Archive for the ‘ EIFF 2012 ’ Category

BRAKE

Brake

 

Starring Stephen Dorff as kidnapped secret service agent Jeremy Reins this fast paced and claustrophobic thriller is above standard fare even if it does try a little too hard to outguess its audience. On screen alone for most of its ninety minute duration Dorff gives a convincing and coherent performance which never lets the tension levels drop. Despite this so acclimatised to this sort of drama involving terrorists, their multiple plot twists and red herrings that audiences are becoming less trustful than the characters at the centre of all the carefully orchestrated dramatic devices. I had the plot sussed within the first ten minutes and even the last twist at the films denouement –preceded by tacky happy ending- was pretty obvious from the outset.

The drama unfolds around Reins awaking to find himself encased in a glass box in the trunk of a car. Unsure of why he is there he finds himself in radio contact with a fellow service man who is one of several in the same predicament as him. Following this he speaks to his captor- a terrorist- who wants to know where the Presidents bunker is situated. To add to his predicament his wife is also being held hostage and as the car speeds to an unknown destination it is clear they are going to die if he does not co-operate as he is able to hear car bombs going off and it does not take a genius to work out that this is his inevitable fate. Along the way he is able to commandeer the use of a mobile phone- these terrorists seem pretty lax having gone so far to organise such an elaborate scheme- and call the emergency services who embark on a race to rescue him and his wife. To reveal anymore would spoil the fun of guessing how the plot pans out but as stated before I found it all predictable although it is cleverly nuanced.

The claustrophobia of the glass box and trunk are expertly handled by director Gabe Torres and Dorff turns in a high octane performance which is wholly believable. Holes in the plot aside it is a tense and exciting ride and although the conclusion induced a sense of ennui it is still a superior film.

 

 

One Mile Away

The one mile in the title of this fascinating documentary- intercut with a relevant soundtrack by one of its subjects- by Penny Woolcock refers to the short distance between two rival factions of disenfranchised and displaced black youths in Birmingham who seem to be at war mainly because of a difference in postcodes. In fact the difference between the two gangs -The Burgers and the Johnsons- is basically a dual carriageway which separates them and through the realisation of Shabba- a Johnson- that their battle is futile as they share the same grievances but have allowed their ongoing battle to distract from the bigger picture.

His belief is shared by his rival leader Dylan who emerges throughout this portrait as clear, concise and totally understanding of what the real problems are which make these young people fight amongst themselves. Woolcock sets up a summit meeting between the two which is perfectly captured as during the awkward rendezvous the two can barely manage to look in the direction of the other.  Despite initial misgivings-trust is a luxury- from Dylan a thaw in the icy atmosphere emerges and a decision is made to try and elicit some form of resolve between the two factions and sort out the differences so future generations don’t automatically fall into the same patterns of violence and crime.

Initially Shabba’s fellow cohorts stonewall any progress concerning peace measures whilst Dylan, a convincing advocate of their ambitions, manages to convince most of his gang that these measures are well worth investigating and taking on board. It is a tough call and uphill struggle however as this is a group of young men who wear their stab wounds as if they were tattoos. It seems they share a common enemy in the police and Woolcock captures an exchange with the police which, to some extent, bears out why this is.

Obviously trusted by the participants Woolcock gains an insider’s perspective and is present when there are gunshots at a local carnival which indicate that the issues are far from resolved and a lot more coercion and co-operation within and from the two gangs are needed before any real progress can be made.

The soundtrack provided by Urban Monk works perfectly in this environment and articulates some of the issues many of the participants struggle to vocalise in their interviews. Despite the seriousness of the situation there are a couple of moments of unintentional humour most notably when Dylan claims ‘The Burgers haven’t got no beef’ and again when an aspiring young criminal claims that initially he acted hard to impress girlfriends but now realises this is a waste of time as he now changes girlfriends like socks.

Culminating with scenes shot around the time of last summers riots Woolcock is on hand to capture the police harassment her subjects suffered in their wake. She herself even has a run in with the police for aligning herself with the disaffected youngsters

Never dull and always with a keen sense of perspective this documentary takes a serious look at what is wrong within our society and why so many turn to crime not as an alternative but because they feel it is their only solution. At its conclusion no resolve has yet been met but the fact it is at least being discussed shows some regard for the future rather than simply submitting to the downward spiral they are, at present, immersed in.

