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Hunger dvd reviews

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Hunger dvd reviews

Post by Admin on Tue Jan 05, 2010 1:41 am

http://www.getthebigpicture.net/blog/2010/1/3/criterion-collection-to-release-hunger-in-february.html

Criterion Collection To Release 'Hunger' in February
DateSunday, January 3, 2010 at 7:42PM
If we're not already, I suspect we'll look back on Hunger a few years from as being a fairly notable film. It's the debut film from director Steve McQueen and stars Michael Fassbender in a jarring performance as IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands, presented here in the last few weeks of his life. Partly because we expect to see much more from the director and star over the next few years and partly because the film hasn't quite gained the top-of-mind acceptance in the US yet as it has in Europe, Hunger is a movie we'll probably refer to over and over again for a while.

It joins the esteemed Criterion Collection on February 16th, which all but ensures that this will be the definitive version of Hunger. Hard to find a lot wrong with the presentation of anything Criterion releases, and the DVDs - and now Blu-rays - usually have the best supplemental material in the business. You can click the image above to see the full cover.

Here's what's included in the Criterion Collection edition of Hunger:

-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 Maze prison hunger strikes and the political and civilian reactions across Northern Ireland

-A booklet featuring an essay by film critic Chris Darke

Again, it's out in just over a month, and although you'll pay a little more, you get what you pay for.
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Re: Hunger dvd reviews

Post by Admin on Fri Jan 08, 2010 6:36 am

http://carlosdev.wordpress.com/2010/01/07/hunger/

New Releases for the Week of January 8, 2010

Bobby Sands seeks counsel from a priest in the most compelling scene from Hunger.

(IFC) Michael Fassbender, Stuart Graham, Helena Bereen, Liam Cunningham, Dennis McCambridge, Liam McMahan, Laine Megaw. Directed by Steve McQueen

Change doesn’t always come through discussion and negotiation. Sometimes, when all else fails, one must risk everything to effect meaningful change.

Bobby Sands (Fassbender) is a member of the Irish Republican Army who was imprisoned in Long Kesh, the prison the British used primarily to house members of the IRA. He and his fellow Irishmen in the prison are protesting prison conditions by refusing to shave or bathe. They yearn to be recognized as political prisoners, which they consider themselves to be, by the British government of Margaret Thatcher, who considers them nothing more than common criminals.

The prisoners are brutally beaten and forced to shave, particularly by Lohan, a guard (Graham) who seems conflicted by his duties. It is clear their tactics aren’t working. Sands decides to go on a hunger strike, a massive one involving all the prisoners until their cause is recognized. There had been a previous hunger strike that had been unsuccessful but Sands felt it was because the strikers had never been prepared to actually take that strike to its logical conclusion; it was more of a protest than a negotiation tactic.

He argues the point with a particularly level-headed Catholic Priest (Cunningham), a realist with a world view that is remarkably logical. The priest argues the ineffectiveness of the tactic as opposed to its morality; never once does he mention the word “sin.” It’s a compelling scene, shot in one, continuous take, 17 minutes worth. It is one of the longest continuous shots in the history of film and is a masterpiece of filmmaking.

Sands would refuse food for 66 days and suffered horrifying physical debilitation; kidney failure, ulcerating sores, weakness. He eventually died and became a martyr to the Irish Republican cause, a position he continues to occupy 28 years after the events of the strike.

McQueen is careful not to over-politicize the movie but it is clear his sympathies lie more with the prisoners than the Thatcher government. McQueen concentrates on prison conditions rather than on the actions that got the prisoners there in the first place which tends to make the men more sympathetic than they might have been. Nonetheless it is a compelling story, a story of will and absolute belief in a cause.

McQueen doesn’t tell this story in a conventional manner. Sands hardly appears at all until nearly halfway through the film when he decides to initiate the strike. I don’t necessarily have a problem with this – it’s clear McQueen is a gifted filmmaker. My only issue is that he has a tendency to use imagery as an end rather than a means; flocks of birds which quite obviously symbolize freedom appear often. I don’t mind a symbol; I just object to being hit in the face with it as if I couldn’t figure it out on my own.

The acting is very solid, but Fassbender and Cunningham elevate. Their scene together may be one of the best I’ve seen this year. Most of the cast aren’t well-known here in the States, but they do some very credible work in difficult circumstances.

Sands is implacable in his dedication to his cause, as fanatics are. He is willing to lead his fellow prisoners to death in order to get his point across, as indeed he did. Did he get the concessions he wanted? History tells us for the most part he did. Although the prisoners of Long Kesh were never formally recognized by the Thatcher government as political prisoners, they were in fact treated that way. In the end, the Sinn Fein would be recognized as a legitimate political entity and Ireland would eventually see peace.

The figure of Bobby Sands still looms large in the Irish psyche and to a certain extent, as a polarizing force. Some see him as a hero and a martyr while others see him as a criminal and a coward. McQueen clearly sees him as the former. For my part, I admire his dedication to the cause. However, that is tempered by my discomfort with the tactics of the IRA, who used bombs and guns to get their point across, often on innocent people. I simply can’t condone it, although there are many who feel that they were fully justified in what they did. I don’t know how I would have felt living a Catholic in Belfast in that time; perhaps I would have seen things differently. Still, this is a story that should be told and here, it is told tolerably well. While I don’t ever get the impression that I knew who the man Bobby Sands was from watching this film, I at least get a sense of what he went through at the end of his life.

WHY RENT THIS: A no punches pulled, no holds barred look at the final six weeks of IRA hunger strike organizer Bobby Sands’ life. The scene between Fassbender and Cunningham is the highlight of the movie.

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: McQueen’s gratuitous use of flocking birds got to be annoying and unnecessary. “Look Ma, I’m directing.” McQueen’s sympathies clearly lie with the IRA, which may be difficult for some to accept.

FAMILY VALUES: A lot of male frontal nudity, depictions of graphic prison brutality as well as the effects of starvation. Not for the squeamish in any way, shape or form.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Actor Liam Cunningham roomed with Michael Fassbender prior to filming in order to practice their 17 minute scene together, knowing it would be filmed in one continuous shot. Even though they often practiced the scene five to ten times a day for weeks, it still took four takes to get the scene right.

NOTABLE DVD EXTRAS: None listed.

FINAL RATING: 6/10
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Re: Hunger dvd reviews

Post by Admin on Mon Jan 18, 2010 2:02 am

http://stillsearching.wordpress.com/2010/01/17/upcoming-criterion-releases-you-should-buy/

Upcoming Criterion Releases You Should Buy
January 17, 2010

The next few months contain a stellar lineup of fantastic films getting the Criterion Collection treatment on DVD/Blu-ray. Here are 3 that I’m especially excited about:

Hunger (dir. Steve McQueen, 2008): Before he played the suave British agent for Operation Kino in Inglourious Basterds, Irish actor Michael Fassbender turned in an unflinching performance as IRA member Bobby Sands in Hunger, one of my favorite films of 2008. Release date: February 16, 2010.
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Re: Hunger dvd reviews

Post by Admin on Sat Feb 06, 2010 1:06 am

http://7x7.com/blogs/screen-shots/home-movies-hunger-steven-soderberghs-che-get-criterion-makeovers


02/01/109:00 pm
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Screen Shots
Home Movies: ‘Hunger,’ Steven Soderbergh's ‘Che’ Get Criterion Makeovers
Michael Fassbender, star of Steve McQueen's 'Hunger,' in leaner times.
Courtesy IFC Films

Hunger is a study in cinematic minimalism, and that, finally, is what lends it such blunt force. It follows the final six weeks in the life of Irish Republican Army militant Bobby Sands, who helped organize the seven-month hunger strike that would claim his life in 1981, after 66 days. But this is not a hagiography of Sands, or a shot at British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, whose reaction to his passing was at best unfeeling. First-time filmmaker Steve McQueen’s quietly devastating drama is a meditation on the depths of degradation men will endure in pursuit of the respect they think they deserve.

For Sands (Michael Fassbender), who was considered a martyr by some and an irresponsible troublemaker by others, the capacity to endure had reached its limit. Or had it? Here, he argues that suicide by starvation is not surrender but a means to an end – in this case, that IRA prisoners be recognized by Parliament as political detainees. (Thatcher dismissed the hunger strike as a publicity stunt, though publicity and politics are hardly mutually exclusive.) Ultimately, Sands got what he wanted: The British government, however tacitly, gave the prisoners the rights they demanded, and today there is peace in Northern Ireland. Sands just didn’t live to see it.

If that takes anything away from his sacrifice, McQueen and co-author Enda Walsh are loath to suggest it. Yet the possibility isn’t ignored. During the movie’s most dialogue-heavy sequence, Sands debates the wisdom of his strike with a Catholic priest (Liam Cunningham, of The Wind That Shakes the Barley) who objects to the futility of his protest. Change requires action, he argues, and dead men can’t act. If Sands had lived long enough to be freed – he was 27 when the hunger strike began – one wonders what he might have accomplished.

Elsewhere, McQueen eschews dialogue altogether, preferring to depict, in excruciating detail, the treatment of IRA prisoners at Her Majesty’s Prison Maze, the formal name concealing a cesspool. It was there that inmates were coupled together in glorified closets, without clothing, beds or toilets. They lived, and sometimes died, in puddles of their own refuse, as the director amply illustrates in scenes that are not for the squeamish. Men are beaten, forcibly cleaned up and then tossed back into their cells, some of which are literally caked with feces.

Do not pity them, Thatcher tells us in two archived radio dispatches, for they are criminals. It’s easy to see her point – the IRA did not shrink from murder – but not as justification for the torture condoned at the Maze. To witness the punishment that Sands and others endured is agonizing, and on this point alone, Hunger seems to choose sides. McQueen’s camera merely observes, but it lingers tellingly on the most gut-wrenching spectacles, daring us not to be moved. The silence is deafening.

As Sands, Fassbender (Fish Tank) was required to lose an astonishing 40 pounds off his already gaunt frame. He captures well the righteous rage of a man married to his convictions, one who believes a life without dignity is no life at all. The performance is blistering, but watching a man disintegrate before our eyes – McQueen includes a passage graphically explaining the ravaging effects of starvation – is perhaps the movie’s most harrowing contribution.

McQueen is a visual artist, and it shows. For all the savagery on screen, his images are masterfully conceived and endowed, in some cases, with a sort of poetry. It is during Sands’ final days, as he drifts in and out of consciousness, that the director finally breaks with reality, with the kind of grace Julian Schnabel exhibited in The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. Hunger is a very different film, but in its depiction of a life given up in the name of idealism, however naïve or wrongheaded, it resonates with as much passion and force.

