Dream Work

The 47th Cork Film Festival took place between the 6th and 13th of October at three venues around Cork City. Although known mainly as a short film festival, there was so much by way of exciting features that in following my personal taste I rather neglected both shorts and documentaries. In addition to a broad programme of films, there was a fair selection of filmmakers on view: Oscar winning Czech director Jan Sverák gave a masterclass, while two great figures from the British cinema, Jack Cardiff and Alex Cox, delivered public lectures. My close encounters with both Cardiff and Cox of these men are discussed elsewhere in this magazine. Peter Mullan was also in attendance to present his new film, The Magdalene Sisters (2002), which was chosen to open the Festival.

The one notable exception to my general avoidance of short films was a series of programmes brought over from Austria by Gerald Weber, director of the distribution company Sixpack Film. Sixpack specialises in Austrian experimental cinema and, as far as I’m concerned, several of these shorts constituted the most exciting work on offer at the Festival. I’m particularly grateful that this programme enabled me at last to see some of the tremendous work Peter Tscherkassky has created. Happy-End (1996), L’Arrivée (1998), Outer Space (1999) and Dream Work (2001) all use found footage to destabilise the image in such a way as to create the impression of a sort of blind panic lurking behind the cinematic order of images. Only the charming L’Arrivée seems to draw an optimistic conclusion from this chaos, with a white screen invaded first by sprocket holes and subsequently by fragments of image that finally unite in silent footage of a couple meeting and happily embracing. Happy-End is constructed from home movie footage of an anonymous bourgeois couple celebrating various parties together, with a baffling emphasis on cataloguing the various drinks consumed at these functions. The film begins with the couple in late middle age and only shows them in younger days towards the end when the increasingly aggressive editing and the use of music suggest drunkenness and disorientation. Finally the image itself begins disintegrating, turning this supremely cosy, slightly nostalgic footage into an unsettling comment on oblivion and perhaps even mortality. Outer Space and Dream Work, the strongest of the four films, are pure terror, the purest, most concentrated terror I’ve seen on screen and ultimate proof that narrative is but a hindrance in the creation of modern horror films. The heroine of these films struggles for her very existence against the onslaught of the material of film itself.

A profound anxiety about, so to speak, a film’s subconscious also dominates the work of the other outstanding Sixpack filmmaker, Martin Arnold. His Passage à l’acte (1993) and Alone: Life Wastes Andy Hardy (1998) take scenes from To Kill a Mockingbird, starring Gregory Peck, and one of the Andy Hardy films, starring Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland, respectively and manipulate both the sound and image, repeating, slowing down, speeding up and sometimes intercutting shots and scenes to reveal the terrifying emotional potential contained in even the most innocent sounds and gestures. For example, an inoffensive peck on the cheek, which Rooney’s character gives his screen mother in Andy Hardy, is wound back and repeated several times until it becomes a sexualised oedipal onslaught. ‘Alone’, the first word of one of Garland’s songs is also relentlessly repeated until its original sentimental tone is completely transformed into a plaintive wail of hurt and despair. Disturbing viewing.

The Sixpack films also featured some classic works by Kurt Kren and Peter Kubelka, as well as other fascinating pieces such as Valie Export’s performance art based …remote…remote (1973). Much time was devoted to Gustav Deutsch, with parts 7-12 of his Film Ist (2002) receiving a separate screening. While many of the clips from silent movies he selects for these episodes of this ongoing work are breathtakingly beautiful, I found his assembly of them turgid and plodding and wished time and again that I was watching the original films rather than this anthology. Parts 1, 2 and 4 were also screened; by cannabalising mostly far less interesting scientific footage, they deny the viewer even the respite of this wistful speculation.

