The reviews below were created as part of the D.I.Y. Film Reviewer project.
No One Knows About Persian Cats
I loved this film for many reasons. It was brilliant in its mission and in its spirit. It is film making that is challenging – trying to help make change. It is testament to the real underground movement of music – it is a real underground movie.
Of course I would prefer it if Bahman Ghobadi didn’t have to sneak around making a film in Tehran without a permit. Wouldn’t it be awesome if this filmmaker hadn’t been waiting years for the authorities to only reject him constantly for a film making permit – we would have had another film from him, one of the most interesting contemporary film makers in cinemas.
But the fact is that this film has meant many life changes for the Director and the characters in this film. Ghobadi and the film’s main characters are all now out of the country – Ghobadi leaving after several threats and Ashkan and Negar out of pure determination to be able to make free music elsewhere. I wonder what this will mean for Ghobadi’s future films. One thing’s for certain though – they will continue to be seen in Iran. No One Knows About Persian Cats has been copied and passed around like wildfire after Ghobadi sent a master copy to duplicate, play and give away at their own will as the film would obviously never be able to screen properly there. Ghobadi described it as a defiance to the authorities there – that they would not keep him from showing his films to the people. He speaks with passion and anger in his voice and he also talks of the sadness inherent in every Iranian family.
This was a film that was shot other the course of about 2 weeks and that used many real life bands and stories within the fictional drama. It ties together Ashkan, Negar’s and their wheeler dealer, Nader’s journey with sections almost like music videos of different bands in Tehran as they come across them to try and sort out their extra band members and arrange their false passports and permits. I imagine that they had fun with these scenes in the edit – making their music videos interspersed throughout the film drawing on footage from the city. I imagine though at other times the difficulty and even fear of shooting without their permit. Shooting real police activity, shooting parties, shooting a lot on the streets. Bahman used an old film permit when questioned. One of the thing that struck me in the film was this sort of braveness in not being so oppressed by the state. People still party, still break the rules, they go to jail for some time or receive some lashings, but it is all part of the risk. One of the bands talk very casually about going to jail. It seems to just go with the territory and they accept that as a consequence.
At the Side Cinema Ashkan and Negar sit there after the film, transformed style wise, and talk to us about the film. It is a bit silly of me perhaps but I felt just ecstatic to see them there and having followed through with their real life ambitions that are represented so closely in the film – to leave Iran to make music, play music, to record it. I feel like I am sharing in their little bit of victory. But in fact it has been a whole year since they have been living in London and they are beginning to make a name for themselves with their band Take It Easy Hospital (as it is in the film) going on tours, recording new music, seeing their face in the papers.
Ashkan and Negar seem massively independent people. They are very sincere and articulate about the role of music and creativity as an essential in a peaceful and functioning world. They hold onto their creative work, with no music manager no label as of yet, they want to be involved in the processes as much as possible, they repeatedly point out that they want to learn as much as possible from this suddenly vast amount of music available to them – I feel inspired by Ashkan and Negar. Negar ends the Q and A with an intense words on the possibility of no borders, the possibility of a better world if we were all creative and a call to those to take up their instruments. What are you doing waiting for your record deals and your concerts and your records she points out? Pick up your instruments and play.
NO ONE KNOWS ABOUT PERSIAN CATS
Side Cinema 24/03/10
This latest film by director Bahman Ghobadi is a fictional tale based on the real life experiences of Iranian duo, ‘Take it Easy Hospital.’ The story follows their search for a band to leave the country with them so they may at last have the freedom to make the music they love, something that is impossible under the strict Iranian government. I should start by saying that I really wanted to like this film. The blurb promised, ‘a remarkable film’ and in the knowledge that it has already won several awards, most notably the Special Jury Prize at Cannes, I had high expectations. Indeed, there is a lot to like. The sound track, as you would expect, was brilliant and the documentary style shots provided an authentic feel to the film. The dialogue was natural and the characters easy to relate to. I was genuinely excited to see how the story would unfold. Unfortunately, it didn’t.
It is telling that during the post-show question and answer with stars of the film, ‘Take it easy hospital’ both Ash and Negar referenced, ‘feeling responsible’ for the other artists and bands featured in the film. While initial scenes work well to illustrate the wealth of underground talent in Iran the point is over laboured and with each new montage the effect is diluted. . The film becomes repetitive and the viewer loses interest. There are too many characters to care about and no chance to invest thoroughly in any one story. For example, passports are ordered at huge financial cost but this is dismissed quickly by the appearance of some much needed inheritance money. It would have been much more heart rendering when they fail to get their passports if there had been a real need and struggle to find the money to pay for them. Eventually the film picks up pace and there is at last a sense of suspense and anticipation as Ash arrives at an illegal party to find Nader, a wheeler-dealer friend of the band . The cutting of loud and rowdy internal shots against a nervous Negar waiting outside in the dark and deserted streets is used to great effect and the tension builds to a dramatic climax, but here the film ends. This was the only time in the film when the much discussed and obviously very real threats were truly felt. Bahman Ghobadi’s depiction of the youngsters and their, ‘no problem’ attitude was perhaps meant to illustrate an overriding positivity. That those involved believe so strongly that what they are doing, making music, is right and necessary, that they deal with the constant obstacles and risks because they have no other choice. Instead it created no true sense of the stakes and when the final drama takes place it is too little too late.
It is a real shame that this film didn’t have the faith to spend more time on developing a deeper relationship between the main band and the audience. In not trusting the audience to make the connection that one story well told was representative of teenagers all over the country the piece failed to bring the message home. Young people in Iran simply do not have the freedom to express themselves creatively. In choosing to try they face intolerance, physical danger and jail. How many of today’s reality show performers would continue against such extreme odds?
For me, Hamed Behdad (Nader) is the star of the film providing both light relief (his scene talking his way out of police punishment transcends any translational barriers) and scenes of obvious emotional turmoil. The rest of the cast do an admirable job considering their experience but are let down by the writing and direction decisions. I admire the intentions of this piece and even more so for the danger they faced in making the film. For this reason alone I hope that it reaches a wide audience who can find and understand the message within it.
On a separate note, the post-show discussion with Take it easy hospital, was everything the film should have been. They speak passionately about the culture they experienced and their unshakeable faith that free expression through the arts is of huge importance. Though the quieter of the two, Negar’s impassioned speech that they are all too aware of a very negative international view of Iran and that they desperately want to, ‘rub out’ this image and replace it with one of a thriving cultural scene was inspiring. To think that this ultimate pride in the people of Iran is being suppressed is unbelievable. This was followed by a beautiful acoustic performance from the duo which, in such an intimate space, was a privilege to witness
Review No One Knows About Persian Cats
Star Suckers (2009) Dir Chris Atkins
Chris Atkins latest film crams everything that’s wrong with the increasingly corroded value system of the modern media into 103 minutes of fascinating interviews, stunts, archive footage and animation. Atkins no-holds barred approach tackles the truly disturbing phenomenon of celebrity culture diagnosing western society’s obsession with fame.
The most scathing yet satisfying attack is on the British Press. Secret filming documents how easily his ludicrous lies appear in actual newspaper print, showcasing the immoral and illegal tricks of the trade and teaching the industry a much overdue lesson. But his lesson is an ironic one, promotion is key to getting his message heard and the potential for celebrity gossip has not hurt the films distribution.
Guerilla style, truth seeking film-making has opened Atkins up to legal action from some very powerful and very unhappy people. He has bravely created a film which can finally put its finger on the sense of bewilderment and unease felt by all in the face of a mediated world driven by consumption. When a catchphrase loving action hero can become a powerful political figure and X Factor gets more votes than the general elections we know we’re in trouble.
Review Star Suckers with guest Chris Atkins
Andy Warhol famously said that movies “show you what to do, how to do it, when to do it, how to feel about it, and how to look how you feel about it”.
What a film like The Room would tell you about life is something that I’ve spent a day thinking about. I like it when that happens with a movie – I can’t tell you whether it was good or bad – it was beyond that. But like Apocalypse Now, like Antichrist, like Synecdoche, New York, I couldn’t tell you whether it was in anyway a valuable movie, or even whether I enjoyed it. But I can tell you that I haven’t stopped thinking about it.
For those not in the know (and that seemed to include me) The Room is a film that you interact with – like Rocky Horror, and latterly Sound of Music and Showgirls. When certain characters come on screen, or certain objects appear, you’re supposed to respond in a particular way.
I found it more interesting to actually watch the film. Auteur-created by actor/director/producer Tommy Wiseau, a man with the ugliest bottom since Michael Douglas, is rivetting. Strange to look at, his acting awesome to contemplate, his talent minimal at best, what I most admired was his ability to get this clunker made. The budget was $7m, though the production values (and the better actors) are of afternoon soap opera standard.
The plot is basically a love triangle, with side issues involving drugs, the duplicity of women and cancer. Forget that. Wiseau obviously did – about twenty minutes into the film.
The pulchritudinous Juliette Danielle is quite stunning as the ‘evil’ two-timing girlfriend, and some (almost) proper acting by Greg Sestero.
Both spend the major part of the movie topless, though Sestero’s body gets the full lingering camera treatment from his real-life buddy Wiseau (!!)
So to come back to Warhol. What did this movie tell me about how to live my life? It told me to get out there and do it – lack of talent (and oh how I lack creative genius) should never get in the way of making your art.
After all, I’m watching The Room seven years and a continent away, in a packed cinema. The same couldn’t be said of Kevin Costner’s The Postman, or Waterworld. Could it.
Review by LEON BELL
It’s very easy to be arch about someone’s cinematic creation when it isn’t slick enough. There are, lets not forget, only two kinds of movie: ones you enjoy and ones you don’t.