EXTRAS: Released first at Cannes in 2008, Hunger required little restoration, but Criterion's high-definition digital transfer remains a work of beautiful precision. The supplemental materials, including interviews with McQueen and Fassbender and a BBC program about the political fallout from the hunger strikes, are illuminating if less than overwhelming.
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Re: Hunger dvd reviews

Post by Admin on Mon Feb 08, 2010 12:35 am

http://best-buying.com/hunger/

Hunger
Feb 7
DVD Complete TV Series

Description
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.

Stills from Hunger (Click for larger image)

Amazon.com
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

Hunger
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Denzel Lockheart
February 7th, 2010 at 9:39 PM

“Hunger” is definitely not an easy movie to watch. Knowing the content, Bobby Sands, you know that it’ll be a very depressing ride into the depths of hell. And that’s exactly what “Hunger” is.

Michael Fassbender does an excellent job at playing Sands. He seems to really get into the role and towards the end, because of how much he starves himself, he really looks frighteningly skinny. If anything, the movie is worth watching for him alone. The whole time he’s on screen, he’s hard to look at because of how thin he is.

The movie has a very dirty and grimy look to it, maybe to make the film a bit more ugly. But the cinematography is feinitely something to behold, as the visuals enhance the depressing feel of the movie. And the content is very disturbing too. The scene where the two guys are beaten and then anally searched is prood that nobody under 15 should watch this. And the bedsores bit… pretty gnarly!

However, as well shot and acted as the movie is, it also felt a tad shallow. The “scene” (of course the 17 minute conversation scene) is a tad boring and seems to drag on forever, as if McQueen was trying to achieve a Tarantino effect. The violent scenes are too long and drawn out, as well. And we didn’t need 5 minute shots of things… a janitor was shown mopping the floor for 3 minutes. Also, for a 96 minute movie, it seemed to go on forever.

In short, I’d say see this movie for the performance from Fassbender alone because he makes this movie worth watching. But beware, if a happy and hopeful movie is what you’re looking for… you’d best look elsewhere.

IN TOTAL:

Entertainment: 6/10

Sex: 2/10

Violence: 5/10

Fassbender: Makes the movie

Swearing: Especially with the thick Irish accents, it’s epic!

Prozac sales: Will boost undoubtedly
Rating: 3 / 5
*
Andrew Bowcock
February 7th, 2010 at 11:35 PM

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.
Rating: 5 / 5
*
Nathan Andersen
February 8th, 2010 at 2:09 AM

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
Rating: 5 / 5
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Re: Hunger dvd reviews

Post by Admin on Wed Feb 10, 2010 12:10 am

http://livingincinema.com/2010/02/09/new-on-dvd-hunger-revanche-coco-before-chanel/

New DVDs coming Tuesday, February 16:

(recommended movies underlined where appropriate. All ratings out of 5 stars)

Hunger (****). English artist Steve McQueen’s first feature, Hunger, is an uncompromising, grim and intense piece of work that probes the 66 day hunger strike led by Bobby Sands to restore the political status of members of the IRA being held at The Maze prison in Northern Ireland in 1981. Largely eschewing the highly charged politics behind the story, McQueen dances obliquely around his subject, first following a prison officer and then a freshly admitted prisoner before finally zeroing in on the story of Sands himself half way into the film. With long passages devoid of dialogue and musical cues used only sparingly, the result is a Bressonian sketch, both unsettlingly detailed and hypnotizingly abstract, showing the consequences of the conflict on both sides. Rising star Michael Fassbender gives a fully committed performance as Sands. The best scene is a long, single-shot conversation between Fassbender and Liam Cunningham as a priest. It doesn’t sound like fireworks, but it really is.
(Opened: 3/26/09) / Review
Buy: Criterion DVD Criterion Blu-ray
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Re: Hunger dvd reviews

Post by Admin on Wed Feb 10, 2010 3:22 pm

http://www.dvdtown.com/review/hunger-the-criterion-collection/dvd/7808

Hunger: The Criterion Collection (DVD)
APPROX. 96 MINS. - PROD. YEAR: 2008 - MPA RATING: NR

FIRST PUBLISHED Feb 10, 2010
By Christopher Long

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Flesh. Faith. Feces. In "Hunger" (2008), political resistance is rooted in the body, a body pushed to the limit and ultimately fueled exclusively by belief.

"Hunger" is the story of Bobby Sands, a Provisional Irish Republican Army volunteer who led the 1981 Irish hunger strikes at the now infamous Maze Prison (Her Majesty´s Prison Maze, also known as the H-block.) In an ongoing protest for IRA members to be granted recognition and rights as political prisoners, Sands and dozens of other prisoners refused food until their demands were met, though the film suggests Sands fully expected to become a martyr for the cause. Sands died after 66 excruciating days, making him both a media sensation and a rallying point for IRA sympathizers.

But Sands (Michael Fassbender) appears surprisingly late in his own story. First-time feature director Steve McQueen begins instead with a prison guard (Stuart Graham) preparing to leave for work in the morning. He eats a hefty British breakfast (bangers and something or other, of course), checks under his car for bombs and steels himself for another day on the block. McQueen´s sympathies indisputably lie with Sands and the other prisoners, but he provides some time (not equal time, but more than a fleeting moment) to the authority figures, suggesting that they too are the product and, to some extent, victims of a fascist penal system. Later we also see a riot guard crying after his role in a savage beating.

When Sands finally appears he isn´t even identified at first and, as far as I can recall, is only called Bobby throughout the film (near the end his parents are identified as Mr. and Mrs. Sands.) The script, written by Irish playwright Edna Walsh and McQueen, eschews exposition in favor of a full immersion experience that occurs almost exclusively within the walls of the prison.

The prisoners are not only stripped of power but are literally stripped of clothing. They demand to be allowed to wear their civilian clothes as political prisoners would be. Refusing to wear prison garb, they clutch only at thin blankets in their dank cells. They use the only thing they have left to show resistance, their own bodies. The prisoners smear the walls with feces, and funnel their urine into the prison hallways. The guards respond by trying to break these resisting bodies. Malnourished, naked prisoners are routinely beaten by guards clad from head to toe in riot gear. The prisoners are forced to undergo violent cavity searches and to have their hair shorn off by ham-fisted jailers wielding dull scissors.

It might sound odd to say that a film about blood, piss and s$#! can be beautiful, but McQueen, a Turner Prize-winning visual artist, and cinematographer Sean Bobbitt shoot even the most grotesque sequences with an aesthetic rigor that borders on portraiture. The film´s tour de force centerpiece is a 20+ minute conversation between Sands and a parish priest (Liam Cunningham) which consists mostly of an unbroken 17-minute shot. This static two-shot of a dialogue scene, potentially a major drag, is transformed into a work of art as the characters are shot in near-silhouette, just barely limned by sunlight. The long take also features some of the most stylish use of cigarette smoke since Hollywood´s Golden age.

The film´s final act shows Sands gradually wasting away as he uses his body for one final act of defiance. Michael Fassbender, most recently seen as the heroic film critic in "Inglourious Basterds," put the finishing touch on a physically committed performance by spending ten weeks on a stringent diet, transforming his already trim body into a skeletal frame. Sands, rail-thin and clad in a white sheet, is unmistakably likened to Christ and the last scenes are imbued with a sacred aura as we watch him make the ultimate sacrifice.

The film stirred a mild controversy in Britain where conservative critics complained about the film´s unabashedly sympathetic portrayal of Sands, but it didn´t rile as many feathers as Steven Soderbergh´s "Che" did in the same year. McQueen won the Camera d´Or at Cannes (given to the best feature debut) and pulled in dozens of critical awards across the globe. Fassbender was similarly feted. It´s a remarkable debut by any standard.

VIDEO

The film is presented in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The transfer isn´t as strong as Criterion´s best offerings, most notably in the contrast where the shadows don´t look nearly as sharp as they do in the Blu-Ray edition. It´s a mild disappointment based on Criterion-high expectations and this is definitely a case where the Blu-Ray marks a substantial improvement.

AUDIO

The DVD is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. The sound mix is strong with some of the lower-register sound effects (batons thumping on riot shields, prisoners slamming into doors) coming through nicely. Optional English subtitles are provided which will be essential to many American listeners who can´t always process the Irish brogue. Minimal instances of Gaelic dialogue are not subtitled and aren´t supposed to be.

EXTRAS

The single disc includes a Trailer and four special features starting with interviews with McQueen (2009, 18 min.) and Fassbender (2008, 14 min., conducted by critic Jason Solomons.)

A brief "Making of" Feature (13 min.) cobbles together interviews with cast and crew, including writer Edna Walsh who I would have liked to hear more from.

"Provos´ Last Card" is a 1981 installment of the BBC news program "Panorama." It was recorded four months after Bobby Sands´ death. Reporter Peter Taylor visits the Maze prison and speaks to political figures (including Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams) on both sides of the struggle to measure the immediate impact the hunger strikes were having on the public perception of the IRA. This feature provides context not present in the film, though its perspective is obviously a limited one coming so soon after the hunger strike.

The slim insert booklet features an essay by critic Chris Darke.

FILM VALUE

With "Hunger," director Steve McQueen delivers one the more memorable debut features of the last several years. The film is a harrowing, intensely physical experience that offers no respite from start to finish. It´s not one you´re likely to forget any time soon.

"Hunger" is Criterion´s newest entry in their new focus on contemporary cinema. They have also released "Revanche" (2008) this month and "Summer Hours" (2008) will follow in April.

Criterion has also released Hunger" on Blu-Ray. As usual, the Blu-Ray is currently for sale at Amazon cheaper than the SD.
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Re: Hunger dvd reviews

Post by Admin on Thu Feb 11, 2010 9:01 pm

http://www.dvdtalk.com/reviews/41056/hunger/

Hunger (Criterion Collection)
Criterion // Unrated // February 16, 2010
List Price: $39.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Casey Burchby | posted February 11, 2010

Watching Hunger is a painful and illuminating experience. It cuts to the marrow of a tendentious, charged historical moment via flawless visual storytelling. The film starts out by documenting the effects of external brutality upon a group of jailed IRA soldiers. A long conversation between two key characters serves as a kind of entr'acte, wherein we are privy to the logic behind the inversion of that brutality. The second act allows that inversion to play out through Bobby Sands' conscious decision to subvert the external brutality with self-imposed starvation, a tactic that simultaneously takes him out from beneath the boots of his jailers, while condemning himself to an even harsher fate than that of his fellows. The film's structure is deliberate and purposeful. In telling the story of the Maze and Bobby Sands, the filmmakers have eschewed historical context and political angles in favor of focusing almost exclusively on life inside the prison. It's a narrow way of covering true events, but it also allows the craft of filmmaking to intuitively find the heart of the story without becoming stuck in the minutiae of historical re-creation.

