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Hunger reviews

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Post by Admin on Wed May 26, 2010 8:11 pm

http://brantleypalmer.wordpress.com/2010/05/26/just-eat-something/

Just Eat Something

May 26, 2010 by Jeremy

Hunger (2008)

Directed by: Steve McQueen
Starring: Michael Fassbender

“Unflinching”, “desperate”, “powerful”, “humanistic”; these are all the adjectives I found from top critics to describe Steve McQueen’s Hunger, none of with which I can really argue. But despite the visceral reviews, the film didn’t connect with me, it was missing the one description I needed, “heart”. Maybe McQueen thought that since he was dealing with subject matter as deep as captivity and starvation that he didn’t need to add any heart or any story. And I say you can go without one, but not without both. Michael Phillips disagrees with me, he writes, “It’s a strength of this carefully composed, almost obsessively controlled picture that it has no interest in the conventional biographical focus on a subject.” For me, without that focus I lost a personal connection with the film.

Hunger seems to be one of those films that in my opinion has the ‘Emperors New Clothes’ effect. Due to the subject matter, the sure handed compositions, and a physically mind blowing performance, no one wants to point at it and say “that wasn’t that great of a movie”. Well let me be the one to say it. One 16 minute two shot is not good filmmaking, it may be good acting, but not good filmmaking. Cutting is a part of filmmaking and it is used to evoke emotion. Two people across from a table evokes nothing, if anything, it is pretentious because it is not serving the story. It seems to exist so people can write on IMDB message boards about it . There were many moments akin to the 16 minute take. I bring that one up because that is the most discussed moment.

Let me make it clear that I don’t ever criticize a film for being slow, as long as it is serving the story, but being slow for the sake of what one person thinks will be “artistic” is when I start to have a problem. So many times I expected McQueen to jump in front of his camera, point David Brent style at his framing, and jump back behind. “We get it it, it’s grim, move on” as Kate Winslet said about the Holocaust in Extras.

I don’t want to come down on this movie too hard, because it did have a lot going for it, especially in the performance of Michael Fassbender, an actor that just has “it”. I have not seen much of his work, but count me in as one of the first (and you will hear this again) to say, one of the best actors of his generation. It’s not just the starving himself that was impressive, (although lets not pretend that isn’t) it was the dedication and determination you read in his face. Some actors have an umbilical chord that is attached directly to the camera, and they can feed us everything they want us to ingest, Fassbender is one of those actors. The problem is that McQueen gives you no historical reference, so a layman like myself didn’t know anything about Bobby Sands coming into the film, and nothing was given to me during the film. So despite Fassbender’s great performance, he gets let down due to insufficient backstory. To add more confusion to an insufficient plot, the film doesn’t even start with Bobby Sands as our main character. The audience’s entry point is with a different political prisoner, and then, for no reason, the film abandon him for Sands without any explanation.

No doubt McQueen has talent, but he doesn’t yet have the skill to completely abandon every narrative cinematic rule and hope to still engage an audience. But I could be wrong, because it seems to me most people were engaged in this film, but hopefully I am hear to yell “He’s Naked”, and let the masses start agreeing.

**1/2
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Post by Admin on Tue Jun 01, 2010 9:52 pm

http://esrose.blogspot.com/2010/06/martyr-todays-film-was-steve-mcqueens.html

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

MARTYR

Today's film was Steve McQueen's

Hunger (2008)

which chronicles the events around the hunger strike which was led by Bobby Sands (Michael Fassbender) in protest against the treatment of IRA prisoners.

It is tough to watch. Uncompromising. And beautiful.

The brutality of the Brits is not spared nor the reality of the IRA's recalcitrance.

An incredibly long scene between a priest intermediary and Sands shows all the issues and their intractability toward solution.

In the meantime, men suffer. Other men are assassinated.

It was voted the Independent Spirit Best Film of the year.

I think that this is a film that everyone should see. I am not sure that I would want to see it again but I am going to make it a 5 out of Netflix5 for the accomplishment of its mission to show and tell a story no one wants to hear.
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Post by Admin on Tue Jun 01, 2010 9:59 pm

http://lookingforrichardblog.highschoolpages.com/2010/06/01/the-great-buck-howard-2009/

Hunger


Directed by Steve McQueen.

Based on a sincere story. Bobby Sands (Michael Fassbender) a member of the Irish Republican Army, protests against the British government and gets locked up in Maze Quod at Belfast, Ireland, where he starves himself. In advance of his ordeal gets depicted onscreen, you watch as other IRA prisoners suffer at the jail. Davey Gillen (Brian Milligan), suspected for terrorism, observes that the last inmate had smeared feces on the apartment?s walls and that the guards, who physically abuse them, drench the detention?s halls with urine. He and his cellmate, Gerry Campbell (Liam McMahon), refuse to wear their reformatory like or to go back b reacquire cleaned up. Not surprisingly, they have no choice but to eat food infested with maggots. They also devise inventive methods in the interest of communication. It?s scary to think the realities of these mortal and noetic tortures in prison clothed been echoed in the way that the U.S. army tortured prisoners at the prisons of Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib, which you may recall from the documentaries

Staple Operating Procedure

and

Taxi to the Darkside

. After all, during George W. Bush?s term as U.S. President, he found a way to legalize torture. Going back to

Hunger

, there?s another subplot where Raymond Lohan (Stuart Graham), a confidence guard during the IRA riots in Belfast, fears for the benefit of his life as he checks seeking bombs beneath cars. Director/co-pen-pusher Steve McQueen wisely sets up the platform and atmosphere for the real crux of the story: the experiences of Bobby Sands at Maze Prison. Dominic Moran (Liam Cunningham), an Irish ecclesiastic, has a lengthy conversation with him that involves demanding, irritating questions about sacrifice, which relieve you to promote into Bobby?s mind before you can turn around he lays his thoughts and feelings out-moded on the table. No affair how keenly you observe the prisoners? terrible conditions at the prison, nothing will prepare you for observing what Bobby goes through during the mould thirty minutes of the blear. McQueen uses many close-up shots of his physical condition as he continues to starve himself. It often feels so palpably devastating, horrifying and tragic to ogle Bobby suffering that you?ll be tempted to cringe and look away. Divers of the images, even so, look really emotionally powerful without rap session. At a running time of 92 minutes,

Hunger

manages to be heartbreaking, profound, haunting and captivating from start to finish.
Slues of times I checked my watch: 0.
Released by IFC Films. Opens at the IFC Center.
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Post by Admin on Fri Jun 04, 2010 8:52 pm

http://franzpatrick.com/2010/06/04/hunger/

Hunger

June 4, 2010 by Franz Patrick

Hunger (2008)
★★★★ / ★★★★

“Hunger,” written and directed by Steve McQueen, followed the last few weeks of life of a prisoner named Bobby Sands (Michael Fassbender) who decided to go on a hunger strike because the British government did not want to recognize the IRA prisoners (Liam McMahon, Brian Milligan) as political prisoners and the fact that the pisoners were constantly treated inhumanely by the guards. At first I thought that the first half of this film was about the hunger strike because everyone was insanely skinny. Only half-way did I realize that the first half was the “blanket and no wash” protest–prisoners had nothing but blankets in their cells and they chose not to wash themselves for days on end. (Not to mention they decorated their walls with their filth and food.) The turning point (and best scene) of the film was the conversation between Bobby Sands and a priest (Liam Cunningham) because that extended scene brought a sharpness and intelligence to the picture as it tackled issues such as the ethical reasons regarding the hunger strike and whether performing such a dangerous task, as noble as it was, could ultimately lead to nothing. The portion of the scene when Fassbender talked about what his character’s leadership meant to him was honestly was one of the best five minutes I’ve seen in a long time. The images that the character described were so vivid in my mind and the emotions that the images entailed captivated me. McQueen’s direction was always present because as the story was being told, the camera knew, at the perfect moments, when to zoom in to the actor’s faces and when to pull back. The effectiveness of the director’s craft made the experience that much more rewarding. The second half–the actual hunger strike–absolutely blew me away. Fassbender’s transformation was shocking to me. It reminded me of Christian Bale’s horrifying transformation in “The Machinist,” but instead of psychological repercussions, we got to observe how Bobby’s health declined and how his life ultimately came to an end. I loved that this film felt small but the ideas were so big; it highlighted those ideas via the synergistic effect of silence and haunting images. I also loved the film’s use of contrast in terms of other people using violence to others and people using violence to themselves. “Hunger” is a very rich and complex film worth pondering over. I couldn’t believe this was McQueen’s directoral debut because he commanded the story and direction with such focus. Like with Fassbender who also impressed me in “Inglourious Basterds,” I’m looking forward to McQueen’s next project.
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Post by Admin on Fri Jun 11, 2010 1:36 pm

http://brooke-m.livejournal.com/57974.html

Film Review: Hunger
Even after two days I'm still not sure if I'm ready or fully able to write this review.