Anyone who is not familiar with writer/director/actor/producer Tommy Wiseau’s masterpiss, and the cult phenomena of the spoons, are in for a treat. Those who venture in are about to witness this generation’s Plan 9 from Outer Space or Manos: Hand of Fate.
Tommy’s character Johnny has a fiancée, Lisa. And she’s having an affair with Johnny’s best friend. Barely sketched characters like Denny, a boy who Johnny wanted to adopt, wander into scenes, utter terrible dialogue or attempt to participate in sex scenes, then leave. This becomes like Groundhog Day without the intentional laughs, and it makes you question your sanity when you stagger out of the cinema an hour and a half later.
A cult has grown up around this poorly made film, because audiences tell their friends about it. They want their friends to see it because they enjoyed the experience. I’m sure shameless self-promoter Wiseau would claim he made it specifically for the masochist in every movie fan.
Tyneside Cinema 22/03/10
If I were to review The Room as a film I would probably quote the catchphrase of the film’s bed-hopping Lisa, ‘I don’t want to talk about it’. However, The Room is not so much a film as an experience and in that sense it is pure genius. The film has gained a cult following that, judging by the excitement in the audience at last night’s screening, has spread to the UK.
It was originally marketed as a, ‘a film with passion’ but later and ever since Wiseau insists that it was always meant to be a comedy. Last night’s crowd was supplied with plastic spoons, a variety of balls and party whistles and their use of them created a brilliantly rowdy atmosphere. The spoons are thrown at the screen whenever the framed spoon photographs appear in the background (an amateur mistake or a symbolic representation depending on who you believe). The balls are thrown around the audience as the characters engage in regular and pointless ball games and throughout the screening viewers heckle and shout abuse at the screen. There was one line last night, ‘You’re tearing me apart Lisa’ which the crowd shouted in unison proving that many of those in attendance were long-standing fans. For those like myself who have never seen the film it was brilliant to see the response and easy to get caught up in the revelry. By the end I was as loud as the rest shouting, ‘Hi Danny’ and ‘Bye Danny’ as the character repeatedly entered and left scenes with no apparent purpose.
So, yes, the acting, writing and direction are horrendous. The characters are two dimensional, the plot linear (or more appropriately horizontal – the multiple sex scenes are excruciatingly bad) with sub-plots introduced and forgotten and a chaotic scene structure. And yet this is without a doubt the best night out at the cinema I’ve had in a very long time. It’s definitely not one to watch alone but I would urge anyone who gets the chance to attend a screening of The Room to go, for an unforgettable experience. And don’t forget to take a spoon.
Review The Room
Night and Fog In Japan
Director Ôshima Nagisa / Japan 1960 /
The Night and Fog in Japan evolves around personality clashes and inefficiency of student leftist movement in Japan sometime after the Korean War. Power struggle, means before ends versus idealism and personal progress or digress, how ever you wish to see it. As usual those are the reasons for tensions, jealousy and eventually a murder.
Events of the film, or the air cleansing, happen at a wedding of two group members. All goes well until a displeased member joins the party and starts harassing people in order to find some answers to pending questions. The pieces of puzzle are eventually revealed in a series of flashbacks and revelations by the ones involved.
The film is very theatre-like. Instead of counting on editing it has really long and well choreographed scenes where camera pans, tilts and moves around to find the people speaking. And people do speak a lot. It is very dialogue heavy, so the camera also moves a lot. The lighting effects are also created to support the theatre-like look. Carefully designed lighting effects bring people out from the darkness while other lights inside the frame are dimmed completely until suddenly everything changes back to normal.
Even though Night and Fog in Japan had it’s moments, it was quite tiresome mainly because the endless flow of dialogue and bit repetitive visuals. So part of the film I spent somewhere in my own world of obscenities just to wake back up to the personal clashes of the student leftist in Japan. Also occasionally the drastic camera moves were bit disturbing and I didn’t really enjoy the theatre-like-look either. If I want to see theatre I go to theatre.
Night and Fog in Japan is an experimental piece that challenges some of the film making conventions. This time though the existing conventions of the medium beat the challenger.
Review Night and Fog in Japan (Nihon no yoru to kiri)
Heaven help us from LSFF
After experiencing the LSFF programmed short film selection I must express what a disappointment this event was. Aside from starting late, which, is a pet peeve of mine (why can’t this many people stay organized?!?), the billing slated for 4 in the afternoon on a Friday promised a series of films on the theme of borders being crossed. Sounds interesting right? No doubt, being programmed by Philip Illson who is billed as a “world class programmer” one could have some expectation of an interesting and thought provoking series of films. Sadly, this expectation was misled. What the program should have said was a jaded and depressed film reviewer selects a series of often incomprehensible and poorly made films about death and unhappiness (not necessarily in that order) with the attached warning label that “viewing these films on a pleasant Friday afternoon has been known to cause audiences to abandon all hope in the human condition”. The four films vary between the bittersweet to the woefully inadequate to the desperately seeking a polite exit variety.
Cargo Directed by Leo Woodhead this film kicks off what is to be two hours of short film splendor. The film is about a boy who is in the middle of being trafficked and the trafficker who tries to sell the boy to a pedophile, fails because of the horrendous scars the boy’s father had inflicted and then adopts him as his son. It is sort of sweet in a really really creepy way. It stays that way for about three minutes right up till the point when the boy decides to kill his cat and help the man continue to traffic in women. Then it offers perhaps one of the bleakest portrayal of humanity out of the four films shown. Welcome to happy hour.
Next up was Adeel Alam and his in the ring persona Team Taliban. The short is more a documentary of Adeel’s place as a Muslim in semi-pro wrestling and how the persona he is asked to perform plays out in the small US towns. Unfortunately the short is too short. Just when the story starts to get interesting and interrogate the connection between politics, militancy and persona the film ends. Director Benjamin Kegan’s decision to call cut at the 12 min mark was an unfortunate one. Team Taliban was decisively the high water mark for positive emotion during the festival due mostly to its bittersweet comedic moments. Honestly this was the most uplifting films in the festival. Honestly.
Next up was a disjointed narrative by Director Tom Geens titled You’re A Stranger Here. The short feels like a failed attempt to copy Brazil right down to the very British fascist regime. Unfortunately for Geen, the synopsis of the story online is more informative to the viewer then the actual film. The narrative is forced and this carries over to the acting. The director seems to be trying oh so hard to make an art house film and the results are more parody then genuine artifact. The film contains a near complete list of clichés including an ignored extra judicial killing in the middle of the street in the afternoon, family violence, incest, adultery, almost public sex and finally (relief!) the expected death of nearly everyone in the film. If you have seen this film and found yourself reaching for a bottle by the end you’d be in good company.
The second last film is unfortunately the longest one screened. Ho! Terrible Exteriors is a film to avoid. Where as You’re A Stranger Here’s online synopsis deciphers the disjointed content into something more understandable, this films the synopsis seems to be about an entirely different film. The film is honestly 20 minutes too long and director Lior Shamriz seems obsessed about length rather than quality that had the unfortunate effect of torturing the very audience whom he is trying to win over. I have one word for this film and its director: editing. Given that this train wreck is a whole half an hour in length one wonders why it was included at all as it was twice the length of the next longest film and feels longer still. Fortunately (or unfortunately depending on your disposition at this point) more than half of the main characters survive this film. The unfortunate part that ones that don’t make it get graphically killed at the end.
Finally we have the Canadian production Dance Macabra based on the ideas of Robert Lepage and filmed by Pedro Pire. Of all the films on offer this is the most beautifully filmed and visually gorgeous. Also unlike the other films this one begins with a scantily clad women hanging herself and thus we have the death at the start rather than the end. What follows next is a ballet like process of the corpse moving from having hanged herself to morticians table through to coffin and finally onto cremation. Influences of Circe de Soliel are ever present in this film. I will admit to a health laugh when this film stated screening as given the ending of the last film I was curious, perhaps you could say morbidly so, of what would come next. The eroticism of the “corpse” and the filmmakers choice to sexualize the body leads to some very disturbing overtones throughout the brief 9 minute film. Really my problem is not with the film itself but its position in the screening. Really this film becomes the last nail in the coffin of hope by the time the curtain falls.
By the end of this festival I am left with the impression that London is filled with sad people weary of life and without hope. Given the theme of border crossing is broad enough to encompass a whole range cinematic genera the reliance of Mr. Illson on just one thin thread for all four film was exceedingly disappointing. As was covered in the introduction at least one of the film (at this point I don’t know which one) was included because the director had crossed “personal boundaries” in making it. While I applaud this creativity in theme, the relative unknown stature of all the directors leads one to wonder whether some small joke is being had over on the audience. Instead I would ask that a more honest theme for this series be “things die horribly and thus there is no hope” opposed to the euphemisms of “boarders and their crossing”. All in all, not the happiest selection for a Friday afternoon.
Review London Short Film Festival Programme
Ok, before I start with any negative comments, I’d like to make it clear that I really liked this film. It’s nicely told, beautiful in its own way, and heart-warming, with all sorts of positive themes such as hope, innocence, laughter. The First Movie sees director, Mark Cousins, go to the Kurdish village of Goptapa in northern Iraq, primarily spending time with the children of this small, idyllic hilltop village. Two statements are made at the very start of the film that give away the film-maker’s intentions: he is aware of the impact that film and the media have on our perceptions of the world (to ‘describe’ the world, as he calls it), and is therefore careful not to mention the name Iraq at the start so as to avoid conjuring up in us any preconceptions or connotations, even though we all know where he is. Secondly, he recalls his own childhood in Belfast and the significance the local cinema held for him. The cinema, a place of refuge, a sanctuary where one might rest and think – a place more “real” than the war, as he puts it. These two statemtnts tie together, as he goes to Goptapa in the hope of encouraging its children – who he appears to view as a source of innocent and unformed light – to become enthusiastic about the magical and liberating power of film and to, who knows, take up film and ‘redescribe’ the world. The village of Goptapa, for example, is one of many Kurdish villages that saw chemical weapons used against it by Saddam Hussein, and although the kids did not experience this directly, the world is already described to them in a certain fashion by the adults and elders of the village.
