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Hunger reviews

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Post by Admin on Sat Jan 09, 2010 12:23 am

http://news.abwre.com/imfinished-hitale-undivided-truths/

Hunger , the British artist-turned- executive Steve McQueen's movie about the 1980s Northern Ireland prisoners' craving strike, is the grimly nutritious filmic feast. McQueen, the former Turner Prize winner, has had the visible artist's brainwave of you do the story as the triptych.

Part the single depicts the primary blankets-and-hygiene strike, in that IRA detainees repudiated crook garments as well as dirty their walls with faeces in reply to the Thatcher government's warding off to accede to them domestic status. Part two, the usually postulated discourse sequence, is the duel of ideas in in between Bobby Sands (Michael Fassbender) as well as the Catholic clergyman (Liam Cunningham). Part 3 is Sands's starvation vigil, gruellingly dramatised, with Fassbender visibly shedding tens of kilos in the name of verisimilitude.

"Show, don't tell": McQueen understands the primary element of cinema. On possibly side of the center section, where the really periphrasis stands mocking declare to the idealisation stupidity to explain, Hunger has the energy as well as hieratic firmness of wordless cinema. Pictures discuss it all, from the prisoner's palm toying with the fly by the jaggedly damaged window griddle to the excretalexpressionist swirls upon the dungeon walls, that house painter Richard Hamilton primary quoted upon canvas, impelling us to see them as the idol art of the brutalist brand brand new era.
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Post by Admin on Thu Jan 14, 2010 7:52 pm

http://wasteyouryouth.co.uk/featured/bumper-film-reviews/

* Hunger (2008, dir. Steve McQueen)

An engrossing film depicting events surrounding the hunger strikes by Irish republican prisoners that took place at Maze Prison, specifically around the leader of the striker Bobby Sands. It is brutal and extremely grim film but tells the story with an even-handed quality and the acting, particularly from Michael Fassbender as Sands, is excellent. The 17-minute unbroken scene between Fassbender and Liam Cunningham is a real highlight.
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Post by Admin on Mon Jan 18, 2010 2:18 am

http://chinotto-is-my-nemesis.blogspot.com/2010/01/en-review.html

last night we watched "hunger" directed by acclaimed british video artist, steve mcqueen. it tracks the last weeks in the life of bobby sands, an IRA member who starved himself to death in 1981 in a hunger strike he organized amongst inmates to demand status and rights as political prisoners. the film is fearsome, beautiful, aching and resolved - a meditation on the corporeal limits of a uniquely masculine extremism, and a rumination on the body as the final ground for all political acts. it begins with a window into daily life in the maze (her majesty's prison maze, used to hold paramilitary prisoners during the troubles in northern ireland), following a prison guard as he enters the maze, then the initiation of a new prisoner as he refuses the prison uniform, is denied his request to wear his civilian clothes, and is given a blanket to shield his nakedness. the routines of the maze during this particular time in history, in which inmates pile uneaten food in a corner of the cell to be festering breeding grounds of maggots, where they smear their feces on the walls of the cell and pour their urine out into the halls of the prison, is rendered in stark, predominantly silent, scenes interspersed with the shattering cacophony of brutal violence as prisoners are dragged screaming from their cells, beaten, and forcibly washed and violated.

the director constructs powerful, intensely evocative imagery and strings them together - at first avoiding the straightforward narrative arc in order to create a ruminative, thought-provoking series of strikingly sparse, elegant, visual sequences. the film is about martyrdom, our corporeal reality, and the unique ability of people (always men? always young, stupid men, burning with the fervor of the righteous?) to endure and perpetrate unspeakable atrocities in the name of ideology. the struggle over praxis and autonomy and agency comes to a head in a thrilling, 20 minute, single-shot conversation between sands, played with a knowing, scarred, and vulnerable bravado by michael fassbender, and his parish priest. this scene is a gut-wrenching juggernaut, thrilling for both its content AND the technical fortitude of the actors, who engage in a delicate, verbal dance - starting off with meandering pleasantries before digging deep, amid fecund, lyrical pauses, into the nature of sands' protest. i'd say that the movie coalesces around this one scene, where sands' reveals himself as brave, stupid, a martyr, and idealogue, focused intently on his belief, which in itself is the extruded by-product of centuries of colonial oppression, class, and ethnic struggle.

in talking over the film this morning with the dotytron, my one critique was that mcqueen rendered certain scenes (the disinfection of a cell, the swirling pattern of s**t smeared on the walls gradually dissolving under the spray of a pressure washer) with a dispassionate aestheticism that over-objectified the subjects. it's similar to burtynsky's work, where scenes of environmental degradation are blown-up, captured with such a keen eye for striking imagery that it over-aestheticizes (and thus, glosses over) the "reality" at the end of that representative chain. the dotytron had a good point though and made me rethink my position. he thought that the director chose to construct beauty from the degradation as a representation of the last bastion of autonomy and agency the inmates had in those inhumane conditions. when your subjectivity is not being identified, when you are given nothing, when you are not being heard, when all you have is excrement to smear on the walls and your own body becomes all that is yours, then that IS your communication. as the rivulets of urine pour into the hall of the prison in a near-silent flood, it is the only expression left available to these young men, the only possible utterance they can make. i'm so glad i'm hitched to such a smartie. the dotytron is a fearsomely intelligent guy (even if he is the weak link in my family's team of trivia all-stars.) don't ever let anyone tell you different.

that is, until they decide to heighten the point further by starving themselves in a final, desperate attempt to be heard. sands' conversation with the priest is also remarkable for the way that the martyrdom and ego of the act is debated. the final weeks of sands' life in the film are beyond difficult to watch - his body wastes away, his eyes grow bleary, sores appear on his emaciated frame. the poignancy and futility of the act are simultaneously presented.

this was an extraordinary movie and i highly recommend it. i mean, don't watch it if you're in the mood for a screwball comedy, but it's well worth seeing.
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Post by Admin on Wed Feb 03, 2010 2:38 am

http://cliched-monologues.blogspot.com/2010/02/hunger-2008.html

Tuesday, February 2, 2010
Hunger [2008]

Hunger, directed by Steve McQueen (no, not that Steve McQueen), is based on the last few months of IRA (Irish Republican Army) member Bobby Sands’ life in a British prison. He and his fellow-members demanded political status, and when denied despite several efforts, he decided to go on a hunger strike unto death. The most interesting aspect about the movie is that, despite never taking sides with either the British government or the IRA, or for that matter, the camera hardly ever leaving the claustrophobic prison setting, the movie has the ability to evoke strong reactions from its viewers – it is that lacerating and passionate a portrayal of the brutal struggle between the two sides. This stark, moody, intensely visceral, superbly paced and thoroughly engaging movie has made exceptional use of silences and long takes – in one brilliant maneuver, there is one single, static take where Sands and a priest engage on a lengthy dialogue over a plethora of cigarettes, which lasts a staggering 20 minutes! The movie, which doesn’t really have any plot per se, received a shot in the arm thanks to an absolutely terrific performance by Michael Fassbender (in the role of Sands), and great editing which managed to ensure a languorous pace while at the same time retaining the raw edge of the powerful script.

Director: Steve McQueen
Genre: Drama/Prison Drama/Political Drama
Language: English
Country: UK/Ireland
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Post by Admin on Fri Feb 05, 2010 7:26 pm

http://wildlines.blogspot.com/2010/02/best-scenes-of-2009-final-thoughts.html

He's got a hunger... a hunger for freedom: way back in April, I prematurely proclaimed this scene, from Steve McQueen's Hunger, the year's best. (I wasn't alone.) Watching it again now, I'm almost sure I was right all along. The sequence, a very long conversation between IRA prisoner Bobby Sands (Michael Fassbender, who had a hell of a year) and a visiting priest (Liam Cunningham), operates beautifully both in and out of context. Which is to say, it's both essential to the film's architecture and wholly successful as a standalone piece—two superb actors, one room and, for the lion's share of its marathon runtime, one static shot. I've grappled with what feels like an apolitical approach to the film's subject matter; having only seen it in its entirety once, I've yet to make my mind up completely about that. Regardless, this single scene, a debate about the morality of a hunger strike, does a pretty stellar job investing the movie around it with questions. It's also the best bit of acting I saw all year. I'd need another 500 words to extrapolate further, so here instead is the scene, broken into three parts.

The Ending Is the Thing: I've never been one to let a lousy ending spoil a movie for me. Make it all the way to the tail-end of your third act and then blow it, I'll cut you some slack. Hell, it's better than most movies manage. Paradoxically, though, a great ending can really sell a whole film for me—or, at the very least, elevate it significantly in my estimation. In 2008, for example, I did something of a 180 on Waltz With Bashir, a film I was fairly surely I kind of hated while watching... and then its last sixty seconds happened. This final (widely and wildly misunderstood) moment forced me to retroactively reassess everything that came before it. Now that's an ending.
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Post by Admin on Fri Feb 05, 2010 7:31 pm

http://paulfordsound.wordpress.com/2010/02/05/hunger/

Hunger

Just finished watching Hunger, visual artist Steve McQueen’s directorial feature debut, about the IRA “dirty protests” and second wave of hunger strikes – specifically the death of Bobby Sands.

