JDIFF 2012 First Look Cinema Review: Michael, a chilling child-kidnapping tale from Austria

Jameson Dublin International Film Festival

First Look: Michael

Tuesday, 21st February, 6:15pm, Light House 

I was apprehensive going to see this feature from Austrian filmmaker Markus Schleinzer, its plot echoing the case of kidnapped Austrian girl Natascha Kampusch.  Michael (Michael Fuith) is holding a young boy Wolfgang (David Rauchenberger) captive in his basement and both go about their day-to-day lives.

This film is not out to shock the viewer with graphic scenes instead it is the  filmmaker’s skill and the viewer’s imagination that conjures up the sometimes chilling horror.  Schleinzer sticks to the everyday logisitics of a pedophile keeping a captive child, for instance showing him wandering around a supermarket with a large load of groceries in preparation for when he leaves the house for a prolonged period.

It contains another great performance from a younger actor in this year’s Jameson Dublin International Film Festival in David Rauchenbuger.  One can’t help wondering how Schleinzer went about directing him without leaving a seriously scarred and traumatised child actor behind, or at least one not more scarred and traumatised than regular child actors.

Michael Fuith, perhaps unfortunately for him, looks like he was born to play a child predator.  When these horrific cases come to light, you often hear neighbours and work colleagues say how shocked they were, that the perpetrator was always so quiet and polite and it was the last thing they would have expected.  Fuith’s Michael is exactly that. Frequently silent, expressionless, emotionless, socially awkward, going about his otherwise mundane daily life.

Its subject matter makes it tough to recommend as a ‘go-see’ piece of entertainment, but the techniques employed by Schleinzer to conjure up tension and dread in an audience ought to be admired and experienced.

Gordon Gaffney

 

Click here for Film Ireland’s coverage of this year’s Jameson Dublin International Film Festival

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aUg0Mok8TTQ

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JDIFF 2012 First Look Cinema Review: Margaret, directed by Kenneth Lonergan

Jameson Dublin International Film Festival

First Look: Margaret

Tuesday, 21st February, 8:00pm, Cineworld

In Kenneth Lonergan’s long-awaited return to filmmaking since his breakout success, You Can Count On Me (2000), he delivers an emotionally intense and engaging drama set in New York City post 9/11. The film relates the story of teenager Lisa (Anna Paquin) whose path crosses with a bus driver, played by Mark Ruffalo. Their chance encounter results in a gruesome bus crash, claiming the life of a woman. And what ensues is a relentless pursuit for justice and atonement.

Oscar®-winner Anna Paquin delivers an impeccable and powerful performance playing Lisa, the somewhat spoilt, awkward and self-absorbed teenage daughter of separated parents, off-Broadway actress Joan (J Smith-Cameron) and Karl (played by the director, Kenneth Lonergan) who lives on the West Coast. As well as going through the horrific ordeal of the bus crash, Lisa is dealing with all the other issues that any typical teenager has to face. As a result her teenage angst seems to be amplified, to the point she often becomes a very annoying character, but this essentially works really well.

Margaret boasts a very talented and well-known cast. Even with their comparatively small roles Matthew Broderick, Matt Damon, Allison Janney, Jean Reno and Mark Ruffalo give great performances and their characters all have a vital role to play in the life of Paquin’s character.  Jeannie Berlin also gives a stunning performance as Emily, the dead woman’s best friend with whom Lisa teams up with in her quest for justice.

Lonergan’s portrayal of a young woman’s struggle with her conscience is superb. He captures the highs and lows that Lisa’s situation generates, from the beautifully calm slow motion sequences of Lisa walking through the city, to the powerful scene with Emily in the lawyer’s office for the last time where she has a complete breakdown. Another interesting aspect to this film is the complete role reversal of the characters. The usual student/teacher and child/parent roles seem to be reversed. The adults in this film are quite selfish, irresponsible and too caught up in their own lives to be able to give Lisa the moral guidance she so desperately wants and needs.

Her mother is completely preoccupied with her new play and new romance with Ramon (played by Jean Reno). Her father, who lives on the West (opposite) coast has a new family and is trying to kick start his career. He and Lisa have awkward conversations that show she is desperate for a parent – but he never delivers. Emily seems to be her only source of comfort and counsel but does at times question Lisa’s intentions.

Kenneth Lonergan participated in a Q&A after the film. The audience had nothing but praise for Lonergan and this, his second film. His tremendous love and respect for his cast and crew really came across as he talked about making this film. Apart from the fact that his wife plays Lisa’s mother Joan (J. Smith-Cameron) and he went to high school with Matthew Broderick, he really defends the merit in working with people he knew. He wanted to work with talented people, and the people whose talents he knows, are people he knows. Simple. He spoke of Anna Paquins performance as ‘always at full pitch’. He also spoke about the above-mentioned scene where Lisa and Emily are in the lawyer’s office for the last time and describes how she achieved her amazing performance after only three takes. Lonergan described how with the crew he watched that scene from another room on a monitor. When Paquin finished the scene and came into the room where they all were and he described how  ‘the emotion ebbed out of her’.

I found this film completely compelling and complex. The only criticism I would have is that there seems to be too much going on towards the end of the film, so much so, that some of the sub storylines don’t seem very plausible. But this doesn’t take away from the overall brilliance of the long overdue return to the director’s chair of Kenneth Lonergan.

Michelle Cunningham

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JDIFF 2012 Irish Cinema Review: Silence, Pat Collins and Eoghan Mac Giolla Bhríde

Jameson Dublin International Film Festival

Irish: Silence

Thursday, 23rd February, 8:45pm, Light House

 

Pitched somewhere between documentary and fictional film Silence gently eases us through a defiantly abstract story. It stars Eoghan Mac Giolla Bhríde as a man who is striving to capture silence on audio, or the closest approximation to it. Wandering across the Irish landscape he attempts to locate a place untouched by man-made noise to fuel this private obsession and the film employs a great deal of natural longueurs to illustrate the natural splendour of the countryside.