I skipped the gala opening screening of Mullan’s The Magdalene Sisters partly out of bloody-minded perversity but mainly due to a genuine eagerness to attend a non-Festival screening of Almodóvar’s latest film, Talk to Her (Hable con Ella, 2002). I made the right choice. This melancholic melodrama is evidence of the ever-deepening emotional power of Almodóvar’s cinema – certainly his best film since The Flower of My Secret (1995) and probably his best to date. Leaving the cinema, I wondered if any of the work on show at the Festival proper could better this. In fact, it proved a warm up for a week of viewing that presented no less than four great new feature length films – namely, Lynne Ramsay’s Morvern Callar (2002), Otar Iosseliani’s Lundi Matin (2001), François Ozon’s 8 Women (8 Femmes, 2002) and David Cronenberg’s Spider (2002) – and several other exceptionally good ones, not to mention a screening of Powell’s Black Narcissus (1947), which remains as stunning as ever.

Since the Festival, I have had the opportunity to catch Mullan’s controversial and much hyped film on general release. This account of one of Ireland’s more shameful secrets, the abuse suffered by inmates of Church run institutions for girls disowned by their families for reasons such as pre-marital pregnancy or even simply being too pretty, is indeed a powerful denunciation. It is sincere and well played, with Geraldine McEwan particularly chilling as the nun presiding over the establishment. But it is hardly the equal of such gritty, masterful outcries against inhuman treatment of young prisoners as Alan Clarke’s Scum (1979) or Yilmaz Güney’s The Wall (Duvar, 1983) – if it was as devastating as those masterpieces I doubt it would have enjoyed the commercial success it has had in this country. The Magdalene Sisters also seems a little confused stylistically, swinging uncertainly from Loachian plainness to an almost Gothic horror film atmosphere (which might very well have been the most interesting way to treat the subject).

Morvern Callar

Watching Morvern Callar, two quotations emerged from the back of my mind: Nicole Brenez’s profession of love for “all films in which bodies are dancing shadows”; and Maurizio Ponzi’s claim that he loved Rossellini’s Stromboli (1949) for being “a documentary on Ingrid Bergman’s face” (1). The premise of Ramsay’s film is that Morvern Callar’s (Samantha Morton) boyfriend commits suicide, leaving behind a novel and instructions for Morvern to publish it. She does so, but under her own name, cutting up and disposing of the writer’s corpse. With the proceeds of this lucrative publishing deal, she takes off for Spain. Rather than being treated as a plot, this story is a situation around which Ramsay constructs an impressionistic mood piece, effectively substantiating Antonioni’s claim that in cinema the narrative and the plastic should be indivisible perhaps better than any other film this year. Not only is Ramsay never judgmental of Morvern’s actions, any traditional psychological insight is almost completely avoided. The audience always observes Morvern from an emotional distance, never certain of what she’s thinking. At the same time the film presents an experience of the world through a highly subjective mise en scène, with richly textured images and minimal dialogue, which brings us very close to Morvern. She lives moment to moment and the film invites us to do the same, to share the way the world impacts on her rather than ‘understand’ her motivations completely. Morvern is a dancing shadow, in a film of dancing shadows.

For such an existential approach, remarkably Morvern Callar never becomes nihilistic. On the contrary, it is life-affirming without ever being indulgent of its characters, evoking an atmosphere of uniquely tender amorality. That Morvern remains constantly sympathetic and never despicable, even when disposing of the writer’s body, is thanks in great part to the stunning Samantha Morton, one of the most fascinating actors to have emerged in some time. Having burst on to the scene with Carine Adler’s Under the Skin (1997) playing another bereaved young woman, she stole both Sweet and Lowdown (Woody Allen, 2000) and Minority Report (Steven Spielberg, 2002) from everyone else concerned. Ramsay obviously took note of Allen and Spielberg’s fate and got the message – with Morton on board the only way to succeed is to construct a film around the actress’ every movement and expression, making it as much a documentary about her moment to moment relationship with the camera as Stromboli is about Bergman’s.

