protocols which in turn test her child’s sense of belief in this obsessiveness. His contribution is to be the brunt of some actions. We see her become obsessed and the huge dreamlike forest becomes in her mind contested space and overwhelms her. The sunshine only serves to enhance the borders and confrontations. It is played heavily for black humour and slickly filmed in a normalised world and it fills the curiosity of how absurd it can get. It does not go too far in its reach and is a fairly decent conversation of the borders of civilised behaviour without going too Gothic, too horrific, to dismiss and it’s good entertainment. Avoiding biblical metaphors it is simply put – cleanliness is next to the forest. I wonder if a male director could have got away with making the woman the brunt of such a waywardness?  I add another common frailty in a later review – The Clock Makers Dream about costume referring to this film also.  Director / Writer Alison Clarke. Duration 18:43


Break
Tedium takes many forms and film about it is, from the outset dangerous territory without a handle to alter the tedium and vision or groundhog premise. With a world of coffee shops next to workplaces and multiple nuanced choices our principle play is satiated while alongside it, the attraction here is for loner and desk jockey Derek that of interacting with a Coffee shop assistant, Jenny with overdeveloped familiarity, constructing in Derek’s head in its empty spaces outside the workplace scenarios beyond reality. One swallow of coffee or joke does not a relationship make, however foreseen it raises its head in absurdity in an overcooked way.  After the inevitable comes the readjustment. None of the aforementioned is sufficient to hold any empathy and it is ultimately lost on a worthless cause in every sense.  Director/ Writer Brian Moran Duration 11:00


A long shot
I’ve had several bets on the Oscars and I wouldn’t put money on this story short making it anywhere near the winners enclosure when the turn arrives next year. The sporting juices are satiated in visions of Croke Park Dublin. An unlikely but true location for a soccer match between Ireland and Germany and the iconic stadium is the star as it presides over a flat land North County Dublin. A place where the sun also rises. The setting of a couple, the girl, Sarah, lad, Larry who are sharing a house, was one which took time to get my head around with a bedridden Dad asleep upstairs and downstairs barely a stick of furniture. The sparseness being a disjoint. Dad frail as he is, is called upon for anecdotal tone setting about the rare oul times – pre Johnny Giles up through the Keane era to the present halcyon days, comparable to Italia ’90 when Ireland became European when Ray Houghton’s left foot took Ireland to a confidence never before believed. A wager is conceived by Larry for a change in fortune except the money wagered is not his. The roles are well played and it is quick into its pace while it arrives at its pay dirt result in a shaky state of unease and has a small twist in the tail. It was an unlikely concept held together with some decent dialogue and feeling but it failed to stimulate as a complete cohesive peace in my view.  Director / Writer Andrew Jordan. Duration 14:55


Cousins. 
More than a friend less than a brother, the  observation goes about Cousins which opens its story on a shoreline and becomes disjointed in its indoor outdoor chosen environments.  The cousins – unstreetwise Jason (12) and his cousin  – risk taker bully Leon (14) who have never met before are tested and soon their bonding becomes a complicit compact with both taking part in a savage brutal violent act which is off the limits of anything either has previously done. As a film construct it is overkill.  There are numerous more effective ways of delivering its message but it also not in either character no matter how the idea got stuck in the writers head.  Getting unhinged has its signals and though people may not see them the clues should have been more subtle. The lame lane scene is insufficient on this score.  It spirals into a confrontation with authority. The young filmmakers are no stranger to the vicissitudes of normal life in Dublin and apparently know no bounds as far as Dublin’s scope is concerned as their theatre of film making marks out familiar places. The fault I have with it is, it brought no more than standard situational inner city struggles while it kept within its own (constraining group work lacking leadership, ownership?) remit – without extending, contrasting its place within drug culture, out of control criminalit.  It tries to imitate (unScorsese like – a film handle used) and they need to their game at a remove or two from this with a complexity beyond the easy familiar – which they deliver assured and  confidently enough – to allow criticism which holds they appear to have smarts but need originality, twist, presence altered and refocused on societal problems, to intimidate and put the heebeejeebees into an audience as Scorsese can do with all sorts of things including Jesuit Priests.  Director/Writer Ciaran Behan. Duration 14:01


A pornographer woos

The title is an overplay of an underplayed act of seduction. A married couple on the beach have the sunshade up, the mother in law in a deck chair, the kids hyper in sunscreen and the reconstructed Michael Smiley as said pornographer fully clothed and reading as he also surveys his wife’s curves and constructs a love poem – stand over John Donne. Melanie McHugh soaks up the sun in a classic black bathing suit and seduces the camera along with Michael as both ignore their family adjacent. When he passes the poem to his wife it creates a central peak and – no spoilers then will follow. It is a sunny smiley film with an almost perfectly formed play on attractions fuel except it never reaches a climax. Dreams become flesh and although it felt awkward at times, like sucking on a boiled sweet, it moves swiftly enough past those minor slips. It is all the more pleasurable that we don’t get to see MS in MS trunks, boxers, sporting a range of bodily delights kept only for his partner MS, and he only speaks a few words in his Norn Ireland drawl. I do like to be beside the seaside and the sangria can wait. Post a love poem and see what you get?  Director Patrick Myles. Duration 07:00


Incoming call
The highly original take on having an alter ego or future/past tense embodiment is an instant draw to this excellent short film. Songwriter singer Kerri played by Naseen Morgan is debuting her talent in a club, Voodoo credited actually, I thought it was Menagerie but the Voodoo have ripped off their vibe and look! For an uncomfortable introduction just before she takes to ‘stage’ and the open mike she receives an incoming message from her future self. If only you could get them to tell you whose hot and whose not in the data world and who won the war we could play God. But it introduces actually a good format for a longer tale perhaps when the instructional self is your primary driver and risk is removed. It provides tangible perplexing truths as to whether you are the best judge and need you commit to something to achieve – what? The story is well put together and the mobile phone footage is so good it leaves you comparing the normal scenes with it and feeling short changed. Only a few films I recall have a decent club feel and then sporadic. The brilliant Victoria set in Berlin 2016 has the many sides of an interior. There is a big range in Berlin and it’s not the Bergeron type or the KitKat type club films have yet to go there but nevertheless is close to the hedonistic style this club fetishes over.  Director / Writer Eion Cleland. Duration 11:20


Dam
Several of these films unfortunately for me don’t fit into the review format I used last year – a)Plot, b)What’s good with it, c)What’s bad with it, d)Verdict. This one does not fit either as it’s too sharp and distinct to narrow it’s feel and the variety of readings it projects. Basically it is a young mans guide to survival when tragedy hits and there are few opportunities to speak of it let alone to peers. So we are transported to the Spelga Dam which itself is a fascinating and camera hunger location.  The penned sheep in the publicity shot is a comedic take on imprisonment of the mind!?  The two principles – one an annoying and insecure foppish young adult Dikey, whose more ponderous mate, Smurf (on the outside – both hold in hurt memories) go back to the place where their mate took leave of this mortal coil. The fact they go back is a challenge and they look for distractions in conversation and the exploration of the place which is a good choice in taking time to breathe and take in the story.

Once the film settles down – when the vodka bottle they have brought along in anticipation perhaps of a measure of courage how ever negative – takes a part as a token messenger. You’ve the bottle speak – another metaphor, the film becomes mature though falters in its use of ‘imitation’ peril. The symbolism of the Dam holding things back is a deluge waiting to happen in itself whether intentional ( there s a mention of their friend Enda holding things back) or not but figuratively it projects sense and sensitivity into the whole body of the work. The core message is clean and delivered with sensitivity. It is no small measure of the ability to convey such hard felt los and the crushing reality harboured that talking helps. A core message delivered that despite being young, wet behind the ears, holding natural fears, using substances as false props the decisive thing is to bring clarity and purpose to bear and connect with people who listen and look for advice and answers and basically love for yourself and fellow human beings.  Director Conan McIvor. Duration 18:00


The Order
Darkwoodsmen don overalls, hit the kill button on their cause celebre and plot the demise of an informer. It’s neither done with grace, insight or sense of reality or governance of a terrors that organisation taking on the Stakeknife role of enforcer. They even brought a seat along for a a wait. It couldn’t have been the Larne woods then, where the PSNI ate their sandwiches while the stash of guns were buried. More like the Wicklow Hills which doubles as a conventional hit squad location of choice. It was a miserable film with a cockamayny twist and ultimately forgettable.  Director Matthew Brown. Duration 12:53


My father, my blood
Young eyes old witch, middle aged man in longcoat. A child watches their father murder a woman in cold blood. More than and other than the first thought of it being an exorcism it’s fiercely terminal. As they continue to live nomadically on the west coast of Ireland, their relationship begins to break apart. Both in the wild mountainous terrain of home territory. John Robert Brown has crafted a film which is outstanding as a drama mystery. His actors, Daniel – Jordanne Jones, Cillian – Barry Ward, principally, and Hag – Maire Hastings, Siren – Anarosa De Eizaguirre Butler, Father – Wesley O’Duinn, Mother – Miriam Devitt, Little Girl – Jade Reidare are the most convincing seen in this season of shorts and of such capable, significant talent they enable the strangeness of this tale to impress on the viewer a real almost Shakespearian sense of surreal otherworld. It is full of the atmosphere of many of the plays without imitating any. It is hard to figure out what is going on. The relationship in the centre is full of mystery as it was revealed to me – the father, referring to the girl as boy, is wishing she was a boy.  Jordanne Jones is incredible as the young Daniel and is full of emotive nuance and bewildering mystery as the girl juvenile in a central role which only points to an natural acting talent who is aware of the finer acting needs some of her peers and several a-listers could gain from attaining.  In RTE Red Rock an older actress who has similar credentials is Leah Minto as a Garda. Leah calls her part Ash as having street smarts. She is another actress who reads her role extremely well. The space shifting and shortness of this film is its downfall as it is of a potentially wider scope and maybe like Magpie did for Stephen Fingelton act as a calling card for a main feature film. It is shot extremely beautifully and assuredly by Ewan Mulligan though it’s over SFX’d at times. The whole team however deserve credit as it’s not easy to give this look and feel to a drama and give it an Irish feel which is well capable of fitting many stories and maybe reinventing familiar narratives – wildly – as long as the include the talent of J. Jones!  Director/ Writer John Robert Brown.  Duration 12:40


