Review of Irish Film @ DIFF 2019: Dirty God

June Butler was at the Dublin International Film Festival for a screening of Sacha Polak’s Irish co-production Dirty God.

 

In her first feature length role, newcomer Vicky Knight elicits a mesmerising performance as Jade in Dirty God, a moving film about inner beauty and societal burdens placed on those who are deemed to fall outside accepted images of physical attractiveness. The initial introduction to Jade is pitiless and unflinching. Jade has been the victim of an acid attack with her controlling ex-boyfriend Eli (Karl Jackson), and father of her daughter, to blame for the assault. Opening scenes are tense with close-up images showing the cauterized landscape of Jade’s face and neck contorted in whorls of brutalised body tissue. A heart-beat tempo accompanies Jade through underground raves with strobe lighting casting shadows on her facial scars as she makes her way through crowds of gyrating dancers. A previous romantic interest is dating Jade’s friend but the attraction between Jade and Naz (Bluey Robinson) is undeniable. Naz is able to see beyond the adage and realises that beauty may be considered skin deep but what lies further beneath is beyond compare.  

Various scenes show Eli prowling through nightclubs within sight of Jade – almost appearing to know her every move. When the case goes to court, Jade appears alone and vulnerable locked into a staring match with the ubiquitous steely-eyed Eli. Jade briefly finds freedom when she dons a burqa and dances her way along the balconies of the housing complex she lives in. Invisibility is the currency Jade craves in her search for acceptance.

Jade attempts to kindle online relationships but soon learns that she is vilified for her disfigurement and slowly starts to withdraw. Her shoplifting mother, Lisa (Katherine Kelly), is unable to fully grasp the mental anguish Jade is experiencing as she is rejected at every turn. Ultimately, Jade’s journey begins when she embraces the love of her young daughter and realises that she alone holds the key to becoming a survivor and living life on her own terms.

Sacha Polack, as director and producer of this truly beautiful film has wrought a stunning piece of cinematic mastery. By exploring the tragedy of those who have suffered a similar fate and who find themselves locked in a world where every witness recoils in horror or stares transfixed, Polack has raised the spectre of an apocalyptic post-acid life. What happens after the burns heal as best they can? How do relentless visual presentations of human perfection hold up against a body that seems to be broken beyond repair? The deliberate dehumanisation of another living being is troubling and disconcerting as Jade encounters casual brutality carelessly doled out by co-workers. Moreover, Polack touches upon a system of barbaric annihilation – one that is endured whilst passively existing as an object of love. When rejection occurs, a visceral all-consuming rage follows suit provoking ultimate obliteration.  

Postscript by the reviewer:

I went to see this film in Dublin’s Lighthouse Cinema and encountered Sacha Polack and Vicky Knight at the viewing. Knight briefly related how she, at the age of eight, was the victim of an arson attack and was badly burned as a result. Knight outlined her initial reluctance in becoming involved with the project but was persuaded by the extremely convincing Sacha Polack. For both Polack and Knight, this was a perfect encounter and the relationship has engendered a film that exudes authenticity. This reviewer is very much looking forward to the prospect of future offerings from both.   

 

Dirty God screened on 3rd March 2019 as part of the Dublin International Film Festival (20th February – 3rd March).

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Review of Irish Film @ DIFF 2019: Floating Structures

June Butler takes a look at Fearghal Ward and Adrian Duncan’s Reel Art film, Floating Structures, which shines a light on buildings and structures that seem as though they have emerged from another world. 

Floating Structures is an ambient architectural feast that focuses mainly on edifices where glass is considered an essential part of the project.

It follows a narrator as he travels to investigate the creation of German civil engineer Heinrich Gottfried Gerber. Gerber conceived of, and designed cantilevered bridges over the Regnitz at Bamberg and traversing the Main at Hassfurt. Elements of both conduits were then ably used by Peter Rice, an Irish structural engineer in the construction of a number of notable landmarks.

The audience is brought through the assembly of such buildings as the Pompidou Centre (1971), and La Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie, Villette (1986) – both in Paris. However Rice can also lay claim to working on construction of the Sydney Opera House roof (1957), the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield (1967), and Pabellón del Futuro, Seville, Spain (1992). Rice integrated Gerber’s structural concepts and incorporated them seamlessly into the buildings he worked on. La Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie featured three greenhouse spaces in the façade which were deemed to be the first glass walls positioned without a frame or supporting fins. Footage from the time of assembly shows Peter Rice putting the glass in place.

What follows is a beautiful journey into the marvels of creation narrated easily in lay-person’s terms – a passage to unfettered imagination. The documentary encourages an interest in maps of the mind and lends visual meaning to the concrete landscape surrounding city dwellers. Both the old and the new are investigated – parallels are drawn between Chartres Cathedral and more modern buildings, concluding that while materials used on recent constructs differ, the overall supposition is that the law of physics remains the same.

Floating Structures is a quiet and unassuming foray into celebrating the genius of Peter Rice and well worth viewing.

 

Floating Structures screened on 25th February 2019 as part of the Dublin International Film Festival (20th February – 3rd March). 

 

 

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Review: Birdbox

 

June Butler takes off the blindfold to have a look at Susanne Bier’s netflix thriller.

As thrillers go, Birdbox is peppered with a slew of truly cunning components yet manages to steer clear of becoming predictable without too much effort. The infamous Boogeyman (or woman in these times of political correctness) is always going to be far more terrifying when intangible and fleeting and in this endeavour, director Susanne Bier has ably succeeded. 

The central premise of the narrative surrounds a group of people aligned against a common enemy. There is a horrifying entity stalking humans and pitting one against the other. When seen by the naked eye, the Being propels the viewer to shocking levels of violence culminating in the observer taking their own life – usually in the most violent and bloody way possible. As chaos and killing ensues, the victims generally claim more lives than just their own. Which clearly speeds up the entire apocalyptic process to an eye-wateringly fast ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ day of reckoning. After the initial blanket annihilation of most human life, a motley crew gather inside a house with a staggering number of rooms. A perfect stage for finding some unpleasant surprises concealed behind doors and in darkened corners. There is an excellent cast comprising Sandra Bullock (The Net (1995), A Time to Kill (1996), Gravity (2013)), and John Malkovich (Dangerous Liaisons (1988), The Killing Fields (1984), Burn After Reading (2008)). Sandra Bullock is exceedingly well cast as Malorie a ballsy artist who has found herself pregnant and alone after a fleeting relationship. Malorie is steely and vulnerable in equal measure and the success of Birdbox owes much to Susanne Bier’s choice for the central character. Equally John Malkovich brings a tensile fearfulness into the mix as Douglas. Douglas is both petrified and accepting of their predicament and it is difficult not to have a certain grudging respect for a character who is sure they are about to shuffle off this mortal coil in the next two hours but is not willing to pop off without a bang. And a big one at that.