When discussing Lundi Matin with an acquaintance, he described it as an “old man’s film” and meant it dismissively. But perhaps he was also unknowingly giving a name to a very select genre, the defining virtues of which are serenity, timelessness, patience and the sense of having existed through so many fads and fashions that all but the essential has fallen away – Oliveira, Angelopoulos, Rohmer, Iosseliani. (Godard’s very youthful anger – however much he tries to disguise it in defeatist melancholy – is the only thing barring his entry to this august group).

Lundi Matin is the story of a factory worker, henpecked by his wife and neglected by his children, who finally has enough and leaves his family for an unspecified length of time to travel the world. It is a film of subtle humour, anecdotally inclusive in its meandering, slightly Tatiesque multi-character, long-take style. The similarity with Tati extends to the observational distance from which Iosseliani films his actors. Loving attention is paid to the evocation of its mainly rural setting and the gentle caricaturing of its cast of mostly domineering, controlling women and childish, drink-loving men trying to escape their responsibilities and even the realities of their situations. Although apparently random, the numerous subplots that drift in and out of the main narrative are all carefully chosen to provide a telling selection of contrasts to the hero’s predicament. The tone of the film is nothing short of miraculous. It sustains a serene lightness of touch throughout, even when drawing its ultimately quite melancholy conclusions about the sameness of life and the impossibility of escape. This is most effectively expressed in two deliberately contrasting scenes. At the beginning of the film we share a day in the hero’s working life. He works at a factory where smoking is forbidden. The long line of workers queuing to enter the factory gates under a hysterical array of ‘no smoking’ signs take their last few puffs and extinguish their cigarettes in an ashtray provided. Much later in the film, having escaped to Italy and made friends with an Italian worker, our hero and his friend spend a wonderful day together in Venice, a day that seems to promise him the free and easy life he has dreamed of. However, on the following morning he accompanies his friend to work in what turns out to be a factory with identical ‘no smoking’ signs, to line up with workers reluctantly extinguishing their cigarettes just as he did at home!

Lundi Matin‘s setting and characters are evidently modern, but the world this wise old poet Iosseliani creates also has an imprecise ambience of anachronism that results in an appealing timelessness. Life seems to flow at a more leisurely pace than is common today. Apart from the factory, none of the architecture or décor of the film feels contemporary and some of the older characters seem to exist in another century altogether. All this is rendered in light by William Lubtchansky, providing another reminder that, in his own unobtrusive way, he may well be the greatest colour cinematographer in Europe today.

Both 8 Women and Spider also play with anachronism. In the case of Ozon’s film, it is through pastiche. For sheer entertainment value, 8 Women was definitely the highlight of the Festival, a stylised musical comedy melodrama that unites eight of France’s finest actresses in the playfully poisonous atmosphere of a snowed-in country mansion in the ’50s with a murdered patriarch upstairs. The murder investigation that the eight women – all closely connected with the dead man and all suspects – mount turns into a gloriously theatrical psychological battle that leaves each of the eight compromised, their secrets and hypocrisies revealed. The costumes, settings and photography lovingly evoke the look of a 1950s Technicolor production. Watching the eight actresses, most of them screen icons, is like watching the history – or at least a history – of French cinema from Danielle Darrieux (who made her first screen appearance in 1931!) to Catherine Deneuve, Isabelle Huppert (particularly delightful as the hysterically repressed aunt, surely a sly dig at her recent role in Michael Haneke’s The Piano Player), Fanny Ardant and Emmanuelle Béart to Virginie Ledoyen.