Pause
Here dialogue is delivered by tape to a woman in a place she is either returning to for a break, reflection away from the rat race or here to redress and confront a troubling past. It appears this is partially true as she is familiar with the tapes and within them are an uncomfortable record and it’s not Eleanor McAvoy or Shania Twain. Heartfelt are the revealed troubling accounts she rehears. Times are like Get Back Up or Better Times but this is a remote island, Inishbiggle in Co. Mayo, where there is oddly a faint signal for mobile reception. There is a confusing, for audience and Janine Hardy and the viewer of a sense of reality which is evoked mainly by the landscape. It is play on modern necessity to revisit the past, as opposed to previous generations who had to forego the luxury of this journey. Nonetheless people do find a need to sort out particular parts of their past life’s and move on but the memory is not always reliable and things often turn out to be fluid. Other means of exploring this are of greater effect and while it is a decent shot at a particular Pause in a persons story it is does not sit in the memory for too long.  Director/Writer Niamh Heery.  Duration 08:17


Moira Fortuna
The immigrants story is colourful as is the case in this experimental drama which incorrectly is described in programmes as being composed of only three shots whereas it begins with the Moira pacing through the tree lined streets of Hampstead to the Heath where awaits a chance encounter with Mark a young, introverted, shaven headed Irishman contemplating the non sense of space he finds in a remote shelter where his counterfoil Moira arrives seeking a light for her Gauloise cigarette (I imagine) like a winged charioteer of the logo she sweeps into the mind of Mark as a gallant inquisitor. The premise is easy on the eye and it is an escapist stylistic work reliant on tweaks and colourist framing eccentricity whchnos old/new school filmmaking and slightly indulgent. The narrative, dialogue is self centred and vaguely Proustian. As an adventure it is sadly overwhelming of the two main participants whose contribution is very engaging but untested in silences, activity or personal connection.  Director/ Writer Ed Smith. Duration 19:18


The Climb
In the life of others there are unknown hardships and family tragedies which never appear on the surface and then only through contracted framed incidences. For a short to take on grieving and loss in through the metaphor and literal reenactment of a Climb on a mountainside in Northern Ireland there is a sense of jeopardy portrayed by the two participants in the Climb. The teacher and the novice climber this is a depiction based on an actual tragedy and carries it with emotional quality and sensitive slow paced revealing how how such things are overcome. Loss by the widow played by Joanne Crawford, with Ian Beattie as the instructor. Some parts of the intended story do not carry. It is easy to miss the element that this for the fictional Julia is a climb on her adventure loving late husbands favourite mountain, Hen Mountain In the Mournes for example. For a true story it is deals with with a degree of moderation and sensitivity which fails to make it push itself as a short film story of far reaching insight. However well conceived and put together it is with the largesse of a consistently efficient film company it fails to deliver in the main part of new vision.  Director/Writer Lynne Davison.  Duration 09:20


The Ladies
Be prepared for toilet humour of a moderated kind. No harmful or toxic elements are shown, seen and all is piloted very well in the quest to give a set of dating circumstances a new slant. Apprentice dater, the amusingly inept and self-effacing youth Robbie a callow boy wishing to rose to the occasion of a date in a posh restaurant. He is seated waiting for his date to turn up and then sees an Aunt and Uncle who require to know too much. In getting an alternative seat a mate who happens to work at the establishment is asked to direct him to the toilet which is the source of the central plank of the introduction to the protocols of dating. Don’t listen to others for advice being one first rule. Whelehans Wines (Restaurant) of Loughlinstown I am sure would wish to assure future customers that the scenes in the film are entirely fictional and there is no shortfall in their excellent hospitality nor their facilities meeting all the needs and proper expectations of their diners. As a comedy piece it is well directed and well cast with a fresh and good paced unwavering sense of that area of entertainment it is extremely difficult to deliver something fresh, rounded and with a uniqueness despite the heavy measure of iterhaps having only one real joke to relate. It is a short so it is not going to trouble you with the what happened next. Though it has a cute ending.  Director/Writer Juke McKane. Duration 09:44


Homecoming
The narrative here is a familiar tale here North and South of migration and return. The take on it here is a young man working his fathers farm part time alongside his brother who we don’t meet and it shows his routine of daily feeding the group in lower fields presumably late autumn. There is another returnee, a young woman about seven years separate their last encounter having grown up together. An overlong sheep trailing intrudes, adds as a needless buffer and it replaces a missing part, a third dimension or diversion – even an introduction – like – taking a shop trolley back to the local one village shop/post office and meeting the person and saying you’ll drop by later. Instead we get an angry almost phone call? What’s that about? It had potential and it realised it partially in the good conversation dialogue of thoughtfulness regarding both these modern young Irish people. It had some solidity therefore it getting the message across but was let down in my view by other choices.  Director/Writer Sinéad O’Loughlin. Duration 13:55


Emergency stop
When you see another road trip expect human or alien interventions. So when we get the emergency stop it arrives in an unusually disorientating form requiring immediate explanation. The two characters are the girl behind the wheel and what the stop calls for, a partially dressed young woman. The driver at first appears to be in shock but it turns out very different. A male –  I wonder again – if the horror and the desperation which is laden on to be a character cinematic shock – fulfilled plus – would be seen as acceptable and necessary to achieve the reveal.  I think it would have been scorned as a bit patrightfully. It is a brief piece of nastiness anyway and is of shock value only. No heightened colour or darkness, (? tried to make it as naturalistic as possible so as not to give away the – you have to disclose any level of …. occurs anyway?) no distinct shape or vision in the camerawork or editing and it comes to a stop leaving you feeling disappointed.  A momentary Diane Jessie Miller lapse as there is very good work preceding it.  Director / Writer Diane Jessie Miller. Duration 05:41


Narcan
By far this film is the most like a mainstream movie and potentially of a bigger form. Even a mini series.  The story is set in New York with a great scene setting and character intro which shows a paramedic crew setting of on a day’s work with Irishman Sean Ryan leaving loose ends on a day’s start with his wife and child. They fit a tangible unit and subject setting up several possibilities and secured in this beginning Séan is revealed as full of anxiety unlike his negro co-driver. The daily routine is far from it and involves visit after visit to familiar haunts of them caring for seriously hurt human beings hanging onto life as they are called to apply first medical assistance which is life threatening – sometimes in both parts of the equation. It is brilliantly realistically shot and the acting too is superb. The part of Sean’s wife is handled empathetically and convincingly as a woman placed in a foreign city in a homemaking unit with the trappings of improved lives emerging put on the precipice through the job Séan does. It is well scripted and for a New York narrative it is unusual in that it follows an ‘ordinary joe’ going about his day job in the city streets. Several films I am reminded of go into the place of seeming to reveal a part of NY unseen by use of an effective core. Ira Sachs film of last year Little Men does it brilliantly.
This is from a Limerick man and it’s won several awards for Peter McNamara and crew and cast who do a mighty fine job.
The title is from – Naloxone, sold under the brandname Narcan among others, is a medication used to block the effects of opioids, especially in overdose. Naloxone may be combined within the same pill as an opioid to decrease the risk of misuse. When given intravenously, it works within two minutes, and when injected into a muscle, it works within five minutes. This film works in 20mins. and has after effects. I leave it of the roster for my favourite as it is singularly expansive and has is clearly outstanding with a very professional result which I nominate as a Special Award Joscar as I want to highlight other ‘firsts’ deserving special mention. So the origin of this film is also revealed as – While working behind a bar he would hear a wealth of stories from migrant Irishmen but one set of stories in particular stood out from the rest, An Irish paramedic working the streets of New York who would regale him with stories of being on the job and everything gritty detail that it entailed. Fascinated by what he heard he began to write during quiet moments while working in the bar, the blueprint of the Narcan screenplay was ultimately born from these scribbles on the back of beermats and napkins. It’s made.  Director/Writer Peter McNamara.  Duration 20:00


Second to none
Cartoonified twins are competitors in old age. While they presumably never had any hang ups while growing up and why would they the clock doesn’t lie. One came out first and one has just become the oldest living person in Cartoonville. The expressive and deeply intense animation is broad and well shaped. It puts up a gripping little story on a mere seven minutes that flies by. In the end you are warmed and horrified and made sceptically of all elderly folk who look unsettlingly cheerful. It might even get a 12 certificate as it’s only plasticine/clay?!  Director / Writer Vincent Gallagher. Duration 07:10


