Advertisements
    Advertisements
  • Following Us

  • Categories

  • Check out the Archives









  • Awards & Nominations

  • Advertisements

New Podcast! Scannain Podcast (2019) #8! Live From VMDIFF!

It’s time for the latest Scannain podcast!

This time, coming live from the Virgin Media Dublin International Film Festival, recorded in the space between the showings of Another Day of Life and José on Saturday 2nd March. I join Jason Coyle, Ronan Doyle and Alex Towers of When Irish Eyes Are Watching discuss their own experience of the festival to this point, including highlights and otherwise.

Films discussed include: Loro, What Time is Death?, Happy as Lazzaro, Ash is Purest White, Rafiki, Jonathan Agassi Saved My Life, The Man Who Feels No Pain, Fighting With My Family, Angelo, Vox Lux, Her Smell, Dragged Across Concrete, Another Day of Life, Dub Daze, Out of Blue, A Girl From Mogadishu and She’s Missing.

Due to the unique constraints of the festival, this episode eschews the usual format (no top ten! no new releases!), moves at a much brisker and looser pace, and was recorded in the wild. As such, the sound includes ambient rainfall.

Advertisements

Non-Review Review: Greta

This film was seen as part of the Virgin Media Dublin International Film Festival 2019. Given the high volumes of films being shown and the number of reviews to be written, these may end up being a bit shorter than usual reviews.

Greta is a pure and pulpy delight.

In some ways, Greta could be seen as a follow-up to director Neil Jordan’s previous film, the under-appreciated Byzantium. Like Byzantium, Greta is also a tale of monstrous motherhood and of a young woman struggling with a prolonged and extended childhood. Indeed, both Byzantium and Greta are very much genre pieces. This is in keeping with Neil Jordan’s sensibilities as a filmmaker. It is dismissive of these stories to suggest that Jordan “elevates” them, but he has a very strong understanding of the mechanics of how stories like these work. He always has, going back to stories like The Company of Wolves or Interview with a Vampire. (Even other “genre” work, such as crime films like Mona Lisa or The Crying Game.)

Both Greta and Byzantium are monster stories, even if Greta is anchored by a much more modern sort of monster than Byzantium.  Whereas Byzantium explored this mother-daughter push-and-pull through the lens of the classic vampire story, Greta draws inspiration from a different sources. There are obvious classic gothic influences at work in this psychological horror – Edgar Allan Poe looms large over one of the film’s big reveals, to pick one example. However, Jordan is most obviously and most consciously evoking the popular trashy psychological horror genre of the late eighties and nineties, the dozens of the films that were legitimised by the success of Silence of the Lambs; films like The Cell or Kiss the Girls or The Hand That Rocks the Cradle.

Indeed, the easiest and most efficient way to describe Greta might be “Postnatal Attraction” meets “Single Hungarian Female.”

Continue reading

Non-Review Review: Angelo

This film was seen as part of the Virgin Media Dublin International Film Festival 2019. Given the high volumes of films being shown and the number of reviews to be written, these may end up being a bit shorter than usual reviews.

Angelo is perhaps as good as “what if Barry Lyndon, but with slavery from a European filmmaker?” could hope to be.

The basic premise of Angelo owes a lot to Stanley Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon, a period piece that largely eschews many of the conventional trappings of period productions to offer a more philosophical meditation on man’s relationship with the larger world. Both Angelo and Barry Lyndon are stories about people trying to navigate the complicated networks of human relationships in an unstable world, their own pursuit of stability and self-actualisation subject to arbitrary forces that exist outside of their control. Both are stark moral fables that border of nihilistic, shot in a much a colder manner than most of their period movie contemporaries, eschewing a lot of the warmth and romance traditionally associated with the genre.

Of course, Barry Lyndon was the story of a peasant Irishman who found himself fleeing to the European continent and trying to make a living for himself, whose star would rise and fall along the way. In contrast, Angelo is inspired by the true-life story of Angelo Soliman. Writers Alexander Brom and Markus Schleinzer take obvious liberties with the basic story of the black man who integrated himself in some of the most exclusive circles of nineteenth century European royalty only to discover how fickle such associations could be. This creates an inherent tension within Angelo. This is a film that opens with Angelo’s abduction from Nigeria, and which returns time and again to his status as a slave. However, it does so without really grappling with that reality.

Angelo threads the line about as delicately as possible, focusing more on its abstract thematic preoccupations and philosophical musings than any concrete details. However, there is a sense of cynicism about the film, a sense that the movie is utterly uninterested in the particulars of Angelo Soliman’s life or the finer details of what life as an actual slave (and later a freed slave) would be like in the nineteenth century. Instead, Angelo avoids these smaller questions by asking bigger and bold questions about the very nature of human existence as a whole.

Continue reading

Non-Review Review: Out of Blue

This film was seen as part of the Virgin Media Dublin International Film Festival 2019. Given the high volumes of films being shown and the number of reviews to be written, these may end up being a bit shorter than usual reviews.

Out of Blue is just awful.

Carol Morley is an intensely talented director. Dreams of a Life is a fascinating documentary, exploring a harrowing true story with empathy and compassion. However, Out of Blue seems to get away from her. Morley is directing a screenplay that she adapted from Night Train, Martin Amis’ darkly comic parody of detective fiction. Indeed, Out of Blue seems to carry over some of the parodic intention of the source material in its better moments, playing as deranged and heightened homage to detective movie clichés. However, there is also a sense that Out of Blue is taking all of this very seriously underneath it all, that it is unwilling to commit to “the bit” and that it confuses its own pseudo-profundity for actual insight.

