Posts Tagged ‘film’

I, Daniel Blake, Greenwich Picturehouse 29 October

October 29, 2016

***

graystreet.png

Grey Street in the rain

This film is about a 59-year-old carpenter who suffers a heart attack and so is no longer able to work.  He is judged not sufficiently incapacitated to receive Disability Allowance, so has to go through the demeaning pretence of looking f0r non-existent jobs.  He makes friends with a young single mother who has been sent a long way from London because it is cheaper than housing her family there and who has her benefits sanctioned because she got on the wrong bus in a strange town and arrived late for an interview.

I have to admit that I did cry during the film, though not as much as the two women sitting next to me, and it wasn’t all because of the I want to go home feeling.  They got the Newcastle accent right, and also the way people speak to each other, which is a different thing.  When the dialogue and actions were allowed to proceed from the characters and their actions it was actually very moving.  There were some shots of Newcastle in the rain, YESS!!

The essay that Loach was determined to write was probably quite correct at a factual level, but it didn’t really mesh with these characters.  In particular, what Daniel needed was clearly some advocacy from the CAB, a Welfare Rights group, or even Age UK.  Now he might not have known that, but after spending two years in a homeless hostel in London Katie certainly would have.  I approve of making ordinary people the central figures of films and plays, but depriving them of agency isn’t the way to do it.  And I was irritated that St Daniel had to be burdened with demonstrating appropriate attitudes to black people, gays and people with mental illness.  Then I start asking myself what kind of a joiner he had been.  If he was employed, he should have been eligible for sick pay.  If he was self-employed, it’s hard to see how he could have managed to remain totally incapable in the face of modern technology.

Did he call the gay black training-shoe entrepreneur the ‘tycoon of Byker’ or similar?  That didn’t look like Byker to me…But the Evening Chronicle has helpfully published a map of the locations.

It is to the credit of director Ken Loach and scriptwriter Paul Laverty that havingstupidly decided to include a scene of archetypal Dostoevskian degradation they clearly had no idea what they were talking about–there are some things you just have to be a bad man to get right.

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Brooklyn, Peckham Multiplex 15 November

November 16, 2015

****

brooklynfilm

At the end of this showing, a rather full cinema broke into genuine and sustained applause, which is a rare thing indeed.  I think that was because it was a film for grown-ups dealing with grown-up themes, in spite of the extreme youth of the heroine and of the actress playing her.

The action followed the plot of Colm Toibin’s novel quite faithfully, with some understandable simplifications.  It seemed that Father Flood had been turned into a figure of straightforward benevolence, and indeed Colm Toibin’s representative in the film, since I had more than once heard Toibin praising Saoirse Ronan with paternal pride.  Different ways of relating to the symbolic sea seemed to have been abandoned, in favour of Saoirse doing with her face what takes me thirty pages, while there were some advert-y moments like Eilis exiting the immigration shed into a screenful of light.

But it was good to see a film about nice, decent people, and indeed nice, decent, lower-middle-class people…

Bypass, Peckham Multiplex 15 April

April 15, 2015

**

bypass

There were three diverting moments in this film.  To start off with, the manager declined to recognise it as a film he was showing and had to get out a flyer to check that it was indeed on.  Then, since the film started immediately and with no brightly-lit scenes, all three of us in the audience had a fun time trying to find a place to live in total darkness.  The third one came at the end of the film….

In theory the protagonist Tim went through a hundred minutes of misery (his father had already deserted the family) as his brother was banged up, his mother died of cancer, his attempts to make a living through petty crime fell further and further short, his sister skipped school and fell into bad company, his girlfriend fell pregnant when he didn’t want to be a dad, and he persisted in robbing houses while developing meningitis (bad move that one)…

But I was baffled more than anything because while the action was supposed to be set in Gateshead, the characters acted and sounded like would-be hard men and other inhabitants from a council estate in Oxfordshire (which is the background of director Duane Hopkins I think).  You could tell it actually was filmed in Gateshead because you enjoyed some views from the south bank of the Tyne and learned about the family’s history as steelworkers and would-be footballers.  More convincingly, it had to be Tyneside because all the colour was washed-out, as in I am Nasrine.

Leaving aside the facts that the characters were actor-beautiful and well-spoken, and that their material conditions of life looked rather comfortable, I was disappointed to be deprived of a spiritual return to the North-East.  But nostalgia was satisfied with a fine display of the cliches of 1970s Soviet cinematography, especially the departed beckoning meaningfully from behind net curtains at the edge of the screen or striding off silently into the distance, depending on gender.  In fact, the scene at the end where Tim decided not to die in Intensive Care but instead to witness the birth of his child was rather good, and would have been more effective if we’d been allowed some saturated colour for contrast as at the end of Andrei Rublev.

**Sigh**

I am Nasrine, Stratford Picturehouse 4 July

July 14, 2013

***

nasrine

My interest in this film was that I’ve been to Tehran and lived in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. That’s a slightly strange perspective and may explain why I didn’t get on so well with the film.