 

Eoghan’s crusade brings him into contact with a few different characters who like himself appear to live on the fringe of a world slightly more exaggerated than real life and it’s in this mingling of the real and fantasy that the film retains its mystery.

I notice that the character’s name which is shared by the actor is only uttered once in the film casually by an old man he converses with near the end, the line between improvising and script becoming blurred. The mix of professional actors and real people lends an unsteady air to the whole proceeding. With the lead also being an audio engineer outside his acting work this lends an authenticity to his role.

 

In conversation with filmmaker Ken Wardrop following the screening the director Pat Collins told us that the treatment was at one both specific of back stories but loose regarding the framing of scenes. While certain beats and story moments had to be hit the tone of the piece feels elusive and stark.  Collins explains, ‘It began as an idea of the old time folk collector, the man who records stories for future generations.’ Utilizing some archive material which is interspersed throughout conveys that message of lineage economically and to great effect.

 

When divorced from the overriding idea of silence as an artistic or personal force the film is essentially a prodigal son story, the man afraid to return to the island of his youth, to the weighty silence of home. The character is very remote, letting very little personal information trickle out in his various conversations, his discussion with a writer erring on the side of abstract analysis, his conversation with another man being far more generalised.

 

It is interesting to note that it is when faced with a younger generation and through the Irish language (obviously a skill he does not employ inBerlinwhere he currently lives, one of the few concrete facts we are told about him) that he seems to open up the most when faced with the naivety of youth. The boy he discusses his life with seems to ask far more probing questions unknowingly than other adults featured. Perhaps the boy lacks a filter or finesse the other characters would have used when discussing such matters.

 

Visually stunning, the array of locations from Berlin via Cork, Mayo and Belfast amongst others is caught with a loving eye and an artist’s appreciation of scope. However I can’t deny that the film left me somewhat cold as the quest is somewhat academic and sterile and the character too vague. I understand this was a choice on its creators part and having a more conventional structure and protagonist would have run the risk of sentimentality I do wish there was more of a hook here. While trying to avoid maudlin clichés they fell afoul of the other extreme and have crafted a cold arty piece that while masterfully shot its fidelity to silence leaves all other senses out of the loop.

 

Emmet O’Brien
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JDIFF 2012 Out of the Past: Baraka,1992

Jameson Dublin International Film Festival 2012

Out of the Past: Baraka

Saturday, 25th February, 1:00pm, Cineworld

Although not blatant and certainly not hamstrung by an imposed agenda beyond that of the viewer’s own reactions, Ron Fricke’s enduring documentary still tells a story of sorts. Its narrative arc lies in the development of our planet and it charts a world which in the early stages is untouched by man before then detailing a wide array of different cultures and their impact before finally turning skyward to loftier, less earthbound concerns.

While abstract and obtuse in its execution the film is quite approachable as the images offered are often beautiful tableaux. It is crisply shot with a vibrancy that benefits the diverse tones and textures of the journey. A lack of framing device or voiceover lets us bring our own sensibilities to the piece and I do believe it’s this lack of structure that accounts for Baraka’s legacy. A voiceover or a framing device would have hemmed in the film and forced the hand of its filmmakers to arrive at some trite point, the whole planet and civilisation boiled down into some weary soundbite. One can comment on and condemn human atrocities such as concentration camps without lecturing, and in a world where talking head documentaries manipulate an audience so condescendingly it is refreshing to see such broad strokes used to subtle effect.

It is obvious that Fricke honed his skills as a cinematographer on a similar style of films the Qatsi trilogy, directed by Godfrey Reggio, and this is his chance to personally tackle large issues in a way only cinema can. The term visual poetry has become overused but some of the beats here definitely flow with a rhythm one scene involving a colossal bell is a compelling moment. Photography comes close to this pursuit of capturing the world. However a picture is only the tease of an event but seeing a communal tribal chant for example in its full glory needs motion. It needs sound.

When focused on people and their rituals the film casts its spell admirably but as breathtaking as landscapes can be the novelty of seeing a volcano can wear off surprisingly quickly and long shots of that nature when overdone has always rankled me as something almost predictably art house. Baraka does fall into that trap but rarely as the cumulative effect of the visuals does satisfy on both an emotional and aesthetic level. With its sequel having just been released in Samsara it is time to revisit this and while it can only hint at this planet’s infancy and the future it would be interesting to see how far the filmmaker Ron Fricke has himself matured in the interim and to contrast his views on nature and technology in a time when the latter is more prevalent than ever.

Emmet O’Brien
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JDIFF 2012 Real to Reel Cinema Review: This Is Not A Film [In Film Nist]

Jameson Dublin International Film Festival 2012

Real To Reel: This Is Not A Film [In Film Nist]

Sunday, 19th February, 6:00pm, Light House

 

This is Not a Film documents Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi’s house arrest leading up to a 6 year jail sentence for making films against the ‘Islamic regime’. Directorial credits are shared between Panahi and Mojtaba Mirtahmasb (one of six Iranian filmmakers arrested in September 2011), who shows up early in the film in order to document Panahi in his apartment. Early scenes involve Panahi simply setting up a camera, recording his phone conversations with his apologetic attorney, and the more mundane aspects of his life, such as brewing tea and doing the dishes. Once Mirtahmasb arrives, Panahi begins to read, and even perform what would have been his next film.