The yarn is a decent one – not being able to fully see the beastie was genius. The imagination of the audience will always fill in the gaps.

And now for some criticism:

John Malkovich should have been put to better use and it was a wasted opportunity not to take full advantage of his acting skills.

Sandra Bullock as Malorie has parent issues. Clearly. Specifically father issues. However, Bier could have chosen to let Malorie not fall quite so far from the platform of being a half decent aul sod. Even the dimmest of people might have reckoned that retribution for a father’s shortcomings should not be visited upon those who are most vulnerable, namely children. I felt that Malorie promised much at the beginning of this film but failed to step up to her responsibilities towards the end.

There was some repetition at key moments which was a shame – the director was worth far more than going over old ground.

Characters started out as archetypal but some finished as stereotypical. Again, a shame. It seemed a little lazy.  

Two thirds of Birdbox was captivating and riveting. The final third lost some lustre and the ending was a tad predictable. I would have much preferred the Beggars Banquet image from the Rolling Stones album of the same name. Instead I felt I was presented with Tinky Winky, Laa-Laa, Dipsy, and Po.

There is one scene in Birdbox where the person responsible for continuity dropped a life’s worth of balls. It was glaringly obvious and once seen, could not be unseen. Up to then, I had bought heavily into the tale. After that, which interestingly came around the two thirds mark of the movie, it all went horribly pear-shaped. It was a pity because when this much effort goes into something and it is let down by a detail so basic, it can be incredibly disheartening both for actors and film crew.  

Having said that, Birdbox is one hell of a good movie and the concept does capture the imagination.

I feel a sequel is on the horizon…….


 

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Irish Film Review: Under The Clock

 

DIR: Colm Nicell • WRI: Garry Walsh • DOP: Colm Nicell • PRO: Eilish Kent, Garry Walsh 

 

Clerys was a one-time focal point of O’Connell Street in Dublin – a mainstay of department stores that wove memories and forged connections. It was a little worn around the edges but this served only to highlight its magnificence. Clerys had charm and lots of it.

The business dated from 1853. However, the building that now stands on this spot, was constructed in 1922. The 1916 Easter Rising saw a number of structures on O’Connell Street damaged to the point where they had to be razed to the ground and re-built.

In 2015, Clerys closed its doors for the last time. The cash registers stopped binging. The coins ceased to jingle. Whirs and clicks of clothes rails on castors faded away and dust settled on the countertops. Twelve stalwarts, staff of Clerys, staged a sit-in. Protesting rigorously at its inglorious ending, they held on precariously until enticed into giving up. That, it seemed, was the end of a sentimental chapter in Dublin’s history – a time past and soon forgotten.

Colm Nicell, director of Under the Clock, has taken a second (and third) glance at this statuesque landmark by deciding to tell the story of thousands of people meeting under Clerys clock – the two-sided clock that hung over the main entrance of Clerys. For some, it spelled the beginning of romance, the first giddy steps towards love and possibly marriage. For others, it was a gateway to heartache and sadness. One account cannot be narrated without hearing its counterpart.

Charlie and Beatrice Stewart met under Clerys clock. He was a self-styled ‘man of the world’ and she a shy 15-year-old schoolgirl. Beatrice brought her friend with her on their first date, much to Charlie’s irritation. Beatrice and her friend sat on one side of the cinema and Charlie on the other. This part of the plan not accounted for still rankles with Charlie in his narration of the event. Beatrice, however, gives a different description – according to her, Charlie asked Beatrice’s friend to come too. No doubt in Charlie’s mind, Beatrice would not have come at all given her tender years and he wanted to ensure he would meet with the stunning Beatrice again. Back and forward this story goes – Charlie indignant at the first date ‘interloper’. Beatrice’s insistence that the invite came from Charlie. They interact, rib each other, and sometimes sit in silence. The leather biker trousers Charlie wore for their initial encounter has long been replaced by more casual trousers and comfortable shoes but the fire is still there. Separate in their togetherness – individual yet one, Charlie and Beatrice are joined by their defining first meeting. Beatrice’s parting shot is to say that Charlie is good in bed. Charlie beams with pleasure and Beatrice hastily adds that he told her to say that. No matter – it’s clear that Beatrice is her own woman and would not have issued the accolade unless it was true. The scene fades with Charlie still grinning.

The memories from those heady days still shines bright through the narrative of Peter and Kathleen Cullen. They met under Clerys clock when both were in their teenage years. Throwback images of Peter, tall and handsome, show him with a protective arm wrapped about the elfin Kathleen. Their relationship encountered some resistance from both families who clearly thought Kathleen and Peter were too young to be in such an intense relationship. Kathleen narrates the moments leading up to her planned running away with Peter. How she hid backpack and clothes before descending the stairs in the wee hours only to hear her mother demand where she thought she was going and issue an imperious dictum to return upstairs immediately. Kathleen tells of the hours spent peering out of her bedroom window watching a clearly distressed Peter pacing up and down as she was forced to stay indoors. Peter eventually realised force majeure had interceded and there would be no caution throwing to any winds that particular evening. So the plan to elope was shelved temporarily and replaced with a secret engagement. Kathleen’s mother became aware of the engagement and wisely came to the conclusion that this was a force too great to be thwarted. She grudgingly accepted her daughter’s impending nuptials but asked Kathleen to keep it from her wider family until Kathleen was married. Still starry eyed and very much in love, Kathleen becomes emotional when talking about their first kiss. She says with certainty, that it was the point at which she fell in love with Peter. Peter shyly smiles and holds Kathleen closer.

Each story is told well and without intervention from the director – with the deftest of touches, Nicell entices the best from every interviewee.  Albert Connor claims women are equal but different and goes on bravely to assert that men are the problem. Relationships and human interaction comes under the spotlight. Christina Nicell who seems to have not always seen eye to eye with her husband, states that in those days there was no assistance for women (or men) who found themselves in an unhappy marriage. Meeting under the clock it appears, did not assure life-long harmony and it was up to the individual to stay or go – many chose to stay. Most people endured sadness within a relationship as their lot and simply tolerated rather than striking out and discovering joy with a partner. For Philippa Ryder, not meeting someone under the clock meant that she made the first steps towards being at peace with her gender. Philippa was born a man but in her heart, felt that she was essentially female. Philippa followed her heart.

