Review: The Revenant

revenant

DIR: Alejandro González Iñárritu • WRI: Mark L. Smith, Alejandro González Iñárritu • PRO: Steve Golin, Alejandro González Iñárritu, David Kanter, Arnon Milchan, Mary Parent, Keith Redmon, James W. Skotchdopole • DOP: Emmanuel Lubezki • ED: Stephen Mirrione • DES: Jack Fisk • MUS: Carsten Nicolai, Ryuichi Sakamoto • CAST: Tom Hardy, Leonardo DiCaprio, Domhnall Gleeson

 

In 1823, at the edge of the new world, frontiersman Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) swears vengeance when one of the men of the hunting party he’d been tasked to protect abandons him alive but mortally wounded after surviving a brutal bear attack. If revenge is a dish best served cold, Alejandro G. Iñárritu offers one better, serving up a frost-ridden western that only copious amounts of blood and testosterone can cool in a riotous and riveting ode to survival.

In the uncharted wilderness of the Americas an expedition of fur traders and trappers is cut short when a tribe of Native Indians ambush their camp to plunder their precious pelts. A melee of arrows, tomahawks and bullets fly as a dizzying long take follows the carnage from foot and across horseback to capture every hack and slash in grisly detail. The up-close and personal approach of unbroken shots provides for a shell-shocking opener and a spectacular warning of the dread ahead.

The weary band of survivors escape across the water by boat but the hot-headed, half-scalped Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy) is fast to point a finger at Glass and son Hawk (Forrest Goodluck) for failing to pre-empt the attack, sowing seeds of discord among the men. Glass remains focused and resolute, despite the doubt cast upon his abilities as a man and a father. It reveals his virtue as a character that will avoid a fight if and when he can with the gauntlet of punishment ahead laying credence to the theme that survival is a requisite of one’s strength of mind and spirit as much as body. Even when Glass is reduced to a bloody pulp after several rounds of merciless mauling by an angry mother bear, in another unrelenting long shot, his will to survive is his greatest weapon (with a little help from a well-aimed bullet and his trusty bowie knife). It betters the beast and even when left for dead drags him back to the land of the living like some vengeful ghost with unfinished business.

Henceforth, it’s a down and dirty ride fuelled by blood, sweat and tears both in front and behind the camera as Iñárritu and co. reportedly tackled harsh conditions across perilous locations, relying upon natural light alone to capture the myth and the mayhem. DiCaprio triumphs in an absorbing to-hell-and-back-again performance that may just snag that elusive Oscar. The supporting players rise to the challenge and excel in their own right, with Domhnall Glesson’s duty-bound Captain Henry and Will Poulter’s impressionable and conscience heavy Bridger adding leverage to the one-man show. The unscrupulous Fitzgerald is embodied by another wide-eyed and wild Hardy performance but the beast is cleverly kept at bay before the inevitable showdown.

At times, Emmanuel Lubezki’s cinematography recalls the majestic vision of a Terrance Malick film (lessons learnt on The New World no doubt), such as in the slow track over a waterlogged forest as Glass and Hawk creep, rifles drawn, towards drinking elk. Mother Nature is a force to be reckoned with in The Revenant, a character of its own that adds to the formidable level of realism, and the camera showcases its beauty and its brutality in equal measure. The whispery voice-over of Glass’s wife cheering him on in spirit owes again to the aforementioned oeuvre and excels in complementing Ryuichi Sakamoto and Alva Noto’s hauntingly alluring score.

Iñárritu’s Oscar follow-up is a punishing watch that pays off with captivating visuals of realistic action and adventure. The trek may tire some but fortune favours the bold after all.

 

Anthony Assad

16
156 minutes (See IFCO for details)

The Revenant is released 15th January 2016

The Revenant – Official Website

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Irish Film Review: Brooklyn

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DIR: John Crowley • WRI: Nick Hornby • PRO: Finola Dwyer, Amanda Posey • ED: Mick Mahon • DOP: Yves Bélanger • ED: Jake Roberts • MUS: Michael Brook • CAST: Saoirse Ronan, Domhnall Gleeson, Michael Zegen

Home is where the heart is for Enniscorthy girl Ellis Lacey (Saoirse Ronan) but when she leaves Wexford to nurture a new life in New York her heart is split in two when a burgeoning romance and family ties clash in director John Crowley’s period drama Brooklyn, based on Colm Tóibin’s novel of the same name.

In 1950s Ireland, Ellis is sent across the big blue at the behest of her mother and older sister Rose to accept work proffered by family friend and Catholic priest Fr. Flood who also promises to set her up during her stay. Ellis is a mousy young woman who cuts a meagre figure on the Brooklyn bound ferry, a fish out of water floundering above and below deck with constant anxiety and seasickness. It’s not long before her travel savvy cabin mate takes pity and instructs her in everything from how to effectively negotiate shared toilet privileges on the boat to how she should present herself in the big city. When she applies lipstick to Ellis’s lithe lips we glimpse the woman she may well become after the life-changing year ahead of her.

On dry land Ellis practises, as advised, to think like an American, to walk with a purpose and to look like she knows where she’s going. Despite her obvious diffidence she pulls off the façade despite not knowing where she is going or what Brooklyn has in store for her.