It’s a monumentally disturbing movie, dominated by a famous 17 minute unbroken take where Sands (Michael Fassbender) is confronted about his imminent hunger strike by a priest, played by Liam Cunningham. The scene contains the lion’s share of the film’s dialogue – other long sequences are dominated by images of the corridors of the Maze prison where they were held, at times almost silent. The two men sit opposite each other at a visiting table. They’re from the same side of the Protestant/Catholic divide but far apart in their approach to their struggle for Irish unity.

The sound design of the film is incredible, and has just as much impact and ability to shock as some of the brutal imagery. There’s one particular sequence where riot police are drafted in to intimidate and rough up the prisoners, while the guards subject them to apallingly graphic cavity searches. The beating of the batons on the shields builds to an almost unbearable level, mingling with the screams of the brutalised prisoners, over the sight of one policeman sobbing behind a partition wall, unable to take the violence any longer, while on the other side his colleagues beat a man to within an inch of his life. Not something I’ll forget in a hurry.

McQueen’s artist’s eye is in evidence everywhere here. Lingering close ups of snowflakes which other directors would discard as visual padding only serve to underscore the inhumanity of “The Troubles”, on both sides. The movie is very balanced and does not make judgements on either side, just presents the events themselves. Despite the political subject matter, this is very definitely an “art” movie, and artfully made at that, but at the same time incredibly compelling. I’d recommend it but I found it incredibly hard going at times – not one for the faint hearted.
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Post by Admin on Fri Feb 05, 2010 7:59 pm

http://kdrv.com/page/161575

Hunger: The Business of Souls

February 4, 2010

By Faris Tanyos for KDRV

February 4, 2010

Grade: A+

Steve McQueen's Hunger is tough; brutally tough. It grinds on you.

I don't know how else to put it.

It is unnerving, hard to watch, hard to stomach.

I hesitate to say it's not for everybody... It is, because the subject matter is so urgent, and not just to the UK, not just because it's a seminal event in Northern Ireland's history. From a filmmaking perspective, it is so clinically executed... machinelike...

This has to be seen; regardless of how unpleasant the viewing experience may be... and trust me, it's unpleasant. I'm sorry, this isn't high art that can be avoided (A Clockwork Orange).

The crux of the film rests on an absolutely stunning single shot that runs a breathtaking 17-and-a-half minutes, allegedly, the longest single shot ever put on film. There's precious little conversation in Hunger, and 97 percent of it comes in this scene.

In it, Paramilitary Prisoner Bobby Sands (Michael Fassbender) explains to Father Moran (Liam Cunningham), a Belfast Catholic priest, why he's about to undertake a hunger strike. Unlike a failed attempt the year before, Sands is certain this one will work. He will start his strike, and the 75 prisoners who've signed up to join him will follow, at staggered two week intervals, until their demands are met.

Moran is unconvinced, angered and disgusted with what he calls a suicide attempt. He accuses Sands of being locked up so long in the Maze that he's lost touch with reality; maybe he's trying to be martyr: "You start a hunger strike to protest what you believe in. You don't start already determined to die."

The 1981 Irish Hunger Strike was against the loss of what was known as Special Category Status, under which Irish Republican paramilitary prisoners convicted of terrorist crimes were given political status, similar to prisoners of war, and hence, had certain POW privileges. The strikers had Five Demands: They included not having to wear prison uniforms or do prison work, the right to associate freely with other prisoners and the right to one visit, letter and parcel per week.

The British Government granted SCS in a deal with the Provisional Irish Republican Army in 1972. In 1976, it ended it. From then on, those convicted of terrorist crimes would be treated like ordinary criminals. British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who took power in '75, repeatedly refused to reinstate SCS.

In response, many paramilitary prisoners housed in Northern Ireland's Long Kesh (Maze Prison) took part in a ‘blanket' protest in which they refused to wear prison uniforms. Instead, they were given nothing but a blanket. Eventually, they added a ‘no wash' protest, in which they covered the walls of their cells in s---, refused to shower or shave or leave their cells.

Most of Hunger takes place in the confines of the Maze. It's shown to us through the eyes of four men: Sands, cell mates Davey Gillen (Brian Milligan) and Gerry Campbell (Liam McMahon) and Prison Officer Ray Lohan (Stuart Graham).

It tells us nothing about their background or the nature of their crimes. Gillen, we're told, is serving a six-year sentence, Campbell 12. When Gillen first comes to the prison, he strips, is given a blanket and taken to his loathsome cell, which has no furniture and is covered wall-to-wall in excrement.

We see Lohan, nursing a bloodied hand, preparing to go to work by checking his car and front yard for explosives.

The day-to-day routine is presented matter-of-factly, accompanied by little dialogue or explanation. We know nothing of the outside world. The prisoners and their girlfriends and families slip messages or homemade radios to each other during visits by hiding them in bodily orifices. The only time the prisoners interact is during Mass. They use the Bible's paper to roll makeshift cigarettes. "I only smoke Lamentations," Sands jokes with Father Moran.

In a harrowing scene, a riot team is brought in to line the prison hallway as the men are dragged, one by one, naked out of their cells, hit with batons, kicked and beaten, before being thrown into a bath, then held down while their hair and beards are cut, their orifices examined, and some poor bloke in a sanitation suit goes into each cell and sprays it down. We learn why Lohan has bloodied knuckles.

Towards the end of the film we hear a brief audio clip of Margaret Thatcher addressing the strike: "They've chosen what may well be their last card. They've turned their violence against themselves in the prison hunger strike to death. They seek to work on the most basic of human emotions, pity, as a means of creating tension and stroking the flames of bitterness and hatred."

A doctor explains in painful, excruciating detail to Sands' parents what is happening to their son: Gradual deterioration of the liver, bone density deficiency, impaired function, shrinkage of the heart's left ventricle, low blood sugar, low energy, muscular wasting, gastrointestinal ulcers, thinning of the intestinal wall, submucosal hemorrhaging, degenerative changes to the mucous membrane of the intestines and all the organs of the body...

We see it for ourselves. Fassbender went on a crash diet for this role. From the footage, I can't even begin to imagine what that entailed. For his sake, I hope the makeup artists were just that good.

Hunger is extraordinarily directed and acted. McQueen articulates the political issues without getting entrenched in them or making them the focal point of the film. Rather, he focuses on the prisoners actions, the lengths they take for their beliefs. He spends little time pontificating whether those beliefs justify their actions; that is a subject for another film. Hunger's one failure is not addressing what crimes these men committed. If we knew this, would it affect our sympathies? Are we not getting the full picture? Does Hunger oversimplify a very complex, political and cultural issue, or does it seek to tell a specific story from a specific perspective?

Whichever side of the fence you're on, whether you agree or disagree with what the strikers stood for; you can't help but come out of the film admiring their resolve. They were courageous.

Sands died after 66 days. It took nine more deaths to call off the strike: "My life is real, not a theological exercise," he told Father Moran.
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Post by Admin on Sat Feb 13, 2010 3:20 am

http://wildsidecinema.blogspot.com/2010/02/hunger-theatrical-2008.html

Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Hunger (Theatrical - 2008)
Hunger (Theatrical - 2008)
Pathe / 2008
Directed by Steve McQueen
Written by Steve McQueen & Enda Walsh
Cast: Michael Fassbender, Liam Cunningham, Stuart Graham & Liam McMahon
Review by Phillip Escott
With the outrage of Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib still echoing in the collective mind, it’s perhaps depressing to learn that this sort of behavior isn’t exactly a new phenomenon for an increasingly violent world. Hunger, although depicting events from the late seventies/early eighties, shows that the beatings, humiliation and torturing of men accused terrorism has been here for years. We’ve just tragically chosen to forget about it.

Taking place in the infamous H-block of Northern Ireland’s Maze Prison, Hunger tells the unbiased story of Bobby Sand’s (played here by Eden Lake’s Michael Fassbender) hunger strike, a political protest that caused his demise, as well as his followers: whether he was right or wrong to ask this of his supporters is left firmly in your hands, as is the rest of the films message. McQueen doesn’t take sides for a second, the battle is shown with honesty; showing both the attractive and ugly sides of each party.

The film is also shockingly brutal. A scene in which IRA prisoners are hauled down a hallway lined with riot police, raining batons down onto them as they pass, only to be met by a rough cavity search: the scene looks as inviting and comfortable as hundred-man gangbang! Then there’s the issue of bodily excretions. The film is filled with filth; prisoners cover their cells from floor to ceiling with s$#!, spill their piss bowls under their cell doors; flooding hallways for guards to scrub up: all in the name of their ‘cause’.