Groundless
Mary played by Love/Hate Aiobhinn McGinnity is an inner city Dublin single mum. It’s probably best getting that role out of the way in a short! Niaomi Harris, she alleges, did it in Moonlight. Here there is a difference with Mary retaining her faculties.  It could become a hoop around any good actresses neck portraying a subject familiar in so many outlets fact and fictional.  Son Mark is in with the wrong people. Dorset Street is typecast as a lonely street of crime and Garda chasing their tails while hell spirals as a flood about everyone’s ears. For the narrative this film takes it to the ultimate test of love and tests the appetite for continued immersion in a face of violence never seen in reality except to those close to and in the locality of actions which see the body bags and those who arrange the internment of their loved ones right in front of them.  While it is a very accomplished piece it does unfortunately only unsettle and is of incomparable relation to the street crime seen across Ireland and a constituent of most deprived urban western cities. Narcotics are a normal feature. The same weekend – unplaced out in media were the deaths of five young people in the Belfast City area with probable links to contaminated drugs supplied but the violence meted out was and is a destroyed body. Not shot but shut off with drugs instantaneously.  This also in the line of other more savage crimes also having young victims around the same time in the same locality. Narcan fits the spaces and more as far as the complex arbitrary exposure to harm and death with the important key of the Paramedic’s daily trauma clearly setting it apart. Director/Writer Eimear Callaghan.  Duration 10:20


Lady Death
The cloak and spectre of death which is a visitor to everyone comes in the (offset) horror genre film short telling the world of a guardian who is not angelic but places herself as the arbiter of all things final. Lady Death has a way about her which is basically too fundamental. In a journey of youthful discovery Lady Death who is twenty something harbinger of doom in her day post – seeing to the soon to be despatched, tortured souls, – is caught in a frail limbo and sees contentment which she only is able to enable through her portentous clients. She has wisdom beyond her years and is herself fixated with life’s carousel though in the converse to us – as she witnesses wrong choices of doubt, self analysis, which death is not intended for. Having scruples she seeks out the vulnerable to become their Gabriel. As writer Director Karen Quinn puts it ‘Death is not the bad guy, life is.’ With her lonesome task carried on young shoulders she meets a young man whose plight in his hands is doomed. The ill-boding stars align to tell this bearded youth of an apocalypse imploding in his mind while around him the world produces its daily beauty and cycle regardless tempting and fate to his conclusion. Karen is of a similar age to the actress and actor and is instinctively sharp on alternative views. She also delivers some great words – ‘Death is not meant for the young’ ‘Fear is a part of life’. Move over Aristotle. While Lady Death and the young man meet on the waterfront, one sees the bright lights of Belfasts central riverside in two shades, the bright fast moving daily hustle contrasting with the lit up colour of the night sky and moon reflecting on the water all that calmer but equally perplexing – the other sees no joie de vivre but I won’t say which one. The cinematographer though does as the film is shot particularly insightfully around the weir walkway and some ‘Cy Twombly’ (there is a lot of referencing him in my my reviews so learn about the cinematic angle if you haven’t already!) painterly colours and vibrancy lifts the mood. Again an insightful choice.  There is a sharp moment courtesy of Tesco Lisburn Road near the fair trade bananas which is a non sponsored moment. This is highly interesting, entertaining take on the old certainty by a light hand with a deft crew and only the occasional wobble. (Referring to the backdrop of brick which is too much of a students staple – leaning against walls! and multiple [edit?] to and fro on the bridge ‘encounter’ sequence – it moved too much) But all said it was a very good piece of work and the smoothness of a longer piece may create a breakthrough film. The writing being the chief strength. All to mature and form still hopefully as it leaves you wanting more but not necessarily the same thing.  Director/Writer Karen Quinn. Duration 11:40


Pebbles
The territory of Maeve Binchy or a terse Hugh Leonard or even Brian Moore spring to mind in seeing this narrative unfold. The rich seam of the future providing the newly married in an earlier era of say the fifties had authorial potential as well as real possibilities. We have here a Film of a woman returning to her honeymoon hotel to meet with her now estranged husband whose promise of fifty years previously was – whatever became of them – they would return to the Bray Hotel in which they first became a wedded couple. The pebble is a symbol pressed into the hand all those years ago.
Pebbles are strange things and on a woman being brought one with a cross on it after she said, bluebells are best left in the hedgerow, the suitor said ‘It’s a sign the marriage would be blessed.’ For her reply came ‘No Priest can bless a marriage where there isn’t one.’
Many beaches will have similar tales. It is far too literal and unidirectional to see the woman here on the beach with a heavy suitcase in her comfy trainers, with aa dress on and heavy coat to then traipse across to the seafront hotel missing a vowel from its sign. There are a smart young couple dining in the window seat watching each other’s eyes like they’ve discovered this weeks lotto numbers and won’t tell a soul. It only would take a minute to cross the street and get a ticket. All sorts come to mind as this slow work gathers enough steam to boil an egg. Pity it’s sans salt and an egg cup. Basically the film lacks substance and will he won’t he is barely of interest as so many similar tales seem good at first sight on the page as the author has embellished the notion with plenty of asides and meandering to escape the fact it’s a non story of sentimental value for the idly curious. The ‘couples’ place and hotel act well in their assigned parts but it passes quickly with the Sky hardly changing.  Director/Writer Jonathan Shaw Duration 14:55


The Clock Makers Dream
Time holds everything in its hands. For a filmmaker, animator the time frame has stopped. The magic begins when the Clockmaker introduces his management to time. Here is a whimsically travelled, very well doctored reality in a kind of visitor Centre Ireland town or village with the clockmaker returning to find all things stopped not least the town clock. George Meilie is cited as an inspiration. Ever since I saw people parading around racecourses a decade or more ago with quite effectively courtiered horses head pieces on to spin the atmosphere and ironically not to frighten the horses, I’ve seen the use in film as a cop out of imagination. The same flaw entered wth the very first film in the set here at the screening, Childer. There are several inspirations and it had me thinking while watching of Jacque Tati whose absurdity was in the same Gallic charm this conveys. It must be the Brittany connection. Even Dali is a bellwether. Our Clock Maker is in a world having not found live ŵhen time stops and this is the sadness of the piece which propels him into action and adventure. So another lesson there? You only find out you have been inactive in your search for true love, or insufficiently charged before time comes to a standstill and ‘the chase’ has also stopped and love is not only sought but needed.
The concept of the stopping of time is cleverly teased out to play with notions of living in the present. Only now existing. No future release tracking of time is needed. Conversely all the above takes time and this is the fascination of momentary belief suspension. See what I did there?! Shocks appear on screen in this arrested time as it is important to realize the resolved does not happen without a time lapse. Take the Irish historical narrative for one. Blow up Nelsons Column and you get to regain 100 square feet of territory in O’Connell Street. Now what name did it have before? If you look back in time as the clockmaker does the past is seen as a precursor to that broken heart you have or that grief you once had. The present is unresting because it starves you of memory and displaces the potential plans of tomorrow. How many hands have you got and where are they to point? The clockmaker remembers things he has made and now remembers for that is all there is left to do. The doll after doll made before clocks turned to him. If time had more time it would be its shadow. If your hands do not gesture you are not alive and moving on. As they say time heals.  Director/Writer Cashell Hargan. Duration 13:30


Gridlock
In the holiday season, especially in the Wicklow Hills it’s easy to take a back road and find yourself in a traffic jam. It is a welcome sight when it’s on the screen and your not in it particularly as this script has crafted together a loose collection of screwball half witted and cockamamie,ad as hares traveling folk who each have a story. Which has the story? They all have a part in unearthing it. Form the back seat of a car the child getting on trying to behave as if this was what her friends at school think would least expect her to be subjected too and the sun is splitting the sky and there are so many other kids to play with. No. She passively sits and listens to her Da’s rant. When her Dad gets out of the car to see what’s going on he finds a hay art turned over and Goya black horse lying as dead as it can act on the ground. It’s surrounded by a squabble. When he returns to the car straight away he finds Emma is missing. The instincts kick in as he looks all around to see if she’s gone for a pee or is down the other side resting her legs or talking to someone in another car. No. She has gone. The car driver directly behind is quizzed followed by anyone who oscnear. It develops into a very acerbic, horrifying piece of black comedy and every character plays it for pathos and unbelievable truth. The unbelievable truth being half the stories they tell as if it is factually making sense to everyone. This is the least unformed story of the entire set as a film it is too bloody believable asa possibility and puts every parent on warning for kidnapping in every moment of their lives. So they are in a car and lots of people are caught up in the same very narrow road and all wish to move on. How could a child disappear under this intensely claustrophobic set of conditions? Yes she does and into this come past histories, character unhinged fragility, tragedy, complacency, stereotyping and filmic cliches. The manhunt, the dark impenetrable woods, the pressure of time, the police stubborn static unhelpful authoritarian control, the jeopardy and wild imaginings. If it were not for the ordinariness of the main characters and the ease with which these actors seamlessly act together it would be set for critical mincing being a tale of child abduction in appearance. Yet it rises above the horror of the concept to keep you gripped to the end. So why no award? I left it aside as it was far too short and it weaved everything together in a short space of time without time to be excruciatingly terrifying. It missed a beat somehow and I’d have to see it again to explain that to myself again! Perhaps it was trying too hard to be just plain stupid and comedic? Perhaps it was too well shot? Perhaps it was answering your questions too swiftly. It is very cleverly engrossing and is as another aside a kind of everyman portrait. You know the type – where an everyman gets out of bed – something bad happens and his character shifts dramatically – for whatever reason this side is confronting and totally opposite to the earlier persona and can it change back etc.  Director/Writer Darach McGarrigle.  Duration 19:45


