Monthly Archives: December 2013

  • Wages Of Fear (Le Salaire De La Peur) Henri-George Clouzot (Fr 1953)

    Wages of Fear (le Salaire de la Peur) Henri-George Clouzot (Fr 1953) Yves Montard; Charles Vanel; Vera Clouzot Viewed Star and Shadow Cinema 8 Dec 2013; ticket price: £5 Requiem for white trash….requiem for us all… Clouzot’s Wages of Fear is a filmic probe into the colonial and neo-colonial relations between the West and the developing world in the latter half of the twentieth century. Although film contains superbly crafted action sequences, its power derives from two defining elements. The scenario written as a series of beautiful and powerful metaphors: insects, the dusty town, the trucks the lake of oil the fire. And secondly its action is never detached from its driving theme: exploitation. The opening setting is in some Central American country, an arid clapboard sun bleached small town in the middle nowhere: but close to oil. The opening shot of the movie is a condensed visual symbol of the film’s theme, a movement image, a tracking shot that links the initial close up to the wide perspective. In close up a clutch of insects, scorpions perhaps, murderously crawl over each other in a hollow in the ground, scooped out of the dust. As the camera pulls back we see that each of these venomous creatures is attached by a piece of string to a small wooden frame held in the hand of a small boy. The child has these creatures, which could kill him, by the balls. Distracted by something happening in the street, he yanks up the stick frame, leaving the creatures spinning helplessly in mid air. A perfect expression of what is going on in this place. Clouzot’s camera, in this tracking shot as elsewhere in the film uses the shot to pull together disparate images into one idea. The function of the town is to supply the oil industry with cheap labour. Seen through the eyes of the white trash marooned in the town, the first part of Clouzot’s movie establishes the economic realities of a rentier economy. The oil company controls everything. They hold all the strings. They decide who works. The men in the town supply the non unionised cheap labor to the company: they either send remittances back or they come back as corpses. The white trash gaze on with indifference as a woman angered by the return of nine shrouds, pours out a political tirade of scorn and condemnation of the oil company. Her anger attracts and raises a crowd who temporarily overrun the company guards. But they are a demoralised people and lack the resources to sustain a prolonged struggle. If the town and its people are the fulcrum of exploitation, then the poor whites represent an expendable but useful alternative resource: a sort of social counter balance. The whites also have lives of little value, but their need to define themselves apart from and as essentially different from the natives, gives them a certain value to the company for certain types of dirty work. Today they are mercenaries hired by companies such as Blackwater. In Wages of Fear, they are the drivers of the death trucks. Wages of Fear divides into two parts. The first part, realist in representation, establishes the town as two groups of people with separate relations, states of mind and attitudes vis a vis the Oil Company. The second part, focusing on the whites, depicts their journey of terror as they ferry nitroglycerine to the blown out oil wells. Much of this second part is shot so that it has an abstract quality. Even the final ordeal of driving the truck through through the lake of black oil, has an abstracted metaphysical resonance. Like evil the black slime overwhelms Joe and Mario. In the image of the oil spill we see they ( and us) are drowning in forces of corporate capitalism, which penetrates into the totality of being. In this second half of the film, the focus is on the abstracted interior of the cab of the trucks. As the landscapes ghost by in the headlamps, it is in these compressed psychic spaces where the schizo states of mind of the men play out. Living with the possibility of death at every jolt and hole in the road, goaded by the promise of a huge cash payment, the scenes in the darkened cabs take place at the intersection of the men’s fear and desire; the forces that finally kill them. The forces exploited and controlled by oil. But although the forces set to work by Clouzot have an abstract quality, his actors, in particular Yves Montard as Mario, bring,with their bodies, a raw physicality to their roles. They are flesh and blood. In contrast to Anglo Saxon world, France in the pre 60’s period presented an open minded attitude towards homosexuality (at least in Parisian arts circles). Acceptance of homosexuality tended towards its quasi glamorous representation, emphasising the cerebral rather than the physical. Clouzot breaks out from these artsie boundaries. The mercenaries are rough trade. Their gender doesn’t define their sexuality. Ingenuous acceptance of homoerotic relations, is part of who the men are. Clouzot places this undifferentiated sexuality at the core of his characters. The physicality between men pressed together in the tiny cabs, is emphatically realised when Big Joe, the macho guy with the gun, adopts the passive role of the woman. Mario ends up treating Joe with the same callous indifference with which he treated Linda.. Vera Clouzot the director’s wife, plays the part of Linda. With her painfully thin waif like figure she represents a terrifying but almost comic book figure of frailty. In Wages of Fear the men have scorned women, and she is little more than an object of Mario’s abuse. But she is also the foil for her husband’s black Bunuelesque anti religious humour, that runs through the script. As Linda prays fervently, like Viridiana, in a scene of mawkish religious sentimentality, she looks up and sees the soles of the shoes of one of the white trash who has hung himself suspended from the beam above her. In the penultimate scene Clouzot presents his final visual metaphor. The shots of the fires at the well head. It is an apocalyptic vision of hell: raging fire, black smoke. A vision of the where the big oil companies and the world of oil, are taking us. As if to say the Gods whom we serve are implacable and will destroy us: if not today then tomorrow. Be warned. adrin neatrour