The idea of redescribing the world is a very interesting, hopeful and uplifting one, but one which was unfortunately not made enough of during the film itself. Throughout the film I was getting a great sense of warmth and sweetness from the images on the screen and some of the children’s thoughts, but kept being bugged by the thought that I wasn’t really sure what the film’s point was. It was only at the post-screening Q&A with the director that some of these loose ends were tied. Questions might also be raised about the daring and scope of the film. For all Iraq’s woes, these children seemed to be living a life altogether detached from the Iraq we hear about on the news, and it might be much more interesting to ask what form this redescription of the world would take with an inner-city Iraqi child. One gets the impressions that just as Cousins sees these children as sources of purity, he chooses this remote village for the same reasons. As such, he appears to have his own agenda which he imposes on the film’s subjects. This might be an unfair accusation if taken on its own – which it shouldn’t be – because the films does hold substantial merits and raises interesting questions. All in all, a highly recommended viewing and very enjoyable for a multitude of reasons.
The Northern Lights Film Festival managed to host yet another good event, showing the latest creation of grassroots filmmaker Mark Cousins. The organisers mixed a warm welcome, a comfortable venue, a tender movie and an inspiring post-show discussion with Mark to blend that sort of event you would suggest everyone to attend.
“The first movie” is the tale of a boy grown up in wartime Belfast, a boy who uses imagination as an escape and the cinema as a protective environment. The boy becomes a man and establishes himself as a successful movie-maker. In his 40s, the man set up a project which will lead him in Goptapa, a small village located in post-war Kurdish North-Iraq, bringing high-definition cameras to hand out to local kids. He wishes to give them the opportunity to unleash their imagination and help them to create their first movies. After breaking the ice with some joyful playing, tales of desperation and hope start flowing in his hands. The man is amused by the simple truths disclosed in the kids’ movies and relates their bounds with the village life with his own experience as a boy in Northern Ireland, closing the evergreen circular storytelling.
That boy is Mark Cousins, who constantly feeds in the movie the feelings and emotions he had while recording it. He spells out his opinions throughout, sometimes preventing the audience from freely intaking the magic behind the beautiful shoots of Goptapa landscape. Because of the style and the thematic, ‘The first movie’ would work better as a documentary tout court, for which it lacks some background information about the project, which would be fruitful for the audience to understand the challenges involved into setting up such an inspiring project. Nevertheless, the movie has the power of showing a basic truth; the aspirations of all kids around the world are the same. We all want to live in a friendly environment, we aspire to improve our life standard, and we seek support of family and friends. No geographical borders can be made around human souls and the dynamics that shape an individual personality work similarly on everyone. Therefore, it is easy to connect with the kids in Goptapa, and it would have been the same if they were from Belfast, New York, Perth or Johannesburg. We can identify with those kids, because we are those kids. Sometime we forget.
Review The First Movie with guest Mark Cousins
What would you do?…
How many people have wondered how they would survive if the worst happened. If there was truth in it after all and the dead rose again to devour humanity in a bloody zombie apocalypse. Worryingly, this question has been posed to me so many times I have a full action plan eady, complete with alternate scenarios.
The concept of a man-eating plague of the dead is everywhere. From computer games to Manga, from festivals to classic literature mash-ups, no-one is safe from the ever advancing groan and shuffle. Nowhere has the morbid influence been more marked than in film. According to IMDB [internet movie database] there were 42 new ‘zombie films’ made in 2009 alone.
The film zombie is a product of imaginationand confusion surrounding Haitian folklore originating in Africa. Commonly understood as a phenomenon of the Vudon religion, Haitian zombification involves using poison or some other magic to induce a death-like state. Once revived, the ‘zombi’ body now existing without a soul, would become a slave. The distinction between a ‘death-like state’ and ‘dead’ blurred once zombie films hit our screens in the 60s (a distinction which seems trivial unless you’re on the wrong side of the zombie/non-zombie divide).
Although zombie films existed previously, George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead is often seen as the first; true zombie fanatics even refer to the period of time before Romero as B.R. (Before Romero). Following this seminal film, the Zombie really took hold (despite limb breakages) and the 80’s in particular saw a stream of zombie films whose titles invariably included one or all of the words; undead, day, dawn, zombie, evil, land and return.
No doubt a fertile ground due to potentially cheap production costs, gory horror is a favourite amongst burgeoning filmmakers. Cue Mark Price who took this notion a step further making a 93 minute feature film starring Colin, a recently transformed Zombie, for just £45. Attracting attention in the industry and currently being distributed globally, Colin, is proof of the everlasting life of the eternally undead. Offering a zombie eye view of familiar apocalyptic terrain, Price combines parody with originality. We recognise the game but the rules have changed.
Along with customary shaky camera realism and fake blood spurting attacks, Colin’s zombie protagonist is an innovative twist proving there’s no excuse for blank remakes. And did I mention that he made it for £45? Although stagnation threatens any popular trend, zombie films can offer a fresh (yet decomposed) take on the perils of the undead. From ultra-gory Braindead to Brit comedy Shaun of the Dead to Romero’s last efforts Land of the Dead and Diary of the Dead, those hungry corpses just keep on coming.
P: I’m definitely from the school of thought that thinks there’s more to be done with the zombie genre, and I went to see Colin with the hope that it might explore some of those ideas, without playing with the mythology too much. In particular, I was really looking forward to seeing a film from the perspective of the zombie, rather than just with the zombie as the main protagonist. However, this is not the same as point of view, and I was immediately disappointed to see that, visually at least, it did little with that strong concept.
J: The main thing that caught my attention when choosing which films I wanted to see at NLFF, was the experimentation with perspective. Although he is not the first to do so, the fact that the director wanted to show a zombie-apocalypse from the perspective of a zombie was what drew me in. I admire what Marc Price did with such a small budget, however I think that aspect of the film was over-sold, as if to distract the audience from the elements that were lacking in the film.
P: It is a shame that marketing and media attention has been focused on the cost of the film – as it is difficult to fault the scale of any low-budget film, yet, there is something fundamentally missing in Colin. Despite the claims of a zombie perspective, there is much that distracts from our focus on the tragic anti-hero. The jumping timeframe, the implied but unexplained backstory and random comedic characters are at times impossible to keep up with. For a film that makes use of space and long soundtrack samples, it still manages to feel rushed and inelegant.
J: For me the main areas that were lacking were narrative/plot and character development. There were some potentially great storylines with Colin’s family and the vigilante group we encounter near the end of the film, but more often than not these scenes were over too soon. I can understand that this was done because it was more important to maintain the focus on Colin, but it cut off the narrative pace very abruptly at times.
P: Exactly. We feel sympathy for the lead, but stories and characters with much greater potential to engage the audience were left weak and unexplored or worse, ignored completely, after their initial introduction. The family is the strongest element in the script, but they are woefully underused, and the vigilante group would have made for an ideal set of characters as a counter to Colin, but they are left as caricatures, and instead could have formed the backbone of the story.
J: There was an inconsistency in the nature of Colin compared to the other zombies too! Frequent shots of groups feasting on human beings in aggresive, monster-like fashion is the traditional portrayal, however Colin seemed oddly to deviate from this, being more of an introverted zombie figure still partially in touch with his human side. If this was intentional, I don’t think it really works, as there’s a difference between showing things through the perspective of a zombie, and the zombie being the exception to the rule just to get sympathy from the audience. Sure, Colin did his fair share of feasting on human flesh too, but it lacked the survival/killer instinct that the other zombies seemed to have.
P: Most frustratingly, it’s those kind of script details that haven’t been thought through or edited out. In particular, the likelihood that in a city the best weapons accessible are garden shears or hammers requires explanation. Where are all the guns? Is all the ammunition gone? Also, playing with flashback and a reliance on visual metaphors like traffic lights changing, a road sign with arrows in two directions, and worse still, newspaper headlines, is amateurish and dated.
J: On a smaller note but still equally as important, the suspension of disbelief was periodically shattered due to lack-lustre and unconvincing screams from the victims of zombies, I think if I were about to have my limbs forcibly detached and gnawed upon I’d be emitting more than a sleepy moan.
P: Marc Price is a very likeable director, and hearing his meandering answers in the Q&A made me less critical than I was when the film ended, as it is clear that he made the film for all the right reasons: a love of the genre, an opportunity to use the skills of a collaborative and creative group of friends, a desire to demonstrate abilities in a low-budget movie that would translate into bigger budgets in the future – but what could have been an outstanding short film just didn’t stand up as a ninety minute feature.
J: Although it may not sound like it, overall I am impressed with what Marc Price did – give credit where credit is due. I just think there is so much further he could have gone. For an explorative zombie film, he did well to include all the elements of horror, suspense and personal conflict and his resourcefulness is very inspiring.
P: It is already successful and will be added to the bandwagon of recent zombie films, not as an essential British title, but as a notable curiosity. Arguably, it is the difference between a film that cost £45 and one that cost £1000. They’re both low budget, but in the latter, the film making is unlikely to be filled with distracting shakes and amateur production. With a script editor, a more organised set and no doubt, a bigger budget, Marc Price will make far better films than Colin.
