Directed by Rebecca Miller and released in Ireland on 8th July 2016, Maggie’s Plan raises the question as to whether the need to control others is an individual personality trait or an encompassing human one. The off kilter comedy set in New York is often sobering alongside the sun spots, with absorbing performances from Greta Gerwig, Ethan Hawke, Bill Hader and Julianne Moore. The audience’s established affection for Gerwig following her performance in Frances Ha (2013) is supported by a voyeuristic commentary on the contemporary human experience. The portrayal of idealized adulthood plans gone awry is familiar, made distinctive through Maggie’s misguided attempt to face ‘the truth about herself’ through fervent micromanagement of her familiar’s social choreography.
In a whistle-stop opening we are introduced to her original plan whereby Maggie is determined to have a baby, aided by way of a friendly donation from Guy the ‘Pickle Entrepreneur’; a character whose only real flaw is a complete misinterpretation of personal space. However the carefully planned procedure is interrupted by brash proclamations of love, rewriting Maggie’s need to make external human relationships ordered through planning. Almost immediately an ill-advised and impulsive extramarital love affair springs between Maggie and John, one of the bad boys from ficto-critical anthropology, as portrayed by Ethan Hawke. Miller then opts to fast-forward through the rose-tinted honeymoon period that follows, with the narrative resettling three years later. The couple have established a semi-idealistic albeit mildly delusional situation, largely as a result of the classic inclination to demonize all that threatened their union. In quickly seeking a liberal partnership they leap beyond all social preliminaries and end up far from either of their real dreams, and even farther from admitting it. Just as Maggie had been courted by the chapters of John’s never-ending and far from realized great novel, the novelty of their fresh affections are quenched by unappealing reality. Far too soon are the couple trapped in the mundane tide and must face the notion that love doesn’t work that way “you can’t take everything and stuff it back in the box”.
From over-emotional preliminaries and the backing track of John’s second marriage quietly crumbling, Maggie is compelled to launch a new phase of her plan in order to achieve her contradictory ideals and ‘live truthfully’. Just as Maggie had described John’s novel as screwball surreal, the account becomes increasingly apt for the film itself. The very dynamic she sought to liberate John from in his first marriage now appears to be exactly what is prescribed for their own union, verifying the cliché that every relationship has a rose and a gardener. For a time it seems as if there is no happy ending in sight, with a cosy lifestyle gone lukewarm, a suggested repercussion of wise advice once ignored.
Thankfully this is not the case and a new plot, inspired by a joke, sees Maggie team up with John’s eccentric ex-wife played by Julianne Moore. A combined effort is required as Maggie and Georgette’s covert scheme seeks to readjust John’s affections. Meanwhile he remains oblivious and merely flirts with reality through his writing, adjusting his character portrayals as needed in order to reaffirm his choices. However every scheme exists to be unfurled, and with realization of Maggie’s need to dictate reality comes a dial-down of vibrancy. Once paired with academic idiom that references commodity fetishism, Miller’s film serves as a larger commentary on the fetishization of grand romantic gestures as generic solutions. Throughout the bumbling yet charming plot the audience comes to recognize that true affection is often miraculously ill-timed, and possibly always spurred on by hot whiskeys and classic Bruce Springsteen. Maggie’s Plan portrays collective contemporary frustration at the individual’s inability to create things in their own vision, incorporating notions of overwhelming self-interest alongside a suggestion that lovers of math are drawn to those who are calculating. Overall it makes space for progressive partnerships that can ultimately succeed, leaving room for the naked portrayal of the flawed character with good intentions.
By Jessica Mc Kinney
Teaser of the shortfilm “Rosinha”
With Maria Alice Vergueiro, Andrade Jr. and João Antonio.
Guest appearance: André Deca
Written and directed by: Gui Campos
A film by:
FAC – Fundo de Apoio a Cultura
The Hopeless End of a Great Dream is the new 16mm film commissioned by Irish artist Declan Clarke and freshly exhibited at Temple Bar Gallery + Studios. The greatly anticipated project benefited from the support of Belfast Exposed, Centre Cultural Irlandais Paris and Trinity Creative, and was additionally backed by the Arts Council project award 2016. The feature previewed initially at the Edmund Burke Theatre in Trinity College Dublin on the 20th of April.
