Review: Deadpool

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DIR: Tim Miller • WRI: Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick • PRO: Simon Kinberg, Stan Lee, Lauren Shuler Donner • DOP: Ken Seng • ED: Julian Clarke • DES: Sean Haworth • MUS: Junkie XL • CAST: Morena Baccarin, Ryan Reynolds, Gina Carano

Following in the steps of Chris Evans upgrading his superhero persona, Ryan Reynolds has abandoned the green suit of Green Lantern for red and black spandex ‘so his enemies won’t see him bleed.’ If that sounds macabre, Deadpool slash alter-ego Wade Wilson is, but he has several other qualities to make up for this such as cockiness, cheekiness and explicit crudeness. Reynolds (literally) kills in the superhero/villain role and has never seemed so comfortable as he does in a super tight one-piece. Does the long-anticipated film disappoint? Well, if you enjoy your humour, violence and action served in near equal doses, then Deadpool is the film for you.

As a mercenary, Wade Wilson (Reynolds) is ‘just a bad guy who gets paid to beat up worse guys.’ Because of his job, Wade keeps little company other than bar tender friend Weasel (T.J. Miller), that is, until he meets a beautiful escort named Vanessa (Morena Baccarin) whom he soon falls for and moves in with.

Without giving anything significant away, Wade is talked into subjecting himself to experimentation which, he is told, will make him all-powerful. Wade thus becomes a mutant with self-healing powers and enhanced strength and agility, but also deformed skin. After he escapes the laboratory, he becomes a vigilante and vows to take revenge against those who tortured him: Ajax (Ed Skrein) and his accomplice Angel Dust (Gina Carano).

With such a storyline, Deadpool is fairly by the numbers. It finds particular resonance with X-Men Origins: Wolverine, which is interesting given that Reynolds first appeared as Deadpool in that film. However, the character has been significantly rewritten here – in fact, superhero fans have been waiting for over ten years for Deadpool to hit screens as the project hit various development and writing issues from the mid-noughties. In spite of such hindrances, the wit of Reynolds in the leading role and direct-to-audience address, biting self-references, and restructured narrative structure sets the superhero movie apart from others of the genre.

Based in the X-Men universe, the movie also features appearances from mutants Colossus (voiced by Stefan Kapicic) and the moody, ambiguous Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand). While these and other supporting characters, particularly Weasel, are fun and entertaining, this show is all about Deadpool. Having waited so long to act the part, Reynolds takes an infectious delight in playing the sardonic egotist.

From its opening slow-motion car chase sequence, Deadpool is as full of back talk, action and violence as promised by its 16s (or R) rating, and its many TV spots and trailers. Speaking of, a potential point of criticism for Deadpool is its overt marketing campaign, which has included the release of several versions of trailers for the film. The film delivers exactly what it says on the tin, but the plot could have benefitted from a few more surprises.

Still, Tim Miller delivers a feat for his directorial debut, and on the superhero movie rating scale – which we can safely say has certainly had its ups and downs – Deadpool is pretty fresh.

Deirdre Molumby

 16 (See IFCO for details)

 107 minutes

Deadpool is released 12th February 2016

Deadpool – Official Website

 

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Review: The Survivalist

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DIR/WRI: Stephen Fingleton • PRO: David Gilbery, Wayne Marc Godfrey, Robert Jones • DOP: Damien Elliott • ED: Mark Towns • DES: Dick Lunn • CAST: Olwen Fouere, Mia Goth, Martin McCann, Andrew Simpson

Stephen Fingleton’s debut feature The Survivalist follows his award-winning short SLR and Magpie. Indeed, the feature is set in the same post-apocalyptic world of the latter short in which oil dependency and food supplies plummeting create a cut-throat world that is nearly impossible to survive in. Like Magpie, The Survivalist takes place in an ambient forest which is luscious in its green colour yet haunted by death.