Colin is an incredible success story – a modern fairytale. It might still not make it a masterpiece.
In 2007, Marc Price, 30 year old British citizen, starts making a zombie film. The shooting lasts for 18 months, friends help out, and the total cost of the film is (allegedly) £45. The film is shown at a small British festival, and is picked up there by a sales agent. The sales agent takes the film to the market at the Cannes Film Festival, and the international media suddenly starts writing about it, as “the zombie film that only cost £45!” (the fantasy of any Hollywood Production company that is in Cannes?)
At Cannes, the film is then bought by major distribution companies – and now the film is about to be distributed around the world. This story, in itself, could be an (American) film.
Marc Price has a childlike enthusiasm and happiness about him, the film is his “baby”. He is ecstatic that his film is shown and that people come to see it. And that’s beautiful. It’s great to see somebody who is so genuine and passionate succeed.
However, does that make Colin a good film?
The main great idea of the film, is the quasi-absence of dialogues, which keeps the film confusing, mysterious, and somehow tense.
The other good thing about it, is that it manages to create a sense of attachment and care for the main character, who happens to be a zombie. Marc Price says that it is a zombie film “with a heart”, and he is proud to have made a film from a zombie point of view – which is apparently not very common.
However, the main problem with the film is that it doesn’t really go anywhere. There is no narrative line through it, the tension is not sustained, and it gets boring in parts. What is taught in film making books is that films should be roughly structured around a general problematic situation that gets a resolution. It might be a cliché, and there might be ways of avoiding that, but a film does need some trail of thought holding it all the way through, for it to be engaging.
Unfortunately, Colin is more like a sequence of scenes, that might be effective on their own and might have been fun to shoot, but put one after the other, they don’t really work as a feature film. This is really obvious in the first half of the film, which contains a lot of group zombie eating scenes. Although one of these scenes would be necessary at the start of the film, to set the tone and the context, it might not be essential to repeat the same type of scenes over and over again. The first half of the film lacks progression, it feels like an endless introduction.
Then, secondary characters momentarily enter the film and sub-plots develop, and that’s good. The idea of introducing the family of the zombie works particularly well: the sister hopes to cure her brother, and that gives the film a potential narrative line. Also, showing family conflicts around it is a good idea.
However, this idea is not exploited enough, the tension is resolved, and we end up again with a story that doesn’t know where it’s heading – a bit like the main character himself. The end of the film makes this quite obvious. You can tell that the director didn’t really know what to do with it. It ends with a flashback, which is typical of a teenagery film ending, relying on a quick joke.
It’s a shame, because some of the scenes do work, and certainly, Marc Price went very far for only £45. But it feels like he was too used to making short films, and Colin feels like a few short films put together, without any rationale. As a feature, it just doesn’t quite manage to sustain itself.
Review Colin plus guest Marc Price
Kick Ass is certainly the right title for this movie as it kicks so much ass that it could be the best super hero film ever made. Independently funded with a $70 million budget and dubbed “the most expensive home movie of all time” by its director Mathew Vaughn, this is a movie that has certainly benefited from travelling down the indie road. Explicit violence and foul language (which only sums up the 12 year old Hit Girl) meant that studio’s would not have come anywhere near this project and it would have quite frankly been a crime for this not to have been made.
The film tells the story of teenager Dave Lizewski, a typically awkward high school student who’s only talent is being ignored by girls. One day while hanging out at the local comic book shop he begins to ask the question why no one has ever tried being a super hero before. This spurs him on to creating a super hero alter ego known as Kick Ass and begins looking for crimes to fight.
Unfortunately reality hits very quickly when Dave is stabbed and then run over when he tries to stop a car theft. Not to be put off by his near death debut, his ordeal provides him with metal supports on most of his body and a lack of feeling due to nerve damage which give him an edge when fighting with criminals. Captured on video while stopping a man getting beaten up, Kick Ass becomes an internet hit when the video is uploaded to YouTube. This ultimately leads to him grabbing the attention of some real, hardcore hero’s as well as D’Amico drug gang.
Director Matthew Vaughn has managed to create a master piece with this movie, trumping his other two directorial efforts which is praise indeed with both L4YER CAKE and Stardust being highly enjoyable films. Kick Ass oozes style and flair with every shot capturing the characters looks and essence from the comic book perfectly. The movies setting of New York is also shot perfectly in this movie, showing off the fantastic cityscape with gorgeous aerial shots that help provide a sense of epic scale to the fairly small scale story.
The action sequences are frenetic and stylish and really pump the film full of energy. There is one particular scene toward the climax of the film that is utterly superb mixing pitch black against night vision goggles while in the style of a first person video game, then switching to the use of strobe lighting and Gun Kata. Couple the visual feast of this scene with the fantastic score that plays over the top and the drama that unfolds it all adds up to be one of the best sequences I have ever seen.
Performances from all the cast are top notch from the veterans and new comers’ alike. Aaron Johnson as the titular Kick Ass is great as the socially awkward teenager, nailing the balance between nerdy and endearing while capturing the sense of bravery (or stupidity) he uses to become a super hero. Another thing worth pointing out is that you would never know he was from England with his perfect American accent.
Christopher Mintz-Plasse as Red Mist delivers one of his trade mark geeky performances but manages to avoid becoming a cookie cutter character by giving the performance some depth. Playing the son of drug lord D’Amico , Mist find himself unable to prove himself to his farther and get in on his “business” due to his nerdy behaviour and of course appearance, he attempts to use his super hero persona to prove his worth. Rather than being a retread of the McLovin character, I felt that Red Mist was an evolution of it, providing the same level of comedy but with more depth of character.
Main villain Frank D’Amico is played fantastically by Mark Strong as he demonstrates why he is Hollywood’s go to bad guy at the moment. He manages to be both brutal and ruthless while also being strangely charming. Strong is particularly entertaining when interacting with his son, trying to hide his obvious criminal activity from him. Nicolas Cage is also great in this movie and finally has provided a performance that reminds us why we liked him in the first place. As Big Daddy he is a blatant Batman rip-off which is fully acknowledged down to the odd way he speaks that is reminiscent of Adam West when he donned the cape all those years ago, an is a source of great hilarity.
However good the rest of the cast are they are all overshadowed by Hit Girl, played by Chloe Moretz. Hit Girl is a 12 year old master assassin who masquerades as a super hero with her father Big Daddy. Foul mouthed and deadly only begin to describe her. She steals the show with her ultra gory action scenes that involve knives, guns and a dual bladed katana while all the time dropping f bombs and the occasional and taboo “c” word. Hit Girl manages to be both the strongest part of this movie as well as the season why no studio would have ever come near this film.
Kick Ass is the best film I have seen in months and easily the best of the year so far. In fact it’s so good it could well still hold that title as the year comes to a close. Sharp and witty, with satisfyingly violent action coupled with fleshed out and likeable, maybe even iconic characters all make this a roaring triumph of film making. This is a film that is relentlessly entertaining so much so it borders on the ridiculous, now go and see this!
Kick Ass is the new comic book superhero spoof comedy by Alex Harvey. I haven’t read the comic it is based on, nor I really knew anything about the film before the screening. I had no opinion, no expectations, but after the film words like dull, mediocre, predictable and awful were in my head.
The protagonist of the film is a geek who wonders why anyone haven’t tried the glorified profession of superhero in order to help people. So he gives it go and becomes the superhero Kick Ass, with ill consequences. However there is a dad and his daughter(can’t remember their names) who are in the same line of business and through series of events they and Kick Ass become a team and co-operate in a fight against mob of gangster. Plus of course there is the geek alter ego beautiful girl romance story stuffed in.
Kick Ass tries to be funny, it tries hard and that shines through. The film was just too aware of the boundaries it was trying to break but it was too afraid to cross the line. It is not gory enough to be funny, it is not violent enough to be funny, it is not camp enough to be funny. It is not funny. The dialogue was mostly mediocre, with few exceptions. If I want to see 12(?) year old girl say words like fuck, cunt or asshole I’ll take the metro to home.
The only joke the film had was 12-year old girl doing superhero stunts as seen in dozens of other action/superhero films, tied together with her making faces in close-ups. And the joke lasted… It didn’t even have any suspense to keep me entertained. The only laughs were provided by the fat, black bodyguard – he was actually funny in the two scenes he was in. How racist of me.
Kick Ass is just a ‘Not another teen, geek, superhero spoof movie’. Only the Wayans brothers were missing from this hideous piece of mediocrity.
“Shows over, motherfuckers.”
Many a childhood moment has been spent on super-hero fantasies. Normal life is boring and average, the life of a super-hero is exciting and filled with adventure. But could an average person just decide to become a super-hero? Kick-Ass answers this question when Dave – an average teenage boy – decides to become a super-hero for no real reason other than to do it. Lacking the funds of Bruce Wayne, Dave buys a green wetsuit online and upon slipping it on he becomes: Kick-Ass.
When Dave becomes Kick-Ass he looks ridiculous, sounds ridiculous and can do nothing but ridiculous things. He looks like a tit and has no super-powers, but even though he’s a failure on so many levels, he’s still a super-hero to us because we want to believe such a fantasy can become a reality and we enjoy watching his transformation.
The whole process plays out as a parody of comic-books, showing us just how absurd super-heroes would be if they were real. The parody is playful and done with love, and soon enough the funny piss-taking has turned into homage as we begin to take Kick-Ass seriously, despite it never taking itself too seriously. The film is fun throughout and finds a perfect balance between its well choreographed action sequences and perfectly delivered jokes.
