Talking Movies

October 21, 2016

I, Daniel Blake

Ken Loach returns from his Sinatraesque retirement with a film that leads you to question not Tory policy but the line between art and propaganda.

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Geordie carpenter Daniel Blake (Dave Johns) is unwell. He had a heart attack, nearly fell off a scaffold, and is waiting for doctors to clear him for work. The Kafkaesque welfare system deems him fit for work, however, so his benefits are stopped. Trying to appeal is impossible until a phone call from the ‘Decision Maker’, which should though have preceded the letter cutting off his benefits. Dan is forced onto the dole, where he must prove to a veritable Eichmann of the Welfare Office, Sheila (Sharon Percy), that he is indeed actively looking for work he is physically unable to perform. Humiliated Dan befriends another victim, Londoner Katie (Hayley Squires), who has been moved up North with her children Daisy (Briana Shann) and Dylan (Dylan McKiernan), by Tory plans to gentrify London by cleansing it of such benefits scroungers.

Watching I, Daniel Blake is like being trapped in an empty carriage with Jeremy Corbyn on a slow train from London to Newcastle, it’s like being bludgeoned on the head repeatedly with Michael Foot’s 1983 election manifesto, it’s like having John McDonnell endlessly throw Mao’s little red book in your face from an infinite supply. Screenwriter Paul Laverty artistically stacks the deck, loads the dice, and magnetises the roulette wheel, so comprehensively does he put his agit-prop puppets (poorly disguised as characters) thru the wringer in a plot so unrelentingly grim and ploddingly signposted that its ‘moving’ finale becomes unintentionally funny. My mind wandered so much I wondered whether Laverty and Loach tackling Free-born John Lilburne might have forced them to make actual art, rather than blatant propaganda, by dint of having to use allegory for their contemporary political points.

Daniel is told some employers want video CVs recorded on schmartphones. Loach might have been better served uploading a short screed decrying the Tories, because futility hangs over this. WH Auden said his verse didn’t save a single Jew from the Nazis, but Loach did force change once – with Cathy Come Home, in 1966; before the fragmentation of Britain’s TV audience. But who is he talking to now? I, Daniel Blake is absent from Savoy, Dundrum, IMC Tallaght, and has but 2 shows tomorrow in Cineworld where Jack Reacher has 8, on considerably larger screens. Loach is making clarion calls for the working-class, which will be viewed as art-house fare by some of the middle-class; champagne socialists perhaps. Watching this clumsy tub-thumping film, complete with Hollywood’s clichéd ‘precocious young girl’, is like having a screw slowly hammered into your head…

The only rational response to I, Daniel Blake is to fall asleep in the cinema or undo Loach’s work with the liberal application of screwdrivers at the nearest bar.

0/5

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February 25, 2015

JDIFF 2015: A Chair with Wings

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The programme for the 2015 Jameson Dublin International Film Festival promises a number of international guests, including Julie Andrews, Kenneth Branagh, Russell Crowe, Kim Cattrall, Alan Rickman, Ryan O’Neal and Danny Huston, and intriguing films from diverse countries and eras.

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The JDIFF 2015 programme was officially launched this morning by Festival Director Grainne Humphreys, who invoked The Accidental Tourist’s image of travel writing as giving the reader a chair with wings. The ‘Around the World’ programme features nearly 140 films from nearly 40 different countries across 11 days. Humphreys invoked the Festival’s mission to amplify and complement the world cinema which is available to Irish audiences, noting that 70 to 75% of the films screened at the Festival will never be screened again in Ireland. And when such one-off screening opportunities have in the past few years included such titles as the riveting Russian WWII movie White Tiger and Aleksandr Sokurov’s Faust it only underscores the importance of the Festival.

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The Festival, in response to audience feedback, is expanding into new venues Movies at Dundrum, The Pavilion, and Riverbank Arts Centre, and introducing some double screenings. It is also ramping up its Picture House outreach project in hospitals and care homes, a project whose patron is Oscar-winning actress Brenda Fricker. A final new venue will be the Bord Gais Energy Theatre which will host the finale interview with Julie Andrews. That closing gala screening of The Sound of Music with Andrews, and Kenneth Branagh’s unveiling of his latest blockbuster directorial outing Cinderella, is indicative of a desire to make the Festival accessible to the most casual of cinemagoers rather than the intimidating preserve of cinephiles.

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Julie Andrews and Kenneth Branagh will both receive Voltas, and there are many other guests in attendance between the 19th and 29th of March. As previously mentioned hereabouts Russell Crowe will be presenting his directorial debut, The Water Diviner, in which his character travels to Gallipoli in 1919 to search for his soldier sons, missing since 1915’s bloody landing on the Turkish peninsula. Another actor-director, Alan Rickman, will present his new movie A Little Chaos, in which Kate Winslet attempts to introduce a little anarchy to the gardens of Versailles under the watchful eye of Rickman’s King Louis XIV. Actor-producer Kim Cattrall meanwhile will give an acting masterclass to the students of the Lir Academy, and introduce episodes of her new satirical Canadian TV series Sensitive Skin co-starring Don McKellar.

