Autumn is here, and winter’s not far behind. Cold winds blowing and scudding clouds overhead a lot of the time. We’ve had a long hot summer, but it’s over now. It isn’t gone entirely though. As I write the sun is shining in a pure blue sky. But yesterday it rained all day and it’s bound to rain again today sometime.
So good days to be spent at THE KERRY FILM FESTIVAL 2014!
Yesterday brought the official screening of the Animation Competition finalists. I mentioned in my last blog that my official role here is Adjudicator of this competition, so this was my opportunity to see the films again but this time on a decent sized screen (I reviewed them on my home computer, not ideal).
What struck me most was that all the films were enhanced for being seen in a cinema setting. We’re all getting so used to home entertainment, and some people have some fairly hefty systems, but it is a seduction. You believe you can watch films at home just as if you were at the cinema, and it’s almost true, right up until you hit Pause because you fancy a snack or a cup of tea.
Sitting in a cinema with a crowd of people all there for the same purpose is, as games say, an immersive experience. You go right into the world of the film.
So all the animation competition films looked better than they had at home, more detail emerged, the smaller subtleties became vivid, nuances were clearer. Fortunately, since my verdict is already given (you’ll learn what it was on Sunday, Saturday night is the awards ceremony), they all rose on the same sea and the one which had most comprehensively pleased my adjudicator’s eye and sensibilities is still the one I’d choose for the award. The director deserves to be given every encouragement.
Still, the same is true of them all, of course, and as I also said yesterday, different films don’t really compare. Each of these six films achieved what they set out to achieve, and the technical standard of all of them was very high indeed. In the end, I rewarded on a judgement of a combination of technical skill, creative originality, absorbing story, a definite storyline and character arc(s), and, because this is how I like my short films but it is not a universal truth, a conclusion that still leaves an open question at the end – what became of this or that person? What happened next?
We tell stories, that’s what this industry is about. I don’t simply mean the plot, the tale, but the arc of development that draws the audience along, keeps them guessing and wanting to know what comes next. It applies to every shot, and in the case of animation particularly, but in film in general, it also is, or can be, reflected in the style, the genre, or the combination of styles to create an effect on the audience, takes them somewhere unexpected.
We saw two 2D films (drawn and painted animation) Sebastian and Deadly; three stop-motion films (plasticine models moved frame by frame), or in one accomplished case, Mr. Plastimime, a combination of stop-motion and 2D; there was an amusing little trope of a film called Canuck Black; and My Stuffed Granny; and we saw one 3D CGI film (Computer Graphics Imagery) from montreal, Canada, called Le Gouffre [The Gulf]. There was one other film, noble and interesting, with an excellent, very compelling narrator’s voice, but it wasn’t really animation. It used a camera effect technique first experimented with by Norman McLaren back in the 1920s, in which what are basically simply drawings dissolve from drawing to drawing over several seconds, in this case, mixing on more and more pencil while the drawing is on screen, so that it takes time to materialise. But nothing is animated as such, so, perhaps unfairly, it didn’t really stand a chance with me, not in this context. Also, the drawings were pedestrian, which didn’t help.
I expect you can find them all on youTube.
* * *
In the evening I drove with the Festival Director Roísin McGuigan to Killarney to see The Rover, an Australian Feature Film starring the excellent Guy Pearce and, for me hitherto unseen, but actually quite famous young star of the Twilight movies, Robert Pattinson.
Just the drive was entertainment enough. Roísin is a fount of knowledge and a fireball of energy. Plus she drives like Stig! She talked, I listened, about her theories of how to make a good festival; about the choices she makes and how she makes them (I imagine her staff learn quickly not to cross her or argue too much, she knows what she likes); the struggles she has to endure with the funding bodies in Ireland; and about the films we have seen here and the ones to come – today I will see five of Werner Herzog’s first short films. This is what I mean about the best of Film Festivals, and Kerry Film Festival is on its way to be one those, they are a cornucopia of material you might never see anywhere else.
Last night, I thought I’d got a slightly dried fruit out of that hornful, but it seemed most of my fellow audience thought they’d had a feast. I don’t know, but these are my thoughts, for what they are worth. The Rover is one of those post-Apocalyptic dystopian movies we get from time to time. To be honest, first off, I think we get the point: if our fragile civilisation should go tits up, it ain’t going to be nice to survive the cataclysm, and live the rest of your life in abject poverty and daily dread. Actually, though it is probably not entirely relevant here, a large proportion of the people on this planet live like that now and always have, and the still find ways to laugh and dance and be kind to each other.
But not in Australia, apparently, or not in the Australia of this movie. Noticeably, we didn’t see many Aborigines. As far as I know, they would easily, even happily survive a return to the way things were for the 40,000 years or so they enjoyed before the Europeans arrived. But that too is probably not relevant here.
Anyway, back to the movie. Guy Pearce is one of these survivors. He has a car. He has a little money. He dresses in rags and maintains a permanent three day stubble neither growing a beard nor shaving. He is angry with the world even before someone steals his car.
The film opens with a super: “Ten years after the Collapse.” We’re never told exactly what this collapse entailed, but it seems to have been a superior form of the financial crash of recent years. Maybe there was a pandemic as well, but no-one looks sick or scarred, so I suspect it was just the money that dried up and left everyone in the Outback fending for themselves. There is still petrol to be had, at a price, and food in various roadside sheds, and there are Security Forces out there doing something, though they themselves could not say what. Everyone has guns, which they can buy locally, even in the far Outback where the film is set, along with the necessary ammunition, and a pretty good selection too.
In the end, it turned out to be a punchline gag story. For most of the film we never fully understand why Guy Pearce’s character gets so cross about losing his car, not least because the people who steal it leave him with their equally trashy but also operative van. Indeed, he chases them in the van or there’d be no movie. Only in the final moments do we learn why he has been so relentless, and that actually this hard-hearted, taciturn, rather cross with everyone and everything, cold-blooded killer of a man has a heart of gold, or a heart, anyway. But that was it. No redemption, no revelation for him, no change, no Character Arc. And really not much of a story arc either. Man loses car, man chases car, man gets car back. People get killed. And a dog dies.
Robert Pattinson does a fine job being a slightly disturbed, maybe retarded, but still fairly good with a gun kind of guy. He mumbled a lot so I didn’t catch all he said, but he said it with conviction. It was a committed performance. If you’re used to the shiny vampire version, this is his ‘I can act’ movie, and he can. Good luck to him. But I simply didn’t care for them, their cars or the damn dog.