To be succinct, Hunger is a masterpiece of film-making economy. Taking as its centrepiece the 1981hunger strike at the Maze prison, it eloquently and economically manages to sketch much of the horror of The Troubles in a lean 96 minutes. There's a clear sense of a divided community at war with itself, casual and numbing brutality, dehumanisation, a struggle to maintain political aims in an environment becoming clouded by violence, and a Pyrrhic triumph of the human spirit.

Steve McQueen's direction is nothing short of superb, a lesson in minimalist technique. Not a second of film is wasted, remarkable in a piece that contains so little dialogue. The camera's fastidious observation of the most trivial, but somehow the most telling, details is a continual marvel - sweat patches, scabs, breadcrumbs, ashtrays, puddles. Also exquisite is the way in which the focus of the movie shifts first from a prison guard, to a recent IRA internee, and finally to Booby Sands (Michael Fassbender, trying to outdo Christian Bale's excesses in The Machinist), leader of the hunger strike. In so doing, it somehow manages to present a non-judgemental portrait of the conflict from more than one side of the barricades; the use of some archive recordings of Margaret Thatcher's speeches are potently employed.

So why my struggle? Why should I find it so hard writing a review of what is unquestionably a superior piece of film-making? Well, it's the subject matter. And apologies in advance to any Irish friends I may inadvertently offend with what I write next.

I was one year old when Bobby Sands died. I am one of the generation of children that grew up during Margaret Thatcher's time at No. 10. I was raised reading British newspapers that echoed the political view of the time that the IRA, and the Republican movement in general, were criminals and terrorists. I was confronted by pictures of British soldiers murdered for apparently doing nothing more than their duty. I had breakfast before going to primary school hearing about bombings in London, coded warnings, and hearing Gerry Adam's words spoken by an actor. I, along with my peers, experienced and propagated playground brainwashing - "No surrender to the IRA", I remember us singing. Perhaps most damningly, I was taught no 20th century British history, or any Irish history whatsoever, despite pursuing the subject up to the age of 16.

It was not even until my early twenties that I even considered that there might be another side to this equation.

It's something that still upsets me greatly. I am someone that prides himself on impartiality, rationality, and clear-thinking. And yet so deeply ingrained is this childhood programming that I still, still, find it difficult to conduct any conversation about The Troubles without becoming heated. Try explaining to any German person of my age that you've never formally learned any 20th century history of your own country and the response is generally incredulity. "Surely that's the most important?" is the commonest reply. And they're right.

I'm also reminded of the episode "Dead Irish Writers" in The West Wing, in which the British ambassador formally protests against the President meeting a representative of Sinn Fein but privately stresses that such a dialogue is, in fact, essential. It's a devastating truth. In any conflict, be it between individuals, lovers, families, clans, races, religions, countries, or continents, it's inevitably a failure to communicate that underpins the problem. If you can't talk to people, you'll never get a solution. Without communication, there's only stand-offs, stalemates, and tit-for-tat reprisals. And understanding where those same people are coming from is integral to that communication. I don't think I've ever in my life met someone that was a truly irredeemably vile person, but my word, I've sure been hurt by people. Maybe they thought I deserved it, or maybe they didn't stop to think how things looked from my side. That equation plays out on every scale of human relations. It's only through dialogue, and empathy, that resolutions can be attained.
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Post by Admin on Sun Jun 13, 2010 3:06 am

http://kalafudra.wordpress.com/2010/06/12/hunger-2008/

Hunger (2008)
Saturday, 12. June 2010

Hunger is the first movie by Steve McQueen, starring Michael Fassbender and Liam Cunningham.

Plot:
Hunger is the story of Bobby Sands (Michael Fassbender). He was a member of the IRA and imprisoned in the 80s. He participated in the No Wash strike and later initiated the 1981 hunger strike, from which he died. The movie dramatises the last 6 weeks of his life and the strikes in general.

Hunger asks a lot of the audience – but you don’t really notice while you’re watching. It’s only when you leave the cinema that you notice how completely drained you are. But it’s also very rewarding to watch it, to, yes, put yourself through it.

Steve McQueen is magnificently talented. He has the ability to make you focus completely on the story and on the actors but when you turn your attention to his job, you notice how absolutely awesome it is and planned in the smallest details.

The movie has barely any dialogue. But the images McQueen chooses say everything you need to know. The result is a calm, deliberate and freakishly intense movie that nevertheless never seems too much.

In the middle of the film there’s this one really long shot with a stationary camery where Bobby discusses his decision to start a hunger strike with a priest and friend (Liam Cunningham). During the movie I noticed that it was long but I was captured, it was more a fleeting thought. And now I just read that the scene was 17 minutes long. Flabbergasting.

The performances were simply astonishing. Period. Michael Fassbender’s performance was especially mind-blowing. But the most memorable part will be the pictures Steve McQueen paints.

Summarising: Did I cry? Yes. Did I feel like s$#! watching? Yes. Would I watch it again? In a heartbeat.
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Post by Admin on Sun Jun 20, 2010 5:54 am

http://www.flicks.co.nz/movie/hunger/

Hunger 2008

Those with an interest in up and coming filmmakers, or Irish history, will want to check out the debut feature from Steve McQueen (no, not that one). This highly regarded film, winner of the Palm D'Or at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival for best feature from a first time director, tells the story of IRA member Bobby Sands and his attempt to stand defiant against British occupation of Northern Ireland even when confined to a prison cell. In 1981, Sands went on a hunger stuck while being kept prisoner, demanding he and fellow inmates be treated as political prisoners, not terrorists.

Starring Michael Fassbender, Liam Cunningham, Stuart Graham, Brian Milligan, Liam McMahon

Directed by Steve McQueen (feature debut)

Written by Steve McQueen, Enda Walsh

Festivals & Awards Winner of the Golden Camera for best debut - Cannes 2008. Best Debut Director, Actor, Cinematography - British Independent Film Awards 2008. Screened at New Zealand International Film Festival 2008.

Drama | 1hr 36mins | Rated (R16) | contains nudity, content that may disturb | Origin: UK,

This is not what most viewers would expect from a film concerned with political history. Conspicuous by their absence are old stand-bys like an overarching social context or clear cut value judgments. In their place is a raw, introverted character study that uses the human body as a canvas in its depiction of complex, disturbing concepts relating to martyrdom and political extremism.

Bleak, provocative images of human waste and wasting away are debutante director Steve McQueen’s stock device to this end. Elements such as human excrement and maggots are imbued with a perverse poeticism both hypnotic and repulsive, much like the conflicts being played out and alluded to on screen.

As impressive as the technical elements of the direction are, it is lead actor Michael Fassbender that gives the film a human core. His decomposing frame, achieved through an extreme crash diet, is a fittingly gut-wrenching expression of the film’s thematic concerns, while his hunched intensity is enough to make his status as a hero to some both questionable and convincing.

The lack of a clear narrative structure and an unrelentingly grim approach will not be to everybody’s tastes. Those brave, hardy souls who do indulge though will be rewarded for their endurance with a thought provoking, visceral tour de force.

By Andreas Heinemann, Flicks.co.nz
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Post by Admin on Sun Jul 04, 2010 10:19 pm

http://watchedinstantly.blogspot.com/2010/07/hunger-2008.html

Sunday, July 4, 2010
Hunger (2008)

Well, here we go, everybody. Hunger opens with three intertitles, which say:

Not a lot of context, especially since the movie is so stingy on dialogue. I don't know much about the Troubles, generally, or about the Maze prison, specifically, so I was a little lost at first. That turned out to be completely okay. If anything, my ignorance heightened the feelings of desperation and immediacy that Hunger works to build. The movie's not apolitical, but it's also not primarily political. It's more about specific conditions and individual reactions to them. It's a microscopic examination of pain as a way of life--for prisoners and officers alike.

I just said there wasn't much dialogue in Hunger, but that's not quite true. For about 25 minutes in the middle, Hunger is all talking. But the movie before that long scene and the movie after it is light on speech and heavy on physical degradation: excretions, beatings, death. It's slow but riveting, unfolding at an oozing pace.