For all its blood and feces however, Hunger is a beautiful movie. Steve McQueen’s back round in video-art installations has helped create a stunning debut – he’s even managed to make a s$#!-smeared wall look artistic! Where he possibly excels most of all however, is in the performances he elicits from his cast. Michael Fassbender alone is reason enough to see this movie, his horrifying transformation throughout the titular strike is truly sickening. Witnessing his frail, bed-sore covered body deteriorate into nothing is going to be looked back on as THE display of onscreen method-masochism for years to come.

What took me aback the most about Hunger though wasn’t its grim vérité approach to violence or its eye-watering cinematography; but in its simplicity. There is a scene between Fassbender and a visiting priest, played magnificently by Liam Cunningham, in which for nearly twenty minutes the camera is fixed on these two as they each exchange dialogue regarding the ‘cause’ without a single cut. Twenty minutes of two men talking may sound a bore, but believe me, it’s the most exhilarating moment in the film and when it’s rudely interrupted by a cut, you feel like you’ve just been slapped out of a hypnotic state!

Hunger is the best British film this year, scratch that, potentially film of the year! When you get the chance to watch this, don’t even think about it; just do it! Films of the quality are few and far between and I for one will be watching, and learning, from the experience for a long, long time. Strongly recommended!
Posted by Wildside Cinema at 8:52 AM
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Post by Admin on Mon Feb 15, 2010 12:26 am

http://juntajuleil.blogspot.com/2010/02/film-review-hunger-2008-steve-mcqueen.html

Sunday, February 14, 2010
Film Review: HUNGER (2008, Steve McQueen)
Stars: 3.2 of 5.
Running Time: 96 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Michael Fassender, Stuart Graham, Brian Milligan, Liam Cunningham.
Tag-line: "A compelling and unforgettable portrayal of life within the maze prison at the time of 1981 IRA hunger strike. An odyssey, in which the smallest gestures become epic and when the body is the last resource for protest."
Best one-liner: Not really that kind of movie.

I was pretty confused for a while. Why wasn't Ali McGraw in this? Where were the motorcycle stunts? The likable, sandy-haired irreverence?

In all seriousness, though, I was blown away upon my first viewing of HUNGER. The fourth major-motion picture telling of Bobby Sands' tale since 1996 (coming in the wake of SOME MOTHER'S SON, H3, and IL SILENZIO DELL'ALLODOLA), HUNGER has the body-horror of VIDEODROME, the quotidian-horror of THE PIANO TEACHER, the fecal-horror of SEVEN BEAUTIES, and the establishment-horror of A CLOCKWORK ORANGE.

But then, as the days passed, I found that the film's power began to shrivel. I began to think that maybe it should have been titled, 'STEVE MCQUEEN IS HUNGRY TO BECOME JULIAN SCHNABEL.' It's not that I can say anything bad about this film- it succeeds at being the epitome of 'viscerally disturbing'- but there's deceptively not a whole lot to it. Michael Fassbender's performance is brilliant, dangerously committed, and shockingly honest. His suffering is ours. But we're only entreated to Bobby's motivations, politics, moral quandaries, and notorious sense of humor in one (lengthy) scene, which, in my opinion- contrary to those who call it the centerpiece- seems to have been added nearly as an afterthought. Said scene is exceptionally well-acted by Fassbender and a priestly Liam Cunningham, but instead of showing, like he has excelled at for the entire duration thus far, McQueen resorts to telling, with a static, verbose long shot.

And the whole 'actor starving himself for a role' seems- inappropriate as it may be- weirdly passé, with all the press for Bale in THE MACHINIST (2004) and Jeremy Davies in RESCUE DAWN (2006). But Michael Fassbender is certainly committed, and the brutalization he endures for this film may well become the stuff of legend.

Oddly enough, I saw it in a chance double-feature with Marco Ferreri's LA GRANDE BOUFFE, where bourgeois fucknuts EAT themselves to death. Where Ferreri's film is a point of departure for larger questions, HUNGER is a self-contained document, the kind of movie aimed at your gut. But, to paraphrase Mamet: "Great [fasts] fade in reflection."

-Sean Gill
Posted by Sean Gill at 11:27 AM
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Post by Admin on Mon Feb 15, 2010 7:02 pm

http://signalbleed.blogspot.com/2010/02/hunger.html

Monday, February 15, 2010
Hunger
British conceptual artist Steve McQueen’s first feature film, Hunger, often plays more like an art project than a drama, which works both to its benefit and to its detriment, depending on what you’re looking to take away from it. Although Hunger is a fact-based story about IRA member Bobby Sands’ 66-day hunger strike while being held in a British prison, for much of the movie McQueen holds back from explaining anything about his characters, and Sands (Michael Fassbender) doesn’t even show up until about half an hour in.

Before then, McQueen depicts, with virtually no dialogue, the lives of two of Sands’ fellow prisoners and a guard whose efforts to just do his job are constantly disrupted by being a potential target for IRA violence. A few title cards set up the situation, but otherwise we’re merely dropped into the middle of a complex situation with only our emotions to guide us. The prisoners refuse to dress or bathe, cover the walls of their cells with feces and pour urine into the hallways every night. They’re protesting in order to gain status as political prisoners, but without understanding why, all we can see is petulant criminals behaving like spoiled children, and average workers living in fear for their lives.

This first of three distinct sections is the ugliest and most rigidly formal, with McQueen’s shot compositions so fastidious that even the s$#!-smeared walls look like gallery installations. Still, by presenting such nasty material in an almost pretty way, the director succeeds in shaking up our preconceptions of what a film about this subject matter should look like. In the second section, Sands sits down for a long conversation with a priest, laying out in detail why he’s about to embark on a protest that he knows will likely kill him. After 45 minutes of ambiguity, this talky sequence (shot mostly in one long, uninterrupted two-shot) is a little jarring, but it provides the right amount of context for the final stretch, which depicts (again, with almost no dialogue) Sands’ descent into starvation and death.

Hunger is less a political statement than an exploration of human debasement and cruelty, and McQueen does a good job of showing the situation as horrible for all involved. Like most effective art, his film provokes a visceral reaction, but audiences recoiling in disgust may miss the social commentary behind it.

Available on DVD February 16.

Labels: Movies

posted by Josh at 4:45 AM
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Post by Admin on Mon Feb 15, 2010 7:17 pm

http://thehollywoodinterview.blogspot.com/2010/02/dvd-playhouse-february-2010.html

DVD PLAYHOUSE—FEBRUARY 2010
By
Allen Gardner

HUNGER (Criterion) Harrowing true story of imprisoned IRA member Bobby Sands (Michael Fassbender) and his 1981 hunger strike protesting the British government’s refusal to recognize him, and other IRA members as political prisoners. Director Steve McQueen delivers the story with true filmmaking panache, mixing startling imagery that blends both stunning beauty and stomach-churning horror. Fassbender is absolutely brilliant in the lead. Not for the faint-of-heart, but not to be missed or, particularly, ignored. Also available on Blu-ray disc. Bonuses: Interviews with McQueen and Fassbender; Short documentary; 1981 episode of BBC series “Panorama” that covers the IRA hunger strike; Trailer. Widescreen. DTS-HD audio on Blu-ray.
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Post by Admin on Wed Feb 17, 2010 6:42 pm

http://www.criterion.com/current/posts/1375

17Feb10
Hunger: On the Threshold BY CHRIS DARKE

HUNGER Michael Fassbender

The feature film debut of British artist Steve McQueen, Hunger dramatizes the final weeks in the life of Irish Republican Army commander Bobby Sands and his death by hunger strike, aged twenty-seven, in 1981. Combining intense formal control and extreme brutality, the film uncompromisingly pitches the viewer into the corridors and cells of Northern Ireland’s notorious Maze prison (also known as the H-Blocks), which hunger strikes made the focus of the British government’s war with the IRA. McQueen has spoken of how media images of Sands and his fellow prisoners burned themselves into his memory when he first saw them as an eleven-year-old in London. Being only a few years older than McQueen (who was born in 1968), I can confirm that he was not alone in being marked by images of these men: wrapped in blankets, their piercing eyes sunk in gaunt faces framed by matted hair, they had an ascetic otherness that was inescapably Christlike and unforgettable for a child of the time. We were told that these were “terrorists” and “criminals,” and the issue of political identity is at the heart of the events that Hunger so viscerally re-creates.

Britain’s colonial war in Ireland has received numerous cinematic treatments, ranging from epic biopics like Neil Jordan’s Michael Collins (1996) to films about specific events, such as Paul Greengrass’s Bloody Sunday (2002). Ken Loach has made three films on the subject, two on its early twentieth-century origins, Days of Hope (1975) and The Wind That Shakes the Barley (2006), and one addressing the decisive 1980s period, Hidden Agenda (1990). At least two other films have dealt with the hunger strikes—Terry George’s Some Mother’s Son (1996) and Les Blair’s H3 (2001)—but Hunger aims beyond the more conventional historical approaches of all of these. McQueen’s aesthetic is at once abstract and highly concentrated, creating an art movie with a flame of political fury at its heart. In its formal rigor, Alan Clarke’s made-for-TV Elephant (1989), a mute, brutal catalog of paramilitary killings, is perhaps the only comparable work (it also inspired Gus Van Sant’s 2003 film of the same name).

