Change Your Image
Upload An Image
Crop And Save
Nan Fang Che Zhan De Ju Hui (2019)
Why you should watch this film
If you enjoy neo noir, specifically films from directors such as Michael Mann (Thief, Heat) or Jean Pierre Melville (Le Cercle Rouge especially) then this will be right up your rain slicked neon lit boulevard. Similarly it'll likely appeal to fans of 'Asian extreme' cinema and indeed anyone interested in or simply curious about contemporary China and her cultural products.
Grounded in believable realism whilst being highly stylised by virtue of action taking place in locales which exist, not film sets. This isn't a China of shiny high skyscrapers and jaw dropping surveillance technologies, instead it's one of dingy backstreets, cheap restaurants, second hand stores, a cheap and plasticky sheen lit mainly with lurid artificial light. I say 'China' in quotation marks because as another reviewer pointed out it's set in a particular province using local dialect. Reminding us China isn't some monolith, that there's great diversity in this huge nation. There's an obvious debt to films by Hong Kong director John Woo - it rains a lot, most of the action takes place at night soaked in a putrid colour cast of neon and sodium street lights. Woo of course being indebted himself to an earlier generation of directors...
125cc motorbikes and scooters are, for most people living on the Latin American, Asian, African continents, their main experience of private motorised transport. Wild Goose Lake is innovative and impressive in this form of transport (rather than conventional gangster cinematic conventions of big black SUV's with tinted windows) being central to the narrative.
It is something of a slow burner and I found myself restless during the first twenty minutes. Which is the point, to make you the viewer feel what the characters are feeling, inertia. Waiting. Not quite sure what's going on. If you're more accustomed to Hollywood action gangster movies this will reward but you need to be patient. Give it time and it will deliver. I promise. Don't let subtitles put you off. I watched it in France with French subtitles and didn't have trouble following. While relations between characters became confusing that didn't detract from my enjoyment this movie is driven by action and mise en scene rather than dialogue.
The mise en scene or what you see works to reflect and comment on the interior psychological (and exterior) worlds of the characters. One amazing scene towards the climax set in a dimly lit apartment block alludes to trash, with the implication of the characters as literally rubbish. By contrast, another scene uses washing machines in a massively impressive stroke of sheer stylistic inventiveness.
Creative violence is all the more astounding being beautifully choreographed, consisting of actual stunts instead of fast cut editing and CGI. Once again, stylistically satisfying innovativeness to the art of killing will delight martial arts fans and jaded movie goers (such as this reviewer) alike. However, what else would you expect from the culture which gave the world kung fu and pioneered the martial arts film genre?
French director Jean Pierre Melville nailed the thin line dividing cops from gangsters in films like Le Cercle Rouge (a cop is literally joined to his quarry with a handcuff, said cop lives alone with his pet cats who're surely analogous to the criminals he pursues). A similar line is drawn here, making explicit the symbiotic relationship the police have with the criminals they pursue.
A similar fatalism also operates and I loved the way that, even though we know where the Ge Hu character is headed, the journey there is nonetheless thoroughly enjoyable.
Liu Aiai is superb as the poker faced hooker. Instead of the femme fatale, she's all the more mysterious, her motivations never quite clear. She's being used, in that sense she's the quintessential noir character caught up in events beyond her control. However she's aware she's being used and it suits her purposes to pretend otherwise. I need to watch this film again. My purpose here isn't to describe the plot but to highlight why I think you should watch this film.
Finally, the total lack of irony or post modern referencing of other films is a delight. Sure there's the familiar ingredients of neo noir but they're combined into something very fresh and exciting. Watch for the astonishing 'Rasputin' disco scene and I think you'll agree.
I wouldn't have thought there was anything more left to squeeze out of neo noir then along comes this. Astounding, audacious and amazing.
Les misérables (2019)
Why you should see this film...
Profoundly moving, hard hitting moral drama elevated beyond being yet another 'banlieu' film through masterful use of cinematic language, combined with heartfelt performances from a largely non professional cast. France's ongoing tensions around identity, race and belonging expand, confronting you head on with dilemmas about the sheer difficulty of the human condition.
Looking for something going further than social realism? Comfortable being uncomfortable? Willing to question the assumptions of multiculturalism and the liberal enlightenment project? Prepared to wrestle with the effort of formulating just what questions need asking instead of expecting someone to bring you answers? Les Miserables will be for you.
Opening with shots of young black teenagers celebrating France's world cup victory celebrations in Paris in 2018, concluding this opening scene with a shot of the Arc de Triomphe superimposing the title Les Miserables, director Ladj Ly at once situates himself in a canon of French 'auteurs' while claiming space for these marginalised and excluded kids as being indeed French and, furthermore, spiritual descendants of the 19th century 'Les Miserables' of Victor Hugo's novel.
Montfermeil cite (housing project / estate), on the Eastern outskirts of Paris. Following the world cup, three policemen, Chris, Gwada and newcomer to the team Stephane, are looking for a thief who's stolen a lion cub from a travelling circus - they have a limited amount of time - if the cub isn't returned, war will erupt between the various patriarchal groups who live uneasily alongside one another in the cite.
The liberal enlightenment project assumes the inevitability of 'progress' - it's only a matter of time before everyone, everywhere in the world, adopts European (French) systems of democracy, liberal capitalism and so on. Human beings are rational and reasonable, living peacefully through democracy, state institutions and the rule of law.
The 'panopticon' is a system of total surveillance which emerged from 18th century British philosopher Jeremy Bentham. This can be seen to manifest in housing estates like Montfermeil - uniform, system built apartment blocks facilitating observation and control. However, the surveillance is subverted by the nerdy boy Buzz (played by the director's son, Al Hassan Ly) whose hobby is flying drones and who, through the drone, witnesses and records an act of police brutality.
Spectacular use is made of the cite with drone shots soaring above the apartment buildings. Implying freedom, escape yet there's something more sinister. Early on the viewer is implicated in Buzz's pubescent voyeurism using his drone to spy on women - we see from his point of view, implicating us in his voyeurism which confronts us with how so often people in these places are used by politicians and the mainstream media as objects to be exploited for entertainment or political purposes. What's our purpose in watching this? How many times have we watched prurient documentaries about 'tough gangs' or 'problem estates?' While 'District 13' or 'La Haine' spring to mind as obvious comparisons, Les Miserables shares some characteristics, including one crucial scene in particular, with Francois Truffaut's 'The 400 Blows'. Both films show marginalised, excluded children. The same difficult age, 12 / 13, moving away from childhood into adolescence.
An academic called Anne Gillain wrote an essay about 'The 400 Blows' called 'The Script of delinquency' drawing on psychoanalytic theories from DW Winnicott and Melanie Klein. Returning to Gillain's work helps account for why and how Les Miserables is so much more than just another 'banlieu'/ social realist film.
