“There’s too many things changing in life,” a barmaid says after proudly showcasing the two hundred-plus year-old flagstone floor on which her institution stands in The Irish Pub, Alex Fegan’s warmly funny crawl cum cultural study. Hers is one of twenty-two bars the documentary features, spanning the length and breadth of the country in efforts to arrive at an image of how the pub—or indeed teach tábhairne; Irish seems so much more appropriate here—has come to command so firm a footing in Irish identity. “There are no strangers here, only friends you have not yet met” goes the W.B. Yeats quote on which the movie opens; certainly there’s a charm to these amiable interviewees to leave us lusting after a Guinness in their company.
Martin Scorsese Presents: Masterpieces of Polish Cinema Review: Innocent Sorcerers (1960) - NP Approved
Martin Scorsese knows his stuff. He has seen more films than seems humanly possible for such a prolific filmmaker. Innocent Sorcerers is one of his recommendations from Andrzej Wajda’s collection, a romance film which has been beautifully photographed and now restored to show all its detailed creative camerawork. You can see that this is a stepping stone to the Before… trilogy by Richard Linklater and many other simple, character-driven romance pieces. Wajda is aided by the screenplay written by Jerzy Andrzejewski and Jerzy Skolimowski which has created two intriguing, dynamic characters that blend but also clash in scenes that are bleeding sexual tension.
The band that should be been more than they were. After ten years apart Bad Brains reunited to tour the USA in 2007. This is one of those amazing music documentaries that reveal a sort of genius that’s been round all along but never got the recognition they deserved. It reminds me of the hugely popular recent features Searching for Sugar Man (2012) and Anvil: The Story of Anvil (2008). Documentary films in the same vein, that aim to expose something that not a lot of people know. These films are onto something incredibly influential in the music industry that just didn’t get the limelight it should have.
I had the pleasure of watching this during the first week of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. Many in my social media circles have varied opinions and ways of protesting the anti-gay laws in Russia, so it’s not like I can be blind to modern news of the country in general. It’s imperative that people know the truth behind the spectacle. Hardworking Olympians do things for sport while countries around them battle it out for dominance in one form or another.
When Pussy Riot stormed into Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior they were arrested and in turn, became a much talked about sensation. Their actions sparked national outrage, international exposure, and caused human rights protests around Europe. In the documentary Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer, Mike Lerner and Maxim Alyokhina attempt to tell the tale of the three young women arrested: Mariya Alyokhina (Maria), Ekaterina Samutsevich (Katia), and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova (Nadia). Filmed through their six months on trial the film goes through family interviews, publically available courtroom footage, and videos of the band themselves.
There’s always a danger, in telling stories about artists, that showing the art will undercut some of the import of the larger message (call it “The Studio 60 problem”). If we are told a character is a genius artist, only to see their art and find it is something lesser, it can hut the overall impact of the story. There is also a danger, in telling stories about quirky people, that the film will get too caught up in how lovably eccentric its characters are and forget to display them as much more than an assemblage of oddities sewn together in the skin of a person. The first problem is irritating, but fairly easy to overlook in a quality work through good old fashioned suspension of disbelief. The second problem is deadly.
Based on a true story, Jamesy Boy tells the story of James Burns who in his teenage years descended into a life of crime and gang violence. During his subsequent imprisonment he discovers hope and humility through writing and follows the advice of a fellow inmate as he tries to slowly turn his life around.
It all started with a 78 RPM MGM record of Hank Williams and lazy dancing through peonies in that magical time between spring and summer when anything was possible. Hank’s notes fill the screen in stylistic flourishes that bring us closer to the mind of Terri Hooley and his inner fixations that drove his crazed charismatic smile. Innocence is lost with an accidental arrow to the eye and that eternal mystical springtime gives way to decades of grief as “the Troubles” take over Ireland and the world seems to become a little more cynical. Flash-forward through a series of images taken from a cultural zeitgeist of sectarian violence and ideological turmoil and we are quickly catapulted into Terri’s young adulthood where he bears the dubious honor of being the “best DJ in Belfast”. He plays reggae for empty dive bars as Ireland’s last romantic soul, waiting for similar spirits to join his unintentional revolution of peace, pot, and eventually punk music.
Inside Llewyn Davis (2013) is a pure Coen Brothers film from start to finish. It is quiet, contemplative and laugh out loud funny all the way through, sometimes all in the same scene. It has a more laid back tone like their films Blood Simple (1984), Fargo (1996), No Country for Old Men (2007), and A Serious Man (2009), while keeping the understated humor of Fargo (1996), The Big Lebowski (1998) and Burn After Reading (2008). It’s also a film driven by its soundtrack, much like Raising Arizona (1989) and O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000).
The story, set in the middle of the folk music revival in 1961, is of burgeoning folk singer Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac). He’s trying out a solo act after the death of his partner and he’s not having a very easy time of it. He recorded an album that isn’t selling, he plays gigs when he can get them and he has a manager that doesn’t really do much of anything for him.
Ten minutes into Inside Llewyn Davis we are captivated by Joel and Ethan Coen’s technique: those controlled compositions, steady tonal rhythms, and wisdom regarding the script are divine (divine because the brothers are spiritualists). When they cut to the p.o.v. of an orange tabby cat from inside a subway as it roars through stations, we realize the Coens can identify with any of God’s creatures.
A Coen Brothers narrative is rarely restricted to the arena of character study, plot, or Hollywood cliche. Like Wes Anderson, their work is sometimes, however lovingly, referred to as “quirky”. But the filmmaking brothers convey much more than that: they’re simply today’s coolest filmmakers. Their funny, peculiar, and humane filmic examinations overcome fashionable or trendy gimmicks, and instead honour the human spirit with genuine melancholy not nihilism.
Gabrielle is a film about developmentally challenged young adults that meet at a community centre. Gabrielle (Gabrielle Marion-Rivard) and Martin (Alexandre Landry) sing in a choir set to perform with a locally famous singer, Robert Charlebois. There is little build-up as to why they fall in love, sometimes these things just happen. Not all love stories require a backstory or exposition. Their relationship progresses and Martin’s protective mother steps in to split up the two. Gabrielle’s sister Sophie (Melissa Desormeaux-Poulin) is more open-minded and encourages Gabrielle to pursue love. The film touches on love, independence and dependence, rebellion and happiness. Unfortunately all of the above does not work because the film relies too heavily on Gabrielle’s handicap.