WFT Short Film Showcase

 

To celebrate International Women’s Day, WFT Ireland, is partnering with the IFI, to host an annual Short Film Showcase. This special screening of WFT Ireland members’ work will take place on Wednesday, 6th March 2019 at 6:30pm.

The films that will screen on the evening include:

Ma (dir. Anne Marie Kelly, 9 mins);

The Girl at the End of the Garden (dir. Bonnie Dempsey, 15 mins);

No Place (dir. Laura Kavanagh, 7 mins);

Catcalls (dir. Kate Dolan, 9 mins);

The Shift (dir. Megan K. Fox, 12 mins);

Siobhan (dir. Maeve Murphy, 10 mins);

Her Name Is… (dir. Lydia McGuinness, 10 mins);

Sea for Yourself (dir. Gráinne Gavigan, 8 mins).

Share

Kenneth Branagh @ IFI

 

The Irish Film Institute has announced that acclaimed director Kenneth Branagh will visit the IFI on Friday, February 8th to take part in a Q&A following the 18.10 screening of his new film, All Is True. The five-time Oscar nominee will speak with Donald Clarke of The Irish Times.

All Is True explores the human story behind a dark and little known period in the life of William Shakespeare (Kenneth Branagh). The year is 1613 and Shakespeare is the greatest writer of the age. When his beloved Globe Theatre is burned to the ground, he decides to return to his home town of Stratford-upon-Avon. There, he faces his neglected family. Still haunted by the death of his only son, Hamnet, he struggles to mend broken relationships with his wife, Anne (Judi Dench) and daughters. In so doing he is forced to examine his own failings as an absent husband and father. In the search for peace, he must also finally confront the dark heart of his family’s secrets and lies.

Based on an incisive script by Ben Elton, Branagh’s film is a melancholic, restrained portrait of the Bard’s final years.

Tickets, costing €14, are now available at www.ifi.ie or from the IFI Box Office on 01-6793477.

 

Share

Paul Bushe & Brian O’Neill, Directors of ‘Killers Within’

Horror fans might be forgiven for thinking they are at the wrong screening when they settle in to watch Killers Within at this year’s IFI annual film celebration of all things horror. Brian O’Neill and Paul Bushe’s feature bursts onto the screen with a gritty opening that seemingly provides the set-up for a crime thriller. A mother is violently attacked and her son taken away from her by a criminal gang. From here the films takes another turn into home invasion territory, as getting him back involves a group of friends and family plotting a tiger kidnapping. Their plan is to get their hands on enough cash to pay for the son’s release. Just when the audience settle in, there’s a seismic shift; things go somewhat haywire as we enter a world of mythological monsters and here is where the horror really kicks in, applied liberally with a double dose of action. It’s not your typical horror and to say much more would take away from the delirious fun that ensues.

Paul explains to Film Ireland that Killers Within is a genre-bashing film. “We initially set out to make a pure horror and it evolved and evolved again as we wrote and rewrote it. It became more thriller and then more action, with touches of sci-fi in there. Then we introduce a different type of villain that is not as prevalent in horror films.”

The bulk of the film takes place in Springfield Castle, Limerick, the home of a wealthy banker and his la-di-da family, who are set upon by Amanda Doyle, together with her ex-husband and three unlikely allies. The cast and crew lived in the Castle for the 10 days of the initial shoot. Brian says, “It was like Evil Dead stuff – where we live; where we shoot. We had a very bizarre existence there. There was no phone signal in the castle and you had to walk around 500 metres down the driveway to get a phone signal. In a way, it was like we were in an alternative reality living in this castle.” In this particular alternative reality, the band of ragtag amateur kidnappers and uppercrust elite family come together with catastrophic results as opposites clash, worlds collide and divides are crossed.