Issa's mother in Les Miserables appears, like Mme Doinel, in 400 Blows, uninterested in her son. If I understood the dialogue correctly, when the cops call at the flat, she doesn't know where he is. Instead, she shows Gwada a room full of female friends counting out money. Clearly materialism and money are more important than children.
Stealing is central in both films - Gillain draws on psychotherapists Winnicott and reads stealing as being 'a gesture of hope' on the part of the child to reclaim the care and love to which they are entitled. Lead actor Issa Perica is perfectly cast as Issa - cub like himself with his delicate features, complexion, beige combat pants, sporting a T shirt with a lion motif explicitly identifying him with the animal. This however is an animal destined for a life of imprisonment as a circus animal. By stealing the cub Issa at one and the same time reclaims the nurturing to which he's entitled and by liberating the animal expresses his own yearning for freedom beyond the confines of his current life.
If women have little visibility in Les Miserables I read this as a comment by Ly on the macho posturing of the patriarchal society he reflects. Women, when they do appear, are strong figures. Teenage girls answer back when provoked by the cop Chris, an inadequate little bully of a man. An enraged mother intervenes against the cops' abusive questioning of four small boys.
If the state has abandoned these kids, literally excluding them and their families to the peripheries, other organisations or institutions don't offer much in the way of alternatives. There's the fast food restaurants and a fast food stand whose owner turns the kids away when they ask for food - the nurturing they seek, embodied by food, is denied them. Promises of reward and fulfilment through work unfulfilled for those too young to participate in economic activity.
Another form of imprisonment is implied through conformity to religion. During a scene when the boys are invited to the mosque, the camera is close in to the Imam and his co worshippers, wearing Islamic dress and beards. One of the boys yawns. Religion, with it's imperatives of dress, conformity of appearance, closes down possibility. By contrast, when they're left to their own devices - playing basketball, making slides from discarded car doors or goofing around in a paddling pool with water pistols, freedom expresses itself through camera work which opens out to long, expansive shots. Envisaged by the state as ordered, regimented public housing the cite becomes instead a locus of spontaneity - space around the blocks is reclaimed as somewhere to play. A similar binary operates in The 400 Blows with interior shots (carceral space) contrasted with exterior - the city as a place of exciting potentialities.
In Les Miserables carceral (prison) space manifests through cars. Patrolling the cite the three cops are confined to their car, unable to leave it for fear of attack. Ultimately, the custodians are metaphorical prisoners themselves, in contrast to the kids, who occupy the space of the cite. There seems little to distinguish the cops from criminals. At one stage, Chris negotiates a favour with the criminal owner of a sheesha lounge. Where's the moral compass? The police here, as representatives of the state, behave in ways which are anything but reasonable and rational. Their lack of integrity shown by their appalling mistreatment of the children they're supposed to protect.
Finally, staircases and trash feature prominently in both les Miserables and The 400 Blows, although as different signifiers. At one point Stephane is at the foot of the stairs of an apartment block, in the foyer, calling for reinforcements, unable to give his position. There's no address on the building, this is nowhere and everywhere. Montfermeil stands for every marginalised, excluded community, indeed estates like this are to be found on the fringes of every French town and city, populated in the main by those considered 'not enough French.'
I'm saying no more. Hopefully after reading this you'll be off to watch les Miserables as it should be seen - on the big screen. Enjoy.
why you should see this amazing piece of psychedelic realism
It's rare for me to see films which impress me to the point of spending time writing reviews. Without blowing my own trumpet, I studied film to Masters level, I think I have some idea what I'm talking about, I'm a busy person, time for me is a precious resource and I don't waste it.
Our Brazilian friends are much better qualified then I am to write about the ways this film is an analogy about Brazilian history and society so I'm going there in this review.
This really had me thinking and disturbed to the point that I couldn't sleep properly afterwards.
With all due respect I think those comparing it to Quentin Tarantino films would benefit from watching a more diverse range of movies. The treatment of violence here is nothing like Tarantino and serves a very different purpose. There's none of the extended dialogue of a Tarantino entertainment product, none of the endless pop culture references neither is there the constant expression of the N word.
Films which sit more comfortably alongside this would be Werner Herzog's 'Aguirre Wrath of God' another film (from the seventies) dealing with colonialism. Perhaps also Jodorowsky as well as some of Bunuel's output. There's a similar surrealism and sense of the uncanny of things just that little bit out of kilter.
I'd also put this film alongside the recent 'Midsommar' which while not dealing with colonialism nonetheless shares some similarities.
Colonialism isn't a strong enough word to describe what the Europeans did to the indigenous peoples of the Latin American continent. This film goes beyond being an obvious analogy of Brazil - I read it as a commentary upon the depravity of civilisation itself, exemplified in the scene when the naked shaman character, busy tending to his plants, is 'ambushed' by the two Americans who're part of some reality game consisting of people hunting down unarmed victims.
The merging of a dystopian science fiction film with a frankly unclassifiable genre - I'm going to invent the term psychedelic realism for want of a better word works really well. The film wrongfooted me at one point towards the end as I was thinking 'here's the twist' and it just wasn't.
Human beings are savage, depraved animals who enjoy killing and inflicting pain and suffering upon one another.
I certainly want to see this again because there's lots of symbolism and images pointing out clues which will reward a second and third viewing.
Some hope is offered in the way the film implies that sticking together might be one way to overcome our vilest impulses.
We're in a heavily mediated, technologically dependent society in which the line between reality and fantasy has all but disappeared for many people. Far from being rational, scientific, controlled by reason, it's contemporary civilisation which is savage and untamed and it's through the illogical, the psychedelic, the opening oneself up to nature which defies control and order, that our true spirit can emerge.
Or something. This film certainly got me thinking...........if you want an immersive, baffling, thought provoking experience this is the one.
very feminine film which this man enjoyed
Maybe a little slow for some however worked well and rewarded my patience. Far from being confused as to what genre it is, it seemed pretty clear to me it's a love / ghost story set in contemporary Dakar, Senegal.
There's something of a social commentary / realist element and for me it was interesting opening a window on to the lives of young Senegalese women, as well as the customs of an Islamic marriage in West Africa. There's a nice shot of the girls walking along the beach, dressed up to go to the bar, very much like their contemporaries would in any other major city - they wouldn't look out of place in Manchester say and that connecting felt nice, emphasising how much more we have in common than the differences.
There's repeating shots of a misty sea - the sea in Freudian terms symbolises the mother. The central character, a young woman getting married with the expectations of eventual motherhood. If the sea here is the mother it's also the cause of death - her true love, not the man she'll be marrying, has apparently become one of the many drowned in the mediterranean, making the perilous crossing from Africa to Europe in the hope of a better life. In death is life and so on. This is a movie working more on symbolism and allusion rather than straightforward narrative arc. The sterility of a marriage built upon status and material possessions is contrasted with the vitality of a relationship built upon truth and love - the emptiness of the marriage bed, the sterility of the white room, the bland surroundings of the upscale bar where Omar drinks fruit juice from a straw, child like, perhaps a comment about the infantilising of the supposedly sophisticated.