We follow the story of Nasrine (meant to be about 16 I think) who rides home in Tehran on the back of a boy’s motorbike wearing a coloured headscarf.  She is picked up and (we fear) raped by the Vice Police.  Her father decrees that she and her brother Ali have to go to England.

So they arrive in Newcastle; she goes to school and falls in with a community of travellers which gives her the chance to ride horses and have consensual relations with the brother of her new friend Nichole.  Ali meanwhile takes two illegal jobs and struggles to come to terms with his sexuality…

There seemed to be two main themes here:  the idea that you become an adult by casting off what you were before and the treatment of refugees in the UK.  But they weren’t integrated but rather went on in parallel.  There were other points being made in the contrast between the saturated colours of Tehran and a washed-out Newcastle; between motorbike + bad boyfriend and horses  + good boyfriend;  and how even in going to school Nasrine found herself becoming part of a marginal group, while Ali’s encounter with the normal inhabitants turned out to be fatal…

All in all I didn’t quite get it.

Micsha Sadeghi gave a brilliant performance as the heroine, while still looking even older than Carey Mulligan in An Education.

 

The Stoker, ICA Cinema 26 May

May 27, 2013

**

stoker

One of those films where the audience were laughing nervously with relief at the end, hardly believing they had managed to survive something so tedious.

This was the last film of Aleksei Balabanov, who marked it by dying a week or two ago, and is set in St Petersburg in the lawless 1990s.  Our protagonist is Major Skryabin, an ethnic Yakut who was concussed in Afghanistan and is now working as a stoker.  He also has a daughter (Sasha) with expensive tastes.

He obliges a corrupt policeman who he got to know in Afghanistan by disposing of inconvenient corpses in his furnaces.  The policeman’s daughter Masha runs a shop selling Yakut furs with Masha, and they share the affections of the policeman’s silencious sidekick.

It’s not going to end happily…

The structure of the film is that characters trudge through the snow to witness or take part in scenes of stylised evil, and so it very much recalls Of Freaks and Men, where the characters steamed along the canals of St Petersburg with the same end in view.

The major is also writing a book, or rather trying to recreate a book he read before he was concussed–it’s about Yakuts being brutalised by a convict billetted on them.  At the end little Vera, who has been visiting the major to look at the fires in the furnaces, reads the unfinished manuscript and we get some pastiche sepia porn, very like an out-take from Of Freaks and Men.

You could also see this as straightforward Putinite propaganda–in the 90s Heroes of the Soviet Union had not where to lay their head, but order has been restored now…

A Russian Fairytale (with Q&A), Riverside Studios 31 January

February 1, 2013

***

fairytale

Denis, Irina, Ksusha

The film followed the lives of a group of homeless young people in the city of Perm, beginning in Winter and ending in Summer, though it was difficult to see exactly what period it was since footage from different visits had been edited together.  They sniffed glue, they injected drugs, the girls turned tricks at 500R a time, Denis begged in the market…They also laughed and joked and hung out, while Kolya got to visit his family’s dacha, have lunch in the sunshine and swim in a lake.,

My own feeling was that if it had been done more competently it would have been unbearably moving, and even as it was there were many opportunities for tears.  My heart went out to the young women Irina and Ksusha because you could see what they would have been like–should have been like–in different circumstances.  Scenes like Irina going to see her mother in the hostel where she lived with her present ‘boyfriend’ and the mother shouting at her to go away, or Ksusha’s pregnancy test where she clearly had not the slightest resource if it proved positive–apart from a determination not to have an abortion–will be very difficult to forget.

There was a certain amount of the film telling you what to what to think, both in the titles at the beginning giving some over-simplified background information and in the music.  Also it was another of those situations where I knew a great deal more about the subject-matter (drug use and its effects; children in need; Russia) than the film-makers did, which as ever led to discomfort.  The shocking revelation at the end merely caused me a momentary spasm of fucking drug users.

The film was enthusiastically received by a large and predominantly young audience.  Nicolas Doldinger (co-director) said that they had wanted to make a film that dealt with an ugly situation in a beautiful and engaging way.  In answer to a question about whether the young people had been paid, Jake Mobbs (the other co-director) said that they had brought them bread and mayonnaise and lent them a mobile for emergency calls.  They didn’t actually know what their interviews were about until they took the film home and scraped together some money for translation.  The fact that the only rehab available was run by Evangelicals gave rise to a facile comment about this being merely a different form of addiction.   Jake Mobbs said there were plans to show the film in Perm, though there might be difficulties with the authorities.

So I’m left feeling a helpless horror that there should be such lives, and also that the film should have been better to do them justice.

The charity Love’s Bridge works with street youth and at-risk children in Perm.