One common theme among the interviewees is their nostalgia for bygone times – many of them claim the next generation do not understand relationships or how to go about forging one. Tinder and Facebook have made connections between humans transient and fleeting. All of the people who appeared in this film, would not swap the immediacy of life in the present day, with the dance of tender courtship and truly getting to know your life partner before you make a commitment.

Colm Nicell has surpassed himself with this wonderful documentary. There are thousands of others who would have met Under the Clock – not all of them could possibly feature in the film –  but every last person has in truth, been represented. For anyone, young or old, married or single, this is a ‘must see’.

 

June Butler

76 mins
Under the Clock is released 5th October 2018
12A (see IFCO for details)

 

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Katrina Costello, Director of ‘The Silver Branch’

June Butler spoke with director Katrina Costello about her documentary The Silver Branch, which tells the story of Patrick McCormack, a farmer and poet whose family have lived in the Burren for generations. The film explores McCormack’s relationship with the Burren; its nature, history and the struggle to preserve it.

In April 1991, the Government announced the establishment of a national park in the Burren and construction of a £2.7 million interpretative centre. The Burren Action Group took a case against the Government to halt proceedings in order to maintain the natural integrity of the landscape and to protect the environment. They viewed the Burren and the area of Mullaghmore as a “sacred site”, a holy ground that needed to be defended – especially in a country whose sites of profound historical importance are rapidly disappearing.

 

The story of the documentary focuses on the Battle of Mullaghmore but at its heart the film is really an ode of praise to our land.

Absolutely. People put different weight on the Battle of Mullaghmore, which we called it when we were creating the storyline. This was woven through the documentary and everything hung off it. But I like to think that this film is really a eulogy to the agrarian culture and to our heritage and the natural world.

 

The battle was a defining event that caused Patrick McCormack to stand up and say we are connected to the land, we have lived here all our lives. This is more than just a building that we’re building, this is a total ruination of something that will resonate negatively in generations to come.

That’s it. I think that The Burren Action group had no problem with the interpretive centre being built in one of the towns but they didn’t want it at the foothills of Mullaghmore mountain. Not just because of the pollution and the 450,000 people coming there; it’s the whole widening of the roads. For 2 buses to pass on that road, it’d be basically making a motorway through a wilderness area and through an area that’s been farmed for generations. The Burren wasn’t developed like other parts of Ireland because it’s so rocky and the small little field system still remains intact – forts, Mesolithic tombs, famine villages and thousands of miles of stone walls that go right back maybe 6,000 years.

 

When Patrick spoke about the ancient warriors and people gathering around the campfire, I felt very much that he is not of this era. I feel that he’s a wiser, older soul.

I think Patrick probably has his legs in both worlds – in the contemporary world and the ancient world. What’s fascinating about him is that he can be so ordinary. He’s a farmer, he’s maintaining stone walls, throwing rocks around. He’s got this fantastic vision, which, I suppose, is the vision of a poet. Like Heaney and Kavanagh he’s just grounded in the earth with a beautiful vision and a very rare gift of being able to articulate his most intimate thoughts. He’s constantly searching for his own defining line, his own unity of being, for harmony, to be free. Basically, when this battle came to him, he had no choice but to take it on because he could foresee that, for future generations, this interpretive centre would’ve actually spoiled the whole wilderness area.

 

I love the opening scenes where the branches intermesh with each other. Patrick talks about the silver branch singing and telling the story of ancient times.

The silver branch in essence was a mythical wand of the ancient druids and was used to bring them to the Tir Na Nog, for example. It was used to go on a journey of enlightenment or to seek truth. This is why I really love the title The Silver Branch because, for me, it is just that – it is inviting people to go on their own sort of hypnotic journey into themselves. It brings them to a place where they haven’t been to for many, many years – the wonder of being a child.

 

The Burren looks amazing in the film. I have to talk about the beautiful cinematography, like the flowers opening and closing, and of birds feeding and being fed. It must have required a lot of patience to capture so much beauty.

For sure, any time that you go out to film something in the natural world it requires a lot of patience. You have to wait for hours for nature to settle around you. Once you go into that environment you could be 4 or 5 hours before you actually see any proper activity. You have to wait to capture the moments of magic. But it never felt like a day’s work. I love the Burren. I think there’s no place like it in the whole world, to be honest with you. It’s as spectacular as any place I’ve ever seen on earth… and I’ve travelled a lot – through Asia, America, Australia South America. It’s an incredible landscape not just for the wildlife, of which there is an abundance. There’s always something fantastic happening. There’s foxes and ravens and hares, peregrine falcons, butterflies and dragonflies, you name it. And then it has all of this cultural significance as well. It’s a very, very rich atmosphere.

 

 

There’s a beautiful scene where he’s telling the blonde child how he me his wife,  Cheryl. He says she was on the back of a fox, and that he tempted the fox out with a bit of cheese. The fox came out with Cheryl on its back and he grabbed her off the fox.

Everyone loves that scene!

 

And the child is incredulous. He tells the story in such a way. I found myself delighting in the fun of it. It was a golden moment. You can see how fun he is.

Absolutely. He’s a seanchaí, he’s a poet, he’s a farmer… but he really comes into himself when he’s with kids or when he is with Jonjo, his dear neighbor. He loves that interaction with children and is in total awe of people like Jonjo and his generation.

 

I could have listened to Patrick for many hours. His poetry and his language is so beautiful. He reminded me of Heaney with his beautiful turn of phrase. I was amazed then when I found out he didn’t complete his schooling.

Isn’t it incredible? He did leave school when he was 14. He hated it. He found it a degrading, demoralizing experience. But he did have a strong love for the great masters, as he would call them himself – for English, poetry and history.

 

Coming away from the film, I felt that we really need to re-connect to this way of life that is so in tune with nature and the land. Something that has great resonance and depth to it and something that many of us have lost.

It’s just about giving yourself time in nature. Even something simple like leaving the phone behind you. Nature is something we can all connect to. I strongly believe that the natural world is part of all of us, whether we live in the city or in the country. I think deeply and instinctively we feel that and although we can become disconnected, it’s important to make that connection. I think that, although this is Patrick’s story and his battle, it resonates with us all because it is a story of all of our struggles in modern-day life. This is a story about love and what he would do for love, and commitment, and family. He is a warrior and thankfully it’s a battle that came to a good end. We still have that fabulous wilderness to enjoy – and there is an interpretive centre in both Corofin and in Kilfenora.