The director produces something properly cinematic with superb composition, backed up with a marvellous synthesizer score, some very nice moody shots of the city at night. This film works best on mood and atmosphere, attempts at shoe horning it into the conventions of narrative are liable to be frustrated. You need to open yourself up and try to empathise with the character, the lead actress is fantastic in the emotions she conveys through expression and body language. It's a film using the language of cinema as I say, symbolism, allusion. You need to 'feel' this film I think, it will frustrate intellectual analysis and to do so misses the point. It's there to be experienced. It won't be for everyone. Still, I'm delighted to see the torch of the art movie now carried forward by a female Senegalese director and her team who can rightfully take their place in a distinguished canon of Senegalese and indeed African film artists.
Leaving Neverland (2019)
why you should see this film
NEVERLAND brought to mind the Claude Lanzmann epic holocaust documentary SHOAH which runs for several hours and uses the same format of talking heads interspersed with footage of places to recount historical events. It's both the strength and possibly a weakness of the film but to criticise Leaving Neverland for not giving space to other points of view, for example representatives from Jackson's family, or others such as ex employees or Jackson's personnel who might have corroborated the accounts of Messrs Safechuck and Robson is to miss the point. I'm impressed more by how the film shows so much about the human condition than I am about the truthfulness or otherwise of their accounts. This format, where for four hours we hear the stories of these two men and their families lives and relationships with Michael Jackson confronts us with the issue that ultimately we choose who or what to believe and we must take responsibility for these choices.
The shots of an empty Neverland, or parts of Los Angeles function as sites of memory, or for the viewer spaces where we have to imagine in the details of what can't be represented. This is harrowing stuff, be warned, like SHOAH, where people relate acts of insane depravity, it makes for challenging viewing.
The film explores the very human trait of putting total faith in someone, of blindly following and trusting and the appalling consequences that can follow . The parents of these two men as did many others, held beliefs about Michael Jackson which they never questioned. The term is cognitive dissonance - structuring reality so that it reflects what you want to believe and avoiding evidence which contradicts beliefs you hold.
I've more questions than I have answers after watching this film - not about Michael Jackson, but about the human condition and our inbuilt tendency to avoid reality and instead look for evidence which supports the beliefs we have about the world. Even I was taken in by Michael Jackson's 'man child' image, an eccentric, sensitive, super talented singer and dancer, who, by surrounding himself with children, could somehow recapture the childhood taken from him by an abusive father who had pushed him unto showbusiness.
It was all there in the music if we bothered to look - from Thriller onwards, when the monster first emerged, to Bad, to Smooth Criminal at which stage, according to the testimonies of Messrs Robson and Safechuck, Jackson's become a full on paedophile. Then there was 'Heal the world, Earthsong... some gesture at atonement? Then we were reminded You are not alone... We didn't look, we didn't want to look, we didn't want to see, because what we knew we'd see would contradict our treasured beliefs about a man elevated to the status of an almost God.
Finally, the most uncomfortable question for me is what's the role of the audience in watching this? Do we get a vicarious pleasure from watching and listening to the testimony of these two men? They explain clearly their need to speak out and the reasons it took them so long to do so. However, we're watching this. It interests us - I have to ask myself why? What's the vicarious pleasure we're getting? Are we in some sense, guilty or at least implicit or inserted into an abuse narrative, a story? In some sense are we becoming complicit in the abuse, because we're getting some kind of distorted pleasure from learning about it?
Difficult to watch but powerful. Emerging as it does at the time of the Me too movement, high profile cases against senior figures in the Catholic church guilty of abuse, maybe this film will mark a watershed moment. A moment at which people who've suffered abuse at the hands of powerful figures in authority, the church or showbusiness find the courage to speak out and the abusers can no longer assume they will get away with it.
The Fear (2012)
Another bad British Brighton based bomb
Don't waste your time with it. Compared to shows that come from the US like Better Call Saul or Quarry I can't watch British films or tv series any more - the production values are so low, the scripts undeveloped, the entire approach is amateurish, cheap and cliched with silly special effects, flashbacks and moody music telling us what to feel.
It's unbelievable in any case, Brighton is so thoroughly gentrified I couldn't buy into this criminal family. The characters didn't work, couldn't believe in the two sons and the art gallery wife.
If they'd set it in another city like Bristol or Birmingham I might have bought into it more.
Instead, if you want a corking crime drama I'd advise you search out a DVD set of the 1988 Euston films series also of the same name, The Fear, which was about a thoroughly nasty little psychopathic wannabe gangster called Carl Galton, played by Scottish actor Iain Glen (who actually did manage a London accent). This doesn't rely on wonky special effects, of the F word to make itself 'edgy'. It's slow burning, intelligent crime drama with location shooting in actual clubs and bars (I know cos I was around at the time).
I can't say I was disappointed by this because my expectations now are so low I tend not to bother with anything coming out of Britain but it occupied my attention for an hour on a Tuesday evening. I won't bother watching the rest of the series.
why you should see this film
Marcello Fonte's award winning performance which totally convinces as the doting father dealing coke on the side and in so doing so has made one of his customers, Simone (Edoardo Pesce), a hulking beast of a sociopathic bully, into a true monster. Something utterly devoid of charm, empathy or indeed a single redeeming quality. The 'dogman' however, through his actions, is a morally ambigous character. On the one hand, he's a loving, devoted father to his daughter. He shows a warmth, affection, empathy and understanding towards the dogs in his care, who are sometimes agitated. On the other hand he bears a great deal of responsibility for making Simone into the coke addled monster that he is.
Questions are opened up about the nature of evil, how it arises and what it is that prevents evil from taking hold. I think the film invites us to consider what we live our lives for - do we live solely in order to serve ourselves and our narrow interests or do we put aside our selves and try to live for and consider others? How do we deal with the consequences, foreseen or otherwise, of our actions?
The direction - use of location, cinematography. This is definitely a movie to see on the big screen, the decrepit sea side resort where the action takes place is packed full of detail this is masterful film making - making full use of the setting to reinforce the interior world of the characters.
The sure sign for me of a skilled director is an absence of incidental music - this movie has none, it doesn't need it. The action speaks for itself. It relies upon and allows the audience intelligence to consider what is going on.
A magnificently intelligent film about the human condition about how humans allow tyrants to run over them, about power, how power is abused, how we treat those weaker than ourselves.
I'll warn there is some stomach churning violence so this might not be a good 'date' movie but if you want a serious and deep film exploring the human condition and masculinity in particular then this one is for you. More questions posed than answers offered...
If you're an Italian buff and know your way around the Naples region this will be even more for you, but that said the story could happen anywhere.
Saying that suddenly brought to mind Shane Meadows film 'Dead Mans Shoes' which this would sit very nicely with in a double bill. It's quite a different film, with a damaged male protagonist making choices with serious consequences and also a 'revenge' flick.