Prick
Overstretched fitness fanatic seen in go-pro enhanced camerawork is diabetic Tom. It overshadows his life as body confidence is blunted and sometimes he does not take his medication. Insulin pricks we learn quickly are a nightmare at times and the need for one in a young adult sportsman when competing for example, is our subject here. The director Adrian Rowe with fellow writer Emma Louise Dodds take a great deal of thought in assembling this narrative so as to 1. deliver a short effective insightful entertainment. 2. Be conveyors of health awareness and advice. You are not alone in other words as a young man whether you are a cyclist, rower, GAA player or netball, baseball player or any active young woman or man. A graph of the line of the sugar levels depletion is deployed aka The Survivalist opening frames come to mind! Another survivor but here in the real world of City life and girlfriend, relationships and the uncertainties of the future. It is great to see this kind of work as well executed as it is here and all perform to make it that reality. It is not a usual subject and it is not that complex with results, once the ‘reveal’ of the medical condition, this is not a spoiler as it is flagged up as being about a Diabetic! so it has a empathetic pull and it is exemplary without being brilliant on the levels of others reviewed here. Don’t take that to hard filmmakers because there is a lot of very strong work here!  Director Adrian Rowe Writers Adrian Rowe and Emma Louise Dodds.  Duration 13:58


When the seagulls…
The format of this short is a buddy type movie with a twist. All the more so given it involves basically one scene. It is of two men about late twenties who have come to this isolated beach (Norfolk is credited?) to despatch the remains of a friends ashes whose wish they are fulfilling. On the dunes we loook down to the pair, with an empty deck chair set on the rustling maram grass. Setting the scene they both stare out to sea and both become uncomfortable with this act which neither has done before. They converse with many reflections on themselves the person in the urn and even inform us quite accurately, well almost of what remains of remains and the person once cremated. So far so good. It is a whimsical and thoughtful script and process with the more confident of the two, after all he’s carrying the urn share the moment and a degree f gravitas is entered into. The story is well held and it gives you plenty to think about during this short period. Neither overlong nor short this tale has a twist which none will have anticipated.
Suffice then to conclude this is a very good short film of the type of real life narrative which seeks to be more than the contents, appearance of a short entertainment on observance. Observance is there of the two, of young men’s unfamiliar on the most part o loss and how to grieve. I takes it further by becoming a lesson well told and it becomes visual and the metaphors of the open expanses is singularly potent in becoming part of the confinement even for ‘him inside’ while introducing a heavy closure. There are several morality, finality tales with it seeming when the statistics of ourselves are shared, that that is what we are, just numbers. Another spoken one is that naivety is a greater sin than cynicism.
‘The Foggy Dew’ is played on a great soundtrack an the angelus bells provide the tome of sober paused reflection.
Having been to the cinematographic Norfolk coast on many’s occasion I never forget the vast openness of particularly the location of Blakeney Point where the very earth seems not to exist in any semblance of permanence, with tides and sands constantly exchanging their spoils. Eerily it becomes even more ethereal out at the point itself and the producers/director may have seen something of this location in their choice of exit.  Director/Writer Alasdair Killen.  Duration 13:30


The Cyclops
The double of graffiti and glue sniffing give Duncan fewer brain cells to think with and his relationship with his Mother is on a downward trail. It is attendant on the concerns of youngsters while delivering no new outlook or observance that I am aware of. While it has truth and consequences, such a trashed ‘flat’ – very lucky lad getting any kind of flat anyway on an Irish City – it hangs your interest on outcomes you know require redemption from within the family. I struggled with this as either exploiting a very serious section of life. As well asbeing described as a social realist film and taking on very well formed dreamlike/nightmarish effects interweaving them very well into the narrative ilacls thump kudos and delivery of a social ill dismissed. The teenagers have other interests besides these and no contrasts are exploited whether a short or not having the result I didn’t quite get it as a completed piece.  It may be that the director is not after a vision of reality and is playing with the themes.  Fair enough though talent such as this needs to assert its self fiercely to enter the broader wide long form which is obviously hanging in the air.  Director Hugh Mulhearn Duration 15:00


Six pack and crack
Black and white footage is employed with use alongside coloured flashback to provide the consisting local village shop life of an alcoholic mother Val and her estrangement from her 16 year old son Shane. She has used and is used in a relationship with a Russian whose delinquencies are greater. Joe, her partner has an entourage whose drug choices cover the bases. Shane the son would become a punchbag if he were to live at home. It doesn’t stop him from acting courageously to see his mother make other choices. Even so he has demons which make him wasted. The crystal meth environment of home comes with trading in drugs which accrues money which disappears. The money is put to use in the form of a resolution. It provided a great central role for Shane as he tied the content together while his mother portrayed in gripping, stark, tragic state was compelling. Unable to empathize with Joe the villain should not take away from the menace he projects and conquers any misgivings about the ensemble. It was a good film in many aspects and though it delivered twists and turns it was not my kind of thriller.  Director Rita-Marie Lawlor.  Duration 17:00


Time and again
For two fourteen year old boys the prospect of time travel is not confined to comic books. Two Brian’s appear.  The young and older versions.  The basic subject is very well trodden ground.  Given the chance would you go back and change a life changing event?  Would it be possible and these boys try to imagine it might.  Even a Stephen Hawking probably would have us take the position – the jury is out and the evidence is filtering through. The Eagle type comic is the subject of ones conjecture while the other is a more irritatingly science/professorial kind. The voice of Brian is adult as he narrates the older Mr Jones. Oisin at 14 is technologically secure and insecure. He has false perceptions and his name choice – Ossian being a favourite of 18th century Scottish poet James Macpherson who travelled further back to the poet Ossian of 3rd century ad is as close as I got to engaging with the entertainment yet irritation coming from the protoscientists. The retelling is poorly achieved from the other characters of Mum and Dad and the absence of a father while a good device to provide the impetus it is shallow in complex and does not work. The Tom figure is a type – the adult who says do us a favour son and don’t be havin’ nightmares – all cosy sort of, so it’s not a difficult challenging watch.  The type of safe short the BBC and other screeners favour.  Director/Writer Aiden Largy Duration 13:48

The Party
If ever there was a film to be had of a party in a back street in Belfast in 1972 as aconveyance was f showing sectarian hatred in the hands of violent men and women it’s not here. The utility of sanders and lerbstone paint also adding false notes. A UDA shooting in an area with rwb kerbs? A late bight party attended only by someone who had lost the plot and completely out of their head on drink morexprobably but not eyes wide open. It was a ridiculous and if harbours any nuances or side issues I did not see them. The cross dressing man on the run stupidity is a crude choice.  Given there were trans and LGBT in ’73 as ever, this is something left to perfect.  It may have conceivably got its supporters as an on edge of town bars/discos or The Harp Bar as harmless and indicative of a different paradigm was a good point while it never got anywhere close to a Neil Jordan type twist or visual foil. The interior shots if not the dials hue were good and period convincing.  The doorbell answered is also a conceited  stupidity.  So did anyone get shot for having a Party? Unionists, Nationalists, Socialists, Communists, Lecturers, Councillors, Reporters got shot and killed for having Party allegiances but for the other it didn’t make sense as the film failed in large doses. The triviality is not mine, it belongs four square with the films mediocrity. It doesn’t even make it as false history but ludicrous weak history poorly conceived.  Director Andrea Hardin. Writer Conor MacNeill. Duration 14:00

THE END OF THE FICTIONAL SHORT REVIEW.  MY WORDS AS A PLACEMENT OF OPINION HOVERING NEAR TRUTH HOPEFULLY.  Thank you for reading and if I’ve been too tough or critical on those who are responsible for the film content apologies as it’s meant only perversely (positive criticism) to encourage better and if that’s wrong too then I’ve failed to watch it more closely perhaps.

Non-Fiction Documentary Shorts Belfast Film Festival 2017
I have reviewed a few of the separated Documentary films shown a day after in a group with what I found weird results as far as awarding went as these two were in my view very worthy of winning as opposed to those who settled for ‘obvious’  cineworld reasons having missed the wealth elsewhere. Big time low.

The Wee Shop and Seán Hillen Merging views get my Joscar17 Short Doc award.
2 different and joint winners in my mind. Anything that can bring joy and laughter to a small film theatre in the heart of Belfast on a Sunny Sunday afternoon when the choice has been made not to join the promenade on the beach or car chase on the motorway to catch a barbecue or walk the park avoiding dogs is supremely deserving of any number of awards. In The Fashion Show caught a bright light in the world of Ruth Morrow trainee shepherdess and alter ego film Super Mario and Luigi gamer heros were a breathe of fresh air too. The sublimity – (solid to gas to solid again seems appropriate) – of the world of a rural community letting its worries pass into the afternoon sky temporarily was a lovely escape exquisitely creative and insightful. The surreality of the theme developed as a natural phenomenon and was a really enjoyable watch thoroughly well done by a burgeoning talent.


