Talking Movies

February 9, 2016

ADIFF: Irish Focus

The Audi Dublin International Film Festival is showcasing an array of home-grown talent, presenting the next wave of highly anticipated Irish films following recent awards.

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Throughout the Festival a selection of features, documentaries and shorts will showcase the breadth of talent in Irish cinema, including Simon Fitzmaurice’s debut feature My Name Is Emily, Rebecca Daly’s Mammal (which premiered at Sundance), the gritty Killian Scott thriller Traders, Northern Irish political drama The Truth Commissioner, and Staid, the feature debut of best-selling author and playwright Paul O’Brien.

Irish documentaries are a vital part of the Festival with this year’s selection covering a wide range of topics. Johnny Gogan’s Hubert Butler: Witness to the Future delves into the career of writer and Kilkenny-native Hubert Butler, who smuggled Jewish people into Ireland from pre-World War II Austria. Atlantic focuses on three small fishing communities who face the devastating prospect of having their livelihoods taken from them due to major challenges within their industry. Fís na Fuiseoige is an exploration into Irish poetry, while The Judas Iscariot Lunch presents thirteen Irish ex-priests who speak candidly about their time in the Catholic Church. There are two Reel Art documentaries, an initiative by the Arts Council. Further Beyond deals with 18th Century figure, Ambrose O’Higgins, with filmmakers Christine Molloy and Joe Lawlor attempting to retrace his remarkable journey from Ireland to Chile. We Are Moving – Memories of Miss Moriarty is an intimate portrait of Joan Denise Moriarty who dreamt of bringing ballet to every corner of Ireland.

To coincide with 1916 centenary celebrations, there will be a special screening of Neil Jordan’s Michael Collins. A reunion for the extras who took part in its production will also take place, Seen But Unnoticed, which will allow them to share their stories and memories from the shoot. A short film initiative, After ’16 Shorts, funded by the Irish Film Board, will also be screened to commemorate 1916. Several more Irish short films will be screened as part of ADIFF Shorts 1 and ADIFF Shorts 2, including Mike Hayes’ Leave, starring Moe Dunford, and Vincent Gallagher’s Love is a Sting.

The Festival celebrates emerging Irish film talent with the ADIFF Discovery Award. This year’s nominees are Barry Keoghan (Actor, MammalTraders and The Break), Barry Ward (Actor, The Truth CommissionerJimmy’s HallL’Accabadora), Claire Dix (Director We are Moving – Memories of Miss MoriartyBroken Song, Downpour), Dave Tynan (Writer/Director, The Cherishing, Rockmount, Just Saying), Emmet Kirwan (Actor, The Break, ‘71, Just Saying), Ian Lloyd Anderson (Actor, Leave, Game of Thrones, Love/Hate), Jack O’Shea (Director/Animator, A Coat Made Dark, Eat The Danger), JJ Rolfe (Cinematographer, The Cherishing, Rockmount, Just Saying), Kathryn Kennedy (Producer, My Name is Emily, It’s Not Yet Dark, After), Kieran O’Reilly (Actor, Little Bear, Love/ Hate, Rebellion), Laura McNicholas (Producer/Director, Mr Yeats & the Beastly Coins, Leave, Cutting Grass), Martin McCann (Actor, My Name is Emily, ’71, Boogaloo and Graham), Niamh Heery (Producer/Editor, A Father’s Letter, Our Unfenced Country, Displaced), Nika McGuigan (Actress, Mammal, Traders, Philomena) and Rachel Lysaght (Producer, Traders, Patrick’s Day, Tana Bana).

The Festival’s opening and closing films are both Irish productions – John Carney’s Sing Street, which received rave reviews at Sundance, and Paddy Breathnach’s Viva, which is shortlisted for a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar.

Highlights:

Sing Street (The filmmakers and cast will attend the screening)

Thursday 18th February at 19:00

106 minutes Savoy 1

Sing Street sees an economic recession in 1980s Dublin force Conor out of private school and into survival mode at an inner-city public school where kids are rough and teachers rougher. He finds a glimmer of hope in the über-cool Raphina, and with the aim of winning her heart he invites her to star in his band’s music videos. She agrees, and now Conor must deliver. Calling himself “Cosmo” and immersing himself in the music of the ’80s, he forms a band, who pour their hearts into writing lyrics and shooting videos. Combining John Carney’s trademark warmth with a punk rock edge, and featuring a memorable soundtrack with hits from The Cure, Duran Duran and The Police, Sing Street is an electrifying coming-of-age film that will resonate with music fans.