Basically it's a date movie.

In the first section of Hunger, we see the routines of two Republican prisoners and a guard. Their daily lives are tedious, violent, and dominated by bodily fluids. The guard often looks, rapt, at his bloody knuckles. He examines them when he smokes; he soaks them in hot water before and after his shifts. For the prisoners, their excretions are their last resort. They are years into the no wash protest, and their cell walls are thick with s$#! and blood. At a yelled signal, they all pour their collected urine under their doors into the H-Block hallways.

The genius of this painfully long, lovingly filmed portrayal of seeping misery is the contrast it creates with the second part of the movie: the 25-minute conversation between Bobby Sands (Michael Fassbender) and Father Dominic Moran (Liam Cunningham). Without realizing it, I had adjusted to watching violence and putrefaction, and I felt the thrill you're supposed to have during the actiony bits of movies in the one scene where no one is hitting anyone else, where there are just two people talking in a room without sticky sights or sounds.

Sands has called the priest to the prison to talk about the impending hunger strike. They banter for a while, but then they get down to the business of arguing. Father Dom thinks Bobby is being crazy and destructive; Bobby thinks Dom doesn't get it on account of living a cushy life without s$#! on his walls. Although the scene's between a priest and a man about to embark on an act of pseudo-Christian martyrdom, the conversation's aggressively secular. They talk about the propaganda value of the hunger strike. They talk about attempting negotiations with the British government. When Sands asks, detached and skeptical, "God's gonna punish me?" Father Dom responds, "Well, if not just for the suicide, then he'd have to punish you for stupidity." It is a really good scene, you guys.

The talk ends, and the last section of the movie begins with a doctor describing how a hungry body shuts down. Then we see Sands starve. It's really, really brutal, and it feels really, really long (it's actually just under 20 minutes--shorter than the Father Dom scene). As Sands flickers out, we see his memory/vision of himself as a child in the countryside. I could have done without that. It's a callback to the end of his conversation with the priest, and it's not that sentimental, but it's still too sentimental for me. This movie's so tough to watch; I didn't want anything that felt like a relief from that. Little Bobby in the field felt to me like a lone distraction in an otherwise single-minded movie. Steve McQueen, the director, said in an interview that he "wanted to get out of that prison cell" and give "people a chance to breathe," but I didn't want a chance to breathe at minute 123 of this 125-minute beast.

Sands' exchange with the priest is definitely my favorite part of the movie. Not just because it is mercifully free of fecal sculpture and running sores, but because DAMN is that some acting and DAMN is that some writing. Fassbender and Cunningham perform this smart, emotional scene with passion and nuance. The intensity is amplified by the famous seventeen-minute take; for most of the scene, the two actors share the frame, the camera fixed, their profiles in shadow (see above). They're so expressive, but you don't see their faces very clearly. You feel the urgency and conviction in the words, their voices, and the tilt of their bodies.


(Look, I feel really weird about the tags for this: I don't want to rate it. Five stars, I guess? It is superbly put-together and made me have a lot of feelings, so I'm not sure what more I could ask. And while it fails the Bechdel test, so what, you know? Almost no one talks in this movie. There's one long conversation. Apart from that, you could count the intelligible lines on two hands--one hand if you don't count the audio clips of Margaret Thatcher.)

Posted by Dear at 11:11 AM
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Post by Admin on Fri Jul 09, 2010 4:51 am

http://www.cinematical.com/2010/07/08/framed-hunger/

Framed: Hunger

by Alison Nastasi Jul 8th 2010 // 9:15PM

Filed under: Drama, Independent, Images

Welcome to Framed, a new column at Cinematical that celebrates the artistry of cinema -- one frame at a time. To get a feel for things, you can check out last week's introductory post to this column where I discussed Duncan Jones' Moon.

Steve McQueen's Hunger is a work of staggering beauty -- which sounds odd, considering it's a true story about Irish Republican Bobby Sands' (Michael Fassbender) hunger strike at the Maze Prison in 1981. It arose over the Irish detainees' desire to be recognized as political prisoners and not common criminals -- therefore not being forced to wear prison-issued uniforms or engage in other activities that regular inmates were required to take part in. It is a brutal, heartbreaking film that finds one magnificent image after another in places where you'd least expect them. McQueen and cinematographer Sean Bobbitt have infused the movie with some incredibly striking visuals -- images just as powerful as the subject matter itself.

When compiling a list of potential stills for this entry of Framed, I had over thirty possible choices. Any one of them would have been worth writing about, but I narrowed it down to this single image (spoilers ahead).


The shot can be found at the 17:52 mark of Hunger on Netflix Watch Instantly. In this scene, prisoner Davey Gillen (Brian Milligan) has played with a sluggish fly climbing over the broken grille covering his cell window, and has now stuck his hand through. It is, at first glance, a straightforward shot -- but the complexity of not only the individual frame but the rest of this scene make it stand out prominently in a film with no shortage of breathtaking images.

This shot is pulled from a much larger sequence -- one that finds Davey being brought to the Maze and placed into a cell straight out of a nightmare. As part of their protest, the prisoners have refused to wear clothes or bathe. Davey's cellmate is a wild looking man named Gerry (Liam McMahon) who's already smeared feces all over the walls and floor, and has collected a pile of rotting food in the corner. Maggots writhe amongst the filth as Davey stands by, suitably shocked.

The cell is almost an entity in itself. It's an environment that shapes the men trapped inside of it -- a microcosm where life's cycles play out in a regimented fashion. Life in prison is about repetition, a never ending loop of routine. This is symbolized on the wall, where Gerry has crafted an elaborately drawn spiral made out of feces, which is also something of a symbolic representation of the Maze itself ("There where it smells of sh*t, it smells of being. Man could just as well not have shat, not have opened the anal pouch, but he chose to sh*t, as he would have chosen to live, instead of consenting to live dead." -- Antonin Artaud). Davey becomes part of this cycle of metamorphosis -- one already in motion well before his arrival. The cell has transformed into a symbiotic community, where everything relies on the other in some strange way. Everything is equal inside those four walls -- from the maggots, to the flies, to Davey and Gerry themselves.

The still comes from a scene after Davey has been incarcerated for a few days. That he pays such profound attention to the fly is very telling. Davey's becoming acclimated to his new environment. A free man wouldn't pay attention to a fly for any other purpose than to kill it, but Davey doesn't because he's become something just like it. The fly was born in that cell, undoubtedly as a maggot sprung from the rotting food on the floor. It simultaneously represents Davey's incarceration and freedom as it flits about, trapped between metal, stone and glass. There's no real freedom on the other side of that grille -- regardless of what the bright light might lead you to believe. It's a moment of epiphany for the character, made all the more amazing because the message is conveyed without a single line of dialogue. The look of dawning realization on Davey's face in the moments immediately following seems to bear this out.

Another interesting element of this particular shot is found in the way the broken grille mirrors Davey's ribcage, which can be seen standing out slightly on his torso. When viewed this way, it appears as though the character is reaching inside of someone -- maybe even himself. As much as Hunger is a spiritual treatise, its emphasis on the corporeal is not lost either -- as part of the spiritual and religious themes, but separate from them as well -- where shots like this transform the body into its own landscape.

Technically, the scene is indicative of the rest of Hunger: flat, dreary colors, and muted lighting (most of the bright light tends to come from an external source). The film features many chiaroscuro elements, which are marked by strong contrasts between light and dark. We see it in this particular image, where there's a bright light on the right side of the frame, and dark shadows as you start to move toward the left. The illumination that swells in many of Hunger's frames is an interesting play on religious Renaissance or Baroque art -- the time period chiaroscuro thrived -- where this light was described as "divine." With the amount of religious iconography (several "pieta" scenes, a twist on the last supper during prayer service, and many others ... ) this seems like a deliberate decision on the filmmaker's part. The choice to shoot in a close-up, dissecting the body in various ways, is something McQueen and Bobbitt employ at several different points in the film. Because of this, the viewer is forced to read the body language of the characters and listen to the inflection of the dialogue to understand the emotional pitch of the sequence.