Leading the way is Sue Walsh, who plays Amanda, the Mother of the captive son. Her journey as a character is the stand-out role in the film, from victim to empowerment; she certainly is no damsel in distress, blazing her way through the film with a nutribullet blend of maternal love, unyielding determination and a ready-for-battle steely grit. “She was someone we hadn’t worked with before,” Paul says. “We didn’t know her at all. We did a big casting job and met some really extraordinary actors. It was such a hard thing to cast that lead female role because there’s so many things she has to embody more than anybody else in the film.” Brian explains how “as the protagonist, there was a lot of elements we wanted to hit. And Sue totally pulls that off.”

That’s the good, but what about the bad and the ugly? The monsters that comes to life are certainly impressive creatures but this element wasn’t all plain sailing according to Brian. “Creating the monsters for the film provided one of the biggest challenges. We ended up re-shooting a lot of scenes. We hadn’t anticipated how long it would take. By the time we got actors on set and even though the make-up was great, everyone was just fatigued and they were shot really badly. That’s on us.” Paul adds,”It’s that logistical thing. First time doing a feature like that. Brian had done How to be Happy and myself and Brian had made loads of shorts together and proofs of concept  – but just this kind of animal of a film, with prosthetics, stunts, then it’s raining and finally we had trouble with lighting and logistics on the night. So when we got to the edit, we knew we needed to go back and redo scenes. Thankfully the producer said yes, which was great. We had the opportunity to really rethink how we did it. Really liaise better with our stunt team. Think about make-up more. Just pure logistics really. Like how can we get a stunt actor into the scene? How can we get this done in 20 minutes rather than 8 hours.”

Talking to Paul and Brian it’s obvious they are passionate about film and how horror affords them to a chance to mix it up. Paul speaks about it as being a genre “with the most subgenres… Everything mixes with it and people accept that. They’ll take comedy in their horror, romance, action, whatever it is people will take it with horror.  That’s why Horror is such a broad topic. A lot of the films we like, like Dog Soldiers, From Dusk till Dawn,  they’re all genre-blending horror films. I love my pure horror as well but I love those blending of things. That’s what this film is – taking all these things we love, or are interested in, or find curious and sticking them all in one film together. And horror lets you do that.”

For an Irish horror, Killers Within could be a story told anywhere. “We didn’t want the film to be typical Irish film but there is some Irish in there, particularly in the dialogue,” Brian says. “But yes, the film could be set anywhere in the world. That was important for us making a genre film, not to be too colloquial. Paul goes on, “that’s part of how we write in general. Our influences are international and we write the story we want to see. It’s not specific to a location. This could be in the London, the Hamptons. It could be anywhere. It just happens just happens to be set in Ireland. If you look at English break-out films like Shaun of the Dead, yes they’re set in London or where ever but again that story is universal. The themes are universal.The characters are universal. The monsters are universal. That’s what we wanted to do here.”

If there was ever a PSA against tiger kidnappings, this would be it. Avoid those monsters, buy a lottery ticket, and join us in the IFI for a horrorful bank holiday screaming… I mean screening.

 

Killers Within screens Sunday, 28th October 2018 at 23.10 at the IFI as part of Horrorthon 2018 (25-29 October)

Share

Aislinn Clarke, Director of ‘The Devil’s Doorway’

 

In the autumn of 1960, Father Thomas Riley and Father John Thornton were sent by the Vatican to investigate a miraculous event in an Irish home for “fallen women”, They uncovered something much more horrific however, as their attention turned to a 16-year-old pregnant girl exhibiting signs of demonic possession.

Ahead of its screening at this year’s IFI Horrorthon, David Prendeville spoke to director Aislinn Clarke about her debut feature, The Devil’s Doorway.

 

How did the idea come about to make a film set in the Magdalene laundries and then how did it come about that it would be a found footage film?