We are only introduced to Sands at the first act's end; the preceding screen time mainly follows Davey (Brian Milligan), a prisoner new to HM Prison Maze in Belfast. He has been imprisoned for six years for crimes that are not revealed to us. His cellmate Gerry (Liam McMahon) has covered their walls with s$#!, sometimes in elaborate patterns. We go on to learn about life in the Maze through Davey's frightened eyes. The story begins in the midst of the Blanket and No Wash protests (a reaction to the British government having revoked IRA prisoners' political status), during which they refuse to wear uniforms or bathe. Forced haircuts and baths lead to much jailer-on-prisoner violence, with any and all prisoner resistance exponentially increasing its severity. Toward the end of this first act, we are introduced to Bobby Sands (Michael Fassbender). Sands was sentenced to fourteen years in the Maze for possession of a revolver. We first seem him being dragged kicking and screaming into a lavatory where guards hack off his long, filth-encrusted hair and hold him in a bathtub for a cursory scrub.

The aforementioned entr'acte takes place shortly after this. It consists of a long conversation between Sands and his priest (Liam Cunningham), in which Sands announces his intention to go on a hunger strike and the priest tries to dissuade him. It's a very long scene - about 20 minutes, with most of that time devoted to a single still, unbroken shot. The two actors carry it off expertly, although I question the speed of their delivery. Hunger is a slow, steady film and this scene features energetic, play-like performances that feel out of step with the movie's tone. There is much that is impressive about this long, ambitious, emotional sequence, but I can't help feeling that it doesn't live up to its intentions.

The second act exclusively follows Sands' deterioration in unflinchingly graphic detail that avoids seeming gratuitous or exploitative.

Hunger was co-written and directed by Steve McQueen, and was my introduction to his work. Hunger is relentlessly sensory. The visuals consist of formally-composed shots that convey the story in a highly-controlled way. Expository dialogue is virtually nonexistent, with the exception of the entr'acte. The camera is the narrator, and it shows what we need to know about the hideous conditions in the Maze.

One might question the aesthetically-pleasing style of Hunger. Such raw subject matter could have received a grittier, handheld, choppier treatment designed to push our faces into the filth. This, of course, would have also forced an audience to sympathize with the prisoners. (Although Hunger focuses on prisoners' experiences, it also takes time to follow an unnamed prison guard [Stuart Graham], who partakes in violence against prisoners, but appears to know that he's less of a person for it.) I think McQueen's visual choices are mesmerizing and effective. Formal compositions alert us that we are being directed to look at something in particular. Whereas the subjective camera places us in a position that evokes a specific emotional response, formality leaves it up to us to ask why we're seeing a particular image framed in a particular way. Composition is as out of fashion in film as it is in painting, but it's a technique that brings us back to the basic communicative nature of art, and McQueen handles it with care and dexterity.

Images and ideas from Hunger linger persistently. Fassbender's transformation into the starved Sands is alarming. Graham's nearly silent performance as the demoralized guard is also terribly compelling. With bracing focus, McQueen's film studies a particular set of events and human responses to extreme circumstances. As Sands experiences a slow, agonizing death, we are offered a glimpse into the type of rare strength required to rebuke an impenetrable institution of authority.

The DVD

The Package
The Criterion Collection has released Hunger on a single disc inside of a clear keepcase adorned with double-sided cover art. A booklet is included that contains an essay by Chris Darke.

The Video
Hunger is presented in an enhanced 2.35:1 widescreen transfer. The dark visuals are supported by thick blacks and browns. Light is natural or of a type that mimics the institutional fluorescents of the prison. Hunger was shot on film, and the transfer reproduces the bold visuals while maintaining the fine gradations in color, light, and shadow of the source medium.

The Audio
The 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack is very quiet most of the time, but explodes to life during scenes of violence and noise. Surrounds are active throughout, with subtle ambient effects consistently present, even in the quietest scenes. It's a very strong track.

The Extras
Criterion has put together a few substantial supplements here that deepen the experience of the film. Steve McQueen (17:52) is an illuminating interview with the filmmaker in which he discusses what propelled him to make the film, and how he approached it technically and thematically. The Making of Hunger (13:24) includes the views of a number of key participants, including McQueen, Cunningham, Fassbender, producer Robin Gutch, co-writer Enda Walsh, and others. An interview with Michael Fassbender (13:39) includes a discussion of the physical challenges associated with his role as Sands. The best and most illuminating single supplement, however, is an episode from the BBC current affairs series, Panorama. Broadcast four months after Sands' death, the episode (titled "The Provos' Last Card?" [45:01]) investigates the roots of the hunger strike, which was still ongoing at the time this was originally aired. Interviewees include Gerry Adams, Ian Paisley, and John Hume. It's an invaluable historical document on its own.

Final Thoughts

Hunger is a brilliant, intense, visceral experience delivered by fearless performers and committed filmmakers. Thoughtfully crafted and showcasing a lucid, elegant technical facility, Steve McQueen's first feature signals a promising career. Highly recommended.
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Re: Hunger dvd reviews

Post by Admin on Sat Feb 13, 2010 1:37 am

http://www.hdmoviesz.com/2010/02/hunger-2008.html

The Movie:

Hunger, Turner Prize-winning artist Steve McQueen’s debut film, is ostensibly an account of the death of Provisional IRA member Bobby Sands. But it’s not a hagiography of a victim any more than it’s an everyday piece of cinema. Hunger, in its minimalist way, burrows its way into a situation laden with a hate, terror, outrage, and determination so powerful it finds purest expression in being turned on the self.

The immediate narrative of Hunger tells of how, early in the tenure of Margaret Thatcher’s Tory government, the political detainee status of prisoners arrested during “The Troubles” was revoked, and the label “criminal” put in its place. In protest, the occupants of Belfast’s Maze Prison refused to wear prison-issue uniforms, began wearing blankets as clothing, refused to wash and cut their hair, and wiped their own excrement on their cell walls. Bobby Sands (Michael Fassbender), who was elected a minister of Parliament whilst in prison, established a hunger strike and became the first of 10 protesters to die, eventually forcing the British government to concede to their demands in all ways except officially. The film unremittingly details the causes, logic, and grim result of Sands’ actions.

Hunger is more a study of ramifications than politics or character, though the latter aspects affect the former in complex ways. The cinematic narrative begins with two other figures. There’s a fresh, young prisoner, Davey (Brian Milligan) who feebly tries to refuse the treatment he’s being given and then has to submit to a humiliating strip as a prelude to being thrown in with Gerry (Liam McMahon), who looks like a cavemen after months of the “No Wash.” And there’s a guard in the prison, Ray Lohan (Stuart Graham), whose morning routine begins the film—after a listless breakfast, he goes to his car and checks under it for bombs. He is glimpsed daily dipping his raw, bloody knuckles in ice water and, later, having a lonely cigarette. This repeated damage and inculcated isolation and paranoia is the inevitable result of the environment in which he works—a grimy, stinking asylum of resistance and hatred—and the threat of violent reprisal from Republicans on the outside. McQueen slowly reveals his sympathy and distance from both jailers and jailed.

Sands becomes the focus of the film only gradually. In the movie’s longest scene, Sands converses with his parish priest, Father Moran (Liam Cunningham), whom he calls in before beginning the hunger strike to sort through his own feelings. Both men are terse, tough men of the world whose native pith is infused with a rich and articulate set of values: the priest prods Sands’ motives for signs of morbidity and lack of thorough judgment. Sands ripostes in no uncertain terms of how he is forced to follow his conclusion—that resistance is necessary—to the only end now left to him. Despite being a Catholic, he subscribes to an ethos fundamentally alien to a religious sense of transcendence, seeing right and wrong as being questions limited to the immediate world. The sequence is amazing in its sheer length (23 minutes, and riveting all the way), for its depth of engaged analysis, the sense of both the similarities and sharply delineated differences between the two men, and the startling, rapid-fire acting that puts to shame most of the pompous showboating seen lately in the awards season.

Sands outlines his resolve by telling of an event from his adolescence, when a jolly jaunt in the country with some other lads ended in him drowning an injured foal, thus courting punishment, but gaining respect from the other boys for revealing the will to do what was right. This same characteristic still dominates him, and as he dies, he returns in fantasy to that same rural landscape in a moment that evokes the biblical quote featured in Robert Bresson’s similar A Man Escaped (1956): “The spirit breathes where it will.” An early moment in which Davey toys with a bug he plucks through a hole in the cell window prefigures an inversion, with Sands’ haunted memories of birds beating in the trees during his country run, and as Sands dies, the walls of the prison seem to become less real than the twilight natural realm he runs through. It’s only here, in the Christlike reconfiguring of Sands, whose secular sensibility has been stated, that the film’s rigour slackens. McQueen doesn’t seem to be able to think of anything other than hoary spiritual suggestions in those fluttering birds as a way to underline the awe involved in Sands’ self-consumption for his cause. The solidity of the details of Sands’ sore-riddled, bony body speaks far more profoundly of mortality and the thin grip we have on it.

Recent works, like Alan Hollinghurst’s The Line of Beauty, have envisioned the Thatcher era in Britain as a kind of Gilded Age with an almost Romanesque sense of entitlement and exclusivity for select circles; Hunger provides a counterbalance in detailing the firm suppression and silencing of opposing voices that coincided with that time. Ironically, although nobody says much through much of the film, the act of sending messages in ways other than literate, civil communication is the issue. Political viability and whose prerogatives decide which voice is called legitimate and which isn’t is a vital question in Hunger. Throughout the film, the intolerably smug tones of Thatcher feature on the soundtrack in speeches to parliament that lay down her sense of utter prerogative in wielding power; against this, the prisoners employ their own paltry weapons to reduce their immediate environment to one of third-world squalor. The film captures the essence of a hateful resolve as it reveals the purpose of the prisoners and the inflamed character of the jailers.

At one point, the prisoners are given clean, new rooms: they sit blinking,in momentarily dazed silence, and then begin to trash the the rooms with explosive thoroughness. In swift reprisal, riot squad police are called. They drag out and mercilessly beat the naked, defenceless men, whilst one young copper hides away in horror and disgust: his is the sorrow and revulsion of someone not engaged in these clashes of will, and thus, is a stand-in for the general audience. There’s an implicit irony as Thatcher unequivocally tars all of the Irish Nationalists as thuggish terrorists unworthy of any engagement, and yet the state uses medieval tactics when it feels like it. But McQueen reveals the grotesque force of both sides by evoking a primal kind of war. When Lohan goes to visit his aged, senile mother in a nursing home, a masked gunman walks in and blows Lohan’s brains out all over the uncomprehending old lady.