 

The Silver Branch screens at

IFI, Dublin:                               Fri  Oct 5th to Thursday 11th

Moat Theatre, Naas:               Sun Oct 14th 7pm

Glór, Ennis:                              Sat  Oct 20th 8pm

Belltable, Limerick                 Mon Oct 22nd

St. John’s Theatre, Listowel:   Tue Oct 23rd 8pm

Siamsa Tíre, Tralee:                Wed Oct 24th 8pm

Triskel Arts Centre, Cork         Mon Nov 26th for 4 nights

 

 

Review of Irish Film @ Galway Film Fleadh: The Silver Branch

Irish Film Review: The Silver Branch

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Review of Irish Film @ ADIFF 2018: The Science of Ghosts

June Butler is haunted by Niall McCann’s observational drama which centres on well-known Irish musician Adrian Crowley.

I was not sure what to expect when attending the IFI for a screening of this film. The director, Niall McCann, stood to say a few words and my expectations mutated into full confusion mode.  McCann thanked Adrian Crowley, the subject of his film ‘for not going mad’. Cue titters from the audience. Quite why Adrian might have gone ‘mad’ was intriguing but worrisome. He went on to express his gratitude to other persons working on the project for also not going ‘mad’. More polite tittering.

It was clear at this point, McCann had a theme going on. He then mentioned a crew member who had decided not to row in with the flat-line levels of remaining calm, instead ratcheting crazy to a new level by actually going ‘mad’, thus throwing the audience into immediate disarray. No more cuddly safety for them – the audience stopped tittering and looked askance at each other. At this juncture, I was out of my seat and scrabbling for the emergency exits when McCann said something that stopped me in my tracks – ‘this is an experimental film’ he averred. I sighed in relief and returned to my seat. From here on, anything that came my way was a delightful excursion into the unknown.

Adrian Crowley, on whom the film is based, is both the perfect topic and an ideal subject for such a film. His soulful countenance, at times expressive and others implacable, is a most suitable canvas for McCann’s vision. There are moments of farce that bring unexpected lightness into the frame – some are timely and others a distraction but each scene brings with it the knowledge that post-mortem impressions are the result of individual wisdom. Each to their own, as the fella says. Crowley and McCann work well together with McCann’s vision coming to the fore and Crowley being game for a laugh. There is humour in parts and in others the wide-eyed innocence of a child, evidenced from Crowley’s playful narrative about his son.

Lyrics to Unhappy Seamstress written by Crowley when he moved, hermit-like, into a bedsit in Rathmines, make for somewhat distressing listening – the tools of a songwriter unfold as by-lines to human despair. But his songs also hold a light to the human condition in its perfect misery. The cinematography holds moments of sobriety against capricious whimsy – changing from moment to moment – becoming manifest as an oft-distant stage-whisperer only to later metamorphose into a second but equally significant subject, one that is figuratively as vital as Crowley himself.

McCann cleverly juxtaposes the sublime with the even more sublime and always manages to carry it off with panache. As experimental films go, I would suggest this has tones of Meshes of the Afternoon (Maya Deran, 1943, USA), with its unpredictable reminiscences – McCann’s wonderful offering allows and encourages viewers to think for themselves – it is what makes his film well worth seeing.

 

The Science of Ghosts screened on Saturday 26th February as part of the Audi Dublin International Film Festival (21 February – 4th March).

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Gerry Gregg, Director of ‘Condemned to Remember’

Tomi Reichental and Condemned to Remember director Gerry Gregg 

 

June Butler talks to director Gerry Gregg about his film Condemned to Remember in which Irish Holocaust Survivor Tomi Reichental celebrates his 80th birthday in a Dublin Mosque and embarks on an epic journey across a Europe in turmoil.

 

 

Condemned to Remember screened at the IFI and is currently screening in Dundrum and will screen at the Cork Film Festival  on Sun 12th at 6.45pm with a post-screening Q&A with Tomi Reichental and Gerry Gregg.

Eclipse Pictures are organising school screenings across the country. Contact siobhan@eclipsepictures.ie for further information.

www.condemnedtoremember.ie

 

 

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Irish Short Film Review: Gone

 

June Butler takes a long look at Patrick Maxwell’s short Gone.

Coming in at a little over 15 minutes in length, this short is well worth viewing. Paul (Ryan Andrews) returns to his childhood home following a bereavement. Atmospherically bleak from the onset, opening shots show Paul passing through the yard of a block of flats as he trudges past clothes lines and graffiti daubed walls. Along the way he is greeted by an old friend who empathises with his loss. Paul’s arrival is marked with sadness, becoming further highlighted as he empties the old flat he once lived in.

The story is imbued with meaningful glances between characters – they relate more to what is not spoken than to what is. Dialogue is limited but this only serves to ameliorate the narrative and give greater portend to what is being said.

One thing that sets Gone apart from other short films is its ability to allow viewers come to their own conclusions and audiences will thank director Patrick Maxwell for it. A short film needs to embrace the story and does not have the luxury of character development – rather delving quickly into the narrative is a key component. Maxwell does this deftly and with great skill – almost unnoticeably, audiences are placed centre stage, at the heart of unfolding drama and with careful timing, Maxwell drops small pieces of information into the story as it moves along – there is a sense of loss – betrayal comes to the fore and remains key as the narrative begins to quicken its pace.

In the final act, tragedy strikes with the story coming full circle. Remaining mysterious to the last, Gone elicits questions from viewers long after closing credits.

 

 

Gone is currently available to rent or buy on VOD through Amazon: http://amzn.eu/9mvmLTR and Vimeo On Demand: https://vimeo.com/ondemand/goneshortfilm

 

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Book Review: The Chaplin Machine: Slapstick, Fordism and the International Communist Avant-Garde

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June Butler takes a look at Owen Hatherley’s The Chaplin Machine: Slapstick, Fordism and the International Communist AvantGarde.

Owen Hatherley has left no stone unturned in this marvellous book on Charlie Chaplin basing it on the rather novel angle of ‘Slapstick, Fordism and the Communist Avant Garde’.

For most authors, tackling one aspect of this subject would be a daunting task – Hatherley however, simply takes it in his stride. And to say he keeps his promises is an understatement – the opening lines present a rousing soliloquy from Charles Chaplin himself as he breaks character in The Great Dictator (1940):

“Dictators free themselves but they enslave the people! Now let us fight to fulfil that promise! Let us fight to free the world – to do away with national barriers – to do away with greed, with hate and intolerance. Let us fight for a world of reason, a world where science and progress will lead to all men’s happiness. Soldiers, in the name of democracy, let us all unite!”

