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Hunger dvd reviews

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Post by Admin on Sun Feb 28, 2010 12:44 am

http://messagesbylight.blogspot.com/2010/02/dvd-hunger.html

Messages By Light

Comments on watching and making films.
Saturday, February 27, 2010
DVD - Hunger
Okay, before I start this review, we need to get one thing straight - I will be referencing the director of Hunger, Steve McQueen. This is NOT Steve McQueen 60's/70's action film star and heart throb (who died in the 80's). This is British visual artist Steve McQueen. Alright, good to have that out of the way.

Hunger is Steve McQueen's debut feature film, and focuses on the hunger strike led by Bobby Sands in the notorious H-Block during the early 1980's. The hunger strike was an attempt to force the British government into giving political prisoner status to members of the IRA who were imprisoned for violence (including bombings and murder).

Hunger is what movies SHOULD be. It is a visually striking film about an important subject that doesn't take sides. It simply shows the realities of what went on in this prison, and allows its viewers to make their own decisions. McQueen's use of space is haunting and claustrophobic, and he creates a movie that is both moving, and, at times, sickening. Michael Fassbender, who plays Bobby Sands, stands out as an enormous talent in this movie, getting every single look, tone of voice, and reaction spot on. Fassbender knows how to court the audience, and does so incredibly well in this film. Another stand out performance in the film is by Stuart Graham, who plays a guard. Graham show's us every ounce of humanity this guard has (and the occasional lack of it), and puts in a performance that is almost equally intriguing to Fassbender's. McQueen is relentless in his portrayal of the realities behind the domestic terrorism of the IRA, while also showing the reality of a group of people who were fighting back against what they deemed as oppression and injustice. This film is NOT TO BE MISSED. It is on Criterion DVD. Get it and watch it any way you can.
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Post by Admin on Mon Mar 01, 2010 12:28 am

http://www.pbartspaper.com/2010/02/view-from-home-new-releases-on-dvd.html

Sunday, February 28, 2010
The View From Home: New releases on DVD

By John Thomason

While we’ve been dedicated to reviewing the newest movies to hit theaters on a regular basis, we here at ArtsPaper know that most viewing is done at home these days. Many movies already debut on pay television concurrently with their theatrical release, and many quality films either don’t receive theatrical distribution or don’t play in the comparatively small South Florida market.

Quite simply, to ignore DVD is to ignore the future of cinema -- as sad as that may sound to purists like myself.

Every couple of weeks I’ll be looking at some of the most interesting DVDs to hit the shelves, focusing particularly on the ones that fly under Blockbuster’s radar. Here’s the first installment.

Hunger (Criterion Collection)
Release date: Feb. 16
Standard list price: $29.99

With art-film distribution shrinking and theater bookers growing increasingly unimaginative, Hunger is just the kind of movie destined to slip through the cracks. The hyperlimited release of this punishing British drama – in Palm Beach County, it played for one week at one theater – is a great shame. Hunger should have been an event movie, and in the auteur-valuing ‘70s, it would have shaken up the moviegoing mainstream. Thankfully, the Criterion Collection has helped cement Hunger as the masterpiece it is with a superlative DVD.

The debut feature from writer-director Steve McQueen (no relation to the late Hollywood tough guy), Hunger dramatizes the events leading up to, and culminating in, the 1981 hunger strike by imprisoned members of the Provisional Irish Republican Army against the Thatcher-led British government.

The prisoners, members of a paramilitary guerrilla organization, struck to attain political status, and they eventually did – after 10 strikers, led by Irish national hero Bobby Sands, starved themselves to death (Most of this is not explained in the film, and it may help to first look at the informative 1981 news program The Provos’ Last Card, which is included on the DVD as a supplement).

McQueen, a visual artist whose early shorts were projected onto art gallery walls, wanted viewers to feel fully immersed in the prison experience, and indeed, Hunger engages on an almost tactile level. McQueen’s camera glides poetically over the prisoners’ feces as it’s smeared into modern art on the concrete walls, their discarded food as it congeals into goulash in the cell corners and their urine as it’s poured under the doors toward janitorial extinction.

We then get a sense of the unconscionable abuse suffered at the hands of the prison guards, filmed with unflinching, cover-your-eyes authenticity. Heads are slammed into walls, and every orifice is probed. Attempts at prisoner retaliation yield only bloodier beatings. It looks uncompromisingly real.

McQueen accomplishes all of this with an economy of words as well an austerity of images. There’s almost no dialogue in the picture aside from its herculean theatrical centerpiece: a 23-minute conversation, filmed largely in a single-take long shot, between Sands (Michael Fassbender) and a Catholic priest (Liam Cunningham) who tries to persuade the angry inmate not to go through with the hunger strike.

When Sands finally does, in the movie’s final third, the results are even more harrowing. It’s a tour de force of dedication from Fassbender, whose emaciated frame begins to look exceedingly unhealthy until it’s all bloody cysts and saggy flesh on bones.

In the enlightening interview with McQueen included on the DVD, he calls the 1981 hunger strike the most important event in contemporary British history. But he never bogs the film down in political didacticism, letting the untraditional beauty of his images provide the message. McQueen treats us to a body’s physical deterioration with medical-school veracity and distance, leaving us angered and shaken to the core – more so than in almost any overtly political polemic.