A young man’s body is buried in the woods by a mysterious figure in a thick green anorak. We follow the figure to the cabin in which he lives and intrigue continues to grow as we see his everyday means of living. The film evokes much Western iconography in its initial focus on the lone hero, his wooden cabin, the referencing of The Searchers in alluding to its famous doorway shot, and the deserted wilderness setting that surrounds the Survivalist. This first section of the film contains no dialogue and Martin McCann (My Boy Jack, Swansong: Story of Occi Byrne) is subtle and assured in his performance of the leading unnamed character. Our hero is efficient at making fires and growing food, even using his own bodily fluids so nothing goes to waste. However, he is lonely and constantly fearful as can be seen when he anxiously looks around him while he hastily washes some distance from his cabin retreat.

The film’s universe is characterised by paranoia, which continues when two women come to the Survivalist for help. The older, mystifying Kathryn (Olwen Fouere), offers her teenage daughter, the quiet but tough Milja (Mia Goth), to spend the night with him in exchange for food and shelter. They gradually become accepted into the Survivalist’s cabin and his way of life but the women plot to get rid of him so that they can have his crops for themselves, and there are further dangers in store for all three.

Fingleton, who also wrote the script, paints a brutal landscape of hardship and violence. Without giving too much away, its stand-out scene takes place in the rushes when the Survivalist goes in search for Milja, who is missing. Damien Elliott’s cinematography captures a gripping moment and will have you holding your breath in anticipation.

The Survivalist is a raw film and fairly difficult to watch at times. The graphic imagery includes full frontal (male and female) nudity, rotting flesh, maggots, masturbation, periods, and bloody internal organs. It is one of the more original post-apocalyptic films to be released as of late and is a curiously thought-provoking one at that, but its bleakness will not appeal to all audiences.

Deirdre Molumby

 18 (See IFCO for details)

 103 minutes

The Survivalist is released 12th February 2016

The Survivalist – Official Website

 

 

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Review: The Assassin

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DIR: Hsiao-Hsien Hou • WRI: Cheng Ah, T’ien-wen Chu, Hsiao-Hsien Hou, Hai-Meng Hsieh • PRO: Wen-Ying Huang, Peter Lam, Ching-Song Liao • DOP: Ping Bin Lee • ED: Chih-Chia Huang, Ching-Song Liao • DES: JWen-Ying Huang • MUS: Giong Lim • CAST: Qi Shu, Chen Chang, Satoshi Tsumabuki

Set in 8th century China during the Tang Dynasty, The Assassin follows the story of a woman named Nie Yinniang (Shu Qi), a highly-skilled and talented killer. It emerges over the course of the film that she was kidnapped as a young girl and subsequently trained to be an assassin. However, Yinniang is turned away from her master, a nun named Jiaxin, when she refuses to kill a target in the presence of his family. Now she must prove her worth by taking out another target, military governor Tian Ji’an (Chang Chen), who happens to be Yinniang’s cousin, and who she was once betrothed to. The target resides in the province Yinniang once called home, Weibo, where peace is under threat arising from Tian’s desire for war and expansion.

The film is loosely adapted from a late 9th century martial arts and wuxia fiction story by Pei Xing. The titular character, played by a stunning Shu Qi, brings a deep intensity to the role, her eyes and face set, determined and fierce. At the same time, when her objective becomes less resolute, Qi subtly indicates these character changes without a need for the extraction of dialogue. As Lord Tian, Chang Chen is also alluring to watch in his role. His face will be familiar to Western audiences following his role in Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon as the lover of Zhang Ziyi’s character, known as ‘Dark Cloud’, and he also starred in Wong Kar-Wai’s 2046.

There are some truly beautiful moments in The Assassin, such as when the titular character hides from her victim and stalks him behind a narrow, colourful curtain. Initially in black-and-white before bursting into colour (think Kill Bill rather than The Wizard of Oz), and utilising enigmatic fade-outs in between scenes, director Hsiao-Hsien Hou accomplishes a distinct look and style in his feature that goes a long way for explaining his win as Best Director at last year’s Cannes Film Festival.

For this feature, the plot is far less important than the visuals. Slow and contemplative, there are several moments in the film in which essentially nothing happens. This can be quite frustrating if one was expecting an action-filled martial arts film. With a title like The Assassin, in fairness, one may feel a little deceived that what is actually on offer here is not an action movie but an arthouse film, although of course one could argue that if the film won an award at Cannes, it was hardly going to be a mainstream feature.