The Wee Shop

In Belfast the corner shop is a disappearing social staple. The Shop around the corner and later You’ve got mail by Nora Ephron are story films of the urban shop while in Belfast the Irving St John who belonged to a deaf family in Euston Street wrote the very funny play Boyd’s Shop which created a very portrait of the community focal point these places were on basically every road and inner city tributary. They even existed in the backstreets and their lights were on until near nine o’clock to provide for the essentials such as milk bread and sugar and non essentials such as cigarettes, lemonade and ice cream, the weekly pools coupon and a florid diet of gossip. The faltering entity is now a shadow of its former self as this short film makes a collection of a small number of stoical shopkeepers lament themselves about the struggle to remain true to the community corner shop provision they sustain on modest returns. Aside from the butchers and Chip shops and street cafes and fast food outlets they are seldom able to compete and this film is a tale which brings mostly dark humour out with the resolute frank telling of past times. Patsy on the New Lodge Road has plenty in common with her fellow shopkeepers Bill and Norman of Sandy Row and the Shankill respectively. The sorry demise of communities driven to the wall by successive governments undermining through lack of investment in all sectors of community life, the housing, schools, infrastructure, transport and a determination to structure destabilisation through housing allocation and lack of provision for families within communities is seen in these very shops which act as a last connection with the troubled communities they serve and served. By giving as one Shopkeeper explained with conspicuous accuracy, the bigger stores are allowed free access to a market through scale and mainly car accessible shopping by Belfast and surrounding Councils.  Monster supermarkets out of scale with communities and frequented by out of town bound custom heading to the dormitory habitations which provide identikit soulless housing on former farmland and undeveloped hinterlands of small villages. The film is a marker as were photographs of the same shops and former shopkeepers which provide another outlook and insight to the life of a passing community key.  Director  Siobhan King Duration 11:00


Seán Hillen, Merging views
This new short documentary portrait observes artist Seán Hillen as he creates a beautiful new photomontage. He shares thoughts about his work and recent personal discovery. The choice of making a work in the small studio of Seán Hillen is a tool adding emphasis to the incredibly interesting subject which is part of film making achievement; the detail the intensely focal frame.

The intensely imaginative world of Newry native, Séan Hillen in his present home of many years in Dublin is entered as if stepping into the imagination itself.  From the immediacy of an introduction to the dark outside and the loved fat bastard of a cat getting a food treat offered with profanity, a source of warm engagement and audience laughter enters the film theatre, as The Wee Shop did earlier, with its non stop mix of pathos and humour striking a chord here in Belfast.  It is a rare thing indeed to see an artist in a studio and while Warhol identified a niche to have photographers, artists, authors committed to coming to the factory and making their written and visual record of it, itself that became product. Like the late Basil Blackshaw who eschewed the rigmarole of publicity and never courted it Séan Hillen is similarly not keen on intrusiveness. When filmmakers of the aptitude and moxie of Paddy put it to you they want to make a piece about your work it’s a different matter altogether. The work too becomes an artwork. I was reminded of the groundbreaking film following Francis Bacon back from The Colony Rooms to his house and his immediately getting prepared to paint in the wee small hours of the night. Bacon took time to ignore the witness and get on with the work in his mind whereas there is an égalité, an openness, participation advanced here in this film, to welcome in the viewer to the processes of the artists role which attest to their inherent honesty.  A lot of art historians, curators, art critics, galleries do not get this work in its collective worth.  Some and hopefully fewer now, miss the continued trajectory from the Renaissance through to the prominent British artists, Mark Wallinger and Damien Hirst whose continued work excel propelling renewal of thought.

To carry out an explanation of how he works Séan gathers together an assembly of thoughts surrounding a new piece of work. In common with the photomontage works he has been making for nearly thirty years it is a leap into the unexpected each time it would seem and is as I perceived it a conduit of his mind extrapolating for us our own heralded metamorphic conjunctions on possible truths of previously upheld views. His explanation and it’s not given as a foundation but possible source of our connection with his work, is our brains priority in placing – seeing as believing – first ahead of further analytical deconstruction. The eye tells the mind to believe what it sees. Given the mind is relying on a chemical reaction which is fed though light onto chemicals transmitters and is a part of the brain itself we are in teleportation land. In the depths of the oceans we know of creatures that have no eyes. We are aware of the senses prioritising light and colour followed by sound smell taste and touch so reality exists to be broken down intuitively when we encounter only the two dimensional figurative statement of a photograph. Ireland has a complex narrative as does ever inhabitant of it.

Those in the past have questionable histories, so why not confront alternative functions for those times and perceptions, because memories lie and people do also.  Mythology is an art form in Ireland from the pipers lament handed down through millennia to our Newgrange polemic ancestory.  We have an Eros of harmony in our lives which is equated, set alongside, that ancient parallel Greek goddess of discord and the sister of Ares. To the turbulence of the universal rules and reliances we bring construct, more often than not based on simple untruths be it, democracy, loving, civilisation and fellow treatment of all living things. To this is the melee we have to call discord, identified with the Roman goddess Discordia. In Séan Hillen’s work – most notably Irelantis this discordance is highly prevalent. The discordance which Séan Hillen relates to and with in the film is his relatively recent knowledge of his having the Asperger’s condition which has performed a cathartic revalation for him to the extent previously unexplained attributes were held at arms length rather than their current state of becoming part of the reasoned dialogue.

To an artist this must be a great benefit as well as placing a perpetual commitment to the Aldous Huxley type of exploration at the doors of enlightenment. Huxley was taught by his father of the possibilities the mind could extend to.  The Prelude And Præterita of Aldous therefore were built in his DNA along with the affinities the mind constructs.   ‘Seeing’ here is the artwork progressing along those very lines.  Such was the source of the Huxley concepts of cosmic and social order to effect a transformation in Western thinking, a parallel must be held appropriate, in us advancing towards recognition of viewpoints we are yet unable to understand but have a belief they are of such magnitude as to affect our present existence in unknown ways, we are basically staking our whole existence past present and future on that construct being manifest.  Whether it is true – and these art works as well as many other artists works – tend to that possibility – that we are not yet able to see it – it is what allows us the freedom to make such conjectures.  Ireland, Eire has Greek connections to the word Peace the opposite of discord ironically.

There was a palpable stunned silence as the revelatory images became clear and that we were witness to a photomontage which proposed the absurd to not only to be a possibility but had certain other occurrences happened, they could not be dismissed as mere juxtapositions of intangible fluid thought and were reminders how we perceive things alive and active. Advertisements and the land of fictional representation, the apparel label logos, identity symbols and members of the semiotics of visual language. While many are on the parameters of fictional forces there are other ideas and imagery which are disablingly, perplexing and have an inherent, deeply embedded, truth telling ‘voice’, however ‘inconceivable’ they might appear. Our consciousness is at a place where we are incapable of dismissing them, as perceived certitudes divide us and make us what we are. In preparation for God it seems our goal is to seek out beauty in harmony with the universe.  This simple aim is difficult for the human as existence is made all the more confounding by the Bible quotation of God being sorry for making us this way… ‘failing’ you becoming ‘sorry’ in the KJB.

Director Paddy Cahill. Director of Photography Basil Al Rawi. Producer Tal Green.  Duration 10:00

The Irish Film Festa10 asked of Paddy Cahill 3 questions

Why did you choose to make a film about Seán Hillen?

I’ve been a long time admirer of Seán Hillen’s work but it was last year, as I visited him at his home to buy one of his prints as a present, that I knew I wanted to make the film. I wrote to Seán right after asking if I could make a short documentary about him and his work. Seán has an amazing backstory, which should be told in another documentary, but I was really fascinated by his home/studio where he creates his amazing work.
The film is set in a small room:

How did you work in terms of frame composition and editing?

When we filmed it was just myself and Basil Al Rawi, our director of photography, in the house with Seán. It was very important to me that we would be a tiny crew, although not much more would have fit in the room anyway! One rule I tried to keep was that Seán would only talk or answer questions while he was making work. That way it would be less like a traditional documentary interview. I thought that watching Seán work while he spoke would be more interesting to the viewer. This also gave Basil the freedom to get right up to Seán’s shoulder and compose some really beautiful cinematography.

And how long did the shooting take?

Along with producer Tal Green we were planning the filming for quite a while but the actual filming was over the course of one night only. I wanted the audience to have the same feeling we had when we filmed as if they just dropped in one night, to this unusual house on a normal looking terrace street in Dublin and got to watch Seán create one of his works.

More to follow on the Documentary submissions and the above two repeated.
John Graham

15 April 2017

Belfast

The Secret Scripture : A Film Review


The Secret Scripture

Director Jim Sheridan, Producer Noel Pearson, Screenplay by Jim Sheridan, Johnny Ferguson. Cast, Vanessa Redgrave, Rooney Mara, Eric Bana, Theo James, Aidan Turner, Jack Reynor, Susan Lynch, Siobhan Redmond, Adrian Dunbar. Music by Brian Byrne, Cinematography Mikhail Krichman, Edited by Dermot Diskin, Production company, Ingenious Senior Film Fund, Voltage Pictures, Ferndale Films. Cert. 12a. Duration 1hr 48mins.


Beyond Dublin in the Green

Some people have got this film horribly wrong and are unable to cross over into it’s tragedy in a trinity of hope. The Irish Times gives it this ‘tribute’ – What’s that? Who’s he? Where’d that come from? When Barry’s novel was published, several critics argued that the final unlikely twist felt at odds with a hitherto disciplined narrative. It says something about the film that the reversal feels perfectly at home among so many even greater lunacies. It even casts sectarianism into a new vein without making comment of how diffuse these things are to convey – it seems in a blind alley Ireland. The mastery of the Bible both potent and conclusive lends written comfort to Rose, a woman betrayed.  It is within the unspoken reading between the lines we go with this film based on the novel of the same name by Sebastian Barry which makes for more imagining than the act of storytelling in film this is.  Nevertheless it is handled extremely carefully with a melding of eras and in themselves drawing comparisons.  The landscape is more familiar to the Irish and the need to know (Philomenas Story is a close relative) diaspora from Canada, America or Britain whose children are the fathers and mothers of new generations of the ‘departed’.  In complete association too are those left beneath fields, institutions buried so none would reflect on their memory except the mothers and those in the know.  From Priests to Police to Orderlies. Into the equationn come knowing townsfolk contributing to the complicity and getting on with their lives by ignoring it in order to straighten their own existence in the changing world.  For the story to begin we enter the present day at Rose’s Hospital and Residential Care home in the midst of it closing down.  Some lessons are learnt and there is clearly an attempt by Director Jim Sheridan to acknowledge Times have changed and the bullying and treatment of people like animals has been removed.  In this present environment there is real care and a making good with what is at hand.  Even the prospect of Rose being able to go to somewhere other than a mental asylum has reared its head.