  • The Selfish Giant Clio Barnard (2013 Uk)

    The Selfish Giant Clio Barnard (2013 Uk) Connor Chapman; Shaun Thomas Viewed Tyneside Cinema 22 Nov 2013 Ticket: £7.50 Film as an act of grace… Clio Barnard’s eponomous movie credits itself with being inspired by Oscar Wilde’s fairy tale. Judging from what has been written about the film, most reviewers have obviously not read the Selfish Giant and think that the film is based on the story. It’s certainly not. As the end credits state: it is inspired by the story. Wilde’s work (possibly co-authored with his wife) is a transparent allegory on the working of grace and embued with religious symbolism. A morally improving work such as Oscar possibly read to his children. So there is a question that can be asked: what inspirational element in the Selfish Giant does Clio Barnard’s film draw on? The Selfish Giant is set in the alienated lumpen welfare world of Bradford. A world abandoned to social agencies characterised by dependency and criminality. It was described by Andrea Dunbar’s 1980 play the Arbor which was also set in Bradford. So it is no surprise that Clio Barnard’s first film was a documentary about Dunbar and her play. So this is a territory and a social strata very familiar to Barnard who references. Dunbar’s work directly in the Selfish Giant by giving her lead boy protagonist the name, Arbor. Thereby laying claim to a direct line of provenance and descent. The Arbor, named after a road on a sink estate, opened up an abandoned world of intergenerational deprivation. Andrea Dunbar, herself a teenage single mother born on the Arbor, lived and described a culture often characterised by economic desperation and degraded relations between people. Women laid claim to life by serial procrearation; many men lived off the women in bonds defined by violence and/or made out through crime. Drugs and alcohol abuse were an endemic part of life on the Estate both as a palliative and a way of life. Dunbar in the very act of her writing shone light on and gave an actual recognition to the lives she described. Her observations including those of herself, staked out a claim for acknowledgement that her people were also a part of social matrix. The condition of their lives a price paid by them for the wealth of others. The Selfish Giant takes from where up the Arbor’s setting and situation leaves off. But as it develops, moves beyond it, extending out into a dimension that goes beyond Dunbar’s work reaching out into a sort of mythology. The opening shot is a wide night time shot of a field of horses. A shot chartacterised by both its urban setting and its stillness. There are a number of these sort of shots throughout the film: electricity substations, giant cooling towers, the moon. Shots that suggest in their manner and pacing, something of the film’s expressive code . Although contemporary in setting these shots have a quality that locates them in a zone outside of time, before before written history. They are derived from an originary world of primal forces, where the pacts of survival are between men and nature. not between men and social agencies. The actual world inhabited by Arbor and Swifty, documented in the first section of the film, is dominated by forces of control; as the scenario develops these forces fade and the shape of destiny is moulded by other possibilities. The story is set in the world of the scrappers. The scrap yard bears no resemblance to the Giant’s garden, except its wall which has two functions. But like the Giant’s garden, the scrap yard has allegorical meaning. It’s a place where people who have been scrapped live off society’s junk and trash. The scrap yard is a mythical zone, like Hades or the caves of the dwarves. Those who work there are outcastes, unclean and tainted beings. What happens in the yard is a source of mystery: Out of the chaos those who recognise the true value of scrap turn base metal into riches. It’s a form of alchemy. And , as the work of the scrapper is to return everything they touch to its originary form. Put to the fire stripped of all outer sheathing and markers the legimate and the illegimate become one, an indistinguishable molten mass. The scrap man has the laugh, everything is finally reduced to money, and his money in the melting pot of society built on respect for wealth, is as good as anyone else’s. It pays the bills. I Of course the scrapyard in Selfish Giant locates a story that directs the actions of the characters, But the impression is that Barnard is not so much interested in the mechanics of narrative, rather the location of the stream of events. Barnard does not accept that her characters are bound by the destiny of deprivation. Arbor, troubled as he is, and Swifty, lacjing confidence, are drawn to and seek out another reality for the entrapped doomed male. And they find it through the portal of the scrap yard. The yard releases them into primary contact with elemental forces: the animal totem, fire, precious metal copper, and the ferocity of nature. Through the scrap yard they are at least partially take on the mantel of Celtic Princes. Freed from the immediate scrutiny of agents they become aristocrats of their own making, and aas well as reeping the rewards have to pay the price for this. Freedom that is won always cmes at a cost. The Selfish Giant is not about horse race, criminality or social relations. All these have a place in the scenario. It is about spirit. A spirit that cathects, energises its protagonists in an elemental contract and in so doing ennobles them. The purpose of the film is relocation of its subjects. The selfish giant removes its protagonists from the realm of judgement into the realm of mythe. Barnard simply points to a possibility. She employs film as an art form and and uses film as a means to induce another way of seeing, another way of looking at the world presented. And that surely is one of the ways in which art works upon us: to help us to see. Inspired by the Selfish Giant. I think Clio Barnard’s film is an act of grace. As the Selfish Giant was transformed by his realisation, so the she transforms her characters from base into pure, from dead end sink estate kids into Celtic princes. But this case, the act of grace has to come from the audience. Adrin Neatrour