In Spider time has stood still; this completely subjective narrative spins its web around one event in the childhood of its mentally disturbed hero, an agonised performance from Ralph Fiennes that perfectly captures the torments of a man who has never grown up but remains forever caught in childhood, forever trying to unravel the dark events he was both victim and perpetrator of. The past and the present seamlessly overlap as Fiennes wanders through scenes of his earlier life like Victor Sjöström in some of the flashbacks in Wild Strawberries (Ingmar Bergman, 1957) or Martin Landau in Crimes and Misdemeanours (Woody Allen, 1989). Spider unfolds its ultimately quite simple puzzle slowly, immersing the audience completely in the lonely world of Fiennes’ mumbling, frightened character. This immersion is initiated in the masterful opening shot, a long track down a railway platform as people disembark from a train. For a few magical moments, the film could be about any of the passengers, some of whom glance questioningly at the camera as they walk past it. At last the camera comes to rest on Fiennes, the last passenger off the train who immediately stands out as strange; he is dressed oddly, shabbily but also slightly anachronistically. The first thing he does is shove his hand down the front of his trousers. It turns out all he is doing is fishing out the sock he keeps in his pants where he stores some of his more important possessions. Just released from an asylum on probation, he is looking for the address of the house he is to stay in – significantly his childhood home – and where the rest of the film takes place.

There is none of the viscera Cronenberg is commonly associated with. Instead the detached but profound and rather creepy tenderness that he displayed in The Dead Zone (1983), Dead Ringers (1989) and M. Butterfly (1992) is allowed to dominate. In Cork, Spider was screened as the midweek gala, a big event with an audience of roughly 1,000. Halfway through, I couldn’t but wonder that such a slow, unforgivingly depressing, formally rigorous work was being screened as such a populist event – were it not for Cronenberg’s name, it would undoubtedly have been included at an odd hour in one of the smaller venues. Judging from the reaction of most of the people I spoke to about it subsequently, many felt let down by the unfulfilled promise of sensationalism and risqué material that the director’s name implied – indeed several people were actually expecting a genre movie about man-eating spiders! This is an indication of the extent of Cronenberg’s fearlessness, not only in tackling subject matter as controversial as that of Crash (1996), but also in making a film as uncompromisingly severe as Spider and, in so doing, unquestionably continuing to grow and stretch himself as a filmmaker. In place of shocks, it creates an emotionally claustrophobic atmosphere of almost unbearable sadness and alienation that subtly, almost imperceptibly builds into a deeply unsettling and haunting snapshot of an utterly devastated mental landscape beyond the reach of anyone’s help or comfort.

If Cronenberg was taking it easy in terms of gore and body horror, Kim Ki-Duk’s The Isle (2002) more than made up for it. A truly nasty piece of work, it does for graphic violence against fish what The Wild Bunch (1969) did for violence against humans and makes up for it with two scenes of human self mutilation involving fish hooks that are so stomach churning I can’t even bring myself to write about them. But Kim isn’t out to shock for the sake of it; these scenes only mark the extremity of a grimly impressive attempt to create a poetic, non-naturalistic view of life at its most savage, governed by desire and predatory instincts and using the metaphor of the fish on the hook throughout. A very beautiful, apparently mute girl runs a lake resort that consists of small, floating huts on the water. In addition to renting these huts, she rents herself to her guests, almost all repulsive, despicable characters. She falls in love with the one exception, a tormented, suicidal young man. They embark on an affair marked by mental cruelty and sexual violence. When she murders his girlfriend, the couple escapes and the film concludes with an overtly symbolical sequence of images. What Kim seems to be expressing is the extreme difficulty of communicating feelings of tenderness, of opening up to someone. Rather than sadism, what his film conveys is a very raw sense of pain. For all the graphic savagery, his visual style is elegant and lyrical, contrasting the serene beauty of nature with the characters’ compulsive viciousness.