Hatherley leads with an in-depth study of Frederick Winslow Taylor, (an American industrial theorist and engineer), who recounts how he succeeded in persuading an ‘ox-life’ Dutch immigrant called Schmidt achieve a seemingly impossible output of work based on Taylor’s mathematical calculations. In these sums, Winslow estimated the ‘precise measurement and recording’ of Schmidt’s physical abilities in order to maximise the worker’s capabilities. Taylor constantly teases Schmidt by asking if he is a ‘high priced man’, thus leading the poor fellow to consider lifting 48 tons of pig iron per day for $1.85, an increase of merely 70c on the previous output of 30 tons. The goal as Winslow puts it, is to deflect Schmidt from considering the impossibility of the task and instead dangle a pay rise in front of him so it becomes all he sees. Hatherley posits the idea that there is something essentially masterful about effectively duping the hapless Schmidt into working harder for not much more money. He feels that were it not for the context, it would be almost as if Taylor has become a stage hypnotist with Schmidt as his gullible victim. Hatherley makes the statement that his book concerns those people who envisaged ‘turning industrial labour into a circus act’.

Taylor’s principles came to be applied within the Ford Empire as ‘time and motion’ and was strictly adhered to in accordance with Henry Ford’s own work ethic. Such was the success of Taylor’s theories, they were diligently put into practise when the new Union of Soviet Socialist Republics set up their own institutes. A former metalworker, trade union leader and poet in the Proletkult (‘proletarian culture’), Alexei Gastev founded an Institute of Labour in order to train workers in the new concepts of Taylorist principles and, as his ideas grew in success, they came to be applied outside the factory walls and into daily life.

Hatherley maintains his book is based on an unplanned cultural exchange between three poles. Two consist of the Trans-European route that went from Weimar Germany to the U.S.S.R. The third refers to America but without denoting the actual space of the country itself, the allusion is accredited to a collection of ideas, concepts, technologies, and the mass-production of goods and art objects. ‘America’ was the place where mankind had begun to truly take control of nature and attempt to bend it to its will yet, astoundingly, very few Russians who welcomed American theories had ever actually visited the country which meant that for a number of these, America was a dream, not an actual place. 

For the moralising Soviets, however, ‘America’ came under fire for its supposed exploitation of labourers and minority groups. Dziga Vertov’s 1926 documentary film, One Sixth of the World, offers a panoramic view of the industries and peoples of the Soviet Union and opens with images of that which it is not – a black American jazz band energetically plays as affluent whites dance and shimmy with gay abandon. According to Vertov’s condemnatory intertitles, this is the descent of a dying class – the danse macabre of an era coming to an end. While Vertov extrapolates what he needs from these images, the mesmerising rhythm and pace of the dancers, essentially he is also creating a heartbeat which resonates for the duration of the film. Vertov and others, including Elizaveta Svilova who edited One Sixth of the World, were part of a sect called the ‘Kinoks’ otherwise translated as ‘life caught unawares’. Vertov et al, wanted to depict post-revolutionary life in all its comicality – a veritable banana skin applied to a world turned upside down.

It is this positioning and careful placement of American mass culture against a backdrop of political critique, a nod towards labour and contemporary urban life as comic or ‘slapstick’ containing plenty of ‘new stupidities’, and the creation of a new comic space as well as innovative forms of architecture, that have provided the core theme running through this book. Americanism can be thus referred to as Chaplinism.

Hatherley has researched his topic thoroughly and relentlessly – points are made and supported with pithy quotes and examples. Nothing is left to chance. This truly is an impressive read and an excellent research guide to those who would like to investigate the topic further – a lot further!

 
 

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Book Review: Alex Cox’s Introduction to Film – A Director’s Perspective

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June Butler finds a lot to like in Alex Cox’s Introduction to Film – A Director’s Perspective.

 

 

Alex Cox’s An Introduction to Film – A Director’s Perspective is probably one of the best in-depth pieces written on cinema for some time – not since Peter Biskind’s Gods and Monsters or the equally wonderful Hollywood’s Second Sex by Aubrey Malone, has anecdotal story telling become such an intrinsic part of reading film. From Cox’s text, it is eminently clear how deep his passion for the magic of movies runs. Each description is imparted with authority and an easy familiarity that makes every narration so worthwhile. It makes readers want to investigate this book again and again.

Cox is probably better known for the Moviedrome series – a BBC weekly showing of cult films held during the summer months. The episodes commenced in 1988 headed by Alex Cox, and continued until 1994 where the series came to an end. It restarted in 1997 introduced by Mark Cousins but the second round lacked the connection Cox had so ably instilled in his loyal viewers and the final airing of Moviedrome was in 2000. While Cox did not chose the movies, he had some say in what was shown – his introductions to the films alone (according to die-hard fans), were considered more interesting than the screening itself and some viewers confessed to tuning in solely for Cox’s opening words. Although for this particular reader, no words could replace Robin Hardy’s 1973 film, The Wicker Man – happily included in the launch of Moviedrome.

Cox’s book is a cross between expert storytelling and incredibly detailed research into all things cinema. He explains easily without making it obvious – chapters consisting of such titles as ‘The Editing Room’ and ‘Cinematography, The Frame, Understanding Crew Roles’, deconstructs the art of ‘how to’ rather than posing the question of ‘what’s that?’.  At one stage, Cox makes the point that there is a ‘sort of insanity that follows film sets and goes on to narrate a number of instances where the safety of actors, extras, and stunt actors were placed in jeopardy. He cites The Day of the Locust (Dir. John Schlesinger, 1975), a big-budget movie where an unfinished and clearly unsafe film set collapsed beneath the cast and crew as they were filming. Cox then recounts a catastrophic accident on set for The Twilight Zone – a 1983 film based on the television series comprising four segments with separate directors (Joe Dante, John Landis, George Miller and Steven Spielberg). The devastating occurrence, which was placed firmly at the door of on-set negligence, caused three lives to be lost, of which two were children. Cox sums up the code of conduct when he says ‘there is a tendency to think, on movies sets, that the film is the most important thing. It isn’t. The most important thing is the safety of your cast and crew’.  He damningly continues ‘making a film is also an opportunity for some people to behave extremely badly and immorally, and this has not been lost on filmmakers’. Cox doesn’t mention the culprits but such a statement coming from someone so well respected in writing on film makes readers pause for thought.