Director McQueen is an artist as well as a filmmaker -- something that comes through loud and clear in this film. There's a level of artistry in Hunger that we don't see often enough -- a genuine passion for imagery and visual storytelling. You can see it in this frame, one that appears so simplistic at first glance but is actually imbued with multiple levels of meaning. The real beauty of Hunger is the way it connects the technical craft of filmmaking with artistic inspiration and balances them perfectly in order to tell a compelling story. It's unfortunate that we don't see this marriage of art and craft achieved more often.
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Post by Admin on Tue Jul 13, 2010 8:03 pm

http://cpshaw.wordpress.com/2010/07/13/review-hunger/

Review: Hunger

Hunger (15)

Dir. Steve McQueen

Starring. Michael Fassbender, Liam Cunningham, Liam McMahon

4/5

Spoilers contained.

First time director Steve McQueen sets his sights on a poignant period in the “Troubles” in Northern Ireland. Set in the Maze Prison just outside of Belfast, Hunger tells of the last six weeks in the life of Bobby Sands who staged a hunger strike in 1981 in protest to the treatment IRA Paramilitaries received at the behest of the Margaret Thatcher and the Conservative government.

We are brought into the narrative (and be default, the prison) firstly by a disconnected prison guard (Stuart Graham), and then secondly, by a newly incarcerated inmate, Davey (Brian Milligan). Refusing to “wear the clothes of a criminal” the prison officers proceed to hand him a blanket and escort him, naked, to his cell –with the camera focusing on the nasty cut on Davey’s head; presumably inflicted by one of Her Majesty’s servicemen.

These kinds of details that are important to the director; McQueen takes his time telling this story and he does it with a confidence of craft beyond his experience. The camera focuses frequently upon the small details; the buttoning of a shirt, the brushing away of crumbs, the tortured stares of impotent inmates. In fact, for the first hour, Hunger could easily have been conceived as a silent film, with little useful dialogue besides the moans of beaten prisoners and a few meaningless exchanges. There are no preachy monologues, instead it is the non-diegetic sound of old Maggie Thatcher’s political comments that haunt the images of s$#!-stained walls and piss drenched halls in the beginning..

When the dialogue does come, it is in an astonishing scene between Sands and his priest (Liam Cunningham). The camera remains static for nearly 17 minutes as Sands battles back and forth with the priest discussing the religious and political implications of the recent decision to go forth with the hunger-strike. Despite the priest’s protestations, Sands will not be swayed (The two actors allegedly even moved in together and rehearsed the scene some 15 times a day until they were confident they could nail it).

From this point on the mise-en-scene changed. Gone are the beatings and the walls smeared with faeces, for the remainder of the film Sands lays dying on clean sheets and in a clean white room, tenderly cared for by the resident doctor. Still, the film refuses to overload the audience with heartfelt dialogue and patriotic sentiment. Sands remains steadfast in his quest, even when his parents move to the prison to be close to him in his last days. Ultimately, the British government are just as determined and Sands dies, emaciated and covered in sores, but finally pure and free in his heart.

McQueen’s retelling of the real-life events that occurred in 1981 are poignant and carefully crafted without the trickery of melodrama. Even though the film is inherently biased and one-sided in its spirit, never showing of hinting at the crimes the inmates have committed, the strength of conviction displayed in Bobby Sands is difficult to dismiss and the dedication that Fassbender (who went on a crash diet for the role) brings to the role makes it hard not to take sides.

Hunger is a beautiful film because of its tragedy, and it is to McQueen credit that he allows the images, rather than the sentiment, to do his talking.
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Post by Admin on Thu Jul 15, 2010 1:10 am

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Steve McQueen’s Hunger

Collective Cinephilia

By Michael Dean Benton

The first film in the Collective Cinephilia series I have chosen to review is Criterion’s new release of the British visual artist Steve McQueen’s 2008 debut film Hunger. The high-quality Criterion DVD edition and the superb extras accompanying this release make for an outstanding viewing experience.

The film depicts the 1981 Irish hunger strike by IRA prisoners in the notorious Maze Prison. Ostensibly, the film portrays the buildup to the hunger strike from Margaret Thatcher’s declaration that IRA prisoners would no longer receive “political” status during their incarceration; instead, they would henceforth be treated as “criminals.”

Resisting the general impulse to center the film immediately on the traditional hero of the story, Bobby Sands, the IRA leader and first martyr of the hunger strike, McQueen instead develops the stories of separate characters and vividly brings to life the tense environment of the Maze and its inhabitants—both guards and prisoners.

In a master class of subtle, intelligent filmmaking McQueen starts off following the daily ritual of prison guard Raymond Lohan as he gets ready for work at the Maze, including looking under his car for a bomb before starting it while his wife looks fearfully out the window. Lohan is a walking time-bomb of desperation and rage. McQueen provides visual set pieces of his isolation amongst his fellow officers, his solitary smoking in the cold outdoors, and his ritual cleaning of his bloodied knuckles.

Lohan does not come off as sympathetic character in that we see him repeatedly engaging in brutal acts against the Irish prisoners as retaliation for their resistance and protests. However, the characterization of Lohan does transcend the stock cartoonish nature of evil guards in films like The Shawshank Redemption. Hundreds of prison guards were murdered by both sides of the conflict in Northern Ireland. The film vividly depicts the reality of their charged situation; at the same time, the film calls to mind the conclusions of the Stanford Prison Experiment that brutality is inherent in the powerful position of the guard, who preemptively feel the need to enforce complete compliance in order to provide the (in)security of a docile population.

The next section follows a new prisoner, Davey, who is quickly labeled a “non-conforming” prisoner and who is locked in a cell with Gerry. The two prisoners engage in the IRA prisoner protests of refusal to wash, refusal to wear prison uniforms (they wear a single blanket), and most dramatically, covering the walls artistically with their feces and food remains. The confrontations of the prisoners and guards are stunning scenes and fiercely depict the struggle between these forces. This may be some of the most difficult scenes I have seen lately, simply because of the realistic portrayal of the violence. Celebrated shocking films like Hostel or Inglourious Basterds can’t compete with this kind of intensity, because they are escapist in nature, and Hunger does not seek to escape the brutal nature of these struggles between guards and prisoners.

Surprisingly, it is not until the 25 minute point in the film, during a dramatic, violent, riot police disciplining of the prisoners that the traditional protagonist/hero/villain (depending on one’s view) of this story, Bobby Sands, appears. Up until this point we have experienced a visual and aural depiction, but rarely have we heard anyone speak. Slowly the film begins to introduce more dialogue, until, in one of the most amazing set pieces, in a film of brilliant scenes, at the half-way point of the film, Sands talks combatively to a contentious priest for 22 minutes about the initiation of the IRA hunger strike. Once again, this is a masterful scene with two brilliant actors that completely emphasizes the seriousness of this decision as well as the differing positions concerning the proposed hunger strike.

The end of the film follows the ensuing decision to carry out the hunger strike and the agonizing disintegration of Bobby Sands. Michael Fassbender, in a career moment, turns his body into a cinematic tool for portraying Sands determined hunger strike. Through his disciplined diet of 600-1000 calories a day over 10 weeks, Fassbender lost weight for the role, but it is in his carefully measured, agonizing movements that he most vividly depicts the implications of Sands’ actions.

The film has been condemned by critics from all sections of the political spectrum in the UK/Ireland. Some criticize the portrayal of the guards as too humanizing, some complain that the prisoners are glorified in their political struggle, and some believe that McQueen is wrongly questioning Sands’ motivations for initiating the hunger strike. For me, this demonstrates the multi-layered vision McQueen brings to this historical moment. Many critics around the world agreed and put the film in their lists of the top films of 2008. To truly appreciate this film, I recommend a viewing of the intelligent discussions of the director/actors about making the film and the contemporaneous BBC documentary “The Provo’s Last Card” on the hunger strikes.

It has been announced that McQueen’s next film will be on the Nigerian musician-activist Fela Kuti.

(Currently the DVD is unavailable in local rental stores, but you can request that they provide it for rent. It is available locally for purchase and you can rent it online through DVD services like Netflix. In the spirit of “collective cinephilia” I look forward to comments about this review and/or the film.)
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Post by Pilar on Thu Jul 15, 2010 10:16 pm

I unwrapped the cellophane and put on the dvd while my laptop was out of comission. Still very difficult to watch...but damm...Michael is brilliant.
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Post by Admin on Mon Jul 19, 2010 8:22 pm

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Hunger (Criterion Collection)
July 19th, 2010 5 Comments Classics
Tags: Collection, Criterion, Hunger
Price: $ 24.68

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.