Hunger’s script, by Irish playwright Enda Walsh, only suggests the wider political context, so some background information is useful. The hunger strikes were an escalation of protests that had begun in 1976 in response to the rescindment of the Special Category Status of Republican inmates, meaning that they were no longer recognized as political prisoners but as regular criminals. Before Sands (Michael Fassbender) appears in the film, the actions that led to the hunger strikes are hinted at through other prisoners. A new inmate, Davey Gillen (Brian Milligan), is ordered by guards to strip naked, given a blanket, and incarcerated in a cell that the other occupant has smeared with feces—the film thereby swiftly establishing the “blanket” protest (Republican prisoners demanded the right not to wear prison clothing) and the “no wash” protest, in which, in response to attacks on inmates during “slopping out” (getting rid of their waste in the morning), prisoners refused to bathe and daubed their cells with excrement.

Given so little exposition, the viewer is thus thrown headlong into the harshness of the H-Blocks, where beatings and torture are routine. With the exceptions of a prologue in which a prison guard, Raymond Lohan (Stuart Graham), prepares to leave home for work—bathing his bruised knuckles and checking his car for explosives—and a later scene in which an IRA man executes him, the outside world barely intrudes upon the penal one that is the work’s focus. And despite the film’s clear politics, that opening sequence is a sympathetic look at “the other side” that declares a certain evenhandedness, expressing the film’s intention to neither heroize nor demonize, as are later shots of a tearful young policeman traumatized by the brutal beatings he and his fellow cops mete out to naked prisoners. But the prologue can also be read for its spatial conception: the outside world seen as a carceral antechamber, with imprisonment as a metaphor for occupation. During the first third of the film, McQueen details the squalid conditions and the inmates’ painstaking efforts to outwit their captors: for example, turning leftover food into strips of moldable mush, which they use to channel urine into the prison corridors. Prisoners and their loved ones alike employ any bodily orifice to secrete messages and communication devices, turning the intimacy of visiting time into an orgy of surreptitious exchanges. One image in particular stands out. A prison guard wearing protective clothing enters a cell to spray it clean and is confronted by an extraordinary sight: a spiral smeared in s$#! covers the entire wall. McQueen frames this cloacal vortex like an abject work of art, and as much as it expresses the prisoners’ defiance, it also asserts the filmmaker’s own background.

A standout of the so-called YBA, or Young British Artists, generation, which came to prominence in the 1990s (and whose knowing fusion of conceptualism and self-promotion succeeded overall in producing more column inches than notable artworks), McQueen has been honored with the prestigious Turner Prize, in 1999, and with representing Britain at the Venice Biennale, in 2009. His interest in cinema was apparent in the minimalist moving-image pieces for which he became known, such as the silent, black-and-white Deadpan (1997), a restaging of a Buster Keaton stunt in which a house collapses around the impassive artist. In this and other experimental works, such as Bear (1993) and Drumroll (1998), McQueen studiously avoided dealing with narrative, producing films intended for the self-referential context of the contemporary art gallery. While many of his better-known peers, such as Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin, and Sam Taylor-Wood, have also made forays into film and video, McQueen is the first to break through to big-screen narrative cinema, and he’s done it with shocking confidence in Hunger. Also, in broaching the politically charged subject matter of the Irish hunger strikes, McQueen has further distinguished himself from his British art-world contemporaries, whose work has generally lacked sociopolitical urgency.

The film’s most intensely political moment is also its centerpiece: an exchange between Sands and a Catholic priest (Liam Cunningham). Twenty-three minutes long, much of it shot in a single take, this riveting scene shows the two men sizing each other up over shared cigarettes, engaging in cut-and-thrust banter, and debating the morality of the suicidal course Sands is about to embark on. As if in homage to similar scenes in Loach’s The Wind That Shakes the Barley and his Spanish Civil War film, Land and Freedom (1995), this meaty session of dialectics shifts Hunger’s focus from its hitherto fragmentary depiction of detail to the establishment of Sands as the central figure of the film and the Republican struggle alike.

The priest berates Sands by charging “You’re writing your name large for the history books,” urging negotiation with the authorities and accusing him of no longer knowing the value of a human life. Sands responds obliquely, relating his sense of leadership through an anecdote about his boyhood, when, as a cross-country runner, he and some other boys came upon an injured foal, and he was the only one capable of putting the creature out of its misery. While in prison, Sands wrote poetry and journalism, and here we are given a picture of him as an intelligent, utterly committed individual, a self-described “political theorist” who regards himself as a soldier above all. This anecdote returns as a flashback in the final third of the film, when Sands is shown wasting away. This section is a grueling depiction of the terminal course of action that claimed the lives of Sands and nine other hunger strikers. Fassbender lost a great deal of weight to authentically convey the last stages of Sands’s life, and his emaciation adds to the bleak, hushed atmosphere as his boyhood memories of the countryside surge forth in images of birds wheeling and scattering in the sky, foreshadowing his soul’s departure. These visuals are poetic and transcendent, no doubt, but they also represent the most definitive kind of “jailbreak” imaginable in what is, after all, a prison movie.

In the secret diary he kept for the first seventeen days of his sixty-six-day hunger strike, Sands wrote, “I am standing on the threshold of another trembling world.” Hunger takes us to that threshold and looks on with awed horror as Sands crosses over. But he and his comrades also contributed to the creation of a new political reality. During his strike, Sands was elected to the British parliament, and although Margaret Thatcher’s government refused throughout to meet the prisoners’ demands (provoking international outrage), the hunger strikes radicalized nationalist politics and enabled Sinn Féin, the IRA’s political wing, to become a mainstream party, demonstrating that the Republicans indeed possessed a popular mandate, and preparing the way for the peace process that culminated in the Belfast Agreement of 1998.

Hunger was received with great critical enthusiasm, winning several major prizes, including the prestigious Caméra d’Or at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival. Its reception in the British press was almost unanimously approving, which was somewhat surprising given that the film leaves little doubt about where McQueen’s sympathies lie, despite his avoidance of idolizing his protagonist. The director was also careful to stress in interviews that he did not see the film as “political” (which, of course, it is) but as having to do with the pressures forced on individuals by the political situations that governments create. Through a combination of visceral power and formal conviction, the film achieves its aim of putting the viewer in the cells alongside the inmates. And while Hunger deals with a specific moment in Anglo-Irish history, its images of incarceration and torture cannot help but recall the more contemporary examples of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay—a wider resonance served by the film’s slight contextualization of the events it depicts. In its fury at torture and political imprisonment, Hunger is both a historical film and one very much of its time.
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Post by Admin on Sat Feb 20, 2010 5:30 am

http://tlands.blogspot.com/2010/02/hunger-2008.html

Thursday, February 18, 2010
Hunger (2008)

"Hunger"
Starring: Michael Fassbender
Rating: A-

One can literally breathe in the stench of fecal matter and human decay present in Steve McQueen's Hunger. The film chronicles the final days of the true life hunger strikes circa 1981 Northern Ireland. Most notably, the film follows one man's internal struggle and hope for future generations through the act. Michael Fassbender plays Bobby Sands, the leader of the strike who eventually died after 66 days of starvation.

The stunning revelation of this project is that it's McQueen's directorial debut. He brings his eye as an artist and fills each frame with cinematic brilliance. Hunger literally brings the viewer into the prison and has them observe the day to day happenings, none are pleasant. It's technically flawless, but contains no such conventional narrative, we don't even meet Sands until a third or more into the picture. It's a short film, just over 90 minutes, but McQueen's vision couldn't have been delivered more strikingly.

As the film opens, we meet a middle aged Maze prison guard, we watch him view his entire being in the mirror before eating breakfast, something is urking at him. Just before he leaves for work, he checks beneath his car for explosives. This first act of following this man and getting to know his world suggests that the film won't be an easy watch. The 2nd act consists of a new prisoner at Maze, his cell has walls covered in the feces of his cellmate, who resembles Charles Manson in stature. We watch these two men's day-day activities. They know how to communicate via small parcels of paper to the outside world, and when one is suspected of something, he is beaten by a dozen or so officers. The third act is about Sands' martyrdom, and that brutal decay of his body that follows.

My admiration for Hunger extends past the idea that film has its own originality and identity that surpasses other "prison" films. I'm not even sure that you would classify this as the latter term; it exists as an in the moment piece of beauty. The images and movements of the picture are based upon minimal dialogue, and long takes, one includes a 20 minute conversation between Sands and a priest. This conversation sets in place the motives of Sands' plan.