DOGMAN was released in France back in June where I saw it in Italian with French subtitles I speak OK French, not brilliant, there's always stuff you miss but that didn't seem to diminish the impact. I'll finish by saying that despite the dark themes it's not without some sharp humour. ENJOY!
Entertaining historical drama
This film is even handed and explores why people take the positions they do. the themes are universal - the older generation carry the baggage of WWII, the legacy of fascism while the younger generation of high school students are idealistic and, to some extent, naive and easily manipulated.
We understand why the East German government finds it imperative to stamp out 'counter revolutionary' activity. The characters are well rounded, not just evil cardboard cut outs. School officials are caught up in and compromised by a political system.
The irony is by working together and maintaining solidarity the school students show precisely the qualities the 'socialist' regime of the GDR was supposed to be all about.
The intrusive incidental music was the only thing which grated for me, and at times the movie lapsed in to melodrama but on the whole it was entertaining and thought provoking with a lavish attention to period detail.
Lean on Pete (2017)
Powerful and moving coming of age / contemporary western
Can't add much to the comprehensive and excellent reviews here but things I enjoyed about this movie were:
Charlie Plummer holds the entire film and conveys a vulnerability, naivete which carries you along throughout. I genuinely had no idea where the movie was going and was enthralled throughout the two hour run time. This young man has serious star quality, he conveys a range of complex emotions through facial expressions, body language that pulls you in to his interior world and has you empathising with him. If you're at all sensitive to films, you'll likely need some kleenex while you're watching.
I loved the setting, the pacific north west, American rural underclass. People are shaped by their environment, the film is humane and non judgemental towards people whose character, whose choices and opportunities in life are determined and constrained by their circumstances. This is a movie for all those who've been left behind, forgotten about.
There's no incidental music, for me the sign of a superb film. I don't need an intrusive, corny music score coming in at crucial moments to remind me what to think and feel.
Like I say, can't add much to what's already said but I thoroughly enjoyed this amazing film, a piece of quality drama.
humanity struggles on in an indifferent and at times hostile, universe
Southern Democratic republic of Congo, the present. Kabwita, a farmer, dreams of building a house for himself, his wife and small daughters.
To this end he fells a tree, builds a charcoal oven transforming said timber into charcoal, then walks the charcoal on an adapted, overloaded bicycle to sell in the nearest town, some fifty kilometres from his village.
This is a slow burning (excuse the pun) documentary but be patient with it allow the images and sound to pull you in, this viewer found it mesmerising. What's striking is how even in the midst of abject poverty and this film is concerned with some of the poorest people on the planet, there's nonetheless at many times an extraordinary beauty. Whether it's the close in shots of the bike loaded up with sacks of charcoal, intricately bound that take on the appearance of some sort of contemporary sculpture or artwork, the chiaroscuro shots of the town at night, or the single electric lightbulb in the village, there's a strange beauty.
the African landscape is shown to great effect and this is a landscape very much affected by humans, it's shown without sentiment, it's clear what was once lush tropical forest has disappeared, in it's place are scraggy young trees and dusty roads.
The camerawork is astonishing, close in work that pulls you in with a visceral quality, you almost feel Kabwita's muscles as he pushes his load some fifty kilometres to sell in town.
The film's lightened with humour, once in town he transforms from the peasant to the shrewd businessman as he sells his cargo, his interactions with various customers, especially the market women, are very entertaining to watch. I estimated that for three weeks work of producing the charcoal then the labour involved bringing it to the town, he'll net less than 100 dollars or euros. He looks at sheets of corrugated steel - each costs around 20 USD, and he will need fifteen of these sheets just to roof his self build house. Do the maths.
Even though they're living in the most abject circumstances everyone in the film is afforded respect and dignity, a refreshing change from the usual poverty porn.
Emmanuel Gras has made a unique documentary which feels more like a journey film. There's a spiritual element to it, my reading was that it shows our insignificance in the great scheme of things but nonetheless how determined people are, the human spirit, our search for meaning and significance in an indifferent universe, an apparently meaningless and purposeless world. Watch it yourself and see what you think, this is very much a thinking persons movie, everyone will get something different from it.
I Am Not a Witch (2017)
Powerful and thought provoking drama
I'm disappointed there aren't more reviews on this superb little film, considering it's the work of a first time director who shows impressive talent and promise.
The good: excellent camera work which uses the parched landscape of rural Zambia to great effect, reinforcing the interior lives of the characters and moving the story forwards.
The little girl is superb in the role, one of the greatest performances I've seen from a child actor in a long time, she conveys everything without speaking, simply from her expression or body language. Incredible.
Plenty to read into the film, the three friends I went with had plenty to say about it afterwards and we all agreed the themes it explored apply to every human culture, not just an African one. the same behaviours and ways people delude themselves or accept ridiculous beliefs because they want to belong, the way human societies find someone to scapegoat and project on to that person all of the groups ills, all this is depressingly familiar.
My only criticism is this is again a film of Afro pessimism, there's precious few films from the continent making it on to cinema screens, the only ones I can think of recently are Felicite, Johnny Mad Dog. Both somewhat gloomy subject matter. it would be nice to see some films that offered a different perspective. Having lived and worked in Africa I know there's a lot more to the continent than child witches, child soldiers, FGM, HIV epidemics, diseases, starvation corrupt leaders and so on...
People get on in much the way they do anywhere, making the best of what little they have...
much better than the truly awful Billy Elliott but...
When I saw that Stephen Daldry directed this it was enough to put me off watching it. However...it's well put together, well shot, edited, scripted and the young leads are superb. The poverty porn is problematic, the shots of the waste dump are aesthtically pleasing, the shots of the favela likewise. Films and other texts like this one can serve to assuage those of us living in relatively privileged conditions that actually for people living in abject poverty, well, you know, life isn't so bad at all. There's a stronger sense of community and people get on and look after one another. If you want a proper, serious, grown up film with a Latin American spin about poverty and what it does to people then look elsewhere to Pixote from 1981 or Luis Bunuels's Los Olvidados from 1946. If there's a better film than Los Olvidados on the subject out there I'd like to know what it is. All that said, I was entertained by this, I liked the points the film made about corruption on the part of the police and politicians, I liked the way it foregrounded street children as characters. Another more serious film about street children is Ali Zouaua made about 2002 in Morocco featuring a cast of Casablancan street urchins. Trash is a great movie to show young teens to get them thinking about global issues or as an introduction to world cinema but for serious social commentary one needs to look elsewhere.
The Falling (2014)
another awful, boring, vacuous British 'film'
I think I'm going to give up on 'British film' altogether because I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of decent British movies I've seen in the last ten years. Kill List, Wuthering Heights, Duke of Burgundy, Children of men, Never Let me go, Brothers of the Head. OK, OK it's up to six.
This is just awful. I remember feeling annoyed that I'd paid over ten pounds to see carol Morley's Dreams of a Life in the cinema when watching it at home on a small screen wouldn't have made any difference to the interest of the documentary, it certainly didn't need a big screen. However it was an impressive enough documentary to make me want to watch this.
