My review of the incredible Remainder by Omer Fast is over at Flickering Myth and below…
1. The faculty by which the mind stores and remembers information.
2. Something remembered from the past.
3. A potentially faltering and problematic thing with the capacity to occlude and confuse.
In Remainder, the feature film debut from Omer Fast, an intricately woven web of ideas and codes is constructed, both on-screen and off. The viewer is lured into a perplexing thriller that brings philosophical vision into a detailed run through of noir-ish themes and psychological horror plays. Adapted from Tom McCarthy’s cult novel, the movie shares the disturbing nature of films as diverse as Memento, Mulholland Drive, Pi and Spellbound.
Fast is an acclaimed visual artist well versed in the mind’s potential for playing tricks on an individual. Much of his work has focused on the subjective nature of reality, with video pieces asking questions of conventional storytelling and the erratic blurring of appearances. A picture never lies, we once learned. Fast has always been intrigued by showing how they frequently do, and providing insight into exactly how this can be.
In Remainder he uses a random event to explore how identity and reality is created. When an unnamed man (Tom Sturridge, Far From the Madding Crowd) is hit on the head by a falling object he awakens from a coma to find his memory erased and a compensation package for £8.5m. His lawyer instructs him that the money is his on the condition that he says nothing about the accident. This isn’t a problem; he recalls nothing. The only thing he can remember are tiny snapshots of images which he obsessively reconstructs into physical form, hoping to unlock further clues about his past life. As he delves deeper into the mystery surrounding him, he becomes embroiled in intrigue, suspense and immediate danger.
Remainder is a fascinating film, full of the real personal horror of losing one’s footing in the reality of life. Fundamentally it is concerned with trauma, an area that Sturridge brings out wonderfully well in his portrayal of the unknown protagonist. He manages to play the lead as a victim who is facing a profound internal struggle – while also imbuing him with a grim determination. There’s a strange sense of optimism in this, that the human spirit is so proud it will fight against debilitating events, looking for understanding and meaning.
The protagonist – an anti-hero really – is certainly not there to invite sympathy. At times he comes across as a rich kid spending his new found wealth on frivolous and speculative activities. There is method in his memory problems, though as he expends more and more effort – and cash – on bringing his memories back to life. In the reconstruction of various homes and property, Fast appears to be making a side comment on the gentrification of urban city areas (the film is based in London but the filming locations are as hared with the German capital Berlin).
Fast is also clearly concerned with the obsessions of film. There is more than a sense of Kubrick about Sturridge’s character; he tries to rebuild his memories with a huge team of assistants deliberating on exactly how to get the right sound, precise smells and accurate colour to the documenting of internal pictures. As well as his striking central performance, there is fine support from Cush Jumbo (The Good Wife), Ed Speleers (Downton Abbey) and Arsher Ali (Four Lions).
A remarkable movie, Remainder is a spectacular and mind-mangling trip.
Remainder is in UK Cinemas and on demand from June 24th.
My review of the feature doc The Seventh Fire is at The Metropolist and below.
The Seventh Fire is a drama documentary concentrating on the poverty and social deprivation of the Native American Ojibwe tribe living deep within Minnesota’s White Earth Indian Reservation. The very fact that the reservation is still referred to in some areas as the ‘Indian’ reservation goes some way to showing the cultural, political and sociological barriers still in evidence.
Jake Pettibone Riccobono’s feature debut provides a far reaching view of the deep rooted problems facing these people. Concentrating on two men, the older Rob Brown and 17 year old Kevin, the film charts the trials of living in a community where crime and violence is part of the natural order of things.
Brown, a complex character in his early 40’s, is about to face prison for the fifth time. Throughout the film he struggles to understand his responsibility in continuing down a path of destruction and abuse. The sharpness and wit of Brown’s self-reflection is brought out in sympathetic detail, and a character emerges of both victim and anti-hero fighting back against a repressive system. This is granted extra emphasis on the soundtrack, with Brown’s style of rap-poetry, worked on during long hours in the cell, given the space and room to impress.
The character of Kevin is more troubling. The teen meth addict and dealer aims to be the biggest drug lord on the reservation, and is clearly inspired by Brown’s prison exploits. He seems to have his life mapped out already, with a desire for more cash, drugs and power the only thing keeping him going. But underneath the tough guy exterior however is just another lost young man.
The script doesn’t hold back, and is not interested in showing the men in their best light. Indeed, this is a tough watch, with hard hitting points to make about American society and crimes of the past. The men are, in effect, victims of an abusive society and have been marked by their experiences just as clearly as the intricate tattoos they are so eager to display.
The Seventh Fire is a profoundly moving film, with haunting lessons to teach and difficult questions to ask. The executive production team, including Terrence Malick and Natalie Portman, clearly saw something in the original screenplay more than worthy of attention, and one can only applaud their decision to triumph the work.
The beautiful Our Little Sister is reviewed over at Flickering Myth and below.