The film presents political ideas, but it's not the direction that McQueen chooses to center on. The political messages and beliefs of the strikers are the basis for the film, but the real art is how McQueen presents this material. There is little dialogue, especially in the beginning and end segments, this matters very little considering how entranced we are with the photography and the silent performances.

Labels: Hunger

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Post by Admin on Sun Feb 21, 2010 1:59 am

http://awardsdailyforums.com/showthread.php?t=20711

Hunger (McQueen, 2008)
Just got done watching the film, and though, difficult to keep my eyes on the screen during some of the more grim sequences I loved it quite a bit. I just have a few thoughts of my immediate reaction to the film, but I figured I would make a thread considering the new Criterion release, and many others are probably seeing the film for the first time as well.

I can't believe this is a feature film debut, and has to be one of the strongest ones we've seen in the past few years, and it's a story that makes you so angry that it's based on true events.

I appreciated Steve McQueen's reliance on visuals in expressing the story, and we've seen prison injustice films before, but I'm glad he decided not portray the police force as cartoonish villains with scenery chewing dialogue, but simply and starkly focused on the physical abuse and trauma of the prisoners. It makes the film all the more powerful and moving. The use of sound cannot be ignored either as the repetitious sounds of the police batons striking the inmates only heighten the ugly images of injustice. As does the use of silence heightening the despair of these individuals. The dialogue is quite sparse except for the somewhat jarring, but brilliant 20 or so minute sequence in the center of the film where Michael Fassbender's Bobby Sands and the priest debate the best way to make political and social change.

The scenes of police brutality are harrowing as are the image of confinement in the most foul and wretched of prison cells. Also, considering I have a big fear of human body deformity seeing Sands follow through on his hunger strike, and hear what is happening to his body in the process was just as uncomfortable for me to watch.

This is something hopefully everyone will seek out now that's available on dvd.
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Post by Admin on Sun Feb 21, 2010 6:20 pm

http://www.abfilms.org.uk/?p=296

Thursday, 25 February 2010
HUNGER

UK/Ireland 2008 92 minutes Cert. 15

The film opens with a shot of the washing of a pair of bruised hands, which belong to a warder, Lohan, from the Maze prison preparing for a day’s work. Pontius Pilate or Lady Macbeth ? His obsessive silent scrutiny of his surroundings before leaving home eloquently sets the mood of fear and distrust.

This film, which centres on the death of IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands in May 1981, does not attempt to glamorise or justify the violent acts of the terrorists, but neither does it demonize the British. There is very little narrative apart from the scene between the disapproving priest and Sands, a scene which is one continuous shot between the two men in profile, an eerie echo of Bergman’s The Seventh Seal. Instead we are left to observe for ourselves the terrible strain that violence imposed on Ulster, both inside and beyond the prison walls. There have been several precedents for hunger strikes, such as the suffragettes pre-WW1 and Gandhi in the 1930s but martyrdom is a concept that most of us find uncomfortable to deal with. It is a deliberate choice to use the human body as the ultimate weapon in a struggle for political change. “McQueen’s movie … paints the hunger strike as tragic but quite without tragic grandeur. It shows how dysfunctional and despairing the whole remorseless process was.” Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian.

Hunger is the feature debut of Steve McQueen, British artist and 1999 Turner Prize winner for a video piece inspired by Buster Keaton. He was an official war artist in Iraq, and later campaigned to have portraits of fallen soldiers on postage stamps. This background has produced a film full of intense images and visual richness which we the viewers must observe and interpret for ourselves. Michael Fassbender is outstanding as Sands, he lost 18 kg in order to play the role.

“A deeply moving work of considerable moral complexity” Philip French , The Observer.

“…[restores] faith in cinema’s ability to cover history free from the bounds of texts and personalities. It’s not an easy watch – but it’s an invigorating one. Long live McQueen.” Dave Calhoun, Time Out.

Bobby Sands - Michael Fassbender
Father Moran - Liam Cunningham
Raymond Lohan - Stuart Graham
Davey Gillen - Brian Milligan

Director - Steve McQueen
Screenplay - Steve McQueen, Enda Walsh
Cinematography - Sean Bobbitt
Producers - Laura Hastings-Smith, Robin Gutch
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Post by Admin on Mon Feb 22, 2010 3:43 am

http://walshwords.wordpress.com/2010/02/22/hunger-a-no-holds-barred-and-honest-prison-sentence/

Walsh Words
‘Hunger’ A No Holds Barred and Honest Prison Sentence
Posted in Film Review by Michael Walsh on February 22, 2010

There’s an honest truth seeping through the pores of Steve McQueen’s debut film Hunger.

The 2008 Irish film details the events of a 1981 hunger strike led by IRA member Bobby Sands, among other things such as the harsh treatment given to them in jail.

McQueen pulls absolutely no punches with in this visionary effort. For a first time filmmaker, this bold move pays off wonderfully, as Hunger is a truly impressive representation of what the lives of these men must have been like.

Speaking through the lens with complete honesty, McQueen’s visual efforts are aided by a remarkable and engaging performance by Michael Fassbender as Bobby Sands, the leader of the hunger strike. Fassbender went on a medically monitored crash diet to accurately portray Sands, and the results are truly frightening.

With such dedication to his work and the authentic and startling performance that comes of it, it’s tough to see how Fassbender flew under the radar in 2008. His performance is equally as great, if not better, than the lot nominated for best male actor at that year’s Academy Awards. Fassbender injects so much heart and soul into his captivating performance and the result is a lasting impression of Sands’ never break mantra.

Also of great notice is a nearly 17 minute uncut scene where Fassbender’s character discusses his upcoming plan for a hunger strike with the prison’s priest. For such a long scene of two men simply sitting, smoking and having a real conversation without any camera cuts, it’s absolutely engaging. And this lengthy scene is only proof that this film, which is often quiet and subtle as far as spoken word is concerned, was strongly and smartly written by McQueen and co-writer Enda Walsh.

There are moments in McQueen’s film where sequences are drawn out to the fullest to show how arduous, repetitive and often vicious both working and being held in prison can be. McQueen doesn’t hold back when detailing the brutal nature of prison guards or the often disgusting protests the IRA prisoners put into action.

The result of McQueen’s effort is an often brutal and vicious attack on its viewers. The film really packs a punch through visuals and sympathy-inducing performances from a terrific cast. Whether you indulge in that sympathy is up to you, as the film sometimes feels pro-IRA. But even so, this is by far one of the more terrifying non-horror based films I’ve seen lately. It’s simply such a bold and out there film that isn’t afraid to tell all and show all.

The deep and dark cells of McQueen’s constructed prison is a disturbing 96 minute sentence handed out to each and every viewer of Hunger, as they must withstand the visual and aural pain that the rock-hard Sands and company dealt with on a day-to-day basis.
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Post by Admin on Tue Feb 23, 2010 4:26 pm

http://mumpsimus.blogspot.com/2010/02/double-feature-hunger-and-endgame.html

23 February 2010
Double Feature: Hunger and Endgame

[Hunger]

Hunger and Endgame offer two different approaches to representing history with narrative film, and the differences are such that a comparison may be unfair to Endgame, a film of minor accomplishments that quickly fades from memory, while Hunger, whatever you ultimately make of it, contains many scenes that are difficult to forget.

The actual events of the two films are only a few years apart: Hunger focuses on the 1981 hunger strikes by prisoners in Northern Ireland, and particularly the death of Bobby Sands; Endgame portrays the secret negotiations in the late 1980s between representatives of the African National Congress (particularly Thabo Mbeki) and the ruling Afrikaners of South Africa. The films work hard to portray the humanity of both sides of their conflicts, as if the filmmakers' greatest fear is to be condemned as biased or propagandistic. Yet their sympathies are so clearly on one side that the effort seems mostly token -- in Hunger (a movie with many virtues to overcome its limitations), the occasional moments where we are reminded that the prison guards are not all unfeeling monsters, and that some of them even have mothers and wives and daughters they love (yes, all women -- women in such movies exist so men can appear sensitive), are all overpowered by the scenes of prison cells decorated with feces, of prisoners being beaten, of Bobby Sands starving to death. The only comparably visceral moment with a guard happens when one's brains get shot into his senile mum's lap, but by that point we've seen him beat Sands senseless, and the only thing rousing any real sympathy in us is the power of the image: an old woman staring off into a world of her own, her son's blood splattered on her face and seeping into her clothes.

With one large and notable exception (a long scene of Sands and a priest talking, mostly conveyed via a 17-minute shot during which the camera doesn't move), it is the imagery that drives Hunger and provides its distinction. This is perhaps unsurprising, given that the director, Steve McQueen, is best known as a visual artist (including art films and installations). Endgame mostly lacks visual distinction, and its cinematography is often of the hand-held verité style that should now come with the warning label, "Sorry, we couldn't think of any better way to remind you that this is Stuff That Really Happened." One of effects of Hunger's stylistic originality is to remind us that an overly-familiar style is nothing more than an overly-familiar style, and that verisimilitude and visceral emotional effect do not rely on, and in fact may be undermined by, such a style.