The Falling is about nothing. It's cliché ridden and it doesn't even convey the late sixties properly. A decent film maker would have, along with their cast, watched some sixties films and got them to speak, got the intonations and the accents right. People spoke in a different way fifty years ago but in this film they talk like they do nowadays? By ending a sentence as if it's a question? With that rising intonation of the voice? Also, like most British films, it doesn't have a big enough budget so we have a school that only seems to have about nine students. With the result that the mise en scene is just unbelievable.
Anyway I lost ninety minutes of my life watching this which I'll never recover and advise you avoid doing the same. I won't repeat what other commentators have said - this film goes nowhere and is an incoherent mess of clichés. That it got National Lottery funding says a lot about the UK taxpayer funded gravy train that is the British Film Institute. Not to mention the BBC who also bear responsibility for this wreck.
Stick with the DVDs of Powell and Pressburger or Nicholas Roeg and avoid anything else with the label 'British film'. British and film is a contradiction in terms.
Mr. Turner (2014)
A singularly wretched and tedious experience.
It was my misfortune to witness the spectacle about the painter Mr Turner. A more wretched and tedious experience I have seldom encountered. Grunts and mutterings on the part of Mr Spall, the principle actor, brought to mind those creatures whose antics amuse those who frequent such places of entertainment as the zoological garden. It is indeed astonishing to find such favourable reviews published in esteemed journals under the authorship of learned and distinguished persons. I must concur wholeheartedly with those sentiments expressed by others upon these pages concerning the singular deficiencies in narration. Moreover, little merit could be found in its presentation of the events of a past that remains in living memory. Those gentlemen who are desirous of knowing more of the singular genius of Mr. Turner would be well advised to eschew the aforesaid spectacle in favour of perusing tomes within their venerable libraries.
Brutal but incredible filmmaking
At the time of writing (October 2014) this is on release in France but not the UK or the US so I'll write this for the benefit of audiences elsewhere in the world who might be wondering whether to go and see it or not. When not extorting money from other students at a boarding school for the deaf in the Ukraine, the 'tribe' of thugs in the title spend their time robbing train passengers, people in the street or, with the help of their teachers, pimp each other at a truck stop. New kid Sergey arrives and falls for one of the young hookers...which is about all the synopsis you need. There's no dialogue, or subtitles, all the communication between the characters is through sign language. Along with a total absence of incidental music this has the paradoxical effect of heightening the sound...the sounds of footsteps, lorry engines revving for example becoming sinisterly effective. It's not difficult to follow the narrative at all, so don't be put off. The bleak surroundings of the institution combine with a dreary landscape of crumbling apartment blocks, supermarkets at night time in a bitter, dirty grey winter, to heighten the feeling of an amoral universe, a dog eat dog world where everyone is out only for themselves. There's no compassion, the one intimate relationship which develops seems to be motivated by lust, carnality and characterised by opportunism on either part. There doesn't appear to be any real tenderness there. Is the closed institution an allegory for the Ukraine, or human societies as a whole? The Tribe is a unique piece of cinema and inspired me to write, I've seen nothing in the last few years quite so extraordinary, but be warned it most definitely is not for the faint hearted. The violence is sickening, stomach churning, and made all the more shocking by the use of sound and absence of music since even if averting your gaze you remain all too aware of what's happening on screen, with no music to distance or make things ironic. The Tribe forces you to gaze, unblinking, into the abyss of total human depravity.
could have been better but worth a watch all the same
I remember the buzz around this film a few years ago because it was shot in Stoke and part financed by the now disbanded Screen West Midlands. With whom I had some professional involvement. I can't add anything to the already excellent user comments about this film but will say what I would do differently were I making it. As other users say its a coming of age story set against the northern soul scene of the mid seventies. I've got interested enough in northern soul to have researched it and Wigan Casino was one of umpteen clubs across the midlands and north of England. My strongest criticism of this film is it doesn't work within its constraints of a low budget and the attempts to re create the Wigan Casino don't convince. They needed a bigger budget, a bigger cast of extras and so on. If I was making the film I'd have thought a lot smaller and set it in a fictional soul club or maybe even a youth club in Stoke on Trent. Stoke had a major Northern soul venue in any case I can t remember the name, as did places like Droitwich and Wolverhampton. When Hollywood do period films they have the budget to chuck at it that it convinces. We can't do it. There's all of three period vehicles that appear in the film. Some of the costumes and detailing are wrong. Did digital watches have alarms in 1974? I doubt it. But this is nonetheless entertaining and worth a watch, especially if you like retro drama. I've seen clips from the forthcoming NORTHERN SOUL film which looks a lot more convincing. I was six years old in 1974 so too young to be part of any scene but I still remember the decade and certain things can transport me back. There's a certain 'look' to the seventies and it needs a budget to achieve a convincing rendition in a film. What I saw of NORTHERN SOUL seemed to have it. SOULBOY is 2/3 of the way there, a commendable effort, worth seeing but in my opinion it would have been better if it had been a little more modest in it's ambitions.
The Dead (2010)
zombie wey na one way
The illogicality of the zombie thing has to be suspended when approaching films like The Dead: how can you kill monsters who are already technically dead? Do zombies starve to death if they can't find victims to devour? Why don't zombies devour the entire person instead of just biting them enough to turn their victim into another zombie? In this film Lt Brian Murphy, without the aid of maps let alone a satnav, without a gas station in sight, washed up somewhere on the coast of West Africa, manages to repair an old pick up, drives several hundred miles through the bush instead of taking the main road, to arrive at the Pics de Sindou, a huge rock formation and tourist attraction, in Burkina Faso. On the way he finds an airfield with a radio producing nothing but static. Evidently there's still electricity. Somehow they've managed to keep the lights on during a zombie outbreak...
Despite the gaping holes and illogicalities this film breathes new life into a tired genre. If some sort of virus were to emerge that turned people into flesh devouring zombies, it's all too believable it would originate in the hot humid tropical climate of Africa. After all, Ebola and HIV have been traced to this continent...
Several things struck me watching this a second time. The Dead reworks disaster iconography to really great effect. I wonder whether the film makers realise how effectively they have used the way we're conditioned to see Africa. That is either as a locus of disaster and suffering on the one hand or a timeless landscape of incredible natural beauty on the other. The visual conventions of disaster journalism are employed superbly: Severed limbs and amputees evoke footage from the civil wars of Liberia and Sierra Leone. A convoy of army trucks rumbling through an unnamed African country with mean looking soldiers in sunglasses. A solitary figure running crying and screaming through the bush. (Look closely in this scene and you see the Jeeps have Ghana plates). Consider the amount of news footage we have in Europe or America of displaced Africans waiting aimlessly around. These contrast with the sheer beauty of the landscapes and setting of the film and intricate attention to lighting and camera work. Shooting in this climate presents considerable challenges such as shorter daylight hours, humidity, dust, visibility and the film makers have surmounted considerable technical challenges.