Matthew Vaughn has managed to create a movie that is fresh and exciting, with a number of memorable characters played perfectly with a cast of new and old faces. Nicolas Cage, is finally given a role where he can use his hammy acting as a positive rather than a negative, but Chloe Moretz will receive most of the praise as his foul-mouthed daughter who has been trained to kill.
Kick-Ass is not a groundbreaking film, but it is a perfect paced action-comedy, and a breath of fresh air in comparison to some of the more recent comic adaptations released.
It may not be wise for an average person to become a super-hero in real life, but Kick-Ass lets us feel what it would be like for a short time and it feels pretty awesome.
Ok folk I wrote about the real superhero story Defendor the other day and I have seen another new real people wearing pants over lycra film, the blockbuster Kick Ass by Matthew Vaughn. I really didn’t think you could beat Defendor and I guess in some ways you can’t, I mean they are very different with one being set more in reality than the other. I have to say thanks to Northern Lights for letting me come to his showing as I had a brilliant night. I am not really a cinema person as I don’t really like sharing my experience but this was one of the best nights out I have had at the cinema in years.
Kick Ass has a fantastic start, when our hero Dave Lizewski played by Aaron Johnson AKA kick ass dons a divers suit, really gets his ass kicked and I mean a proper ass kicking. I went to this movie expecting to see something fun and somewhat childish. It was fun, really fun, it had me laughing loudly throughout the flick but it certainly was not childish. The characters were well fleshed out and had a lot more depth compared to those of Defendor. Mark Miller who wrote the Graphic Novel really understands the world he is dealing with, referencing the superheroes of comics, film and TV on so many levels and I reckon it would take several viewings and a really in depth knowledge of the super hero world to acknowledge all the references. Dave Lizewski is definitely your normal Joe blogs, unlike the alter ego that is supposed to be normal looking but is actually on the handsome side, as in films like Spiderman or the hulk. As soon as he suits up though he definitely is a reference to Sam Raimi’s Spiderman but without the ability to climb walls, spin webs, make perfect costumes or even really hurt anyone.
Nicholas Cage has been in a good film at last since ‘Lord of war’ and he plays his character well. The villain Frank D’amico played by Mark Strong is very good. His role of balancing being an attentive father with that of just having anyone killed who doesn’t give him the answer he is looking for. It is also good to see a Superhero movie in which the show stealer isn’t the villain. The show stealer is Hit Girl played by Chloe Moretz, a 12 year old girl who is charming, direct, has a foul mouth, is skilled with the the Filipino and looks so cool in a purple wig. She is a little firecracker who reminds me of the Robin from the brilliant Frank Miller Graphic ‘Novel Dark Night Returns’. You can’t see enough of her in the film sliding under villains’ legs and shooting them in the head or sliding across tables and knifing them in the chest. If I had a daughter would be so proud, enjoying her repartee with the neighbours as she called them cunts. Sadly I would find it quite difficult only being able to see her once a fortnight at the maximum security detention centre. That brings me nicely to my final point.
The film recognises it stands outside the Marvel and DC Universe nodding its head directly to the characters from these worlds throughout the film while accepting they are fictional characters in a fictional reality. The truth is though these characters and this universe is just as fictional. At the beginning of the film Dave Lizewski is talking with one of his friends wondering why no one has ever thought of wearing a costume and fighting crime and it is from this conversation that he chooses the name Kick Ass. The reason why though is less we will get our ass kicked and more most of us don’t really know any crime bosses who live in penthouse suites or have friends at school who volunteer at really clean, specious needle exchange centres and have crack dealing ex-boyfriends with body guards outside their door. Most of the criminals we know are telling us we are going to war thousands of miles away and removing more and more of our job security or selling us high sugar foods or clothes with people’s names on them made in factories in the same countries we are going to war with.
Overall this was a brilliant movie. My only little gripe was the bullshit 1st person shooter reference which was just totally out of place and a waste of more opportunity to see Hit Girl in action. I will surely be watching this film again sometime and I recommend you do to.
The camera trails a snake as it coils through flood water, and disappears between the bars of a jail. Imagined iguanas flop about in the middle of a stake-out, as the Bad Lieutenant wigs out. Werner Herzog has bent the straight-to-DVD cop thriller slash Nicolas Cage vehicle to his will. He actually plays it fairly straight- up to a point. Tracking unexpectedly close to crime scenes; taking in the squad-room banter, the streets of after-the-flood New Orleans. But Herzog has as keen an eye for shooting the incongruous as the Lieutenant has for lifting narcotics, and it is these moments, alongside the laugh/laughing-out-loud derangement of Nicolas Cage (a man who long ago took to heart Adam Ant’s adage that ‘ridicule is nothing to be scared of’) that really lift this film above the tired norm. Cage ends up looking almost dignified, or at least wise in his decisions for the first time in a long time, and every stock situation in the book is either twisted absurdly, shot full of poetry, or made weirdly poignant. The best part is, these turns arise from the narrative so unexpectedly that the imagination on display is actually moving. The risks somehow really work. There is a fantastic supporting cast (Val Kilmer! Brad Dourif as the bookie!), a great choice of blues tunes, and the unanswerable question “Do fish have dreams?” It’s nowhere near as shocking as the Ferrera film, but it isn’t supposed to be. Highly recommended.
Review The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call – New Orleans
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Review Free Short Films Day at BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art
‘“Are they human?’’’ asks Ajmal’s father, this question that resonates throughout the whole film.
The bigger political picture is sewn together with stories and anecdotes from the people of Afghanistan and the journalists. This narration brings back the human element to what they are talking about; the way in which the US has used Afghanistan as a place to facilitate their own agenda.
The audience are told early on that Ajmal will be murdered, giving the development of his presentation from friend, son, fellow journalist to Fixer, ‘person to facilitate the gathering of news stories’, heightened significance. We can then see the danger of him being hired solely as Fixer, facilitating a ‘very important name in the newspapers’.
As the film concludes we can see Ajmal being stripped of his humanity by both the Afghanistan Government and the Taliban. It is at this point, when Ajmal Naqshbandi is used as a political symbol, that he looses his life.
Although the film highlights the dangers of forgetting the human element in both individuals and counties of people, it is also very aware of Film itself creating symbolism. It suggests, then, that the place for symbols is in Film -but that real life and the very Real situation in Afghanistan does not need a symbol. What I needs is to be perceived as nothing other than human.
Review Fixer: The Taking of Ajmal Naqshbandi
In ‘The Realm of the Senses,’ sees ex prostitute and all round wild girl Sada Abe finds tackling the ancient question of phallis worship, with admirable determination.
Explored under the power of 1936 imperial japan, the voyeur finds herself floating around traditional architecture and costumes, not yet coloured or confused by western homoginisation.
This cultural background cements the watcher in a dramtically different, and appealing eastern alien landscape.
Although this sexually explicit 1976 Misha special features graphic unsimulated sexual activities, the style is not overtly pornographic and feels true story driven all through.
While being similtaneously appalled and stimulated throughout by the fantastical gymnastical bedroom extremism, I found the film’s undistracted focus appealing. There was nothing held back, the actors consumtive desires were fully exploded and displayed.
As Sada and Kishi’s sexual experiments become more extreme, Sada becomes increasingly obsessed with Hotel owner Kishi and jelously guards his every caress.
The triumphant maid climaxes indulging in strangulation power play, plateauing with the ultimate bloody expression of penis envy.
The film continues in the ancient traditon of the Japanese death fetish, Japanese erotic art often featuring highly morbid climatic conclusions.
Originally banned from the New York Film festival, ‘In the Realm of the Senses’ folky display of obsession gone bad was at times uncomfortable viewing.
Nevertheless, it’s originality and breathtaking bravery make it something to be admired as high art.
Although Sada was recieved at the time with sympathy as a folk hero by Japan, my own sympathies remain with the dead eunech hotelier and his sore neck.
by Jeremy Anbleyth
In the Realm of the Senses
The seemingly controversial film left with me a beautiful feeling of desire mixed with a bitter taste of mad sexual obsession that is often a typical attribute of passionate love.
The intense sexual relationship between a married man and his servant girl ends with a cruel, but in the same time tender murder.
The movie is based on the true story from the 1930’s and maybe that is why its impact goes beneath audience’s skin.
The excessive deconstruction of sexual taboos accompanies the audience all the way through the film. The repetitive acts quickly become the main theme of the narrative and therefore reveal and emphasise the insanity of sexual obsession and the mutual visceral fervor of the lovers.
The predominance of their relationship seems to be taken by the female character, but in my opinion the male possesses adorable strength and completely voluntary devotion to die for his lover’s lust.
In short, the movie is beautifully obscene.
Review In the Realm of the Senses + Naked Youth
LIFE DURING WARTIME
As the old saying goes: “Never go back to a lit firework.”
The sixth feature by Todd Solondz. A sort-of sequel to Happiness, following dysfunctional sisters and the males in their lives. Joy is haunted by the ghost of a man she rejected. Trish is still dealing with the fallout of her husband Bill’s incarceration for child abuse. Bill is released from prison and wants to reconnect with his children. Third sister Helen is a Hollywood success and still unhappy.
It is a gallant failure. Whereas Happiness, now recognised as an independent cinema classic, straddled the line between art film and mainstream, Solondz’s work since has often seemed like the auteur pouring his mind out onto the screen, free of restriction. Much time is spent referencing the first film due to the confusion that can be caused by recasting every part.
Forgiveness (which was the original title) is the theme. The word must have been said twenty times throughout. Whilst not considered a political film-maker, post-9/11 paranoia is prevalent as are Solondz’s recurring themes of suburban disaffection and paedophilia. It isn’t a bad film, it just suffers in comparison to the perfect mix of awkwardness, humour and pain in the first movie.
