The DCH Blog
Tangerines - Thursday 26th May 2016
Director Zara Urushadze had the misfortune to receive his Oscar nomination for best foreign film in the same year as to Paweł Pawlikowski, and so ultimately lost out to Ida. Consequently, we’ve had to wait until the end of last year for a UK release for Tangerines, an uncompromising anti-war film set in post- Soviet Caucasus at the height of the early nineties conflict.
In the wake of the war between Georgians and Abkhazians whole villages were left deserted as ethic Esthonians fled for their lives, but Urushadze’s film concerns two farmers who stayed put. Played with understated charm by Elmo Nüganen and Lembit Ulfsak, Margus and Ivo exude a quiet, stoic bravery when circumstances lead to them nurse both a Georgian and a Chechen, who do little else but bicker through the conflict with an almost Beckettian absurdity.
This is an angry, indigent film, but not without humour, and its lightness of touch reminds us that these are all fundamentally ordinary men thrown together by circumstance. Each of them grows and changes in a way that is dramatic yet completely believable - the audience finds itself caring deeply about the fate of, not just Ivo and Margus, but also the men that have intruded into their lives - something which makes the exciting, tense conclusion all the harder to bear.
By David Vass
Closely Observed Trains - a pre-screening review - Friday 20th May 2016
Based on a 1965 novel of the same name by the noted Czech author Bohumil Hrabal, this must be one of the best known films of the Czech new wave - a coming of age story that was the first, and perhaps the best, movie Jirí Menzel directed. Winner of Best Foreign Language Oscar in 1968 its reputation has remained undimmed ever since.
Its episodic structure follows Miloš Hrma’s tireless endeavours to lose his virginity, while all about him are more concerned with the Nazi invasion of his country. Unusually whimsical (and racey) for the social realism movement, the film is full of eccentric characters swirling around Václav Neckár’s assured debut performance as a naive ticket collector plunged into ever more wacky situations. Without being a comedy, the film is frequently very funny, notwithstanding an undercurrent of increasing unease, as the German occupation tightens its grip. When the drama finally darkens, it does so suddenly and without compromise.
A true original, it’s hard to imagine its impact at the time of release, but its influence on the cinema that followed is manifest. From the kitchen sink dramas of Ken Loach, through the class fury of Lindsey Anderson, right up to the montage sequences of Lars von Trier, here is a blue print for films beyond counting.
By David Vass
Habeas Corpus - Corn Hall on Tour @ Garboldisham - a review - Sunday 15th May 2016
Anyone attending Alan Bennett’s Habeas Corpus looking for his signature humanity was in for a shock, as the broadest of farces barged its way onto the stage. Instead, it was with misanthropic glee and brutal nihilism that Bennett explored the absurdity of the human condition.
Habeas Corpus is over forty years old, and with its dodgy sexual politics and queasy subplots, its showing its age. All credit, then, to Open Space for their rollicking version of what could have been an uncomfortable ride. Peter Sowerbutts and Yves Green reprise their dysfunctional relationship from Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, commanding centre stage with convincing and funny performances as the couple bickering in the eye of a perfect emotional storm. Tim Hall, as the pleating and whining man-child Canon Throbbing, was also very strong, while Pat Parris as Mrs Swabb the housekeeper, held the play together as Greek chorus stand-in.
The real star, however, has to be director David Green, who marshalled his troops expertly, choreographing the action at a cracking pace. Suffusing the play with an energy it sorely needed to get over the finishing line, he was rewarded with raucous belly laughs throughout from an appreciative, near capacity audience.