With the exception of Julian Schnabel, visual artists have had a tough time at the cinema, but like the American painter before him, Britain’s Steve McQueen beat the odds with the award-winning Hunger. In his visceral depiction of a political hunger strike, McQueen emphasizes specific moments over plot mechanics. Guard Raymond Lohan (Stuart Graham) serves as a guide into the hell of Belfast’s Maze Prison, circa 1981, where Bobby Sands (Michael Fassbender in a remarkable performance) and his IRA brethren hunker down in blankets, since they refuse to don uniforms and can’t wear their own clothes. They dump food on the floor, smear waste on the walls, and sleep with maggots in protest against their conditions. Even after moving the prisoners, the mistreatment continues, so they step up their campaign. It’s no way to live, and it isn’t easy to watch, but McQueen provides a reprieve through Sands’s riveting conversation with Father Dominic Moran (Liam Cunningham), a scene his backers pressured him to cut, but the filmmaker wisely stood firm In his director’s statement, McQueen says he wanted to “show what it was like to see, hear, smell, and touch in the H-Block.” Because he avoids editorializing, it’s as easy to condemn his subjects for their naïve idealism as it is to admire their singularity of purpose. Art background aside, McQueen clearly knows his U.K. film history, and appears to have spent time with the works of Alan Clarke (specifically Elephant) and Stanley Kubrick (see A Clockwork Orange), who share his fascination with the abuse of power, the horror of sudden violence, and the splendor of the static shot. –Kathleen C. Fennessy

5 Comments
Nathan Andersen July 19th, 2010 at 2:40 am

Review by Nathan Andersen for Hunger (Criterion Collection)
Rating:
In spite of the care and patient control with which this powerful film is shot and edited, “Hunger” is a deeply visceral and moving film, featuring a brilliant performance by Michael Fassbender in the lead role. There are scenes of violent and intense brutality here, but what is more powerful are the simple shots, of a face, of a look, of a gesture, washing hands, of sores on the back of a dying prisoner. While the film is based on real events, with deep political ramifications, the film itself is not so much political as a plea for humanity, that sides with the wounded sensitivity detected in the eyes of those guards who had been unable to desensitize themselves to the routinely brutal treatment they gave to the prisoners in an effort to break their spirits, as much as it sides with the humanity in the dehumanized IRA prisoners it depicts.

The film details the horrific prison conditions that motivated IRA leader Bobby Sands to begin a hunger strike in 1981, that led to his death and that of 8 other prisoners, but also eventually won some concessions for the IRA prisoners, that they had been unable to achieve in any other way. The film opens on one of the guards, washing his hands of the violence he’d inflicted on a prisoner but also unable to wash away his own sense of culpability and fear, and, later, unable to build a connection with the other guards who seem more immune to what they do.

It isn’t until about a third of the way through the film that we are introduced to Bobby Sands, who is clearly something of a leader among the men, and it isn’t until the final third of the film that Sands takes center stage, and embarks upon the hunger strike that gives the film its title. This is not so much his story as the story of a situation, that affected all who were involved in a number of ways. There is very little in the way of back story here – it is all about the immediacy of the situation, in which the past is mostly irrelevant and what matters is the continuation of the struggle for recognition, as something other than common criminals. What I found fascinating (and brilliantly depicted here) was the core paradox of their prison rebellion: that in order to win recognition as human beings and soldiers whose cause was unpopular but not evil, that in their struggle for equality, they had to debase themselves, to reject clothing, to smear feces on the walls in protest, to exploit and attack their own bodies as a demonstration of the inhumanity of their treatment.

The film is told mostly through carefully controlled visuals, chiaroscuro with a wide range of tonality between the darkest darks and the brightest whites and colors, with a minimum of dialogue, except during a powerful and lengthy exchange between Sands and a priest about his decision to embark on a new hunger strike, and his willingness to take it all the way. While director Steve McQueen (no relation to the actor) has a very distinctive style, his approach here reminded me somewhat of Robert Bresson’s A Man Escaped. Both films tell their story in a minimalist style, with carefully controlled framings that show only what is necessary to capture the impact of events, leaving aside all that is superfluous. The camera frames bodies and faces very tightly, in medium and close shots, inside the actual prison cells, and only opens up more wide to convey the depth of the prison corridor, or to contrast the openness of the visitor’s room or the out of doors with the closed off nature of the cells.

Apart from being overwhelmed by the intensity and importance of the subject matter – this is a story that needed to be told, from inside, and I can’t imagine a better telling than this – apart from all that I was stunned by the power of the filmmaking. This is one of the most impressive directorial efforts I’ve seen in a long time, and an amazing debut by Steve McQueen, and I expect it will be recognized as one of the most important films of this decade by the film historians who care about substance and style over commercialism and buzz. This is definitely one to have for the library of the film lover who likes to study films; there’s a lot to learn here. I can’t say how happy I am that Criterion is doing the releasing on this one.

Here’s what to expect on the disc:

* New, restored high-definition digital transfer, approved by director Steve McQueen (with DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition)

* Video interviews with McQueen and actor Michael Fassbender

* A short documentary on the making of Hunger, including interviews with McQueen, Fassbender, actors Liam Cunningham, Stuart Graham, and Brian Milligan, writer Enda Walsh, and producer Robin Gutch

* “The Provo’s Last Card?” a 1981 episode of the BBC program Panorama, about the causes and effects of the IRA hunger strikes at the Maze prison and the political and civilian reactions across Northern Ireland

* Theatrical trailer

* A booklet featuring an essay by film critic Chris Darke
Andrew Bowcock July 19th, 2010 at 3:12 am

Review by Andrew Bowcock for Hunger (Criterion Collection)
Rating:
This is hands down one of the best films of the past decade for me. “Visual Artist” Steve McQueen captures a sense of humanity in a way that few directors seem to be in touch with, telling a powerful story in a fashion that most are afraid to.

There is very little dialogue – and the dialogue that exists comes in spouts like an 18-minute long scene where the camera stays still and doesn’t cut away at all. It could have easily been pretentious, but it is not in the least. McQueen has proven himself just by this one instance to be an extraordinary visionary that knows how to tell a story vividly without having to “tell” it. Did I mention the cinematography is gorgeous? Practically everything in “Hunger” is honed to perfection, and Michael Fassbinder’s gruelingly tangible performance shows human deterioration at its most believable.

A masterpiece.
Ted July 19th, 2010 at 3:55 am

Review by Ted for Hunger (Criterion Collection)
Rating:
Hunger is a film based on the true story of the 1981 hunger strike by Northern Irish prisoners seeking political prisoner status.

The film is made by British director, Steve McQueen (no relation to actor.) It is his first film.

The film can be difficult to watch due to graphic scenes of emaciation (which were real and done under the supervision of physicians), prison violence and depictions of the “dirty protest.” The film includes archival audio of Margaret Thatcher speaking about the crisis.

The special features are very good too. There is a theatrical trailer, documentary on the film’s production, Interviews with director McQueen and actor Michael Fassbender, and a 1981 BBC episode of Panorama, about the real life crisis. This BBC program is very good and includes interviews with figures from both sides of the debates related Troubles. Interview subjects include Gerry Adams and Ian Paisley.

This film while graphic is quite authentic and depicts an important part of British and Irish history.
S. H. Wells July 19th, 2010 at 4:34 am

Review by S. H. Wells for Hunger (Criterion Collection)
Rating:
Faced with headlines about Cuban prisoners starving themselves to death and the unsolved status of Guantanamo Bay prisoners, this movie about IRA prisoners in Northern Ireland begs many questions but provides few answers. Are they criminals in a glorified gang? The British answer would be yes. Are any of the resistance methods employed by the IRA effective? Who is being punished more by the no clothes no cleaning strike?

The questions of ethics and politics are neatly folded into the various characters of the cast. Sands is clearly right to stand for status as a political prisoner. The British jailer is clearly right to hate the 2-bit gangsters who drape Irish nationalism over their crimes. The priest is right in loving the sinner but expressing serious doubts about the virtues of a hunger strike. The nurses are right in caring for their patient and hating what he does as he slowly wastes away.

The acting carries this film and prevents it from being heavy-handed or preachy. Each actor carries his point of view so confidently and completely that the viewer can’t help but empathize with the horrific events that each actor confronts.

The film work is excellent. Nothing too showy or gimicky: no one is trying to make a faux-documentary here. The little details captured by camera particularly in the early scenes during the no wash strike a powerful and disturbing. The body of sands as he detriorates is painfully vivid.