Deirdre Molumby

12A
105 minutes (See IFCO for details)

The Assassin is released 22nd January 2016

 

 

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Interview: Tommy Palotta, co-Director of ‘Last Hijack’

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Last Hijack tells the true story of a Somalian pirate torn between an exciting life of crime and family commitments. The documentary utilises animation to reveal how Mohamed came to this way of life. His hopes and fears for the present and future are eloquently captured in the film’s unique look. Last Hijack also reveals the wider-reaching implications of Mohamed’s activities on his family and community, while the political implications of piracy in Somalia are also delved into.

Now that Mohamed is engaged, both his parents and in-laws are pressuring him to change his ways and settle down into marriage and family life. Mohamed is not entirely sure that this is what he wants, but time is ticking by, and he must decide whether he is willing to risk it all for the thrill of one last hijack.

The visually striking and highly original hybrid documentary was co-directed by Tommy Palotta and Femke Wolting. Deirdre Molumby spoke with Palotta about conceptualising and realising this unique project.

 

Palotta originally started thinking about the film after reading an article about the most underreported and censored stories in the media today. ‘I knew very little about Somalia, the illegal fishing and dumping there, and realised I’d never really been exposed to the non-western perspective of the place. I started thinking about what we know about ‘pirates’ and how they’ve been such enduringly iconic figures over the ages, and I was also interested in what would drive a person to that way of life. The more I researched it the more I became interested in not only pirates but the situation in Somalia specifically.’

Palotta and co-director Femke Wolting had often experimented with various forms of media across their careers, finding that they offer a wealth of possibilities in terms of storytelling.  ‘My partner Femke came up with the idea of making Last Hijack a hybrid, which was our vision for the film from a very early stage. We also decided in the very beginning that it wasn’t going to just be a film but there would be an interactive documentary portion to it also, so there’s that aspect of it as well, which is available on www.lasthijack.com. The film portion of Last Hijack is quite traditional, taking the Somalian point of view, whereas the interactive documentary is the broader story and wider objective view, showing the geo-political and global ramifications of what is happening there.’

As one would expect from the subject matter alone, one of Palotta’s greatest difficulties in making the film was access. However, by focussing on the personal life and relationships of one pirate in particular, Mohamed, Palotta found that not only were more doors opened, but a focussed storyline developed that was orientated around this particular individual.

‘Anytime you embark on a project like this you do a lot of preparation, a lot of research, you have a particular vision for it, and then it becomes something very different along the way. To turn this complex project into a simpler story that would work in a film, we focussed on the subject of Somalian piracy, and started to work on a number of questions: what would I need to survive? What conditions does it take to have the moxie to take a small fishing vessel and try to take over a huge cargo ship? Those sort of questions really hooked me into what the film could be. As we were making the film, it changed as we realised that the window to the story was the central father-son relationship [between the lead, Mohammad, and his dad], and the father’s desire to save his son. Witnessing the collateral damage of piracy within this community and culture was another way in which the story evolved.’

Mohamed is one of Somalia’s most experienced pirates. The country is the worldwide capital of piracy: ‘Somalia is a failed state, it has had no central state of government for over twenty years, so, as much as the piracy angle interested me, the political situation in Somalia specifically was also very intriguing. I was interested in what happens to a society with no central government.’ While piracy was once admired as a means of making ends meet, now Somali pirates face increasing scrutiny and stigmatization both at home and abroad: ‘people idolised the pirates and then suddenly turned against them at the same time that the political situation in Somalia got worse.’

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The animated sequences of the film serve to recreate past hijackings and other memories of Mohamed’s. Through experimentation, Palotta found that ‘the animation could really provoke an emotion, capturing dreams and aspirations, and hopes and fears, in the way that voiceover aims at in fiction film, or how a novelist works in first-person narrative. It worked so well as a window to tell more about the characters, and it also liberated us from the shackles of the formal notion of documentary filmmaking.