Sadie Marren

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YOUNG DUDES

Young Dudes

 

This fast paced film directed by DJ Chen takes its title from the David Bowie composed hit song for Mott The Hoople and tries to invoke some of the elements of the glam rock era which that song encapsulated so succinctly. It is not its only connection with pop culture however as the whole movie feels very MTV orientated and utilises heavy visual cut ups interspersed with a great soundtrack mainly performed by Soler. By leaning so heavily on such visual and aural devices however something of the narrative is sacrificed and the film becomes convoluted and hard to follow but despite this at only 76 minutes long it does not outstay its welcome and powers along to its own conclusion.

What can be derived from the narrative is that central character Adam –Wang Po-Chieh- is greatly concerned regarding an impending apocalypse and together with two cohorts Guy and Adele- Tsyuboshi Abe and Larisa Barukova respectively- he creates Klaatu some form of virtual spacecraft. It is around this juncture that things start to lose any sense of cohesion as Adam, somehow separated from his two sidekicks, embarks on some form of psychedelic trip into a virtual world. This disorientation leads him into various predicaments which he has to somehow escape from and in so doing finds himself back in the real world with a different perspective to the one he had at the beginning of the movie.

The real strengths of the movie lie in the musical and visual interludes and the long building intro to the Mott classic really is a highlight which the rest of the film tries to capture but fails to match. It is a film which will appeal to a limited audience- I’m thinking teenage boys of the geeky persuasion- but it is still an enjoyable enough ride for anyone else especially if you sit back and drink in the music

DEMAIN?

Demain?

 This exquisitely crafted biopic, directed by Christine Laurent, of Uruguayan poet Delmira Agustini-considered one of the greatest Latin American poets of the 20th century-and her convoluted life and tragic demise is a lesson in expert cinematography, sparseness and timing. It is a sympathetic portrayal of someone who at various times comes across impetuous and overindulged. The two central performances by the doe eyed Laure De Clermont-Delmira- and the matinee idol handsome Marc Ruchmann-her husband Enrique- are understated but effective in capturing the tumult which hounded their engagement and subsequently their short lived marriage.

The story develops around the lazy lifestyle of Delmira as she composes her poetry at her parents tastefully designed house and gardens. It is a life which seems to revolve a lot of lazing around creating complications and problems as is the wont of those who are overindulged. Her suitor Enrique is considered unworthy by her parents-in particular her emotionally devoid and aspirant mother- and there is a sense Delmira only plans to marry him out of spite. They are overjoyed when she postpones the wedding on its actual day but this is short-lived and eventually she does marry him. Seemingly passionate in the beginning Delmira tries to leave him within the first month of their union but eventually returns with tragic results.

Demain? moves along at its own pace never feeling hurried or forced, in a way that is similar to the writings of Flaubert. The cinematography is astounding shifting from the greyish hues capturing the languor of her existence, subtly shifting into monochrome and eventually vivid colour when she experiences her sexual flourishing. The palette shifts back to grey as disillusion sets in and these shifts direct the feel of the narrative almost as clearly as the dialogue. It is a film which meanders along in its own time drawing the audience into the lazy lifestyles of the protagonists who despite all their wealth and beautiful surroundings cannot find happiness or love and instead create problems which contributed in leading Agostini to her untimely and premature end.

FUTURE MY LOVE

Future My Love

From the grainy opening footage of Maja Borg’s film Future My Love, which combines documentary footage interwoven with a fictional narrative, it is clear that this film has a point to make which goes beyond its ninety nine minute duration. It is a film which looks closely at a world which is killing itself and its resources by being so involved with monetary values it has created a learned process of greed and envy. It is not a film without hope however, and hope and a different form of understanding are what Borg tries to articulate through this insightful and emotionally moving film.

In essence the film is a continuation of themes from an earlier work-Ottica Zero- and inherits some of its pathos. Like that film Borg includes her own relationship and its subsequent breakdown –shot in black and white lending it an ethereal quality- and pits it against the world’s relationship breakdown with its inhabitants. The lushness of the Venus Project where much of the footage is shot contrasts vividly with the monochrome of the fictional sequences and the inclusion of carefully researched archival footage serves only to create another dimension indicating that Borg’s pronouncements and beliefs are not one dimensional and without proper consideration.

