Friday, 27 January 2017

T2 Trainspotting

When Irvine Welsh published Porno, his sequel to Trainspotting, in 2002, Adrian Fry was most perturbed and complained that I wouldn't be able to red it on the bus owing to the cover featuring a blow up doll. Fourteen or so years later comes T2 Trainspotting (Danny Boyle, 2017) the film sequel which, according to the credits is based on Porno and Trainspotting. So we have Renton, Sick Boy, Spud, Begbie and Diane dealing with the consequences of the first film.

The film begins in Amsterdam with Renton running on a treadmill, we’re treated to a montage about the city, akin to an earlier about London. This one though features Johan Cruyff and Robin van Persie doing the business for the Dutch national team. Partially due to a collapse on the treadmill; Mark returns to Edinburgh. Here he meets up with friends, families, acquaintances and old haunts.

Of course the past hangs over everyone, as happens in life. There is the habit as well that as people get older then reminiscences grow and you spend more time in the past. Mark, Simon, Spud and Begbie spend a lot of time in the past, using this experience to inform the present. This is explored as well in looking at the relationship between father and son; and how this can ead to the recognition that not all traits need to be passed on. This is the same with Edinburgh which we see as a city of change, it’s discussed in the film how gentrification has not reached all the districts of the city though. Edinburgh is recognised as being more cosmopolitan and how European money has been aiding the regeneration of post industrial areas, for the time being.

One of the best things about this film is that Danny Boyle has not remade Trainspotting. This film features an excellent soundtrack that rivals that of the first film. The film though has a much different tone than the first film. That was about men in their twenties this is about men in their forties. There are exhilarating moments, there is conflict, there is drug misuse. However the characters have moved on, along with the audience.

Monday, 23 January 2017

I, Daniel Blake

When I, Daniel Blake (Ken Loach, 2016) was released there were arguments and discussions in the press as to how accurate the film was. Iain Duncan Smith, the former Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, argued that it was not and Damian Green, his successor, argued in a similar way. Unfortunately it transpired that Green hadn’t seen it and described the film as ‘monstrously unfair’. Which it seems is a fair description of the Tory welfare policies that led to writing and making of the film.

The story and its scenarios was constructed by information divulged by Department for Work and Pensions employees and members of their union; the PCS. This would indicate that there are staff members are far from comfortable with the situations portrayed in this film and what they are called to do. This is evident in the film where a job adviser is told off by her manager for giving too much help to a claimant. Part of the problem would be that the DWP staffing budgets have been cut meaning that the time that they can spend with claimants would be reduced.

The story is that the eponymous hero, Daniel Blake, suffers a heart attack whilst working as a carpenter. Due to his heart condition he is told not to work by his doctor and the nurses who care for him. He should then receive Employment and Support Allowance, but he is assessed as being fit for work because he says that can put a hat on and that he could walk fifty metres. He is then cast into a bureaucratic, cold and uncaring system; which has him having to look for work and proving that he is doing so, while he should be resting and recuperating.

With the film being set in Newcastle and featuring the stories of working class people returns us to familiar territory for a Ken Loach film. He has highlighted injustices in the past and illuminated some people whose plight does not often see the light of day.

In this story Daniel befriends Katie, who has moved to Newcastle with her two young children from London after they were evicted from their accommodation. We see the struggles they go through and the choices that they are faced with. These choices, of course, are the result of circumstance and consequences. The point is made that when you have nothing, or next to nothing, then you can easily end up in situations that are far from perfect; making choices that you should not have to make.

This film shows up the human cost of cutting welfare. These cuts cannot discriminate so that they only affect so called scroungers. As depicted in the film the cuts and the system they lead to leave some people behind. Digital by default is a mantra used here as well. If for whatever reason you are not fully participating in the information age then the government may not help you and you may fall behind, or worse. If your condition, or state of health, has a temporary effect, or you’re able to perform simple tasks there apparently is no excuse for you not working, you’re fit for work and should look for work. Here this includes a major heart condition that slows and doesn’t necessarily stop you.

