Review: Jimmy’s Hall

Jimmy’s Hall (dir. Ken Loach, 2014) 

Jimmys Hall

Nuance might be a feature of Ken Loach’s work that has long since left the building, but that’s not to say his latest work doesn’t fail to charm. The story of James “Jimmy” Gralton, the only Irishman to be deported from his own country, has Loach on tempestuous, didactic form, parleyed by sensitive performances from its cast that give more depth than Paul Laverty’s agitprop script seems to give. Jimmy’s Hall, like the second half of its closest Loach relative, The Wind that Shakes the Barley, pits itself in the aftermath of the Irish war of independence and the awkward political situation of Ireland in the early 1920s, where the progressive branches of republicanism were just as buried as they were under the British.

Read the rest of the review at CineVue

Berlinale: The big picture(s)

Berlin’s cinematic behemoth, the annual Berlin International Film Festival, returns this week with over 400 films from across the globe. The Berlinale always finds a mixture of the prestige of Cannes (twenty films compete for its top prize, the Golden Bear), and the sprawling public-access inclusivity that defines festivals like London’s – it’s glitzy and yet down to earth, and tickets (which always sell fast) sell from just €4.

Digital Fusion Image Library TIFF File

Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel

The fest opens big with Wes Anderson’s new work, The Grand Budapest Hotel, with Ralph Fiennes as a concierge of an inter-war Eastern European hotel in the fictional Republic of Zubrowka. The film stars no fewer than 14 previously Oscar-nominated actors, from Bill Murray to Saiorse Ronan and Adrien Brody, and on the basis of its trailer looks to out-Wes most of Wes Anderson’s quirky recent work.

George Clooney is also due at the festival with his new film The Monuments Men, about a group of art experts (including Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett and Hugh Bonneville) going behind enemy lines in World War II to save some of the continent’s most precious art. Germany’s difficult past also features in a startling new showcase of British propaganda film about the Nazi’s concentration camps filmed by allies of the Psycolgocial Warfare Division towards the end of the war. Pieced together by the Imperial War Museum, the film was never released in the UK as intended, even though Alfred Hitchcock reportedly worked on the picture.

With a festival so sprawling it can be difficult finding a link between the works, but many of the raft of films are features looking at a world whose foundations are shifting. Festival chief Dieter Kosslick told Euronews that “We see a lot of films about ‘land grabbing’. We see a lot about people who are in migration and are not paid correctly and we see the whole disaster of globalisation”.

I’m especially looking forward to young Vietnamese director Nguyen-Vo Nghiem-Minh’s Nuoc, which shows a world in which global warming has led sea levels to flood half the world’s arable land, and how multinational companies profit from the misery of masses. Screening too is Jehane Noujaim’s Tahir Square docudrama The Square, and recent Greek cinema’s assessment of its country’s social and economic plight continues with Yannis Economides’ thought-provoking hitman thriller Stratos. There’s also Diego Luna’s biopic of American activist Cesar Chavez, and Shadow Days, about rural life and the one-child policy in a modernising China, one of a number of films being presented in Berlin from the country.


Jack O’Connell in ’71

As is often the case at the Berlinale, LGBT themes strike high on the list of the festival’s priorities, films of which compete for the Teddy award on LGBT topics. Fresh from Sundance, Ira Sachs’ Love is Strange screens at the festival, with John Lithgow and Alfred Molina as an ageing gay couple in New York forced to live apart. Australian film 52 Tuesdays tells the story of a mother’s decision to undergo gender reassignment surgery, filmed over the course of a year – on Tuesdays. And Fucking Different XXY is a confrontational short film compilation by seven of the world’s foremost transgender filmmakers.

British interest is met by the Ken Loach, director of Kes and My Name is Joe, who is to receive an honorary Golden Bear. Loach won his Cannes Palme d’Or for Irish civil war-set The Wind that Shakes the Barley, so could there be a top Berlin award for British director Yann Demange’s,’71, set in Northern Ireland during The Troubles? The film stars Skins and This is England alumnus Jack O’Connell who will soon be seen in the excellent Starred Up which screened at last year’s London Film Festival. Scottish musical God Help The Girl also features, starring Emily Browning and another Skins graduate Hannah Murray. And there’s a new Nick Hornby adaptation in the shape of A Long Way Down, in which Pierce Brosnan, Imogen Poots, Toni Collette and Breaking Bad star Aaron Paul feature as a quartet who meet at the top of a tall building just as they each decide against committing suicide.

In other highlights, Lars von Trier finally unveils the uncut version of his erotic epic Nymphomaniac Part I. Last time he took the effort to attend a festival, he was declared persona non grata at Cannes, so if he does decide to turn up, do expect fireworks. There’s also Calvary starring Brendan Gleeson, John Michael McDonagh’s follow-up to the hilarious The Guard, and the intriguing The Kidnapping of Michel Houellebecq, in which the controversial author plays himself after being taken from his home by gangsters, suddenly finding himself happy away from his strenousous life as a French celebrity.

My pick of the festival remains, however, is Richard Linklater’s Boyhood, an enormously ambitious drama filmed in Texas over 11 years about an estranged couple (Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette) raising their son. I’m hoping for a blend of The Tree of Life and Michael Apted’s Up series, and the rave reviews from Sundance mark this as one to watch. See you in Berlin!


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