Ronan inhabits the role of the naïve Ellis with aplomb and seemingly grows in stature as the narrative unfolds, like a flower opening towards the sun scene by scene. The New York of the 1950s is a little too polished in places but the detail certainly lends to the proceedings. What sticks out like a sore thumb, however, are the expressionistic flourishes that belie the understated style of the film’s source material. For example the moment Ellis crosses the threshold into the unknown is personified as a doorway awash with blinding white light that leads from the passport office to her new homestead, the entrance of which is accentuated in gratuitous slow motion. These moments, thankfully few and far between, are distracting and superfluous in an otherwise faultless set-up.

When she’s not struggling to make small talk with the fast-talking, fast-living Americans at her work in a high-end department store, Ellis passes her time slinking away from the meal time gossip fuelled by the boarding house matriarch Mrs Kehoe (Julie Walters) and her yappy tenants. These comedic interludes are a welcome diversion from the main narrative seeking to highlight the sensibilities of the time with particular gusto from the players especially Cavan girl Dolores (Jenn Murray) whose skittish deer-in-the-headlights performance threatens to steal the show.

The show is a romantic one after all so before Ellis can buckle under the weight of her homesickness she meets the dark and daring Italian plumber Tony (Emory Cohen) on the lookout for Irish girls at the local ceili. The courtship that follows is suitably “aw” inducing and full of first-love festivity but once again the real delights are served around the dinner table when Ellis is introduced to Tony’s family only to be scrutinised by younger brother Frankie who’s intent upon saying the wrong thing with impeccable comic timing.

Just as everything appears to be going swimmingly (in a fetching green swimsuit no less) news from back home threatens to upset all hopes of a happy ever after. Ellis returns to Wexford the talk of the town all grown up and glamorous looking for an unfortunate visit but a new job prospect, familial duty and the advances of a convenient catch add up to what could become a permanent stay if her friends and family have their way. The tension of this quietly chaotic conundrum, were everyone seems to know Ellis’s next step before she does, elevates the conventional drama. She keeps Tony a secret and when local boy Farrell (Domhnall Gleeson) enters the fray promising a comfortable life Ellis is forced to follow her heart to find her true home.

Brooklyn may capture the hearts and minds of its audience as its age-old story is lovingly crafted but its overt concern with glorifying the past in copious studio light and overwrought musical accompaniment downgrades the experience somewhat. Crowley guides us through the narrative with precision but it’s a performance-driven film and the ensemble cast, especially the chemistry between Ronan and Cohen, deserve any and all accolade.

Anthony Assad

12A

111 minutes

Brooklyn is released 6th November 2015

Brooklyn – Official Website

 

 

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Ex Machina

ex-machina

DIR/WRI: Alex Garland • PRO: Andrew Macdonald, Allon Reich • DOP: Rob Hardy • ED: Mark Day • MUS: Geoff Barrow, Ben Salisbury • DES: Mark Digby • CAST: Domhnall Gleeson, Alicia Vikander, Oscar Isaac

With consistent critical acclaim under his belt, it has almost become incumbent upon sci-fi screenwriter Alex Garland to take authorship of a production of his own in order to truly earn the all-hallowed hyphen in “writer-director”.

Anyone who feared that the writer’s directorial debut would abandon the cerebral, doughty fare of his previously-penned Sunshine, Never Let Me Go and roughly 15 minutes of 2011’s Dredd need not have worried – more than any of Garland’s previous efforts, Ex Machina weighs the heavier side of science fiction and what it means to be human. A question as old as the genre itself and exhausted to boot, most would say; however, it is not in the concept itself but the quiet confidence of its delivery that Garland establishes himself as much more than a pen on paper.

Eternal everyman Domhnall Gleeson plays Caleb, a young programmer invited to spend a week at the mountaintop retreat of Nathan (Oscar Isaac), a reclusive tech magnate on the cusp of creating true artificial intelligence. His brilliant but overbearing host has chosen Caleb to be the human component in the Turing test, designed to determine whether the robot Ava (Alicia Vikander) is truly sentient – but as the test progresses, Caleb begins to wonder if he himself isn’t part of a larger game between creator and creation.

It is in the quiet, understated interactions between the characters that Garland truly delivers a worthy examination of our notion of identity. Much like most of Garland’s previous work, Ex Machina sees a small core of characters thrown together under extreme confines and examines the shifting power-dynamics that follow.

Caleb’s sessions with Ava unfurl with deliberate care and increasing warmth, punctuated by exchanges with the acerbic Nathan; by turns swaggeringly drunk and startlingly – almost savagely – lucid, Ava’s creator seems simultaneously eager to see Caleb fail even as he seeks validation of his own genius, so that their every conversation becomes as much of a power-play as that between man and machine.

Spare cinematography and low, throbbing synths manage to make a prison of Nathan’s airy mountain home, the latter landing somewhere squarely between Blade Runner and Mass Effect without being overly indebted to either.

However, it is unquestionably Vikander’s turn as Ava that pulls the film head-and-shoulders above most other efforts on the same theme. Beguiling and beseeching by turns, Ava is as empathetic as she is utterly alien, and Vikander underplays these contradictions with all the insidiousness they require to avoid lapsing into yet another iteration of woman-as-object on screen.

Restrained, understated and above all atmospheric, Ex Machina may not break new ground on a much-overplayed theme but provides a breath of fresh air nonetheless, delivering a sci-fi thriller with easy sex and violence that are an afterthought to something more cerebral.