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The 40th anniversary of Stanley Kubrick’s period epic Barry Lyndon is marked by a screening in the Savoy with both star Ryan O’Neal and producer Jan Harlan, with Lenny Abrahamson leading a public interview afterwards, while O’Neal will also be on hand for a screening of Peter Bogdanovich’s 1972 neo-screwball comedy What’s, Up, Doc? And if all that weren’t enough to get you excited a Talking Movies favourite, the effortlessly charismatic Danny Huston, will do a Q&A after his new suspense thriller Pressure, in which he and Matthew Goode are trapped in a deep-sea station where mind-games soon jeopardise survival.

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A strong line-up of Irish features encompasses genres from horror to rom-com, biopic to gangster. The Festival will be opened by Mary McGuckian’s The Price of Desire, a beatiful and compelling depiction of Irish modernist designer Eileen Gray’s collaboration with Le Corbussier on an iconic piece of archiecture, with stars Orla Brady and Vincent Perez in attendence. Love/Hate actor Robert Sheehan will be attending a screening of his new film The Road Within, and will participate in the Actors in Conversation event, part of this year’s Screen Test programme. Gerard Barret and Jack Reynor, fresh from Sundance glory, will present Glassland, in which Toni Collette’s alcoholism pushes her son Jack Reynor into a clash with the Dublin underworld. Game of Thrones star Liam Cunningham lets rip against the Gardai in Brian O’Malley’s tense Let Us Prey, a homage to John Carpenter’s ouevre, while Conor McMahon dispenses with the comedy of Stitches for straight horror in From the Dark in which a couple in a farmhouse are terrorised. Also featured in the programme are Pat Murphy’s Tana Bana, Ivan Kavanagh’s The Canal, and Vivienne De Courcy’s colourful Dare to be Wild.

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The Out of the Past season is always a Festival highlight and this year showcases Richard Brooks’ 1967 version of In Cold Blood starring Scott Wilson and Robert Blake as the killers immortalised by Truman Capote’s investigation of their brutal crime, PJ Hogan’s 1994 Abba-loving Australian comedy Muriel’s Wedding which made a star of Toni Collette, Jean Renoir’s Partie de Campagne based on a story by Guy de Maupassant, Arthur Hiller’s The Americanisation of Emily starring Julie Andres and James Garner in a tale written by Paddy Chayefsky, and King Vidor’s silent classic of urban alienation The Crowd with live accompaniment from pianist Stephen Horne.

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The Reel To Reel documentary strand features a trio of intriguing titles. The Last Man On The Moon will see directors Mark Craig and Gareth Doods in attendence for a Savoy presentation of their account of the Eugene Cirnan, the only man to travel to the moon twice. Fellow NHL fans will be as excited as Talking Movies to see the engaging and moving Russian documentary Red Army, about the greatest ice hockey team ever assembled in the 1980s Winter Olympics and their playing careers in North America. From Germany meanwhile The Decent One unveils the private documents, journals and photographs of the SS comander Heinrich Himmler to present an intimate portrait of a family man quietly engaged in genocide.

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The bread and butter of the Festival is its eclectic selection of features. The prolific and inimitable François Ozon’s latest film is The New Girlfriend, Olivier Assayas follows up autobiographical Apres Mai with the Cesar-winning psychodrama Cloud of Sils Maria, and Wim Wenders returns with The Salt of The Earth. Actor Mads Mikkelsen takes on the Old West with some Refn-like brutality in The Salvation, director Liv Ullman takes on August Strindberg’s iconic play Miss Julie, Noah Baumbach addresses the effects of technology on individual lives more successfully than Jason Reitman with While We’re Young, Jason Schwartzman antagonises everyone as an obnoxious writer in Listen Up Philip, and another Bret Easton Ellis 2014 favourite Force Majeure makes its debut here.

The full programme will be available on the festival website jdiff.com at 7pm tonight with online booking opening at 7.30pm. Tickets can be booked at the Festival Box Ofiice on 13 Lower Ormond Quay from 26th February, or at Ticket Offices in Cineworld or the Light House from 14th March.

July 12, 2011

Midnight Tango

Following from on my highlighting of one-off performance films during the Dublin Dance Festival here’s a more mainstream one-off dance on film event.

Vincent Simone and Flavia Cacace have lit up six seasons of the BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing with their stunning Tango routines and have now created their own live stage show – Midnight Tango – which brings the drama, sensuality and elegance of the most exciting of dance forms to life. Set in a late night bar in downtown Buenos Aires, and featuring some of the finest Tango dancers in the world, Midnight Tango unfurls thru dance a story of danger and excitement, joy and jealousy, pain and passion.