A director poised to become an international arthouse darling, McQueen has already been tapped to film the story of another significant figure, African musician and activist Fela Kuti.
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Post by Admin on Mon Mar 01, 2010 5:58 pm

http://kathiesmith.blogspot.com/2010/03/home-movies-february.html

Hunger (2008) by Steve McQueen [Criterion]
Some years from now, when Michael Fassbender becomes a well-deserved household name, we will look back at Inglourious Basterds, Fish Tank, and especially Hunger as films that elevated him to greatness. Although Hunger belongs to Fassbender and the historical persona he portrays, Bobby Sands, the central figure in this film is the Maze Prison, which housed the core members of the Irish Republican Party and, in turn, represented the fear, paranoia and anger of the so-called ‘Troubles of Northern Ireland.’ We are all aware of the forms of protest the IRA used on the outside, but what happens when a man is stripped of all his freedoms inside the oppressive confines of maximum security? The bleak and visceral reality of people pushed to their limits (on both sides of this political issue) is the brutal art of Hunger. I honestly can’t think of a recent film more deserving of a Criterion release than Hunger. There is no skimping on quality and there is a fair amount of extras, including a 1981 BBC program on the Maze Prison and the hunger strikes.
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Post by Admin on Thu Mar 04, 2010 12:47 am

http://boxoffice.com/dvd-spotlight/2010/02/26/hunger.php

Hunger

by Joe Galm

posted February 26, 2010 4:41 PM

Drawing from his background as a painter and photographer, first time director Steve McQueen exacts a remarkably mature grasp of composition and, more over, the roots of social conscience in his debut feature, Hunger. McQueen’s film deals with the 1981 Irish hunger strike—an act of political protest that meant the lives of 10 Irish republican prisoners. By placing an emphasis on the erosive nature of time and adaptive-cum-perfunctory rituals of respective lives, Hunger is a perceptive piece, one that details the pain of all involved in its particular chapter of The Troubles. Just as prison guard Raymond Lohan (Stuart Graham) soaks his knuckles in warm water and screens his car for bombs, so too does prisoner Bobby Sands (Michael Fassbender) funnel his piss into hallways and smear his cell walls with feces. Still, McQueen’s exercise isn’t in paralleling authoritarian rule and the squalor (both literal and metaphorical) that results, but in the chasms that exist due to cultural divergence.

Indicative of his already refined form, McQueen subtly works in a personal communiqué on the preciousness of human life and does so without trivializing grander themes of self-sacrificial resolve. In this, his deliberately paced, reverently observant film doesn’t play favorites—granted, the collective voice of the IRA-affiliated is resoundingly empathetic—and instead works at exposing the most abject aftereffects of political adamancy. In other words, the real-life sufferings of striker and guard alike evoke the feeling of tragedy on levels of both personal (the eternally relatable loss of human life) and cultural (a regression to barbaric tendency) relevance.

Despite being a fan of McQueen’s presentation, the force that is Fassbender is not one to be ignored. Rather than evoke the personality of the fallen IRA figurehead—who was elected to the United Kingdom Parliament during the strike—via blasé impressions or caricatural embellishment, the rising young star instead recalls his memory by embodying Sands’ most celebrated trait: his conviction. The best example of this comes in the form of a 16.5 minute static shot that subverts Hunger’s previous dependence on moments of wanton degradation. During this scene, Sands converses with prison priest Dominic Moran (Liam Cunningham) about the moral implications of the imminent hunger strike. The two actors play wonderfully off each other, deftly voicing their own inexorably cultured stances and hinting at the unavoidable faux-Christ tropes that such a story affords. Still, the overresoluteness that Fassbender exudes does more than reduce the piece to a fabling tale of martyrdom. And with the selfish-versus-selfless ambiguity he injects into Sand’s motives, Fassbender adds an ironic slant to the Christ parallel, breading more room for discussion and, naturally, enjoyment.
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Post by Admin on Thu Mar 04, 2010 12:58 am

http://offtheshelfreviews.com/1173/movie-reviews/hunger/

Hunger

Directed by Steve McQueen

Held in North Ireland’s Maze Prison, Bobby Sands (Michael Fassbender) leads a ceaceless hunger strike to protest the new Special Category Status laws being used against Irish political prisoners.

The film does not focus completely on Bobby Sands, but begins following a Maze prison guard, played by Stuart Graham. The man hardly says a word in any of his scenes, but you can tell what’s going on in his head and in his life just by watching his performance. We gain a different point of view from Davey Gillen (Brian Milligan) as he is admitted to the prison, introducing the day to day goings on inside.

Not only are the performances complely enthralling, the cinematography in this film is nothing short of spectacular. It should be some indication in that I was knocked speechless by watching flowing puddles of urine. Flies, snowflakes and excrement covered cell walls are all orchestrated onscreen perfectly.

There’s a fantastic scene between Sands and a priest (Liam Cunningham) that goes uncut for what must be twenty full minutes. Just the two men discussing where they presently stand set against the shadows of the room, setting the scene for Sands’ strike.

Playing with time is a big factor in the way the film tells its story. For instance, we’ll see the guards initiate a savage punishment on the prisoners before we even find out what instigated it. It’s clever shifts like this that kept me on my toes even more.

Can’t write a review about Hunger without mentioning Fassbender’s physical performance. The man lost an unhealthly looking amount of weight to play Sands in the late stages of starvation, and the camera takes full advantage. It’s a bona-fide nightmare.

I had never heard of Mr. McQueen’s work before, and it would so happen that this is his first film. To say that I’m looking forward to his next project is a huge understatement.
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Post by Admin on Thu Mar 04, 2010 10:40 pm

http://uselessfilmsnob.blogspot.com/2010/03/hunger.html

Thursday, March 04, 2010
Hunger

Hunger (Steve McQueen, 2008) [10]