Ruairí Moore

15A (See IFCO for details)
108 minutes
Ex Machina
is released 16th January 2015

Ex Machina – Official Website

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Cinema Review: Frank

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DIR: Lenny Abrahamson • WRIPeter Straughan PRO: Ed Guiney, Stevie Lee, Andrew Lowe • DOP: James Mather • MUS: Stephen Rennicks • DES: Richard Bullock • CAST: Michael Fassbender, Domhnall Gleeson, Maggie Gyllenhaal

Many films aiming to make a statement about art in conflict with commerciality must often contend with a similar push/pull arrangement in the execution of that statement itself. After all, original or groundbreaking as it might be, if an indie flick lands at Sundance with no-one there to live-tweet it, does it make a sound? Aiming to prop itself between these two stools of art and commerce by no more than one over-large paper mache head and a bucketful of ambition is director Lenny Abrahamson’s latest outing, Frank.

 

Jon (Domhnall Gleeson) is a serial-tweeting office drone plagued by dreams of international stardom but rather lacking in the creative drive to see them realized. Enter the Soronprfbs, an eclectic musical outfit whose disdain for vowels is matched only by the eccentricity of frontman Frank (Fassbender), who lives his life enclosed in a huge, cartoonish prop head. Brought into the fold when the band find suddenly find themselves short a keyboardist, Jon sees his chance for stardom and resolves to take it – along the way contending with the bile of acerbic bandmate Clara  (Gyllenhal), his own tragic lack of inspiration and fundamental doubts as to whether he’s crossed paths with a musical messiah or a plain old madman.

 

Frank quickly found an eager audience during its debut at Sundance, and it’s no real surprise why. Charming, funny and bright – starkly so in contrast to Abrahamson’s earlier work – the film delivers consistent belly-laughs while still managing to hit quieter, sombre notes about a genuinely troubled masked man to whom the microphone may as well be an umbilical cord. By turns hilarious and tragic are Jon’s fumbling attempts at inspiration relayed through banal sing-along internal monologues and a Twitter feed constantly appearing on screen but increasingly at odds with the reality of his situation.

 

Unsurprisingly, Fassbender exhibits impressive range beneath the mask, and the near-violent chemistry between Gylenhaal and Gleeson is crackling. It is likely the latter who delivers the anchoring performance of the film, slipping from wide-eyed to cut-throat as Jon slowly begins to realize that while the sparsely-populated pub gigs and mish-mash of recording techniques are a means to and end for him, for the rest of the band they act as a strange sort of therapy.

 

However, while certainly interesting as an examination of the notion of celebrity, it is difficult to escape the feeling that Frank is, strangely, Abrahamson’s most conventional effort to date. While ostensibly hiding the film’s most marketable feature behind a paper mache mask, it is likely that this very choice to take one of the world’s most sought-after faces and hide it in plain sight has drawn quite so much of the buzz that would class Frank as unique.

 

“You’re just going to have to go with this,” Jon is told by the band’s manager rather early on, but in truth there is little enough to go with that truly strays from the beaten path. A typical three act structure put together with bright, agreeable colour tones and a titular character who can’t help but be endearing, the overriding sense is of an unconventional idea packaged in its most marketable form, where “quirky” is a buzzword thrown out for poster by-lines as opposed to any real indication of divergence.

 

With subject matter wrestling with the idea of art vs commerciality, it ultimately leans towards the latter – but this is nothing to mourn. Frank is sharply-scripted, beautifully-shot and suitably suspicious of the entire vague notion of celebrity. However, while likely bound for success and justifiably so, one is simply left with the entirely unreasonable but nonetheless niggling feeling that this very message might be lost in the scramble to fit statues with tiny paper mache heads come awards season.

Ruairí Moore

15A (See IFCO for details)
94 mins

Frank is released on 9th May 2014

Frank – Official Website

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JDIFF: Irish Film Review – Calvary

calvarytrailer

Donnchadh Tiernan checks out John Michael McDonagh’s Calvary, which opened the 12th Jameson Dublin International Film Festival.

The opening line of John Michael McDonagh’s sophomore effort packs such an almighty punch it would be a shame to divulge it here. As a quote from Saint Augustine on the poetic implications of the titular hill fades to the candlelit visage of Brendan Gleeson’s central priest a line of dialogue is delivered with enough weight to shake any audience of expectations for a would-be sequel to 2011’s The Guard. The dialogue of the anonymous confessor continues to outline what will be the framework within which the film will play out; in seven days, having spent their childhood being raped daily by a priest, the faceless victim will shoot Gleeson’s priest, plainly because he, a good priest, being murdered will send a greater message. When Gleeson leaves the booth he seems to know who has threatened him. We, however, do not, and the film commences.

The prime action of the piece is made up of Gleeson’s interactions with locals; characters played by the greatest assembly of Irish and British acting talent since Intermission: Pat Shortt as a Buddhist publican; Dylan Moran as a socially estranged property developer; Chris O’Dowd as the butcher; Kelly Reilly as Gleeson’s suicidal daughter from a pre-orders marriage; Aidan Gillen as an atheistic, nihilistic doctor. The list actually does go on but to give everyone worthy of shout-out here their just deserts would evolve this review to a novella. Everyone available seemingly wanted to appear in this film and once one sniffs out the marrow of the meandering plot it is easy to see why.