The film would have received attention and possibly even acclaim if it were purely a document of Panahi’s arrest, yet there are many other fascinating aspects to this film. We get great insight into Panahi’s filmmaking style and values, through his discussions and performances of his unproduced script, and even the commentaries that he provides while he watches scenes from his own films.

Panahi has consistently shown an almost unparalled ability to extract very charming and engaging performances from his mostly non-professional actors.. He even  comments on the process of direcing non-actors while watching a clip of Crimson Gold and The Mirror. Towards the end of the film, after saying goodbye to his co-director Mirtahmasb, he meets a young student who is collecting garbage on each floor of the apartment complex. Panahi follows him and interviews him for over fifteen minutes, in a revealing and hilarious sequence. Panahi seems to recognise instantly that there is something interesting about this young man and his instinct is rewarded with an accidentally beautiful climax which visually mirrors  the closing of his 2006 film Offside.

Panahi comes across as effortlessly charming, a very gentle but passionate figure. There are several moments in the film where he addresses the issue of being a subject within his own film, of whether he is in fact performing and not being himself. It provides an interesting insight into Panahi’s values as a filmmaker. In spite of his rather dire situation, he appears to be composed and calm throughout the film. There is a beautiful moment of personal resistance against his arrest, where he declares that while banned for twenty years from writing, directing, and interviews, he is not banned from acting. This calm resistance is temporarily shattered during his script reading of his unmade film, where he dejectedly asks: ‘If we could tell a film, then why make a film?’ It is unclear whether he is questioning the value of his enactment of his script, or the filmmaking process itself. One wonders if this tension led to the film being titled This Is Not a Film. The moment interestingly mirrors the famous closing scene of Pasolini’s The Decameron, where Pasolini, himself a persecuted artist,utters a very similar line.

Panahi’s films have always expressed a love of life and people against a backdrop of political repression. Panahi and Mirtahmasb have continued this concern, as they refuse to sacrifice humour and charm for a larger political theme. The film will arrive in Dublin cinemas towards the end of March, and if one is not inclined towards political films, then lovers of cinema in general will find enough thought provoking material in a work which declares itself to not be a film at all.

 

Kieran O’Leary

Click here for Film Ireland‘s coverage of this year’s Jameson Dublin International Film Festival

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Film Ireland at the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival JDIFF 2012

 

The 2012 Jameson Dublin International Film Festival brought the best of world and Irish cinema to Dublin and www.filmireland.net had the most extensive coverage in the country.

Thursday, 16th February

Cloudburst

Friday, 17th February

IFB Shorts

Saturday, 18th February

Crulic – The Path to Beyond

Apples of the Golan

The Enigma of Frank Ryan

The City Below [Unter Dir Die Stadt]

Häxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages

Sunday, 19th February

Turn Me On, Goddammit [Få Meg På, For Faen]

This Is Not A Film [In Film Nist]

Le Havre

Hill Street

Tin Can Man

Monday, 20th February

 

Tuesday, 21st February

Silver Tongues

Michael

The Far Side of Revenge

Margaret

 

Wednesday, 22nd February

The Panic in Needle Park

A Quiet Life [Una Vita Tranquilla]

Dreamtime, Revisited

In Darkness

 

Thursday, 23rd February

Calvet

Batman

Silence

The Day I Was Not Born [Das Lied In Mir]

 

Friday, 24th February

JDIFF: Shorts

Nightdancers

 

Saturday, 25th February

Baraka

Sunday, 26th February

 

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JDIFF 2012 German Cinema Review: The Day I Was Not Born [Das Lied In Mir], in co-operation with Goethe-Institut Irland

 

Jameson Dublin International Film Festival 2012

German: The Day I Was Not Born [Das Lied In Mir]

Thursday, 23rd February, 8:45pm, Light House

 

Jessica Schwarz plays Maria a German girl on her way to Santiago, Chile who gets stuck in Buenos Aries, Argentina.  While there she discovers that she is not who she thinks she is and that she was adopted, or was she ‘stolen’?, out of the country as a child by her German ‘parents’.

This is a slow quiet well crafted movie, there are some tenderly awkward scenes when she meets her blood relations from Buenos Aires and the movie touches on the still raw subject of the Argentinian military dictatorship.

It’s the type of film Michael Bay doesn’t make, which could be recommendation enough to seek it out.

Presented in co-operation with the Goethe-Institut Irland.

Gordon Gaffney

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JDIFF 2012: Out of the Past Cinema Review: Tim Burton’s Batman

Jameson Dublin International Film Festival

Out of the Past: Batman

Thursday, 23rd February, 6:00pm, Light House

Few icons are as known world wide as Batman, the bat signal itself being a logo that can be found in the most unlikely of corners and a huge part of the ubiquity is down to how the character has been portrayed in various media since his inception.

However the character was nearly overwhelmed by tonal shifts throughout his tenure. Firstly in the 1950s where the grim and Gothic crusader was replaced by a frothy boyscout all silly adventures which took him out of his usual milieu and dumped him into adventures encompassing time travel and cosmic concerns.

The ’60s then brought the smash hit TV show which built on the revised ideal and repositioned the character as a camp ringleader of a truly absurd and lighthearted world. With the humour ramped up the essence of this dark character was being lost. This had to be rectified. While it’s true, the essential elements of Batman lends itself to an endless array of interpretations, it was still decided that as a property it needed to return to its roots. Under the stewardship of writers such as Denny Adams and Frank Miller not to mention the moody art of Neal Adams, the comics began to claw back the angst and twisted sensibilities that first defined the book and it’s this version of the character that Tim Burton, long time fan of dark fairytales would fashion the tone to take Batman onto a wider stage.