After it is finished, this film leaves the big questions open and will make viewers want to talk about some of the complexities brought out in the picture. Ultimately, I think, the one question each character forces us to confront is: how can mankind be so cruel to each other and yet so oblivious to other’s suffering at the same time?
Jack M. Walter July 19th, 2010 at 5:25 am

Review by Jack M. Walter for Hunger (Criterion Collection)
Rating:
Hunger is a film with such power and beauty it’s really difficult to convey the experience of watching it as to how impressive it really is. The performance from Michael Fassbender as Bobby Sands is daring and scary, as he literally had to diet until his body became that of a man on a hunger strike. The added feature with director Steve McQueen brings incredible insight to the art and humanity behind the film. Without question, a must-see film.
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Post by Admin on Mon Jul 26, 2010 12:19 am

http://smurfgameandmoviereviews.blogspot.com/2010/07/hunger-criterion-504.html


7/25/10
Hunger Criterion #504
So on Wednesday I got Hunger in the mail. It was directed by Steve McQueen. 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. It premiered in 2008 at the Cannes Film Festival wining Steve McQueen the prestigious Caméra d'Or award.

I bought the film on Blu-ray because I wanted to see the amount of detail that Steve McQueen put into his frist movie and It was outstanding. Other then the 18 minute still shoot there is maybe 5 minutes of talking. He uses the camera to show whats going on rather than explaining it. I really like how the prison looks on the inside.This movie is pretty brutal if you have a weak stomach or don't like violence, That's this whole story. Now this film set a record for the longest uncut still frame shot in a mainstream movie. The length is 18 minutes long which I didn't find boring but I found it hard to understand what they where talking about, they talked really fast I recommend subtitles for the scene.

Over all this film was really powerful. The 18 minute scene comes out of no where but the film is still great. The sound is powerful. There is a part where all the guards are banging their shields and then bringing the criminals out and beating them and just the sound in that scene really puts you in that hallway. For a criterion film there is no commentary track on the disc which is a huge let down. But there is an interview with McQueen and Michael Fassbender (who plays Bobby Sands). Also a BBC program on the prison and a short documentary on the making of Hunger + a booklet with a 5 page essay.
Posted by Redsmurf at 3:41 PM
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Post by Admin on Mon Jul 26, 2010 6:49 pm

http://dtqsmoviereviews.blogspot.com/2010/07/review-rewind-hunger-2008.html

Monday, 26 July 2010
Review Rewind: Hunger (2008)
(Proof that smoking really is bad for your health)

Cast: Michael Fassbender & Liam Cunningham

Directed by: Steve McQueen

Screenplay by: Enda Walsh & Steve McQueen

Plot:

The incredible true story of Irish Republican, Bobby Sands hunger strike that ultimately cost him his life.

Verdict:

Steve McQueen's debut movie, Hunger is mostly told, not through dialogue but with imagery. Using his camera expertly, always keeping it held firmly on a single image like somebody washing the blood off his hands, makes the scene say all it needs to say without any spoken explanation. There is plenty of other striking examples of this throughout.

Despite this brilliant technique, one of the strongest scenes in the picture does emerge through lots of spoken dialogue. A fifteen-minute sequence in which Fassbender's (watch out for this guy over the next few years) Bobby Sands talks to his priest about his plans perfectly captures the essence of this determined character. But again, notice how beautifully the camera captures the scene, especially as Sands relays a childhood memory.

Bold, powerful and uncompromising, winning plenty of awards at film festivals all over the globe, Hunger is an astonishing debut feature film.

DDDD
Posted by Daniel Cummings at 05:32
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Post by Admin on Wed Jul 28, 2010 4:27 pm

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Foreign Shores: On ‘Hunger’

Posted on 28. Jul, 2010 by Andrew Waters
Hunger

On May 5, 1981 Bobby Sands became the first of ten men to die in the hunger strikes of the H.M. Prison Maze in Northern Ireland. The strikes, which were a response to the British government retracting the political status of paramilitary prisoners, were intended to persuade Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher to return concession of living conditions to paramilitary prisoners.

Hunger, the 2008 film of Steve McQueen (no relation to Steve McQueen of Bullitt and The Great Escape) carefully details the last days of Bobby Sands. A completely objective view of people and their actions is maintained throughout the entirety of the film. Although the historical details of the hunger strikes are certainly of a political nature, the film is not. In fact, The troubles and the constitutional status of Northern Ireland are scarcely mentioned. Hunger is not about choosing sides in a political debate. It is about being human, having certain inalienable rights, and being willing to sacrifice everything for a belief.

McQueen proves himself a master of color, light, and composition with visuals that are unsurpassed by most filmmakers. He allows the camera to linger on its subject, letting the viewer consider the image and its importance. Hunger is not a movie that dwells in a deep story. Instead, it attempts to convey a mood; a feeling; an atmosphere. Each individual shot has a deep significance to the film, and every infinitesimal moment of the film can be viewed as a painting, with the balance and structure of a visual artist.

The film contains very little dialogue. There are only two points in which there is extended conversation. For the most part, Hunger allows silence to do the talking. The ennui of a prison cell, the suffering of a starving man, and the remorse of a reluctant guard are captured not with words, but with a sigh, a gaze, or a hesitation.

Hunger

It is obvious that the dedication that went into making this film was tremendous. The controversial figure of Bobby Sands is presented in a way that doesn’t divide the audience; he is portrayed as neither a hero nor a criminal. To achieve a desired resemblance to the starving prisoner, actor Michael Fassbender dropped from 170 pounds to a dangerously low 132 pounds. The effect is eerily similar to Christian Bale’s weight loss for his role in The Machinist.

I would not find it appropriate to write a review of Hunger without giving a warning to those who may be interested in seeing it. The film is at times very difficult to watch in terms of content. The conditions of the prison are portrayed in startling realism, and the mistreatment of the prisoners ranges from graphic violence to the extreme grotesque.

It is often said amongst writers that a good narrative should be more than plot line. The story as a whole will not work unless each individual sentence grabs at the readers attention. And as a book is a large grouping of sentences, a film is a large grouping of shots. Each shot in a movie should hold its own and should demand the full attention of the viewer. Hunger does just that, uniting its many parts into a cohesive storyline that is simultaneously haunting and beautiful.
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Post by Admin on Wed Jul 28, 2010 4:36 pm

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There is no political violence, only criminal violence…

July 27, 2010 by theproseandthepassion

Hunger is the debut film of Steve McQueen. It depicts the real-life events of IRA prisoners’ dirty protests and hunger strikes in 1981, that culminated in the deaths of 10 prisoners, and ultimately led to changes in British Government policy in Northern Ireland.

It opens with words from the ‘iron lady’ Margaret Thatcher in voice over, stating that

There is no political violence, only criminal violence.

Steve McQueen then uses this astonishing, brutal film to demonstrate that the Irish Republican violence she denounced so vehemently was in fact systemic within the British State’s own policy towards IRA prisoners. He shows a world in which violence breeds violence in a terrible inevitable cycle. The policies and violence of the leadership of both the IRA and the UK Government have a deadly, crushing, dehumanising impact on the IRA’s ‘footsoldiers’ and the state prison officials.

The opening sequence is immediately arresting and sets the tone for what is to follow. In bleak, washed-out tones and almost complete silence, we watch a prison guard soak his swollen knuckles, check beneath his car for bombs, and arrive at work seemingly alienated from his raucous colleagues.

Within minutes, but still in silence, we are made to explore every corner of the haunting stillness of the prison cells covered from floor to ceiling with filth, and gaunt IRA prisoners crouched in their rank blankets. Steve McQueen grabs the viewer by the throat and demands our attention.

Indeed, it feels as though more than half the running length of the film is shot in silence, which compels the viewer to concentrate on the images, which are often cruel and almost always shocking. While we are forced to confront the implications of what McQueen is showing us, at the same time his shots are beautifully composed with an artist’s eye. The colour palette borders on the monochromatic, but is always washed-out, seemingly stripped bare of vitality and colour.

These long, almost meditative sequences are punctuated by short scenes of extreme violence that are all the more shocking for their noise and brutality. However, the heart of the film is an amazing 20-minute scene, a two-hander between Michael Fassbender as Bobby Sands and the prison priest, including a single 16 minute take. As with the silences, here the unmoving camera forces the viewer to concentrate on the dialogue, and despair at the intransigence of the hunger striker. At the same time we are given some insight into his background and determination to ‘succeed’.

Fassbender’s performance is spellbinding (although everyone in the cast is mesmerising). He commands every ounce of our attention, and his physical transformation in the final sequences of the film is as disturbing as any of the physical violence meted out in earlier scenes.