The first act of Calvary is the segment that requires the most salt in viewing. What might be biting satire or critique is diluted with Fr. Ted jokes as they might have been written for HBO. McDonagh being cut from the cloth he is the dialogue and structure is ever a comment on the medium and genre itself, in this case such thematic stuff as Song for a Raggy Boy or Sleepers, but considering both the setting and the opening this does not seem enough. As a matter of fact, until Gleeson’s church is burnt to the ground midway through (as seen in the trailer and on the poster), it seems as though the writer-director is shying from the route he initially gestured towards. Then, as flames flicker against the night, the second act reveals a darker side of The Guard’s wry wit and the film dives headlong into murk the previous film only hinted at.

What transpires in the film’s remainder is often heavy drama and is a credit to its cast, particular credit due to Domhnall Gleeson and Chris O’Dowd, the former stepping out of his father’s shadow while sitting across from him, the latter whom will surely be hearing meatier dramatic scripts whacking his hallway floor more regularly in the coming months. This film’s heart, soul and muse, as with The Guard, is undoubtedly the masterful Brendan Gleeson, who communicates the bitterness and flickering hopes of a dying faith with dark weary eyes and reserved gestures.

Any flaws here are minor and aesthetic. The rent-boy Lucky Leo is one caricature too far and Dave McSavage playing a bishop carries too much weight as a cultural reference to work alongside the more serious tones surrounding the role. The cast of characters is, overall, too large to justify and trying to keep up with them at times muddles the plot. Thankfully, McDonagh’s agenda is so potent and engaging that its confidence propels viewer attention along with it at far too ardent a pace to linger on such minor foibles.

With Calvary, McDonagh has completed the sentence he began to utter with The Guard. As an already evident auteur, he loves Ireland (as clearly evidenced by the glorious landscape shots throughout) and despises such Irish institutions as middle-management, bitterness and mob-rule. Were he a pamphleteer, which on a certain level he undoubtedly is, his prime target would be Joe Duffy’s listenership and high-ranking church officials in equal measure. In fact, there is such ample critique of Irish society in the third act it feels as though two films in he may have made his magnum opus. On immediate reflection, not only do I wish to re-watch Calvary soon but I believe it will prove as much of a necessary watch for at least one generation to come as it will be a gripping, funny and moving one for audiences this year. Once again, McDonagh has produced a work impossible to pigeon-hole into any genre, except perhaps “Essential Viewing”.

 

 

Click here for further coverage from the 12th Jameson Dublin International Film Festival.

Calvary screened on Thursday, 13th February 2014 as part of the 12th Jameson Dublin International Film Festival (13 – 23 February 2014).

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Cinema Review: About Time

About Time trailer - video

DIR: Richard Curtis WRI: Richard Curtis, PRO: Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner. DOP: John Guleserian. ED: Mark Day. DES: John Paul Kelly. CAST: Domhnall Gleeson, Bill Nighy, Rachel McAdams

Tim Lake (Domhnall Gleeson) is a sensitive man. He adores his sister, worships his father and is desperate to find love. However, Tim has a secret weapon when it comes to romance, time travel. He can fix problematic interactions, re-experience fantastic moments and generally find the woman of his dreams. But, as his father (Bill Nighy) who shares his son’s unusual gift explains, there’s a catch, Tim can only travel back through his own lifetime and not past certain life altering incidents. Nonetheless Tim excitedly tries out his new talent only to be met with unrequited love and general disappointment. That is until he meets the beautiful shy American Mary (Rachel McAdams) his perfect woman who just happens to reciprocate his romantic feelings. However, his relationship with Mary doesn’t run smoothly as an intervention in the life of a friend leads him to lose her number forcing him to travel back in time in order to re-meet her. Tim is then continually motivated by his love for Mary to perfect every moment of their relationship so that they can have a wonderful, regret free life. But as time passes and various events arise Tim realises he can’t change everything, nor protect his loved ones.

About Time marks Curtis’ third outing as a director and in many ways it is his most successful. The usual criticism of Curtis’ work is that it is far too syrupy and sentimental. This film is very sweet, however, the inclusion of time travel manages to some what dilute the saccharine elements and inject life and interest into the story. Nevertheless this is still very much a Curtis fairytale with beautiful shots of Cornwall and London forming the backdrop to Tim and Mary’s romance, which is filled with bumbling interactions and heartfelt declarations. But, it is Tim’s relationship with his father that is the true heart of the film. Nighy and Gleeson have excellent chemistry creating a believable father and son relationship which forms the backbone of the story. Gleeson offers a natural, endearing performance although he occasionally veers into Hugh Grant territory, particularly throughout the voiceover.

However, he has excellent comic timing and can deliver humorous lines with more conviction than other leading men who have appeared in Curtis’ films. Indeed the casting of Gleeson was a wise move as his presence acts as another way to infuse some freshness into the film, which for the most part is populated by Curtis’ usual collaborators, like Bill Nighy, whose performance is highly watchable, if not particularly new or taxing. The rest of the cast represent many of the traditional stereotypes used in romantic comedies particularly British romantic comedies, the sarcastic drunk, the lovable innocent and the trampy best friend. Fortunately these stereotypes are toned down enabling them to actually contribute to the comedic moments. Therefore Curtis has managed to include some devises which mitigate the nostalgic sentimentality and the cheesy characterisation and make a film about time travel that’s more believable than previous work.

However, the film is too long and drawn out repetitively making the same point, that we should remember every moment, however small or mundane. This point was reinforced by saccharine dialogue and a cringe inducing montage of normal people enjoying simple pleasures, which was unnecessary. The time travel theme can only do so much to temper the inclusion of such soppy elements which in the end do make the film overly sweet. These aspects of the film also lead to the plot becoming messy and unwieldy particularly during the films conclusion. About Time would certainly have benefited from a more concise ending.