This is not such a new perspective for a British film. John Mackenzie’s little-seen, rough-as-guts 1979 classic A Sense of Freedom, about the trials of Glasgow loan shark and gangster Jimmy Boyle and his war against prison authorities, told a similar story with as much grit and moral probing about who deserves what kind of treatment. Mackenzie’s film was in a more traditional form of docucrama; McQueen’s film is borderline abstract art, and in description, his style might sound a mix of the arid and drawn out and grossly grueling, but it’s a quietly dynamic film. He has, for all his pretence, a fine sense of when to cut so his sequences do not drag. The final descent of Sands into a wasted, delirious, sore-encrusted state permits no vagueness about what it entails, but is still judicious; most importantly, Sands’ conversation with the priest has rendered it entirely explicable in personal and moral terms. McQueen is subtler and more intense than Ken Loach’s hectoring, dolorous The Wind that Shakes the Barley (2006), and it’s a long way from the raw melodrama of, say, Jim Sheridan’s In the Name of the Father (1993), not least for dealing with an admitted Republican’s moral perspective and the ambiguity this implies in his contest with the state. He is, after all, a terrorist.

The film’s most affecting images however, do not concern, violence or suppurating flesh, but incidental detail used for powerful metaphorical purpose: the prisoners tip their buckets of urine under the doors to collect and stream down the corridor; later a lone prison guard listlessly copes with the daily task of cleaning up the spillage. The urine is standing in for and indeed is, in itself, political statement, and as the fluid collects, it mimics the totality of a communal statement; the guard’s cleaning is both the immediate practical necessity and also the establishment’s increasingly wearied attempts to wash away the dissent.

This film is not going to be anyone’s idea of a fun night at the movies, and it doesn’t entirely escape its arthouse roots, but Hunger at least has tough questions for its audience and asks them in fiercely creative ways
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Re: Hunger dvd reviews

Post by Admin on Sat Feb 13, 2010 3:22 am

http://newsblaze.com/story/20100212072836kamw.nb/topstory.html

Published: February 12, 2010

Hunger DVD Review

By Kam Williams

IRA Hunger Strike Revisited via Bobby Sands Bio-Pic

This fact-based bio-pic recounts the suicide by fasting of Bobby Sands (1965-1981), a latter-day revolutionary who led an Irish Republican Army (IRA) hunger strike at Long Kesh Prison located in Northern Ireland. Bobby and nine of his comrades would perish while behind bars in pursuit of elevating their status to political prisoners so that they would no longer be treated like common criminals.

Curiously, this empathetic portrait was the brainchild not of an Irishman but of Steve McQueen (no relation), a black Brit born in London. McQueen makes an auspicious writing and directorial debut with this gritty IRA saga which measures up with the best of the genre, including In the Name of the Father (1999), Omagh (2004) and The Wind That Shakes the Barley (2006).

The late Sands is played by the appropriately emaciated (Michael Fassbender) who only grows more gaunt-looking as the plot marches inexorably towards its grim end. En route, we see Bobby and company being repeatedly Abu Ghraibed by their sadistic guards, clean freaks who seem as intent on keeping the inmates bathe as in making them squeal. However, the hypocritical goons don't apply the same sanitary standards to themselves, since they are caught reusing the same latex gloves during both anal and oral cavity searches.

Before Bobby embarks on the fast, he engages in a lengthy philosophical debate with Father Moran (Liam Cunningham) about the ethics of his plan in an uncut, 17-minute scene shot courtesy of a continuously-running camera. Obviously, the priest fails to convince the willful rebel that God doesn't want him to die, and the balance of the flick is devoted to watch the cult hero slowly waste away.

A fitting, posthumous tribute to a martyr who freely sacrificed his own life to highlight the horror of man's inhumanity to his fellow man. Let's just pray this incendiary flick doesn't reignite civil unrest in the region.

Bobby Sands, he's a goner, but to Bobby 'twas an honor.

Excellent (4 stars)
Unrated
Running time: 96 minutes
Studio: The Criterion Collection
DVD Extras: Restored, high-definition, digital transfer approved by director Steve McQueen, 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, scriptwriter 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 Maze Prison and the political and civilian reactions across Northern Ireland, a theatrical trailer, and a booklet featuring an essay by film critic Chris Darke.

To order a copy of Hunger on DVD, visit: B002YMWPUA

To see a trailer for Hunger,
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Re: Hunger dvd reviews

Post by Admin on Sat Feb 13, 2010 3:28 am

http://www.kamwilliams.com/

Friday, February 12, 2010
Hunger (IRISH DVD)

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Headline: IRA Hunger Strike Revisited via Bobby Sands Bio-Pic

This fact-based bio-pic recounts the suicide by fasting of Bobby Sands (1965-1981), a latter-day revolutionary who led an Irish Republican Army (IRA) hunger strike at Long Kesh Prison located in Northern Ireland. Bobby and nine of his comrades would perish while behind bars in pursuit of elevating their status to political prisoners so that they would no longer be treated like common criminals.

Curiously, this empathetic portrait was the brainchild not of an Irishman but of Steve McQueen (no relation), a black Brit born in London. McQueen makes an auspicious writing and directorial debut with this gritty IRA saga which measures up with the best of the genre, including In the Name of the Father (1999), Omagh (2004) and The Wind That Shakes the Barley (2006).
The late Sands is played by the appropriately emaciated (Michael Fassbender) who only grows more gaunt-looking as the plot marches inexorably towards its grim end. En route, we see Bobby and company being repeatedly Abu Ghraibed by their sadistic guards, clean freaks who seem as intent on keeping the inmates bathe as in making them squeal. However, the hypocritical goons don’t apply the same sanitary standards to themselves, since they are caught reusing the same latex gloves during both anal and oral cavity searches.

Before Bobby embarks on the fast, he engages in a lengthy philosophical debate with Father Moran (Liam Cunningham) about the ethics of his plan in an uncut, 17-minute scene shot courtesy of a continuously-running camera. Obviously, the priest fails to convince the willful rebel that God doesn’t want him to die, and the balance of the flick is devoted to watch the cult hero slowly waste away.

A fitting, posthumous tribute to a martyr who freely sacrificed his own life to highlight the horror of man’s inhumanity to his fellow man. Let’s just pray this incendiary flick doesn’t reignite civil unrest in the region.
Bobby Sands, he’s a goner, but to Bobby ‘twas an honor.

Excellent (4 stars)
Unrated
Running time: 96 minutes
Studio: The Criterion Collection
DVD Extras: Restored, high-definition, digital transfer approved by director Steve McQueen, 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, scriptwriter 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 Maze Prison and the political and civilian reactions across Northern Ireland, a theatrical trailer, and a booklet featuring an essay by film critic Chris Darke.
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Re: Hunger dvd reviews

Post by Admin on Sat Feb 13, 2010 4:45 am

http://www.hollywoodchicago.com/news/9948/blu-ray-review-galvanizing-hunger-paints-unforgettable-portrait-of-revolt

Blu-Ray Review: Galvanizing ‘Hunger’ Paints Unforgettable Portrait of Revolt
Submitted by mattmovieman on February 12, 2010 - 11:24am.

* Blu-Ray Review
* Bobby Sands
* Hunger
* IRA Hunger Strike
* Liam Cunningham
* Matt Fagerholm
* Michael Fassbender
* Steve McQueen

CHICAGO – Here’s an art house film more visceral and unsettling than any run-of-the-mill mainstream bloodbath. It’s the feature debut of visual artist Steve McQueen, an unfortunate name for anyone who doesn’t happen to be the star of “Bullitt.” His previous work has been confined to art galleries, and there are countless shots in “Hunger” that could function as standalone artworks.

Though his film may seem fragmented at first, it holds together triumphantly, and packs an overwhelming punch. It immediately solidifies McQueen’s status as one of the most promising filmmakers of our time, proving that he will surely overcome his name. With a hypnotic attention to detail, “Hunger” depicts the events surrounding the 1981 IRA (Irish Republican Army) Hunger Strike that took place in Northern Ireland’s notorious Maze prison. IRA inmates, led by Bobby Sands, went on the strike to protest the British government’s refusal to grant them political status.

HollywoodChicago.com Blu-Ray Rating: 5.0/5.0
Blu-Ray Rating: 5.0/5.0

Viewers unfamiliar with this vital chapter in recent history will have no trouble getting swept up in McQueen’s assured and uncompromising vision. The filmmaker’s abstract approach to the subject matter allows the onscreen events to resonate on a universal level. For its first half, the film is nearly excruciating, as it depicts the horrifically brutal treatment of political prisoners in scenes so unflinching that they evoke the naked inhumanity on display in Frederick Wiseman’s “Titticut Follies.” They also call to mind images from Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay, though McQueen makes a valiant effort to humanize the prison guards as well, delving into their own fear and incarceration. Sands is kept offscreen for the opening 25 minutes, which follow the protests of two prisoners (Brian Mulligan and Liam McMahon), as well as the daily trials of a guard (Stuart Graham).

The second act puts the first in context, consisting entirely of a pointed conversation between Sands (Michael Fassbender) and a priest (Liam Cunningham). Their discussion unfolds in a single unbroken take that runs for nearly twenty minutes, interrupted by a single close-up of each man. The dialogue, written by Irish playwright Enda Walsh, brilliantly illustrates the ideological conflict between the two men, and the primal motivation of Sands to use his body as a last source for revolt. This is the moment where “Hunger” most directly distinguishes itself from a picture like “Passion of the Christ” (both films were distributed by Mel Gibson’s Icon Productions). Though Sands sees himself as a revolutionary, like Christ, whose sacrifice is necessary in order to bring about justice, McQueen refuses to idolize him, allowing multiple viewpoints to be considered.

Fassbender is no stranger to physically demanding roles, having survived “300,” “Inglourious Basterds,” and the especially grisly “Eden Lake.” His performance here is electrifying not merely because of the dramatic weight loss, but because Fassbender captures the impassioned spirit of a man determined to send a message to the world, even if it means fading from it. The final act, devoted to Sands’s sixty-six days on the strike, is as wordless and haunting as the first.

“Hunger” is presented in 1080p High Definition (with a 2.35:1 aspect ratio), and accompanied by several excellent extras, including interviews with the director and star. McQueen claims that Sands’s hunger strike is “the most important event in recent British history,” while stressing his desire to have viewers simply observe the onscreen action before judging it. He provides a thorough explanation of his motives behind each section of the film, while discussing his experience working with the people of Belfast, and constructing a set that resembled Maze prison (with no breakaway walls). Fassbender reveals that he lost the weight himself by living on a diet of berries, nuts and sardines, and reminisces about how Cunningham had to move into his flat in order for them to memorize their 28-page scene. A brief featurette provides insights from other cast members, including Cunningham and Graham. Best of all is an enlightening 45-minute episode of the BBC news program, “Panorama,” that aired four months after Sands’s death, and fills in the historical detail artfully alluded to on McQueen’s cinematic canvas.