The film paints a vicious indictment of the inhumanity of ‘the Troubles’. Prison guards are forced to implement Government policy to suppress and subjugate the criminal violence of the IRA. There is a LOT of violence in this prison, both physical and mental, with systematic beatings of prisoners and subsequent riots that are terrible to watch. But while McQueen spends more time exposing the State violence, he certainly doesn’t apologise for or gloss over Republican atrocities, as one truly shocking moment makes clear. Guards and prisoners are both the victims of their leaders, following orders to implement campaigns or policies they don’t fully understand, which strip them of their humanity and cost many lives.

Hunger is an important and hugely impressive film, and will probably rank as one of the best films I’ll see all year. It’s definitely a very tough watch, and not at all for the faint-hearted. The trailer gives a flavour of the violence, even if it doesn’t quite do justice to the stillness and silences.
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Post by Admin on Wed Jul 28, 2010 10:31 pm

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Wednesday, July 28, 2010
Review Slew for You!
Hunger
I’m old enough to remember the news of the Irish hunger strikes going on in the UK in the early 80s. The prisoners’ plight was downplayed and, here in the States, it just seemed to be related to all the other casualties occurring in Ireland at the time. And, indeed, the arrogance of the British government to meet any of the prisoners’ demands was equated with their overall push for Irish independence. The IRA were seen and treated as terrorists by the Thatcher administration, this classification fueled by deaths on both sides of government officials, military soldiers, and civilians.

British director Steve McQueen certainly doesn’t downplay the violence inherent to this situation nor the stark political realities facing prisoners and guards alike. However, he exceptionally keys in on the civil disobedience of one particular hunger striker, Bobby Sands. Sands is noteworthy since he was a noted IRA leader who was elected to the UK Parliament during his hunger strike in 1981. His strike and subsequent death were seen as turning points in this struggle. In his portrayal of Sands Brit actor Michael Fassbender (Inglorious Basterds, 300) demonstrates a committed political prisoner with a chip on his shoulder, defiant to the last even as he’s physically wasting away.

What’s most notable about McQueen’s telling of this story is his and Fassbender’s ability to dive right into the mind of someone willing to starve themselves to death. Sands isn’t crazy and when he realizes the IRA authorities won’t help or support him publicly he commits to a plan of political action that can only end one way for him. The focal point of the film comes about the halfway mark, with an extended scene between Sands and a visiting priest (Rory Mullen). Mullen’s priest is down-to-earth, sensible, and trying to talk Sands out of taking on this hunger strike. At the same time, Sands seems to be trying to convince not only the priest of his actions but also himself. Their discussion encapsulates the point of the whole film, that even seemingly cut-off from all others (socially, politically, religiously) a man’s life & ending can have meaning and impact, that some things are worth defying all for, that death has meaning in the way it holds up the life around it.

I appreciate that this story is told by a Brit director, using a Brit actor in the lead. That, to me, represents a solid attempt at bridging the gap between the two countries, an attempt at healing by giving a stark representation of your “enemy” in their struggle, through one of their heroes.

Rating: A
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Post by Admin on Fri Jul 30, 2010 8:21 pm

http://goldbergblog.com/2010/07/30/quick-cuts-73010/

Hunger

This is such an odd beast of a film and that’s partly why I love it so much. The film spends the majority of its first act introducing characters who you believe are the main actors, but instead are simply representatives for each side of the England-Ireland political struggle in 1980. It’s easy to mistake them as protagonists. The film tells so much about them and yet upon reflection, you realize that they didn’t actually affect their circumstances.

The main character, who is introduced about thirty minutes into the film, is played by Michael Fassbender. People who don’t know his name are going to be learning it very soon. He’s signed on to star in a variety of projects and has multiple movies set for release. His success can be traced back primarily to his performance in Hunger (and later Fish Tank). It’s not simply that it’s a great performance. It’s a rare performance. It’s not about big dramatic moments or even when he’s starving himself to death as he begins a hunger strike.

The biggest moment in Hunger is simply a conversation between Fassbender’s character and a priest who’s trying to talk him out of beginning the strike. Their conversation is done in one long take. It’s two people talking to each other across a table. It’s highly unusual to put this kind of burden on an actor. Usually he or she can depend on an assist on the editing, the cinematography, and the music. Director Steve McQueen simply sets the camera down, gets his lighting right, frames the shot, and then gives it over to the actors. The scene doesn’t even qualify as “stage” acting because that kind of performance usually relies on physical movement in order to accentuate emotion that their voice alone can’t convey to the people in the cheap seats of the theater.

Speaking of McQueen, he’s the other star of the film. The imagery in the movie is astounding as is the use of sound. The way he holds shots, trusts his actors, and gives himself over to telling the story with as little dialogue as possible is remarkable. The introduction of the movie centers on a guard working at the prison where Fassbender’s character and his fellow IRA members are being held. The guard keeps looking at his bruised knuckles and we can see that he’s being consumed by guilt yet is stuck in a harsh reality. If Hunger worked like a conventional film, the movie would most likely be about this guard. I won’t describe how the guard’s story resolves itself other than to say that it’s mind-blowing.

By the time the movie reaches Fassbender’s hunger strike, it feels perfunctory. That’s not to say it’s dull, but it’s yet another example of how the movie subverts expectations. It’s not done as in-your-face drama, but showing martyrdom at its most feeble. I saw Hunger months ago and I’m still turning it over in my head.
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Post by Admin on Thu Aug 05, 2010 1:43 am

http://sojfilm.wordpress.com/2010/08/04/day-62-hunger-2008/


Day 62 – Hunger (2008)

August 4, 2010 in Film, Steve McQueen

Hunger

Directed by Steve McQueen

Hunger occupies the rare class of very good films that nobody in their right mind would subject themselves to more than once. It is an incredibly powerful depiction of the “blanket” and “no wash” protests* in Northern Ireland’s Maze prison in the late Seventies, culminating in a hunger strike that resulted in the death of ten prisoners between 1980 and 1981. Steve McQueen is methodical in his treatment of these protests and wastes little time on exposition or character development. We are simply dropped into prison in the midst of the first two protests and endure the same long stretches of boredom in the midst of horrifically disgusting conditions with brief interruptions of brutal violence between the prisoners and guards when bathing and grooming is forced upon them. At this point, the prisoners are relatively anonymous and, with the exception of one man (who is looked at more closely in an effort to show the cost of these events for the other side), so are the guards. For one-third of the film, we simply wallow in the terrible conditions that the prisoners live in. I’m well aware of how unappealing this sounds, but it’s effective and if you cannot handle it I’m not sure why you’re watching a film about a deadly prison hunger strike anyway.

The middle third of the film switches to a single 20+ minute conversation, mostly shot in one take, between a prisoner (Bobby Sands, played by Michael Fassbender) and a priest where they debate the moral and political implications of the hunger strike Sands plans on starting soon. Both make compelling points about Sands’ impending actions and, considering how staggeringly long these shots are, the performances are amazing.

The final third covers the slow decay of Sands as his hunger strike whittles away at his body and mind until his death 66 days later. McQueen lingers on each detail of Sands’ deterioration, as his already skinny frame melts away and his skin breaks out into sores. It’s agonizing to watch, but I’m not sure if there’s any other ethical way to film this. Starving oneself to death is a terrible way to die, but in so many other films it serves merely as an excuse for heroic monologues while the protagonist looks sick and tired under a blanket. Hunger focuses on just how terrible a toll these actions have on the body, which forces us to take a good hard look at the beliefs that lead someone to do this to themselves. An idea powerful enough for so many men to do this to themselves is one worth taking a fresh look at. It’s baffling to me that so many in the British Government at the time refused to do just that for so long.

*This article provides some helpful background information on these protests. In short, these prisoners were protesting the fact that they were no longer being treated as political prisoners and decided to go nude rather than wear the prison uniforms worn by criminals (wearing only blankets – hence the term “blanket” protests). The “no wash” protest is exactly what it says: prisoners refused to bathe because they had historically been attacked by prison guards during this time or when they were removing waste from their prison cells. Many prisoners also smeared their prison walls with excrement.
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Post by Admin on Tue Aug 10, 2010 2:50 pm

http://theresnotime-jrm.blogspot.com/2010/08/hunger-2008.html

Tuesday, 10 August 2010
Hunger (2008)
Off sick this week I've been catching up on a couple of recorded movies. Yesterday morning I gave Steve McQueen's Hunger a go. It's quite a powerful film to watch after breakfast, with some disturbing imagery, but it was well worth it. Michael Fassbender stars as Bobby Sands, an IRA 'terrorist' who staged a 66 day long hunger strike in 1981 to protest the way that Thatcher's government wouldn't treat those arrested in Northern Ireland as political prisoners.