In the initial stage the producer came to me. There was no script or anything at that point. He had an idea and he gave me a page-long pitch which was to do a modern-day horror partly set in an abandoned Magdalene laundry and shot on mostly GoPro so it would have been more like something like Grave Encounters. My feeling was that I didn’t think that was the film that I wanted to make but I felt there was something interesting to be done with the Magdalene laundries. I thought if you’re going to do a film about the Magdalene laundries you should go back to the ’60s, when there was the most people there and get into the heart of the human drama of those places rather than having the girls as spectres now as a kind of afterthought. I think all good horror has in its heart real human drama. I think it shouldn’t come afterwards, it should be the primary concern. If you look at something like Hereditary, it started out like a family drama and then came in the horror elements, not the other way around so I felt that would be the strongest way to do it. I’m a big horror fan, I watch everything. I know how much found footage there is out there and I know how much of it is really bad. Some of it is really good but even the really good stuff gets lost because there’s so much of it and so much of it so similar. I felt if you’re going to do one it needs to feel totally different. It needs to be bringing something new to that subgenre. So I thought you do something that found footage films don’t normally do, which is make it about something. It’s not just about how scary it is. I enjoy films like those too, I enjoyed Grave Encounters, Blair Witch Project, Paranormal Activity. I enjoyed those films but I felt this needed to be about something and I felt it was very obvious what it needs to be about. Then if we set it in the 1960s then we have to shoot on 16mm film because that’s how they would’ve done it.

 

How difficult was it to convince people that it needed to be shot on 16mm?

Really hard. Myself and the DoP Ryan Kernaghan had both shot on film previously together and separately so we’re both pretty used to that process. We shot some test stuff on different formats to illustrate how aesthetically different they were. To illustrate how much a film filter doesn’t trick you into feeling like its real film and if you’re selling something as found footage it needs to feel like an authentic document. You can’t just put a filter on top because they’re repetitive. They’re not organic. Subconsciously you can tell it doesn’t feel right. It will have repetitive flaws that would never happen on real film so we were able to convince them that this has such a nice aesthetic that was separate to everything else that we should do that. The concession we had in the end was that we would shoot anything that needed VFX digitally and match it up in the grade. That was in case there might be flaws on the film that would prevent us doing the VFX or that certainly would’ve made it harder and much more expensive to do. So that’s what we did. Ryan also got a good deal. He got a bunch of stock somewhere, really cheap. Some of the stock we used was expired. We used that for stuff we knew we didn’t need for the story but that was nice scene setting stuff. Some of it made into the finished film and it actually looks really good.

 

Did you feel as director that working within the found footage genre allowed in some ways for more creativity in how you approached certain scenes? I’m thinking of the birthing scene in particular here. It really stands out as being very powerful in the way that it utilises the found footage element to render the scene differently to the way it would be in other films.

It’s funny because it’s simultaneously limiting and freeing to have the constraints of found footage. You’ve only got a single camera so you can’t do things like get coverage for a scene. For the birthing scene in particular that suited me because I always knew how I wanted to do that scene. I always wanted it to be just her face. I was thinking of Dreyer’s Joan of Arc or Godard’s Vivre sa Vie. I was thinking also that there’s a tendency in modern films to show too much and there’s a weirdly prosaic effect. People are so used to being shown everything when it comes to gore and violence and all the rest that it has no effect. It just kind of washes over. But there’s something very uncomfortable about just watching a human face for an extended period of time. Also, what you do in your mind is going to be a lot more powerful than what you are seeing. There were conversations about coverage but I was adamant that that was how I wanted to shoot it. It also wouldn’t make sense within the story for it to be shot as if the priests were shooting it, as neither of them would do that. Neither of them could be in this room while that’s happening. This was the best way to do it. It’s my favourite scene in the film and I had to fight for it. I think it works. So yes, in a way found footage does have that thing that there are constraints but that the constraints are weirdly freeing. We also have conversations that are like monologues to camera with Father Thomas in particular. If that was shot in a more conventional way you would have reverses and show the other character and that takes a lot longer to film so that helped us film more quickly, as well as having done a lot of rehearsals before stepping on set. I think there’s a lot to be said for just a still camera. People move around a lot these days and there’s a lot of frenetic editing that’s fashionable. I like to just let a performance happen.