Further Beyond (Followed by a Q+A with the Filmmakers)

Friday 19th February at 18:00

89 minutes IFI 1

In their debut documentary Christine Molloy and Joe Lawlor take as their point of departure the compelling 18th Century figure, Ambrose O’Higgins, and attempt to retrace his remarkable journey from Ireland to Chile. Key locations in O’Higgins’ life – a lake in Sligo, a field in Meath, the port of Cadiz, the sea, and the edge of a snow-covered mountain in the Andes – are visited and reflected upon in the hope that something might be revealed. Having long dreamt of making a biopic of O’Higgins, this wayward and wry documentary is a personal voyage into the idea of the cinematic location. However, as they speculate on the idea of place and what O’Higgins embodies, the filmmakers get sidetracked by a competing story of immigration and displacement. Gradually, and not without humour, these two intertwining narratives uncover ideas about the transformative powers of travelling, as looked at through a peculiarly Irish prism.

Traders (Rachael Moriarty, Peter Murphy, Killian Scott and John Bradley will attend)

Saturday 20th February at 18:30

90 minutes Light House 1

Harry Fox (Killian Scott) has it all; the luxury apartment, the fancy car; but when the company he works for goes bust it looks like he will lose everything. A solution is offered by Vernon Stynes (John Bradley) who has masterminded a diabolical, all-or-nothing scheme based in the Deep Web, called Trading. Two strangers empty their banks accounts, sell their assets, put their entire worth in cash into a green sports bag. They travel to a remote location and fight to the death. Winner buries the loser and walks away twice as rich. Vernon believes Trading is a no-brainer for anyone who wants to get rich quick. Can Harry resist the lure of this high risk gamble? It’s dangerous and illegal, but it could solve all his problems.

The Truth Commissioner (followed by a Q+A with the filmmakers)

Sunday 21st February at 18:15

99 minutes Light House 1

The Truth Commissioner follows the fictional story of Henry Stanfield (Roger Allam), a career diplomat appointed as Truth Commissioner to Northern Ireland. Co-starring Barry Ward, Sean McGinley, Conleth Hill, Ian McElhinney and Tom Goodman Hill, the story revolves around the lives of three men who are directly or indirectly involved in the disappearance, 20 years earlier, of the 15-year-old Conor Roche. Though Stanfield starts bravely, he quickly uncovers some bloody and inconvenient truths about those now running the country; truths which none of those in power are prepared to have revealed. Everyone claims to want ‘The Truth’, but what is it going to cost, and who will pay for it?

Mammal (Followed by a Q+A with the Filmmakers)

Wednesday 24th February at 20:30

96 minutes

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After Margaret (Rachel Griffiths) learns that her 18-year-old son, who she abandoned as a baby, has been found dead, her simple, solitary routine is tragically disrupted. But when Joe (Barry Keoghan), a homeless teenager from her neighborhood, enters her life, Margaret offers him a room, and she soon becomes the mother she never was. As Margaret copes with the volatile grief of her ex-husband, her own lonely trauma seeps into her relationship with Joe and begins to blur the line between motherly affection and a more carnal intimacy. Director Rebecca Daly’s Mammal expertly guides us through layers of isolating grief that pulsate with the animalistic nature of trauma.

Atlantic (Followed by a Q+A with the Filmmakers)

Thursday 25th February at 20:30

80 minutes Cineworld 9

Atlantic is the latest film from the makers of The Pipe. This film follows three small fishing communities – in Ireland, Norway and Newfoundland –at turns united and divided by the Atlantic Ocean. In recent times, mounting challenges within their own industries, the fragile environment, and the lure of high wages on oil rigs have seen these fishing communities struggle to maintain their way of life. As the oil majors push into deeper water and further into the Arctic, and the world’s largest fishing companies chase the last great Atlantic shoals, the impact on coastal communities and the ecosystems they rely on is reaching a tipping point. Atlantic tells three very personal stories of those who face the devastating prospect of having livelihoods taken from them, and communities destroyed both environmentally and economically.