Nonetheless, Richard Curtis’ film is enjoyable, funny and at times moving. The time altering element and Gleeson’s performance help to curtail the sentimentality but the film is let down by a messy conclusion that allows for too much indulgent sentimentality. Regardless of its flaws romantic comedy fans will still be entertained by this gentle comedy.

Ruth Hurl

Rated 12A (see IFCO website for details) 

123 mins
About Time is released on 4th September 2013

About Time  – Official Website

 

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Watch ‘Noreen’ – a short film by Domhnall Gleeson

 

Two men with no idea what’s going on…

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-gT8v4jlh4Q
You can vote here for Noreen on the  Short of the Week website
http://shortoftheweek.uservoice.com/f…

Purchase a DVD here:
https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr…

Winner – Tiernan McBride Best Short Film Award, Galway Film Fleadh
Winner- Audience Award for Best Film, Capital Irish Film Festival
Winner – Directors Choice, Boston Irish Film Festival
Winner – Best Narrative short at the Gold Coast International Film Festival
World Festival Premier at Palm Springs Shortfest
Winner Best Comedy – Victoria TX Indie Film Fest
Official Selection – Cork, Raindance, San Francisco, Tribeca, Newport Beach, Brest Film Court, Kerry, Waterford, Clones, Dingle, Atlanta, Fastnet, Gold Coast International Film Festival’s Furman Film Series, Toronto Screen Shots, Shorts That Are Not Pants, Cinegael, Toronto Irish FIlm Festival, Gimli, East Lansing, Flickerfest, Los Angeles Irish, Southside, Ozu, RXSM.

Noreen, a short film written and directed by Domhnall Gleeson and produced by El Zorrero Films.
Starring
Brendan Gleeson
Brian Gleeson
Gerry Byrne
Sean McCarthy
Funded by FilmOffaly in partnership with Filmbase.
DOP: Ruairí O’Brien
Production Designer: Nicola Moroney
Editor: Niall Campion
Producers: David Clarke, Juliette Bonass and Ciarán Deeney.

facebook.com/pages/Noreen-The-Movie/1386

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Michael Fassbender and Domhnall Gleeson to star in Lenny Abrahamson film ‘Frank’

Michael Fassbender (12 Years A Slave, Prometheus, Shame) and Domhnall Gleeson (True Grit, Harry Potter, Anna Karenina) are attached to star in Lenny Abrahamson’s next project Frank.

Frank is written by Jon Ronson (The Men Who Stare at Goats) and Peter Straughan (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, The Men Who Stare At Goats) and has been developed by Film4 who will also co-finance the film with the Irish Film Board.

Frank is a comedy about a young wannabe musician, Jon (Gleeson), who discovers he’s bitten off more than he can chew when he joins an eccentric pop band led by the mysterious and enigmatic Frank (Fassbender).

Speaking on the announcement, producer Ed Guiney of Element Pictures commented that: ‘Frank is a wonderfully funny script which brings together Michael Fassbender, Domhnall Gleeson and Lenny Abrahamson three of the most exciting Irish talents working in cinema today’.

James Hickey, Chief Executive, Bord Scannán na hÉireann/The Irish Film Board (IFB) added ‘We are delighted to be working with Element Pictures and Film4 on this exciting project. Lenny is a great Irish filmmaker while Michael and Domhnall are exceptional world class Irish actors making this project a wonderful opportunity for the Irish Film Board to support Irish talent on the world stage.’

Fassbender, who won Best Actor in Venice in 2011 for his performance in Steve McQueen’s Shame, is currently shooting Ridley Scott’s The Counselor alongside Brad Pitt and Cameron Diaz, while Domhnall Gleeson recently finished shooting Richard Curtis’ new comedy About Time, and was recently named as one of Variety’s ’10 Actors to Watch’.

Frank will mark the fourth feature film collaboration between Abrahamson and Element Pictures. Past features include Garage, which won the CICAE Prize in Cannes 2007, and Adam & Paul which won Best Director award at the Irish Film and TV Awards. Abrahamson’s current film What Richard Did will premiere at the Toronto Film festival in mid-September and is being released in Irish cinemas on 5th October  through Element Pictures Distribution.

Frank is a co-production between Runaway Fridge and Element Pictures and will be produced by David Barron, Ed Guiney and Stevie Lee. Exec producers for Film4 are Tessa Ross and Katherine Butler and for Element Pictures, Andrew Lowe. Protagonist Pictures are handling international sales. Frank is scheduled to commence principal photography late 2012.

 

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Irish Film ‘Sensation’ released on DVD and On Demand from Volta from 6th April

 

Directed by Tom Hall and starring Domhnall Gleeson and Luanne Gordon, Sensation follows the fortunes of a Donal, a farmer’s sole heir who is left some land; but Donal hasn’t inherited much in terms of social skills. Despite the encouragement of his best mate, he finds it hard to talk to women, and in frustration turns to the internet. He hooks up with Kiwi call-girl Kim, who has a business plan to see her off her back and behind a desk, greeting punters at her own brothel. Donal’s newfound wealth might provide her with the money she needs, but what might Donal be getting out of the deal? And what demand is there for the services of prostitutes in rural Ireland anyway?

‘Sensation’ is released on DVD and On Demand from Volta from 6th April.