Endgame's fundamental weakness, though, is its script, which could charitably be called serviceable, and which might more accurately be said to take fascinating, complex characters and situations and reduce them to plywood cut-outs. The problems would be even more obvious were the cast not as strong as it is -- Chiwetel Ejiofor, John Kani, Clarke Peters, and Derek Jacobi are all magnificent actors, and William Hurt is oddly watchable, though in every movie I see him in, I always wonder if he's recovering from a concussion. Ejiofor got nominated for a Golden Globe for playing Mbeki, and he perhaps deserved the nomination for being able to give some depth to the character without any help from the writer (or maybe for being able, unlike William Hurt, to be mostly convincing with a South African accent).

You'll learn more about the end of apartheid by reading even the most basic book about the subject (or a single article about the specific situation of the film), and you'll feel your way into the history more through a movie such as Amandla! (I have yet to see a feature film about the apartheid struggle as powerful and entertaining as that documentary). Hunger reminds us that while art may be an inefficient way to convey information, it is has other virtues. You'll learn more about the facts and context of the hunger strikes by reading a short encyclopedia entry, but a statement of the facts of, for instance, the "dirty protest" will not convey the feeling of it with the power of the first sequences of Hunger. The production design is so rich, the camera so unflinching, that in some moments it feels like all our senses are being assaulted, not merely our sight and hearing.


Hunger is interesting structurally, too. Where Endgame is a predictable tale of people learning to "overcome their differences" and to respect and care for each other (and in its determined even-handedness sometimes creates the impression that anti-apartheid violence was the equal of the violence committed by the apartheid system), Hunger confounds expectations far more often than not. It does so first with the minimal dialogue and nearly complete lack of exposition in the (roughly speaking) first half hour. Some opening titles situate us a bit, but that's it, and if you know nothing of the dirty protests or this particular period in the history of Irish-English relations, you will have only the vaguest idea of what is happening and why. And that's fine, because what you will have is a reaction to the events and setting. The actions and scenery, removed from any purpose or meaning, are our entry to the film. Deep knowledge of the characters is also kept away -- we know, at most, their names and their place in the situation (some are guards, some are prisoners). We know one of the guards has a family, that he checks his car for explosives before he drives it, and that the knuckles of one of his hands are scabbed and bruised. That's the most we learn about any character's background for quite a while, because what the viewer is invited to do at first is simply to observe.

Words don't matter much in the film until the scene with Bobby Sands (Michael Fassbender) and Father Dominic Moran (Liam Cunningham). All the sensual stimulation of the previous scenes grinds to a halt: we watch two men sit at a table and talk to each other. The camera does not move and characters barely do. They begin with small talk, then discuss strategy: the effectiveness and morality of a hunger strike. Our focus is not only on their words, but their determination and commitment -- both men feel deeply and passionately about what they are discussing, and it is clear from early in the conversation that they will not convince the other of their view. The words are helpful in that they provide ideas and context, but the scene, for all its talk, is still fundamentally visual: because it is so static, small movements and changes are magnified.


The corollary for this scene (in my mind, at least) is one other: a long take of a guard cleaning a corridor of urine with a pushbroom. Within moments, we know what is going on in the scene, and we register that it's a dirty job, but long after we have recognized this, we are still in the scene. The sound of the broom's sharp bristles against the hard floor echoes louder and louder. Slowly, methodically, the guard keeps pushing the puddles of urine down the corridor. The effect is a sort of sensory deprivation -- the only change in the image is the movement of the guard, and the sound remains steady, rhythmic, grating. No speculation about what such a scene "means" is as illuminating as the simple experience of the scene itself. It is another element contributing to the immersive aesthetic of the movie.

After the long conversation between Sands and Father Moran, we are plunged once again into a mostly-wordless world. The rest of the film portrays Sands's hunger strike and starvation. It is a wrenching and physical portrayal that is as religious in its iconography as it is political in its topic -- call it The Passion of Bobby Sands. Finally, the viewer exits Sands's body along with him, entering his dying reverie, one not of ideological argument or political autonomy but of birds and childhood, those clichés of innocence. In such a moment, clichés offer something originality does not: communion with everyone else who has ever dreamed such things.
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Post by Admin on Thu Feb 25, 2010 4:38 am

http://www.scrubbles.net/2010/02/21/weekly-mishmash-february-14-20/

Hunger (2008). Great film about the brutal treatment of IRA members in the early ’80s British prison system, culminating in the two month hunger strike of resistance leader Bobby Sands (brilliantly played by actor Michael Fassbender). Director Steve McQueen crafted this film into an impressionistic mood piece that gradually draws the viewer in. The approach works infinitely better than it would have been with strict, straightforward storytelling. The film is filled with static shots of things like the prisoners’ feces-smeared cell walls, ugly things that look strangely beautiful in this setting. The gradual deterioration of Fassbender’s body fits into that milieu, as well. I was puzzled as to why McQueen focused on a prison guard, then an average prisoner, then Sands in the course of the film. It may have made more sense to have it centered around a few characters throughout — nonetheless, this film is an uneasy, unforgettable experience.
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Post by Admin on Thu Feb 25, 2010 2:16 pm

http://www.philstar.com/Article.aspx?articleId=552907&publicationSubCategoryId=84

The hunger artist
EMOTIONAL WEATHER REPORT By Jessica Zafra (The Philippine Star) Updated February 26, 2010 12:00 AM

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Irish republican Bobby Sands (Michael Fassbender) ends his life through a hunger strike at Maze prison in ‘80s Northern Ireland in the film Hunger, which nabbed a best picture and best first feature prize from Toronto critics.

Hunger is a film about the imprisoned Irish Republican Army (IRA) member Bobby Sands, who in 1981 went on a 66-day hunger strike in an attempt to force the British government to recognize him and his fellow IRA members as political prisoners. It is the first feature by the British visual artist Steve McQueen (not the late American star), winner of the Turner Prize in 1999. His previous films include Deadpan, a re-staging of the scene from the Buster Keaton movie in which a house collapses around him, and Drumroll, made with three cameras mounted on an oil drum which the artist rolled up and down the streets of New York City.

McQueen’s stark, economical style gives Hunger a visceral power: this is a film to be viewed with all the senses. You feel the cold in the cell blocks of Northern Ireland’s infamous Maze Prison, smell the filth smeared on the walls, taste the pages of the Bible that the prisoners smoke in lieu of cigarettes. Towards the end, when Sands’ body has shriveled from starvation, the horror is mingled with a strange euphoria. Hunger is a movie about Sands that is not really about the IRA or the Troubles in Ireland, but about human beings and how much they can take.

We don’t even see Bobby Sands (Michael Fassbender) until half an hour has elapsed, and when we do there is no announcement that the main protagonist has arrived. The film begins during the “blanket” and “dirty” protests of the imprisoned IRA members — they refused to wear the prison uniforms, so they went naked, wrapped only in blankets; they were not allowed to use the lavatory unless they were clothed, so they... didn’t use the lavatory. British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher appears only as a disembodied voice reiterating her government’s refusal to accord political status to the prisoners.

The story unfolds in a series of arresting images: a prison guard plunging his scraped and bloody knuckles into the sink; streams of urine seeping under the cell doors and flowing onto the corridor; a man in a hazmat suit turning a high-pressure hose on a mandala-like painting on the wall, which you realize is made of excrement. These images are so perfectly composed and framed, they become beautiful despite their subject matter.

Though Hunger clearly sympathizes with Sands and even portrays him as a Christ-like figure, there is no out-and-out villain in this piece. The government is a distant entity and its enforcers, the prison guards, are regarded with compassion. Violence brutalizes everyone, even the man meting it out. Not that the prisoners were pacifists themselves; their comrades on the outside continued to commit acts of violence, including the murder of many prison guards. In one scene, a good-looking young riot policeman is being trucked to the prison to quell another protest; he’s so nervous, he looks like he’s about to throw up. As the riot police beat on their shields he lets out a scream of fear and rage that is barely heard above the clangor.

The first act is almost a silent film; the second is all talk. A priest (Liam Cunningham) visits Bobby Sands, they shoot the breeze, and then Sands reveals his decision to go on hunger strike. He knows that he will probably die. The priest calls his plan suicide, and for 20 minutes they have a spirited argument about the morality of the hunger strike. This amazing scene happens in a single take: the camera does not blink as the two men do battle with words. Hunger shows the different kinds of violence and this is one of them, polite but no less ferocious.

The stripped-down intensity of the film comes as no surprise to viewers familiar with McQueen’s work, but the quality of the performances he gets from his cast is astonishing. This is the first time the artist has worked with actors, and he has the assurance of a filmmaker who knows exactly what he’s doing.

