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

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

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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

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

 

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

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