‘Hunger’ is released by the Criterion Collection and stars Michael Fassbender, Liam Cunningham, Stuart Graham, Brian Mulligan and Liam McMahon. It was written by Steve McQueen & Enda Walsh and directed by Steve McQueen. It was released on February 16th, 2010. It is not rated.

HollywoodChicago.com staff writer Matt Fagerholm

By MATT FAGERHOLM
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Re: Hunger dvd reviews

Post by Admin on Sat Feb 13, 2010 4:56 am

http://www.dvdtalk.com/reviews/40828/hunger/

Hunger (Blu-ray)
Criterion // Unrated // February 16, 2010 // Region A
List Price: $39.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Adam Tyner | posted February 11, 2010

Fair warning: Hunger is a film based on the 1981 hunger strike in Northern Ireland, and this review continually makes reference to the outcome of that well-documented event. Those unfamiliar with Bobby Sands or the hunger strike he led should avoid reading the following review if they wish to avoid having that revealed.

One of the first images glimpsed in Hunger is that of a middle-aged Irish man trudging through a fairly ordinary morning routine. His neatly-folded clothes are waiting for him on the foot of the bed, and after getting dressed, his wife brings him a plate of eggs and pork for breakfast. As he steps foot outside his pleasant suburban home, as he does every morning, Ray Lohan (Stuart Graham) looks back and forth at the houses around him, leans down on the ground, and checks the undercarriage of his sedan for a car bomb. One wouldn't know it to look at him, but Lohan is a guard at Her Majesty's Prison Maze in Dublin during the frenzied peak of the 'Dirty protest'. As crumbs from his toast tumble into the napkin on Lohan's lap, IRA freedom fighters imprisoned in the Maze clatter overturned bowls in protest. As Lohan's wife lovingly pressed and folded his clothing, the prisoners smeared their own excrement on the walls of their cells...molded barriers of maggot-infested, leftover food so they could send basins filled with urine spilling out from under the prison doors. These aren't mindless, feral creatures, but they felt as if they're to be treated like animals, they may as well act the part.

The British government dismissed them as common criminals, refusing to grant these prisoners from the IRA conflict the political status they had once been accorded. Their demands were few -- insisting to wear their own clothes and to have the restrictions with their communication with the world outside lessened, for instance -- but went unacknowledged. During the Dirty protest, their prison cells became uninhabitable...inhuman. Brutal beatings were commonplace. The authorities at times would toy with their demands, seemingly extending an olive branch that they wouldn't have to wear a prison uniform; rather than being able to choose their own clothing, though, they were offered a sweater and slacks...a different uniform, one of British conformity. Identity being the crux of the conflict with Britain in the first place, these proud Irishmen would rather die than be labeled criminals. In 1981, Bobby Sands -- played here by Michael Fassbender -- led a hunger strike that turned the world's eyes to the tumult in Dublin. This is a story of will, pride, and determination. It's also a tale of self-sacrifice and death.

Steve McQueen directs Hunger with such supreme skill and confidence that there's little to suggest that this is his first feature-length film. His short subjects in the years leading up to this had been moving image pieces; he'd never shepherded a cast to any great extent, and yet McQueen coaxes spectacular performances from his actors here. McQueen is disinterested in tethering himself to convention, and that exploration is an integral part of what makes Hunger such an endlessly engaging film. For one, McQueen prefers to let the imagery and performances tell the story. Any other director would've leaned on a title sequence with a montage of newspaper headlines and grainy footage on the telly. We'd likely have have met these men in happier times first. We'd see these soldiers for the IRA in battle. We'd watch them as they're captured. McQueen chooses instead to throw viewers almost immediately inside the walls of the Maze. After the initial contrast between Ray Lohan's morning routine and that of the prisoners he helps to watch over, Hunger's cameras rarely venture outside its confines again. The film is set shortly before Bobby Sands mounted his hunger strike, but to better immerse viewers in this world, McQueen spends much of the first act of the film with
[click on the thumbnail to enlarge]
two entirely different prisoners. It's through the two of them that we see what a hellish existence these many men lead, and Hunger's eye is unflinching.

Hunger doesn't revel in its graphic imagery but neither does it turn its head, an approach that comes across as an honest exploration rather than merely gratuitous. Leading up to the final act of the film, there's no shortage of arresting visuals: the subhuman squalor in which these prisoners live, these men with long, stringy hair and unkempt beards being held down and forcefully shorn, proud Irishmen stripped nude and flung through a gauntlet of riot officers, battered all the way by their shields. For the bulk of the film, Hunger unspools with minimal dialogue and no exposition or narration whatsoever. McQueen is able to elegantly establish the film's concepts and conflicts without reams of pages of chatter; there's so much more to learn from what people do...how they react...as opposed what they may say.

The overwhelming majority of Hunger's dialogue is concentrated into a single scene, and though it consists solely of two men speaking to one another in a smoky, underlit room, it's as gripping and unrelentingly intense as any of the more overtly visceral moments before it. This conversation between Sands and Father Moran (Liam Cunningham) defines both the man and the film. The priest argues that Sands is seeking to pen headlines in the ink of his own blood; Sands rebuts with a childhood story about encountering a crippled, dying foal while those around him looked on helplessly. As much time as Hunger had spent aiming its camera at Bobby Sands, it's only here that we truly meet him....along with glimpses of his intelligence and sharp wit, it's here that we come to understand the spirit and determination that drive him. Sands has made up his mind that he's going to lead a hunger strike, and that he's resigning himself to a slow, torturous death -- and at his own hand, no less -- doesn't cause him to waver in the slightest. I was so hopelessly engaged by these two actors' performances that eight or nine minutes passed before I realized that the camera had not budged so much as an inch. This single scene spans some 22 minutes, and for 17 of them, the camera doesn't move and never once cuts away. This massive, immensely powerful stretch of dialogue is all performed in a single take as well. On every conceivable level, it's nothing short of extraordinary, and I'm struggling to think of any other movie in which I'd found myself lost in this sort of hypnotic thrall for such a length of time.

There is no gradual descent. When next we meet Sands, he's an emaciated shadow of the man we'd come to know. His skeletal frame peppered with open sores, Sands spends his dying days in a sterile hospital room. Plates of food are brought to him day in and day out, but despite the agony he endures, Sands resists that temptation. His bedsheets are spattered with blood from his many lesions, and Sands' skin is so tender that his blanket has to rest on top of a metal frame rather than risk coming in contact with him directly. His toilet is stained with streaks of dark crimson. There are no uplifting monologues. There are no impassioned speeches. We see only a man sacrificing that which he holds most dear -- summoning impossible willpower -- out of a fervent belief that it's the right thing to do. Hunger doesn't allow us to be party to the final words that Sands whispers. This is a man who triumphed in death, his sacrifice bringing the world's attention to Dublin, and yet it's not celebrated in the film by any glorifying montages or soaring strings. Sands' remains are removed with the same clinical detachment as the janitor who sloshes around some cleanser and mops up a hallway drenched with urine.

With cinematographer Sean Bobbitt by his side, McQueen directs with a dazzling visual eye, and the brutality throughout Hunger is nearly matched by its beauty. A snowflake falls on a bloodied knuckle...a janitor in a protective suit pressure blasts a prison cell smeared with human excrement but is briefly entranced by a hypnotic series of concentric circles artfully drawn with that same feces...a fleck of down slowly descends in front of the withered body of a man lay dying. There are also scattered moments of wit and humor that are careful never to intrude on the overall grim tone of the film, such as some of the banter in the conversation between Sands and Father Moran as well as the clever smuggling of messages in the brief, closely monitored visits the prisoners are allowed.

Without steering this review in too political a direction, it's certainly not difficult to argue that much of the philosophy and troubling imagery of this period piece remain all too relevant today. It's even more easily debated that Hunger isn't close to even-handed with its subjects -- the violence subjected by prison guards far outweighs the single gunshot fired by the IRA in this film -- but this is a movie that is far more fascinated by delving into the scope of one man's sacrifice...what he's doing rather than what he may have done. Bobby Sands believes that he's right, and whether or not the audience shares those sentiments is ultimately inconsequential.

Graphic, uncompromising, and unerringly artful, Hunger is startlingly effective at conveying the agony and suffering of the prisoners housed in H-Block. It makes for an experience that is deliberately excruciating, but that unsettling imagery is the foundation for the physical and emotional connection that ultimately defines the film...the final two acts of a Passion play. Hunger is one of the most unique and endlessly engaging films I've seen in quite a long while, and the heights to which director Steve McQueen may soar from here look to be dizzying indeed. Highly Recommended.


Video Hunger is a film whose power is largely drawn through its visuals, and its presentation on Blu-ray is nothing short of breathtaking. The levels of detail and clarity are consistently spectacular. The claustrophobia inherent to a movie predominantly set in cramped prison cells and hospital rooms keeps the camera frequently closed in rather tightly, revealing impressively fine textures in skin, clothing, and even paper. Contrast is robust throughout as well, boasting a nearly three-dimensional sense of depth. Hunger's use of color is inspired, generally rendered with warmth outside the walls of the prison but starker and often more desaturated inside, an aesthetic that's shattered only by a nostalgic glow in its final moments. Criterion's presentation is, as expected, flawless. Hunger retains a rich, filmlike texture, showing no signs of being subjected to any heavy-handed digital noise reduction. Its grain structure is tight enough that it never intrudes, for those concerned about those sorts of clean visuals. I was unable to detect any trace of edge enhancement, compression artifacting, or wear whatsoever in the source. This is precisely the sort of perfection I've come to expect from the Criterion Collection.

Hunger's AVC encode spans both layers of this BD-50 disc, and the image has been letterboxed to preserve its original aspect ratio of 2.39:1.


Audio The 24-bit, six-channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on this Blu-ray disc is every bit as impressive as well. Ever organic and alive, Hunger's sound design sets out to immerse the viewer in its world, from the reverb of footsteps in the prison halls to the clanging of iron doors to something as understated as tiny crumbs tumbling onto a breakfast napkin. The mix is teeming with subtle splashes of color in the surrounds to flesh out a sense of atmosphere, and I found myself engaged by that as much as I was by its more smoldering intense moments, such as the prisoners violently trashing their dressing rooms and being flung around like ragdolls through a gauntlet of heavily-armored riot officers. The lower frequencies are effective when need be, from the bassy growl of Father Moran's voice to the devastating rumble as Sands nears death. The film's dialogue is rendered with impressive clarity and is balanced perfectly in the mix. Again, I'm left with no complaints or concerns at all; this is a remarkably effective soundtrack that has made its way to Blu-ray flawlessly.

There are no downmixes, alternate soundtracks, or dubs on this Blu-ray disc. English subtitles, captioned for the deaf and hard of hearing, are accessible with a press of a button on the remote.