It is an interesting concept that Borg is addressing and notable that she realises society cannot be redesigned as if it were merely another piece of machinery. Interesting sound-bites and theories emerge from main interviewee, 93 year old futurist and social engineer Jacque Fresco, providing serious food for thought and consideration. Values have been learnt over centuries and a world functioning on a system utilising natural resources is a great theory- money not being what is needed but instead access to the necessities of life- but theories require the input of contributors and in this case that would be the world’s population.

A whole series of cultural values would have to be unlearnt and this is more difficult than learning new ones. As is noted at one juncture no society ever got rich by creating happy people and for many thinking is limited by income and those on the lower end of the scale are so limited it is almost beyond them to dream of a better existence.

In Future My Love Borg has created a work which requires thought long after the closing credits have rolled. It is a film with a message but the message is presented in an interesting and ultimately convincing format which should awaken its viewers’ conscience as well as their sensibilities. It is cleverly constructed and the beautiful soundtrack by The New Tango Orquestra furthers the ambitions of the film as it is simultaneously evocative and thought provoking. A film for anyone with a conscience then and it would appear we all need one of those.

Future My Love is showing at Cineworld Thursday 21 June at 6.05pm and Friday 29th June at 8.30

Future My Love has been nominated for the Michael Powell Award.

Click on link below to see trailer.

#trailer

LOVELY MOLLY

Lovely Molly

Lovely Molly is directed by Eduardo Sanchez who co-directed the Blair Witch Project and he deploys that films innovative use of hand held video footage and updates it and gives it a new twist as this time it is the central character Molly- Gretchen Lodge- who manipulates the filming and the carnage as she goes into mental and physical meltdown. The film is more than just another schlock mock horror though as the audience is involved-through video footage- in the breakdown of Molly from happy newly wed to psychotic killer.

An ex-junkie Molly’s marriage to Tim –Johnny Lewis- shows her well on the path to recovery and having gained the strength to build a new life she feels confident to move into her childhood home which harbours sinister secrets from her past which are not quite so dead and buried as she believed. The downturn begins almost immediately after moving into the house but Molly is initially resistant to the demons which haunt her. After a while though the forces become too strong and gradually she succumbs and eventually she loses her new found identity in a blood bath of carnage and sheer brutality.

The action is suspenseful and the audience is constantly moved by the lush whispers of the soundtrack which seem to be Molly through her journey from loving wife to psychotic murderer and the music swells in time with her behaviour becoming ever more irrational. The action is slow and unwinding and never falls into pastiche even if camcorder footage is now almost a pre-requisite in modern horror it is used here in innovative fashion and to maximum effect.

Sanchez does a good job with his direction and the cinematography is sparse lending the film the feel of life in isolation and surrounded by woodland. It is a more than engaging film and the outcome offers no solutions but only more questions unanswered. It does rely a little too often on the garish for effect and to lend it an air of suspense and this will prevent it from becoming the cult classic it is so obviously aiming to be.

PUSHER

Pusher

 

 Adapted from a Danish cult classic- Danish drama being all the rage thanks to BBC4’S Saturday night output- this reworking is the first English work of Spanish director Luis Prieto. Dealing with the spiralling out of control life of a drug dealer Frank- an outstanding and intense performance from Richard Coyle- who finds himself in debt through a serious of miscalculated and ill advised deals resulting in his falling further into the demi-monde of the seedy side of East London. It is a fast paced film with an original score by Orbital, who encapsulate the era it appears to try and re-create. If it is not wholly successful it is down to the fact that the relationships between the protagonists and his sidekicks- a mouthy loose-cannon best friend and partner and a coke sniffing escort girlfriend- it is because these characterisations are more clichéd now, having become almost synonymous with this sort of tale, than they were in the original version  which hails from the mid-nineties.