With its film noir trappings and exaggerated and askew internal logic the film works in killing off the earlier camp but fails to hang together as a coherent film. A famously chaotic production (the final Batman/Joker confrontation, being written on set, which explains its poor resolution) one gets the feeling that the film had too many cooks. Having to accommodate Jack Nicholson who puts in a towerhouse performance as himself in clown make up, Prince on the soundtrack whose funk stylings clash with everything around it, introducing a hero, his entire raison d’etre and a love interest proves too much for a director who admits narrative is not his strong point. The love story is ridiculous even as these things go, rushed and unconvincing a potentially vital character reduced to a mere damsel in distress.

There’s no throughline to the film to anchor it as its constantly mutating script introduces elements only to discard them like some ‘wonderful toys’ as Joker himself might say. It’s a collection of ideas and tics rather than a proper story. Being too dark for children, whose desire for escapism would not be sated with this dismal and undesirable world and too simplistic for adults, its garish roster of gangsters and shallow characters find no nuance and settles instead for being patronisingly cartoony. Burton should have taken after Richard Donner’s philosophy when making Superman the movie, his notion of verisimilitude, that subject matter like this must be played straight to actually work.

Despite being dissatisfying as a whole there is one thing it gets right. Controversial when announced, the casting of Michael Keaton proved a masterstroke, his Bruce Wayne a nervy counterpoint to the more square jawed archetype of the comics and all the more interesting for that. Bob Kane who lobbied against the decision was forced to concede his mistake when Keaton impressed. The other feature of the film which is perfect is the score provided by Danny Elfmann a stirring piece which became iconic in its own right and endured past the films as the theme of the definitive Batman Animated series of the ’90s.

Simon Terzise gave a talk before the film extoling the virtures of the score remarking on its power and iconic stature. Burton himself did not relish the experience of making the film and his return to the series in ’92 for the very flawed but superior Batman Returns was a way for him to absolve the mistakes of this. It’s easy to see on screen why he felt uneasy about it all but the character has suffered far worse that this over his lengthy career. The movies most famous question, posed nonchalantly by Nicholson was ‘Ever dance with the devil in the pale moonlight?’ Yes we can answer and a most mediocre experience it was as it turns out.

Emmet O’Brien

Click here for Film Ireland’s coverage of this year’s Jameson Dublin International Film Festival

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HlsM2_8u_mk

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JDIFF 2012 Real To Reel Cinema Review: Calvet

Jameson Dublin International Film Festival

Real to Reel: Calvet

Thursday, 23rd February, 4:00pm, Cineworld

It’s Scarface meets doodling. When you get a fascinating subject for a documentary you must be half way there. Like the jaw-dropping life story of John Healy documented in Paul Duane’s John Healy: Barbaric Genius which was screened at last year’s Jameson Dublin International Film Festival, the subject of this documentary, Jean Marc Calvet, has battled his way through addiction and self destruction, homelessness, run-ins with the law and unsavoury types along with bodyguarding and scamming for good measure, before dramatically finding redemption through painting.

The first 30 minutes contains a heart stopping recollection of a scam carried out by Calvet in Tony Montana’s old stomping ground of Miami and in another nod to the Cuban, the titles are in blood red accompanied with thumping sound track.  This is no ordinary documentary.

Calvet is an intriguing subject; flawed, selfish and egocentric but also searingly honest and talented, indeed a price of $100,000 is placed on a painting of his by a gallery owner in New York. One gets the sense that the documentary is helping him exorcise some of his demons, just some as he looks like he holds plenty in reserve, and spurs him on to try and make good on mistakes he made in the past, in particular trying to contact his son that he abandoned many years ago as he is about to turn 18.

In the Q&A chaired by Dr. Harvey O’Brien, co-producer Brendan Byrne and Editor  Paul Carlin met in person for the first time.  Byrne said he is drawn to stories of redemption and justice but that in this case when he heard the story he thought it was too good to be true.  He also felt that it should have at least reached the Oscar® longlist for Best Documentary but the fact that it is predominantly in French held it back. Carlin said the main difficulty was the pacing and that he didn’t want to treat it as an art documentary.

But is it a true story?  Byrne believes it is 100% true and the thought that it wasn’t didn’t cross his mind until after the movie was screened and someone else brought it up.  My own thoughts are, as often happens, this story is too unbelievable and outlandish to have been made up.

*****SPOILER ALERT – QUESTIONS ANSWERED IN THE Q&A******

The documentary does raise some unanswered questions that were answered at the Q&A.

Byrne, who seems well used to the festival Q&A circuit, revealed that Calvet is indeed taking a risk going public, and the possibility of him being found and killed by his former employer is a plausible but to his mind unlikey threat.

Regarding the crew filming Calvet at intensely private family meetings Byrne believed that the camera spurred him and pushed him into doing things that otherwise he might have backed out on.  After discussions with family members that he had a crew there they consented to being filmed.

Gordon Gaffney

Click here for Film Ireland’s coverage of this year’s Jameson Dublin International Film Festival

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JDIFF 2012 Discovery Cinema Review: A Quiet Life [Una Vita Tranquilla]

Jameson Dublin International Film Festival

Discovery: A Quiet Life [Una Vita Tranquilla]

Wednesday, 22nd February, 8:10pm, Light House

Claudio Cupellini’s beautifully paced thriller A Quiet Life (2010) is not a mob movie.

Yes, the film glimpses at the shady reality of the Italian mafia but above that it looks intensely at a man’s fight for survival and his complex relationships with those closest to him.

Two decades after faking his own death to escape life with the Neapolitan mafia, Rosario (Toni Servillo), has set up a picture perfect life for himself in Frankfurt, Germany. He has a beautiful wife, a loving son and a successful hotel to run. However, when the young Italian Diego (Marco D’Amore) arrives on his doorstep with his boorish companion Edoardo (Francesco Di Leva) in tow, it isn’t long before the secrets of Rosario’s past start to unfold.