With the dramatic stroke of a pen Sebastian Barry conjures up a back story to the aging and institutionalised grande dame Vanessa Redgrave playing Roseanne McNulty whose 50 years committal to this decaying and listed for demolition Roscommon Regional Mental Hospital, is transported on the journey of her earlier life and circumstances.  Doctor Grene (Eric Bana) is sent to determine whether Roseanne is fit to be released.  The younger Rose is played by the affluent and Irish connected, Rooney Mara whose arrival in a small village in 1940s Ireland causes two men, a fighter pilot and a priest, played by Jack Reynor and Theo James.


New horizons revisited

Jim Sheridan has Oscar-winning debut My Left Foot and In the Name of the Father as home based movies and into Irishmans habitual magnetic pull to tales of immigration he went and it did not fail him with the exile story In America, and was an acclaimed award winning film also.  Some subsequent entries to the mainstream movie still didn’t seem to suit his work and this is a return of more recognisable formats and it is an attempt by Sebastian Barry to story tell the periods which define present day Ireland the diaspora and wars intervention.  This of course brings in relationships as the bolstering narrative force.  The auld triangle of a beautiful young woman and two bantam cocks clanging the auld triangle and creating conflicts?

Rose has kept a dairy all these years and we enter its tableau – shortly into the arrival of Rooney Mara from Belfast where it’s unsafe after bombing there.  The arrival of a beautiful independent woman is on this West Ireland landscape in the shadow of Yeats Benbullben outside Sligo, is to an already developed hybrid of gentry, Anglo patrons and a subdued, suppressed by Religion ‘compliant’ malcontented population.  They are not mercifully at war though many across Ireland went and fought alongside the British as it was 1. an option 2. There was little for them at home.  The mainstay of any small community is its perverse sense of hierarchy and those who disobey and act up are likely cast out.  Rose is recruited into her Aunts Hotel Temperance establishment and quickly the honeypot of the scented air takes her into the midst of village taboos.  The first ‘normal’ encounter is with a young man called Conroy a labourer for a hard nosed local family.  They have a built in hatred on the English and when there is another approach not altogether religious and skirting his own anxieties surrounding masculinity and his sacrifice comes Father ..    Rose deflects such straight eyed advances and goes her own path while accepting invitations to the local dance.  The presence of the Church is everywhere and in the dance hall they are required to keep apart while hoAldi get one another while the Priest including the presence of Father …. they leave enough space not to be sinful.

The film is drawn out using a great deal of passage from the present to the past.  It in done with good untroublingbpassage and with the versatile Vanessa Redgrave playing the Lady Rose and the unnerving accurate Rooney Mara as the younger vunerable Rose.

Inconsistencies and alterations. Implausibilities? 

Very strongly held views on this film have come from many who find the story confusing and too contrived in its far fetched coincidences and shaping of characters that feature less in the book than put to purposes dramatic here.  Some even call it a travesty.  Sebastian Barry having sold the rights keeps his counsel and his silence is taken as being far from endorsement. There certainly are large parts of the long history left in the book and a Rooney Mara’s Rose here has a prominent role in a central love story which contains its central themes.  She is an incomer, she is a beautiful sophisticated woman, she is of independent mind, she is entering a part of ‘remnants of occupied’ Ireland beset with unfettered resentment, she enters a village which has ahigh morality  driven by the Church, she is also in proximity to state institutions which remove children and separate single mothers from their babies and lock them up and give their babies away for money.  She also is in proximity to a Medical system crudely operating the appliances of ECT and shock treatment as normal for mental illnesses or difference.  She also notices the formidable rectitude of everyone to hierarchical status including her domineering Aunt (Siobhan Redmond) who’s name along with a few others are not easy to find on press credits oddly.  So is it deplorable to drop large parts of a book and get Shakespearean in this gazette of Ireland observed by the Filmaker Jim Sheridan who wrote the script along with the late Johnny Ferguson.?  There are central characters in this which do not sit comfortably with some people.  The airman flying a Spitfire – they ignore the reconnaissance tasks in the West Coast Atlantic seaboard where U-boats were often found and Lough Foyle famously being the last outpost for plenty of U-boats and also forget the American airbases – the recent BBC My Mother and other Strangers gave you the opposite to this film, delivering a War soap opera – which were in Fermanagh and all across Northern Ireland full of troops and airmen training to be pilots in preparation for the Secret D-day landings.  8,000 in Kilkenny Co.Down alone. While the book may have consorted with the flying mission instead of being a land based soldier, it matters little.  Bonzos are quite capable of shooting down ‘foreign’ planes and planes crash.  Many flights no doubt took place over this very stretch of Ireland’s republic.   Where do you take fault?  Is it the neatness of parts of the linkages.  Is the element of delving into people’s past too trite?  Sheading interesting characters? Is the ludicrously large white collared Priest Father Gaunt too comical and pathetic a figure. His character is volumously turgid and corrupt of a conflicted man. Are the nurses of the old school too clean and Matronly while being intensely underlyingly cruel? All these questions to my mind are nonsense and in the core of the film Rose is telling you how unstable memory is. The record to has advanced writing out that history.  Some of it is fantasy and in parts some of the grim reality turns out to have another side.  I don’t care if half the time the story finds a simple way to the next part as we are closely kept to the woman at is heart trying to imagine what happened to her.  Can you imagine how much she must have struggled to put that behind her.  For her imaginings of what happened to ultimately coincide with a partial reality?  The questions need not be effecting in terms of how they are coming to you as essentially they are in the realm of broken fractured memory.  The script actually places false directions in Rose’s mind only.  The other characters are real and no such bewilderment is visited through them.  Their part is sometimes savage and brutal.  Rose’s is in a state of protection in a fixed world she has inhabited for 50 years?  Can you imagine the damage caused to her and many women like her?

Similarities

I opened the play The Steward of Christendom at random and came across the same times as here. There are common investigations and trials of the past – society in Ireland – undergone by Sebastian Barry of which I rate the play as masterly, profound, haunting, sad forgotten history, much as this film indeed takes us into and it is quite political but Donal McCann made it definitely ‘other’ about the human improsoned in Ireland. Inside the Institution and outside on the Island fighting seeming wrongs. It made the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end in its horrific prescience. Even now it inhabits the same place – even more so given the recent barbaric dreadful disclosures of previous generations guilt and the pain inflicted in those institutions.  Here’s the line I found straight on opening its pages of the powerful orderly Smith – Even in the ward of old dames with their dead brains, have some of them opened their eyes and are weeping to be woken, with your bloody shouting.  Do you want to go in with them, old man? After I beat you! Sebastian Barry on the case even then.

Eric Bana takes a high dose of listening to his requirement for enquiry about Rose.
The rich dramatic material at play and the fascinating historical backdrop means there’s plenty here that proves initially appealing. The young Rose is trapped by her sexuality, arousing interest in men without the slightest provocation on her part yet facing the full force of blame from those around her. The film briefly explores the complicated rituals of dating at the time and the dangers of a bruised male ego when a woman dares to turn a man down.
Initially there was a backlash in contemporary Ireland to the book with its closeness to history and claims of abuse ever in the headlines playing out.  It was seen in reviewers eyes as being far fetched and characterisations of romance purile and simplistic. For the film it’s seen likewise by many. The closing of the film is too contrived and unexpected as Vanessa Redgrave holds centre stage with her marbles intact.  The Secret Scripture use devices of story telling which only flow smoothly in books but it is admittedly hard to convey in the time period of a movie.  Demands of twists and turns though have been dealt with very satisfactorily by Jim Sheridan and there is no overplay of the gestures and realisations as they unfold.  With Vanessa Redgrave playing Beethoven’a Moonlight Sonata, (an accusatory critic paled at its repetitiveness) in solitary moments in a room, we see the breathing diaphragm of a living person recollecting her past.  It is not only sweet and convincing it is powerful and moving.

For the time periods to intermingle we have to have contrast and Susan Lynch playing the part of a present day nurse becomes a key vehicle for the sensitivity of history learnt. Her knowing, caring, is in seeing the woman in Lady Rose and reflecting on what she has gone through over forty years.  With the instruction having been given to assess her being taken up by a psychiatrist who is intrigued by the fortitude and forceful will of Lady Rose, is Eric Bana who plays admirable the ‘outside’ caring professional, quick to note discrepancies in the work of his peer, the notable Dr Jello  of Adrian Dunbar who is in charge with emptying the establishment and sees it as in ‘the line of duty’ as a role he plays with predictable solidity.   Dr Grene on the other hand is given slack and time by Sebastian Barry to develop a quick relationship of patient and Doctor which in present times of austerity are unimaginable.  Nevertheless an authors due – the slack given on occasion to movies due to time scale particularly in adapting books – is to make plausible a story’s reach.  Eric Bana and Susan Lynch form a convincing team and share the sandwiches, lunchbox treats and soups etc. or whatever sustenance is at hand in between Rose’s rest and elderly ramblings.  They too remain in the ghost like building emptying around them.  That is when switches occur back to Rooney Maras action packed life take us into a believable village – preposterous to critics of the book – with fabrications of conflicts infighting and japes and foolery unbetoken of Ireland of the time.