Cox manages to captivate completely from the first page right through to the last. His analytical skills are impressive and this book will delight every cinema lover and garner a few new fans to boot.

 

 

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ADIFF Irish Film Review: Hubert Butler: Witness to the Future

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June Butler takes in Johnny Gogan’s documentary about Irish essayist Hubert Butler: Witness to the Future, which screened at the Audi Dublin International Film Festival.

Born in 1900 to a family that could trace their roots to the Norman invasion of Ireland in 1169, Hubert Butler thrived on the peaceful existence of a life that included a zest for growing apples in his own orchard. Not being without a robust sense of humour, Butler was oft heard describing himself as a writer and market gardener.

His fluency in Russian enabled a translation of Anton Chekov’s The Cherry Orchard (1904), which is still in use to this day. He loved the slow pace in his ancestral home of Maidenhall and was a popular figure in the local village of Bennetsbridge, Co Kilkenny. Despite having travelled extensively throughout the Balkans in his early life and learned multiple languages along the way, Butler’s heart first and foremost, lay in the land where he was born and he maintained the mantra that local history was eminently more important than national history. Indeed, Hubert Butler went so far as to insist that ‘where life is fully and consciously lived in our own neighbourhood, we are cushioned a little from the impact of great far-off events which should be of only marginal concern to us’.

Butler was passionately committed to verbally defending Ireland both within and without from forces that at times threatened the integrity and stability of the nationalist core he strove to protect  – sometimes even at great sacrifice to his own mental and physical wellbeing. On more than one occasion, Butler held forth on matters of great portend to a disbelieving public who aimed derisive criticism at this man of letters when the opposite should have been the case. While he may have appeared mild-mannered, when circumstances dictated, Butler had a firm grasp on the subtly of politics and could deliver stinging rebuttals as his rivals all too humiliatingly became aware.

Ireland was, and remains, deeply indebted to Butler’s unwavering morality and nowhere is it more evident than in Johnny Gogan’s in-depth and soulful film on Butler’s life ‘Hubert Butler; Witness to the Future’. Aided by poet Chris Agee, Gogan ably narrates Butler as an expert essayist and considers him to have been at least fifty years ahead of his time when it came to summarising events of national and international importance.

Gogan claims that Butler was able to predict with unerring accuracy future happenings in the volatile arena of pre and post-war Europe. It is testament to the level of investigation into Butler’s life that his writings are mentioned throughout the documentary with such affection and to such a relentless level of detail. Gogan has literally left no stone unturned.

In my interview with Johnny Gogan, he took into account Butler’s devotion to the country life and in no small way, Gogan has included the orchard at Maidenhall where Hubert Butler spent so many happy hours, almost as an expert witness but equally silent additional cast member. When discussing Butler’s impact on modern history, Gogan said one thing that above all made him feel he was in the presence of greatness – Butler he averred, wore his learning lightly and with humility. The magnitude of knowledge he possessed was vast and yet Hubert Butler was a model of reservation and sincerity – unless his conscience was piqued in which case, Butler’s righteous rebukes were remorseless and acerbic. Gogan goes on to prove his words by stating Hubert Butler travelled to Austria at his own expense in 1938 and rescued Jews who were almost certainly due to be transported to work camps prior to the outbreak of WWII. There are dozens of Jews who could place the claim of survival firmly at the feet of Hubert Butler and his wife Peggy.

People often made the point that Butler’s writings could be compared to those of George Orwell. I would go a stage further and suggest that Butler’s writings were unique and comparable only to one – that of Hubert Butler himself. It is right and fitting that through the remarkable vision of Johnny Gogan, Butler has finally come to our attention for his supreme acts of humanity and recognition as the man of learning he truly was. Generations of Irish will have much to thank Johnny Gogan for this wonderful film.

 

Hubert Butler: Witness to the Future screened on 22nd February 2016 as part of the Audi Dublin International Film Festival 18 – 28 February) 

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Podcast Interview: Grainne Humphreys, ADIFF Festival Director

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June Butler chats to Grainne Humphreys, the festival director of the Audi Dublin International Film Festival, about the selection process involved in the festival and what’s in store for Irish film lovers this year, including Sing Steet, Viva and this year’s films from Reel Art, an Arts Council scheme designed to provide film artists with a unique opportunity to make highly creative, imaginative and experimental documentaries on an artistic theme, operated in association with Filmbase.

Check out our preview of the Irish films set to screen at this year’s festival.
 
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The 2016 Audi Dublin International Film Festival takes place 18th and 28th February 2016. 
 
Click here for the full programme

 

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DVD Review: A Doctor’s Sword

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June Butler unsheathes the DVD of A Doctor’s Sword, Gary Lennon’s documentary  about Aidan MacCarthy, an Irish doctor, who, at 28, joined the RAF in London as the 2nd World war began.

 

Ensconced in MacCarthy’s bar in Castletownbere, Co. Cork, hangs a Samurai sword with still razor sharp edges and evidence of it being a working weapon. Such blades were far more than merely a form of defence – they were used as proof of filial devotion and a sign of dynastic honour – once holding great meaning for the person who previously possessed it. Carefully contained inside the worn handle, ashes of ancient warriors lie in state. The sword is accompanied with photographic evidence of its former owner – 2nd Lieutenant Isao Kusono. On the reverse side of the image is a profound declaration of true friendship between Lieutenant Kusono and Dr Aidan MacCarthy, a survivor of the Nagaski bombing and prisoner of war,interned in two separate Japanese camps during the Second World War.

The story of Dr Aidan MacCarthy related in great detail by director Gary Lennon is one that would have even the most hardened of cynics accepting of MacCarthy’s greatness. In this poignant tale, lies the narrative of a medical doctor who truly merited the Hippocratic Oath of ‘first do no harm’ despite the many injustices he himself received.

One of ten children, MacCarthy was born in 1914 to a middle class family and attended Clongowes Wood secondary school as a border. Upon leaving Clongowes, a medical career beckoned and MacCarthy went to UCC where he graduated as a doctor in 1938. Jobs in his home town of Castletownbere were scarce so MacCarthy and a number of his classmates mooted heading to London where they might fare better. War was on the horizon and MacCarthy decided to join the armed forces – his choices lay between the RAF or the Royal Navy – an obliging dance-hall hostess flipped a coin and MacCarthy duly signed up for the RAF. He later claimed all medical checks and paperwork were done with such haste that following his enlistment, MacCarthy arrived back in the local bar before they opened their doors at eleven o clock.