By shunning over-the-top mob movie clichés, the suspense in this tense thriller comes not from car chases and shoot-outs but from the sheer anguish of a man hiding a dark secret.

The critically acclaimed Servillo (Il Divo, Gomorrah) portrays this anguish with remarkable intensity, layer upon layer of emotion playing out on his face in almost every scene.

Sevillo moves with such fluidity from personas (jovial boss, loving family man, cold-blooded killer) that we are left wondering if we, like his own family, know him at all.

At times, close-ups of Rosario’s grimacing and weathered face enhanced by an expertly executed soundtrack and sharp editing leave you breathless.

The way in which the threat of violence simmers behind Rosario’s mild-mannered facade is enough to set the viewer on the edge. Mirroring this, the director only resorts to violence when vital to the plot but it is unnervingly ever present and poised to erupt – from the erratic behaviour of the coke-snorting Edoardo to the arty close-up of a brewing coffee pot on the point of boiling over.

Rosario’s frantic bid to kill off his violent past and preserve his future is shrewdly symbolised throughout – he hunts wild boar and puts mercury-studded nails into trees in his hotel’s backyard so that they will die and he can put up a biergarten where they’re still standing

Sadly, the director was unavailable for the Q&A due to take place after the screening. Perhaps Cupellini’s absence was itself a manufactured metaphor for his protagonist’s own disappearance.  Overreaching? Probably, however it was a shame none-the-less to miss spending a while in the company of the creator of such a gripping gaze at love, death and identity.

Carmen Bryce

Click here for Film Ireland’s coverage of this year’s Jameson Dublin International Film Festival

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wYeppf0lytc

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JDIFF 2012 Out of the Past Cinema Review: The Panic in Needle Park, starring Al Pacino

Jameson Dublin International Film Festival

Out of the Past: The Panic in Needle Park

Wednesday, 22nd February, 5:30pm, Cineworld 

Cautionary tales are a tricky thing to get right, especially when the subject matter is drug use, the temptation for the material to get heavy handed is always there and skill must be taken to ensure that while not condoning the lifestyle, the film doesn’t just become a sermon.

For the majority of its running time The Panic in Needle Park views its characters in a detached manner. Glimpses of intimacy between its central pair, the streetwise but permanently small fry Bobby and naive and sympathetic Helen are there, but the film covers a lot of ground in their relationship so the courtship is sketched rather than painstakingly pored over. This suits the subject of the film, the relationship begins like the giddy rush of drug use when parties stretch on for days and in that heady context the wastrels and prostitutes which surround the couple are given a worldly bohemian glow. While not glamorised in any real way the initial stages of the film do have a charming air. Pacino is at his best in these scenes, conveying Bobby’s roguishness that when divorced from the practicalities of what he actually does would make him quite seductive to the sheltered and introverted Helen. It’s not long before the inevitable comedown as we see Helen descend into a seedy lifestyle of her own, turning tricks to score drugs and become the main breadwinner .

In a post-Trainspotting world this arc is quite standard and as an audience we can see the beats as they come, anticipating the debasement we get on the screen. For its time I have no doubt it was shocking and a milestone regarding its themes and was greatly influential but it is more interesting for the impact it made rather than for its actual content. Some lovely moments are undercut by a narrative that stretches on for too long, the ups and downs of Helen and Bobby soon become quite wearying and it definitely overstays its welcome as in its latter moments the whole thing loses narrative focus and indulges some cliches and overly moralistic asides.

As Pacino’s second ever acting role The Panic in Needle Park is an interesting curio for fans of his, however it is surprising that as the film becomes more dramatic and pointed his performance falters a bit.

Kitty Winn on the other hand is a revelation throughout and the finest performance on screen, her gradual fall from innocence is full of nuance and it makes her the most tragic figure of all. She very much deserved her Best Actress win at Cannes that year for her work here. As an artifact of the 70s the film is very much of its time, and shows us the curdling of the ’60s hippie ideal of recreational drug use into a more desperate arena of shooting up and getting strung out. The dream was over well before the panic started.

 Emmet O’Brien

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JDIFF 2012: Häxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages

Jameson Dublin International Film Festival 2012

Special Presentation:

Häxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages

Saturday, 18th February, 8.15pm, Light House

Nudity, Satan, ass-kissing, torture, cat faeces, black Masses, demon births – of course… it’s 1922. All this and more make up Benjamin Christensen’s enigmatic horror docudrama Häxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages, which screened on Saturday evening as part of the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival 2012 The Special Presentation provided a Dublin audience with a unique opportunity to experience this Swedish masterpiece from the silent era, accompanied by a live score from the Matti Bye Ensemble in the Light House cinema.

Both the film and the live score cast its own particular spell over the audience who were transported to supernatural dimensions by the bizarre visions unfolding before their eyes and the eerie sounds entering their ears.

The film’s journey through the history of witchcraft is a highly stylised mixture of fact and fiction utilising a dazzling array of styles and visual flair to launch its damning indictment of religious persecution. The Matti Bye Ensemble provided the perfect soundscape bewitching the audience with their beautiful organisation and manipulation of their instruments (piano, glockenspiel, haunting vocals, toys, violin, musical saw, pump organ, electric guitar) to create a mesmerizing ambiance to accompany the film.

All in all, truly an extra-ordinary experience.