Irony lost on viewers

Sebastian Barry has of course given some ribald irony and an edit of preposterous heft to the story as if to say – Ireland, you were present when this was happening around your ears yet all you could do was turn a blind eye and more than that get caught up in rebellion against a country at war and a religiosity which tore the faith in God out of you and created a purgatory here on earth. It is tangible to see this cussedness in Irish people of that time but it causes more pain it would seem.  The truth always too has its victims. That is the line, the horrific line this film wishes to take us over and into a powerful emotionally troubling period for the characters who represent in fiction real people’s lives unimaginable at this distance horribly corrupted and ruined.  So there is a backlash of morality fighting for concealment as due reflection turns over too many stones close to the perpetrators unable to come to terms with their own families part in these vexing times.  Why drag up the past?  The reason is it uncoils itself in many ways not least in being held in so, it becomes repeated as a manifestation of ancient held in guilt in the sub-cncious passed on.  The doplar effect of the mind.  Séan Hillen in his Irelantis fictional world creates a counter narrative in art with the juxtaposed John Hinde visions of Ireland and as richly as film and novel forms.  More is essential for understanding ourselves the better.

There are scenes in the film which many will find arguable and condonable however I see those particularly disturbing pieces of work as entirely plausible credible entries to the hidden stories Ireland has masked for decades.  It may not be the truth but it bears an uncanny resemblance to the unfurling detail.  It is why it must be examined for what it contains, not for what you would like it to appear.


No chemistry? It’s not totally about their relationship but what hovers around it.

On parallel works

Hence the auld triangle goes jingle jangle. From Galway to Dingle, from Derry to West Cork it’s been happening for decades. Both the internment of the young and vunerable and the institutional abuses therein. The Steward of Christendom by Sebastian Barry was an intensely brilliant play I’ve seen several times and had on it acting – the unforgettable The Dead film character of Gabriel Conroy played by Donal McCann whose performance in John Huston’s 1987 film of the Joyce short is itself a piece of Irish history and also a masterful core part of Irish Cultural excellence in all its various themes.

The themes of the play are not equivalent in this film but provide another shape to the times within this film. For a synopsis of The Steward of Christendom – I’ve extracted the following from a ubiquitous source. The play opens in a county home (an inpatient psychiatric facility) in Baltinglass, Ireland in 1932, some years after Irish independence. In the opening scene, Dunne (Donal McCann) appears to be raving incoherently, reliving an episode of his childhood. As the play continues, Dunne slips from moments of lucidity to reliving parts of his career as a senior officer in the Dublin Metropolitan Police (DMP), especially the handover of Dublin Castle to Michael Collins in 1922 after the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty. He also relives memories of his family, particularly his daughters, Annie, Maud, and Dolly. Dunne is also visited by the ghost of his son Willie, killed in WWI; Willie’s ghost appears to him in the form a 13-year-old child but dressed in the soldier’s uniform of his 18-year-old self.

Here the date focussed on by Barry is the early 1940’s. The institutions had been around and become part of the identity of Ireland. In Belfast the 1932 move to Stormont from what was and had been the Northern Ireland Parliament one hundred yards from QFT in the now Theological College since partition in 1925. Sebastian Barry covers this ground in much of his work, of institutional Ireland of State and Health the life on the streets and rural world grippingly as he loosely affirms family connections with the Thomas Dunne the Dublin Metropolitan Police Commander in the play. So too this film for its depiction of a former period of important movement in Ireland. These histories are intertwined and Michael Collins, Eamon de Valera both had ‘seats’ at the Belfast Union College but never once collected from the fifty boxes of the MPs the Order papers of the day for that emerging Parliament. One could play the card Eamon de Valera was a double agent to the British hegemony as future republicans were to similarly trade their countries status. Not in a film though as truth is mainly stranger than fiction.

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Conclusion ####4

I began with a mindset carrying ideas of the lukewarm critical reception of the book and film, both inhabiting that doubt common to adaption of part historical narratives.  I need not have concerned myself too much because this film opens up a layer of life which is seldom considered in its continued influence and in the magnitude of its shaping usand the identity formed as a Nation on its multiple layers of relationships across continents, across short sea journeys and across hedges and parishes.  It harbours a fiction I see to contain many probable realities. I never read the book.  In the depiction of Lady Rose played brilliantly on both parts. Rooney Mara as the young independent free spirited, intelligent incomer beauty full of warmth and expectation and the kaleidoscopic thespian skills not wasted or lost of Vanessa Redgrave, herself no stranger to loss or to Ireland’s perplexing past, is not only endearingly charming but purposely disjointedly harmonious and comforting in its plainness.  There is nothing plain under the surface no matter what the Irish take or spin on it happens to be or where the deniers – and they are the ‘plain’ folk of Ireland themselves, mostly due to present many frstations of suffering across the world would prefer to banish and put away in a state of complacent bewilderment.  If only that were our only path.  The Secret Scripture is written – a form of blasphemy- in black on the Bible – as in the Temperance Hotel (you could say it was a depiction of Ulster which has many many connections with Sligo) – here is a Lilliputian Jonathan Swift world of male believe.  Now and then.  The Bible being the only book – in this puritan hotel – is the only marginila Rose has to take into her incarceration as a hidden diary.  For its uncovering, not matter it’s Preposterous retrieval there are unsettling truths like the words of the Bible itself.  As it is not a Book which is safe in the Clergies hands nor taken with pillars of salt in communion amongst the suppressed and mal treated citizens, already infiltrated by a siege power of a monarchist force.  Since the 1166 occupation the persistent and systematic entrapment is in plain sight from the pulpit and before the pulpit.  Both the Catholic Church and the Church of Ireland contrite and corrupt in unity of suppression against Gods will.  This film will be seen initially as a passing anecdotal fable worthy of a watch but light on appeal.  It will upset and conflict with perceptions narrow and broad but I would say it will after several viewings reveal itself in time to be full of its own contested narrative slowly bringing a reckoning to bear as its bold and more extreme view is received as history continues to recite its clarion vision.  It is there for us to see in a wider sense and while novels, films can only open some fictional presentation of a past long gone it is always a sudden shock to see its proximity to truth and realisation is slow but within reach.  On a question alone of the mix up of plot and some too fanciful occurrences I knock it back from being a 5 as it is to my mind of a very determined voice setting out to familiarise the world and those closer with the inexcusable period in the past in this country – worse if most probably being effected unknown to us in other parts of the world – and it is a piece of the pyramid of truth being built in memory of those children and women.

It is like a whisky chaser hitting your throats but this is why the fondness for diversion is like dashing your head on the rocks.  So much is ventured there is no small comfort to be had except through thinking along the lines I think Jim Sheridan, Sebastian Barry and the fine strong cast found themselves nurturing.  While it is discomforting it is due plenty of deliberation.

John Graham

22 March 2017

Belfast

On at Queens Film Theatre from Friday 24 March through to and including  30th March and on General release.

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Post Behan Brectian Proustian stories

In Ireland the confinement of Women and Men distinguished little in Mental Institutions from the Prisons like the Mountjoy that inspired the Dominic Behan The auld triangle goes jingle jangle. The lyrics still are chilling and how the Bi-sexual Brendan Behan came to them is anyone’s guess but the waking traingle of the Prison warder still makes people sit up and listen to these lyrics – the last verse.

In the female prison there are seventy women 

And I wish it was with them that I did dwell 

And that auld triangle, went jingle jangle 

All along the banks of the Royal Canal

Was the mind of Ireland imprisoned during these times?

From The Quare Fellow of 1956

ACT 1:
A hungry feeling came o’er me stealing

And the mice were squealing in my prison cell,

And that old triangle

Went jingle jangle,

Along the banks of the Royal Canal.

To begin the morning

The warder bawling

Get out of bed and clean up your cell,

And that old triangle

Went jingle jangle,

Along the banks of the Royal Canal.
The screw was peeping

And the lag was weeping…

(SONG BREAKS OFF HERE)

ACT 2:

A hungry feeling came o’er me stealing

And the mice were squealing in my prison cell,

And the old triangle

Went jingle jangle,

Along the banks of the Royal Canal.

On a fine spring evening,

The lag lay dreaming

The seagulls wheeling high above the wall,

And the old triangle

Went jingle jangle,

Along the banks of the Royal Canal.
The screw was peeping

The lag was sleeping

While he lay weeping for the girl Sal…

(SONG BREAKS OFF HERE)
The wind was rising

And the day declining

As I lay pining in my prison cell

And that old triangle

Went jingle jangle,

Along the banks of the Royal Canal.
In the female prison

There are seventy women…

(SONG BREAKS OFF HERE)
The day was dying and the wind was sighing,

As I lay crying in my prison cell,

And the old triangle

Went jingle jangle,

Along the banks of the Royal Canal.

ACT III, Scene II (end of play):

In the female prison

There are seventy women

I wish it was with them that I did dwell,

Then that old triangle

Could jingle jangle

Along the banks of the Royal Canal.

To this song provided for The Quare Fellow by brother Dominic we can add along the themes of imprisonment is this universal song. 