The action starts well enough with Frank and his friend Tony- Bronson Webb- indulging in the club scene and the alcohol, drugs and women which are part of that package. Determined to move up in status Frank arranges two major drug deals –one in London the other in Amsterdam- and through miscalculations, dodgy deals and rip offs ends up losing money, drugs and finds himself fifty five grand in debt to a major drug lord Milo- a brooding malevolent Zlatco Burik- who takes no prisoners and has a psychotic sidekick who derives great pleasure in inflicting pain upon others.

Attempts to raise the cash seem constantly about to resolve themselves but at the last minute something always goes wrong and Frank thus finds himself slipping further into trouble whilst adopting more desperate measures to rectify his situation. Time is running out however and unable to trust anyone he keeps his impending demise from his escort girlfriend Flo- Agyness Deyn- who has enjoyed the high life and status a drug dealer boyfriend has allowed her. Events reach a crescendo when Frank’s time runs out however and the film speeds along to this climactic moment with a great deal of skill, tension and a growing sense of unease.

What really sets this film apart from others of this genre is Richard Coyle’s central performance which does not always rely on him articulating his angst verbally but instead he dextrously uses nuance in his expression to communicate his inner turmoil and mistrust. He is ably supported by the rest of the cast however although it is hard to tell if Deyn is a good actress, as all her part requires is that she snort coke or look alternately gorgeous and vacant;  skills she could have picked  her styling- up from her former modelling career rather than acting classes. She does light up the screen with a luminous presence-Edie Sedgwick-like styling assists here- and is believable in her part. The score by Orbital also lifts the film up above its contemporaries and this attention to detail makes it worthwhile even if the drama follows a familiar and almost predictable path.

Pusher is showing at Cineworld :

Thursday 21 June 8.50pm

Sunday 25 June     3.05pm


KILLER JOE

Killer Joe

 Opening the 2012 Edinburgh International Film Festival in macabre style is this extremely black comedy from William Friedkin, renowned mostly for the Exorcist and French Connection. Starring Matthew McConaughey ,as the films protagonist and namesake, alongside a strong supporting cast which includes an overwrought and tense Emile Hirsch plus a docile Thomas Haden Church, a wily Gina Gershon and an ethereal Juno Temple. The film pulls no punches-of which there are many- in its graphic moments and powers along on a narrative which is convoluted but easy to follow although there is little chance of second guessing or out-manoeuvring the twists in the plot as the characters are each one more depraved than the other.

The tale unfolds around the drug debts run up by perma-loser Chris (Hirsch) who engages in a life insurance scam which relies on the death of his mother, Adele, to dig him out of the financial hole he has fallen into. Requiring assistance in this he involves his father (Church) and his cuckolding wife( Gershon) in his plan to enlist the services of professional killer and erstwhile police detective Killer Joe (McConaughey). The main beneficiary of the insurance however is Chris’s younger sister Dottie who seems untainted, so far, by the malevolence and malignancy which lingers in those around her. When they can’t meet Joe’s advance to have Adele killed however Dottie is offered up as a retainer to satisfy his questionable lusts and here the first of many twists in the narrative occur.

The action –and violence- only intensifies after Adele’s death however and whilst the audience may make brave attempts to second guess the plot it is clever enough to fool them at every turn as the characters each try to outguess each other and fail. All except Joe and, eventually, Dottie-he because he is so corrupt and her because of her purity- as each one emerges as more desperate and vile than the other and only willing to further their own ends at whatever cost.

Friedkin has coaxed strong performances out of each of his actors but it is McConaughey who shines with a droll delivery which is as deadpan as it is horrifying. As usual he manages to take his top-and trousers- off to reveal the toned torso which has gained him commercial success if very little kudos as an actor. He is not alone in his nudity however as each character performs naked at some point as if Friedkin is trying to show that even stripped bare they still have layers of devious capabilities which don’t even require the armour of clothes to shield behind.

Friedkin has also managed to create that difficult mix of black comedy and social insight successfully and shows not only a family in decline but a whole section of society who are so desperate they will use any means-and anyone- to get what they want. Alternating between harsh brutality,extreme violence and dry, dark humour it is not one for the squeamish but the cinematography is never less than exquisite.  capturing the garishness of the characters and their surroundings perfectly. It is an interesting and brave choice for the Festival opener but I believe it is also a wise one.

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