 

I understand you had three locations for the film? I also heard that the roof fell down in one of them the day after filming?

(Laughs) Yeah, that’s right. So the location we used for the church was actually the dining hall in a lovely mansion house in Belfast, formerly belonging to Lord Craigavon. Nobody had lived in it since the ’30s though it had been used as a hospital during the war. The day after we left the roof fell in. The house was kind of falling apart anyway. But it was kind of strange, if you wanted to read into things. People ask me about ghosts but I don’t really believe in ghosts. I wish I did, I think it’s a lot fun but I don’t. I think there was something else about one of the insurance documents had 666 engraved in it or something like that. There were theories flying around about a curse but, touch wood, I don’t think so.

 

The film has excellent performances in it as well. Could you tell me a bit about the casting process?

We auditioned everybody, particularly because the two executive producers were in LA. They wanted to see tapes. Helena, who plays the Mother Superior, I already knew and had my eye on. My husband and I both work in the theatre and he had worked with Helena there. I’d seen her in a few things. I had my eye on her but we did audition other people as well. Ciaran, who plays Father John, again I had my eye on him from theatre. We auditioned very widely. In the first round the producers were unsure about him but I knew he was right for the role. I think his first audition was a self-tape because he was in London or somewhere at the time. When I finally got him to come into the room with me, he nailed it. Then Lalor fell slightly outside of the age group that the casting director, Carla Strong, had for the role. Just you know you pick an age range and he happened to be slightly out of it. So he wasn’t in the first net we hauled in. But he heard about the project from a friend of his. He got in touch with me saying he’d really like to audition for this. It just struck something. So he came on down to my office. Again we had seen loads of people for that role and nobody was quite right. We had seen loads of people that were really good but not quite right. Lalor came down and just knocked it out of the park instantly. He was brilliant. Then in relation to Lauren who plays Kathleen, we had a different actor cast originally but due to scheduling problems she had to drop out during the shoot. We were literally already shooting when Lauren came down to audition. She auditioned on the set and that’s how she got the role. We shot the whole thing in 16 days and shot Lauren’s stuff in the second week.

Are there any films that particularly influenced you for the project?

Yeah that’s an interesting one. People assume that I’d be looking at stuff like The Blair Witch Project for something like this because it’s found footage but actually that’s not how I approach films anyway. Then you’re just repeating yourself or repeating somebody else. This is not really like that. It’s found footage but it’s no more like it than any other genre film. I was really thinking about the time, the mode of shooting, those sort of things so I was looking at a lot of documentaries from the early ’60s. In particular I was looking at The Maysles Brothers, cinema verite documentaries, stuff like Salesman because even the way you handle the camera, all of that, is going to effect the aesthetic of a film like this and it’s going to be totally different to how they handle the camera in Blair Witch. Its different equipment and of course they have the audio equipment too. Father John in the film doesn’t know he’s making a found-footage horror film, he thinks he’s making a documentary so that was the style I was trying to emulate.

 

What do you plan for your next film?

I have a couple of things in the works so, with different producers, so it’s just about seeing what comes together first in terms of financing. I’m working on a film with Fantastic Films so we’ll see where that goes. It’s in the horror genre again, I tend to gravitate toward horror or if it’s not horror, thriller or something dark. I’m attached also to direct a story that I haven’t written that’s a Bloody Mary origin story. I also have a folk-horror in development with a producer in London.

The Devils Doorway screens Friday, 26th October 2018 at 18.20 at the IFI as part of Horrorthon 2018 (25-29 October) 

Share

EUNIC’s Short Shorts @ IFI

Ten stories, three locations: Short Shorts brings international short films to the IFI

Event details: Monday 5 November, 6.30pm, IFI (free)

After screening at Galway Film Fleadh on 11 July, EUNIC’s Short Shorts from Europe Film Festival will make its second stop on 5 November at the Irish Film Institute (IFI). Seven from this collection of ten short films will compete for an audience award and each of EUNIC’s film festival partners will screen a nominated short.

