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Non-Review Review: Kissing Candice

This film was seen as part of the Audi Dublin International Film Festival 2018.

Kissing Candice is a vivid and confident theatrical debut. If only that confidence were in any way earned.

Kissing Candice is clumsy, indulgent, over-signified and convinced of its own profundity.

Talk about your red lights.

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New Podcast! Scannain Podcast (2018) #7!

Before the storm…

The arrival of “Storm Emma” and the “Beast from the East” ensured one of the most memorable Audi Dublin International Film Festivals in recent memory. Myself, Jason Coyle and Ronan Doyle took a bit of a breather in the middle of it all to talk about the best of what we’d already seen, what we thought would win at the Oscars, as well as the usual trip through the weekly top ten and the new releases.

Check it out here, or give it a listen below.

Non-Review Review: Hannah

This film was seen as part of the Audi Dublin International Film Festival 2018.

Hannah is a quiet, meandering movie elevated by a powerhouse central performance from Charlotte Rampling.

The second feature film by Andrea Pallaoro, Hannah unfolds primarily in silence – or in the absence of talking. There is dialogue, but it often seems incidental to the story being told. Much of the film consists of extended wordless passages, focusing on the eponymous character as she moves through the world. Dialogue is often perfunctory and functional, seldom exposition driving a scene. A lot of the sound in the film is ambient; a train approaching and then pulling into a platform, a cloth cleaning a gigantic glass door, water trickling from taps and faucets.

As the title implies, Hannah is essentially a character study. Charlotte Rampling plays the eponymous character, the film following her through her routine. Gradually, the film sketches out her world, first in broad pencil strokes and then in fine detail. Rampling anchors the film, conveying so much through her eyes and her expression, providing a strong emotional core to the film buried beneath an emotionally reserved exterior. Rampling’s performance is crushing and heartbreaking, and all the more powerful for its low-key nature.

However, Hannah is perhaps too low-key. Barring a bunch of clumsy symbolism, there are points at which the film feels like it might easily lapse into a coma without anybody noticing.

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Non-Review Review: The Meeting

This film was seen as part of the Audi Dublin International Film Festival 2018.

The Meeting is a fascinating story, told terrible.

The real-life events that inspired The Meeting are genuinely moving. Nine years after she was sexually assaulted walking home from the bus, Ailbhe Griffith convenes a meeting with the man who raped her. In a small room, Ailbhe Griffith and Martin Swan engage in a dialogue about those events, about how that evening shaped both of their lives, and about the scars that linger. It took remarkable courage for Griffith to put herself in that room, and she is clearly a thoughtful and fascinating subject. There is a great movie to be made of this story.

Unfortunately, The Meeting is not that great movie. There are various reasons why The Meeting doesn’t work. Some of those reasons are justifiable and understandable, defensible creative choices that simply don’t pay off in a satisfying manner and serve to undercut the narrative being constructed. However, some of those reasons are unjustifiable decisions that could never have worked even in abstract theory and which serve to turn The Meeting into a spectacularly ill-judged piece of cinema.

The eponymous meeting might have been a genuinely moving and affecting experience, but The Meeting is nothing short of a disaster.

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Non-Review Review: Isle of Dogs

This film was seen as part of the Audi Dublin International Film Festival 2018.

Isle of Dogs is a beautiful piece of work, in every sense of the word.

The obvious point of comparison is The Fantastic Mister Fox, Wes Anderson’s previous stop-motion adventure. Isle of Dogs and The Fantastic Mister Fox are certainly of a piece with one another even beyond the wonderful production design, featuring meditative canines engaged in existential struggles. However, Isle of Dogs represents an extension and deepening of the work that Anderson did with The Fantastic Mister Fox.

Isle of Dogs reflects the more daring formal experimentation that made Grand Budapest Hotel such a treat, trusting the audience to accept and even embrace Anderson’s consciously hyperstylised approach to storytelling. In a strictly logical or rational manner, almost every major creative decision in Isle of Dogs seems to have been made to remind the audience that they are watching something constructed and crafted, the film consciously and artfully heightened so as to remind the audience of the remove that exists between them and the film they are watching.

Although Anderson has come to be known for this conscious and playful aesthetic, it is not his greatest accomplishment as a director. The most wonderful and beautiful thing about Isle of Dogs is that the film is so lovingly and carefully crafted that repeatedly drawing the audience’s attention to the artifice of it renders it no less real and no less moving.

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New Podcast! Scannain Podcast (2018) #6!

Into the mouth of madness…

Discussing the latest in film news here and abroad, the Scannain podcast is a weekly podcast discussion of what we watched, what we watched, what is dominating and the box office, and what is lurking on the horizon film-wise. This week’s episode was recorded right before the premiere of Black ’47 at the launch of the eleven-day-long Audi Dublin Film Festival 2018, and covered everything from Black Panther to Galway cinema.

I’m thrilled to be part of a panel including returning host Niall Murphy and returning guests Ronan Doyle and Alex Towers. Give it a listen below.

Non-Review Review: Sweet Country

This film was seen as part of the Audi Dublin International Film Festival 2018.

“What chance does this country have?” asks Sam Neill towards the climax of Sweet Country.

In the context of the scene, it isn’t entirely clear to whom the character is speaking. There is one other individual in the scene, but they are preoccupied at that moment and it’s not clear they are even within earshot when Neill’s character makes his grave assessment about the future of this young nation. However, outside the context of the scene, it is very apparent to whom Neill’s character is addressing his concerns. He is speaking directly to the audience through the medium of film.

Sweet Country is not a film that does subtlety or nuance. As Neill’s character offers this pointed question, he stumbles through the Australian wilderness, as if to suggest that he is lost. He stops just short of bluntly stating that he is lost, just like this country, the film demonstrating uncharacteristic faith in the audience’s narrative and thematic comprehension. Nevertheless, just in case the audience still doesn’t get it, Neill’s character asks this very profound question while wandering in the direction of the tail end of a rainbow set against a stormy sky.

“What chance does this country have?” the character wonders. The audience doesn’t feel the need to articulate the obvious response, “Not much, if it produces films like this.”

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