Sunday, 25 February 2007

Red Road (2006)

Red Road

About an hour into Red Road I was ready to dismiss it as yet another of those tiresome 'art house' clichéd movies. You know the sort: the critics wet their pants over them but Joe Public look at them and go "Anybody with a movie camera could have made that! No story. No action. Wobbly camera with out-of-focus shots. What crap!".

The film follows the established 'indie' formula so much it's painful to have to even tick off the ingredients. Dodgy 'cinema verité' camerawork running at snail-like pace? Check. Little spoken dialog with obviously improvised 'real life' scenes? Check. Lots of shots of tower blocks on a council estate? Check. Gratuitous female full-frontal nudity (this time with full-on muff diving to boot - that should ramp up the ante a bit, eh?!)? Check. Obligatory single shot of erect male cock to get 'The Daily Mail' upset on behalf of some theoretical middle-class value system to improve the free publicity even more? Check.

Red Rose screencap

Well you get the picture! Haven't we seen this sort of thing done one million times before (and can I just say, on behalf of any gay male readers interested in possible porn masquerading as 'art', that the whole cock thing is done SO much better in Michael Winterbottom's 9 Songs!)?

At least Ken Loach has things moving along at a fairly decent pace when he does this kind of thing! Earlier this week I saw a truly tiny budgeted New Zealand film called 1 nite (not reviewed on this UK DVD review blog because it's only available on import) which had far more originality and charm in terms of taking those rather hackneyed ingredients and shaking them up a bit, even if it lacked the acting talent Red Road writer/director Andrea Arnold was able to call on for this British offering.

Red Rose screencap

Arnold, who's already won a short film oscar for Wasp, may have suckered the BAFTA viewers with her 'What? Little old me getting a film award? I don't normally wear posh frocks, 'Gor blimey guv' routine, but I'm afraid it just doesn't wash with me. At one stage, in the feeble extra's that accompany this disk, she has the arrogance to say that she wishes she lived in Glasgow (really? So fucking move there luv!), before claiming that she totally understands the Glasgow culture and is jealous of the ingrained sense of Scottish pride, having spent a grand total of FIVE WEEKS shooting a film up there and after admitting it was only long after the film was completed she found out the reputation the area that gave her the film's title had amongst locals. To which the words 'get a grip, or at the very least SOME sense of reality, dear' are the only sensible response.

I take no joy in being so mean to someone who clearly has to struggle to get financing in the dog-eat-dog world of film-making, and I'm sure if I met her I'd find the woman charming, but given such ridiculous announcements as evidenced here, it's too easy to dismiss this film as yet another example of some middle class twat fooling herself into thinking she's got talent and an empathy with 'them thar working class folk' just because a few posh film folk have patronisingly slapped her on the back and said 'Oh my goooooorrrrd! It's all so real!'. How can people so foolishly delude themselves? Not only has the 'writer' taken a clichéd, simplistic story and stolen the 'on the hoof' shooting/improvising formula, lock, stock and barrel from Mr Loach, but she's even stolen one of his actors (Martin Compton from the vastly superior Loach productions Sweet Sixteen and Tickets) to boot. Let's not any of us pretend that there is ANYTHING remotely original or award winning about that!

Red Rose screencap

Red Road tells the story of CCTV operator Jackie (Katie Dickie) who one day spots a man she thinks she recognises from her past, and becomes obsessed with tracking his every behaviour. It slowly (and I really do mean slowly!) becomes clear that there is some history here, even though the man doesn't recognise her even when she resorts to personally stalking him out of work hours. Slowly clues are drip-fed to us. She rings the police asking about a man, and we learn he has been let out of jail early for good behaviour. We learn she lives on her own, having recently been bereaved. It's not rocket science to join the dots, even when the key elements are padded out as much as they are here.

Where the film does surprise is the turn it takes two thirds of the way in, seeming to lure you into a predictable 'feel bad' ending, but changing gear at the last minute to become a 'feel good' ending. Saying any more will spoil the film for those who have yet to see it.

The highlights of the film are undoubtedly the acting from both the female and male lead. Anybody can improvise a few lines here and there, or get their kit off and flap their bits around, but there's real acting required for the pay-off final twenty minutes and both actors deliver this in spades, with Tony Curran wisely underplaying a part which could easily have gone for easy emotion, while Kate Dickie breaks your heart with her vulnerability and obvious pain.

Red Rose screencap

I know this is a low-budget production, but given the high asking price of the DVD the extra features are something of a joke, if not an outright con. The hilariously mis-advertised Behind the Scenes turns out to be LESS THAN ONE MINUTE of a camera left switched on filming the group preparing a pub scene, with about 15 seconds of the main actress operating some CCTV equipment tacked on after it. There's what's known as 'taking the piss', and then there's what's been done here!

More happily, we do get a DVD insert with some film notes (don't read them before watching the film - they contain massive spoilers!). The trailer is also included (lots of ridiculous marketing quotes comparing the director with much more famous European indie directors like Michael Haneke - puhlease!) and there are about 20 minutes in total of 'all filmed on that day we shot the scene in the pub' interviews with the four main cast members and the director. Each endlessly gushes about how wonderful the script/director is and how great it is to be able to "contribute as an AC-TOR" by improvising. Pass the sick bucket, these are all very much a case of 'Move along - there is absolutely nothing to see here' interviews.

For the acting from the two leads alone Red Road is probably worth a rental if you like your indie fare to be cheap and miserable (albeit cheerful at the end), or want to see what it is that excites the people at BAFTA when judging small independent films. But a purchase it ain't!

Red Rose screencap


Anonymous said...

I enjoyed this film actually. It was a bit slow to begin with but it was full of suspense for me and I sat thinking 'what the hell are you doing following this man who has obviously done something wrong to you'. And then he doesn't even recognise her..I clearly was unable to join up the dots, perhaps that's why I enjoyed it-the plot was not as obvious as you make out. I live just outside Glasgow so maybe i am a little biased, but i thought it gave a great insight as well as to how some people in Scotland live.

Anonymous said...

I don't do serious films at all, but I flicked on to this last night when I was bored.
I thought it was brilliant, really weird but totally enthralling.
The 'scummy mate and his girlfriend' were spot on, so realistic and the two leads....well I couldn't drag myself away.
I'm going to watch it again for sure.


Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed the film. I liked the camera work as it added a lot of tension. The lack of speech and conversation also added tension. I don't think the purpose of it was so that the film would be arty. The acting was brilliant and I really felt a connection with Kate Dickie's character, almost as if I was the one sneaking about.