Admission is free but booking is required @ bookings.dublin@cervantes.es.

Having been awarded the European Year of Cultural Heritage 2018 label, Short Shorts brings to the public some of the best European short films across many diverse genres such as animation, drama and documentary. Through its selection, EUNIC Ireland showcases a variety of stories such as memories from the start of a love affair, the all too realness of photos, a humorous look at austerity in cities, and that familiar urban legend of the disappearance of socks.

The short films competing for an audience vote are:

  • Pix by Sophie Linnenbaum (supported by the Goethe-Institut)
  • Clanker Man by Ben Steiner & Dan Nixon (supported by the British Council)
  • La primera vez que te vi by Guillermo Tirado & Daniel Tirado (supported by Instituto Cervantes Dublin / AECID)
  • Made in France by Maxime Guerry, Brice Dublé, Lamia Akhbbarn, Robin Cioffi, Stanislas Gruenais & Alexia Portal (supported by the Alliance Française / The French Embassy)
  • Time Traveller by Steve Kenny (supported by Culture Ireland)
  • Abgestempelt (Punched) by Michael Rittmannsberger (supported by the Austrian Embassy)
  • Here Cometh The Moon by Giulia di Battista & Gloria Kurnik (supported by Istituto Italiano di Cultura).

Short Shorts also brings three films out of competition to the IFI:

  • My Mother Is My Priest by Linda Bhreathnach (supported by the Galway Film Fleadh)
  • The Wedding Speech by Joe McStravick (supported by the Cork Film Festival)
  • Páistí Ag Obair by Louis Marcus (supported by the Irish Film Institute).

EUNIC’s Short Shorts from Europe Film Festival will next screen at the Cork Film Festival on 12 November.

Share

Review of Irish Film @ Galway Film Fleadh: IFI Local Films for Local People: Yet More Glimpses of Galway

 

Deirdre de Grae steps back in time at IFI Local Films for Local People: Yet More Glimpses of Galway, which screened at the 29th Galway Film Fleadh.

 

This unique cine-concert event was a curated by the Irish Film Institute (IFI) in collaboration with the National Museum of Ireland (NMI). IFI archivist, Sunniva O’Flynn, and NMI curator, Clodagh Doyle introduced their selection of short films with a wealth of in-depth knowledge, and were generous with the enlightening background information on each film.

This screening was a musical treat, as the silent films were accompanied by live fiddle player, Deirdre Ní Chonghaile. Deirdre is from the Aran islands, and carefully paired each traditional tune with the archive films, so that the music was relevant to the film’s content, time and place. The production of this archive presentation was thoughtful, well researched and a culturally enriching experience. The screening was a part of the IFI ‘Local Films for Local People’ – a nationwide tour of IFI archive films, shown in the regions where they were made. More details here:

The IFI archive films screened included: ‘The Electrification of Conamara’ (Colm Ó Laoighre, Gael Linn); ‘The All Ireland Championship Football Final’ (NFI); ‘Galway Bay Aircrash‘ (Movietone newsreel); and ‘The New Matchmakers‘ (Radharc). The silent films, curated by the NMI, included: depictions of agricultural life in rural Co. Galway; documentary footage of the Aran islands; and some ‘home movies’ of summer holidays in Co. Galway.