Another very personal, poetically savage view of life was put on screen in Damien Odoul’s debut feature, Le Souffle (2000). This convulsive tale has an alienated 15-year-old boy stuck on a farm and hating it. He gets drunk and suffers an emotional crisis. It is most successful in its richly textured physicality. Odoul and cinematographer Pascale Granel’s vibrantly gritty black and white images positively stink of mud and sweaty, male human flesh, vividly exuding the oppressive heat of a boiling afternoon. Alternating scenes of aggressive naturalism with more dreamlike (or, frequently, nightmarish) images, Le Souffle builds up a head of visionary steam, but perhaps not as much as the director would have wished. It is a film of brilliant moments that falls just short of a brilliant whole. The problem is that the naturalism and the fantastical elements don’t quite mesh, with the naturalistic moments often the most powerful. Particularly strong is the farmers’ drinking party – if you haven’t seen the film, imagine Pialat on speed and you’ll get some idea of that scene! Odoul is to be congratulated for his courage in attempting to gamble on sheer moment-to-moment visceral intensity, a sort of ‘cinema of cruelty’ approach, but it’s a risky strategy and he doesn’t quite manage to go the distance (as Philippe Garrel did in his amazing, deeply unnerving debut feature Marie pour mémoire [1968]). However, there is enough astonishing filmmaking on view here to convince me that before too long Odoul will give us some truly great films.

Whatever historical or political controversy Bertrand Tavernier’s breathlessly gripping Laissez-passer (2002) has caused, what is undeniable about it is its infectious, exhilarating love of cinema history and the act of filmmaking. Rather than being depressing, its tone is constantly upbeat, an almost boyishly defiant celebration of creativity continuing in the face of historical adversity. As such, these stories of the French cinema during the occupation form something of a compliment to Truffaut’s almost equally entertaining view of the wartime theatre, The Last Metro (Le Dernier Métro, 1980). But if there is one filmmaker Laissez-passer evokes more than any other, it is Renoir or, more precisely the Renoir of the popular front period, of Le Crime de Monsieur Lange (1935), La Grande Illusion (1937) and La Marseillaise (1938). He is evoked in the cheerful pacing of the film, in the warmth, generosity and humour with which the many characters are sketched and in the dazzlingly assured camerawork, which downplays shot-reverse-shot in favour of a frequently mobile camera that gracefully unifies the action of any given scene without ever appearing flashy. Of course, Renoir was in the United States during the war and is never actually mentioned here (is Laissez-passer perhaps on some level a belated attempt to make up for this absence, to establish continuity with Renoir’s pre-war cinema by making a film he ‘should have’ made?).


Laissez-passer deals with director Jean Devaivre (whose quirky 1947 thriller La dame de onze heure was screened at the Cork Festival a couple of years back, selected by Tavernier as part of a programme that consisted of directors from different European countries selecting a film from their country that they felt was unjustly neglected) and writer Jean Aurenche, who would later collaborate with Tavernier on some of his earlier scripts and is now probably best remembered, along with writing partner Pierre Bost, as the target of a savage 1954 article by Truffaut. Indeed, the cinema it celebrates is precisely that of the ‘tradition of quality’ the New Wave critics did so much to discredit and Tavernier has always staunchly defended. (In Ireland and Britain it is impossible to see any of these films, films by the likes of Autant-Lara and post-war Carne and Duvivier. I, for one, am thoroughly sick and tired of having to make do with predigested opinions about them from outdated books!) Tavernier’s personal contact with both of his heroes in real life and his closing voiceover give the whole film a rather touching sense of a story being personally handed down to us by word of mouth through the generations that make up the second half of the twentieth century. Laissez-passer does have one major fault – Aurenche’s story seems underdeveloped compared to Devaivre’s. Even at its current 170 minute running time, I could have happily watched for another half-hour or so if it meant giving Aurenche more weight. As it is, his scenes seem like entertaining but ultimately rather pointless interludes in Devaivre’s more eventful adventure.

Aki Kaurismäki’s The Man Without a Past (2002) represents the great Finnish director at his deadpan best. Its simple story follows a man who loses his memory after being beaten up by thugs and goes to live in a community of poor people in abandoned trailers. Everything about this film, from its characteristically painterly, blatantly artificial lighting to the uniform stony-faced understatement of the performances, is charming and quirkily funny. Some of the stylised dialogue is memorably poetic in its own terse way – “Do I owe you anything?” the hero asks a man who has just done him a favour. The answer: “If you find me face down in the gutter, turn me on my back.”

