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Non-Review Review: The Delinquent Season

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

“You’re a f&!king cliché!” one character screams at another during a particularly heated moment in The Delinquent Season.

That’s a dangerous line to put into a screenplay, particularly in what is supposed to be an intimate character-driven drama. The line skirts the boundaries of self-awareness, inviting the audience to consider it as a statement of authorial intent. It takes genuine courage to force the audience to assess whether the character in question really just “a f&!king cliché”? Obviously, the film believes that its central characters are more than just a collection of familiar tropes repackaged and reheated, but it takes confidence to stare the viewer right in the eye and broach the question.

“Look, it’s this or Infinity War.”

The Delinquent Season certainly has lofty goals. It aspires to be provocative and confrontational, to push the audience a little bit out of their comfort zone by asking them to empathise with characters who are abrasive and awkward. The Delinquent Season seems to genuinely hope that the audience might find its central characters to evoke strong emotions; to feel pity or hatred or anger at their decisions and their actions. There are points watching The Delinquent Season where writer and director Mark O’Rowe is goading the audience to hate these characters.

Unfortunately, The Delinquent Season never even considers that the audience might be bored by these four particular characters.

Table this for later.

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Non-Review Review: Anthropoid

“Concentrate on the details.”

The phrase is repeated in Anthropoid, and it speaks to the aesthetic of Sean Ellis’ tense Second World War assassination thriller. Ellis is very much fascinated with the details. This is reflected in the standard clandestine war movie fare; the reliance on maps and the maintaining of schedules, the decoding of messages and the construction of weapons. However, it is also reflected in Ellis’ directorial choices, with an emphasis on tight claustrophobic shots and meticulous care to ensure what the audience can or cannot see at any given moment.

Wet work.

Wet work.

The result is an engaging entry in the subgenre, a familiar story elevated by the craft on display. Ellis very skilfully and successfully ramps up the tension over the film’s two-hour runtime, mainly by keeping in complete control of the frame. Anthropoid is distinguished from other undercover war movies through the sheer scale of paranoia and dread that Ellis manages to generate, leading to a spectacular (and sustained) pay-off in the film’s third act. As its protagonists argue, the details are key.

There a few minor problems. Ellis is over-reliant on shaky camera work to keep the audience off-balance, a technique that is occasionally disorienting in a literal rather than a figurative sense. There are also moments when Anthropoid drifts away from its gritty grounding into easy visual metaphors and stock war movie tropes; crushed symbols of innocence trampled underfoot and a soaring triumphant score over silent scenes of carnage. However, these are the exception rather than the rule. As long as Anthropoid focuses on the details, it never loses track of itself.

Driving ambition.

Driving ambition.

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Jameson Cult Film Club: interMission

The Jameson Cult Film Club screening of interMission was a wonderful evening, as usual. Converting a warehouse at the end of Hanover Quay into the film’s MegaMart, the gang provided the usual celebratory screening atmosphere. Appropriately enough, brown sauce seemed to be the theme of the event, with crates serving as make-shift tables, bottles served along with tasty grub for those looking to customise their burgers.

(I will confess, though, that I did not see anybody mixing brown sauce with their Jameson, although I’m sure some adventurous soul out there made an attempt.)

Click to enlarge...

Click to enlarge…

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Non-Review Review: interMission

interMission is a fantastic piece of Irish cinema, a broadly accessible exploration of intersecting and overlapping life in Dublin with a witty script lending the film some distinctly Irish flavour. The structure owes a little bit of a debt to Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction or even Altman’s Short Cuts, capturing a variety of perspectives on life from a reasonably-sized ensemble who only occasionally overlap with one another. It’s a funny, clever, well-acted and well-directed slice of life.

Drive of your life...

Drive of your life…

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Non-Review Review: Broken

This film was seen as part of the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival 2013. It was the opening gala.

Broken is that rarest of beasts, a suburban ensemble drama that manages to merge charming humanism with gritty reality. Mark O’Rowe’s adaptation of Daniel Clay’s novel is filled to the brim with humour and joy, but isn’t afraid of the darker shades of emotion. It’s unflinching and occasionally brutal, a candid exploration of the intersecting lives of those inhabiting a small close. However, this honesty lends the film credibility in its lighter moments. The smiles, the giggles and the laughter that come from many off the movie’s more human moments feel earned, and there’s a wonderful sense of balance to Broken, as if to concede that life cannot be composed of entirely happy moments, nor entirely sad. That’s the wonder of it all, and Broken skilfully manages to combine those extremes into a single charming and engaging coming of age drama.

A close call...

A close call…

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Non-Review Review: Red Lights

With Buried, Rodrigo Cortés demonstrated a skill for executing a Hitchcock-esque high concept. While it wasn’t an entirely successful experiment, it demonstrated that Cortés was a talent to watch. His follow-up, Red Lights, affirms that potential, though it also fails to entirely deliver on its fascinating high concept. Cortés shows a real talent for the technical craft of direction – for framing his shots, use of colour and light and space, pacing and even editing. Writing, directing and editing this film, he demonstrates skill with big ideas and high concepts, as well as skill on a frame-to-frame basis. However, he’s still missing some connection between the two – some intangible skill at developing big ideas into dramatic story beats to fit his own style of film-making. That’s not to say that Red Lights isn’t a fascinating a well-crafted film, just to explain that there are some fundamental flaws.

Do you believe?

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Non-Review Review: Sunshine

Sunshine is a science-fiction movie. Well, duh, you proclaim, looking at the screenshots or having read the plot synopsis, it’s about a bunch of people in space flying to the sun. Of course it’s science-fiction! It’s hardly a comedy or musical! However, I’m talking about something more essential than its setting or its superficial elements. Although the story of a bunch of astronauts planning to reignite the dying star at the centre of our solar system may distract you, Sunshine works so well because it grabs the sorts of philosophical ideas at the heart of the best science-fiction: it’s an exploration of the conflict between the rational and the irrational, the logical and the emotional and the place of man and his understanding of the world around him. It’s movie that is far smarter than it pretends to be.

Going for gold...

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