Steven Galvin

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JDIFF 2012 Discovery Cinema Review: Silver Tongues

Silver Tongues

Jameson Dublin International Film Festival

Discovery: Silver Tongues

Tuesday, 21st February, 8:20pm, Cineworld 

There’s no wonder Simon Arthur’s odd, episodic wonder Silver Tongues has been picking up awards at festivals around the globe. As one of the most tangible and original indie pictures I’ve had the pleasure – and the intense unease – of viewing for a long time, I would desperately love to go into the fabulously dark depths of the plot. Unfortunately I can’t, as to do so would give away too many spoilers, so just give the trailer a watch below and take from it what you can.

Films that makes you giggle and disturb you to the very core of your being are a rare thing, yet Silver Tongues somehow manages to get away with doing both because of its untraditional, wry nature as a character study. I suppose it’s this disjointedness that keeps the film far enough away from reality so that the tougher elements are more palatable  – and it also means the plot is completely unpredictable.

The Q&A after with the film’s writer/director and handsome Scotsman, Simon Arthur, proved just as fascinating. Simon had worked as a screenwriter in the UK for quite a while but shared with us how he felt he really didn’t understand people or society. Because of this he ended up working as a prison guard for a number of months and then as security in a brothel. The following year he slept on the streets of London, where he spent time living with the homeless. Simon told us how he had to exaggerate parts of his personality to fit into those worlds, but that everybody else in them was doing the same. That’s where his vision for the Silver Tongues’ main theme, shedding identity, began.

For twenty minutes he regaled us with his experiences; moving to the US, working with the actors, making his first film, his plans for the future and even how he wouldn’t be very good at shooting Transformers. And then we were all left to wander back into the rain, still shell shocked and remembering bits of subtle plot nuances as we went for last buses.

Gemma Creagh

– On second thoughts… much like the film overall, this trailer is pretty deceptive. So if you have an elderly nan who loves psychological thrillers and plan on catching it when it’s released on Netflix…? Don’t. There are some very nasty violent and rapey bits throughout.

 

Click here for Film Ireland’s coverage of this year’s Jameson Dublin International Film Festival

Click here for full details and to book tickets for this year’s Jameson Dublin International Film Festival

 

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JDIFF 2012 Irish Cinema Review: Hill Street, Dublin Skateboarding Documentary with archive footage of Tony Hawk

 

"Hill Street"

Jameson Dublin International Film Festival 2012

Irish: Hill Street

Sunday, 19th February, 6:45pm, Cineworld

Director JJ Rolfe and producer Dave Leahy put together the zero budget 46 minute long skateboarding documentary Hill Street in time for this year’s Jameson Dublin International Film Festival.  Featuring talking heads of well-known characters from the Dublin skateboarding scene plus some great achive footage, including the legendary Tony Hawk, it tells the story of how skateboarding in the city developed over the years.

It is an entertaining and witty account of a subculture, or ‘fad’ as Dublin City Council called it, that I knew little about. There is the Hill Street shop of Clive Rowan, the first professional skateboard shop opened up in a rough-around-the-edges area of Dublin 1.  A shop talked about in mythical terms amongst the children of a pre-internet time not yet old enough to travel there and see it for themselves, although some braved it.

The sense of a community of outsiders, the warmth and humour of those involved comes across in the film and was present at the completely sold-out screening with patrons greeting one another as they entered the auditorium for its world premiere.

The generosity of the community of skateboarders is evident through the impressive collection of archive footage sent into Rolfe and Leahy. In the days before everyone recorded live events on their phones instead of actually watching them, there is a clip of a long-haired Tony Hawk doing a 540 off of a tiny ramp in Dublin and some great everyday footage from both inside and outside Rowan’s shop.

In the Q&A Rolfe and Leahy explained that they had a lot of interest and support from the Irish Film Board, Broadcasters and the BAI, but no money was forthcoming. So they went and made it anyway. One hope they have is that they will get more funding to extend it to 80 minutes as they have a lot more archive footage, but for now they are thankful that Grainne Humphreys and JDIFF allowed them to present this version to a festival audience.

Gordon Gaffney

Click here for Film Ireland‘s coverage of this year’s Jameson Dublin International Film Festival

Click here for full details and to book tickets for this year’s Jameson Dublin International Film Festival

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_IIa7iwoLdM

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JDIFF 2012: The Enigma of Frank Ryan

Jameson Dublin International Film Festival 2012

Irish:

The Enigma of Frank Ryan

Saturday, 18th February, 6.30pm, Light House

The Enigma of Frank Ryan is Desmond Bell’s ambitious dramatization of the life of the Irish republican socialist Frank Ryan, probably best known for his role in the Spanish Civil War. Bell’s film tackles this alongside his involvement in the IRA and his controversial time in Nazi Germany. A dynamic figure, Limerick-born Ryan was very much a multdimensional character, which the film tries to show, and attempts to deal with the complexity of Frank Ryan that history served up and the political self-contradictions that he was.

The enigma of the title refers to Ryan’s actions during his life as a revered Irish Republican leader of the 1920s and 1930s and leader of Ireland’s International Brigade volunteers fighting fascism in the Spanish Civil War, yet ending his life in some quarters being regarded as some sort of ‘crypto-Nazi’ and branded a collaborator for his time in Nazi Germany split ideologically by the adage ‘England’s misfortune is Ireland’s opportunity’.

Ryan’s story is told in flashback, with Ryan recording his tale for German radio in war-time Berlin, before his death in a hospital in Dresden in 1944. Bell’s film makes skillful use of archival footage effortlessly interweaved throughout the narrative and is held together by Dara Devaney’s solid central performance as Ryan.

While some may have problems with the film’s reading of events it’s clear that Bell’s intent is to bring a more expressive interpretation of historical fact to an audience, which he succeeds in doing in a fertile manner. The film invites debate and functions as a gateway for further research for those interested.

