Tuesday 20 May 2008

A British film that doesn't disappoint

Finally, what a blast to discover a new original voice in British cinema. Steve McQueen's much anticipated Hunger lives up to expectations, an amazing film, definitely the strongest I've seen so far at Cannes. Although watching a man starving himself to death is really a terrible experience and certainly puts you off your next pain au raisin. For an hour it's almost wordless, showing his background as a visual artist and a great command of film language McQueen uses sound and crisply shot, beautifully framed images to tell the story of the IRA's H-block protests - refusing to wear prison clothes, to wash or shave, smearing the cell walls with shit, the brutal beatings and routine humiliations of prison life. Interestingly the film starts by focusing on a warden, then a new inmate before finally coming to rest on Bobby Sands and his extraordinary determination to take the protest to another level and force the Thatcher government to capitulate on their demand for political status. After about an hour there is the film's fantastic central scene between Sands and a sympathetic priest, a torrent of words flows between them, a 10 minute single take that seems to go on for ever and reveals so much, until you're actually disappointed when he cuts in to a close up. Then the film gives up on words again and concentrates on the slow self-destruction of the suicidal martyr, the horrific details of his body's breakdown. Plenty of time to think about why a man would do such a thing to himself and how he could have the will to see it through. Genius, but will anybody want to come and see it?

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