‘The Electrification of Conamara’ is a short newsreel piece, which was part of the Amharc Eireann series, directed and produced by Colm Ó Laoghaire for Gael Linn. This piece is in the Irish language and was shown in the Galway Film Fleadh without subtitles. The short film shows the introduction of electricity to rural Conamara, and was originally screened in cinemas around Ireland before feature films, in the 1960s.  These Gael Linn films are culturally significant and are currently archived in the IFI, with some available to view on the IFI player.  Colm Ó Laoghaire produced over two hundred and sixty editions of Amharc Eireann. The topics he covered were ‘Irish interest’ magazine and news stories – their preservation at the IFI provide a window into contemporary Irish life during the Whittaker and Lemass eras. A comprehensive history of the series by Dr. Mairead Pratschke, ‘A Look at Irish-Ireland: Gael Linn’s Amharc Eireann Films, 1956-64‘, is available to read and was used in the research for this article.

Amharc Eireann presented the Irish landscape, (focussing on historical and geographical sites) as the ‘locus of national identity and the repository of national culture’ (Pratschke). The eagráin or ‘issues’ (the producers referred to each series episode as an ‘eagrán’ (issue)-usually used for magazines) were presented as history lessons, which could be doubled up as promotional tools for heritage tourism. The key difference between these films and Bord Failte’s are the target demographic: Amharc Eireann promoted Ireland and its culture to the Irish people, rather than the international market.

This series by Gael Linn was a significant milestone in Irish filmmaking, and moreso Irish language filmmaking, as it was the first regular indigenous cinema newsreel since the ‘Irish Events’ series of the 1920s. Prior to Amharc Eireann, there had never been an Irish-language documentary or news-film series of any kind made or shown in Irish cinemas. Irish cinema audiences were shown only foreign productions on screen. Even the newsreels that preceded the main features were limited to those distributed by the British company, Rank Film Distributors. Rank began to include the Amharc Eireann films, for no fee, whereas the Irish film distributors contacted all required a fee – Gael Linn had a restricted budget and so went with the British distributor. By 1959, television had come to Britain and, shortly after, Rank withdrew its newsreels from Irish cinemas, which resulted in more Irish cinema screentime for Gael Linn. In 1959, the home-grown newsreel was produced weekly and expanded to include four separate news stories. The series continued until 1964 when television as a means of relaying news to the Irish population rendered the newsreel obsolete.

Copyright Radharc Trust 2010

‘The New Matchmakers’ (Radharc)

This documentary from the Catholic priest-led ‘Radharc’ production company, is a trove of hilarious moments that would fuel another season of Father Ted scripts. Although made relatively recently (1960s), the changes in Irish culture have been so vast, that it seems to be from another era. The focus of this documentary was ‘The Cupid of the West’- a matchmaking priest who set out to educate the young men of rural Ireland in the means of finding a wife. He tackled the issue in a direct manner, organising classes on ‘how to shave’ and ‘how to go on a date’, taught by a lady to a classroom of young  farming men. He also conducted hands-on, practical tutorials, in which he demonstrated correct dancing techniques to equip the young people to find a match at the local dances. These scenes caused peals of laughter from the audience in Town Hall Theatre, as well as awkward giggles from the young subjects on screen.

This concept in itself is hilarious to the current viewer, but was based in a genuine concern about the economic effects of depopulation of the rural west of Ireland, specifically the depopulation of young women. The film addressed this topic in a segment titled: “Where are all the young girls gone?”, in which we see happy, carefree, independent women working in Dublin – most reluctant to return to the country life they left behind. Meanwhile, in the west of Ireland, we are introduced to ‘poor Jimmy’, who lives alone and is too lazy to cook for himself (he farms potatoes but doesn’t have the wherewithal to cook them, so subsists on ‘smash’), with no woman to rescue him from his own incompetence.

Founded in 1959, Radharc is considered one of Ireland’s most important independent documentary production companies. The team made over 400 documentaries which were screened on RTÉ, Ireland’s national broadcaster, between 1961 and 1996. The Radharc cameras shone a light onto a changing Ireland and recorded values, rural and urban traditions that no longer exist. Unfortunately ‘The New Matchmakers’ is not available to view on the IFI player, but other Radharc programmes are

Further archive films can be watched on the IFI player, for free, here

Be warned, you may lose hours here!