In a lively Q&A after the screening Desmond Bell explained how he had been aware of the story for a long time referring to it as an ‘elephant in the room’ when he was active in politics on the left himself 25 years ago. It was always a story he had wanted to tell but it was a question of how to find the resources and the strategy to deal with the story in its breadth. Bell was joined by Queens lecturer Dr Fearghal McGarry, who acted as historical consultant on the film. McGarry told the audience he found it very challenging to participate in the making of the docu-drama because the project involved using historical imagination and that his role was not simply to provide historical detail but to determine whether the film is getting the essence of the story across and support the dramatic sense of the project. Bell admitted that he had to sacrifice complex intellectual and ideological argument for the sake of getting the broad contours of the story across to a general audience.

An informative, engaging  and well-constructed film, Desmond Bell’s The Enigma of Frank Ryan is an engrossing story of great scale and significance of a fascinating character from Irish history and beyond.

Steven Galvin

The Enigma of Frank Ryan will screen again at the IFI on Saturday, 26th February at 12 noon.

 

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JDIFF 2012: Discovery Cinema Review: Turn Me On, Goddammit [Få Meg På, For Faen]

Jameson Dublin International Film Festival 2012

Discovery: Turn Me On, Goddammit [Få Meg På, For Faen]

Sunday, 19th February, 4:15pm, Cineworld

The offbeat title is a good clue to the nature of this gentle, quirky, coming-of-age story set in rural Norway. When 16-year-old Alma has a strange encounter with Artur outside of a party she tells the truth of what happened which leads to her becoming a social outcast in her very small town.

The young brave mainly non-professional cast do a good job in some quite embarrassing scenes for an Irish male critic in his 30s to watch never mind an 18-year-old female to commit to film and to be shown around the world.

The film doesn’t outstay its welcome being a taut 75 minutes with some funny fantasy scenes via Alma’s very active imagination and the rural Norwegian scenery lingers long in the memory.

Director Jannicke Systad Jacobsen, whose background is in documentary filmmaking, conducted a short Q&A with critic Dave O Mahony saying that some of her influences included Juno and My Summer of Love. Let’s hope her feature finds a wider audience as it proves that growing up can be tough no matter where you are from.

Gordon Gaffney

Click here for Film Ireland‘s coverage of this year’s Jameson Dublin International Film Festival

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JDIFF 2012 German Cinema Review: The City Below [Unter Dir Die Stadt] in co-operation with Goethe-Institut Irland

Jameson Dublin International Film Festival 2012

German: The City Below [Unter Dir Die Stadt]

Saturday, 18th February, 2:00pm, Light House

Having escaped the very low powered financial world many years ago myself  I find films set in a high pressured corporate finance world exotic and appealing.  It’s a perfect vehicle for race against time drama such as the recent Margin Call where you find Jeremy Irons doing what he does best playing a morally corrupt senior executive.

The City Below [Unter Dir Die Stadt] has a a similarly morally corrupt senior banker Roland Cordes, played by Robert Hunger-Büehler, embarking on an affair with the wife of a subordinate Svenja Steve, played by Nicolette Krebitz, which unsurprisingly makes life very complicated for them both.

The performances in the solid, slower moving, darkly witty drama are strong, particularly the many non-verbal interactions between the Hunger-Büehler and Krebitz.  The cold clinical takeover negotiations take place in cold clinical boardrooms,  however it’s refreshing to see  late middle-aged German financial executives spending some of these crucial business meetings spacing out about the opposite sex as much as the rest of us.

Presented in co-operation with the Goethe-Institut Irland.

Gordon Gaffney

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JDIFF 2012: Crulic – The Path To Beyond

Jameson Dublin International Film Festival 2012

Real to Reel

Crulic – The Path To Beyond

Saturday, 18th February, 6.10pm, Light House

Anca Damian is a well-known cinematographer, director, writer and producer and in this, her first animated feature, she delivers the beautifully made, well-told and shockingly recent (2008) story of Claudiu Crulic. Claudiu is a 33 year-old Romanian who went on hunger strike after being wrongly accused of theft in Poland. Narrated by the protagonist from beyond the grave, Crulic chronicles the events that lead up to his death.

The film begins with a phone call to Crulic’s uncle from Polish authorities telling him that Crulic is dead. His mother and sister go to Poland to identify him, which they find difficult, as he had lost about 30KG and looked much older than he was. As they journey home with Crulic’s body, the story commences. He begins with his childhood, which is a typical story of a boy born into a poor family, whose parents separated when he was very young. He was left in the care of his father but was raised by his aunts and uncles. He left school early as the family needed money and went to work in a garage. He then began travelling to Poland with his Uncle buying various trinkets (that were unavailable in Romania) and selling them. He is then arrested and this is where his life changes forever.

The style of animation is very beautiful – but dark. The medley of animated styles used throughout the film serve to really hold the viewer’s attention and ultimately lend themselves to the tragic nature of the story. Collage, line drawings, watercolors, stop motion and a small amount of live action along with the narration by one of Romania’s top actors, Vlad Ivanov, creates a visual and auditory spectacle. The bleak colours and often childlike line drawings evoke further empathy for Crulic and the events that unfold after his imprisonment. The transitions between animation styles are seamless and stylish. The small details in the animation, for me, had the greatest impact. This is clearly evident in the distressing scenes where he is in prison wasting away from hunger lying in the foetal position. The lines become thinner, sketchier, the colours of his clothes and face change and become bleaker and more transparent.

The story is mainly told visually but the slow, steady pace and the sadness in the voice of the narrator completely envelops you. Crulic’s own letters, photographs and documents are incorporated with animated images and when the film ends and the credits are rolling, real news footage is shown, bringing the audience back to reality with a bang. The introduction of news footage at this point reminds us that this is a real story and these injustices can and really do happen.