Some commentators describe the film as racist. Flesh devouring, cannibalistic zombies? The walking dead? It can be argued the film is an allegory about a continent which has literally been devoured for centuries by Europeans and more recently by corrupt Africans themselves.
There's some tacky scenes for example where Murphy rescues a baby. I think these can be problematic if one considers the film literally. It might be that by having a scene as corny as this the film is commenting on other films, making us aware of how most films always position the US as the Good Guys who are coming to save everyone else. Films are not just entertainment products, they reinforce the ideology of a culture and this reviewer can't make out whether The Dead is reinforcing, or challenging the ideology of White America, that is it's beliefs, thoughts and assumptions. The ending is likewise problematic for this reviewer. We see an American man with a cute African child with dreadlocks, gazing out at the camera. By doing this it can be argued the film positions Africans as being childlike – not fully capable, not fully adult. The child's father, Sergeant Daniel, has been attacked by the zombies then to all intents sacrificed, left beneath a tree by Murphy, to die. This raises another problematic which is that the film obeys Hollywood conventions whereby the Black character is there to save the white protagonist.
I may be reading too much into what after all is only a film but cultural products like films reveal, whether intentionally or not, much about the culture from which they emerge.
To conclude. The slow moving zombies generate a powerful sense of constant threat and tension. The pacing and suspense are well maintained and there's enough gore and shocks to delight horror afficionadoes. Scratch beneath the surface and the film becomes more interesting on a number of levels. Whatever problems the film raises are not necessarily the fault of the filmmakers who are to be commended for shooting in West Africa and bringing in local crew and cast, such as Prince David Oseia who is a household name in Nigeria. While the stunning, timeless landscapes in which the film is set are one of the ways we're conditioned to see Africa, that part of Burkina Faso really is as amazing in real life as it is in the film. Maybe The Dead will inspire more people to visit this corner of Africa.
Dreams of a Life (2011)
is this an elaborate hoax?
I like the comments from another reviewer, about how ms Vincent didn't fit in easily, neither the Black, nor Asian community and encountering racism from her white boyfriend Martin's parents. I was fascinated to watch this having lived in Wood Green myself during the early nineties and I remember vividly during the course of my training in one of the caring professions visiting a client in the very same block of flats where Joyce died. Its a strange building, a walkway above a car park, sitting on top of a shopping centre and very anonymous. No one passing by and, from Wood Green High street, you would never imagine there are homes above this shopping centre. Apparently the housing association have reviewed their procedures after Joyce was three years in arrears with her rent. Knowing how inept and useless many big organisations are its easy to see how someone in social housing could get into big rent arrears. Someone in the organisation has to notice, then they have to consult a manager, then they have to have a meeting, then they have to refer it to a committee, then there's another meeting, then they have to check with the social services... Still, there must have been a power cut at some stage in the three years. Who was paying the electricity bills if the TV was still on? Why wasn't the electricity cut off? Things don't add up. If Joyce had contact with professionals dealing with domestic violence, there must be case records. Were the police ever called to an incident? Did Joyce use aliases? I ve hear a couple of theories, one is this whole film is an elaborate hoax. The other is she was murdered by someone with a key to her flat and the murderer went to great lengths to cover their tracks. The housing association could answer some of these questions, such as confirming there really was a Joyce Vincent housed by them. Also, many housing associations will only issue one set of keys to tenants, special keys which you cannot copy at a regular locksmiths. Someone needs to check this story out. It would not be the first time a national newspaper like The Sun was duped by a hoax. I m not saying it IS a hoax, just that it might be... Finally, I saw this at the Odeon and while I encourage anyone to watch it, you won t lose anything by waiting for the DVD. Cinema tickets can be pricey these days and Dreams of a Life is perfectly good watched on the small screen.
Wuthering Heights (2011)
superb literary adaptation but not for everyone
I can't add much to reviewer Richard Wilkins excellent user review on this site. However Heathcliff is clearly coded as an ex slave. There's a scene early on when scars are visible on his back as well as a brand mark on his shoulder. My own personal reading of this Wuthering Heights is as an existential piece. The moors which surround the cottage are the one space where Cathy and Heathcliff are able to experience joy, amidst the natural landscape. The world of people, conveyed in the claustrophobic cottage which is filmed with lots of close ups, by contrast is one of casual cruelty, nasty and brutish. The film highlights the indifference of nature and how utterly alone we are in the universe. It questions how 'civilised' our civilisations really are by making Heathcliff an ex slave. This is a thinking persons Wuthering Heights, there's layers of meaning beneath the surface as befits one of the best loved novels of the English language. The cinematography is just superb and incredibly visceral, lighting is amazing, with shots by candlelight and darkness, things half glimpsed. You really feel as if you are in the eighteenth or nineteenth century. If you want a fluffy literary adaptation with a clear storyline this is not for you. If you re prepared to work and take the time this is a real treat. Historical cinema with attitude.
evocative and well curated footage
I saw this in a UK arts centre with a friend from the US who had left High School in 66 or 67 and graduated from college in 70. On her own admission here was another America she has never experienced or known about. What struck me about this is the pacing, the editing allows the protagonists time and space to speak and articulate themselves. There's a section when Angela Davis speaks eloquently and movingly and the camera holds on her for several minutes. This film is essential viewing for any younger people involved in the 'Occupy'or anti globalisation / anti capitalist movements. The issues that the Black Power movement were addressing are still with us. The film has a wonderful soundtrack and music score complementing the footage perfectly. The footage is both evocative and informative, carefully selected. There's shots of everyday street scenes, interviews and dramatic footage of rioting and disturbances. Yes BPMT is short on analysis, but for this viewer the beauty of this film is that I felt an empathy as a fellow human being with these angry, militant people and felt inspired to learn more about the Black Power movement and quietly, calmly, start to listen. I don t feel I have to apologise for being white after watching this or start going all PC simply that I have a better understanding now of where some people were or are coming from. Finally, it's fascinating this film emerges from Sweden. Often held to be a model of 'responsible' capitalism, a proper social democracy where entrepreneur ism and business can live happily alongside social provision and an excellent welfare state. However unlike other European countries such as Britain or France, Sweden never had to address the legacy of a colonial empire and immigration from former colonies. It's very safe for a country, a society where everyone looks the same and speaks the same language to be open, liberal and tolerant. I'm very intrigued as to what the fascination and interest was for the Swedish in the Black Power movement, a question this film doesn't address. Maybe the Black Power activists in this film are being positioned as 'exotic' in the same way that countless documentaries always position Africans as exotic, closer to nature, primitive and so on. Just a thought...
Kill List (2011)
Allegory of the nihilism of contemporary Britain
Director Ben Wheatley made 2010's highly acclaimed micro budget Down Terrace, about a criminal family trying to unearth the grasses whose snitching has brought one of them to the attentions of the criminal justice system. Like Down Terrace, Kill List eschews conventions, instead busting through genre classifications. There's much debate on the web as to which genre this film fits and much criticism about the way it shifts genre. Debate which goes up a dead end for a truly original piece of film as art. A more appropriate designation for this film would be 'noir' rather than 'thriller' or 'horror'. There is a palpable sense of dread, a pessimistic world view, characters caught up in situations over which they've no control, lots unexplained and stylistically, shots of dim lit hotel corridors, anonymous rooms, are pure noir.