In the third act we watch Bobby Sands wasting away. It’s become a cliché to praise actors for undergoing physical transformations in aid of a performance; Michael Fassbender’s transformation is such a performance. His character is too weak to speak; he drifts in and out of consciousness. He remembers running through the woods as a boy, exulting in the open air; his final act is a desperate striving for that freedom. No matter how one feels about the hunger strike, this is not just a stunt to elicit pity or publicity. Death by starvation is probably the worst thing that can happen to the human body. It’s more terrible than the beatings in the prison, and he does it to himself. He has made his body a weapon.

Films of this nature usually leave the viewer feeling depressed and morbid, but after seeing Hunger I felt oddly elated. The noises of traffic, pandemonium on the street, people rushing about all seemed like a kind of poetry. Hunger is a film about death, but all you can think about is life.
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Post by Admin on Sat Feb 27, 2010 12:57 am

http://envo.blogspot.com/2010/02/hunger.html

Friday, February 26, 2010
HUNGER ****

Hearing Margaret Thatcher's voice gives me as much pleasure as hearing Kissinger's voice but I guess it was quite necessary for the film to include of few Iron lady statements to put things in context. Hunger is not a political film, it doesn't spell out the Irish conflict (assuming it is possible) that took place in the eighties but it does explain why Bobby Sands and ten of his fellow prisoners chose the hunger strike -that eventually killed them- as a "negotiation" tool. The problem (my problem) with Hunger is its graphic violence. The long scene where Bobby (amazing Michael Fassbender) sits with a priest and explains why he is going to die, comes as a relief, which is ironic... Hunger's scenes of torture and violence are 100% justified though, for the reality at Long Kesh's prison was worse than its cinematographic representation. We don't have to deal with the smell and the hours, days, months, years spent there by members of the Irish Republican Army and whether you call them soldiers, terrorists, patriots, activists has nothing to do with it. Torture is torture, violence is violence, acts of cruelty are unacceptable and that is the point of Hunger. Without the words, it is the treatment inflicted to human beings that matters... it is what makes us "human" or not!
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Post by Admin on Sat Feb 27, 2010 6:41 am

http://chriskinghorn.blogspot.com/2010/02/hunger.html

Monday, 22 February 2010
Hunger


Tonight I watched the film Hunger for the second time since I got the DVD a couple of years ago. Hunger is one of few films about the 1981 hunger strike in the Maze prison in Ireland in which ten prisoners died. This particular film focuses on Bobby Sands, the leader of the hunger strike and the first to die. The film was released in 2008 and won numerous awards such as a BAFTA and other awards at film festivals like Cannes.

It's a very arty film. It doesn't follow a lot of the conventions of other films. For example, there is a sixteen and a half minute shot where the camera doesn't move at all and focuses entirely on a conversation between Sands and the prison chaplain. Other scenes are very visual and have no dialogue but a strong use of imagery instead. In the first ten or fifteen minutes of the film hardly a word is said but this is quite effective, I think. One of the first shots of the film shows a prison warder in his home in the morning dipping his hands into a sink full of water. He is clearly in pain at the time which evokes sympathy from the audience. A similar sequence is then repeated not long after however, this time his knuckles are bloody and bruised from having just beat up a number of prisoners.

I had a brief conversation with Harry about the film a few months ago in which she said she didn't like the film or its director Steve McQueen because she thought it glorified Sands and the hunger strikers. I don't really agree with this at all. The film is actually very unbiased, I find. It refuses to take sides and I think for the most part shows what actually happened without trying to glamourise or dilute the truth in any way.

As with any historical film, there will always be small inaccuracies and many of the characters are fictional representations. There is a scene where some of the prisoners are attending Mass in a communal area and all the while the priest is speaking the prisoners are all talking to each other over the top and drowning him out. This scene, I think, was included deliberately by McQueen to show that the conflict in Ireland is not a religious one and that although British propaganda paints it as a sectarian war, the IRA's war is against the British occupation of Ireland. However, factually, although a lot of prisoners were probably not deeply religious, scenes like the raucous behaviour at Mass wouldn't really have happened.

For me the film was a little short and lacking in a lot of detail about other events that were happening at the time. The fact that Sands was elected as a member of parliament during the time of his hunger strike is completely omitted from the film and the only mention of it is at the title cards at the end. The story itself seemed to lack quite a lot and at times it seemed like more of a graphical and artistic depiction of the conditions in the H-Blocks rather than a strong narratively driven film about the hunger strikes. The first time I watched it I can remember being quite surprised when it ended as it seemed to miss out so many important details and almost glaze over everything else that was happening during the hunger strike.

It's most certainly not a nice film to watch. In fact many parts are disgusting and brutal. It's not a film you would sit down and watch with the family and it's not really enjoyable viewing most of the time. However it is very well filmed and a lot of work went into it. Michael Fassbender for example, the actor who played Sands, went on a crash diet of ten weeks and lost about fourteen kilograms in order to make the film look truly authentic. Some of the images are quite shocking but this is intended of course and I think overall, Hunger does a good job of portraying the conditions of the H-Blocks in 1981.
Posted by Chris Kinghorn at 22:18
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Post by Admin on Thu Mar 04, 2010 12:23 am

http://justanotherego.blogspot.com/2010/03/starving.html

Wednesday, 3 March 2010
Starving.
How lucky were we to get two incredible films by acclaimed artists in one year? Pretty damn lucky. Le Scaphandre Et Le Papillon was a brilliant third film from Julian Schnabel, which I loved, but Steve McQueen's Hunger probably edges it out for me as my favourite of the two, one of my favourite films of the last decade, and rewatching it the other day confirmed it for me.

The film is about the IRA hunger strikes of the early 1980s amongst prisoners of The Maze, the notorious Northern Irish prison. Hunger starts with a new prisoner entering The Maze during a protest in which the prisoners refused to wear prison clothing and refused to wash. Beaten, tortured, searched, abused regularly, the prisoners, protesting for political prisoner status, put themselves through further hell, smearing their walls in their own s$#!, collecting urine and pouring it into the corridors, pouring the food they are given into corners of their cells where they grow maggot-infested and putrefy. Hardly a word is spoken as McQueen allows us to see the steadfast determination mixed with the desperation of this paramilitary subset so full of belief in themselves they will willingly create a world so despicable as to be next door to hell.

Into this prison comes Bobby Sands (Michael Fassbender), a leader among them, solidifying their resistance with his sanctioned hunger strike. Recognising that their current policies are not winning them any favours, he leads the men on this exercise of starvation, seeing the flaws in previous hunger strikes and working out a way to allow it succeed this time. Where before all prisoners had gone on strike simultaneously, thereby meaning a single person failing destroys the entire resolve, Sands determines that they will instead go on strike one by way, spaced apart. Therefore, one man's lack of resolve is bolstered by the support of those around him, still waiting for their turn to strike. One chink won't undermine the whole plan. Instead, others will be there to patch up the chink, to sew it up and push it forward. Yes, as pointed out by Sands' priest Father Dominic Moran (Liam Cunningham), it is effectively suicide. In order to try and make progress with the English captors, Sands and his cohorts are willing to die, to deprive themselves of food to try and show their seriousness, convinced that their show of conviction will convince those with the power, and those behind the ones with power, that is, the people, that they are so serious about their perceived status that they are willing to die for it. Not only are they willing to die for it, they're willing to commit what, as Catholics, is a cardinal sin.

Hunger is a heavy film. It is very, very heavy. It is not easy to watch these prisoners put themselves through the hell that they do. It is not easy watching them thrown naked from their cells, beaten by riot police, searched and probed by police officers. It is not easy watching Sands starve himself and slowly die (this isn't a spoiler, as I assume the story is well enough known...), watching his parents mourn at his bedside at the same time as believing in his motivation, watching his hunger-induced hallucinations as his body wastes away to nothing. But it is, somehow, beautiful. Gaspingly beautiful. In amongst the faeces and the blood and dirt and the overwhelming lack of real hope on a day by day basis, McQueen gives us momentary fragments of light and happiness, simple as they may be. While maggots crawl on the hands of his cellmate, a prisoner jerks off to a smuggled in picture of a girl. Prisoners and their families and friends smuggle in cigarettes and even a radio to allow them a glimpse of the outside world. People love and are loved and believe in their cause so strongly as to deprive themselves of everything. And as desperate as that seems, it is beautiful.

Fassbender is amazing in what was his stunning breakout role. One of the most talked about scenes is the sixteen and a half minute shot of him and Cunningham talking in a visiting room, and it is worth talking about. The two sit at a table, across from each other, and McQueen has such faith, and their performances have such strength, that when the shot ends you feel like you have been holding your breath the entire time. And then he follows on shortly after with an epic close up on Fassbender's face again, a long monologue, a powerful and bold statement of conviction. But it is as much the intimate closeups on tiny little things, on the minutiae that is probably the only focus and distraction for our protagonists that provide the humanity of the picture, the beauty. The simplicity. The intimacy. It is this as much as the drama that binds us, the audience, to these characters.