Even if Out of Blue never actually functions as a cinematic narrative, there is some fun to be hand with certain stretches of it. There’s enough in Out of Blue that it almost plays as investigative thriller pastiche; a knowing and heightened riff on the familiar formulas of sordid investigative thrillers. There are stretches when Out of Blue plays like the kind of weird and esoteric object that a view might find playing on Adult Swim in the early hours of the morning, couched between episodes of NTSF:SD:SUV and playing opposite Angie Tribeca. The dialogue is so hardboiled that it could be used as murder weapon, the insights into the human condition so laboured that they’ve been granted health insurance.

The biggest issue with Out of Blue is that it never seems to be “in” on the joke.

Continue reading

Non-Review Review: Happy as Lazzaro

This film was seen as part of the Virgin Media Dublin International Film Festival 2019. Given the high volumes of films being shown and the number of reviews to be written, these may end up being a bit shorter than usual reviews.

Happy as Lazzaro meditates profoundly on the modern world, and reaches the important and timely conclusion that maybe slavery is bad and maybe capitalism is not all that it is cracked up to be.

Alice Rohrwacher structures Happy as Lazzaro as an Italian neo-realist fable, a fairy tale for the modern world evoking both the Brothers Grimm and the Holy Bible. Its title character is a martyr who dies (or at the very least suffers terribly) repeatedly for the sins of the fallen world around him, wandering with wide-eyed innocence through a landscape that is ground beneath the heel of market forces. Happy as Lazzaro offers a happy-go-lucky protagonist who wanders listlessly from one event to another without any guile or ambition to cloud is judgement, affording him a purity that allows Rohrwacher to make her commentary on the various ills of contemporary society.

However, the biggest problem with Happy as Lazzaro is the eponymous character, the dim-witted and perpetually good-natured farmhand who provides both the narrative engine and the central perspective of the film. The issue is not actor Adriano Tardiolo, who does the best that he can with the material afforded to him, his face a perpetual blend of innocent optimism and mild confusion at even the most mundane of situations. The issue is the character himself, who exists as a moral and social vacuum at the heart of film. Happy as Lazzaro expects the audience to treat its central character as a paragon of virtue untouched by the sinful materialist world in which he finds himself. Instead, he comes across as a character completely devoid of any weight.

There is something to be said for using a character like that as a vehicle for social commentary. Narratives like Being There, Twin Peaks: The Return and Forrest Gump have employed the “guileless fool” as a protagonist to varying degrees of success. The issue with Happy as Lazzaro is that it is not content to simply use its central character as a leaf caught in a wind, but instead insists upon his purity and sanctity. Happy as Lazzaro is a film that constantly confuses the lack of any moral agency whatsoever with something approaching moral superiority.

Continue reading

Non-Review Review: Dragged Across Concrete

This film was seen as part of the Virgin Media Dublin International Film Festival 2019. Given the high volumes of films being shown and the number of reviews to be written, these may end up being a bit shorter than usual reviews. This was the Surprise Film.

Dragged Across Concrete is weird, unpleasant, mean-spirited and vindictive.

It is all of these things in a very knowing manner. This both adds to and detracts from its attempts to get under its audience’s skin. There can be something charming in a provocateur who needles the audience in an interesting or compelling way, who pushes the audience outside of their comfort zone. However, there is also something very tiring in a filmmaker who is only doing that for the sake of pushing the audience outside their comfort zone. Call it the Jurassic Park paradox; just because something is possible does not mean it is valid or necessary.

Indeed, the most frustrating part of Dragged Across Concrete is how much time and energy it devotes to being frustrating without any greater purpose. It is a film that is very consciously designed to push certain buttons, but without any really sense of why it would want to. Dragged Across Concrete is a deeply frustrating piece of cinema, and that frustration is only deepened by a hefty two-hour-and-fifty minute runtime. Watching Dragged Across Concrete, it can be hard to tell whether that frustration is more or less pure for its clarity of purpose.

However, it is abundantly clear that it does not make for a good film.

Continue reading

Non-Review Review: Her Smell

This film was seen as part of the Virgin Media Dublin International Film Festival 2019. Given the high volumes of films being shown and the number of reviews to be written, these may end up being a bit shorter than usual reviews.

Put frankly, Her Smell stinks.

To be fair, there’s some interesting material here. film has long been obsessed with stories about fame and celebrity, particularly when filtered through the lens of tragedy and recovery. After all, A Star is Born roared to life as the early frontrunner in this year’s awards race, while Vox Lux provided a darker and weirder meditation on similar themes. Her Smell is very much a companion piece to these other films, a meditation on what fame does to a person, how strange it is. Her Smell is the story of a washed up punk rocker who inevitably collides with rock bottom, and yet somehow finds a way to keep going despite (or perhaps because of) the love of the people around her.

It is interesting to note that “Becky She” hits rock bottom and just keeps going, because this feels like an adequate assessment of Her Smell. Alex Ross Perry’s latest film is two hours and fifteen minutes long, and feels every single one of them. The movie has one single point that it keeps hammering again and again and again, one particular rhythm that it keeps playing again and again and again. Scenes within the film are interminable of themselves, but somehow repeated again and again and again. However, this shallow repetition is not the biggest problem with Her Smell, it’s the combination of that shallow repetition with a smug satisfaction, the cocky assuredness that underscores every single moment.

Her Smell is a dull and lifeless movie convinced of (and insistent upon) its own profundity. Roger Ebert famously argued that no good movie is too long and no bad movie is too short. One could cut two hours from Her Smell and it would still be fifteen minutes too long.

Continue reading