‘I never really cared about how animation looked. I was always interested in how it told a story. So I never really know the rules, I just want to make something new. I’ve found that people really respond to new forms of storytelling and open up their minds to them.

‘The film goes in and out of animation sequences at about twelve different points in the movie, and the challenge was not make it feel like it was stopping and starting, but that there was a flow to these transitions. With the live action and animation respectively, we found this relationship between objective and subjective emerged. Film is really good at showing perspective in that way.’

Knowing that they had an interesting story, and that the way they wanted to tell it (namely from a Somalian perspective and as a hybrid) made it even more interesting, Palotta and Wolting went about pitching Last Hijack it to a number of international film companies. The Irish Film Board became the first financiers on board, which encouraged other backers to soon follow suit. Aware of Ireland’s history of successful animation and creative talent, Palotta approached a number of production companies under the guidance of Irish co-producer Still Films, eventually settling on post-house Piranha Bar: ‘You look for a collaborator who has the talent but also one who you can communicate with and will support you even if you’re not sure what the final product will be.’

For the animated sequences, painted backgrounds of oil paint on real canvases established a colour scheme, lighting, atmosphere and texture for the 3D world built around the backdrops. ‘We made the job much more difficult for the animators in that they had to match the setting and tone of these oil paintings. With oil paintings from far away it looks realistic but up close you can see the brush strokes and mistakes, and I loved the way that was used in the final movie. I love that the lines aren’t straight and the colours aren’t perfect. That’s what’s pleasant to my eye.’

Palotta and his team searched for a year and a half for their lead. ‘Mohamed was unique in that he had no intentions of leaving Somalia so he was able to speak very openly about it. From the very beginning I knew that he was a bit of a trickster and I thought that that was interesting because I didn’t know where he was coming from or what he was going to do. He has charm but there is also a bit of a dark side to him as well. I think they’re all characteristics that make a really interesting central character.

‘We learned that unlike with others, Mohamed isn’t doing this just for survival. His father makes it clear that he had other options, that this was his choice, which evades the idea of Mohamed as this ‘Robin Hood’ type figure. I didn’t find Mohamed sympathetic but I did sympathise with the father’s plight to save him from that lifestyle, and with the others in Mohamed’s family and community who were affected by his lifestyle. The ultimate question of the story becomes is he going to make the right choice.’

Final thoughts? ‘When you make a film like this, especially when it takes a long time to make them, it’s so great to get it out and get an engagement with an audience. I always want as many people to see the film as possible but it can be hard to get people’s attention because there’s so much content now. But there is an audience out there. Like having a child, these films have a life of their own later on. I’ve been very fortunate in that the movies that I made in the past were never really ‘mainstream’ when they came out and weren’t widely viewed, but they have a sort of evergreen quality about them and actually their profiles have risen over the years. You can’t compete against Star Wars, there’s so much noise there, but with the advent of VOD and other platforms, we can see that people don’t just want Hollywood but also real stories, and they’re searching for that hidden intimacy that you’re not going to get with the big budget productions. At the end of the day, sometimes you just want to connect to humanity.’

 

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Review: Daddy’s Home

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DIR: Sean Anders • WRI: Brian Burns, Sean Anders, John Morris • PRO: Will Ferrell, Chris Henchy, Adam McKay, John Morris • DOP: Julio Macat • ED: Eric Kissack,
Brad Wilhite • DES: Clayton Hartley • MUS: Michael Andrews • CAST: Linda Cardellini, Mark Wahlberg, Will Ferrell

Director-writer-producer team Sean Anders and John Morris follows their films Horrible Bosses 2, We’re the Millers, Hot Tub Time Machine and Sex Drive with yet another mediocre comedy: Daddy’s Home. Will Ferrell is Brad – nerdy and shy but well-intentioned. Mark Wahlberg is Dusty – suave, smart and multi-talented. It’s Step-Dad versus Dad, and it’s predictable slapstick fun which should have the kids laughing and their accompanying parents (or step-parents…) mildly amused.

