The DCH Blog
The Girl With the Iron Claws - a review - Friday 24th May 2013
The Wrong Crowd’s recasting of the Nordic myth The White Bear King, occupies that odd place between children’s and adult entertainment. The charm of the puppetry and the whimsy of the fantastic will appeal to a younger audience, but like all good fairy stories, there’s a heady current of unfulfilled ambition and sexual yearning bubbling just beneath the surface.
Ffion Jolly was an effective little sister, peeking out from her father’s castle (and by implication beyond adolescence) to see what she might be missing, and grabbing it when she finds it. The visceral scenes of her riding on the back of Joe Darke’s brilliantly handled White Bear need little explanation. Her unquestioning acquiescence to the charm of a bear was counterpointed nicely by Laura Evelyn’s rapacious Troll Queen. With her pig snout and skeletal fingers, she was both funny and disturbing, while the crazed ‘big head’ version was the visual highlight of the show.
The device of using a narrator (albeit very well done by Paul Sockett) was occasionally laboured, and the acting sometimes a tad overcooked, but these were small distractions when set against such imaginative staging (with particularly clever use of shadow and sound) and a truly creative mash up of puppetry techniques, all combining to bring to life a beguiling and strange word of wonders.
By David Vass
Argo - screening this Weds - a review - Saturday 18th May 2013
Not since Harvey Keitel snatched the Enigma machine has history been so wilfully mangled, and perhaps director Ben Affleck should be slapped on the wrist for that, but this is not, after all, a history lesson. Proving that sometimes the Academy do get in right, Oscar winning Argo is a taut, exciting and ingenious thriller, mixing comedy and genuine tension in a way that consistently works and rarely lets go. It’s tightly plotted, lovingly filmed, with a good sense of its own absurdity. It also does that very clever thing of keeping the tension going throughout, even though we know how things turned out.
CIA agent Tony Mendez is underplayed by Affleck as a man of quiet resolve, allowing the supporting cast of Alan Arkin and John Goodman to fill the screen as movie types, and this is the key to the film. With the decaying Hollywood sign as a backdrop, the movie is as much about film making as Iran. It turns to other movies for period authenticity - it looks like a Sidney Pollack film, for goodness sake – and never lets you forget it’s a story about storytelling. When Goodman tells Affleck that a Rhesus monkey could direct a film, he’s following a thread of meta-fiction that leads to a conclusion that is as satisfying as it is improbable.
So, yes, the film inflates the US role in the rescue, and has managed to offend the Canadians, the Kiwis and the Brits, but at its heart is the idea that brave folk sometimes do amazing things that are incredibly dangerous for no other reason than to help someone else. That’s an uplifting message, and it makes for an uplifting film.
By David Vass
War Requiem & Arts Award Youth Film - a review - Thursday 16th May 2013
In what has to be the oddest double bill on record, Derek Jarman’s heartfelt essay on conflict, War Requiem, was supported last night by The Diss Appearing Triangle, created by the Arts award youth project.
The Arts award film, a compendium of witty, whacky and poignant reflections on the area around the Corn Hall, was an exuberant mix of styles and techniques, with influences as diverse as Terry Gillian, Spike Milligan, and Toy Story. The highlight for me was the opening section, a collage of found footage and stressed new film, overlaid with an interview soundtrack, which showed genuine potential for greater things to come, and was oddly reminiscent of the main feature.
War Requiem was classic Jarman. Immaculately shot and composed, his gift for composition is well evidenced here, as he sets up a series of vivid tableaux reminiscent of his beloved Caravaggio. There was, as ever with Jarman, acres of Wagnerian tedium, but these were punctuated by moments of startling verve. With Nathaniel Parke, Tilda Swinton and Sean Bean in early roles, as well as Laurence Olivier’s swansong, it’s a starry cast for a non-speaking film, but while they all emote effectively, it’s the archive footage that moves. Indeed, as the film loses narrative coherence it becomes oddly more compelling, the closing montage of genuine atrocity being both difficult to take, and difficult to look away from.
Derek Jarman’s films were original, stylized, audacious, and maddening. He was a true auteur and a flag waver for the maverick filmmaker, trying to do something different with little money and lots of enthusiasm. Perhaps it was not such an odd double bill after all.
By David Vass