Midnight Tango is produced by their Strictly cohort, choreographer Arlene Phillips, and is currently playing a sold out 80 date tour at venues across Britain having shifted 160,000 tickets. The Manchester Evening News’ reaction of “Quite simply breathtaking to watch” is typical of its critical reception and the show will run in the West End for 10 weeks from January 2012, barring any injuries to Simone and Cacace who begin training for a 7th run of Strictly Come Dancing in the next few weeks.

Midnight Tango is to be broadcast live from a packed theatre to selected Irish cinema screens for one night only this Wednesday July 13th. Midnight Tango will be transmitted live to four Dublin cinemas: Cineworld, Movies @ Dundrum, Movies @ Swords, and Swan Rathmines. Show starts at 7.30pm and runs for 90 minutes, not including a 20 minute interval. For more information visit the website at www.midnighttango.co.uk.

March 31, 2011

To the Lighthouse?

The court-case winding up the Lighthouse cinema has been adjourned until April 15th; but will it be mere stay of execution, as in the case of the Sunday Tribune, or a commutation of the sentence?

Last autumn I complained about Cineworld busting thru the psychological 10 euro mark for ticket prices. The Lighthouse was one of the cheapest cinemas that I listed in a price comparison of my regular haunts, but it was never a particularly frequent haunt of mine. Sure, I enjoyed seeing Let the Right One In, Moon, and Mesrine: Public Enemy No 1 there, but most of my trips to Smithfield were for press screenings. That’s because of the cinemas I frequent (Savoy, Screen, IFI, Cineworld, Dundrum, Ormonde) the Lighthouse is the furthest away from my suburban southside lair, and the hardest to get to as well: no direct bus link and a 20 minute walk between Luas lines. It was an impractical cinema to get to for a lot of Southsiders who weren’t near the Red line, and no doubt, like me, they were happy to stick with the IFI. Which is a pity as the Lighthouse is a gorgeous cinema aesthetically; even features that shouldn’t work, such as the quirky multi-coloured seats in one screen, do work, making it a notably comfortable cinema experience with a great atmosphere because it has its own distinct and loveably eccentric personality.

But its physical personality rather dwarfs its cinematic personality. It’s great at screening films long after their IFI run has ceased, witness Of Gods and Men running there since Christmas and Animal Kingdom still playing, and their regular re-releases such as The Godfather and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes have been excellent. But the Lighthouse didn’t really stand out as much as it would’ve if it had opened in 2002. The question which the existence of the Lighthouse always begged must now be asked – are there too many art-house cinemas in Dublin? To appropriate the language of politics, where Battle: Los Angeles is Sarah Palin and Submarine is Ralph Nader, just how big is the left-leaning vote? Since the explosion in the number of its screens in 2003, when it took over the adjoining IMAX, Cineworld has screened a huge amount of foreign films and American indie productions that would previously have only played at the IFI. This has pushed the IFI to the left of centre, witness Inception last year playing at the Savoy, Cineworld, and the IFI simultaneously. All too often the Lighthouse, Cineworld, Screen and IFI are redoubtably running the same films at the same times. Given that art-house cinema is a niche to start, can it really be fragmented across four city-centre cinemas and remain a profitable niche?

The dimming of the Lighthouse’s beacon of intelligent cinema would be lamentable, but if the economic logic is against it, it’s inevitable.

September 28, 2010

Cinema in a Good Cause

A very special film festival will take place at Cineworld from Thursday the 7th to Saturday the 10th of October with all proceeds raising going to Action Breast Cancer. There is no set ticket price for any of the films, instead you’ll be asked to donate whatever you feel is appropriate.

The Cadbury Flake Film Festival organised by Cadbury and the Irish Cancer Society will showcase four iconic movies. If you’re booking seats you’ll be asked to make a donation to the Irish Cancer Society through dedicated fundraising pages on www.mycharity.ie while further information is available from www.cancer.ie or www.cadbury.ie. FlashForward star Joseph Fiennes, currently filming in Wicklow, is supporting the campaign saying: “I have been a supporter of Breakthrough Breast Cancer and other fundraisers for many years, after losing my mother to the disease. I prefer to be involved behind the scenes – working with major donors to generate funding or attending events and providing auction prizes. I am very happy to lend my support to Breast Cancer Awareness Month and the Cadbury Flake Film Festival in aid of Action Breast Cancer. I would like to thank all of those who continue to donate their time, money and energy for the benefit of those affected by cancer”.