Before the movie gets to Sands and his hunger strike, the scene is set through minimal dialogue and beautifully shot imagery of some pretty nasty prison conditions and behaviour. Initially the movie follows the character of Davey (Brian Milligan) who is new to prison. He refuses to wear the prison uniform and so is stripped and issued with just a blanket before being led to his cell, which his long-haired, scraggy cellmate has been smearing with excrement as a dirty protest. McQueen then shows the prisoners rebelling, by simultaneously pouring pottyfuls of piss under their doors, and the guards reacting through beatings. It is after one such beating that we are introduced to Sands, who is forciblably held down as his hair is roughly chopped off.

McQueen doesn't shy away from showing the horrors the prisoners had to endure, nor does he excuse the behaviour that put them in prison in the first place. This is clearly depicted in the first 5 minutes as a prison guard gets ready to leave home for work, before first checking beneath his car for bombs. He is later summarily executed as he visits his elderly mother. Sands' reasoning for his hunger strike is memorably discussed in a static, 16 minute long single take, featuring him and his priest. The only movement as they sit at a prison visiting table is the patterns made by their cigarette smoke, focussing all your attention on the dialogue. The scene works wonderfully, and wordy scene presages a near-wordless final half hour as Sands endures his hunger strike.

Michael Fassbender is harrowing in the role, and he quite clearly takes a method approach to the hunger strike as he lets himself become skin and bones. It's difficult to watch some of the scenes as Sands has his bed sores moisturised for example. The conclusion of the film is expected, but the final title cards explaining the effect of the strike are hard hitting. Hunger is a very good piece of cinema, very well shot, and it's a thought-provoking piece. I know very little about the Irish troubles, except what I've seen through films such as this really, so to me this was powerful. I don't think the movie picks sides, and I think it does a good job of showing what happened and letting the audience decided who the heroes and villains of the events were, or even if there were any.
Posted by jrm_gwm at 15:02
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Post by Admin on Thu Aug 12, 2010 5:16 pm

http://www.filmschoolrejects.com/features/36-films-hunger-2008.php

36 Films: Hunger (2008)
36 Films By Landon Palmer on August 12, 2010

For 36 days straight, we’ll be exploring the famous 36 Dramatic Situations by examining a film that exemplifies each one. From family killing family to prisoners in need of asylum, we brush off the 19th century list in order to remember that it’s still incredibly relevant today.

Whether you’re seeking a degree in Literature, love movies, or just love seeing things explode, our feature should have something for everyone. If it doesn’t, please don’t make us starve to death in an Irish prison camp.

Part 4 of the 36-part series takes a look at “Self-Sacrifice for an Ideal” with video artist Steve McQueen’s feature directorial debut, Hunger.

The Synopsis

Hunger tells the true story of the 1981 hunger strike led by former IRA member Bobby Sands (played here by Michael Fassbender). Rather than focus specifically on the politics or social reality of the strike, Hunger preoccupies itself largely with the affects of prison on the human body, how the body can be used as a device for political rebellion, the limitations of such use, and the use of the starving body as political device.

The Situation

“Self-Sacrifice for an Ideal” – This situation is pretty straightforward. It involves the Hero, the Ideal, and the “Creditor” or person or thing sacrificed (typically, also the “Hero”). The hero does what is necessary to achieve, or often dies while seeking to achieve, the ideal and gives of themselves first and foremost in order to achieve it.

The most obvious and classical example of this situation is the Christ narrative, which is why other manifestations of this situation often involve Christ-like or martyred characters (i.e., Neo in The Matrix series). “Hero” is also a term that is meant to be flexible here, for the one who sacrifices themselves can be viewed as maniacal, selfish, seekers of martyrdom with a messiah complex, or simply people who don’t understand the ramifications or special interests involved in their seeking of the ideal (i.e., whistleblower narratives like The Insider).

The Film

The complexity of the “Hero” status of the one who sacrifices for an ideal is certainly present in McQueen’s film. Sands was certainly a controversial figure, and Hunger – while, on the surface, preoccupied more with form than with politics – deals with inherently loaded political subject matter whether the film sought to or not.

But even within the IRA and its sympathizers, Sands is portrayed here as a morally complex figure. In the incredible, uncut 17-minute shot that is Sands’ conversation with a priest before initiating the hunger strike, Sands is accused of self-righteously seeking martyrdom and starting a movement that, while requiring the sacrifice of himself, also involves the expected sacrifices of his fellow IRA prisoners. In a film that is otherwise quietly concerned with the physical trials of being a political prisoner, this scene lays all the complexities and politics of self-sacrifice out on the table.

But Hunger, especially in its excruciating final act, is ultimately less concerned with the “ideal” as it is with the details of the “sacrifice.” McQueen uses images and sounds to create the reality of prison – not from a documentary perspective with the pretenses of objectivity, but one of pure emotion. The director somehow manages to make us endure the entire sensory experience of these events, from the smells of s$#! on prison walls to the pain of starvation. Fassbender brings Sands to life with astounding conviction, losing an inhuman amount of weight to make Sands’ last days all the more convincing. In the end, Hunger argues that whether or not Sands was a heroic soldier of freedom or a self-appointed Messiah matters little (though it’s obvious where the filmmakers stand on this issue), as Hunger is about how belief in any ideal can inspire a man to the extreme of sacrificing his body and his life.

Bonus Examples: Braveheart, The Insider, The Passion of Joan of Arc
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Post by Admin on Thu Aug 12, 2010 5:17 pm

http://flickchickcanada.blogspot.com/2010/07/here-is-beginning-of-my-post.html

#14: Hunger (2008)

Country: UK/Ireland
Director: Steve McQueen
Starring: Michael Fassbender

McQueen’s film about the IRA hunger strike led by Bobby Sands is a harrowing film and often difficult to watch. McQueen’s strategy consists in large part of long, unbroken shots that test the viewer’s endurance as scenes of incredible brutality play out with unrelenting intensity. In what is perhaps the film’s most famous scene, Sands and a visiting priest have a long conversation about, amongst other things, the utility of the hunger strike, all of it playing out in one unbroken shot that clocks in at about 15 minutes and is brilliantly played by Michael Fassbender and Rory Mullen. Strikingly photographed by Sean Bobbitt, Hunger is a film you won’t soon forget.
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Post by Admin on Fri Aug 13, 2010 6:28 pm

http://davidcamponfilm.co.uk/2010/08/12/%E2%80%98hunger%E2%80%99-steve-mcqueen-2008/

‘Hunger’ (Steve McQueen, 2008)
Written by David on 12 August 2010

You rarely get through a year without some actor or other crashing down in weight in support of the method style. In what can often be seen as a clumsy grab for awards season recognition (take note 50 Cent), actual acting ability is shuffled aside in the desperate attempt to seize the silverware with Ethiopian themed dinners and fruit juice breakfasts. With this film from artist Steve McQueen (black not dead), Michael Fassbender effectively brushes aside preconceived expectations set by a generation of self-flagellating thespians by bringing real depth and strength to his performance as IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands.

McQueen isn’t big on moralising, and allows for a quiet ‘no-frills’ elegance that effectively captures a life defined by beatings and faecal finger-painting

4/5
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Post by Admin on Thu Aug 19, 2010 5:05 pm

http://ryancolucci.blogspot.com/2010/08/movie-review-hunger.html

Thursday, August 19, 2010
Movie Review: Hunger

Not something I saw in theaters, but I wanted to talk about it briefly. Directed by Steve McQueen (rough having to live in a legend's shadow - this guy might want to use a middle initial), this is an English film about Northern Ireland that was made in 2008.

It starts off somewhat slow and for the most part there are about 30 minutes of dialogue in the entire film - the majority coming from one scene - which plays in one long shot. Visually, the movie is striking. And Bobby Sands, although we don't meet him until later - is definitely who/what we gravitate towards. I was waiting for the end credits to roll to see who plays him - and was astonished to see it was Michael Fassbender. I've seen his name go flying around for various roles recently and kept asking myself, what's up with this guy? Well, now I know. He's awesome.

The movie is definitely hard to watch, as it depicts awful prison conditions and then the final, horrible days of Bobby Sands - who died while on a hunger strike. This topic is somewhat dear to me as I support a united Ireland and, although don't always support their methods, support the IRA.
Posted by Ryan Colucci
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