Living in a place like Binghamton can be hard when you really want to see a film. Even with an independent cinema in town, some films will always manage to slip through the cracks. Hunger has been on my radar for over a year and has finally seen the light of day on DVD. With no understatement, it is a masterful film. The best of 2008 as well as the best of the last decade. It is visually spectacular, no surprise considering McQueen's background. What makes it more than just visually striking is that McQueen tinkers with the idea of a message picture. Telling the story of IRA volunteer/prisoner Bobby Sands is going to fall in the realm of political picture. Yet McQueen never really makes the film solely about Sands and his ultimately fatal hunger strike. The film covers quite a bit of ground, giving a greater picture of "The Troubles" than just Sands' act of martyrdom. There's an examination of the stress and peril that the prison officials face, on the inside and the out. The film actually starts out focusing on other prisoners other than Sands. What I think McQueen is attempting to do is not make the Bobby Sands martyrdom picture that so many would expect and instead make a more nuanced, less black and white view of the situation. I approve of this maneuver even though some will not. Above all else however, the poetic nature of the visuals trump all themes and politics. The feces smeared walls of the prisoners' cells, the flying batons and crumpled bodies being beaten, Sands's (played with an act of physical bravado by Michael Fassbender) emaciated figure at the end, they're all ingrained in my mind with their visceral nature. There's a sixteen minute long take, between Sands and a priest, that is dazzling filmmaking, not just in its length but its composition of the figures bathed in shadows. For a first time feature director, McQueen has created an enviable result. Even days later, there are still moments I'm in awe over. I feel to really get Hunger, you have to really appreciate it a visual level, no matter how unsettling and jarring some of them may be. If you have strong feelings about Irish Republicanism, which I do, it may not be the type of film politically you'd expect. Yet, the film resonates for totally different reasons other than its main character.
Posted by Anthony at 3/04/2010 06:31:00 PM
Labels: Film reviews
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Post by Admin on Thu Mar 04, 2010 10:48 pm

http://www.killerfilm.com/film_reviews/read/hunger-criterion-collection-blu-ray-review-25257

Hunger: Criterion Collection – Blu-ray Review
Submitted by Jon Peters on March 4, 2010 – 8:15 am

The Film:

You have to just put the popcorn down. There is no way you can come in and sit, munching aimlessly during this film. Hunger isn’t a movie as it’s more of an experience, carefully controlled piece of art, that even if you do munch during this, the police brutality is so extreme, that you’ll throw it up anyway. Hunger is an absolutely stunning first film by newcomer Steve McQueen.

The film is an account of the 1981 political hunger strike of Bobby Sands, an Irish Republican Army prisoner. While I don’t think it’s as important to know about the Troubles, a name used in describing the constitutional status of Northern Ireland that last almost 40 years, highlighted by this film’s subject. I mean, it is an important historical event, but the film is concerned with the act, the motivation behind doing such a deed. Six weeks prior to the hungry strike and years of imprisonment, we get introduced to the prison lifestyle through the arrival of Davey, a non-conforming prisoner. Through his arrival, McQueen details their life behind bars as well, and perhaps more importantly, the brutality they suffer.

We see them beaten, force washed, hair violently cut off, anally searched, each filmed with a stoic approach, leaving us as exposed as they are. Aiding to this is the lack of dialogue and music, both occasionally there, and used sporadically in key areas. The film feels distilled, but through these images, especially the prisoners retaliation scenes like them smearing feces on the walls of their cells, or collectively cupping their urine to have it spill out into the hallways, leave us with a feeling so strong, you’ll jut sit there and stare. What else can you do? The images of violence and degradation, are so vivid, you can almost smell the fear, sweat and excrement.

We don’t get elaborate back stories, but a few bits and pieces for Bobby Sands, so these images, and the lack of dialogue at times, are leading up to two big things for the film. One is pivotal scene that is the much-talked about 22 minute single take between Bobby Sands and a priest. This scene sets up the motivation for Sands decision to do a hungry strike. The camera just sits there, in a medium shot, allowing the two actors to talk. Leading up to this scene, the film really hasn’t used a lot of dialogue, just here and there sparingly. This huge talking scene feels so uncomfortable and odd, because the prisoners have already, through certain gestures, made their stances clear. This makes the words feels cold, distant, or even foreign much like their dreams of being free. After this key scene, we are set up for the staging of the hungry strike.

Once the strike hits, the film squarely focuses on Bobby and the eventually, sickening descent the body goes through without food. McQueen doesn’t shy away from the nastier elements. I think it’s important for us to visually see the effects of his lack of eating, because it only makes his actions all that more harrowing. Hunger is possibly devoid of a political stance, although it’s easy to point at Margaret Thatcher as a villain, our protagonists as heroes, but if anything it more of a statement on the actual action of going as extreme as one can for a belief. Hunger is also a film that will force any critic to bust out the Thesaurus, as we’ll run out of positive things to say about Steve McQueen’s (insert adjective) debut. See Hunger now, but be prepare to receive a powerful punch to your senses.

The Blu-ray:

Audio/Video: Criterion in the accompanying booklet talks about how they did the transfer, but the result is always the same for them. This disc looks amazing. Certain scenes are so beautiful, you wish you could pause it, print it, and hang them on the wall, and this is from a film devoid of a lot of color. Details are high, clarity is too, and all in all, another superb Criterion transfer. McQueen detailed and interesting sound design is replicated here with a DTS track. Nuanced and interesting, the sound is equally as good as the video.

The Making of Hunger: This is a HD, 14 minute string of interview with Steve McQueen and the film’s stars. It’s pretty good and thorough.

Steve McQueen: In HD, we get a longer one-on-one interview with the director exclusive for this disc, and it’s the best extra, especially since we don’t get an audio commentary, this is the extra to watch. About 20 minutes long.

Michael Fassbender: Another thorough interview, with the film’s star as he talks about the transformation he went through for his character.

The Provos Last Card: Interested in the real people and the events? Here’s the answer in this 46 minute BBC documentary. Lots of good historical analysis and interviews, making this a beautiful find and companion piece.

The ever awesome Essay Booklet Criterion provides in each release and the Trailer finish out the extras.

Conclusion: A powerful, haunting, and at times, disturbing film gets a wonderful Criterion release on high-def.