 

‘IFI Local Films for Local People: Yet More Glimpses of Galway’ screened on Wednesday, 12th July 2017, as part of the 29th Galway Film Fleadh (11 – 16 July).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Share

Review: Straight Time (1978)

Tom Crowley checks out Ulu Grosbard’s 1978 film Straight Time, which recently screened at the IFI as part of its Dustin Hoffman Retrospective.

We begin Straight Time (1978) with our anti-hero Max Dembo (Hoffman) leaving prison after a six-year stint for armed robbery. Director Ulu Grosbard tricks us. He gives us a shot of a woman and her kids. We assume they are there to see our protagonist come home. They are not there for him. Max jumps in the back of a pick-up truck and hitches a lift to central Los Angeles. Max is alone, make no mistake about it. He visits the house of an old friend Willy (Busey). He is told by Willy’s wife (Bates) he is not welcome, he is a bad influence.

A career criminal Max is determined to go straight. In the space of a week he gets a job, finds a room to sleep in and even begins courting his recruitment agent Jenny (Russell). Max, however, never feels particularly comfortable in his environment. Over dinner with Jenny he explains that many inmates find it scarier on the outside; one gets the feeling that he is indirectly talking about himself. Despite this, Max gets on with it, Jenny the dominating motivator for him to live the straight life.

A serious obstacle to this is his passive aggressive parole officer Earl (Walsh). It is not easy to determine whether Earl is purposely being a menace or if he is just plain ignorant. Either way he is a thorn in the side of an already edgy Max. Max comes home one night to see his bedroom door open. Earl is nosing around his digs. He finds matches and automatically assumes Max is ‘fixing’. He sends him back to the county jail while he awaits results of a drug test.

This is the final straw for Max. He goes on the run with the support of Jenny. The plan is to rob enough money to leave L.A. for greener pastures. Once Max re-accepts his criminality we see Dustin Hoffman’s performance become far more external. The shifty and uneasy straight Max becomes far more purposeful when he embraces his identity as a criminal. First incarcerated as a juvenile, it is the only life he knows.

Max is connected. He runs in criminal circles, his only friends are criminals or ex-criminals. For better or worse this is who Max is. One of the ex-criminal’s is Jerry (Stanton). Max convinces him to go on a spree with him. Not that he needs much convincing. Jerry is a successful paint contractor but the straight life is boring the hell out of him. It is a terrific performance by Harry Dean Stanton who brings comedy and pathos to the film.

The first impression of Max is that he is a moral person caught up in an immoral world. He believes the world is unfair and he does everything he can to cheat it, a classic counter-culture hero. It is shocking then to see how greedy and at times violent Max can be. His greediness and violent behaviour is never glamorised either by the script or Hoffman’s performance. Max sucks you in, turns on you and the ultimate feeling you have for him is pity. It is one of Hoffman’s many career highs.

The script is adapted from a novel by Edward Bunker called No Beast So Fierce. A former career criminal himself Bunker turned to writing and acting. Film fans will perhaps most recognise Bunker from playing the part of Mr. Blue in Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs (1992). Max and his misadventures are based on Bunker and his life. The title of the book pleads sympathy for the devil. The film seems to at the beginning but ultimately loses this one track approach mainly on account of Hoffman’s layered performance.  Bunker shares a screenwriting credit for this film with two-time Oscar winner Alvin Sargent (Julia (1978) and Ordinary People (1981)) and Jeffery Boam. Bunker also has a cameo in a bar with a mustachioed Hoffman. They look like they could be father and son, or a weird cross-generational twin.

Straight Time is a fantastic, stirring, character-driven film. It is not always mentioned in Hoffman’s popular filmography but it is among the talented actors best work. A major flaw in the film is the relationship between Max and Jenny. It is never really clarified what attracts Jenny to Max so much. The answer is in the writing. Female characters are either underwritten or stereotyped in this film. This is an accusation you could point at many of the New Wave American films. Women are the object of male desire. They will do anything for them for little or no reason. Watching back as a revisionist it looks like a collective fantasy in the male-dominated writing rooms.