Living/Жить Curzon Mayfair 21 October

October 21, 2012

**

Grisha is allowed to live because she’s young and good-looking

A severe dose of chernukha (relentless negativity and tedium) here I’m afraid, and delivered rather slowly. Of course if you put a couple of young girls in a marshrutka it will crash, driving their mother from alcoholism to insanity.   Of course if you give a hustler some money on the train home from your wedding he will lure you to an empty carriage and his mates will beat you to death.  Which is just about what you deserve for being so stupid.  Of course the girls’ mother and the never-will-be wife will be unable to show any resistance at all to what has happened to them; their only recourse will be to make believe the dead are still alive and then when that fails to kill themselves and other people as well.  Of course the girls’ mother Galya will manage to find the fatal proportions of gas and air to cause an explosion while Grisha the bride will drag herself back from the brink because she’s young (and good-looking under all the crusty clobber).  And then there’s the story of Artem whose father has run away to live in a hut without shoes and have his bicycle stolen; at least that was obscure enough not to be offensive.

Now the final scene with Grisha at the bus-stop and a woman opens up a stall setting the most godawful tat and Grisha buys herself some crisps and eats them and decides she wants to live in this world tawdry and appalling as it is–that was good, but it wasn’t worth the two preceding hours.

Short stories/Рассказы Renoir 20 October

October 21, 2012

***

Tense scene with wedding planner

In this film an author goes to his publishers–in the manner of French films, the publishers have incredibly plush offices and glamorous staff–with a collection of short stories, but they want a nice solid novel.  Then various of the staff start reading through the rejected manuscript and found themselves featuring in the stories.

The first of the episodes, about an engaged couple having their whole lives dictated by a wedding planner so as to be modern and leave nothing to chance was both very funny and extremely boring.  I think the reason for this–and it applied to the other episodes as well–was that the story was really a thesis or lecturette or even joke that did a particular idea to death.

The second episode displayed corruption steadily making its ways upwards (and becoming more expensive) while the fourth portrayed a relationship between a middle-aged man and an uninformed young woman, showing at some length how this was not a good idea.  But this had a line which absolutely cracked me up when she turned to face him in response to questions about what it meant to be Russian and said The Russian Federation is a democratic country with a market economy.

The third episode was some echt Russian nonsense I didn’t appreciate about Pushkin and paranormal powers.

Anyway, the film was loudly applauded by a happy audience at the end.

 

House with a turret/Дом с башенкой, Renoir 17 October

October 21, 2012

***

A woman with a microphone appeared to say on behalf of the director (who she just referred to as The Director) that she was glad to see us all there for something completely unlike the other 250 WWII films we had all seen.  This one was about life and relationships and what it was to be human.  The director had been obsessed by Fridrikh Gorenshtein for a long time; first of all he had allowed her to make a short film based on his work, and only then to move on to something more large-scale.  The director had found a producer who owned the largest TV channel in Ukraine and he had made this feature film for 2 million Euro.

Director Eva Neyman

The film dealt with a boy and his mother returning from evacuation by train during WWII.  The mother is sick with typhus, they leave the train and she is taken to hospital.  He battles to find the hospital and send a telegram, surrounded by unheeding adults.  She dies.  Maybe he is going to make friends with the little girl from the housed with the turret by the station.  He rejoins the train with an inadequate substitute family; a couple of rough types are determined he is going to reach his destination.

So the characteristic (and unfortunately autobiographical) Fridrikh Gorenshtein themes, and whether you like the film depends on whether you buy into them.  I do, of course…

Le gamin au velo, Ritzy Picturehouse 7 April

April 7, 2012

****

I wouldn't let him near your bike if I were you...

The basis of this film is that young Cyril (an amazing performance by Thomas Doret) is in a children’s home after being abandoned by his father and hopes for some miracle to reunite them.  After running away to visit his father’s flat in the hope he will really be there, he ends up clinging on to Samantha (Cecile de France), the proprietor of a local hairdressing salon.  In an act of gratuitous goodness, she recovers his precious bicycle which serves as the symbol for all he has lost and takes him to stay with her at the weekends.

Well that’s what I like.  That’s what people are like.  Well maybe she wanted a kid anyway–He can hold onto me, but not so tight she says when he’s clinging on to her to resist being taken back to the home.  In fact, many of the actions in the film are presented without explicit motivation and you have to work it out just like in real life.

Can we say bike good:  car bad?  The bike is associated with Cyril and also with Samantha and in one idyllic scene Cyril allows Samantha to ride his bike, showing that she has now earned his love.  The car of the dealer Wesker surely represents everything undesirable, while Samantha’s car seems to be possessed by the (ex-)boyfriend Gilles except when it has the bike inside it.  Similarly city good: countryside bad, bad things happen in the waste land next to the estate where Cyril and Samantha live; but they include a kind of resurrection of course.  Not to mention women good:  men bad, but then Samantha is the only female character and really the only positive one as well.

Surely there was at least one plot hole:  Samantha tells Cyril to keep away from Wesker, who tries it on with all the new arrivals in the estate. But Cyril’s not new, he used to live there with his dad, that’s the whole point…