Alex Cox’s The Revenger’s Tragedy (2002) transports Thomas Middleton’s Jacobean revenge drama to a dystopian England of 2011, while keeping the language of the original play intact. In so doing, he is perhaps following in the footsteps of Shakespeare updates like Baz Luhrmann’s truly dreadful MTV staging of Romeo + Juliet (1996) and Richard Loncraine’s Richard III (1995). Cox’s film is cheeky, punkish, energetic and politically engaged (taking time to poke much needed fun at the media exploitation of Lady Diana’s death), seamlessly setting Middleton’s text to the rhythms of a throbbing Chumbawumba score and replacing the elegant long takes of his previous film, the brilliant Three Businessmen (1998), with a busy, mainly rapid-cutting style. It is to Cox’s great credit that all these stylistics and even the whole conceptual nature of the undertaking don’t make the actual drama feel rather redundant (as happened with Julie Taymor’s nevertheless interesting and sometimes impressive Titus [1999] and, of course, most disastrously with Luhrmann’s fashion accessory travesty, Romeo + Juliet). This is thanks to the fact that whatever is happening stylistically, the performances always dominate the film, with the actors evidently relishing the flamboyant, often playful, theatricality of Cox’s approach. As he memorably demonstrated in Michael Winterbottom’s Jude (1996), leading man Christopher Eccleston has a forceful, often riveting screen presence and he is matched by co-star Eddie Izzard. But neither of them can really be blamed for being upstaged by Derek Jacobi in a smaller but still important role as the lecherous Duke against whom the revenge plot is directed. Like a tightly wound spring waiting to burst out of its carefully painted box at the slightest provocation, Jacobi emanates an intensely, brutishly physical threat of barely contained violence that is genuinely frightening.

One of the most intriguing films at the Festival was James Lee’s Ah Beng Returns (2001) from Malaysia. It is a highly formalised work in which a generic gang of criminals is used for the purposes of political and existential interrogation. In sometimes memorably beautiful, frequently static tableaux, the characters recite their stylised dialogues while the sound of a barely perceptible ticking clock or beating drum provides a hypnotic background track. While it is obvious from the outset that the main influence is mid-late ’60s Godard, this indebtedness is kept under control in the first half of the picture. Unfortunately as the film proceeds, it falls into the trap of being merely derivative, resorting to all sorts of second hand images and distancing devices, especially in scenes of physical violence. For instance, a gun goes off and the audience does not see or hear the shot. Instead there is a title card that reads: ‘a loud gun shot’. Another drawback, at least for me, is the repeated use of part of Zbigniew Preisner’s score for The Double Life of Veronique (1991), music that is far too closely associated with Kieslowski’s film not to be distracting when used out of context.

Typically, the only two documentaries I attended both dealt with film history. For the record, certain friends who chose to concentrate on watching documentaries found the selection as satisfactory as I found the features. Prinzgau’s Sneaking In: Donald Richie’s Life in Film (2002) was enlightening as I was familiar with Richie’s writing on film, but knew precious little about his filmmaking. It left me with a strong desire to see not only his films, but also some of the other Japanese films of the ’60s that he discusses in it. Tom Thurman’s John Ford Goes to War (2002) examines the documentaries Ford made during the Second World War. It was screened along with Ford’s own vivid Battle of Midway (1942) and the bizarre longer version of December 7th (1943) made by Gregg Toland under the aegis of Ford’s Field Photographic Branch of the OSS.