Declan Clarke, who was born in Dublin in 1974, conducted his studies at National College of Art and Design Dublin and Chelsea College of Arts in London.During his career Clarkehasincorporated a range of varying media in his art, however film retains an established presence within his excursions.Largely his work seeks to pepper instances of formative grand narratives with experiential snippets from everyday life.His contemporary work includes notable exhibitions in various spaces of Dublin, such as Wreckage in May last year at the Hugh Lane, and Group Portrait with Explosives at Mother’s Tankstation in 2014. Additionally his work, both collaborative and solo projects, has reached the far corners of the globe through galleries and film festivals in London, Leipzig, Berlin, Lisbon and New York.
Experiencing The Hopeless End of a Great Dream involves the movement from the bustling square of Temple Bar through to a subdued exhibition room lined with photographs. This further leads to the screening area where the same external activity is subsequently incorporated in the opening of the film. Notably the feature is shot exclusively on the grounds of the Trinity College. The traditional aesthetic of the architecture invokes a full bodied sense of importance regarding the significance of the past. Throughout the film is immersive whilst appealing to voyeuristic tendencies. There is a sense that the viewing of the incidents portrayed is accidental, like tuning in to a forgotten radio wave. The audience is privy to several paralleled threads which contribute to the curation of its fragmented nature, invoking some disorientation as it references instances from past history in Ireland. However due to the presentation of these extracts in their contemporary setting, the film succeeds in blurring aspects of past and present alongside reality and legend.
From the beginning the viewer is immersed in a series of empty spaces, a ream of controlled presences and reinforced quietude. These thematic choices parallel the nature of the viewing space itself. The character’s movements are reminiscent of a culturally inscribed social choreography, reinforcing the notion of catalytic events in Irish history. It is important to note the distinct lack of music in the film, meaning that the characters must carve out atmospheric presence for themselves. The shifting points of view in the feature are suggestive of varying degrees of interest, perhaps in the mysteries of this country’s past. Truly mystery is the objective as the viewer cannot help but seek connections between the several stories, constantly questioning what exactly this film is trying to communicate “If this is all starting to sound like something penned by Ian Fleming, that is no mistake”.
The potency of the film is reinforced by its methodical approach, the crux of the feature is presented alluringly like a secret folded in and in on itself. Just as there is a precise significance to every image captured on the film, each object has a charged presence. One such weighty example of these charged objects are the photographs, which serve as prompts throughout and mirror those exhibited in the main hall of the gallery. To create substantial space for these indicted items the speech included in the feature is sporadic, imbibing that which is not being said with the most importance. Despite instances of silence, the information suggested is boundless. The audience is left feeling as if they had been pulled through history to confront contemporary Dublin, the notion is mirrored by the iconic closing sequence of one man pulling another through the halls of Trinity library.
In short the experience is fragmentary and provocative. Through to the prolonged shuffling of the concluding frames we are still curious as to whether we have understood all that was necessary from the viewing. Once faced with the credits the viewer must trust that they have absorbed the significant information. The lack of traditional closure heightens the clandestine notions shrouding aspects of Ireland’s past. The exhibition will continue until 18th June 2016, from there moving to spaces in Belfast and later Paris.
By Jessica Mc Kinney
The Japanese Film Festival 2016 marked celebrations of the successful collaboration between the Embassy of Japan and access>CINEMA for the eighth year in a row. Comprised of forty five screenings countrywide, the assortment was unveiled in locations at Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Sligo, Galway, Dundalk and Waterford. The diverse programme of twenty two multifarious films featured works from some of the most renowned directors in contemporary Japanese cinema.
Beginning as early as the 3rd April the festival kicked off in Cork city with a screening of Initiation Love イニシエーション・ラブat the Triskel Arts Centre. Directed by Yukihiko Tsutsumi and set in the 1980s, it depicts the headlong zealous affections of a young couple. Suzuki and Mayu find their eager relationship strained between the obstinate realities of life and their resolve to maintain a long distance relationship. The viewer is privy to their transforming relationship, as the film seeks to explore the fatigue of bonds when faced with overwhelming obstacles. From the opening the audience is warned about the surprise alternate ending, which differs from the original acclaimed novel by Kurumi Inui of the same name. Tsutsumi raises problematic questions regarding the expiration of a first love, the offbeat resolution haunting the viewer long after the credits roll.