Brad, an executive for a local jazz radio station, has always loved children. In his spare time, he volunteers as a scout leader, basketball coach, and chaperone in his community, and when he marries Sarah (Laura Cardellini), he becomes step-dad to two sweet children, Megan (Scarlett Estevez) and Dylan (Owen Vacarro). Just as the kids are settling into having a stepfather in their home, and Brad is feeling like life couldn’t be more perfect, their biological father, Dusty, announces he is coming home for a visit. Dusty is amicable, fun and athletic with famous contacts and impressive handyman skills, although his exact career remains an enigma. Brad, who Sarah loves for being able to ‘find the good in anything’, insists it is important for Dusty to stay a part of the children’s lives. However, it quickly becomes apparent that Dusty is trying to show him up at every opportunity, and that he has every intention of removing Brad from his newly formed family. Brad drops the manners and brings his A-Game to compete for the affections of Sarah, Megan and Dylan (He becomes, well, Will Ferrell).

A lot of the humour is based on slapstick comedy with Brad alternatively thrown through walls, electrocuted, beaten up, or fondled. This type of humour should appeal to the kids while more nuanced humour, such as that brought by Brad’s boss Leo’s (Thomas Hayden Church) stories about the various sexual partners he has had in his lifetime, should keep older viewers entertained. The fact that the film is a comedy, coupled with a story about the importance of family and an appropriately feel-good ending, would seem to suggest that Daddy’s Home aims to be the live-action holiday offering for family cinema audiences (In fact, even though the film is set in April, the scriptwriters still manage to incorporate a Christmas scene into the film…). However, with its 12A rating, infrequent bad language and occasional sex references, it is a hard sell as appropriate for children. Plus, as has been an issue with several movie promotions lately, between the two official trailers, most of the funniest and surprising parts are given away.

Also, they talk about Frozen at one point. Which means you’re probably going to be forced to watch Frozen again when you get home.

Deirdre Molumby

12A
96 minutes (See IFCO for details)

Daddy’s Home is released 26th December 2015

Daddy’s Home – Official Website

 

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Report: Kinopolis 2015 – 10th edition Polish Film Festival

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Deirdre Molumby went along to taste some of the delights at this year’s IFI Kinopolis Festival.

The first week in December saw the open and closing of the 10th edition of IFI’s Polish Film Festival: Kinopolis. This year’s festival was one of the best attended yet with almost 900 tickets sold at over six events. The four day-long event (3-6 December) opened with the Dublin premiere of 11 Minutes [above], directed by Jerzy Skolimowski (who previously directed Essential Killing). The Polish-Irish co-production (which was shot partly in Dublin and co-stars Richard Dormer) follows eleven minutes from the perspective of a number of protagonists – a drug dealer, an actress, a teenager, a window washer, a hot dog vendor and others. The thriller competed for the Golden Lion award at the Venice Film Festival and is this year’s Polish candidate for the Best Film in a Foreign Language Oscar. At the Gdynia Film Festival (which is dedicated to Polish cinema), it won for ‘originality of concept’, editing, and music.

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The following day saw the screening of war film Karbala [above] (directed by Krzysztof Lukaszewicz), set during the Persian Gulf and relating a story about a Polish-Bulgarian faction who are held under siege by Iraqi fanatics. The army division comes under great physical and psychological strain in this exciting and emotional drama. The next day of the event (Saturday 5th December) saw the screening of two very different but equally engaging films. Chemo (dir. Bartosz Prokopowicz) follows Lena (Agnieszka Zulewska), who has Stage 3 cancer. She seduces Benek (Tomasz Schuchardt) who falls in love with her and convinces her to marry him. When Lena becomes pregnant, she gains new perspectives on life and death which have a great toll on both her and her new husband. The art-house film provides beautiful images and moments, but its harrowing content makes the film quite difficult to watch at times. Inspired by the fight of the director’s own wife against cancer, Chemo is an important visual realisation of the unrelenting disease.