Rather than The Wicker Man, Kill List is more on the lines of Michael Haneke's Time of The Wolf which takes a low key, realist approach and, like Kill List with references to the unexplained incident in Kiev, never fully explains its back history.
The first third of the the film takes place in the family home of Jay and Shel and their small boy Sam. In their claustrophobic house on an anonymous peripheral housing estate the couple bicker and argue. A dinner party with Jay's ex army buddy Cal to which he brings mysterious new partner Fiona is a scene for an excruciating argument. At this stage the film is shot in a hand-held, verite style, with performances and dialogue which look to be improvised, putting the film in the realm of kitchen sink realism. This has the effect of allowing the depth of the characters to emerge. Persuaded to join Cal on a job, the second third of the film sees Jay and Cal travelling a non scape of contemporary England, a landscape of arterial roads and anonymous hotels. The heavy grey and oppressively overcast skies, the flat colouring generates an air of subtle unease. There's been careful and effective detail to mise en scene, grounding the film in the everyday even something as apparently insignificant as a crate of beer in the background of the garage takes on significance: evidently this family get through lots of booze. This treatment becomes brutally effective in the second half as the pair meet 'The Client', a sinister, well spoken Rodger Straun who seals the deal with blood. They then embark on their 'kill list'.
When the killing begins its all the more shocking and sickening for the way generic conventions of horror / thriller are abandoned. There's a truly stomach churning torture scene, taking place not in some seedy warehouse but a respectable looking house, replete with hanging baskets. Watch these scenes closely and especially the victims responses because they are crucial in understanding the films final third. The child in the film, Sam, is important. If children embody hope and the future, in this film the child serves as a locus for anxiety. There's a scene where some sort of awful pornography is discovered, which sends Jay into a psychotic rage 'as a parent.'
Kill List brings to mind the best British horror film and television of the seventies, where the horror is all the more effective for being implied and you're presented with images and sounds left unexplained which you have to try to make some sense of. Anyone who grew up with TV series such as Sapphire and Steel or Thriller will know exactly how these relied on building mood and atmosphere for their effect and in the case of Sapphire and Steel, were utterly terrifying through what was left unexplained, unsaid.
MAJOR SPOILER ALERT!
Are the victims, the priest and the librarian, who thank their killers / torturers, members of the same death cult we encounter towards the end? There's a well documented phenomenon of suicide cults, the most notorious being Jonestown in 1979 and while the sudden shift into occult territory causes a jolt, it's nonetheless perfectly plausible.
On the surface Kill List is about a hit man manipulated or tricked into killing his wife and child by a death cult. On a deeper level its about the banality of evil and how it takes quite ordinary people to carry out the most atrocious acts. At one stage in the film The Client tells Jay and Gal they are 'cogs'. Writer Primo Levi, in talking about the Nazi holocaust, described how the most dangerous people were those who just obeyed orders, didn't question, allowed the monstrous state bureaucracy of fascism to function. Kill List can be read as an allegory of the anxieties and nihilism of contemporary Britain. A country which has spent ten years fighting wars in distant lands against an obscure enemy. A country whose security services are implicated in the practice of torture, whose police appear to carry out extra judicial killings. This has always been a nation riven by a deep and problematic class system (signified through speech and dress, Jay and Cal have strong London and Irish accents, The Client's voice is educated upper class). Furthermore, an atmosphere of fear and mistrust pervades throughout contemporary Britain, from CCTV cameras (more than any other country in the world) to Criminal Records Checks for prospective employees. The nihilism is further manifested in the failure of political and public institutions and a sense people have of being abandoned. People left with few comforts aside from drinking (observe the bottles of wine and crates of beer in Jays garage). At the end Jay kills his wife and son and the allegory is made explicit. England has no future left. This is what the mysterious Doctor says to Jay: 'Let me give you some advice. the past is finished, the future is not here. There is only this present'. Pretty bleak message but it rings true with this reviewer.
forces of modernity collide head on with the weight of African tradition
I recently showed this film to a group of students so what follows is a condensed version of the worksheet I gave them. The questions I give hopefully can assist others in making meaning from the film.
Touki Bouki can best be made sense of in the following way: It operates through allusion and symbolism. Through the story of two young lovers, Mory and Fanta, clashing with the older generation, yearning to leave for Paris, Mambety puts on screen his vision of a country where the weight of thousands of years of tradition collides head on with the modernity of a newly emergent Senegal.
Allusion...an implied or indirect reference hinting at something
Symbol...something that stands for something else...something concrete that represents or suggests another thing that cannot in itself be represented or visualised...for example a lion symbolises courage
Think about what you have seen (and heard!) in the film, paying special attention to:
Mory's motorbike – what is it decorated with? What do those objects remind you of? Fanta ties it to a tree, in the midst of a herd of cows...is there a connection to the cows?
The long scene in the first half of the film, when there are lots of shots of the sea, then we see Mory and Fanta together on the cliffs talking about leaving for France
The transformation of the Aunt from an unsympathetic character in the first half of the film to a praise singer in the second.
Charlie's car which Mory and Fanta ride off in after robbing him is a Citroen painted in the flag of which country? How is it positioned in relation to the motorbike and the welcomers?
1. How do you think the following things are alluded to in the film?
The act of lovemaking The city of Paris The cycles of life – birth, death, birth
2. How do you think the following things are symbolised in the film?
African tradition African modernity – this film is made soon after Senegal gained independence The ties which hold us, such as family, friends, our familiar environment Colonial power The primitive
Other points to consider...
Mambety inserts documentary footage from actual events, such as the women at the well, a wrestling competition, street children and a Presidential motorcade, into a fiction film. Do these scenes have anything to do with the story? What effect do they have on you, the viewer? What's your response to them? Why might they be in the film?
Certain images and sounds are repeated in the film, such as the ocean, the crows, the cries of the taxi driver who runs away from the box then repeated by the caveman. What effect does this have? Does it 'organize' the film in any way?
Answers... Mory's motorbike symbolizes Africa, in the scene after they ve robbed Charlie, it s positioned in such a way against the Citroen that the two seem oppositional. The Citroen is a French car decorated with the US flag stars and stripes so representing both French colonialism and US imperialism. The sea is a symbol for lovemaking. The cycles of nature are implied in the scenes of cattle slaughter and goat being sacrificed. Fanta ties the motorbike up as if shes trying to hold at bay the forces of modernity, of change. is the film trying to reconcile two opposing aspects, yearning for the past and tradition while simultaneously embracing modernity, the new? Whose the weird, white looking caveman up in the tree? Its as if Mambety shoves our images of 'primitive' Africans back in faces, also in the dream sequence when Mory and Fanta sit in the car, dressed in 1930s clothes smoking, being sung praises by Aminata Fal is a parody of successful Europeans. There's so much I d love to write about this film...Paris is reduced to a notion, an idea, a fantasy, brought to life through a clichéd song by Josephine Baker. On another level I read Touki Bouki as being about how Europe positions Africa and Africa positions Europe as exotic other. I m running out of space here, loads I could write about this film, hope this is useful, ENJOY!