I shall be released

By Bob Dylan

They say ev’rything can be replaced

Yet ev’ry distance is not near

So I remember ev’ry face

Of ev’ry man who put me here

I see my light come shining

From the west unto the east

Any day now, any day now

I shall be released

They say ev’ry man needs protection

They say ev’ry man must fall

Yet I swear I see my reflection

Some place so high above this wall

I see my light come shining

From the west unto the east

Any day now, any day now

I shall be released

Standing next to me in this lonely crowd

Is a man who swears he’s not to blame

All day long I hear him shout so loud

Crying out that he was framed

I see my light come shining

From the west unto the east

Any day now, any day now

I shall be released

 

End

Certain Women : A Film Review 

 

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Certain Women

Directed by Kelly Reichardt. Produced by Neil Kopp, Vincent Savino, Anish Savjani, Written by Kelly Reichardt. Based on Based on stories by Maile Meloy. Cast. Laura Dern, Kristen Stewart, Michelle Williams, James Le Gros, Jared Harris, Lily Gladstone, René Auberjonois. Music by Jeff Grace. Cinematography, Christopher Blauvelt. Edited by Kelly Reichardt. Production companies. Film Science. Stage 6 Films. Filmed in And around Livingston Montana USA.  Cert. 12a. Duration 1hr 47mins.

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Orderly nature

Is this a portrait of women on frontiers of life?

We are invited into a slow moving trilogy of women’s stories loosely linked in the vast State of Montana.  Arrival by train either stopping or passing frames the small town together with the freeways and intersections this film borders on.  The narrative sets with the first of the stories introducing Lawyer, Laura Wells played by Laura Stern.  In an unbashful undecorated interior of a hotel or rental we meet her having a lunchtime diversion with Ryan (James Le Gros) before we roll onto her place of work in a town lawyers practice where a client without appointment tries to engage her on his apparently hopeless case.  A story of industrial injury is the wreck of this fifty something year olds life and stoically Laura engages as she has arranged for the annoying irrational but troubled Fuller (Jared Harris) a needed second opinion.  This sets them on an adventure of a dead end kind. The pace of daytime routine, timekeeping is a forerunner to the entirety of the films tableau.  Days are repetitive, boring mostly, stuck in seasonal weather, this time is late autumn going on into winter.  With the next two stories we are tested to enquire if their interlocking as they have tenuous connections.  The frailty is purposeful and as a thin metaphor for the crossing of paths.  Some secrets are held among the excursions of the town we intrude upon. Each story creates a passage of time in the short term and as future anticipated.  The sounds of the train, the cars, natures birds singing, animals in a paddock or stable genuinely create descriptive immersion to a pleasing unaffecting environment.  On one excursion typically random, Ramy Groovy Thunder, the endtitles reveal, is an Indian having taught the Shopping Mall White schoolboy Indians.  It serving as a reminder of farback life. The tow of the film takes us to many places and none confining except through the constructs consciously or unconsciously assembled by the characters we meet.

For anyone expecting action it basically happens when we finish one story and go onto the next.  The Maile Meloy short stories are melodies of brief interludes.  Vignettes of totally different scenarios.  As a stories collection they are known as Certain Women.

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Firstly

The start following Laura as she is alone and excercising her freedom as a free spirit led to Law presumably by its formula of right and wrong in conflict and requiring sorted out.   The extent of her stoic outlook is a famiar middle-aged acceptance of the worlds toil.  In helping fractures mend she is a realist and becomes at times contemplative though this interior life is not really examined or inviting enquiry.  This is a problem in creating divided, seemingly unconnected stories and it is not Women as say, a Robert Altman Short Cuts.  What this film succeeds in is creating a slightly meloncolic and sensitivity with an inquisitive narrative in which you are to form pictures of lives and emotions behind them without creating too many sub-plots.

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Secondly

Gina Lewis (Michelle Williams), wife to Ryan, who we has appeared briefly before.  Gina is walking a forest trail.  A motor track which has sunlight invading in spades of light.  She is kitted for running and stops to scuff her heels and sip a drink.  Her gaze is studious and she absorbs her surroundings slowly.  Everything is done slowly, almost, and she approaches a camp with a bedecked large tent from which a small family argument appears to be in progress.  Ryan and Gina have a teenage daughter Guthrie (Sara Rodier), who while herself enjoying the outdoors has limited patience and it is stretched even further when a promise they made is broken.  They go to a elderly lonesome friend, Albert (Rene Auberjonois), who is prone to mishap and has large acreage of barren land between him and the freeway.  His house is a pitched roofed bungalow with what looks like replica wood shingle and it’s wide windows insulate him from the outside which he occasionally listens to.  His recollection of birds is intact.  He maintains a tidy homely house and a minor tendency to forget as he does when the subject of the stone is aired.  This is a relationship which Gina is careful to handle as she it appears in this scene to be the one who most needs the new house to be of her identity and not a joint one which Ryan is happy to go along with.  This presents questions on the extent of discord in realationships and how solid a construct they need.  The home Albert is happens to be a replacement home and as I hinted it is of a compromised modernity replicating what was.  The sandstone also represents a past era and it got knocked down because its use passed.  It was no more than a building blocking a view.

 

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Thirdly

Jamie (Lily Gladstone) is a ranch hand.  Working on her own she looks outside for experience of the town she is on the periphery of town.  With this she free bases an evening class for Teachers interested in School Law at which she becomes interested in the alternative life of woman called Beth (Kristen Stewart). After the class she introduces Beth to the local diner in a food refill before her 4 hour journey back home. Having struck up a friendship Beth provides a diversion from the ranch routine which fills the introvert Jamie with touching connection, (metaphor) to someone who perhaps has similar needs despite being occupied with life in a town.  The simple chosen life of Jamie is a deep contrast to any other characters in the film.  Hers is a solitary occupation where time is driven by the habits of animals.  Feeding them, turning them out, tending to their physical well being, sheltering them and exercising them if needed.  This is a directing calling to be at one with nature though these animals are captive almost dependants on her and create a nascent family.  Their is little in the way of return for her other than the fact they are not humans and don’t talk back or play with her emotions.  This though is a life of isolation which she sees the voids in and her gentle temperament – her back history as the others is unexplained – takes her not to bars or dances seeking a partner but what appears at first a community gathering but turns out to be a class.

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Of all the pictorial stories I liked this most knowing the satisfaction working with animals gives you and the latency of uncovered patterns of nature as seasons and habits rely on the earths cycle rather than a man made one.  Jamie’s quiet mostly manual work has an honesty also.  She is relied on by these animals to a degree and she brings them along as children.  Beautifully photographed and with repetitive acts we enter this soft routine world.  There is contrast from shots of a stable barn interior darkness with a horse entering through the light of the door and there is the unharnessed light of the outdoors filling the frame as the horses cross white snow covered paddocks fenced with metal grids and moving between the hay bales broken and scattered and the pack leader chases of his fellow horses with mild rebuke and gesture and they settle to feed.  Exterior and interior are so clearly marked here.  The stable barn is seen as a long corridor with tack hanging on pegs and sliding stable doors which are open closed as Jamie moves horses about to clean their stable.  The repetitive act of this housekeeping is watched from a distance at the end of barn exentuating the routine and emphasising the habitat.  The editing of this story is more expressive of the county of Montana than is otherwise seen.  While Gina is intent on making a homestead – her ideas are unclear for example as she is uncertain as to the use of the mountain sandstone she acquires – and putting down a marker is her aim mostly while her relationship and the fragility includes ambivalence towards a teenage daughter whose options and choices perhaps exceed hers.  Jamie is in need of contact and her behaviour while understood is odd and not able to fit the normal things expected in life which is oddly reassuring and plays out with a really affectionate scene where Beth gets to male a connection with the animals, a horse which she otherwise would not experience.

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Conclusion ####4

Kelly Reichardt’s film is a set of miniature dramas to savour.  Her script, control of framing and pacing, editing and work with a very effective and wise cast deliver a modern allegory representational of our control of our habitation and our proximity as always to the nature we move east, west, north and south through.  Only here are the NW, SSE movements as we track across other people’s lives with degrees of impact kept for later questioning, while the freeways, trains, mountain tracks, forests provide a view of wider world reminding us of its eternal presence.  In Prodigal Summer, a book set in a similar part of America, I’m currently reading, a sentence reads, Out of the light she could almost see the calm air beginning to gather itself for the afternoon, the oxygen burgeoning between the damp leaves.  The trees were the lungs of the mountain, – not her mountain, nobody’s damn mountain, this mountain belonged to the scarlet tankers, puffballs, luna moths, and coyotes.   Kelly Reichardt’s film is a figurative treatment of one subject – our living world – under the guise of another – our living with the world, with thecrelationships though nots as detailed and integral as the aforementioned novel nevertheless place contemporary life and the variety of choices, without even a birth death, marriage or priest, minister to be seen as a complex picture.  It is not a movie of assurance, but and assured depiction of perpetual motion along which lives move among each other and this being an adaption of short stories weave a wonderful rewarding insight to the human adaption in every era.  This is a very satisfying watch which contradicts its simple form by illuminating several angles in life’s tapestry against a familiar backdrop.  No large life shifting things are present.  No child in a hospital fighting for their life, no violent intrusion, no traffic or domestic accident or unnamed catastrophe.  It is an ensemble delicately woven and splendidly transformed from the page.  Very different from the usual cinematic experience which is a feat in itself.  If any feelings of incompleteness occur at the end it’s because life is.

 

John Graham

1 March 2017

Belfast

On at Queens Film Theatre Belfast 3 March to 9 March 2017

Kelly Reichardt

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Here's an arrival this week - a colt foal by Kingston Hill mum not credited at Coolmore

Here’s an arrival this week – a colt foal by Kingston Hill mum not credited at Coolmore