On Saturday evening, Anatomy of Evil (dir. Jacek Bromski) was screened. The Polish gangster film is about a professional assassin known as Lulek (Krzysztof Stroinski) who is ordered to kill the commander of the Central Bureau of Investigation. Lulek is on parole, but he is guaranteed cash, a clearing of his records, and a passport to leave the country if he carries out the job. He hires a young sniper who was unfairly discharged from the army to help him. The screening was followed by a Q&A with lead actor Krzysztof Stroinski, who won Best Actor in a Leading Role at the 40th Gdynia Film Festival. Stroinski talked about his work, acting techniques and the socio-political context of Anatomy of Evil among other topics to an enthusiastic audience at the session.

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The last day of the festival saw something for the kids in an afternoon screening of short films and episodes from Hip-Hip and Hurray, Mami Fatale and Jim and Screw. The screening saw great fun and laughter for young and old as Hip-Hip and Hurray , a pink hippo and purple weasel detective, solved puzzles, while Mami Fatale [above] was about an elderly woman preparing meals and playing games with her pets Psina (Doggie) and Prosie (Piggie). Jim and Screw sees two boys use their imagination to turn everyday life into an extraordinary fairytale adventure.

The final screening of the festival was Body (directed by Malgorzata Szumowska), a multi-award winner having garnered the Silver Bear at the Berlin Film Festival for Direction, Best Film at the ‘Al Este De Lima’ Film Festival in Peru, and the Golden Lion at the Gdynia Festival. The black comedy follows a prosecutor (Janusz Gajos) working in Warsaw who is so preoccupied with his job that he neglects his daughter, Olga (Justyna Suwala). One day, he finds Olga, who is suffering from bulimia, unconscious in their bathroom and has her hospitalised. Olga’s therapist, Anna (Maja Ostaszewska), then tells the man and his daughter that she has a message for them from her deceased mother. Body features knock-out performances from its three protagonists, and its quirky sense of humour is smart and highly original.

Kinopolis 2015 was a great success, providing a significant connection to the national cinema for Polish audiences and an intelligent and entertaining perspective on Polish cinema for Irish audiences and others. Kevin Coyne, IFI Cinema Programmer, said: ‘The IFI is delighted to once again have had the opportunity to present, in association with Kinopolis, the very best of new Polish cinema. A close relationship has formed between our two countries in recent years, as was reflected in the screenings being so well attended by both Irish and Polish audiences. We look forward to building on the success of this year’s festival in future editions.’

Sabina Wasik of Kinopolis said: ‘We are delighted that the IFI again became the home of a Polish film feast. The tenth edition of Kinopolis, with the programme full of brand new Polish cinema, received a great response from the audience – both Polish and international. It was really moving to hear Irish viewers say “thank you for organising this festival.”

 

The IFI Kinopolis Festival ran 3 – 6 December 2015

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Book Review: Ireland and Cinema: Culture and Contexts

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Deirdre Molumby takes a look at Ireland and Cinema: Culture and Contexts, which offers a broad range of academic approaches to contemporary and historical Irish filmmaking and representations of nationality, national identity, and theoretical questions around the construction of Ireland and Irishness on the screen. The volume is edited by Barry Monahan, College Lecturer at University College Cork in Film Studies.

Initially it would seem that Ireland and Cinema: Culture and Contexts has chosen a vague, all-encapsulating title to sew together its disparate and broad range of content. Fortunately, this breadth is the book’s strength, and whether one’s interest is in Irish cinema or in a broader field of study – gender, politics, and international perspectives seem to feed into most of the individual essay’s subject matter – there is accessible reading and scholarly provocation for all. What Ireland and Cinema achieves most impressively is its capturing of this present, unique moment in the field of Irish film studies in which the work of a number of impressive new scholars is gathering momentum. Reference is made to what has come before, the excitement of what is occurring in academia right now is captured, and the anticipation of what is to come is evoked.

