SEMI-AUTOBIOGRAPHY 1 6 YEARS OF ALCOHOL (18) 102min .00. Given the title and subject — family dysfunction. alcoholism, violence and mental instability — of Richard Jobson‘s semi-autobiographical writing/directing debut. you might assume the former Skids punk rockers film would be in the gritty British social realist cinema mould. But while the milieu is Edinburgh's Old Town working class of the 19703. complete with assoned spectacles of urban aggro. Jobson nas Crafted an unashamedly poetic film.
The reflections of thirtysomething former hard man Frankie Mac (Kevin McKidd embracing a role partly based on Jobson, partly on Jobson‘s late brother) on his troubled youth are structured as a fractured narrative that jumps backwards and forwards in time. from one place to another. And although filmed on location in the steep-stepped alleyways and dank backwaters of the capital's Old Town. the film's look is self-consciously dream-like. something that‘s emphasised by Frankie's melancholy narration.
In short. out of ugliness Jobson has sought to make beauty.
He has name-checked as an influence Hong Kong auteur Wong Kar-
FAMILY DRAMA A THOUSAND MONTHS (12A) 124min one
An elderly man fills a pair of bucket-sized cans with water. hoists the sloshing weights swinging from a length of wood over his shoulders and seesaws his way along an arid dirt path leading to the foot hills of Morocco's Atlas Mountains. The figure recedes into the distance, eventually reduced to a dark spec. This slow-moving. lengthy. simply designed sequence speaks volumes — about rural hardship and, in a broader manner. about the ‘smallness‘ and the resilience of human life.
Debut director Faouzi Bensa'i’di knows less is more. A Thousand Months is composed of a series of such scenes. all of which are minimal in staging and dialogue. but which boast an enviable clarity of storytelling. Furthermore. the plot-lite storyline about a woman who takes her young son to stay in her father-in-law's mountain village after her husband's imprisonment somehow has universal scope.
Whether or not poverty of means of production plays its part is by the by. because. as is readily apparent here. aesthetics and subject matter are in perfect harmony. (Miles Fielder)
I Fi/mhouse. Edinburgh from Fri' 30 Jul.
“QWV'II / . “I” L H ~. 1;,
The more something is scrutinised, the more it reveals
26 THE LIST 22 Jul—5 Aug 2004
his movie when they met in Edinburgh at the premiere of Kar-Wai's In the
Mood for Love). That might explain the ethereal quality of 16 Years of Alcohol. which began life in the 1980s as a novel innovations of Martin Scorsese.
A film lover and former film critic. Jobson has secreted numerous celIuIOid mean streets or evoke the dream state references. some obVious. others not so. into his debut. Frankie and his gang of thugs share a dress code with Alex and his droogs from A Clockwork Wai (who encouraged the Scot to make Orange. while the soundtrack (featuring
LOU Reed. the Velvet Underground. Iggy Pop and. yes. the Skids) not only evokes a time and place but carries dramatic weight too. recalling the
Even if his directing debut doesn't quite pack the punch of Scorsese's
of Kar-Wai's love moods. there can still be little doubt that in Jobson Scottish cinema may nevertheless have found a new voice. (Miles Fielder)
I Selected release from Ffl 30 Jul.
A poker-faced black comedy
BLACK COMEDY LAST LIFE IN THE UNIVERSE (15) 108min 0000
Everything, from the stark production design and photography to the minimalist dialogue and performances. belies the consistently comic nature of this Thai/Japanese co- production. To begin with there's a running gag concerning the ill-fated suiCide attempts of a depressed Japanese librarian liVing in Bangkok: on one occasion Kenji (Tadanobu Asano) has a rope around his neck when the doorbell rings and he's interrupted by his overbearing small-time gangster brother; on another Kenji's ready to throw himself off a bridge when a young woman he used to be captivated by beats him to it. The cameo appearance of cult filmmaker Takashi Miike (playing a flamboyant Yakuza boss — what else?) complete with sly references to his movies. clinches the deal: Last Life is a poker-faced black comedy.
Director Pen-ek Ratanaruang (whose last film, Mon-rak TranSistor, saw him compared to that master of black comedy. Billy Wilder) is here working with some impressive talent. The restrained visual compositions of DOP Christopher Doyle (Wong Kar-Wai's long time collaborator) gel beautifully with the sly script work of hip Thai writer Prabda Yoon. Appropriately. Japanese superstar Asano (recently seen in ZatOichi) ditches emoting to give a stone-faced performance. but still manages to elicit sympathy for his life-drained ex-pat.
The film started life in Ratanaruang's head as the stOry of a sex t0ur party and a religious group whose schedules are mixed up (the former gets crucmed. the latter screwed). Last Life in the Universe retains the essence of that perverse theme. (Miles Fielder)
I Fi'lmhouse. Edinburgh from Fri 30 Jul.
NOUVEAU WESTERN BLUEBERRY (15) 124min n
It is the 18708 in a small frontier town in Texas and US Marshall Mike S Blueberry (Vincent Cassel) is trying to stop Wally Blount (Michael Madsen), the man who killed his girlfriend. from getting to a stockpile of gold hidden in Indian territory. In Blueberry's way. however, is Prosit (Eddie lzzard). a German villain on a persistent mission to find pots of gold in the Superstition Mountain.
Described by its writer-director Jan Kounen as a 'shamanistic Western'. Blueberry is based on the French comic book series of the same
On paper at least the film boasts an impressive cast — Temuera Morrison as Blueberry's shaman brother Runi. Juliette Lewis as the feisty love interest and the great Ernest Borgnine as wheelchair-bound shenﬁ.
Unfortunately Kounan's stOrytelling skills really suck - 'chaotic' doesn't even begin to cover it. There is also an over-reliance on CGI effects. especially for the peyote-induced finale (morphing beetles and snakes — you know the score). which subtracts any of the film's considerable subtleties. Perhaps worst of all, there‘s a completely uncritical acceptance of the wisdom of the Native American shaman ways and beliefs. Leone. Aldrich or Boetticher this ain‘t. (Tom Dawson)
I Selected release from Fri 23 Jul.