The Film: Rating: ★★★★★

The Blu-ray: Rating: ★★★★½
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Post by Admin on Fri Mar 05, 2010 8:19 pm

http://cinemasalon.blogspot.com/2010/03/hunger-revanche.html

Friday, March 05, 2010
Hunger & Revanche
Tough stuff, indeed. Hunger is an unflinching look at the extremities of life in the Maze prison during the Troubles in Northern Ireland, the first feature of Steve McQueen. No, not the American icon of cool, but a burly black Brit who is a Turner Prize-winning artist. Without excessive aestheticizing and without special pleading, this tour de force presents not just the brute facts but the personal feelings of conflict between terror and repression, between power and the powerless, between captivity and freedom, between prisoners within and without the walls of H-Block. In short, the conflict between humanity and inhumanity. While remaining particular and specific about the case of the IRA and the mortal hunger strike of Bobby Sands and others in 1981, McQueen’s steady gaze illuminates hidden corners of human motivation and behavior. Michael Fassbender is outstanding as Sands, but the cast maintains a uniform verisimilitude. In fact, this film presents more truth than many will be able to stand. Definitely not for the squeamish, it’s sensational in a deeper sense, making one feel the pain of captive existence on one’s own skin. The storytelling is elliptical and evocative, but centers around one scene where the camera remains fixed for much longer than ten minutes on a silhouetted two-shot of Sands facing off across a table with a sympathetic but adversarial priest, endeavoring to justify his extreme strategy. McQueen’s own strategy is not to change minds, but to open them. (2008, dvd.) *7+* (MC-82.)

The Criterion Collection is branching out from their impeccable dvd reissues of classic films to more current releases. Besides Hunger, they’ve just put out Revanche, an Austrian film that was nominated for Best Foreign Film at the Oscars . Gotz Spielmann combines elements of thriller, psychodrama, and parable in this film, whose title may translate either as “revenge” or “rematch.” Two different couples are introduced in alternation and you surmise they will intersect at some point, but you won’t be able to predict how, or what will happen next. But stick with it and the film unfolds to unexpected depth. One couple lives on the seedy margins of Vienna; she’s a Ukrainian prostitute and he’s an ex-con gofer in the brothel where she works. The other lives in a rural village; he’s a policeman and she’s a hausfrau who longs to be a mother. Their paths cross; many complications ensue. You have to watch carefully and patiently to find out what will happen, which is as shocking and quietly devastating as the splash into a country pond that begins the film, sending concentric ripples across the quiet surface. Neither of these films is fare for everyone (plenty of nudity plus revulsion in each), but I thank Criterion for both. (2009, dvd.) *7+* (MC-84.)
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Post by Admin on Tue Mar 16, 2010 1:14 am

http://www.avforums.com/movies/index.php?showtitlereview=10047

‘Hunger’ was released in 2008 and was written and directed by Steve McQueen. Obviously not the legendary ‘Bullit’ actor, this McQueen is in fact an artist but not in the traditional sense of the word. He specialises in the artistic projection of his films onto one or more walls; these films involve subject matter such as two naked men standing across from each other and exchanging glances! This movie marks McQueen’s first feature production and he’s chosen some very delicate and powerful source material. The topic in question is that of the infamous hunger strike which took place in the Maze prison in Belfast during the height of the Troubles. Following the implementation of internment without trial in the early 70’s, the British government went about locking up hundreds who were suspected of paramilitary activity in Northern Ireland. There was no trial for these men (guilty or not) and the average term was eight years. This movie takes up the saga of the Troubles circa 1981 and tells the tale of one of the most famous IRA members, Bobby Sands.

The setting is the harsh and stark environment of the Maze prison in Belfast. We are introduced in the opening scenes to a young man named Gerry Campbell, who has recently been arrested under suspicion of partaking in terrorist activities. He states that he is a political prisoner and refuses to wear the prison uniform; he requests to wear his own clothes, even though he looks decidedly unsure of himself. The warders’ exchange knowing glances and as Campbell strips to his birthday suit he receives a single blanket and a vicious clout on the head for his insubordination. Manhandled to his cell, he meets the man with whom he will spend the next six years of his life, Bobby Sands.

Campbell examines his cell and realises that the walls are caked with Sands' own excrement. It has been methodically applied to every available surface, with a plasterer’s patience. Sands, like his new cellmate, is also wearing nothing but a blanket, even though the temperature inside the filthy cell is well below freezing. A couple of months pass and, realising that four years worth of dirty (and blanket) protesting has done nothing to improve their Special Category status, the order is given to begin a hunger strike. Although this had been attempted several years previously, the plan for the first strike was flawed; each man began nil by mouth in unison and all became too weak to carry on the fight and had to stop. This time things would be different, as each man would stagger their refusal to consume, with seventy five volunteer prisoners waiting in the wings to replace any of their fallen comrades. Sands was the first to begin (on the first of March 1981) and he was openly willing to die for his beliefs.

Sands died at the age of twenty seven after sixty six days of hunger striking. His demise in the movie is harrowing and disturbing, grimly capturing a man slowly deteriorating as his body begins to consume itself and eventually shuts down completely. Nine men died in total during the Maze prison hunger strikes and Sands was the first. I’m not a political person by nature but it’s an emotional experience to witness what one patriot did for his country. I personally was not affected in any great way by the Troubles (even though I live a few miles from the border) but this is a subject which is very close to home. I spoke to my parents about this movie and they told me that the next man who was on the list of those ordered to sacrifice themselves by the horrific method of starvation lived a few doors down from a previous family home. This, for me, brought a huge gravity and meaningfulness to ‘Hunger’. While it might not be a movie that impacts everyone in a similar fashion, it is without doubt both a very powerful piece of film-making and a master class in cinematography and direction. Unlike many other Hollywood productions you can see the effort which went into making this piece. McQueen provides an exemplary example here of a real craftsman and artist at work. Each shot is meticulously planned and the overall flow of the piece is perfect. There are many scenes which caused my jaw to drop slightly, be it as a result of shocking scenes of brutality or depravity. Some of the imagery is presented as a lengthy still and this just adds to the impact. In saying this, there were a couple of sequences that seemed a little too “arty-farty” but this is just a personal preference and I’m sure that many will find this movie a beautiful thing to behold in its entirety.

