Into the valleys

Writer-director Karl Francis talks to Alan Morrison about his powerful new film, Streetlife.

British lilmmaking has. over the years. excelled at no-nonsense. hard-hitting dramatisations of socially relevant issues. From the home-grown boom of the 60s. through to recent examples like Safe and Naked. British filmmakers have used cinema and television screens as the canvas for painting often controversial pictures of troubled times. The latest work to join the elite is SH‘eé’l/lfl’. the story from BBC Wales of a young woman forced by the unforgiving pressures of life to kill her newborn baby.

‘My education in film was the 60s stuff.‘ reckons writer-director Karl Francis. ‘the Sillito adaptations. 'I'his Sporting Life. The l.-Shaped Room. the Cathy Cmne Home stuff. l certainly seem to be that kind of person: half my family‘s unemployed. the other half are coaltniners. You-write from the heart. and that‘s where my heart is.‘

Streetlife is a meticulously paced descent from comedy to tragedy. frotn the group portrait of mutually supportive women on a South Wales council estate to the lonely isolation of its central character Jo. Actress Helen McCrory‘s performance is startling. one of the best of the year. Jo's love of life is visible for all to see in the opening scenes. as she jokes with her workmates. fools around with her married boyfriend. takes philosophy

m I



courses at college. But it’s a fragile surface: she was abused at an early age

by her father. her mother is taken to hospital. and she discovers that she is pregnant by a man who won't commit to her. Slowly. all of her layers of support —- many of them false - are stripped away; and in the process Jo must become a stronger person. drawing on untapped inner strength as she emerges from behind tabloid condemnation to attend the funeral of

her dead child.

‘l've always been aware that there's a romanticism of the working class which denies the dignity of complex

relationships.‘ admits Francis. ‘People

judge others. they can be quite cruel to

each other. What I was trying to say

most of all was that society has changed. This shows that people have become. perhaps. more selfish or

financially driven.‘

That Street/ilk? doesn‘t depict this

working-class community in

sentimental terms is one of the film's strengths. It is also the clearest example

of how it refuses to compromise with

l the truth on any level.

Streetlije ( Film Festival) l 7 Aug.

Film/muse 1. 8.15pm; 21 Aug. Film/muse 1. 1pm; 24 Aug. Film/muse

I. 8.]5pm. £6 (£4).

to Fesshlnder; Moving Pictures threw in the lanes of Sokurov, llreyer and

Bresson; The Village Voice reckoned it

Streetlife: meticulously paced


Stunned by the discovery of her streetwise lover Sean’s body in the river, the naive Juliette (Katrin Cartlidge) embarks upon an obsessive investigation that becomes a journey of self-discovery. Armed with a gun, she sifts the drug- fuelled sleaze and human debris of London’s seedy underworld in search of the three people who were with Sean the night he died - washed-up financial whizz-kid Angel Farnham (Con O’Neill), recklesst gay Labour MP Harry Roberts (James Fleet), and the ageing, drink-sudden Andrea Wallis (Frances Barber), bitchy host of a naff TV quiz show. Each in turn is visited by Juliette, the avenging angel. What she finds out shatters her rose-tinted view of Sean, yet her painful journey is a liberating one. Best known for his gay-themed documentaries and short films, director Constantine Giannaris here broadens his canvas with a graceful yet hard-edged drama that has a bitter twist of ironic humour running right through it. (Nigel Floyd)

Three Steps To Heaven, 17 Aug, Cameo 1, 4pm; 26 Aug, Cameo 1, 9.30pm. £6 (£4).


I was ‘a genuine cause for celebration: ;

The object of all this acclaim is Fred Kelemen’s Fate (Verhanghis), the story

i of a homeless Russian man and the Q woman he meets during a single night

; in Berlin. The concentrated time-

frame gives the film an Intensity that is carried through on many levels;

reinforcing this is the fact that many of the scenes were shot in long takes

- sometimes up to ten minutes with the actors giving it all they’re worth.

Kelemen began his creative life as a painter, and Fate does show a distinctive visual quality. Shot on

g videotape then transferred to film, the

‘g shadowy scenes gain an

. impressionistic quality. This is

probably the purest example of what

7 Film Festival director Mark Cousins

'. was looking for in his new Rosebud

i section: unique, experimental filmmaklng that doesn’t sacrifice its

i emotional content. (Alan Morrison)

The German press has likened the film F8“. 15 Me. “What!” 1. 10-15mm

: 204w, EFT, 8pm; 21 Aug, Fllmhouse I 2, 4m. £6 (£4).


Fridrik Thor Fridriksson put Icelandic cinema on the map when his 1991 drama Children 0! Nature garnered an Oscar nomination, but this latest project, a left-

field road movie that teams him with hotshot American indie producer Jim Stark

; (whose credits include Down By Law, The living End and In The Soup), could be his major breakthrough into international cult status. Masatoshi (Mystery Train)

Nagase plays the young Japanese who follows the advice of his grandpa Seiiun Suzuki (no less) and travels to wintry Rekiavik to pay tribute to his late parents by performing the proper burial ceremonies on the isolated spot where they died some years previously. lt’s hardly a straightforward odyssey - these things never are but one handled with wry humour, an eye for the extraordinarily bleak local landscapes, and a touching degree of genuine emotion. With a marvellous coup do cinema in the first reel, it’s a film to expand anyone’s horizons. Don’t miss. (Trevor Johnston)

3 Bold Fever, 17Aug, Fllmhouse 1, 8.15pm; 18 Aug, Fllmhouse 2, 4pm. £6 (£4).



“The List 11-17 Aug 1995