Extras

* Steve McQueen Interview (18 min.; HD):

By far the most exceptional of the extras on this Blu-ray disc is this interview with director Steve McQueen. Despite being a fraction of the length of the film itself, this is a more than worthy substitute for an audio commentary and casts an impressively wide net. McQueen speaks about his approach as a director, emphasizing an exploration of space and deliberately avoiding the use of breakaway sets in the prison. He delves into the effort taken to immerse the audience in this world by capturing the daily rituals of the prisoners and guards alike, shaping a sense of physical architecture through Hunger's sound design, and conveying to the audience the stench of a cramped cell smeared with feces and the agony the prisoners were forced to endure. Among the other highlights are McQueen touching on the profound impact that the reports of Sands' hunger strike left on him as a child, noting how intimate and engaging Sands' conversation in the film with Father Moran is with this enthrallingly unconventional and static approach, and the reception of Hunger by the public at large. This is a terrific interview and easily the most essential of the disc's extras.

* Michael Fassbender Interview (14 min.; SD): Hunger's star delves into how he brought his own interpretation of Bobby Sands to life on film, attempting to recapture the spirit of a man he came to know through Sands' family, friends, and the writings he left behind. Not unexpectedly, much of this conversation swirls around Fassbender's startling weight loss to portray the starved Sands in his dying days as well as the extensive preparation that went into shaping a 22 minute conversation captured largely in a single take. Finally, Fassebender touches on his experiences working alongside a director making his first conventional narrative as well as the critical response to a film he doesn't see as being particularly political.

* The Making of Hunger (13 min.; SD): The disc's making-of featurette is well-crafted, although much of this territory has already been tread in the pair of interviews before it, such as Fassbender's disinterest in merely mimicking Bobby Sands and the filming of a single conversation that spans more than twenty minutes in length. Among the other comments from the many participants featured here are the purity of Sands' decision to go on a hunger strike, exploring the violence and graphic imagery of the film, the lengths taken to ensure that its characters aren't thinly-sketched heroes or villains, and the infectious passion McQueen inspired on the set. "The Making of Hunger" manages to address quite a bit in its lean runtime, and its only fault is that so much of this has already been addressed elsewhere on the disc.

* "The Provos' Last Card?" (45 min.; SD):

Produced shortly after the death of Bobby Sands and while a number of his fellow prisoners continued their hunger strikes, this 1981 British news program explores the past, present, and likely future for the Provisional Irish Republican Army. It helps put the events of the film in a greater context for those who may not be familiar, and some of the imagery seen in Hunger is featured here as well, including a janitor in a haz-mat suit spraywashing a cell caked with human excrement and the sweater and khaki "uniform" snidely offered to the prisoners. We learn quite a bit about the recruiting practices and hierarchy of the IRA, a group better organized and far more selective than the public had been led to believe. The casualties of the conflict are also explored at length. This sort of historical background complements the film marvelously and is well worth taking the time to watch.

* Trailer (2 min.; HD): The last of Hunger's extras is its theatrical trailer.


The extras on this Blu-ray disc are encoded in high definition, but all except the trailer and the interview with Steve McQueen have been upconverted from lower resolution sources. Hunger also comes packaged with a booklet featuring an essay by film critic Chris Darke.

The Final Word The ferocity of Hunger's performances fused with Steve McQueen's unflinching direction and the film's unsettling imagery make for a devastatingly powerful experience. This is an artfully crafted and uncompromising story of self-sacrifice, equal parts beautiful, brutal, and philosophical. Emotionally ravaging though Hunger may be -- perhaps too draining for most to be willing to endure it a second time -- this is an extraordinary work of art that demands to be seen. Hunger's presentation on Blu-ray is nearly as exceptional as the film itself, boasting a spectacular high definition presentation and an equally effective master-quality soundtrack. The selection of extras may appear to be lean at first glance but accomplish more in an hour and a half than most Blu-ray discs can in twice that time. Highly Recommended.


Last edited by greyeyegoddess on Mon Feb 15, 2010 3:38 am; edited 1 time in total
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Re: Hunger dvd reviews

Post by Admin on Sat Feb 13, 2010 10:42 pm

http://www.premiumhollywood.com/2010/02/13/hunger/

Hunger

Posted by Jason Zingale (02/13/2010 @ 9:27 pm)

After his short but memorable role as undercover operative Lt. Archie Hicox in the WWII epic, “Inglourious Basterds,” Michael Fassbender shot to the top of my actors to watch list. Quentin Tarantino’s film may have put him on the map, but even before its release, Fassbender was earning strong reviews for his performance in artist-turned-filmmaker Steve McQueen’s directorial debut, “Hunger.” As Bobby Sands, the real-life IRA member who went on a hunger strike in protest of the British government’s refusal to recognize him and his fellow Maze inmates as political prisoners, Fassbender completely immerses himself in the role with Christian Bale-like dedication. It’s a pity he doesn’t actually show up until the second act, because it only makes those first 30 minutes seem that much less significant. While a lot of that time is spent setting the mood within the prison (from the poor living environment to the brutality handed down by the guards), “Hunger” doesn’t really get going until Fassbender makes his grand entrance – and even then not a whole lot really happens. In fact, with the exception of a 16-minute, single-shot conversation between Sands and an Irish priest (Liam Cunningham), the movie is pretty forgettable due to an overall lack of character development. It’s still worth checking out for Fassbender’s committed performance, but it’s not quite the modern masterpiece that Criterion would have you believe.
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Re: Hunger dvd reviews

Post by Admin on Sun Feb 14, 2010 4:54 am

http://blogcritics.org/video/article/blu-ray-review-hunger-2008-the/

Blu-ray Review: Hunger (2008) - The Criterion Collection

The Film

At once visceral and delicate, abstract and rigid, Steve McQueen’s debut feature film Hunger is unflinching in its examination of the Irish Republican Army hunger strikes in Northern Ireland in the early ’80s. McQueen, an artist who’s made a number of experimental films for art galleries, strikes an incredibly resonant chord here, showcasing his gift for imagery in a narrative context.

Indeed, it’s somewhat astonishing how forceful the narrative is, despite being carried along by wisps of images — crumbs falling onto a lap, a cigarette in the snow, a fly and a hint of daylight. Contextual information is somewhat thin — there’s little historical backstory on the British withdrawing special status for IRA prisoners and the resulting protests — but there are ample evocations of a place. The HM Prison Maze, a spartan, unforgiving hole where the IRA prisoners refused to wear prison garments, smeared their feces on the walls and dumped their urine into the hallways.

McQueen makes sure we can smell the s$#! and feel the piss underneath our feet. The images of such are not sensational or even revolting in a traditional sense. They’re simply cold — a sober reminder of a harsh reality.

In the middle of it is Bobby Sands, played with unwavering intensity by Michael Fassbender. Sands was the first of 10 prisoners who would starve themselves to death before the strike was called off.

In the first act of the film, McQueen doesn’t even show us Sands, instead giving us glimpses of prison guard Raymond Lohan (Stuart Graham), who lives a normal life outside of the prison except for the need to examine his car for explosives each morning, and new prisoner Davey Gillen (Brian Milligan), who is thrust naked into the cold reality of a feces-stained prison with only a blanket to shield himself.

McQueen shows an unerring confidence in his filmmaking, giving the audience a succession of precisely framed shots that are richly woven together. Then, not long after Sands is thrust into the forefront, he stops everything for a nearly 20-minute-long stationary two-shot of Sands discussing his plan to starve himself with a priest, Father Dominic Moran (Liam Cunningham). The sheer length of the shot is enough to establish it as a tentpole in a film that traffics often in fleeting images, but the strength of the writing by Enda Walsh and McQueen and Fassbender and Cunningham’s banter make it so much more than just a formalist exercise. The stillness of the frame and the silhouetted nature of the lighting make it an impeccable stylistic choice among the imagery that precedes it and follows it.

Hunger is an arresting experience and McQueen’s collection of rhythmic visuals is a cinematic punch to the gut. His stylistic vision is one to eagerly anticipate in upcoming projects.

The Blu-ray Disc

Hunger is presented in 1080p high definition with an aspect ratio of 2.35:1. Despite the film’s drab and oppressive color palette, there’s no missing the superb visual presentation featured on the disc. Fine detail is a constant presence, with excellent contrast and deep black levels. The shadow and light interplay that McQueen uses frequently in the film is sharp and distinct. It’d be hard to pick a frame out of the film that doesn’t look like it belongs in an art gallery, and the presentation here faithfully captures the film’s beauty despite its horrific subject matter.

The audio is presented in a 5.1 DTS-HD track, which shows up forcefully when it needs to. Mostly though, the film is presided over by total silence, giving it a meditative and haunting atmosphere. Outbursts of violence and sudden, punctuated occurrences of sound make good use of the mix however, and dialogue sounds crisp and clear in the front channel.

Special Features

The supplements aren’t extensive here, but provide some important filmic and historical context. A 20-minute interview with McQueen briefly covers his experimental film background and provides a succinct look at his visual strategy with Hunger — a strategy that overwhelmingly succeeds. A shorter interview with Fassbender is more publicity-focused, but his commitment to the role is obvious, and the piece touches on the crash diet he underwent to achieve the emaciated body seen in the film’s final act. A short making-of of the film includes more interview footage of McQueen and Fassbender, as well as Cunningham, Graham, Milligan and Walsh. Placing the film within its historical bounds is a 45-minute program from the BBC titled “The Provos’ Last Card,” aired in the middle of the hunger strikes in 1981. Also included is the theatrical trailer and a booklet with an essay from critic Chris Darke.

The Bottom Line

McQueen’s unique vision in Hunger makes for a captivating experience, and Criterion’s solid treatment of the film ensures a strong recommendation.
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Re: Hunger dvd reviews

Post by Admin on Mon Feb 15, 2010 12:46 am

http://twitchfilm.net/reviews/2010/02/steve-mcqueens-hunger.php

Steve McQueen's HUNGER DVD Review

by Rodney Perkins, February 14, 2010 5:42 AM

Drama, UK, Ireland, Australia & New Zealand

Steve McQueen's Hunger is one of the latest IFC pickups to be released on DVD and Blu-Ray by The Criterion Collection. Hunger uses history as raw material for a poetically visceral examination of the effects of political extremism.

In 1981, Irish Republican Army (IRA) leader Bobby Sands participated in a hunger strike that was allegedly ordered by IRA leadership. Within 66 days, Sands was dead of malnutrition. Visual artist Steve McQueen, whose work has mostly consisted of short avant-garde films, interest in this subject for his first feature. As one might expect from someone with McQueen's background, Hunger is not a straight forward docudrama.