Sands' beliefs were unshakable; his refusal to surrender and wear a convict’s uniform and the willingness to die for his cause and leave his young family behind really says it all. However, with regards to political statement, his death was not in vain; a huge surge in IRA recruitment and activity occurred shortly after his funeral. He was also elected to British parliament during his time in prison but the rapid introduction of the Representation of the People Act in 1981 prevented any of the other hunger strikers from making it to office. His death also had an impact in many countries around the world (such as the USA and Cuba), with many governments protesting over the treatment of political prisoners in the Maze (even The Grateful Dead paid tribute to Sands!). The scenes of the prisoners engaging in dirty protesting as rivers of faeces/urine flow through the corridors of the Maze is the definition of depravity. The fact that it was all self inflicted makes even more of a statement and this really is a movie about one man’s patriotic sacrifice.

Relative unknown, Michael Fassbender, plays the role of Sands. He has had minor roles in television shows over the years and also played a part in ‘300’ but this is his first starring role. He is absolutely stunning here and deserves the accolade he has received following the release of this movie. With such an emotional and powerful central performance, Fassbender is set to follow in fellow Irish thespian Colin Farrell’s footsteps (and also seems to have a whole lot more acting ability). Stuart Graham, another actor who focused on television productions before making his big screen debut here, also puts on a very strong performance. His character projects the role which the prison guards played in the story of Sands and Graham does a fantastic job here with body language and expression. Veteran Irish actor Liam Cunningham also puts on a magnificent (but short lived) performance playing Fr. Moran, who holds a wonderfully captivating and intelligently written conversation with Sands, as the two duel for the moral high ground. This scene was in fact carefully practiced over and over by Fassbender and Cunningham as they only had one twenty minute slot (due to the fact that the location for the scene was on a busy train route) to nail the most interesting and intimate scene in the movie. The supporting cast, like the lead actors, convey a range of emotions with simple sideward glances at each other and are collectively flawless; obviously this is McQueen’s influence at work. All in all there’s not one actor who puts one foot wrong for the duration and form a very tight cast. And, most importantly, all nail that tricky Belfast accent to a tee, which is crucially important for authenticity (unlike Tommy Lee Jones in the truly awful ‘Blown Away’).

Although this is the second movie to portray Sands’ life (‘Some Mother’s Son’ covered the story in 1996) McQueen’s efforts here are superior and his vision clearer. The movie effortless skips through the timeline of the final years of Sands’ incarceration. The precise timeline is unexplained but the lengthening hair and other events give good indication. There is little or no dialogue for the first forty or so minutes, with McQueen letting his carefully crafted imagery do the talking. The majority of spoken words are included in the aforementioned scene involving a clever battle of conscience and belief between Sands and Fr. Moran. Following this exchange, dialogue once again becomes scarce as we follow Sands’ journey to the end. While I’m not a fan of this type of delivery, the directors unwavering vision and obvious passion keeps the entire presentation tight and interesting. It really is refreshing to find a British director who can break boundaries and this release reaffirms UK cinema’s place on the movie map. It’s clear that this movie was a labour of love for all involved and the end product certainly does the effort which went into its creation justice. This fact was cemented in Cannes earlier this year, with McQueen deservedly receiving the Camera D’Or prize for first time directors and the movie received a host of other minor awards. Highly recommended.


Movie score : 8

Hunger Review
Blu-ray review written by Gerard Magnier, published 25th February 2010
Supplied for review by Axel Music
Hunger
Picture

‘Hunger’ is presented in widescreen 2.35:1 with MPEG-4 1080p coding.

Much of the imagery in the movie is stark and bleak and this transfer mirrors the feature presentations sentiments. McQueen has employed filters and lighting techniques to achieve a precise tone to match the source material (while authentically recreating an early 80’s ambience). Even outside the unwelcoming setting of the Maze, the image retains its dreary overtones. This Criterion release comes by way of a digital transfer of the 35mm negative, mastered at 2k. This updated BD transfer has also been approved by Mc Queen.

Although the print is rather muted, there is plenty of detail on show. Decrepit brickwork, rusted pipework and faecal plastering all stand out with clarity in the unwelcoming corridors of the Maze. Officer Lohan’s bloody and swollen knuckles are well defined and a splotch of blood can clearly be seen on his shirt. All of the damage due to “misunderstandings” which the prisoners receive are presented with perfectly measured shades of reds and blues. The faeces covered cell of Sands is rendered in all its disgusting glory (it’s even possible to pick out tiny lumps if you look closely enough!), with flies and maggots crawling around in the filth. Clothing detail is prevalent, such as visible textures of the many woollen jumpers which feature throughout (they were highly popular in the 80’s!). Linen textures on the prison guard’s uniform’s are also in abundance. Facial close-ups are very impressive, exposing every pore, matted hair and faeces encrusted nail.

Shadow detail is absolutely sublime, with not one ounce of detail lost in the primarily dark setting of Belfast’s notorious prison. The contrast ratio is also reference standard, with plenty of deep inky blacks on display. Although there’s not a huge amount of grain in the picture, it still manages to feel decidedly gritty for the duration. Some of the long shots of the streets of Belfast exude a pleasing depth but there are no real instances of three dimensionality and the print is largely flat. The colour palette is decidedly dull and drab and you won’t find any vibrant colours here. In saying that, the dour shading of the Maze looks decidedly solid, adding to the realistic nature of the director’s delivery. The browns are particularly solid! Skin tonality is spot on, perfectly recreating the wan and drained faces of all the inmates as they face daily chastisement.