Grateful for the free ticket, but…didn’t really enjoy the film. Review below:
Life During Wartime
While I’m at the cinema, as well as watching the film, there’s another activity I like to partake in. Audience watching. Something about the facial expressions and body language of audience members interests me. I’ve seen quite a few bad movies where people have sat forward in their chair, back straight, eyes-wide, engrossed in a Colin Farrell performance. I’ve also seen more than my share of great movies where people have collapsed into their chair, yawning loudly, wondering what all the fuss is with the Coen Brothers.
By halfway through “Life During Wartime” the couple sitting beside me seemed to be ready for a nap. Audience reaction didn’t seem positive. My own reaction was less than favourable too.
You see, “Life During Wartime” is a sloucher. At the start of the movie I was all raring to go, brimming with enthusiasm for a new Todd Solondz’s film – a sequel to his hilarious movie “Happiness” – but as the minutes dragged by I found myself slowly falling deeper into my seat. Eventually I fell so deep that the chairs in front of me obscured the bottom section of the screen. I didn’t seem to be missing anything though.
The movie wasn’t just a sloucher. It was a head propper. The type of movie where you have to hold your skull up with your hand because there’s nothing of interest going on, nothing willing your eyes to focus on the screen. You try your best to get by this, you sit up in your seat, try to pay attention, but eventually you just find yourself back to slouching and head propping.
In essence, “Life During Wartime” is not an entertaining movie. Nothing about the characters will interest you because you’ve no doubt seen them all before in “Happiness” – where they were played perfectly by far superior actors.
Apart from a few sections the comedy is lacking, and what comedy there is misses the mark completely because the movie seems to be taking itself too seriously at times. The playfulness which was there throughout “Happiness” is gone, now to be replaced by a monotonous despair. The movie doesn’t have fun with how fucked up it is, it’s just plain fucked up.
As the movie came to an end I glanced at the couple beside me. They pulled their bodies up from their makeshift beds and one emotion showed on their faces: relief.
Review Life During Wartime
LE JARDIN DE JAD
Lazarevski’s documentary is an example of making a sow’s ear out of a silk purse. The subject is a Catholic old people’s home, which is now on the wrong side of the divide as the Israeli Wall of Separation is built. How can a film-maker go wrong? There’s certainly nothing wrong with the elderly inhabitants. There are more character faces than in a Sergio Leone spaghetti western. Jad, an old worker, acts as proxy interviewer. His actions rarely feel his own.
An air of inauthenticity pervades as if Lazarevski had already decided the story he wanted to find and lacked faith in his subjects. This manifests itself in the use of props such as a balloon and kaleidoscope. Melancholy breaks through when the full implications of the wall begin to dawn but his subjects are not allowed to breathe.
Add to this the fact that there are scenes where everyone talks ‘on the nose’ as if they have been privy to a storyline document and it feels like a set-up. It is reminiscent of Curb Your Enthusiasm, not helped by the look of the digital video and the woodwind soundtrack. Documentary makers must have been digging their nails into their armrests in frustration.
Le Jardin de Jad
In this movie two parallel worlds are colliding into one impotent confrontation. On one side there is a personal and internal world of elderly people in the home care dealing with their own every day difficulties, and on the other side an external world of imposed political power demonstrated by the construction of the security wall.
At the same time as the audience gradually understand the nature of issues held in the home care and sympathise with its occupants, the monstrous wall finishes its shape and as an obstacle slowly penetrates in the internal world of the residential home.
The smooth waves of tragedy, comedy, happiness and sadness are composing both, the emotional picture and irrational nods that tempt to be unlaced. The alternation of these waves adds to the story in the same time dozes of empathy and irritation.
The overall feeling from the movie is impressive not only because the story is told in coherent and very delicate way, but mainly because of its ability to demonstrate such a complex socio-political background in simple and pleasant narrative.
I think Jardin de Jad is a fantastic film. It seems to resist comment because it is on the surface really very uncomplicated. A documentary maker spends some time filming in and around an old peoples home whilst the ‘peace wall’ is being constructed a stones throw away.
The sensitive portrayal of the elderly and of caring is always moving but it’s lent more meaning in this film because the eccentric frankness, madness and melancholy of the elderly residents makes perfect sense compared to the bizarre rituals of political division going on outside.
It’s not really a simple film though. There is a lot going on and it’s in fact constructed very carefully to deliver a very effective punch. While it may be manipulative I really don’t mind, it’s nice to see that powerful political documentary can be done so gently and intelligently. And apart from the usual feeling of injustice and sheer bafflement I am familiar with getting from films from that part of the world, I also felt privileged to have been introduced to these people, for whom the political situation is not the number one concern and who, in any case, wont have to endure it much longer.
If my Israeli parents were to see this film, they would spend the whole time complaining of its one-sidedness. Then I would say, “But that’s the point – they’re not talking about the other side, they’re talking about this side.” And then they would react by launching into a tirade about defending the country and the wall as a safety measure. Then, I would talk about how obviously this is distancing us from a peaceful co-existence. And then my mom would interrupt and say, “so what else is new?”
This 2007 documentary film from Georgi Lazarevski feels a bit like these conversations. On one hand, he shows us the often comical nature of an aging population – an elderly woman who curses her colleague for her annoying singing but still never gets up to leave; Jad, who is often seen in beautiful long shots leisurely smoking a cigarette, and then bugging a co-worker to get his hat on straight. Each subject also expresses their view of the wall, although at times this feels forced. The wall’s effect is obvious from the striking visual imagery, and what you get from the interviews is a sense of despair and tiredness – tiredness not just from the political situation but simply from time spent on this Earth.
Review Le Jardin de Jad
The main idea in Involuntary is given away in the title. The film sees a number of scenarios unfold simultaneously in which individuals find themselves in situations where they are not sure how to act and act in a way that may be seen as involuntary, or following a herd mentality rather than sticking to one’s own convictions. The scenarios themselves are are simple and can happen to anyone. A teacher sees a rowdy pupil being hit by another teacher and fails to say anything at the time, yet eventually explodes at that teacher in an inappropriate manner and goes on to suffer for this more than she had anticipated. A woman on a coach accidentally breaks a curtain rail in the toilet and thinks nothing of it, but when the driver inspects finds the broken rail he threatens to stay put until someone comes forward and confesses. The woman chooses not to come forward and the driver sticks to his guns and sits there for hours without moving, causing much aggravation among the passengers. By this point, however, it feels too late for the woman to confess – the other passengers would be angry at her for holding up their journey for so long, and so she eventually lets a young child take the blame. Maybe the problem here is in using the word ‘choose’, because it seems that this is precisely what’s absent in every scenario in this film – a moment of choice. Instead of choosing whether to come forward or not the woman seems to avoid making a choice, and by the time she feels uncomfortable about it it’s already too late. These scenarios are, after all, moral grey areas, where the lines of moral conventions are blurred, and it’s perhaps in these areas more than anywhere that a real decision is needed.
Or maybe it’s not just about not choosing, but also about choosing too hastily (involuntarily, you might say), and suddenly finding that you’ve gone further than you would have liked to, when you suddenly think “shit, how have I ended up in this situation?” But director Ruben Ostlund is also interested in group mentality. In one interview he ruminates on how, in a reunion with some old friends whom he hadn’t seen in 20 years, he found himself reverting back to the way he used to behave with them all those years ago. Is he just being dragged along by the herd, then, or is it that this group brings out his real self? In line with this emphasis on the need to make up your own mind, Ostlund adopts an unusual filming style, one which refuses to give the viewer any constructed, easy-to-follow narrative. Each scene is filmed from one angle which is not changed for the whole during, while people drift in and out of frame. Unlike most films, where the camera diverts your attention towards what the director wants you to see in order to construct a story, the viewer is left to their own devices. Strangely, however, this seems to work perfectly for what Ostlund is trying to achieve. The way the film is shot prevents the viewer to become a part of the story by substituting conventional techniques with a voyeuristic, almost objective one, and it’s here, when the actions on the screen are not framed within the normalising air of a story, that they begin to seem odd and disturbing. We see two teenage girls getting ready for a night out and taking picture after picture of themselves on the webcam, but while in most movies the two girls’ preparations would be pushed aside by a larger story around this scene, in this film we are confronted with the strangeness of the act itself – picture after picture after picture. Until the act seems as jarring as a word being sounded repeatedly.
Ultimately, however, what nails this film is how, in spite of the fact that Ostlund resists conventional story-telling methods, we find ourselves gripped by these little insignificant stories and wanting to know what’ll happen next. Suddenly our everyday actions take on the same degree of importance and interest as any story we might watch or read.
Ruben Östlund’s Involuntary (De Ofrivilliga) is built around moments where viewers are thrown in the scenes as the curious (and involuntary) outsider, as a peeping tom, to follow the stories of several separate characters. It shows the awkwardness in social situations after the point of no return when people know they’ve done wrong, but just won’t admit it. The film is about the small moral choices, standing up against peer pressure and taking responsibility.
All is built around the feeling of being an outsider. Unconventional framing, every scene is one long shot and there is literally no editing inside scenes, so the viewer is bombarded by steady flow of people’s necks, feet, hindering obstacles which prevents us from seeing the people talking in the way they are conventionally shown in films and tv, yet I still cared about the characters. They felt real. The whole film felt real. It was like watching a documentary where the film maker just puts the camera to a random place and waits for something to happen.