McQueen does venture into enemy territory, as it were, with a subplot concerning a prison guard Raymond Lohan (Stuart Graham), checking under his car for bombs, trying to maintain a normal life when his is so often under direct threat from supporters of those he is doing such cruelty to. In some ways this could be seen as similar to the treatment of Hitler in Oliver Hirshbiegel's Der Untergang, attempting to humanise him in order that you understand that this is real, this is not some two headed monster from a fairy tale but could quite easily have been your neighbour growing up. But it's also about showing the duality and the vicious senselessness of this war that wasn't a war in the sense that Hitler vs The World was a war. This is ideology, this is religion, this is so much more than politics and ego. And in a war like that there are no winners, only losers. On both sides there is so much death, so much destruction, and do Sands' troops get their demands? Not in so many words. Like all, they settle to stop the dying. It's not a win, but it's something.

5 stars and my infinite recommendations.
Posted by R-Co at 20:17
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Post by Admin on Thu Mar 04, 2010 12:32 am

http://alejandrabarrerasblog.monhappyblog.com/2010/03/03/hunger-2008/

Hunger (2008)

Michael Fassbender as Bobby Sands
Michael Fassbender as IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands

Originator:

The Australian


Hunger (MA15+) 4½ stars Limited native release HUNGER is a unreservedly upsetting steam about real events that occurred in Maze house of detention in Northern Ireland in 1981, when a group of IRA prisoners thirsting for themselves to death.

The director is Steve McQueen, a contemporary British artist and documentary filmmaker. Many will remember the other Steve McQueen, who starred in The Great Escape, for me the best example of prison drama as a source of pure entertainment. Hunger may the best example of prison drama as a revelation of hell on earth.

Its hero is a young prisoner called Bobby Sands, memorably played by Michael Fassbender. But it's some time before we see him. Like many of the best prison films, Hunger looks at life from the viewpoint of prisoners and captors; and the truism that all are trapped in the same dehumanising cycle of brutality and desperation is brought home with devastating power. Inevitably, Hunger will be compared with Standard Operating Procedure, this year's film by Errol Morris about the interrogation of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad. But while Morris's film was essentially a documentary investigation into the behaviour of the US military, Hunger has the hallucinatory quality of storytelling. It is a nightmare, realised with a poet's intensity of vision and an artist's unsparing eye. This is what life was like on both sides of the bars in the infamous H Blocks at Maze.

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In an early scene we see the domestic routine of a warder, Raymond Lohan (Stuart Graham). Disillusioned by his work, Lohan lives in fear of his life. He has a comfortable house in a bleak suburb of Belfast and begins the day with a hearty breakfast. Leaving for work, he looks under his car for explosives, and in breaks at work he likes to smoke alone in the prison yard, shunning his more boisterous mates.

Inside, all is chaos. Prisoners are rioting or staging one of the their many forms of passive protest. Some refuse to wash. Davey Gillen (Brian Milligan) refuses to wear prison clothes. When he's stripped and offered clownish civilian gear as a token concession, other prisoners riot in protest. This disturbance, like all others, is put down with brutal beatings, prisoners being forced to run or crawl past rows of officers with riot shields raining blows on naked bodies.

These were the years of the the Troubles, the deadly insurgency in which thousands died in IRA bombings and retaliatory strikes by Ulster loyalists. McQueen insists on the political context of his story and, perhaps not surprisingly, his sympathies are republican. But the political background is never laboured or intrusive. IRA suspects had been interned without trial in Northern Ireland since 1971, leading to the horrors of January 30, 1972, when British troops killed 13 people at a civil rights march in Derry (the subject of Paul Greengrass's startling 2002 film Bloody Sunday). One of the demands of the IRA was a special status for political prisoners — a demand resisted by Margaret Thatcher. Once or twice in McQueen's film we hear Thatcher coldly laying down the law in voice-over: "There is no such thing as political violence or political murder. There is only criminal violence and criminal murder. We will not compromise …"

So life at Maze went on: riots one day, beatings the next, at least one horrific assassination, staged with shocking unexpectedness. McQueen catches the numbing tedium of life in barren cells, where even a fly on a window grille can provide a semblance of companionship.

For other prisoners, excrement mixed with food scraps and smeared on cell walls can be shaped into abstract patterns like crude works of art (until officers scrape and hose it off). A lucky prisoner may keep in touch with the outside world with a tiny radio, smuggled to him inside his girlfriend's vagina and handed over during visiting hours.

Into this cauldron of violence and despair comes Bobby Sands, burning with idealistic fire. Even before his hunger strike he looks like a wiry, half-emaciated creature, rolling his illicit smokes with pages torn from the Bible. With his sallow, bearded face and strands of lank hair, it's possible that McQueen intended him to have a Christ-like countenance. But soon he's forcibly scrubbed and shaven, and confides his plan for a hunger strike to Father Moran (Liam Conningham), a visiting Catholic priest. Father Moran takes an indulgent view of Bobby's tobacco habit ("We only smoke Lamentations") and a sterner view of his protest plans. He's convinced that a hunger strike will be futile, but is finally won over, or at least browbeaten into silence, by Bobby's passion and eloquence.

The meeting between him and Father Moran is filmed in an unbroken take lasting more than 20 minutes. It is an extraordinary sequence, the centrepiece of the film, its emotional heart and an intellectual exploration of the morality of extreme protest. In any other film it might have been boring and pretentious. But the performances are perfectly judged, and the screenplay (by McQueen and Enda Walsh) moves easily between a mood of humorous banter, passages of childhood reminiscence that shed light on Bobby's motivation and a serious discussion of ideas of sacrifice and martyrdom. Thus we are prepared for the ghastliness to come.

Sands died on May 5, 1981, on the 66th day of his fast. Nine other IRA prisoners died before the strike was over. McQueen spares us nothing of the sores and lesions of bodily decay, but his film has a haunting beauty, and Fassbender's portrayal of Sands is touched by nobility. It was probably a misguided nobility, springing from a perverted idealism, from wilfulness, even vanity. The man was a terrorist, after all. He worked fora murderous organisation that killed many innocent people. And we are made to care about him.

I have read that when Hunger was shown in Cannes this year, many feared it would depict terrorism in a sympathetic light. Those fears were probably justified. But Hunger is one of those rare political films that rises above its subject matter to transcend partisanship and offer profound insights into the human condition. It is an enthralling achievement.

McQueen's style is minimalist and impressionistic. He forces us to confront what we would prefer to turn away from. I think Hunger is oneof the great films of the year: stark, brave andunforgettable.
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Post by Admin on Fri Mar 05, 2010 6:23 pm

http://intrepidcolorwayz.wordpress.com/2010/03/05/hunger-bobby-sands-and-the-priests-dialogue/

“Hunger”: Bobby Sands’ and The Priest’s dialogue
By limployee

From Hunger.

With Hunger, British filmmaker and artist Steve McQueen has turned one of history’s most controversial acts of political defiance into a jarring, unforgettable cinematic experience. In Northern Ireland’s Maze prison in 1981, twenty-seven-year-old Irish Republican Army member Bobby Sands went on a hunger strike to protest the British government’s refusal to recognize him and his fellow IRA inmates as political prisoners, rather than as ordinary criminals. McQueen dramatizes prison existence and Sands’ final days in a way that is purely experiential, even abstract, a succession of images full of both beauty and horror. Featuring an intense performance by Michael Fassbender, Hunger is an unflinching, transcendent depiction of what a human being is willing to endure to be heard.

What you are about to watch will astound you. The next three clips take place inside of a Northern Ireland prison and they comprise one of the most riveting pieces of film I’ve ever experienced.
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Post by Admin on Sun Mar 07, 2010 7:54 pm

http://www.24xps.com/2010/03/hunger-deep-shit/

Hunger: Deep s$#!
7 March 2010 No Comment

Turner Prize-winning British artist Steve McQueen makes his feature debut with Hunger (Criterion Blu-Ray), a tough, soul-rattling film about brutality and deprivation conceived as a sensory overload. Not a bio-pic in the conventional mode, the drama takes an inside-out view of events leading to the 1981 hunger strike and death of Irish Republic Army activist Bobby Sands, and nine others, in Northern Ireland’s Maze Prison. The s$#!-covered cell walls, the obscenely brutal beatings, even the seemingly mundane act routine of someone washing their hands, boast an acutely amplified resonance, as the camera boxes the viewer within a living hell that also becomes a platform for transcendence. Michael Fassbender (Inglourious Basterds) is extraordinary as Sands, literally starving himself to skin-and-bone. McQueen’s severe, minimalist approach to the material makes Hunger’s statement more aesthetic, perhaps, than humanist. It’s no less wrenching for that, perhaps more so. Bonus points for the climactic use of Maya Beiser’s searing cello performance of Sofiya Gubaidulina’s “In Croce,” which underscores the already Christ-like Sand’s act of brotherly sacrifice.
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