There was a Q&A session immediately after the showing with the director of the film Anca Damian. Damian related how unconditionally trusting and supportive Crulic’s family were during the making the film and their intention to go to trial using the film to prove his innocence. Damian describes Crulic – The Path to Beyond as a story about the dignity of human beings and human rights.

The film was very well received although there were some comments from the audience about how critics view animated documentaries and how they might not be as respected and not as believable as live-action documentaries.  Damian described how she made an animated feature rather than a live action documentary, having conducted her research for a year and collected countless documents and photographs.  The contrast between the starkness of real events and the creative medium of animation strengthens what is a visually unusual, moving and thoroughly enjoyable documentary.

Michelle Cunningham

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JDIFF 2012: Irish Film Board Shorts

The Boy Who Lived In A Bubble

Jameson Dublin International Film Festival 2012

Irish

IFB Shorts

Friday, 17th February, 6.00pm, Light House

The 2012 Jameson Dublin International Film Festival presented a selection of Irish Film Board short films this evening. On show was an impressive array of exciting talent whose short films came to life on the big screen at a sold-out screening in Dublin’s Light House cinema.

There’s always a buzz around a festival screening of shorts as an audience prepares to enter into the relatively unknown and it provides a rare opportunity to celebrate cinematically film in its short form. In a year when 2 Irish short films are in the running for an Oscar® that buzz was particularly palpable tonight as the the Light House played host to a fine display of creative storytelling and skilled craftsmanship.

If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to live in a bubble after having your heart broken, Kealan O’Rourke’s wonderful animation The Boy Who Lived In A Bubble provided the answer. Still Films’ We, The Masses explored some sort of apocalyptic anti-biosphere and was a perfect showcase for Robyn O’Neil’s expressive drawings.

Clare Dix’s beautiful Downpour eloquently encapsulates a history of romantic memories in the space of 4 minutes all under showers of rain. And a merman of sorts was found on a beach in the comically observed Washed Up Love

The documentaries sought to capture special moments in time breathing life into its subject matters. Home Turf celebrates the dying craft of turf cutting, shot with an elegant visual simplicity, while Remember Me, My Ghost is a beautifully crafted and haunting tale of one woman’s life living in the Ballymun flats.

There was Irish dancing with a twist (An Rinceoir), a swift return to roots in the animated Origin, a young rebel with a cause (Asal), death & birth on the rough seas (The Hatch), a journey to honour a father (The Fisherman), animated arctic adventures (23 Degrees 5 Minutes), and Tadhg O’Sullivan and Feargal Ward’s Quarantine, a tender and touching portrait of one one woman’s week-long stay in the Radioactive Iodine Suite in St Lukes hospital.

It’s one of the most important functions of festivals to showcase the talent working in the short film art form and always provides a fascinating snapshot of the standards of the inventive imagination of new filmmakers at work – and with the skill and craft on display this evening those standards are high.

Steven Galvin

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JDIFF 2012: Cloudburst

Jameson Dublin International Film Festival 2012

Opening Gala: Cloudburst

Thursday, 16th February, 7:30pm, Savoy

The 2012 Jameson Dublin International Film Festival launched earlier tonight in the lush setting of the Savoy cinema. Brenda Fricker attended the Opening Gala screening of Thom Fitzgerald’s comedy Cloudburst, in which Fricker stars alongside Olympia Dukakis as two elderly lesbians in love. Dot (Fricker) and Stella (Dukakis) have lived together and loved each other for 30 years. After Dot is taken from her home by her granddaughter, Molly, and put in a home, Stella plots a geriatric breakout out and the pair set off on a road trip to Canada where they plan to get married. Along the way they pick up a young hitchhiker (Ryan Doucette), who’s on his way to see his dying mother.

Festival director Grainne Humphreys was on hand to officially launch the festival, now in its tenth year, and introduced Cloudburst to a packed cinema as a ‘really special film’ and recalled the ‘joyous experience’ she’d had watching the film and laughing for 2 hours. Grainne welcomed writer/director Thom Fitzgerald to introduce his film, which is his first new movie since 2005’s 3 Needles, followed by our very own Brenda Fricker, who’s starring in two films at this year’s festival (Cloudburst and Albert Nobbs). Brenda told the audience how she had pestered Grainne to watch the film as it was so beautifully written and made.

Fitzgerald explained how Brenda came to be in the film – he had written the part of Stella specifically for Dukakis, with whom he had worked  before. He had originally written the character Dot for Joan Orenstein, who sadly passed away while he was writing the film. He said he knew that Brenda would have ‘the bravery, the strength and the softness’ to take on the role of Dot. He thanked Brenda and told an enthusiastic audience that he now knows everything there is to know about geriatric lesbians. With proceedings taken care of the audience sat back as the curtain opened and Cloudburst took over Savoy 1.

The film delivered the laughs the introduction had promised and proved to be a real crowd-pleaser providing the perfect start to the festival. There’s a wonderful chemistry on screen between Dukakis and Fricker and the film never takes easy refuge in sentimentality and plays it in an honest manner true to the reality of a relationship that has lasted so long. Dukakis’ butch Stella is a foul-mouthed juggernaut who holds nothing back and it is her belligerent set of balls that stoke the comedy throughout the film. Her passionate commitment to Dot is a testament to their long-term relationship. Fricker’s gentle Dot provides an unpretentious softness and depth to proceedings and allows for a genuine tenderness to shine. Fricker has that rare quality of seeming not to be acting and once again proves herself to be the ‘national treasure’ Grainne Humphreys described her as at the beginning of the evening.

Steven Galvin

Click here for Film Ireland‘s coverage of this year’s Jameson Dublin International Film Festival

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