What unfolds in this remarkable story is something far more than miraculous – MacCarthy was marooned for three days and nights at Dunkirk – survived and went on to receive the George Cross for bravery when his direct intervention saved the crew of a crash-landed Spitfire. He was captured in the Japanese attack on Singapore and from there, spent three arduous years in a prisoner of war camp. First in Java, later in Nagasaki. Despite horrendous abuse and torture meted out to those captured by the Japanese, MacCarthy rose above his experiences to emerge a forgiving and empathetic figure having never lost his faith in humanity nor his ability to absolve the actions of others. Of even greater inspiration is the sword that takes pride of place among MacCarthy’s possessions and how it came to be located in a small bar in rural Ireland.

Lennon deals sensitively with the issues surrounding MacCarthy’s incarceration and follows his daughter, Nicola, as she journeys to Japan in search of the history behind the sword. It is clear that this topic is one of great interest to Lennon given that no stone is left unturned in the telling of a truly amazing story. Archive radio interviews with MacCarthy were unearthed in the course of making this film and it is heart-warming to hear his rural burr and kindly tones as his story is relayed without the slightest hint of rancour.

On being asked by the interviewer what he put down his survival to, MacCarthy deftly responded saying that it was “a combination of my Irish Catholic Heritage, my family background, and lots and lots of luck”.

 

  • Directors: Gary Lennon
  • Producers: Gary Lennon Bob Jackson
  • Format: DVD-Video
  • Language: English
  • Region: All Regions
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Classification: Exempt
  • Studio: Wildcard Distribution
  • Run Time: 70.00 minutes

 

A Doctor’s Sword can be purchased on DVD in stores including Golden Discs and Tower Records, the Triskel Arts Centre in Cork and the Irish Film Institute in Dublin, MacCarthy’s Bar in Castletownbere and also online on Amazon and the Wildcard Distribution website.

 

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Book Review: Hollywood’s Second Sex The Treatment of Women in the Film Industry, 1900 – 1999

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June Butler reviews Irish author Aubrey Malone’s latest book, Hollywood’s Second Sex The Treatment of Women in the Film Industry, 1900 – 1999.

 

If an author could win an Oscar for most thorough research, Aubrey Malone would be right up there with the best of them for his well-thought through and insightful tome on Hollywood’s Second Sex – The Treatment of Women in the Film Industry, 1900 – 1999.

On first reading, it seems more anecdotal than directional but with each subsequent scrutiny, it soon becomes apparent that the narrative builds up to an impressive overview of just how shabbily actresses were treated in Hollywood from the inception of film right up to the present day. Malone brings the story forward, stretching beyond the lifespan of most humans to realise that in the broader scheme little seems to have changed in the way women are regarded amongst the hierarchies of the film industry during the twentieth century.

The dedicated and in-depth knowledge of every spirited actress from silent movies until more modern times places Malone in a league of his own. From Theda Bara’s muted luminosity to tragic Louise Brooks and her iconic pixie hairstyle. Katherine Hepburn was once cruelly nicknamed ‘Katherine of Arrogance’ merely for refusing to kow-tow to studio demands. Doris Day – America’s sweetheart lived through a relationship with Al Jordan, a trombonist. Day wasn’t particularly into the idea of marriage but did so because she was pregnant by Jordan who went on to physically beat Day to the point where she almost miscarried. Jordan then decided that suicide was the way forward – one day he thrust a gun into Day’s stomach urging her to kill herself. Her erstwhile spouse promised faithfully he would follow suit. Finally seeing sense, Day sought a restraining order against Jordan who stalked her for a while but eventually moved on. Decisively (and possibly much to the relief of his second wife), he followed through on hollow rhetoric by shooting himself in the head – forgetting perhaps that the golden rule of an empty threat is not to carry it out.

Jodie Foster in her auditions for The Accused (Kaplan, 1988), had to have a makeover in order to render her more ‘rapable’. In the first audition, the studio felt she wasn’t convincing enough to make audiences believe anyone would want to molest her. So Foster gamely set about changing the perception by wearing more make-up and less clothes. It is almost inconceivable that Foster should have been put in such a position yet no one batted an eyelid as her status of ‘rapability’ was mused over and tacit permission was given to those who would despoil Foster’s character by deeming her to have ‘asked for it’.

By contrast, women were for the most part, presented by Hollywood on pedestals – beautiful, alluring, incandescent, unobtainable and mainly adored from afar. In such scenarios it would not be too much to assume that respect and dignity for women should follow closely behind. According to Aubrey Malone, this was most assuredly not the case.

As a lover of film, this book initially appears somewhat voyeuristic considering the amount of salacious information – but that is only at first glance. Further reading is so detailed as to create an unrelenting tableau that does not flinch when it comes to revealing the unpalatable truth – which is that despite a plethora of denials, Hollywood’s second sex was female.

 

 

  • Paperback: 244 pages
  • Publisher: McFarland (April 10, 2015)
  • Language: English

 

 

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GAZE Film Festival Report: Irish Shorts

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June Butler was at a screening of Irish short films at the recent GAZE Film Festival.

 

Sunday the 2nd of August, found me gainfully occupied in viewing a number of short films as part of the Gaze Film Festival based in the beautiful Lighthouse Cinema. What followed was an afternoon well spent indeed – 6 pearls of short movies – all different but every one with a message that was both heartfelt and moving.

Making History (2015), directed by Ana Rodgers is a four-minute account of the referendum for same sex marriage in May 2015. Regardless of whether the viewer voted yes or no, it would be impossible not to feel emotional about this outpouring of joy and freedom. The piece is well edited and with scene after scene of rapture, it is a short film that makes for compulsive viewing. Capturing a nation caught in the throes of a common goal is truly uplifting beyond belief. People are naturally drawn to such euphoria – doubly so because of the statement made in upholding the individual’s human rights. Rodgers short film compacts pride at all levels into Making History.

Directed by Eoin Maher in 2013, No Strings tells the story of two young men who hook up for benefits without friends. Bryn from Wales and Sean from Ireland awkwardly meet. The agreement is that neither want anything more than sex. Both are migrants but while Sean uses humour to deal with his situation, Bryn is numbed to social interaction and simply wants to return to his family home in Wales. As the film progresses, it is interesting to note how both characters evolve – Maher has a most subtle touch in this wistfully delicate film and it is homage to his abilities that viewers care deeply about the outcome long before the final credits roll.