An intimate and warm story of sisterhood and familial ties, Our Little Sister explores the drama of sororal relationships in a graceful and sensitive style.
Adapted from the best selling graphic novel Umimachi Diary by Yoshida Akimi, this is a drama that plays with subtlety and intricacy, ultimately creating an uplifting and spirited mood. It does not shy away from pain and darkness, with troubled histories and parental break-ups creating a generational fall-out felt for years afterwards. Yet it remains a bright and hopeful document – an affectionate look at how family of all kinds can help each other through life.
Three young sisters, Chika (Kaho), Yoshi (Masam Nagasawa) and Sachi (Haruka Ayase) all live together in their grandmother’s beautiful old house. Chika is the youngest of the group and works in a sports shop and has a playful relationship with a boyfriend into sports and outdoor activity. Yoshi is a banker who shelters from the stresses of work with a busy social life and more than a passing affection for alcohol. Sachi is the oldest of the sisters who manages a hectic work schedule as a nurse at the hospital alongside an unhappy affair with a married doctor.
The three have been estranged from both parents for years and grudgingly decide to attend their father’s funeral on the news of his death. Just before they are all set for a quick departure, they get to know the 13 year old Suzu, who it transpires is their half-sister. On something of a whim, Sachi invites her to come and stay with them. A few days or weeks later – time is not exact in this dreamlike picture – Suzu arrives and the sisters form a close knit bond of humility, respect and care.
The quartet adapt remarkably well to the situation,with the group creating a powerful barrier against the pain of the past. Ayase’s portrayal of Sachi is key to getting this strength across; her expressions of respectful care communicate the commitment to love that she and the others have made.
Overall this is a moving film, providing a template of sincere and honest reflection that goes beyond mere words. It is telling that the source material is a manga book- the colour and vibrancy of the locations are captured by director Koreeda in stunning detail. There is a flowing of ideas and imagination that bring a sense of soulful enlightenment; from dejection and darkness, hope can rise up anew.
My review of Paul Fegan’s excellent documentary exploring Scottish folk memory and identity is over at Flickering Myth and republished below. Starring ex-Arab Strap singer Aidan Moffat, it’s a beautiful and wry slice of lyrical imagination…
“Folk music needs a good editor” Aidan Moffat says at one point during this heartfelt and incisive documentary. It’s just one of the many quotable lines delivered in this wryly humorous exploration of cultural memory and identity. Part music doc, part travelogue across Scotland, the film stands proudly as a unique tribute to a world passed and an inspiring testament to the power of words.
Moffat is best known for his darkly provocative song plays as the ex-front man of cult indie folk-pop duo (alongside Malcolm Middleton) Arab Strap. Here he sets out to explore his country’s past by rewriting and touring its oldest songs. The only thing standing in his way is the 79 year-old Sheila Stewart. The traditional travelling folk balladeer takes a combative stance towards Moffat’s view that the old songs need reworking and tells him so in no uncertain terms. Despite their initial terse meeting, the two develop an understanding and it is their relationship that is the bedrock of the film.
The powerful mixture of Moffat’s lyrical skill and love of grim humour sits well with the accounts of romance, debauchery and existential dread. The footage of gigs in far flung and out of the way towns and villages is captured in poetic playfulness and offers a real intensity to the work. It’s always interesting to watch the faces of the more conservative audience members as Moffat drops in a few well timed obscenities to colour the tone of the old songs blue. This plus the idiosyncratic eccentricities of locals (such as the old timer who instructs his dog to wait in a phone box whenever he meets people) make this the filmic equivalent of a free-spirited open mic night – funny with moments of bleak beauty and always with the potential of stumbling blindly over the edge.
There’s even a slightly confusing insertion of Loch Ness Monster fakery that adds to the weirdness, but not much to the whole picture. But it’s all in good jest and describes something of the nature of performance and show that Moffat is interested in. His mysteriously intoned voice over is a little over done, but from such an honest and likeable screen presence one invariably gives him the benefit of the doubt. He’s a performer after all, and brings the whole thing alive with a joyful barroom swagger.
Not strictly for fans of folk music, this will be enjoyed by anyone with an interest in storytelling, mythology and what we can learn from the past.
Where You’re Meant To Be is in UK cinemas June 17th.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
There’s an opening… near my bed
It’s an air vent…to my head
There are flies buzzing around it
And ants crawling along it
I think something should be said
Well, I went to a doc
They gave me honey drops
Smear it round your head crack
Put it in your bed sack
All in all, the advice seemed tip-top
But now I’m dealing with wasps as well
And that’s really less than swell
A sting would mean personal death
And terminate my faltering breath
These are anxious times, can’t you tell?
So, I wiped away the nectar
And constructed a deflector
Those insects don’t stand a chance
Denying their existence I did a joyful dance
This is a singular psychological sector
I still like honey though
And in drinks.
You were the best
At stocking vests and socks and electrical clocks and more
Perhaps not the best
But worth more than a quid.