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Cinema Review: Sensation – Film of the Week

Sensation

DIR/WRI: Tom Hall • PRO: Katie Holly, Kieron J. Walsh • DOP: Benito Strangio • ED: Nathan Nugent • DES: Tamara Conboy • CAST: Domhnall Gleeson, Luanne Gordon, Patrick Ryan, Owen Roe, Kelly Campbell, Eleanor Methven

The second feature by writer/director Tom Hall, Sensation tells the story of a Tipperary farmer who trades in his wellies for a pimping cane.

Domhnall Gleeson plays a shy and randy 26-year-old, Donal Durkan, who’s been left his family’s land after his father passes away. Not quite a boisterous ladies’ man, like his buddy Karl (Patrick Ryan), Donal ends up striking out with the fairer sex and instead orders a professional for a ‘full service’ with his newfound wealth.

What begins as a just another job for seasoned, sex-worker Kim (Luanne Gordon), thanks to some burly gangsters, quickly grows into an unlikely friendship. Using Donal’s inheritance and Kim’s knowledge of the trade, the pair make big plans to open a local brothel – although things don’t quite go as planned for the budding entrepreneurs.

Although Sensation starts slowly, offering some excruciatingly uncomfortable moments in the beginning, the pace really picks up making it a strong, gripping drama. Overall the performances are excellent, however Donal’s descent from odd misanthrope into shrewd businessman is somewhat unnatural. This can be easily forgiven as the developing chemistry of the anti-heroes adds an unexpected sweetness to the film – leaving it just shy of tragic.

Gemma Creagh

Rated 12A (see IFCO website for details)
Sensation is released on 4th November 2011
Sensation – Official Website

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Domhnall Gleeson Interview

Shooting Star award at the Berlin Film Festival

Beatrice Ní Bhroin catches up with Domhnall Gleeson in Berlin where he was recently singled out for a Shooting Star award.

Ireland’s outstanding young star Domhnall Gleeson scooped two major awards recently and is being hailed as one of Europe’s biggest emerging talents. However, despite his burgeoning fame the pragmatic Harry Potter star says he hopes to stay in Ireland and help build the film industry here.

The 27-year-old son of film legend Brendan Gleeson was singled out for a Shooting Star award at the Berlin Film Festival (10–20 February 2011 as well as receiving an IFTA Rising Star award. The Shooting Stars are annually selected as Europe’s most promising young actors.

domhnallgleeson61stberlinfilmfestival

In the same week Domhnall was also honoured at the IFTAs with the Actor in a Lead Television Role Award for When Harvey Met Bob, while his father Brendan and brother Brian were collectively nominated for five awards. Gleeson stars in the Coen brothers’ latest film, True Grit, which opened the Berlin festival, but despite his Hollywood success he says he is in no rush to leave his home in Ireland.

The young star confessed this week that he has considered moving to New York or LA to further his career but feels he has too many ties to Ireland right now to make the leap. ‘I think I’ll try and live in Dublin for as long as it suits me but you never know,’ he explained. ‘I thought about moving to London a while ago but I’ve got reasons to be in Ireland so I’ll stay here. I can’t drive so I’m not going to LA. I’m going to go to New York in March possibly – go out to try and get more work and meet more people, it’s a very expensive place to hang out though.’

While Gleeson was enjoying the limelight in Berlin his father’s latest film, The Guard, which sees Brendan playing an acid-taking renegade Galway garda, received rave reviews from film fans. Domhnall explained that while his father had played a huge part in helping his career to take off he is now completely independent and the pair hadn’t even found time to meet up while they were in Berlin. ‘I’ve been here for four days and I haven’t seen my father, we’ve just both been busy with work! I don’t think there’s anymore pressure because my dads and actor but its great to have someone to ask for advice. My brothers acting too, in fact he was acting long before me he as always knew he wanted to act and he’s really good.’

Gleeson broke into Hollywood with his role as Bill Weasley in Harry Potter but now hopes to move onto more serious roles and eventually directing films. ‘Harry Potter was a lot of fun but it was a long time too and that’s not a complaint,’ he explained. ‘I was working thank Christ. It was intense because all my dialogue stuff happened in the first two weeks then I had another year of standing in the background holding a wand. There was a lot of back and forth a lot of standing around and laughing so that was fun. They were also kind enough to let me go away and do some other movies which was a real relief so I got lucky with that in a big way and you got a wand, that’s brilliant fun!

Gleeson explained that while big Hollywood films are fun and help to pay the bills he longs to return to theatre and Irish films. ‘I’ve had a good year but I think generally there is actually quite a lot happening in Ireland on the film front, theatre has suffered tremendously. I want to do theatre I want to get back to doing theatre. There’s not as much happening but what is happening is of a really high quality.’

He was also keen to promote Irish film Sensation described as being ‘a refreshing and rare film, a disarmingly subtle sex comedy that’s funny, smart and touching.’ Directed by Tom Hall of Bachelors Walk fame, Domhnall says ‘I want to promote it because it’s an amazing film, I get to play a farmer who’s father dies and he decides to hire a prostitute.’

Domhnall is due to start filming Dredd a Pete Travis (Endgame, Vantage Point, Omagh) film based on graphic novel Judge Dredd and due for release December 2011.


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Domhnall Gleeson a ‘Shooting Star’

Irish actor Domhnall Gleeson has been one of 10 young actors selected to take part in Shooting Stars. This is a unique pan-European initiative which puts a spotlight on Europe’s best actors and puts emerging new acting talent at the forefront of the Berlin International Film Festival.