This is not the most impressive effort that BD has to offer but it is a solidly immaculate representation of the director’s intended vision and so it comes highly recommended.


Picture score : 8
Hunger
Sound

‘Hunger’ comes packed with a 5.1 dts HD Master Audio surround track.

Treating the audio engineering with the same artistic tenderness as the transfer, Mc Queen has opted for a restrained surround track so as not to detract from the visual aspect of the movie. Front steerage is perfect and the vocals are locked to the centre channel and are never difficult to follow. There are plenty of audible nuances throughout, such clatter of cells being destroyed or the whistle of Officer Lohan’s breathing through his nostrils. The surrounds do provide some ambience, such as a whisper of wind or the depairing cries of inmates but they are mostly unassuming and gently add to the surround track, rather than dominating the soundstage. There are a couple of scenes, such as during the intense riot police segment, where they are more forceful and prevelant but for the most part they subtly add to the track. The same can be said for the sub, which is largely inactive for the duration. The only scene where the bass department got a look in was during closing scenes of the movie.

There’s also no score per say on this release, McQueen simply lets his powerful imagery hold the movie together for the majority. There are a few instances of some violin based interludes and these are perfectly weighted in the mix. This absence of continuous audio distraction really serves to focus the audience’s attention on the striking imagery, which I presume was the intended result.

Like the transfer, the audio presentation is stoically solid and matches the director’s vision to perfection. While this is definitely not one to show off the power of your surround system, it’s a perfect complement to the captivating source material.


Sound score : 7
Extras

As this is a Criterion Collection release, I expected plenty of worthwhile additional supplements. This release did not disappoint and while it’s not as laden with extras as other Criterion releases, I’m sure that every possible decent extra is included here. Criterion themselves even conducted some interviews for this release, further demonstrating their dedication towards ensuring their releases offer the best possible BD package.

Interview with Steve McQueen (HD 17mins) - This interview was filmed especially for this Criterion BD release. Mc Queen speaks candidly about his feature production (including some of the more brutal and disgusting elements) and how he transitioned from artist to director. He speaks about his previous works and this one, explaining his directorial techniques. Expanding on the story of Sands, the director’s passion really shines through and this feature is well worth a watch.

The Making of Hunger (HD 13mins) - This feature includes interviews with Mc Queen, Fassbender, Cunningham, Graham, Milligan as well as Enda Walsh (co-writer) and Robin Gutch (producer). The actors all give high praise to the movie and director, while explaining the roles they played and the difficult nature of filming some of the scenes. Walsh and Gutch chip in to comment on the delicate nature of the material and how much care they took to do the story of Sands justice. Again, this is another worthwhile feature.

Interview with Michael Fassbender (HD 13mins) - Film critic Jason Solomon interviews Fassbender in 2008, shortly after the release of the movie. Fassbender speaks about what Sands means to him, his experiences of working on the movie and McQueen (to whom he gives high praise). He also elaborates on the difficulties of filming some of the more emotionally draining scenes in the movie and includes insight into how a nutritionist helped him to lose the weight.

The Provo’s Last Card? (HD 4:3 45mins) – This is an episode of Panorama (with legend David Dimbleby!), which was shown four months after the death of Bobby Sands. We get to visit the Maze prison and interviews with Sinn Fein leaders (and suspected IRA activists) Gerry Adams and Ruairi O’Bradaigh, DUP leader Ian Paisley and Labour Party Leader John Hume are also included. The politicians discuss the impact which Sands’ death and Thatcher’s opposition will have on the future of Northern Ireland and the IRA (the infamous IRA handbook is also shown). Interviews with families living in Belfast, who were directly affected by the hunger strikes (and other violence) in the North, also feature. This programme offers a highly interesting snapshot of Northern Ireland at a crucial turning point in the history of the Troubles and a fascinating glimpse into the real men involved in the hunger strike. It’s also worth watching to see Panorama in HD!

Trailer - Included here is one high definition trailer for the movie.


Extras score : 7
Hunger
Verdict

‘Hunger’ was released in 2008 and was directed by Steve McQueen. The movie charts the notorious Maze prison hunger strikes which took place in 1981, a pivotal event in the history of the Troubles in Northern Ireland. The entire cast are perfect and the powerful central performance from Michael Fassbender, with his haunted eyes and drained visage, is wonderful. The direction and cinematography are both sublime and the movie is slathered in artistic beauty and depravity. Nothing is black and white; the people, the story of Sands or where the finger of blame is pointing and that’s what makes this such a good movie (given the delicate nature of the source material). An exemplary director and a stunning cast means that this movie comes highly recommended; be warned though, there are some scenes which will shock.

The director approved transfer perfectly captures Mc Queen’s dark vision of Sands’ incarceration in the Maze. There’s plenty of detail on show and the presentation is very solid. The uncompressed surround track is never going to make it into the demo material category but it is well engineered and perfectly complements the powerful imagery. The extras portion, as is to be expected from Criterion, contains some interesting features and interviews, which were conducted especially for this release. Overall this is a very strong BD release and comes recommended.
Overall score : 8
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Post by Admin on Tue Mar 16, 2010 5:04 pm

http://shadowsitcave.blogspot.com/2010/03/wild-card-tuesday-hunger.html

Tuesday, March 16, 2010
Wild Card Tuesday - Hunger

Hunger (2008, dir. Steve McQueen)
Starring Michael Fassbender, Liam Cunningham

The fight between Catholic and Protestant sides in Northern Ireland has devastated that country since the late 1960s. Each side has visited monolithic brutality on the other in of the greatest displays of community inflicting such cruelty on itself. But the cruelty that was the worst, was that of employees of the British empire on IRA members imprisoned in facilities across the country. Director Steve McQueen never give support for the terrorist actions of the IRA, but advocates that all prisoners, regardless of their crimes, deserve humane treatment.