The foreword, entitled ‘Irish National Cinema – What Have We Wrought? Contemporary Thoughts on a Recent History’ provides an engaging opening to the book. It encapsulates an impressively neat summary of the subject in question, and includes a history of the Irish Film Board, a look at the international attention given to Irish cinema (initially through the seminal work of Jim Sheridan and Neil Jordan), the opening up of the Irish film and television industry to major international co-productions, the development of a film industry in Northern Ireland, as well as thoughts on Irish film studies as an academic field. The choice of writer for this foreword could not be more appropriate – the recently retired Martin McLoone has written key texts which would be most Irish film studies students’ go-to books, including Irish Film: The Emergence of a Contemporary Cinema (2000) and Film, Media and Popular Culture in Ireland: Cityscapes, Landscapes, Soundscapes (2008).

Editor Barry Monahan provides an introduction to the book which includes a contemplation of the meaning of national cinema and praise of the innovative work of Ireland’s academic commentators, before providing a practical summary of each of the essays included in the volume. Therein follows a vast range of rich, diverse and immersive essays. The contributors come from Ireland and Northern Ireland’s top universities, while alternative equally interesting perspectives come from France, Germany, Finland and America. A spectrum of researchers, lecturers, PhD candidates, sociologists and professors make up the writers of the volume, each providing thoughtful and confident viewpoints of their specialty field.

It is far too great a challenge to select the standout chapters with such a selection so only a summary to the collection, which simply cannot do justice to the vista of its content, will be provided here. Part I consists of an essay that contemplates historical and more recent ideological functions of home and place in Irish cinema, followed by a chapter on space, mobility and gender in the Veronica Guerin films. This section also includes a particularly intriguing chapter on representations of accents in Dublin-set films, and another on Snap, considering how trauma and sexual abuse are worked through in Carmel Winters’ film.

Part II opens with a riveting essay on female stardom in Irish cinema, focussing on the actresses Saoirse Ronan and Ruth Negga, which is followed appropriately by a contemplation of Johnathon Rhys Myers’ role in The Tudors, arguing that there is a particularly Irish masculinity in the construction of his character, King Henry VIII. The next essay explores ethnic and gender stereotypes in P.S. I Love You, followed by a review of His & Hers that mourns the documentary’s lack of transgression in its gender representations.

Part III consists of essays on Northern Ireland, including an analysis of a collaborative film project made on the experiences of women as workers and visitors of the Maze and Long Kesh Prison, and another on the political body in Steve McQueen’s Hunger.

Part IV presents some overseas perspectives of Irish cinema. The volume ends with an interview conducted by Ciara Chambers and Barry Monahan with Susanna Pellis, the artistic director of the Rome Irish Film Festa. The interview provides a compelling consideration of the role of film festivals in the industry, and, through discussions about prize-giving, finance, the future and other topics, aptly captures the recurring thoughts of the book – a celebration of the current state of Irish cinema (with regards both production and academia) and speculation for the years ahead.

 

 

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan (26 Aug. 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1137496355
  • ISBN-13: 978-1137496355
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 1.4 x 21.6 cm

 

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Book Review: Directory of World Cinema: Russia 2

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Deirdre Molumby takes a look at Directory of World Cinema: Russia 2, a companion to the filmic legacy of one of the world’s most storied countries.

 

With their far greater budgets, clever marketing strategies, and major advertising campaigns, Hollywood cinema often forces other world cinemas to take a back seat in terms of international reach and viewership. The Directory of World Cinema series reminds us of the great films that have been brought to us from outside of the Hollywood canon, and analyses films that are of cultural, national and historical significance both within the countries in which they are produced and on a globally influential scale. The tone of the books is academic but its layout and language are accessible for all readers.

The first book on Russia provided an analysis of directors – including Sergei Eisenstein, Andrei Tarkovskii, Nikita Mikhalkov, and Alexsandr Sokurov – and movie titles which most familiar with Eastern European cinema would be familiar with. Films that are listed among the greatest of all time, including Battleship Potemkin (1925), Man with a Movie Camera (1929) and Andrei Rublev (1938), Oscar-winning titles Moscow does not believe in Tears (1979), War and Peace (1967) and Burnt by the Sun (1995), and national treasures such as The Extraordinary Adventures of Mr West in the Land of the Bolsheviks (1924), The Irony of Fate (1975), and My friend Ivan Lapshin (1984), as well as more recent hits like Brother (1997), Brother 2 (2000), Night Watch (2004) and Day Watch (2005) are all included in this collection.