Audi Dublin International Film Festival Box Office

DIFF House

13 Lower Ormond Quay, Dublin 1

Opening Hours: Mon to Sat 10am–6pm, Sun (from 18th Feb) 12pm–6pm

There will be pop-up box offices in place at each venue from 30 minutes prior to each screening

Phone: 01 687 7974

Email: info@diff.ie

Website: www.diff.ie

January 27, 2015

Top Performances of 2014

As the traditional complement to the Top 10 Films, here are the Top Performances of 2014. The refusal to isolate single winners is deliberate; regard the highlighted names as top of the class, the runners up being right behind them, with also placed just behind them. They’re all superb performances.

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Best Supporting Actress

Patricia Arquette (Boyhood) Arquette’s character grows older but not wiser, instead we see her becomingly increasingly brittle as even she realises that she’s sensible about everything except her romantic choices.

Carrie Coon (Gone Girl) Forming a great double act with Ben Affleck, Coon broke out from theatre with a glorious turn as his twin sister– the foulmouthed and spiky voice of reason.

Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle) Lawrence was perhaps too young for the part, but she played it with such comic panache that her sporadic appearances energised an overlong film.

Runners Up:

Maggie Gyllenhaal (Frank) Gyllenhaal was pitch-perfect as scary obscurantist Clara, with wonderful nuance in the slow reveal of how such off-kilter music bonds her and Frank’s damaged and isolated psyches.

Mackenzie Foy (Interstellar) Foy was bright, furious, and resentful, and blew Jessica Chastain off the screen as the younger iteration of their character, the indomitable Murph.

Sarah Paulson (12 Years a Slave) Paulson’s casual brutality towards slaves was deeply shocking, but her horror at being replaced sexually by a slave subtly underscored her menace.

Also Placed:

Amber Heard (3 Days to Kill) Parodying her hyper-sexualised persona (The Informers) Heard, in leathers and wigs, flirted with burlesque girls and sexualised both driving fast and injecting medicine.

Joey King (Wish I Was Here) Pitted against Zach Braff’s glibly sarcastic agnosticism the sincerity of King’s adherence to Jewish faith, language, and cultural identity blew him off the screen.

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Best Supporting Actor

Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club) His character’s drugs spiral, even as his friendship with Ron becomes beautiful, was extremely moving, with his fierce commitment extending to deliberately ravaging his appearance.

Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave) His vicious bible-thumping alcoholic was terrifying, but also complex; slaves are either sub-human or masters are guilty, and Epps is self-destructing from mercilessly exploiting his slaves.

Ethan Hawke (Boyhood) Hawke physically filled out in a career-best performance of serious comedy as deadbeat dad whose rebelliousness was an affectation thrown off for mellow acquiescence with the world.

Runners Up:

Andrew Scott (The Stag, Locke) Scott was their sole highlight: his Locke vocal performance exuded excitability and exasperation, while Davin was a man fatally wounded by romantic rejection being tortured some more by his ex-girlfriend.

Killian Scott (Calvary, ’71) His Calvary misfit Milo was dementedly funny in rambling frustration, and he so transformed into ruthless IRA leader Quinn that he seemed not only older and tougher, but almost taller.

Zac Efron (Bad Neighbours) Efron’s previous subversions of his image were nothing next to this jackpot: his squeaky clean looks have never been put to such diabolical and hilarious use.

James Corden (Begin Again) Corden not only frequently gave the impression that he was ad-libbing great comedy moments, but also that he was improvising Knightley into unscripted corpsing bonhomie.

Dave Bautista (Guardians of the Galaxy) Bautista took what could have been a tiresome running gag and instead by dedicated deadpan made utter literalness to the point of insanity infinitely unexpected and hysterical.

Also Placed:

Adam Driver (What If, Tracks) Sparring against Mackenzie Davis and Daniel Radcliffe in What If he was highly amusing and occasionally sagacious, and was both funny and adorably awkward in Tracks.

Gene Jones (The Sacrament) He was patently playing Jim Jones, and turned the charisma up to 11 for a TV interview that was so mesmerising it explained Father’s cult of personality.

Mandy Patinkin (Wish I Was Here) Patinkin brought deep humanity and biting humour to his wise, religious father disappointed by his glib, agnostic son but delighted by his bright, devout granddaughter.

Tyler Perry (Gone Girl) The man can actually act! And as celebrity defence attorney Tanner Bolt he transformed the oily character from the novel by bringing palpable warmth to the part.

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Best Actress

Keira Knightley (Begin Again) Knightley sang rather well, but not only did she carry a tune she also carried the movie with a return of her old confidence. Maybe all that’s needed to restore the old swagger is James Corden ad-libbing her into improvising so she forgets her stage-fright.