The film's focus is real life IRA soldier Bobby Sands (Fassbender). While the film doesn't explicitly cover his activities with the IRA, he was no saint. He helped ferry weapons for the movement and was involved in the bombing of a furniture store in 1976. The film chooses to portray Sands as a figure unwilling to budge an inch for the brutal authority crashing down around his head. In this effort he has allowed himself to become dehumanized. Simply put, he has been caged and treated like an animal, so he will behave like one. Sands smears the walls of his cell with his own feces, allows the daily meals to rot and mold in a corner, and funnels his bed pan (synchronized with the other prisoners) out into the hallway. Is it vile? Yes. But there something innate within us that despise authority that wishes to break us, so it comes off as bizarrely admirable.

Bobby's most memorable, and final, triumph came when he began a hunger strike in 1981 which took his life after several painful months of starvation. Michael Fassbender destroyed his body through malnutrition to take on the gaunt, sunken appearance of a Holocaust victim. He become the specter of death with additional help from an incredibly talented makeup department. His back is covered in open sores, he's unable to urinate for the prison doctor's physical, and he stains his sheets with black, acrid blood. The moments before Sands passes are truly powerful. The film moves into his consciousness as hallucinations of his younger self appear and his mind travels back to long distance race where he and both Prot and Catholic youths ran together, in fields of golden amber. Director McQueen doesn't want you to take the IRA's side, he wants you to realize how irrelevant any side is, and simply see a man dying.

The aesthetic choice made by McQueen are magnificent. For the first 30 minutes of the film there is little or no dialogue. Only 50 minutes in is there an actual conversation between two people for extended amount of time. Here Sands and a priest from his community debate the point of standing in defiance of authority. The priest tells Sands he must submit to the uniform being enforced on the prisoners and Sands simply won't budge. Once again, neither side wins in the debate. They simply come to the conclusion that neither of them will change their ideas about it. Hunger is one of the best examples of director using the language of cinema to tell a visceral and moving story. There is no maudlin sentimentality, yet there is a deep emotional core. Not for those lacking a strong constitution, but one of the most amazing British films I've ever seen.
Posted by Seth Harris at 12:37 PM
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Post by Admin on Sun Mar 21, 2010 1:08 am

http://universecritic.wordpress.com/2010/03/20/movie-a-day-finale/

March 20, 2010...6:35 pm
Movie a Day Finale

I hate to say it, but I’m really happy to be done with this whole movie every day thing. March Madness has been unbelievable this year and I don’t want to miss another game. I missed the first half of today’s future ESPN Classic Northern Iowa-Kansas game, so I think the entire segment has run its course. Besides, that means I can funnel energy towards more important things like finding a real people job.

Today’s flick was 2008’s Hunger. It’s an unflinching look at the events leading up to the 1981 IRA hunger strike in Northern Ireland, as well as Bobby Sands’ 66 day strike.

I can tell you exactly how much you will want to see the movie in three sentences. The theatrical poster next to this text is a scene from the movie. It is one prisoner’s feces smeared against the wall in protest. That is the least depraved act in the film.

If you can’t stand a movie where the low water mark is some dude shitting in his hands and smearing it everywhere as a political act, never watch this movie. If it’s on at someone’s house, just leave. You’ll thank me. There’s more anal probing in this movie than at Mike Tyson’s 4th of July BBQ. For the rest of you, Hunger is a very creative, poignant look at the time in Northern Ireland so deftly called “The Troubles.”

Hunger works on two specific levels. First, it is a biopic of the IRA’s transition from its “dirty protest” to its hunger strike. As a biopic, it works through subtle, clever plotlines which merge for the greater good of the film. This isn’t Walk The Line where stupid s$#! happens just because it’s anecdotal. Every scene conveys an element of the transition. Characters show up for one scene and then vanish. It’s jarring, but it’s honest. Something that can’t be said for s$#! like Ray.

Secondly, it works as one hell of an art film. Director Steve McQueen (not the American one, he’s dead) is a British artist whose previous short films were minimalist, ambiguous pieces. With Hunger, he draws upon the minimalist style frequently, but completely drops the ambiguity of previous work. Every scene has a blatant intention and fully succeeds. But nothing is presented in a conventional manner.

The entire film is fairly devoid of dialogue. Most of the plot is conveyed through innuendo and brief words. Character development and emotion come in the form of deft, moody segments The only scene that features an extended conversation is shot as a 17-minute single take, so there’s no scene that isn’t soaked in the art of filmmaking.

This is both admirable and exhausting. We get 3-minute long shots of a guard sweeping up urine in the hall, a shot which conveys the depravity of the situation and the perseverance of the IRA prisoners. It works, but there is nothing easy about watching it. The entire movie is uncomfortable. Even a loving glance between a man and his girlfriend is transposed with her pulling a f#%@#&! radio out of her vagina and passing the contraband under the table to him.

Even the pacing of characterization is difficult. Bobby Sands isn’t introduced until 35 minutes into the movie, and even then, you only guess his name through hearsay. For the first 10 minutes, the film follows a guard, then 25 minutes are devoted to two other IRA prisoners who are eventually written out of the film without explanation. There’s an even-handedness to this type of storytelling which suggests the importance of every act during this time regardless of the person’s celebrity.

The acting (when highlighted) is across-the-board great. Characters who are in the film for 12 seconds show just as much range as Michael Fassbender (playing Bobby Sands). Fassbender only gets one scene of actual dialogue — every thing else is mostly screaming or wasting away with only his eyes to produce emotion. His entire performance is phenomenal though. He puts on a clinic in terms of passion displayed. Most notably during his extended scene. It’s about 20 minutes of him rationalizing his decision to strike to everyone: to God, to himself, to a priest, to his younger self. It’s profoundly affecting and (not to diminish McQueen’s work) the highlight of the film.