Africa United (2010)
ultimately upholds the values of white individualism...
Five youngsters travel across the African continent to reach the opening games of the world cup. Starting in Kigali, Rwanda, talented teenage footballer Fabrice catches the eye of a talent scout who invites him to play at the opening ceremony of the 2010 World Cup. His appointed 'manager' Dudu, played by the hyper Eriya Ndayambaje , hustles him to the nearest bus station and on to the wrong bus. Towing his best friend Beatrice along the three friends decide to walk to the games. If the premise is unbelievable, bear in mind this is a children's / family film and it seems churlish to criticise it too harshly. It throws in a certain amount of realism through entirely location shooting with nice shots of the semi urban landscape of Kigali and a motor park. However this is an Africa which appears slightly too clean for someone whose been there. Where are the piles of plastic rubbish blocking up the open drains? Eriya Ddayanbaje's lead performance of Dudu does begin to grate after a while but works for the target audience. The group of teenagers behind me were giggling away constantly although I felt at times I was watching a safer sex education film, the condom message is so overstated. While well meaning it does continue the idea that everyone in Africa has HIV. This is a serious issue and while HIV affects the lives of many Africans, most people on the continent don't have HIV. Along the journey Dudu and Fabrice meet Foreman George, a former child soldier, a smouldering and moody performance from Yves Dusenge somewhat wasted on this film. No background is furnished, we're simply given this character, taken for granted he's a traumatised kid. No context is given as to how the child soldier phenomenon emerges and its easy for a audience of teenagers to go away from this film imagining that Africa consists of AIDS orphans, child soldiers or teenage sex workers. Without diminishing any of these problems it needs to be remembered the child soldier phenomenon emerged from particular areas of Africa, it isn't and hasn't been continent wide. The conflict in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), largely ignored by the rest of the world, is fuelled by the demand for minerals and the interplay between conflict, child soldiers and global neo liberal capitalism is never alluded to in this film. Maybe thats too much to expect of a children's film but it's frustrating for an audience to bring in the child soldier thing and then not expand it. A similar reluctance takes place to expand the character of Celeste, who when we meet her is a sex worker at a bar on the shores of Lake Tanganyika. This lake borders DRC, again there isn't any context given about the situation here, the complex interplay of colonial histories, exploitation of mineral wealth fuelling conflicts, the ongoing abuses of women such as rape used as a method of control and coercion and so on. Maybe this is too much to ask of a children's film but don't just allude to an issue, give it some proper background. While the film rams home a message that the young people are a team, they all stick together, collaborating for a shared purpose, it ultimately upholds the notion of individualism. Fabrice gets to the World Cup Opening ceremony. His friends conveniently go their own ways. In place of collaborative interdependence, Africa United substitutes neo liberalism, embodied in the spectacle of the world cup, to offer up a facsimile of togetherness. The final shots emphasise Fabrice, close up, walking into the stadium. No mention here of the street traders swept away for the building of the stadium, the homes demolished, the squatters evicted...
The Fear (1988)
In a word: Superb.
I remembered this vividly from when it was on British television in 1988 and was very curious to see how well it holds up today (2010) when I watched the DVD set recently. It's even better than I remembered, but then its from the Euston Films stable who brought us canonical cop show The Sweeney as well as Trevor Preston's OUT, a moody gangland drama - thriller from 1978 so you'd expect quality.
The Fear follows Armani clad thug Carl Galton (played by Iain Glen) as he tries to increase his criminal empire in North London. Following a bar brawl, his younger brother dies, an older gangster is out of his way and Galton attempts to muscle in on two older gangsters, now respectable businessmen. These are Slater (Anthony Valentine, superb) and Klein (Dennis Lill). A sub plot involves a love triangle with Klein's wife Pat (Linda Marlowe). Another support actor with a long pedigree in British television is Jesse Birdsall as Marty, Carl's best friend. There's another great little subplot involving tensions underlying Carl and Marty's relationship...
Superb cinematography makes full use of a North London yet to become completely gentrified. Lots of moody shots of clubs, streets, canals, railway bridges, recognisable locations such as Islington's Upper Street, a pre Eurostar Kings Cross and The Grand Union Canal. To use venues like the London Apprentice or Jims's Piano bar, well known haunts of London's gay scene of the eighties, was a stroke of genius.
It captures the joyless mood of the Thatcher years so well. Galton's pretentious aspirations exemplified as he sits in an empty office waiting for the bailiffs to arrive. The red Porsche is parked outside but there's no money in the bank as his cheques bounce. Running on empty appearance is all that matters. What the eighties was so about...style and vacuity over any real substance or values.
For a crime drama, most of the violence is all the more effective by being, for the most part, implied. Glen's performance is spot on as an emotionally manipulative, twisted little psychopath tormenting his wife with mind games. Violence comes suddenly making it all the more shocking and unnerving when it does. Narcissism is alluded to throughout with numerous shots of Galton looking at himself in mirrors, or fastidiously adjusting his expensive designer clothes.
Casting Anthony Valentine as Slater, the Mr. Big, is a real treat, he is just superb and completely right for the part. His pretensions to being Lord of the Manor with a Roller parked on the drive of his mansion always and forever betrayed by his working class London accent.
The series is incredibly bold in its scope, with an epic quality to the climax taking place against the backdrop of a midsummer pagan festival. Through the shots of countryside, the interweaving of an industrial unrest subplot and themes of aspiration it becomes as much a meditation upon the nature of Englishness and the decline or otherwise of the English working classes. The Fear pulls together a noir style and sensibility with English shades of Jacobean tragedy to be one of the best British gangster series ever, one which is inexplicably and criminally under rated.
Mugabe and the White African (2009)
To be fair I shouldn t be reviewing it because I turned it off after the first fifteen minutes. At the first shots of sad, wide eyed African children. I knew what I was in for and din't fancy the ride. These children wernet given a voice, nor were their parents. The film never questions the assumption that the land belongs by rights to the white settlers. The tone and language of the white family is classic colonial era: paternalistic towards 'our' workers. Resting on the (unspoken) assumption that Africans are irrational, child like and incapable of managing things themselves. Instead of rigorous analysis of a complex series of events, giving voice to the different interests and points of view, the film relies upon emotional manipulation of the audience. The situation in Zimbabwe is the culmination of years of interference in the continent on the part of Europeans. Shame this film couldn't offer more insight. It says much about the media and visual illiteracy of our culture along with Britain's unwillingness to confront the legacy of its colonial past that this film has been so feted to the extent of winning a BAFTA award. Still, people will believe the truths they want to believe.