When I think about the cultural impact of this film and the heap of bureaucratic snares that are depicted I’m reminded of Kafka, Swift and Lewis Carroll. There is a ridiculous element to this, the state does seem to have evolved into that role of the red queen eliminating problems in a cold had heartless manner, whilst the relatively caring king seems to be ineffectual. I read an article that said that filmmakers today should be asking questions and it wasn’t necessarily their place to answer them, rather like here.

Friday, 11 November 2016

Nocturnal Animals

Nocturnal Animals (Tom Ford, 2016) a story about destruction basically. Amy Adams plays Susan an art gallery owner who is deeply upset with her life, so much so that she has bouts of insomnia. Her ex-husband sends her a manuscript of his novel which preys on her mind further. It puts into perspective her current marriage and of course her first. The book helps her look afresh at her professional life and revisit some decisions she's made in the past. I loved this film, full of intrigue  and suspense. Ford seems to know how to convey internal conflict with great aplomb.

Friday, 14 October 2016

Brimstone

Well Brimstone (Martin Koolhoven, 2016), as the title may indicate, is a western mired in a battle between good and evil. We meet Liz who with her husband and their children live in a small frontier community, she is a midwife and we soon find out that she is mute. A new preacher arrives in town and Liz takes an instant dislike to him. There then follows a story about death, accusation and redemption. It's a world full of misogyny and mistrust, where men display unspeakable behaviour, truly awful. There are some moments in this film where I had to hide away they were that horrible to look at. It maybe that Martin Koolhoven had this in mind when he was making the film, you certainly empathise with the characters. There's at least one Chien Andalou moment here. There are great production values on display here, the film is well shot but I'm not sure about some of the content I saw here and it was all a bit far fetched really.

Their Finest

Their Finest (Lone Sherfig, 2016) this a film set in the early forties in London and concerns itself with the then British film industry. Being in the middle of World War II there were of course films being made for propaganda purposes. Here we see the production of a film about the evacuation of the British Army from Dunkirk in 1940. To make the film more relevant to women there is a recruitment of a female screenwriter to write the slop, as they call it, dialogue for women in most other parlances. The film does give just coverage and space to the role of women in the war and how people's perceptions changed as to what women could achieve. There is a natural humour in the film which makes the film hilarious on occasion. Some of that is due to the performances especially Gemma Arterton, Bill Nighy, Sam Claflin and Rachel Stirling, but also due to the freedom the director gave her actors. There is as well a healthy acknowledgment of the nature of living in wartime and how you can be talking to someone one minute and then they're dead the next. The film is nostalgic, but with good reason, it never really strays into sentimentality, it stays true to its intentions and to the believability of the situation, as well as keeping well within the language of film.

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

The Birth of a Nation

The Birth of a Nation (Nate Parker, 2016) seems to have been the controversial film de jour. To my mind it's a violent film about a violent time, being Georgia of the 1820s and 30s. The events of Nat Turner's life led him to the slave uprising of 1831, a violent act that was resolved with violence. At an early age he'd been set up as a leader and because he had the ability to read eventually became a preacher in his own community and then farmed out to put other slaves in their place. That then led to his realisation of what he could achieve. All of this is set in place in very well made, written and acted film. Full of nobility and beauty, befitting the importance of the subject matter.

Dearest Sister

Dearest Sister (Mattie Do, 2016) is that curious mix of a Lao/Estonian co-production. Nok has been hired to look after Ana in the capital. She's married to Jakob, an Estonian working for an NGO. Conveniently Ana has started to be given winning lottery numbers by the dead. This though makes people think Nok has been stealing money. No one seems to trust anyone else here, with good reason in most cases. There's a long tradition of Asian horror films which the subtle and not so subtle touches on display here are a fine addition.