Maybe it is, because I’m a Finn, but I felt straight like home when watching the film. I felt joy, sorrow, shame, indifference, worry and also tiredness, as it ran just a moment too long, but overall I was living the moment. And I could visualize myself as the observing outsider, hell, I’ve even been to some of the situations happened in the film.
Involuntary didn’t feel larger than life, it felt like life. The awkward moments, cowards, egos too big, opportunities to stand up and fight, it’s all there. Definitely a refreshing cinema experience. Heja Sverige!
Review Involuntary – (De Ofrivilliga)
‘“Are they human?’’’ asks Ajmal’s father, this question that resonating throughout the whole film.
Ajami arrives at the Northern Lights Festival already boasting an Oscar nomination and a host of other international awards and plaudits, laden with expectation and the promise of edgy commentary. An ambitious project co-helmed by a debutant Israeli-Palestinian directorial team, and dealing with the simmering resentments and violence that hover between Jewish, Muslim, Christian and Bedouin communities in the titular district of Jaffa, it is comprised of a series of escalating confrontations between members of these groups. The film sports a crisscrossing, multi-character narrative, ostensibly to better delineate the conflicts which inhabitants of this sprawling slum find themselves embroiled in for reasons of family, religion, social standing and, in the mode of Amores Perros, class. This places the film as a kind of Israeli-Palestinian transposition of some of the major concerns of Latin American cinema over the past ten years, as well as an examination of the type of ethnic conflicts that blight modern cities, taking its cue from films like Paul Haggis’ Crash. However what arrives as a class and environment-conscious take on the urban underworld ultimately leaves rather differently, although not entirely to its credit.
Beginning with the narrator, the young brother of one the principal protagonists, sketching many of the film’s violent scenes and ruminating on the inevitability of his story’s violence, initial signs are not good. It does playfully suggest a director constructing a storyboard, hinting perhaps at the autobiographical nature of much of the film’s material. While this constitutes a vaguely interesting visual presentation of the film’s thematic arc, suggesting as it does the social forces that bring human beings into conflict when living on top of each other under the weight of history, it also doesn’t bode well for a film falling within a genre already derided as overly deterministic. We have seen social conflict as a kind of ever-repeating tragedy before, after all.
Notions of over familiarity are quickly undercut by Ajami’s acute sense of place, aided by excellent handheld camera work by Yehonatan Yacov, which gives us an intimate feeling for the labyrinthine qualities of the this urban neighbourhood and the constant possibility of violence that lingers beneath its surface. This level of attention to environmental detail is never subsumed by the larger narrative, and is one of the film’s major strengths. Whether it be the Israeli neighbourhoods where Palestinian teenagers create a makeshift living space in vacant lots, the middle class bar run by one of the film’s Christian powerplayers, or the various Palestinian restaurants and hangouts, this is an environment that feels completely organic, and ultimately lived in. The settings wordlessly delineate the divides between warring factions that go beyond the clichés of simple religious acrimony: it’s also about money and power.
The performances, reportedly developed through improvised workshops with a mostly non-professional cast, also lend proceedings an air of authenticity. The film’s directors obviously have a talent for working with actors, as well as knowledge of the parlance and modes of interaction that dominate the neighbourhood. This produces some tense and telling moments, particularly during an early scene set in a community court in which a Muslim family is condemned to an un-payable debt for having injured a local Bedouin hood in an argument over protection money. The same is true of a sequence at the film’s midway point, in which an Israeli policeman is prevented from arresting a Palestinian drug dealer by the local community, later discussing with his fellow officers the difficulty of a job in which he has sworn an oath to protect a community that resents his intrusion. These scenes, coming on like an Israeli equivalent of The Wire, speak volumes about the tribal and fiercely sectarian modes of behaviour that prevent people coming together in places like Jaffa, and the way in which a variety of local loyalties result in notions of collective responsibility outweighing that of the individual.
All of this begs the question, of course, as to why the film’s two directors felt the need to complicate their story with needlessly contrived narrative elements, chronological reshuffling and scenarios retold from multiple perspectives. This seems to serve no particular purpose beyond announcing the typically high-concept ambitions of first time filmmakers, and while the matter-of factness of many of its scenarios deserve credit for avoiding the character ‘collisions’ that made films like Crash so eye-roll inducing (exposition, thunk; exposition, clunk), it remains the case that these pretensions add little depth to the film. Character is another essential mark on which the film falls flat, with the more intense emotional relationships, such as that between Omar’s marked (Muslim) man and his illicit (Christian) girlfriend, being so hazily drawn and ridden with cliché that they become essentially meaningless. Blunt visual metaphors, such as that used in a scene where Omar’s identity is subsumed by the life of crime he is forced to adopt to pay his family’s debts, visualised through shattering his reflection in a car window, also serve to muddy proceedings.
Ajami’s numerous contrivances are ultimately a shame, because in the aforementioned moments of social conflict, as well as in a genuinely moving scene in which an Israeli family discuss the impact on their lives of sending their children to war, with all of the fear as well as pride and defiance that that entails, the film manages to create a level of emotional authenticity and intimacy that says more about the way that people in the Middle East live their lives, and the variety of forces that keep them apart, than any narrative trickery ever could. Sometimes, it really is better to let the world you know speak for itself.
It’s an excellently made film and one which would hopefully blow away people’s expectations of a film set in Israel, particularly those who would expect that the film would re-hash the usual Jews against Arabs scenario. Instead ‘Ajami’ leads us into a rough Jaffa neighbourhood (for those not familiar with Israeli geography- think … See MoreNewcastle/Gateshead for an idea of the distance separating Tel Aviv and Jaffa) unsentimentally revealing the inner conflicts within; Bedouins against Israel-born Palestinian Arabs, Christians against Muslims, Illegal workers from the Occupied Territories against the Israel-born Arabs, and yes, the Arabs against the Jews and vice versa. However the film also shows how all these communities work and live together as well.
The film is split into chapters, with each chapter shedding a little more light onto misunderstandings, multiple viewpoints, inner conflict, and family loyalty to what eventually becomes the inescapable and tragic ending.
For me it was unmissable, and a great start to the NLFF.
Lebanon Samuel Maoz (2009 Isr, Fr, Ger, Leb) Raymond Anslem, Oshri Cohen, Ashraf Barhorn
Viewed Tyneside Cinema, Northern Lights Film Festival, ticket price £7.00
What I had heard about Samuel Maoz’s (SM) film Lebanon (Leb), was that it was all shot from within a tank that took part in the 1982 invasion of Lebanon by the Israeli Defence Force (IDF). The idea held out the prospect of a statement about war, in which the tank as a setting, with the armoured isolation of its crew from the outside world, could engage with its audience as one of the forces at play in the movie. There was the prospect of a film that might explore ideas.
Leb is not so purist that it all the action takes place within the confines of the tank; and tanks have always seemed to me to be like steel coffins. But most of the action is located either within the steel hull or viewed through the cross sights of its cannon. Some war movies, All Quiet on the Western Front, Paths of Glory use the theme of war to deepen thought and emotion in relation to armed conflict. Leb fails in this respect. We have an interior situation in Rhino (radio code name for the tank) which is ultimately just a pretext for individualised stories, individuation that is a standard Hollywood device for humanising ‘our side’. By featuring the crew’s subjectivities SM moves the film out of the hard death dealing carapace of Rhino softening the interior with sentimentality. Recoiling from the implicit hard implacable the idea of ‘ tank’, the film takes on the business of reconciling oppositions: the hard and the soft. Good men bring death. War as a story of sentimental enterprise.
The action, outside the tank, mostly seen through the cross hairs of the gun sight, comprises mostly of the ‘face’ of war. With its formulaic parade of burnt mangled corpses, smashed people and buildings, and mutilated bodies, Leb is just another Spielberg type war film relying for its effect on image fetishism and faux realism. In its own way a sort of pornography of simulated effect, but which is often used by film makers as a justification for their work with the claim to be bringing the “true” uncensored horror of it war to the audience. The tyranny of the action-image. As if we didn’t know that war is terrible; as if our eyes might consume these images in any different manner from which they consume an ice cream advert. Our perception of the image is guided by desire. In looking at simulated realism, we are dealing with sign language.
The other issue that interested me in relation to Leb, is that ingrained in the production of any war film is a political point of view, an ideological understanding and statement about what is happening in the conflict. How would this be expressed in Leb? Would it take the form of an outright justification of Israel’s action and position; or would Leb take a more oblique more nuanced less direct but no less propagandist line, as for instance in Ari Fisher’s Waltz with Bashir?
Ari Fisher’s film represented the Phalangist massacres of Palestinians in the Shatra and Chatilla camps as taking place over one night. It is a matter of historical UN record they took place over 2 nights, thus irrevocably implicating the IDF as complicit in the killings of thousands of innocents. One key concern of Israeli propaganda in relation to the ’82 Lebanon war is to suggest a critical gap between the acts and intentions of the IDF (representing Israeli policy), and their Christian allies, the Phalangists. In simplistic form IDF are presented as good and honourable; the Phalangists unavoidable allies, but pretty bad people. It is interesting that this is exactly the line taken by SM in Leb. The second half of the movie revolves about the captured Syrian prisoner Rhino is forced to take on board. This soldier’s presence is discovered by a couple of Phalangists who first try to take him. Failing this, one of them has a long unpleasant, one way conversation in Arabic about what he is going to do to the unfortunate man when Rhino gets to its rendez-vous point. This is vicious stuff which the Israeli crew, not speaking Arabic, don’t understand. As the shackled Syrian does not speak Hebrew , the crew’s non understanding is convenient as they are exonerated from responsibility. As director/writer SM does not permit the Syrian to use basic communication of his fear of the threats made to him and his penis by the Palangist. The viewer is left with the message: bad Phalangists, they bad men, and the Phalange are the villains the evil force in Leb. The oblique delivery of this message is of course in perfect tune with Israeli propaganda in relation to the ’82 Lebanon war: the Israelis represented the forces of moderation and fairness. Unfortunately their approach was sullied by the savagery of their unavoidable allies, the Phalange. At a propaganda level, Leb toes the Israeli line, and the film is part of a long term strategy by Israel to control the definition of its wars with its neighbours.