As well as the film festival Cadbury will donate 5 cent for each Limited Edition Pink Flake for Breast Cancer Awareness Month sold, potentially raising €70,000 for Action Breast Cancer. Petra Ryan, Brand Manager for Cadbury Flake, said “We hope to raise significant funds from these initiatives so that Action Breast Cancer can continue to provide much needed care and support to everyone affected by breast cancer”, while Jim O’Malley, Partnership Manager for the Irish Cancer Society said “Women living in Ireland have a 1 in 10 chance of developing breast cancer in their lifetime so it is imperative that we continue to raise vital funds enabling Irish scientists to find new therapies to prevent breast cancer, better techniques to diagnose it accurately and ultimately new treatments which will cure it.” The charity web-pages are linked to below:

Casablanca: October 7th @ 8pm Tickets available: www.mycharity.ie/event/casablanca_cadbury_flake_film_festival

In a previous blog I dubbed this the film that summed up the 1940s. Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Claude Rains and Paul Henreid star in one of the greatest films ever made. Quotable to a fault, this wartime tale of lost love and political intrigue still packs a hefty emotional punch. “Here’s looking at you kid.”

Dirty Dancing: October 8th @ 8pm Tickets available: www.mycharity.ie/event/dirty_dancing_cadbury_flake_film_festival

The female equivalent of Star Wars for a generation stars the late Patrick Swayze as the summer camp dance instructor who helps Jennifer Grey’s naive ‘Baby’ rebel against her stifling father (a pre-Law & Order Jerry Orbach). Altogether now: “Nobody puts baby in the corner…”

Pretty Woman: October 9th @ 6pm Tickets available: www.mycharity.ie/event/pretty_woman_cadbury_flake_film_festival

The film that catapulted 22 year old Julia Roberts onto the A-list remains the gold standard for modern rom-coms. Roberts’ unlikely hooker is hired by Richard Gere’s wealthy business man to be his escort for several business and social functions, but soon some My Fair Lady style transformations start to occur.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s: October 10th @ 6pm Tickets available: www.mycharity.ie/event/breakfast_at_tiffanys_cadbury_flake_film_festival

Audrey Hepburn’s most iconic poses and costumes feature in this adaptation of Truman Capote’s scandalous novella. Holly Golightly’s naive eccentricity bedazzles George Peppard’s struggling writer when he moves into her apartment building. Try to ignore Mickey Rooney’s outrageously racist Japanese character…

September 17, 2010

The Psychological 10 Euro Mark

I was stunned to discover this week that Cineworld have broken through the psychological 10 euro mark for cinema tickets…

Obviously this is not news to most people as this is something that happened some time ago but I haven’t been to Cineworld at night for a very long time; I think the last movie I actually saw there was Mesrine: Killer Instinct in a cheap morning show; so it’s a fresh shock to my system. Not least because the cinemas which make up my usual venues – Savoy (9.00), the Screen (9.00), the IFI (9.20), Movies at Dundrum (9.90), the Ormonde (9.00), and the Lighthouse (9.00) – are all still selling their tickets under the 10 euro mark. I’m not sure exactly why Cineworld (10.50) have chosen to bust through it with such brio when all the other cinemas that I regularly venture out to from my suburban southside lair seem to regard it as a threshold to be passed over with great reluctance.

I think the reason why it’s such a psychological barrier is not purely to do with inflation or our newly re-found grasp of the concept of value for money; I can vividly remember when you could go to the Savoy on Saturday night and still have change for a nice junk-food meal in Supermacs from a 10 pound note. I think that the cinemas are just terrified at hitting the dreaded ‘two for the price of one’ figure. If you have to pay more than 10 euro for a film ticket you will start questioning more keenly not just the quality of the film in question but more generally whether it’s actually worth going out at all when you could pop into Chartbusters and pick up two new releases for 6 euro. Admittedly Chartbusters’ well publicised financial problems are the reason they’re so cheap at the moment but even Xtravision’s new releases get perilously close to 2 for 1 compared to a 10 euro plus film ticket.

The more paranoid interpretation is that cinemas are holding prices under the mark to make people less outraged than they should be over the premium charged for 3-D tickets. This premium has allowed Hollywood to make more money this year, with bad films in 3-D, than last year, where films were better attended but only in 2-D. Roger Ebert has cynically predicted that the premium on 3-D tickets, justified as necessary to pay the charges associated with conversion of cinemas to digital projectors, will in fact become embedded forever in the pricing structure long after every cinema is converted and all possible costs have been paid. In which case we could expect that the ‘two for the price of one’ figure would come into play in a new and interesting way as punters would weigh up with every trip to the cinema whether two 2-D films are worth the price of one 3-D film. If the answer to that question isn’t to Hollywood’s liking it may mean the end of gimmickry and a belated return to quality scripts as the answer to the problem of how to get people in theatres.

Meantime, I’ll be interested to see which of my regular haunts joins Cineworld in the brave new world of handing over a twenty-euro note to get change for one primetime film ticket…

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