The Dublin based leg of the festival took place between 13th and 21st of this month. One portion of the collection, The Case of Hana & Alice 花とアリス殺人事件, was screened in Light House Cinema on 16th April.The feature shadowedour protagonist Tetsuko (to be later nicknamed Alice) as she discoversmoving to a new town is never easy, especially when met with supernatural mysteries such as the ‘Judas murder’. From the opening Alice is confronted by numerous challenges despite best efforts to fit in at her new school. As a result she is compelled to investigate the strange legend, hoping to be accepted into the community by partaking it its superstitions. Drawn to her mysteriously withdrawn neighbour Hana whilst trying to source answers, we follow their high spirited investigation in this amiable prequel to Shunji’s 2004 flick. The director’s first rotoscoped animation is jovial from the opening, rounded with a heartening score and infectious curiosity.
Three Stories of Love 恋人たちwas released in 2015 by award winning director Ryosuke Hashiguchi, his first feature since All Around Us in 2008. Hashiguchi’s early work arguably paved the way for a new wave of independent filmmakers in the Japanese Film Industry. A director known particularly for his subject matter pertaining to the representation LGBT issues, most famously his work promotes the universality of emotion. The film was hailed as the best Japanese film of 2015 in the Kinema Junpo annual critics’ poll and was screened as part of the festival on 14th April. The audience is privy to the three distinct lives of Takashi, Atsushi and Toko later connected through their struggles to cope with tragedy. Taking his previous work as an example one quickly confirms that Hashiguchi is no stranger to the subject of loss straining a relationship. It forms an exploration into the significance of love within a life. The viewer follows this tripartite patchwork, from one man failing to cope with the senseless murder of his wife, a successful lawyer reasoning with the overwhelming impossibility of unrequited adoration, and finally a suppressed housewife navigating life around her emotionally apathetic husband.
The intensity imbued in emotionally charged objects alongside a sentimental attitude towards life is a common theme of Japanese cinema, as seen in Hashiguchi’s work. Early in the screening it is inferred that the notion of sinking or failing in daily life was to be the overarching theme. The feature plays on the voyeuristic aspect of human nature, meandering through a ream of unlikely pairings in both friendship and romance. The plot preys on the anxiety of the failed connection, working to emphasize the notion of one stranger’s unconscious effect on the life of another. Sensitive, vulnerable, with unavoidable realism; it breathes life into the theory of three degrees of separation.
This visceral and passionate account of life in contemporary Japan teaches the importance of recognition of other’s emotions, highlighting how we seek to distance ourselves from these expressive realities. Our three leads cross over in seeking serenity and contentedness, although their methods alternate between healing and harmful. These positive and negative forces are represented through the symbolic omnipresence of water and cigarettes throughout. Hashiguchi involves notions of performativity within society and the strain its fragmentation has on an individual. Following the three stories we are privy to the disparity between the internal self and the publically established self. Despite the difficult journey the viewer is left feeling hopeful, acknowledging the importance of humble bonds and simple pleasures “life is ok when you eat well and laugh”.
“I guess in the end it all comes down to the credibility of the story you’re trying to tell / I don’t believe in using confrontations like those as a means to suddenly force a change in a character. Those kinds of solutions don’t exist in real life either. It would become unbelievable if you wouldn’t leave some loose ends.”
– Interview with Ryosuke Hashiguchi (Tom Mes, Midnight Eye: Visions of Japanese Cinema)
Director Masakazu Sugita’s 2014 feature film Joy of Man’s Desiring 人の望みの喜びよsimilarly enunciates aspects of the individual human experience within an overwhelming world. Sugita himself was a childhood survivor of the Great Hanshin Earthquake of 1995, and was incited to make the film following the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011. This tender yet overwrought depiction examines the resilience of a sibling bond following the tragic death of their parents. Twelve year old Harun struggles with the manifestation of grief, renouncement of guilt and adjustment to the curious reality that life goes on. Her distress is heightened as the kindly aunt and uncle who adopted the children choose to withhold knowledge of their death from her younger brother Shota, vying to preserve his innocence. In tandem Sugita’s feature is distanced from the fragmented imagery associated with the crisis of natural disaster, opting instead for a more subdued slant.
A great deal of the pleasure one extracts from a festival such as this, as with many subtitled features, is the access to an alternative filmic scope. Something to relish, it presents the English speaker with a certain familiarization of significant aspects of contemporary Japanese culture. Additionally we can look much forward to the next festival instalment, with 2017 marking the 60thanniversary of diplomatic relations between the countries.
By Jessica Mc Kinney