WHO’S THAT KNOCKING AT MY DOOR – DOOM IS MARTIN SCORSESE’S VISION OF A MODERN ROMANCE

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Martin Scorsese comes knocking with a BFI re-release of what is perhaps his most personal and autobiographical film. Shot for pennies over the duration of four years (1964-68), the film stars Harvey Keitel as a Marty alter-ego college dropout who falls terribly in love with a middle-class blonde girl, played by Zina Bethune. Keitel’s character is confused by his feelings and spends the entire picture in turmoil over his ethnic and Catholic background versus the liberation involved in riding up to Greenwich village and making-love in a bedroom instead of mating meaninglessly with “broads” on the streets.

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In part, the film acts as a prequel to Mean Streets, where Scorsese would again realise his incipient vision of a protagonist brought together by two opposing forces of sainthood and recklessness. It is the image of a man whose core values are pure, but who relies on audacious behaviours to get from A to B. And thematically, there is no hiding from the fact that Scorsese’s young male protagonists from the 60s and 70s are rooted in chauvinism and psychosexual tension; rape is viewed as a male crisis etc. The main storyline in Who’s That Knocking At My Door surprisingly has nothing to do with a crime narrative, it is simply about man’s dilemma as to whether or not a woman can love him who is no longer a virgin, as she is therefore able to sleep with any man she pleases, but here it is the case of a woman who has also been raped, an additional dilemma for the character.

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It is shot in the landmark locations of Little Italy and tiny local clubs where unemployed youths play poker and act out on the fringes of society. Every scene bleeds with the vision of a filmmaker learning his craft and exploring inventive camera-work and blocking. The scene where Keitel meets the girl is spectacularly shot with a single camera turning a two-shot dialogue sequence into an entirely spherical playing field. The dialogue is also on fire – it feels improvised and yet is actually carefully scripted and the shots even storyboarded (as per Scorsese’s commentary). No doubt, the film has many imperfections, but with Scorsese, stylistic error manages to equate with innovation and poetry. A lack of professionalism does not mean the film lacks orchestration in mind of a cohesive whole. The hallmarks of the great auteur are there, in detail and in subject matter. His talent is fledging. It is definitely a debut “picture” worth revisiting.

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The Arbor, The Selfish Giant and Clio Barnard

Clio Barnard

I was fortunate enough to attend Clio Bernard’s lecture on her work the other day, she truly shows the promising signs of a filmmaker who understands their vision and has the passion, tenacity and talent to contribute a thorough standpoint in cinema. Her first two films have been seminal works in the last few years of British film, gaining Clio multiple awards internationally and 2 BAFTA nominations for the outstanding debut category.

Clio’s underlying themes of memory, authenticity and imagination are rich from the outset, although masked in the provincial poverty and the battle of human life that she so credibly conceives. The Arbor is her first feature length piece of work that simulates layers of reality to a shattering and enthralling effect. It is raw and lucid, and some critics have complained of its downward spiral of depression and heartache, at times there is little space for breath. Yet, on the contrary, Clio utilises innovative filmmaking tools to remind the viewer that this is simply a retelling of a story that is being remembered in more ways than one. There is the simulation of Andrew Dunbar’s play acted out in the estate yard; there is the reflection of Dunbar’s family (of authentic voices lip-synced to actors – a magical feat and by no means obtrusive), the fictionalised reenactment of events and the factual archive footage of interviews with Andrea herself. It is a true expression of Brechtian technique (from the epic theatre) and thus a remarkably fresh insight into the documentary form and the form of cinematic expression itself.

The selfish giant

Following on from this great success, Clio emerged with another tale of heartache and grief imaginatively interpreted from Oscar Wilde’s fable The Selfish Giant. Clio also drew inspiration from The Arbor and the cycle of power and greed constructed within working-class Yorkshire (Bradford). The poor are undermined by society and the audience innately experiences the cycle of poverty through the young eyes of a 14 year old boy (ironically called Arbor) trying to make ends meet for his detached and deprived family. It is a striking film with beautiful and sometimes magical cinematography, powerful and admirable acting and, of course, the instinctive and precise direction of Clio.