Our Gemma (2015) is a twelve-minute short on comedienne Gemma Hutton’s experience of coming out in the small northern town of Bangor. Hutton takes a no-nonsense approach to how she is viewed but it is clear from the narrative that past struggles have been endured and overcome. Hutton’s grandmother is a bastion to understanding and humour – a shining star in a sky of acceptance who loves and supports her granddaughter without conditions. This is an incredibly insightful and wry piece of filmography. Directors Cara Holmes and Paula Geraghty should be rightly proud.

Kudos to Cork filmmaker Brian Deane for getting such stunning performances from his two young actors (Brandon Maher and , Tadhg Moran). Notwithstanding the fact that Céad Ghrá (2014) is narrated with panache ‘as gaeilge’, Deane also convincingly succeeds in effecting an authentic tableau of first love. The drama enfolding between the two leads is truthful in source and brings a sense of understanding to the frailty of human interaction. At only 13 minutes long, Deane imbues his characters with warmth and humour holding our full attention until the final scene.

Luke (2015) is a ten-minute short about a young transgender who narrates his story with insight and laughter. Luke prefers not to label himself or others but instead aspires to the adage of live and let live. There does not appear to be external guidance regarding how Luke records his tale, with the end result being a picture of searing honesty coupled with the freedom that ensues. Shannon Purcell directs this compassionate and poignant film.

Born in 1830 (died 1904), Edward James Muggeridge was a pioneer in the art of photography with a particular interest in motion photography and the newly emerging motion picture. He changed his name to Eadweard Muybridge because he considered this to be the original Anglo-Saxon spelling. Turning (2015) is a six-minute short film (directed by Eoin Heaney) paying deference to Muybridge’s work. It also brings to mind, albeit on a lesser scale, Maya Deren’s 1958 trailblazing film titled The Very Eye of Night in its depiction of stylised beauty from a cyclical view. Heaney’s enthralling film strips away the clothes that bind us to embrace the rawness of visual allure – touchingly honest in its presentation and yet deeply inspiring from every aspect as the balletic dancers come to a final gentle denouement. This short film was a fitting end to an afternoon of wonder.

 

The GAZE Film Festival took place 3o July – 3 August 2015.

 

 

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Short Film Review: Leave

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              Moe Dunford in Leave. Still courtesy of 925 Productions

 

June Butler takes a look at Mike Hayes’ “incredibly clever” short film Leave.

 

Mike Hayes’ Filmbase/RTÉ supported short film Leave (2015) is an incredibly clever piece of filmmaking and it is right and fitting that he should be confident with his abilities when considering this gem. What has ensued is a devilishly slick story – told at rapid fire pace and unrelenting in its knowledge that as films go, this one is all grown up, knows where it’s heading, and what it wants to be when it arrives.

Hayes shot the movie in March 2015 – a quick turnaround on a modest budget. The modesty of funding doesn’t show because editing is genius and as casting goes, the actors were a director’s dream team. For the armchair psychologists among film goers, Leave should have been like Pavlov’s dog – created to make us pompously think we would know how it enfolded and salivate at the first inkling of coulda, woulda, shoulda – shrieking with clenched fists cackling ‘I told you so’. But on further consideration it is far less obvious – and this is its brilliance. In making decisions, veering to the left, sashaying to the right – should that call be answered, will I stay in, go out, drink, blink, sigh, breathe, leave – there goes any one of us. Tied and bound to serendipity. Enthralled to the gods of faking free choice. Imprisoned by the fire-burst of not really knowing why or how we do things. Is impulse really so impulsive after all? Do genetics play a role? Is misadventure innate? How and why can random be understood? After the event, just how many people have meant it when they said hindsight is twenty/twenty vision?

Moe Dunford plays the role of Brendan – a kindly and well meaning cop who does a favour for an old friend. Brendan’s actions remind viewers of the old adage – no good deed goes unpunished. The story unfolds bit by bit with tantalising glimpses as tension builds – an unconditional timeline of suspense that is bound to no master. Every minute is gripping and grudgingly released – melting into moments spirited away by a relentless taskperson. According to Hayes, even chance meetings in casting key players signifies just how much Leave is everyone’s story.

Real talent is making something appear seamless and entertaining – it’s about making viewers think it’s easy. And it is…..if you’re Mike Hayes. Hayes said that he’d sooner be one man’s glass of whiskey than every man’s cup of tea – in directing Leave, he has become ‘the’ glass of whiskey for a whole lot of people.

 

 

 

 

 

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Short Film Review: Sandboy

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June Butler mixes with weird figures made of sand dotting the scorched earth of an abandoned junk yard in Vittoria Colonna’s short film Sandboy, a tale of loss and redemption. 

 

Vittoria Colonna’s short film, Sandboy (2014), is a powerful response to loss and redemption. Drawing on personal tragedy, Colonna honestly and succinctly lays claim to understanding the strength of sisterhood – those unspoken feminine bonds that exist between women propelling them to a deeper understanding of human suffering.

It speaks volumes about Colonna’s directorial skills that such remarkable performances were elicited from each and every cast member – starting with the mutely pleading rawness of Grace (Wallis Murphy-Munn), to the searing empathy of Sam (O-Lan Jones). It is rare to see such torrid chemistry between an on-screen couple but in a few brief moments, Trent (Joshua Burrow) and Grace somehow manage to convince audiences that their relationship is both manifest and real.

Grace lives in a mangled trailer at a remote desert location. This one time junk yard is inhabited by broken sand sculptures – shape-shifting figures, rafts of symbols lovingly created by Grace and somehow imbued with her fractured sense of belonging – silent slaves to the demands of turmoil. The only other occupant is the ubiquitous Sam. From time to time, Grace is confronted by others who witness her shortcomings but fail to see how she is bound to grief by human frailty. A visit from unseen vandals provokes a cataclysmic moment of recognition which prompts Grace to revisit past sorrows.

Colonna herself has known adversity and come to terms with it – connecting learning with growth and inner peace. The most difficult component of evolution is forgiveness – very often the rough justice individuals mete out to themselves is harsher and of longer duration than any condemnation by judge and jury. To err is human. To forgive is truly divine.

Vittoria Colonna has succeeded in producing a most powerful body of work – enough to make the viewer recall moments over and over – slivers of captured light, the depths of sadness, implicit emotions and aching loss. If sorrow united with hope, joined together and became one, this film above all marks its inception. Sandboy is a sea of fragments – monuments to resolve and discovery – an ode to the strength of a fragile spirit rising from the ashes. Life continues.

 

            

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