The opening shot of the film, a still shot held for a considerable time of the field of ripe sunflowers suggested a film that might be rich in associations, but the body of the film didn’t develop into anything beyond standard Hollywood fare. Though interestingly the last shot of the film shows the same field, but now occupied by the stranded Rhino. My mind again drifts to the association of Van Gogh and his last picture before his suicide.p
Another year, another Israeli was film. The last couple of years have seen 3 large scale war films come out of Israel, all of which deal with the first Lebanon War (Waltz With Bashir, Beaufort and now Lebanon). For a country that isn’t known for a frequent exportation of quality cinema, this is quite a statement. Are Israeli film-makers making a statement? Are they trying to find their own voice perhaps? It’s plausible to think that by making films about their country’s conflicts Israelis are making a contribution to cinema that only they can, creating their own cinematic tradition, perhaps, as opposed to trying to make Hollywood-style films without the budget or the knack. The director, Samuel Maoz, served in the army during the Lebanon war, and so it might seem logical that we should go and watch this film because, really, who else can tell us this story? It’s easy to forget, however, that almost everyone in Israel has to do national service for 3 years and has more than likely seen combat at some point, and there’s absolutely no reason to believe that all 6 million Israeli citizens have what it takes to make an insightful and thought-provoking film about war, no matter how personal it may be. That would take something extra special.
The other problem is that Lebanon is, for better or worse, a war film, not too different to so many other films in that genre before it (and it really does fall within that genre), and there are only so many war films you can watch before they appear to exhaust themselves and their effectiveness in communicating the horrors of war. There’s nothing about Lebanon that gives it a distinctively Israeli slant or that might make me significantly reflect on and reassess my views on the conflict or on my role within it as an Israeli (in my case, that is). Having said that, we mustn’t assume that just because a war film has come out of Israel it needs to give us some special insight on that conflict. In fact, the more I think about it, it doesn’t seem as if the film even makes that claim. We might, then, judge it purely as a war film, and as such it must be said that it is a very well made one, albeit not without its problems. The film follows a strange structure. It appears to occupy an anti-war stance, but this point is emphasised most strongly in the first half hour of the film and then seems to be pushed aside in order to make room for a straight forward war thriller. During this first half hour we mostly see things from the point of view of the man controlling the main gun, looking through the cross-hair. There were some painfully manipulative and sentimental uses to this technique as the camera zoomed in on the faces of innocent civilian victims, as to to confront us face to face with the hard reality of war victims’ suffering. At this point I was dreading having to sit through 2 hours of very coarse anti-war statements, but I’m glad to say that this wasn’t the case in the end. The film’s refusal to build up to any sort of climax and instead make separate points at different sections of the film makes it feel a bit jarring at times, and as if the director didn’t quite know what point he was trying to make.
All in all, this was an enjoyable (if that’s the right word to describe a tense war film) viewing experience, but nothing you should worry about missing.
Review of Lebanon
Last night I went to a very advance preview of Israeli/German production LEBANON. It is the debut feature film of ex-soldier Samuel Moaz, based on his own personal experiences. Having won the Golden Lion at Venice, Lebanon has been critically acclaimed.
Lebanon is an ambitious feature from Moaz, as the film is shot entirely inside the confines of a tank. Any external shots are shot as though they are through the sight of the gunman’s turrets, complete with crosshair and accompanied by mechanical noises of the turret turning and focussing. The film follow the experiences of four men, three of whom are experienced soldiers, but one of whom is a rookie. Set in the Lebanese war, the same conflict portrayed in Waltz With Bashir, the tank joins a paratroop regiment as they embark on a mission to clear a dense area of hostile terrorists. Things begin to go wrong as the new gunman loses his nerve in battle, and it seems the regiments commander isn’t certain of the path the troop should take.
Attempting to pack an emotional punch, Moaz puts these four men in some difficult to endure situations. For the first half of the film, the team inside the tank are accompanied by the corpse of a fellow Israeli soldier that dies due to a mishap in conflict. The claustrophobic nature in which the film is shot, mixed with the dialogue and brilliant acting from the cast, ensure that you feel their stress enough to also be made uncomfortable by the corpse. The tank is also used to house a captured Syrian terrorist who damaged the tank with a rocket, and is to be taken away by Phalangists helping the troop out of a built up city, but is abandoned and left with the four men.
Particularly brilliant performances come from Michael Moshonov, who plays the driver Yigal, and Itay Tiran, who plays tank commander Assi. Their depictions of soldiers caving to the pressure of war, and the actions they are asked to take, are superb, and add such intensity to the film. The final act in the film puts the soldiers in a horribly tense situation, split from their troop and abandoned by their aides, their damaged tank and nerves must withstand an assault from unseen assailants. Moshonov and Tiran stand out in these final scenes, their madness and anger drew emotion superbly.
The only problem I had with the film was certain shot choices. In a lot of situations, characters outside the tank look directly down the sight into the eyes of gunman Shmulik, and therefore the viewer. It felt to me like a few of these shots were used to emphasise the impact of suffering that the war impacted on innocent civilians, but other times they were used to comic effect, which removed from the intended transparency of the fourth wall. This film would be easy, for someone who didn’t enjoy its concepts, to nitpick for its visual flaws, but as a statement it doesn’t hold it’s blows.
For a debut feature, Lebanon is fantastic. It is by no means a masterpiece, or the greatest war film of modern times, but it a startling and brutal portrayal of war. Very much an anti-war film, Lebanon is not quite the The Battle of Algiers, or Apocalypse Now, but certainly matches up to quality of more recent anti-war films such as aforementioned Waltz With Bashir. I hope, upon release, Lebanon is successful, but I feel there is inevitable criticism headed its way.
A field of sunflowers is the opening shot for Samuel Maoz’s recent film, Lebanon. The rest of the film is spent yearning once again for that shot – waiting to be outside of the confining Israeli tank through which we experience the 1982 Lebanon War. Asi is the commander for the Rhino Unit, composed of the vulnerable Igal, the hesitant Shmulik and the more confrontational of the team, Herzel. After unintentionally ending up in a Syrian-controlled area of Lebanon, the team gradually falls apart, each member having his own emotional meltdown. Even Jamil, the always-confident lieutenant, lets his fear come through in an overheard emergency call for a rescue mission, leaving an even deeper sense of hopelessness behind.
Beyond the typical war movie that highlights tough soldiers who banter in humorous one-liners, the characters in this film are much more believable. Although at times overacted, the emotions of the soldiers draw us away from taking sides and into the real horrors of war. No matter who we side with, we anxiously await for the movie to end, not just so that we can bring these children back to their families but mostly so that we can finally get out of that prison-like tank.
Review of Lebanon as seen at the Tyneside Cinema 20/3/2010
Lebanon, 2009, Samuel Maoz, Israel, 93mins
Like the Gunman in the movie, Lebanon hits and misses. It has moments in which it’s vision is clear and focused whilst suffering perhaps from the indecision and uncertainty resulting from a narrow angle of view.
The conceit of the film is that the story is set entirely in within a tank during the 1982 Lebanon war. Our view of the outside world is that of the tank’s crew: narrow and limited. It scans clumsily and mechanically around picking up information about the surroundings piecemeal. Everything outside is seen through cross hairs, constantly begging the question: to shoot or not to shoot? Constantly implying threat but inviting doubt to an already paranoid group of young and inexperienced soldiers. Exciting stuff. Yes, and that’s kind of the problem. The film veers between realism and a kind of structured movie quasi-realism which doesn’t help extract any truth from the situation. And given that the premise is the heavy matter of war – and is in fact close to the real lived experience of some – the schizophrenia of the film leaves one (or left me anyway) a bit anxious about the morality of the movie. Surely this is a situation about which we’d benefit from some truths (to the extent to which they’re possible). Is it OK to make a film about the Israeli-Lebanese conflict whose structure could be swapped for that of Apollo 13 (it’s not really that bad!) or the Poseidon Adventure? Well maybe it ought to be alright to, but it’s not half disconcerting. For example it feels a bit crass when the news arrives that the message of a young crew member’s saftey has reached his mother just as he lies dead.
But in other ways the film resists cliché. It’s nice that an arc is not forced on the story – the situation doesn’t breakdown so much as start bad and get dangerous. And for the most part the characters are not unraveled by war, they are out of their depth and incompetent as soldiers from the beginning. So I don’t think Lebanon quite fulfills it’s potential, paradoxically weighed down by the strength of it’s premise. It is however amazing to think this is the directors first feature film. The film opens with a very striking shot. A field of sunflowers in the crisp morning sun, the flowers heads are bowed – in shame? In mourning? That formal poise isn’t ever quite regained in the struggle between excitement and truth.
It was a privilege to hear Martin Hampton speak about his research and his approach to making these three fascinating films. The two personal stories, one about Doug, the other Jacqueline, both share the same respect for their subjects. Although each story is different, the “now”ness of their lives was beautifully conveyed. It’s a shame that so few people could be there, but I hope many people will come across these films this week at GNM and they will be shown again in the region. I look forward to seeing the next instalment of Jacqueline’s story.
Review Gentle Oblivion
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Deola – a first time feature writer