Hunger follows a traditional three-act structure that uses a historical timeline as a backbone. Within this framework, however, the film focuses as much attention on small moments and seemingly minor details as it does on historical events. Bobby Sands (played by Michael Fassenbender) does not emerge until the second act. Instead, McQueen uses the virtually dialogue-free first act to develop the world of the Maze, a labyrinthine prison where Sands spent his final days. The Maze is presented as an ecosystem that mentally and physically connects the characters. A police officer whose everyday life is haunted by the specter of the Maze. A young IRA member is checked into the prison. An inexperienced guard in riot gear experiences the rush and confusion of a ritualistic beating of the prisoners. These and various other threads eventually intersect in the film's second act, which shifts the focus to Bobby Sands. At around the 45 minute mark, the film's centerpiece occurs: a conversation between Sands and Father Dominic Moran (Liam Cunningham) that was shot in a single twenty-five minute take. This intensely dramatic scene bridges the first and third acts by providing context and motives for everything that has taken place. The third act is dedicated to Sands' slow, grisly death.

McQueen's visual palette is rich and varied. He is particularly taken with long, lingering shots that revel in movement and small details. One of his main assets is an ability to tease beauty and poetry out of gruesome imagery. A prison guard slowly mopping urine from the floors is the subject of a slow zoom that draws a rhythm out of the lowly task. McQueen portrays IRA members smearing their prison cells in food and bodily waste in protest of their treatment with particular relish. The walls resemble abstract paintings replete with geometrical patterns and meticulously dabbed flecks. Sands' ascetic demise is presented in graphic detail. His wasting, bony body is covered in seeping sores. He bleeds and vomits profusely. McQueen's painterly approach renders these otherwise ugly moments in a way that is both attractive and repulsive.

The technical specs and extras for this Criterion release are of the usual high-quality. The transfer is flawless, and the film's 2:35.1 aspect ratio is preserved through black bars at the top and bottom of the screen. The fully digital audio track is presented in 5.1 surround sound.

Extras include lengthy interviews with Steve McQueen and Michael Fassbender, a "making of" documentary about the making of the film, and a 1981 episode of the BBC news show Panorama that provides significant background on the IRA and the hunger strikes. McQueen obviously used this documentary as source material (e.g., the speeches by Margaret Thatcher, the look of the police and prisoners, the layout of the prison).
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Re: Hunger dvd reviews

Post by Admin on Mon Feb 15, 2010 5:37 pm

http://www.blu-raydefinition.com/reviews/hunger-the-criterion-collection-blu-ray-review.html

Hunger [The Criterion Collection] Blu-ray Review
Posted February 15th, 2010 by Brandon DuHamel

* Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
* Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
* Resolution: 1080p/24
* Audio Codec: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz/24-bit)
* Region: A
* Rating: Not Rated
* Discs: 1
* Studio: Criterion
* Blu-ray Release Date: February 16, 2010
* List Price: $39.95

Click thumbnails for high-resolution 1920X1080p screen captures

(Screen captures are lightly compressed with lossy JPEG thus are meant as a general representation of the content and do not fully reveal the capabilities of the Blu-ray format)

The Film

Visual artist Steve McQueen makes his feature length film debut with Hunger, a film about Irish Republican Army commander Bobby Sands (Michael Fassbender) and his death by hunger strike in the infamous Maze prison, also known as the H-Blocks, in 1981. It’s a political film without being overtly politically, as McQueen avoids drawing any lines and taking any particular sides, although it is quite clear from watching where his sympathies lie.

For those unfamiliar with the story, in the mid-1970’s in Northern Ireland violent protests had arisen in Northern Ireland and many IRA members were sent to prison, being held under the status of political prisoners. Under Thatcher’s government, the IRA prisoners’ status of Political Prisoners had been revoked. This provoked an outrage amongst members of the IRA and started what was known as the “blanket” and “no wash” protests by the prisoners in the Maze. Refusing to wear clothes, bathe or cut their hair until their political status was recognized, the prisoners were forced to endure all manner of torturous and inhumane treatment. Beatings, forced haircuts, and other humiliations were not uncommon.

McQueen casts viewers directly into this world in the opening moments of Hunger, with the first 20-minutes or so of the film containing no dialogue at all, rather, simply following two separate characters, prison guard Raymond Lohan (Stuart Graham) trying to go about his normal domestic life before heading off to work, but needing to check under his car for bombs before driving off, and the other a new inmate Davey (Brian Milligan), being taken into the prison.

Unlike typical biopics, we are not introduced to the central character Bobby Sands, nor do we even hear mention of him for the entire first half of the film. McQueen’s visual instincts as an artist take over and rather than go through a prolonged back story on the history of conflict in Northern Ireland, he shows us the living conditions of the prisoners, the smearing of feces on the walls, the little moments that the prisoners steal in defiance of their captures. There are times when McQueen’s visual style looks almost like Vermeer or Rembrandt paintings. He relies more on the visual than on the aural to set up the film’s second half, when we finally see Bobby Sands.

Bobby Sands enters the film without much of a fuss. One moment the film is following the first two prisoners, with Davey, there is a forced bathing by the guards, and the film starts over following Bobby. This underscores McQueen’s carefulness not to glorify Sands or to take sides in this ongoing conflict, but rather to simply present the circumstances as they were. This leads to the longest stretch of dialogue in Hunger, an over 30-minute conversation caught in one take between Sands and his priest, Father Dominic (Liam Cunningham). Sands tells Father Dominic of his plans to start the hunger strike and Father Dominic tries to talk him out of it, telling him “you’re writing your name large for the history books.”

The latter half of Hunger is dominated by Sands degeneration towards death during his hunger strike. Fassbender lost over 40-pounds to portray Sands in this emaciated state, and this portion of the film is intense and riveting work. Fassbender proves his dedication to the role, looking more than believably on the brink of death.

This is powerful stuff, marvelously handled and a brilliant feature-length debut for Steve McQueen. Hunger won’t appease anyone who backs a particular side in the ongoing debate on Northern Ireland, and perhaps it very well shouldn’t. It’s not for the faint of heart or those with weak stomachs either, be warned.
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Re: Hunger dvd reviews

Post by Admin on Tue Feb 16, 2010 12:51 am

http://thefilmstage.com/2010/02/15/dvd-picks-of-the-week-feb-16th/

Hunger (Criterion Collection)

Directed by: Steve McQueen

Written by: Steve McQueen & Enda Walsh

Starring: Michael Fassbender

Why should you buy this? Jordan here. I had to include this Criterion update for one of best films of 2008. In an astounding feature length directorial debut, Steve McQueen tells the story of IRA commander Bobby Sanders with such restraint and beauty, it’s a must-see. Every single shot in this film is perfect as if McQueen was displaying painting after painting. The film can be disturbing but Michael Fassbender’s tour-de-force performance immediately shot up to one of my favorites of the decade after watching this masterpiece.
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Re: Hunger dvd reviews

Post by Admin on Tue Feb 16, 2010 5:55 am

http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/article/blu-ray-review-hunger-criterion-collection

Blu-ray Review: Hunger (Criterion Collection)
Artistically fantastic, but as a film I was hoping for more
By: Brad Brevet
Published: February 16th 2010 at 1:37 AM

I saw Hunger in the theater but never chose to review it due to what I would describe as a "less than stellar" screening in which my comfort level was down to zero and the screen I was watching it on was hardly up to par. There is something to be said for seeing films on the big screen, but when you're more concerned with comfort than what is projected on screen it is best to wait on forming an opinion.

Yet, with the arrival of Criterion's release of Steve McQueen's Hunger I remain muted in my praise, and am, in fact, disappointed with the supplemental features offered. This is a film, even after seeing it in a much more welcoming environment, I still can't wrap my head around why it enjoyed so much praise. Sure, the acting is superb and McQueen damn near paints a picture with every image including a lengthy one shot that speaks volumes for the cast, headlined by Michael Fassbender, as well as to McQueen's sense of timing. Much of this film is dialogue free outside of one 25-minute chunk in the middle. That's a lot of praise, but when it comes down to the film itself it never draws me in by its narrative as much as it does by its artistry, which is really the reason I'm wishing this Criterion release offered more.

Hunger tells the story of the 1981 hunger strike centering on Bobby Sands (Fassbender), the Irish Republican Army (IRA) volunteer who led the strike from prison. The act of political defiance was highly controversial and while you would think a filmed version of it would also be looked at as controversial, I can only assume it is McQueen's artistic and, at times, experimental approach to it that allowed it to avoid too much controversy, but some remained.

It gets very dark, and is certain to have an impact on you and isn't a film you will soon forget. But while I see it as an excellent piece of filmed art I just have no interest in watching it again and Criterion doesn't give me much in the way of additional avenues to appreciate it even though I see opportunity.

First off, the features are limited to two interviews (one with McQueen and another with Fassbender), a 13-minute making of featurette and a 1981 episode of BBC's "Panorama" discussing the hunger strike. Inside this you'll learn a lot, including Fassbender's diet which consisted of only berries, nuts and sardines out of the can for dinner over the course of three weeks in order to play the emaciated Sands as the hunger strike continued. However, what's missing is increased access to McQueen and a better understanding of his work as an artist and new feature director.

McQueen is well known in art corners for his minimalist films, some of which are teased through still imagery in his interview piece and all of which would have made an excellent addition to this Blu-ray. Hunger is McQueen's feature directorial debut and he's a director with an established style, but we don't have access to its progression. The content of Hunger is difficult to watch, but at the same time it has moments of true artistry and some of the shots McQueen and his cinematographer Sean Bobbitt put together are fantastic, and I just wish I had a way to better appreciate it considering that's something Criterion is known for doing. Speaking of which, why is there no commentary track?

On Blu-ray, Hunger looks great and its audio track is as impressive as can be expected, but I just don't see this as a title worth buying unless you are already hooked.
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Re: Hunger dvd reviews

Post by Admin on Tue Feb 16, 2010 9:52 pm

http://blogs.creativeloafing.com/screengrab/2010/02/16/the-dvd-release-list-216/

Hunger (R) 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. (Amazon.com)
RECOMMENDATION: BUY IT
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Re: Hunger dvd reviews

Post by Admin on Tue Feb 16, 2010 9:54 pm

http://boiserx.blogspot.com/2010/02/new-dvdblu-ray-hunger-and-other.html

Tuesday, February 16, 2010
New DVD/Blu-ray: 'Hunger' and other recommendations
The final months of Bobby Sands, the Irish Republican Army activist who protested his treatment at the hands of British prison guards with a hunger strike, are chronicled in the historical drama Hunger, the first feature film from artist-turned-filmmaker Steve McQueen (now available at The Record Exchange on Criterion Collection DVD or Blu-ray).