2011 is the 14th edition of the event and will see the actors involved in a number of activities which include several presentations to the film industry and public; a press conference; an intimate one-on-one-meeting with international casting directors; a reception and presentation at the Awards Ceremony in the Berlinale Palast.

Other actors which were given the honour in previous years were Daniel Craig, Ludivine Sagnier, Maria Bonnevie, Rachel Weisz,  Moritz Bleibtreu,  Johanna Wokalek and Nina Hoss.

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IFTA Rising Star Award Nominees Announced

IFTA

Bord Scannán na hÉireann /the Irish Film Board (IFB) and the Irish Film and Television Academy (IFTA) have announced the Rising Star Award nominees for 2011, the winner of which will be named at the Irish Film and Television Awards ceremony on 12th February 2011.

Selected by a special jury and sponsored by the IFB, the Rising Star Award is a unique Award which highlights exceptional new and breakthrough talent working in all areas of the Irish film industry.

The 2011 nominees are:
Antonia Campbell Hughes (Actress) Bright Star, When Harvey Met Bob
Domhnall Gleeson (Actor) True Grit, Sensation
Ian Power (Writer/Director) The Runway, The Wonderful Story of Kelvin Kind
Juanita Wilson (Writer/Director) As If I Am Not There, The Door


The 2010 Rising Star Award was won by Tomm Moore, writer/director of the Oscar nominated feature animation The Secret of Kells. Tomm has since begun working on his second feature length animation Song of the Sea. 

Centurion and Hunger actor Michael Fassbender received the Rising Star Award in 2009, whilst young actress Saoirse Ronan was named the winner of the first Rising Star IFTA in 2008 for her breakthrough performance in Atonement.

The 8th Annual Irish Film & Television Awards will take place at Dublin’s spectacular new Convention Centre on Saturday 12th February 2011. The ceremony will broadcast live on RTÉ One at 9.30pm.

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CFCP CINEMA

CFCP cinema will return with films American Astronaut and What Will Survive of Us at 7.30pm, 24th January 2011.

Directed by Cory McAbee, American Astronaut is about Samuel Curtis, an astronaut from Earth, who receives a valuable gift in exchange for completing one of his missions: a cloning device already in the process of preparing the Real Live Girl. While What WIll Survive of Us, by Domhnall Gleeson features John and Noreen; two young lovers from Boyle, Roscommon, at a turning point in their lives together.

The show will be 2.5 hours long with a short break and has an informal atmosphere, a big screen with tea & coffee also attendees can bring their own refreshments.

Entry costs €5 for members & €7.50 for non-members; for more information visit www.cfcp.ie

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'The Pipe' and 'Sensation' at the BFI London Film Festival 2010

thepipe_chiefsol-web

Dr. Garin Dowd of Thames Valley University, London, reports from the BFI London Film Festival where Risteard O Domhnaill’s ‘The Pipe’ and Tom Hall’s ‘Sensation’ were screened recently.

In reflecting on the Irish presence at this year’s London Film Festival one cannot help but be struck by how both in content and in context it offers up compelling symbolism both for the present state of film funding and the larger geopolitical and economic determinants which have impinged on the recent past and chaotic present of contemporary Ireland.

While the UK Film Council has been axed under the coalition government in Westminster, one of the two Irish features on show at this year’s festival (the other being Tom Hall’s ‘Sensation’), ‘The Pipe’, is funded by the Irish Film Board, its equivalent on this side of the Irish Sea. Risteard O Domhnaill’s documentary was therefore screened in a programme which included what will be one of the last films to be funded by the Film Council, John Akomfrah’s ‘The Nine Muses’. The films are linked by more than funding. ‘The Pipe’ features a maritime location (the Mayo coast) while ‘The Nine Muses’ alternates between Alaska and archive footage of immigration from the West Indies to Britain is a film largely set in maritime space (the coasts of Mayo and Alaska respectively).

One of the astonishing effects of ‘The Pipe’ was to make the work in progress off the shores of Mayo (the titular conduit) of the giant petro-chemical company Shell almost already a ruin. ‘The Pipe’ concerns the 10 year (to date) resistance of the local community in the area surrounding the village of Rossport, Co. Mayo, to the laying of a high pressure gas pipe intended, in a departure from standard practice worldwide which sees the gas treated and refined at sea, to bring untreated gas from the Corrib gas field to a refinery on the mainland.

At the time of the premiere of ‘The Pipe’ at the Galway Film Fleadh this summer one of its main subjects had just been released from seven months in prison for the very infringements of public safety laws filmed by O Domhnaill in the making of his film. His hand never far from the unmistakable classic packet of 20 Major, Pat ‘The Chief’ O’Donnell’s canniness, clarity of thought and purpose, and powers of articulation are extraordinary in the face of police intimidation as his small fishing boat floats in the imposing shadow of “the celebrated Solitaire” (the world’s largest pipe-laying vessel) as the local retired schoolteacher turned activist, Maura Harrington, puts it.

Despite the Chief’s main argument being based on the safeguarding of his livelihood and his defiance on a sense of his individual rights as a fisherman licensed to fish the waters, he is not without comprehension of the larger geo-political context. Thus when his boat is impounded he removes, he says with great reluctance, its tricolour because in this act the Gardaí are not acting for the state but for Shell – or, as the director puts it, the state-Shell conglomerate.