This leaves the annual event which always sells out quickest, even after having been moved to a larger venue this year – the Made in Cork evening dedicated to local filmmaking. However, at this stage it might as well be called the Cork Comedy Film Evening! The comedy is rapidly becoming the local cinematic speciality. Of the nine films screened, six were straight comedies and one was a humorous documentary, Padraig Trehy’s account of the rise and fall of the band The Sultans of Ping, Trying to Sell Your Soul When the Devil Won’t Listen (2002) which, at 27 minutes, was the longest film shown. That left Ciara Moore’s Camouflage (2002) and my Dreaming Forward (2002) to account for the art movie.

In my mind the best film on the programme by a wide margin, Camouflage is a non-narrative piece about a young woman played by the captivating Elaine Cassidy wandering through a mysterious hotel. According to the programme its “structure and content are explorations on the nature of memories”. Well, I didn’t figure that out whilst I was watching it and I honestly can’t say I completely understand that interpretation now, but it is a very beautiful film which I hope will be screened as widely as possible.

Dreaming Forward juxtaposes a voiceover of a banal telephone conversation going on in the small hours of the morning, in which a young man attempts to get his girlfriend to meet him, with a stream of consciousness series of images that reveals the discrepancy between what he is actually feeling and his words.

The comedies were a mixed bag, with some of the very short, one gag pictures like Mickey Dwyer’s two minute Sets and Violence (2002) and Ed Godsell’s The Unbearable (2002) performing better than many of the longer pieces. Chris Neill’s All the Angles (2002) is the most interesting of the comedies, with its elegantly minimalist aesthetic and daring use of extreme understatement in the humour. It also has the benefit of starring the man I believe to be Cork’s most brilliant actor, Brian Desmond.

There were several other short films made in Cork over the last year not included in the programme that I would have liked to have seen screened. Kieran Fitzgerald’s Hello, Boys! (2002) displays a quiet, unaffected assurance that puts it head and shoulders above almost all of the comedies actually programmed, although its subject matter – a pensioner ruthlessly exploiting her good hearted young neighbours by feigning infirmity – is considerably more risqué than anything selected. One scene that has achieved a certain notoriety on a local level shows the aging anti-heroine bullying a young man into cleaning her behind with a sponge while she is in the bath. That Kieran handles this potentially horrible moment with such tact and understatement that it is funny without being in the least bit vulgar is a testament to his skill.

Jason Browne’s Bendix (2002) is the second part in a trilogy of atmospheric, nocturnal film poems around the themes of youth, age and mortality. The first part, The Nightsweeper (2001), screened at last year’s Festival. Bendix tells the rather Cocteauesque story of an old writer who commits suicide only to be confronted by Bendix, the main character from his books, on the other side. Bendix sends the writer back to create a new ending for his last novel, in which Bendix also dies, before he allows the writer to pass away. Jason’s visually striking films (his vision entirely, I hasten to add, even though I photographed Nightsweeper and did second unit for Bendix) make the most of the lonely streetscape of the city at night – in fact he boasts that he has never shot a single scene in daylight! He is currently preparing the third part of his trilogy, a more ambitious script involving street performers – and, perhaps, a glimpse of the dawn!

But my favourite Cork made film ever must be Jonathan O’Connell’s savage little Super-8 nightmare All the Tired Hippos (2002), a paranoid, silent vision that centres around images of a man pulling his own teeth out only to have them fly back into his mouth. I don’t know if this was even submitted for the Festival, but the intensity of its images is very unusual for a Cork made film.

The Cork Film Festival is certainly the best in Ireland at the moment and the line up this year was the strongest that I have seen since I started attending regularly. The fact that I saw mainly features meant that I was really only partaking of and thus also commenting on a third of what was on offer (even while attending an average of three screenings a day!), with numerous documentaries and shorts programmes running simultaneously.


  1. Nicole Brenez, “Top Ten of the Century”, Top Ten Entry, Senses of Cinema; Enzo Ungari, quoted in conversation with Bernardo Bertolucci, in Bertolucci by Bertolucci (London: Plexus, 1987).