Davey Gillen (Brian Milligan) is an IRA volunteer who is sentenced to Belfast's infamous Maze prison, where he shares a cell with fellow IRA member Gerry Campbell (Liam McMahon). Like most of the IRA volunteers behind bars, Gillen and Campbell are subjected to frequent violence by the guards, who in turn live with the constant threat of assassination at the hands of Republicans during their off-hours.

Campbell and Gillen are taking part in a protest in which they and their fellow IRA inmates are refusing to wear standard prison-issue uniforms as a protest against Britain's refusal to recognize them as political prisoners, a move that is complicating their efforts to pass information among the other prisoners.

As the protest fails to get results, one IRA member behind bars, Bobby Sands (Michael Fassbender), decides to take a different tack and begins a hunger strike, refusing to eat until Irish officials are willing to acknowledge the IRA as a legitimate political organization. However, while Sands' protest gains the attention both inside prison walls and in the international news, not everyone believes what he's doing is right, and Sands finds himself verbally sparring with a priest (Liam Cunningham) who questions the ethics and effectiveness of the strike. Hunger received its world premiere at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival, where it was screened as part of the Un Certain Regard program. — Mark Deming, All Movie Guide
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Re: Hunger dvd reviews

Post by Admin on Tue Feb 16, 2010 9:55 pm

http://blacksheepreviews.blogspot.com/2010/02/blu-tuesday-february-16.html

HUNGER

I'll make this quick because I've just realized that this amazing film is finally available to own on BD and I don't own it yet! I must get to the stores before they close so I'll just say that this Criterion collection of Steve McQueen's debut feature, HUNGER, promises to honour the film the way it most certainly deserves. This is not an easy film to watch but with Michael Fassbender leading the way through this account of I.R.A. leader, Bobby Sands's infamous hunger strike, it is a film that will find your stomach turned and yet somehow hungry for more.
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Re: Hunger dvd reviews

Post by Admin on Tue Feb 16, 2010 9:57 pm

http://www.flickfilosopher.com/blog/2010/02/021610hunger_review.html

Hunger (review)

Painting on Film

Hoorah for Criterion, for taking on this extraordinary film and giving it to us in a spectacular home version.

Pretty? Heh: no. This is not a pretty film. It’s a hard, harsh film, a triumph of the new realism that is transforming British film at the moment: powerfully cinematic, it veers from nearly wordless stretches of intense imagery so vivid they’re surrealistic nightmares come to life to one 20-minute, unbroken dialogue between two men on opposite sides of the same side, an impassionate debate that underlies why one of them is enduring the nightmare we’re enduring alongside him.
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It’s like some third-world prison, the block where members of the IRA are being held in 1981 by the occupying British forces in Northern Ireland. The Brits refuse to acknowledge that men like Bobby Sands are political prisoners, and so the prisoners fight back... up to Sands (and nine other men) engaging in a hunger strike that killed him, which first-time director Steve McQueen, in the Criterion interview the accompanies the film here, calls “the most important event in British history in recent times.” As Hunger opens, they are in the middle of a protest that sees them wearing only blankets -- they refuse to wear prison garb, demanding their own clothes instead -- and not washing. The horrible wonderfulness of how McQueen depicts the conditions here mires you in it: closeups on faces or hands or feces-stained walls -- that’s another prisoner protest -- so concentrated they become almost abstract; moody shadows in which lurk unspoken determination... on the parts of both prisoners and guards. McQueen, who wrote the script with Enda Walsh, doesn’t ignore the strange plight of the guards: one scene sees a terrible beating of several prisoners by riot-gear-clad stormtroopers who revel in their own viciousness, but much, much harder to take is the one young trooper hiding around the corner, sobbing, unwilling to participate in the atrocity though he is destined to be changed by it forever, for good or ill.

Soon, though, almost without you realizing he’s done it, McQueen -- who was a painter and maker of nonnarrative museum-piece art films before he made this, his feature debut -- zeroes in on a scarily resolute Michael Fassbender (Inglourious Basterds, 300) as Sands. (In a 2008 interview with Fassbender with Guardian film critic Jason Solomons, also on the DVD, the actor explains in some quite dreadful detail how he lost a huge amount of weight over only 10 weeks to portray the starving Sands.) And by the time he has his 20-minute conversation with a priest (Liam Cunningham: The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, Breakfast on Pluto) explaining why he and his fellow prisoners have to up the ante with a hungry strike calculated to break the political will of the British, you’re with him. In the cold light of day, once the movie is over and you’ve put the DVD away and you’re no longer in that awful prison with Sands, it may not seem as reasonable and rational -- or, indeed, it may -- but McQueen has created such a potent argument, in the simplest, most visual terms, that you don’t merely understand on an intellectual level but feel on a visceral level that sometimes going to the most extreme of extremes is the only way one has left to exert oneself.

This Criterion edition was prepared with McQueen’s help, and features a vibrant new high-def transfer at the film’s original 2.35:1 aspect ratio. (This is the first Region 1 edition of the film, but the earlier Region 2 edition is at 1.77:1, and that remains the only edition available at the moment in Region 2.) Also included on the disc is a making-of documentary and a 1981 BBC news program, “The Provos’ Last Card?” produced four months after Sands’ death.
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Re: Hunger dvd reviews

Post by Admin on Tue Feb 16, 2010 10:11 pm

http://hairstyle.mytipsonline.info/2010/02/dvd-reviews-black-dynamite-spoofs-blaxploitation-genre-tribune-review/

‘Hunger’ (Criterion Collection)
British filmmaker Steve McQueen’s fascinating portrait of protests by Irish Republican Army members including Bobby Sands (played brilliantly by Michael Fassbender) in Northern Ireland’s Maze Prison is at the heart of the unflinching “Hunger.” This powerful picture marks the directorial debut for McQueen, who also helped to pen the screenplay. While McQueen succeeds in creating an uncompromising story, the film’s foundation is its settings, both beautiful and horrific, that enhance the imprisoned IRA members’ struggle. At the heart of the film is the prisoners’ hunger strikes to protest the British government’s refusal to recognize IRA members as political prisoners. The film was released in 2008, but it hits DVD for the first time in a superb Criterion package. Interviews with McQueen and Fassbender set the table for an original news report on the IRA prison protests and a quality making-of documentary. R; 2008. 3.5 Stars.
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Re: Hunger dvd reviews

Post by Admin on Tue Feb 16, 2010 10:16 pm

http://ballotschangshayanqun.rangdebasanti.com/2010/02/16/hunger-review/

HUNGER

Centre Belfast's Maze prison in the at daybreak 80s, IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands (Michael Fassbender) faces the brutality of the system and clashes with the Catholic priest (Liam Cunningham) as he determines to keep fasting in an effort to trigger modify in the classification of IRA prisoners not as criminals but as Prisoners of Conflict.

Given better where one is coming from 25 years or so after the events depicted, Hunger is a feast of cinema, albeit harrowing and confronting. Steve McQueen is an unconventional artist and has made an unconventional video in which we are kept eternally in our discomfort sector. Not only is the dusting unconventional in its approach to structuring the excuse, it is also idiosyncratic in the way it is shot.

For exempli gratia, the central confrontation between Bobby Sands (Michael Fassbender) and the Catholic priest (Liam Cunningham) is the longest free scene and the longest piece of dialogue. The change, shot in almost in toto a given locked off two-shot with the light behind them as they sit at a prison visiting area table and smoke while they quarrel, represents the conflicted view of Bobby Sands' actions even within the Liberal ranks.

It also serves as a kind of editorial hinge on which the coating swings, not so much judging the participants as in hushed tones condemning them all. The episode represents the low question in the 'Troubles' that tore apart so multitudinous lives in Northern Ireland and beyond. Fassbender brings the kind of dedication to his role as Christian Bale brought to The Machinist, where extreme weight loss is a crucial feature of the performance.

The distress of Sands and his fellow hunger strikers (who are not shown in the film) is driven by Britain's rejection to admit them the status of political prisoners. The arguments about this are complex but the film's cynosure clear is on the absence of humanity within the system and the absence of common sense within the hearts and minds of the prisoners. It should be noted, however, that McQueen does exposition united young brig warden hiding in tears while his colleagues brutally beat naked prisoners with batons.

He also begins the film focusing on united of the wardens, showing how he soaks his bloodied fists. He stares into the mirror just long ample supply as us to ask the questions that he might also be asking himself. It is in these moments, and the restrained, calculated style of observer, that McQueen, a Turner Prize amiable artist making his feature film debut, proves himself to be a vital student of cinema. He also knows that to be leading, even as observer, the filmmaker should be able to pull fervid responses from his audience - and in that he excels.

Reconsideration by Louise Keller:

It is out of the question to view a film such as English artist Steve McQueen's Hunger without all things both its motivation and surround. Overtly political and unashamedly biased, McQueen's acid film is shocking, disconcerting and painful to observant of. It is also an extremely great get a load off one’s mind of cinema. If McQueen's motivation is to expose a deplorable and inhumane display of behaviour by detention centre guards against prisoners standing up for what they confidence in is their right, as they attempt to achieve factious jailbird eminence, he is overwhelmingly successful. As an impartial look at a tumultuous time in IRA history, it fails miserably. However it is viewed, there is no denying its heinous impact in humanitarian terms, Sometimes non-standard due to the brutality of the twist by the guards against the prisoners and in the horrific self-imposed torture of ravenousness-striker Bobby Sands, passionately portrayed by Michael Fassbender.

With nothing but a team a few of sentences of school-book to sicken the picture into context and its 1981 timeframe, we are firstly taken into the tranquil of Stuart Graham's remand centre keep Raymond Lohan before he dons his uniform. The intensity begins immediately as earshot is cranked up to a surreal level: the barrier squeaks, keys jangle, footsteps crisis on the gravel and the car machine roars. At the hoosegow, violence is a way of liveliness. There is particle dialogue and we to the routine that ensues after the IRA prisoners garbage to wear prison uniforms. They are bruised, beaten unprotected, forcibly washed and bashed when they discredit their walls with faeces and throw their accessories against cell walls. The boring single framed scene in which Liam Cunningham's priest meets with Fassbender's Sands in order to dissuade him from the hankering strike is almost a interruption. It's a wonderful scene start with small talk across a table, with cigarettes as props. It ends with an deadlock. 'My pungency is a real life; not a theological practise,' Sands states.

We tolerate nothing but unhappiness as we watch Sands suffer and go to the dogs starving himself to death in 66 appalling days. As if to mix the agony, a confinement guard sweeps the urine-filled prison corridor with a brush whose scratching sounds like nails on a blackboard. These are not easy images or sounds to delete. McQueen shows spunk and a great sense of filmmaking style with this questionable, hard hitting film statement. It provides much fuel for discussion, but would the chin-wag not have been more egregious had the filmmaker shown even more intrepidity by being less jaundiced?
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