The Chief’s courage on the seas is quietly mirrored on land as the main ideologue of the local Shell to Sea group, Maura Harrington, goes on hunger strike. Meanwhile the exclusively legal battle pursued by the third main subject of the documentary, Monica Muller, makes significant gains for the local community, while the farmer Willie Corduff is the film’s voice of the householders who feel a direct threat in the face of a high-pressure pipe which is at that stage to be laid in a bog. “Bogs have their own technology” he comments with arresting sagacity.

The film dispassionately observes the contending forces within the community, and in some sense, while showing the unity of purpose and in particular a unity in anger and defiance, is also able to show how unavoidably post-political this struggle is. Setting aside any triumph the local community or activist groups may have had and may yet have in this particular case, the image of long lines of security guards drawn from private firms working together with the Gardaí on the beach to safeguard the illegal operations of the invisible and monolithic Shell, offers a disquieting summing up of Ireland, in particular, but in general of the supplanting of state regulatory functions by corporate interest groups over the last two decades.

In this respect the film entered into a dialogue with another more experimental documentary showing at the festival – and soon at the IFI – Patrick Keiller’s ‘Robinson in Ruins’. Keiller’s Robinson sets off on the third of his idiosyncratic tours often using defunct or existing infrastructures from military and petrochemical industries as his guides. Interesting too is the fact that both films address the question of common land. Robinson visits Newbury and nearby Greenham Common, making links between riots against the enclosures of 16th century and the post-war history of the common. ‘The Pipe’ considers the ‘commonage’ bogland jointly owned by 22 members of the community of Rossport which are threatened by the proposed laying of the pipe. Both films ask to whom a landscape belongs in an era wherein strategic public sector assets are taken over by the private sector and often by consortia in part or entirely outside the state.

The back-story of The Pipe is the highly controversial and short-sighted legislation established in 1987 and 1992 by the corrupt and thoroughly discredited Haughey regime which handed over all potential future profits from gas and oil exploration to the multinational petrochemical giants (a longer narrative which the director decided it would not be possible to contain in the film). In this sense the longer narrative predates the Celtic Tiger phenomenon. Historically Ireland has looked to the western island as a symbol of mythic unity before the chaos of conquest. With the recent publication of Lorna Siggins’ book on the same topic, this documentary serves to remind us that the neo-liberal ceding of sovereignty by the state, abetted by the state’s commitment to corporations rather than its citizens, is at the root of the ongoing struggle in a remote outpost of Ireland.

If, insofar as it addresses a story with its real beginnings in the late 1980s, ‘The Pipe’ is a film which is concerned in part with the pre-Celtic tiger economy, Tom Hall’s latest film ‘Sensation’ is located very firmly in post-Tiger Ireland, where the developers are sitting on land which is falling in price and where apartment projects lie abandoned. The film attempts to forge an unfamiliar path.

The opening scene may initially look at home in the world of ‘The Riordans’ or ‘Bracken’, but only until we catch up with the protagonist and his masturbation aids in the midst of the sheep droppings. Into the symbolic desolation, both economic and emotional, of this Ireland walks the New Zealand prostitute, Courtney/Kim (Luanne Gordon) with whom the recently-bereaved 26 year old Donal (played by Domhnall Gleeson), is inheriting his father’s farm and savings, forms a bond first as paying-customer, then as lover, then as business partner, and of course given that the business is a brothel as partner in crime. One of the director’s avowed intentions is to highlight how sexuality, mediated via the sex industry in the broad sense, has so rapidly displaced other forms of cultural exchange in the Ireland of the last two decades. The film attempts to present a blackly comic portrait of a society which has leapt eagerly into this along the myriad routes opened by broadband. Hall seeks to display his characters not as innocent dupes of ‘pornification’ but as knowingly complicit and parastic upon it.

Donal’s apology at one point, ‘I’m sorry I called you a whore’, is intended to suggest he is developing an awareness of Courtney not entirely filtered through pornography and commodification, as earlier in the film the utterance which announces his first non-self administered orgasm suggests. Yet at this point he is providing the local male farmers with the services of sex workers, including her. In a telling gesture towards the rise of racism in contemporary Ireland, one punter, a farmer who has earlier conned Donal into selling his sheep for too little, chooses the white Irish girl over the black economic migrant from England, but asks that the one dons the fetish attire of the other.

In short everyone in ‘Sensation’ is exploitative in a network without any centre. Dublin is as far away or as near as Hong Kong. Significantly it is only Courtney who makes the trip to the capital. The raison d’être for her trip – cosmetic surgery – however serves little purpose in the film other than to facilitate the gratuitously sordid scene between Courtney and Carl, played by newcomer Patrick Ryan, which follows her return; indeed it jars in an unconvincing manner with the apparent embrace of a plot of mutual strength through improbable romance which the film pursues. This, like most of the second half, steers a determined course, to the detriment of the film, along certain genre coordinates, including some the film would have one believe it avoids, ‘this is not “Pretty Woman”’ Kim declares during one of her first encounters with Donal. While ‘Sensation’ is keen to interrogate an Ireland in which liberalisation and neo-liberalism marched perhaps too eagerly to the rapid tempo of the market, the film makes more frequent recourse to the clichés of provincial backwardness than its makers would perhaps acknowledge.

http://www.bfi.org.uk/lff/

http://www.thepipethefilm.com/

http://www.blinder.tv/#/blinder-films/films/sensation

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