Clio came from a background in fine art and it was her sequential drawings that drew her to the cinematic form. She became interested in what it would be like to construct these drawings into a storyboard form, if you like, ultimately, the moving image. Clio began making short films of the experimental and artistry kind. She screened part of an intriguing short film she made in 1998 called Random acts of Intimacy which, like The Arbor, blended authentic voices with actors miming. In this case, irrational sexual acts (usually of one’s fantasy or imagination) were explained in detail and filtrated with shots from actual pornographic films. The audience wishes to seek out the vulnerability and the anonymity of lip-syncing makes this a frustrating and highly captivating task.

Clio continued to experiment with the medium, constantly looking for new ways to explore authenticity and connect with the real. However, she assertively believes that it is wholly risky to believe in the authenticity of film. Though, her social-realist style in The Selfish Giant may proclaim otherwise, it is after all inaugurated from a little fable of greed that resolves in receipt.

I am fascinated to find out where Clio will take her filmmaking journey next, she hinted she was in the writing process at the moment, nothing more. She has explored the boundaries of documentary and narrative filmmaking, both transcending the screen, one with Brechtian motives and the other via pure cinema. What’s next Clio?

Locke – Tom Hardy is enthralling even if he is trapped inside this rather tiresome movie

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MOVIE REVIEW

Locke
Shoebox Films (GB), IM Global (US)
85 Mins
UK Release: 18th April, 2014

Director Steven Knight
Producer Guy Heeley, Paul Webster
Screenwriter Steven Knight
Cinematographer Haris Zambarloukos
Cast Tom Hardy, Olivia Colman, Ruth Wilson

Full credit to Steven Knight and his innovative construction of cinema, but Locke is a clever concept that fails to give me an attentive seat aboard the exciting journey from Birmingham to London. Ivan Locke (Tom Hardy) is an engaging character with deep motivations and Hardy delivers exceptionally, yet he alone isn’t enough to give this story a plausible pulse. Although the meditative structure of this story is enthralling, one is drawn to expecting more from it.

Locke is a successful family man with a complex inner shell. His shell is close to breaking, but Locke effectively manages to keep calm, reflective and consistently repeat, “The traffic is OK, so I’ll be there soon. The traffic is OK.” Once his mind is fixed, there is no turning back. In this case, Locke has decided it is time to amend a fatal error he committed approximately 9 months ago. Unfortunately, this decision brings with it a tsunami of catastrophic repercussions for Locke’s life and career. If the man wasn’t honest before (at least not to his wife), then he certainly makes it his promise to be so now.

The act of birth encompasses the engine of this plot. Locke is dropping everything for a woman he admits he doesn’t love and hardly knows. Why does he suddenly care? He has everything his character could possible ask for: a successful career, a happy wife and two children and a fine BMW.  He is driven by the nature and beauty of birth; a Father has to be at the birth of his child, no exceptions. However, the woman on the other end of the line (voiced by Olivia Colman) has nothing, Locke is her next of kin, her make-believe lover and the only person who can calm her down once her water has broke (the doctors even call Locke to check on his progress, wouldn’t they just get on with their vital jobs?).

On the other side of Locke’s attenuating mind is the crisis at work; he has one of the biggest concrete assemblies of his life, beginning at early hours of the next morning, which he must superintend. The big boss isn’t happy and uses plenty of bad language to get his point across before giving Locke the sack. In the name of pride, Locke continues to organise the operation with his co-worker who is on-site to do the check-ups and keep Locke’s brain from discharging. The dialogue goes into rather a bit too much detail about concrete engineering that doesn’t steer the plot to a thrilling ride for the mass audience. But then again, what other option is there to take up 85 minutes on the Bluetooth.

It is a one man, one car show. The confinements are inside the car with a few glimpses of traffic shown in wide-panning shots or through the various window reflections. It can be a stuffy ride and at times a little desperate. Knight plays with artistry through focusing various reflections to imitate Locke’s mental state, but the condition could be explored further. Despite Hardy’s engaging and intricate performance, the film fell short of my expectation and didn’t raise my heartbeat above resting (my eyes also began complaining about watching the same shot a hundred times over).

2.5/5 stars

Watch the trailer below: