Praise for Declan Burke: “Burke shows again that he’s not just a comic genius, but also a fine dramatic writer and storyteller.” – Booklist. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – Spectator. “Among the most memorable books of the year, of any genre.” – Sunday Times. “A hardboiled delight.” – Guardian. “Imagine Donald Westlake and Richard Stark collaborating on a screwball noir.” – Kirkus Reviews. “A cross between Raymond Chandler and Flann O’Brien.” – John Banville.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

My Week At The Movies

You get to see a lot of rubbish when you review movies for a living, and while it’s nowhere as bad as thinning turnips or working on a building site, it’s incredibly frustrating to waste a couple of hours (plus the couple of hours it takes to get there and back) watching complete tosh when you could be doing something more useful, like staring at a blank screen and trying to remember how this whole writing lark goes again. Last week was a bad week, upon which we won’t dwell, but this week has been one of the better ones.
  I saw Waltz With Bashir (above, right) on Monday morning, an animated film dealing with the 1982 Israeli-Lebanese war, the Sabra and Shatila massacres, and the voluntary amnesia of some of the Israeli soldiers involved. Written and directed by Ari Folman, who served during the conflict, it’s a fairly straightforward narrative, in that it’s constructed from a series of interviews Ari conducts with former comrades in an attempt to fill in the missing gaps in his memory of that time. The animation is crude, a technique called ‘rotor-scoping’ that involves filming live and then painting over the resulting film; it’s deliberately crude, however, designed to place the kind of dream-like barrier between audience and action that the soldiers themselves seem to experience when they try to remember the details of the war. Naturally, it’s those details, as they emerge in a drip-feed manner, that prove harrowing. A brave and haunting film, Waltz With Bashir is as compelling as its subject matter is repellent.
  I saw Choke on Tuesday morning, the movie version of Chuck Palahniuk’s novel. I thought the novel overwrought and grating when I read it years ago, a story with all the idiosyncrasies of FIGHT CLUB but none of the substance. The movie isn’t much of an improvement; the main character, Victor, is an accumulation of quirks and oddities, and never really convinces as a fully rounded person. Yes, I know he’s supposed to be a despicable human being, and that I’m not supposed to like him, but I’d have been equally happy to hate the sex addict-cum-scam artist. I just didn’t care enough either way, although Angelica Huston’s performance, as Victor’s dying mother, is a strong one.
  Tuesday afternoon brought the Irish movie Kisses. To wit:
Two kids, Dylan (Shane Curry) and Kylie (Kelly O’Neill) run away from home to escape Dylan’s abusive father and Kylie’s creepy uncle, and spend the night wandering the streets of Dublin. That’s the very simple set-up to Kisses, which was written and directed by Lance Daly, and the movie is as beautiful as it is simple. That’s not to say it’s a picture-postcard depiction of Dublin, or of its central characters. Dylan and Kylie are expertly drawn pre-teens from one of Dublin’s less salubrious suburban estates, with all the angst, conflict and hormonally-charged na├»vety that that suggests, and both have the vocabulary of a fishwife. Most of the situations the pair find themselves in are not ones that will have Bord Failte rushing to promote this movie – Kylie and Dylan, searching for Dylan’s homeless brother, find themselves dealing with a variety of winos, perverts and security guards keen to make a name for themselves. But it’s the chemistry and relationship between the leading pair that make this work, as well as a script that showcases a very sharp ear for Dublin slang, and despite their sordid environment, this is an uplifting tale that’s similar in tone and intent with the last great Irish movie, Adam and Paul.
  Wonderful, wonderful stuff.
  Tuesday night found me in the Abbey Theatre for The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, Berthold Brecht’s tale of the rise of an Italian-American gangster in 1930’s Chicago and the parallels between his coming to power and that of Adolf Hitler in Germany. Jimmy Fay, who has been turning out some terrific productions in the last couple of years, directs, and it’s a long but always compelling tale. Central to its success is the performance of Tom Vaughn Lawlor as Ui, a stunning piece of work in which Lawlor somehow manages to channel Hitler, Al Capone, Groucho Marx, Charlie Chaplin and Richard III. It’s as fine a performance as I’ve seen on a Dublin stage in 10 years of reviewing theatre; if you’re in the vicinity of Dublin over the next few weeks, don’t miss it.
  Finally, the clip below is the trailer to Kisses. Roll it there, Collette …


Conduit said...

There was a terrific review of Waltz with Bashir in Empire magazine this month. I'll have to check that one out.

adrian mckinty said...


I liked Waltz With Bashir. I didnt mind the animation at all. Did you see A Scanner Darkly? same process and I thought that was pretty good too.

Declan Burke said...

I did see A Scanner Darkly, I meant to mention it ... I think the animation works on the same 'distancing' principle there, conjures up that spaced-out, paranoid world of Dick's ...

Cheers, Dec