Mackenzie Davis (We Gotta Get Out Of This Place, What If) Her What If wild child was oddly reminiscent of Katy Perry, albeit interpolated with Daisy Buchanan, and was strikingly different from her reserved bookworm subtly using her wits to escape a noir nightmare in We Gotta.

Runners Up:

Rose Byrne (Bad Neighbours) It’s always a joy when Byrne gets to use her native Australian accent, and she swaggered with such foul-mouthed comedic assurance that at times Seth Rogen became her foil as the sensible one in their marriage.

Agyness Deyn (Electricity) Deyn was a commanding presence. She grabbed with both hands this defiant character, who wears short dresses and fluorescent jacket; drawing the eye to a body covered in cuts; and had no vanity in showing these effects of seizures.

Also Placed:

Juno Temple (Magic Magic) Temple reprised some elements of her naïf in Killer Joe, though thankfully she was less over-exposed here, and made her character’s steady descent into insomniac madness chillingly plausible.

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Best Actor

Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club) McConaughey’s physical commitment to the role was jaw-dropping, initially rake-thin before then wasting away before your eyes to harrowing effect. Initially unsympathetic, he patiently revealed the hidden softer side which engaged Dr Eve, and beautifully developed an unlikely and most affecting friendship with Rayon.

Runners Up:

Daniel Radcliffe (What If) Radcliffe is sensational as the hero who’s crippled romantically by his traumatised desire to act ethically. A Young Doctor’s Notebook served notice of his comedy chops, but combining uncomprehending deadpan and dramatic sharpness this was a comic role of unexpected substance.

Mark Ruffalo (Begin Again) It’s hard to imagine anyone else, save 1973 Elliot Gould, pulling off this role quite as well. The Ruffalo exudes immense shambolic charm, shuffling about in scruffy clothes, doing permit-free guerrilla location live music recording that would make Werner Herzog proud.

Dan Stevens (The Guest) The Guest is a high-risk gamble that would fail spectacularly if its leading man was not on fire. Luckily for all concerned Stevens burns a hole in the screen with a Tom Hiddleston as Loki level performance – playing scenes tongue-in-cheek serious as the charismatic helpful stranger.

Also Placed:

Ben Affleck (Gone Girl) Affleck as an actor too often contentedly coasts, and (even when gifted zingers as in Argo) acts as a still centre. But, with Fincher pushing him with endless takes, he was fantastic as the hapless everyman; who we root for despite his flaws.

Pal Sverre Hagen (Kon-Tiki, In Order of Disappearance) The imposing Norwegian perfectly captured old-fashioned grit, naive enthusiasm, and quiet heroism as Thor Heyerdahl, and then played crime-lord The Count as an epically self-pitying vegan equally stressed by divorced parenting with his ex-wife, and a nasty turf war with Serbian mobsters.

October 15, 2014

’71 – 7 Dispatches

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1. Holmes

Belfast native David Holmes has composed the grooving soundtrack for a lot of good films with an eye for suspense and action, being Steven Soderbergh’s go-to-guy. But I don’t think he’s done 1970s synth menace before, and when he unleashes it in the third act to long takes and tracking shots of people stalking the endless concourses in The Divis block of flats it ratchets up the tension.

2. Scott

I love it when actors play the extremes of their range in a single year, and Killian Scott does it here. Scott had the funniest scenes in Calvary as misfit Milo, convinced that being homicidal would be a plus for the army – ‘like an engineering degree’. As the ruthless emerging IRA leader Quinn in ’71 he seems older, tougher, and even almost taller so complete is the transformation.

3. Dredd/Dread

’71 is so unpredictable that you don’t expect Chekhov’s rifles. And yet one pops up. “You can use the Divis as an orientation point, but don’t go inside the flats. It’s an IRA stronghold” the soldiers are told at their briefing. So of course Gary wakes up to find himself on one the top floors of The Divis, with the IRA coming up, and guarding all possible exits…

4. In-Country

“You know where Belfast is, right? Northern Ireland. United Kingdom. Same country. You’re not leaving the country” the deploying soldiers are informed. Well… they kind of are. Gary’s complete bafflement at the sectarian madness that greets him in Belfast almost satirises Thatcher’s infamous contention that Northern Ireland was just as British as Finchley. This isn’t so much not leaving the country, as going in-country in the Vietnam sense…

5. Football/Religion

One of the funny moments of the film comes when Jack O’Connell’s protagonist has his named parsed: Gary Hook, obviously Protestant. Just to confirm he’s not a Taig, he’s asked by his foul-mouthed child protector if he is a Protestant. “Uh, I dunno.” “You don’t know?! Now I’ve heard everything.” Later he demurs any possible Nottingham connection, “Darbyshire and Nottingham don’t really get on.” “Why?” “Don’t know really.”