Directory of World Cinema: Russia 2 is one of the most recent outputs by the series. The reader may feel initially reproached with the material due to the unfamiliarity of the films it includes. Due to the nature of it being a follow-up to the first Russia book (and in what is almost a slightly ironic and self-reflexive move, the book actually includes a section on ‘Sequels and Remakes’), Russia 2 explores titles less well-known to a western audience, although followers of Russian cinema should have heard of most of them. However, one should not be too discouraged as whether you have an interest in Russian history, culture, or in world cinema generally – be it the fresh, new stories offered or innovative industrial developments of interest – Russia 2 is a thoughtful and enjoyable read.

The book covers genres that would not be overly utilised by Russian cinema, including blockbusters, science fiction, and horror. Interestingly, the collection also explores genres that are relatively unique to Russia, including cold war spy films (which saw the state take an active role in production through censorship and propaganda), chernukha (a sort of neorealism, with bleak films that reflect on the political and social turmoil following the collapse of the Soviet system), and auteur animation. Similar to other books in the Directory series, Russia 2 includes an essay on its ‘Film of the Year’ (Rasskazy/Short Stories, and an interview with the director, Mikhail Segal, is also included), profiles of a number of famous Russian directors, and lastly, its analyses of Russian films, which are organised by genre and take up the majority of the book. An essay on the first Moscow international film festival is also included and provides a contemplative historical and political perspective on this particular aspect of the industry.

Within the director biographies, there is an underlying integrated story of the development of Russian theatre and the film industry (the latter owes much to the former, while the book also reflects the industry’s strong roots in national literature, particularly that of Nickolai Gogol), adding great interest to what would otherwise be simple profiles. There are reflections on artistic and aesthetic developments from early cinema right up to the modern day. Regarding the Soviet epoch, the book reflects how in spite of the hindrance of censorship arising from Stalinism, there was also great creativity in the period. The socio-cultural reasons for the emergence or lack of popularity of genres are also explored within each section, for example, science fiction was until recently unpopular as ‘to open up a discussion of what constituted the universal mission of humankind could easily be considered sacrilegious from a dogmatic point of view’, while horror has been read as exhibiting ‘a brutal, traumatic history through a graphically realistic depiction of violence and vicious destruction of human life.’ The descriptions of each film are engaging and show that there are imaginative and unique stories to be found in Russian cinema (with the animated and horror selections providing particularly innovative narratives). The section on ‘chernukha’ films is another stand-out, as it reflects how cinema can allow for a mirror to be held up to reality, whereby directors can present the truth even in defiance of state power.

Each movie description includes production credits, a synopsis and a critique which provides further contexts to the film and food for thought. The contributions come from mostly scholars, professors and lecturers. The more praising reviews, for example, for Tarkovskii’s Solaris (1972), entice the reader to find and view the film post-haste, although unfortunately, one sad fact that is left out of the book is that many of the more unusual titles are extremely difficult to find with English subtitles. The book’s inclusion of television series, though also an interesting read, gives the impression that the material needed to make a second book on Russian cinema requires a degree of leniency.

The reader will find themselves alternatively bewildered, laughing, and touched by the narratives of films about Russia and its people. At the same time, Russia 2 calls for concern regarding the ‘Hollywoodization’ of domestic cinema, for example, with the recent increase of blockbusters being produced and with local director Timur Bekmambetov recently leaving to make films such as Wanted (2008) and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (2012) (which are also included in the collection, though it is debatable how ‘Russian’ these films are) in the US. If this means the loss of innovative themes and moving stories, as can be found in this book, in favour of popcorn entertainment, it is cause for concern indeed. At the same time, the popularity of Russian cinema within its own country demands celebration as it hardily competes with American features. Perhaps we could learn a thing or two about supporting our own film industry.

 

 

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Intellect (5 Jun. 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1783200103
  • ISBN-13: 978-1783200108
  • Product Dimensions: 17.8 x 2 x 25.4 cm

 

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