Having said that, this reviewer believes that Straight Time along with Scarecrow (1973) are two films from their potent era that deserve more attention.

 

 

Share

Dustin Hoffman Retrospective @ IFI

 

Dustin Hoffman’s breakthrough hit, The Graduate, returns to screens on Friday, June 23rd, to coincide with the 50th anniversary of its 1967 release. Mike Nichols’s now-iconic film centres on a young college graduate who is seduced by an older woman, and then falls in love with her daughter. Nine other films will be screened over a two-week period showcasing the best performances from Hoffman’s illustrious career.

John Schlesinger’s Midnight Cowboy kicks off the season on June 10th. Famously the only X-rated film to win the Oscar for Best Picture, Hoffman plays ‘Ratso’ Rizzo, a small-time New York conman who falls in with hustler Joe Buck (Jon Voight). Seven years later, Hoffman re-teamed with Schlesinger for the Marathon Manwhich screens the following Saturday, June 17th.

On June 15th, Hoffman delivers an electrifying performance as comedian Lenny Bruce in Bob Fosse’s Lenny. Bruce, the stand-up comedian whose focus on social satire, was the forerunner of controversial greats such as George Carlin and Bill Hicks; Hoffman received his third Oscar nomination for his performance.

Two titles in the season will be shown on 35mm prints. Papillon, one of cinema’s great prison films, screens on Sunday, June 18th. Co-starring Steve McQueen, the film focusses on two prisoners who form an alliance of convenience before eventually becoming friends. Also showing in 35mm will be Ulu Grosbard’s 1978 film, Straight Time. Based on a novel by Edward Bunker, the film sees Hoffman play Max Dembo, an ex-con trying to make it in the outside world.

Alan J Pakula’s Oscar-winning All the President’s Men returns on Thursday, June 22nd. Journalists Carl Bernstein (Hoffman) and Bob Woodward (Robert Redford) of the Washington Post work together on what initially appears to be a minor story of little import, a break-in at Washington’s Watergate Hotel in 1972. Their investigation led to the eventual downfall of the Nixon administration.

In Tootsie, directed by Sydney Pollack, Hoffman plays Michael Dorsey, an actor struggling more because of his difficult reputation than lack of talent. Desperate for work, he poses as ‘Dorothy Michaels’ in an audition for a daytime soap opera. Featuring a wondering comic turn from Hoffman, Jessica Lange won an Oscar for her role as actress Julie Nichols. The film screens on Saturday, June 24th.

Hoffman’s two Oscar-winning performances will also be shown during the season, both on Sunday, June 25th. Hoffman received his first golden statuette for his performance as workaholic Ted Kramer in Robert Benson’s Kramer Vs. Kramer. When his wife, Joanna (Meryl Streep), walks out, Kramer is forced to take care of his young son alone. In Rain Man,Hoffman plays autistic savant Raymond Babbitt, the older brother of Charlie (Tom Cruise); Charlie searches out his long-lost sibling, when he learns that Raymond is the major beneficiary of their father’s estate. The film went on to win four Oscars, including Best Picture.

Tickets for these screenings are available now at www.ifi.ie or by calling the IFI Box Office on 01 – 6793477.

SCHEDULE:

JUNE 10th (20.40) MIDNIGHT COWBOY

JUNE 15th (18.30) LENNY

JUNE 17th (20.30) MARATHON MAN

JUNE 18th (14.00) PAPILLON

JUNE 22nd (18.20) ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN

JUNE 23rd (20.40) STRAIGHT TIME

JUNE 24th (18.00) TOOTSIE

JUNE 25th (16.00) KRAMER VS. KRAMER

JUNE 25th (18.10) RAIN MAN

Share