6. Collusion

’71 initially surprises by using the Troubles almost as an incidental backdrop for an urban survival thriller. But then it really surprises in its acknowledgement of the North’s Dirty War. British military intelligence officers are depicted both training loyalists in bomb-making, and talking to leaders of the IRA. ’71 just takes it for granted that this is what happened, something which would outrage Daily Mail blowhard Peter Hitchens.

7. Reed

Black Watch playwright Gregory Burke and TV director Yann Demange (Dead Set, Criminal Justice) make an arresting cinematic debut with this movie – tense, sharply scripted, and directed with disorienting and dazzling flair. And praise doesn’t come much higher than saying it reminded me of another film about a wounded man in Belfast falling in with people with agendas of their own – Carol Reed’s 1947 classic Odd Man Out.

April 10, 2014

Calvary

John Michael McDonagh and Brendan Gleeson follow up The Guard with an episodic metaphysical drama punctuated by blackly comic diversions.

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Fr James (Brendan Gleeson) hears the confession of a parishioner who was sexually abused as a child by a priest. Except this isn’t a confession – the unseen parishioner informs James that he will kill him on their beach in one week: ‘Killing a priest on a Sunday. That’ll be a good one.’ James knows the identity of the parishioner, but, despite the flawless logic of his Bishop (David McSavage) that if no confession was made the seal of the confessional lapses, he will not reveal the identity of his designated assassin. Instead he goes about his pastoral duties, attempting to spiritually salve wife-beating butcher Jack (Chris O’Dowd), cynical atheist doctor Frank (Aidan Gillen), ailing American novelist Gerald (M Emmet Walsh), and jaded ex-financier Fitzgerald (Dylan Moran); none of whom want his counsel. One person who badly needs him though is his visiting suicidal London-Irish daughter Fiona (Kelly Reilly). James became a priest after his wife’s death, leaving Fiona feeling abandoned…

Calvary is fantastically well acted by a truly impressive Irish ensemble, but is far removed from The Guard. There are dementedly funny scenes, like misfit Milo (Killian Scott) trying to convince James that wanting to kill people really badly would be a plus for being accepted into the army – ‘like an engineering degree’. But there are many more scenes addressing knotty theological concepts of fate, free will, evil, and forgiveness: a prime example being James’ fraught encounter with jailed cannibal serial killer Freddie (Domhnall Gleeson). I haven’t seen so many ideas thrown at the screen since I Heart Huckabees, but I’m unsure what McDonagh’s larger purpose is. Fr James, like Graham Greene’s The Power and the Glory whiskey priest, is being shepherded towards his own squalid Calvary. But Greene’s imitation of Christ drew attention to the potential for holiness in a flawed man; James is marked for death because of his virtue – a good man expiating the sins of many.

But… this reading is undermined by a jaw-dropping scene where an irate stranger tars James with the general brush of ‘molesting cleric’, shocking the audience who’ve seen his deep compassion. The assassin’s wish to punish a good priest for the misdeeds of bad priests will be utterly lost, because outside their community everyone will assume James was a bad priest. But this may be deliberate. James seems at times to be an argument for married clergy, witness his comforting of newly-widowed Frenchwoman Teresa (Marie-Josee Croze), but then his daughter insists he put God above family. Refn’s DP Larry Smith captures the Sligo landscape to amazing effect, especially Ben Bulben – almost creating an Eden. But this is Eden where Sin has been banished as a concept. Veronica (Orla O’Rourke) provokes James with her public promiscuity, her lover Simon (Isaach De Bankole) distinguishes between believing in God and acting morally, and James himself tells Fiona too much stress has been laid on sin. James thinks forgiveness need emphasising, but publican Brendan (Pat Shortt), who now espouses Buddhism, beats the bebuddha out of people with a baseball bat – with no guilt; sin is passé, and forgiveness requires sin.

Calvary might deserve four stars. I don’t know. It’s more ambitious than nearly any other Irish film, but it outsmarted me; I feel I need to do extensive reading in Jean Amery and Fyodor Dostoevsky to apprehend McDonagh’s quicksilver.

3.5/5

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