Hunger is a rough film. It doesn’t pull any punches and it definitely doesn’t sweep any of the horrors of the late 20th century politics of Ireland under the rug. It’s also not written for the uninitiated. There are no explanations of the time period except for a couple of brief, illegible stills at the start of the film. If you don’t know your Irish history, this movie will be damn near impossible to follow. I had to pause the movie several times and research what the hell was going on during the time period. Even if you do know the history, there is nothing fun about watching this movie. However, as a testament to those involved in the hunger strike, it is a monumental triumph. It’s simultaneously humbling and inspiring — a movie which revels in the power of the individual no matter the conduct. It is an important film, one which I hope continues to find an audience. But I’ll admit that I’m not eager to ever watch it again.

I’ll be damned if that wasn’t the point though.
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Post by Admin on Mon Mar 22, 2010 12:27 am

http://www.criticnic.com/2010/03/hunger-2008/

Hunger (2008)

Director/writer: Steve McQueen | Rated: n/a (violence) | Review date: 20-Mar-2010

English artist Steve McQueen makes his feature film debut with Hunger, the historical drama focused around Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) prisoners during the 1980s. The prisoners in the Maze prison, where the film takes place, were denied political status and branded simply as criminals. The film is broken down into three acts, but ultimately focuses on one character and his bold acts taken for a greater good. Though the story revolves around political turmoil, it would be a great mistake to avoid this movie for that purpose, as the film itself touches very little on the actual political context.

The first part follows prison guard Raymond Lohan (Stuart Graham) in his daily routine. Checking his car for bombs, holding his cut and bruised hands under water, and depressingly smoking a cigarette under a miserable snow sets the bleak tone for the rest of the movie. The second part introduces us to two cellmates, Davey and Gerry (Brian Milligan and Liam McMahon). Davey protests by refusing to wear the uniform of a criminal, while Gerry makes his statement by smearing his feces over every inch of their cell. The two, along with many other inmates, refuse to bathe. The final act introduces Bobby Sands, played by the talented Michael Fassbender (Fish Tank, Inglourious Basterds). Bobby makes his mark by initializing a hunger strike.

While this film is based on a true life political situation, it really takes no side as far as political beliefs go. Rather, the film focuses on the prisoners and their struggles, as well as the behavior and state of those working in the prison. The film captures every ounce of human emotion with mind-blowing realism. From the guards and riot officers roughing up the inmates (and even one so disturbed by what he’s seen that he hides and cries) to the inmates never backing down, the film is intense all the way through. What’s impressive is that it goes almost 45 minutes in with saying barely a few words. What the first half of the film lacks in dialog, it more than makes up for in superb acting performances and powerful visuals. In my opinion it’s quite difficult to make a political or historical film without seeming biased in some way, however McQueen manages to do so by placing emphasis on the people involved rather than attempting to spark political debate.

The longest part of dialog hits when Bobby Sands is discussing the hunger strike with a priest. In this nearly stationary shot, the two go into great discussion about the outcomes of such a protest. It is here we see Sands’ dedication to his cause and his willingness to put his own life on the line for it. From here on out we sit by and watch as Sands’ health declines and his body dwindles down to nothing. Perhaps the most touching parts of the film involve Sands’ parents having to observe their son in such a state. Much is to be said about Michael Fassbender’s performance; his near silent presence after his discussion with the priest spoke volumes through his facial expressions and body language.

After viewing this piece, it is not hard to believe that McQueen is trained in the fine arts. The film takes a more minimalist approach. Limited dialog, stationary camera shots, slow zooms, and sound effects in place of music are the main elements used. However, it is filmed so beautifully that it reminds us that a great film doesn’t need to have non-stop action or witty dialog to be watchable. McQueen has true talent behind the camera, and though the story of which this film is based is powerful enough on its own, he really makes it a visually stunning thing to watch without sacrificing story for art (or vice versa). The acting tops this film off outstandingly well with solid performances by all. While Hunger is based on a piece of Irish history, it’s subject matter is still very relevant in today’s world. Bobby Sands and many after him died for their cause, but their sacrifices played a large role in getting what they desired and have not been forgotten.
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Post by Admin on Tue Mar 23, 2010 1:10 pm

http://andreshane.blogspot.com/2010/03/british-incarceration.html

Monday, March 22, 2010
BRITISH INCARCERATION
A couple of interesting films I recently caught on DVD both tackle the subject of the English prison system in the early ‘80s and both films - very different from one another - surprised me with their style and originality. The films are BRONSON and HUNGER and both break so significantly from the prison genre, so as to cover a whole new territory altogether.

Director Steve McQueen’s HUNGER is the story of Bobby Sands, an IRA poet/thug who stages a six-week long hunger strike in protest of the deplorable conditions in the Irish prisons. HUNGER is decidedly not a comedy. In fact, its one of the most visually disgusting films I’ve ever seen (If you’re squeamish about blood and feces, this is not for you.) Yet it’s difficult to deny its hypnotic power and sheer cinematic audacity. McQueen, who’s a painter by trade, is so unconventional in his approach to narrative, that HUNGER is by turns repulsive yet breathtaking, ugly yet beautiful.

At the film’s center is Michael Fassbender (300, Inglorious Basterds), doing the full Christian Bale in The Machinist weight loss thing to a much more powerful affect. It’s a great performance that manages to get into the soul of Sands without being a biopic or resorting to cheap drama and even cheaper polemics. In fact, HUNGER is a surprisingly apolitical film, and while we learn quite a bit about ‘the troubles’ of Northern Ireland, its agenda is not to make any grand statements, but rather to put the viewer inside the bodies, minds and souls of its characters. And in this, it succeeds to an often-sickening degree. Mostly silent, with a masterful 17 minute single take dialogue scene in the middle, HUNGER pushes all kinds of boundaries, but if you have the stomach to stick with it, the film rewards you with an emotionally powerful finale that will stick in your head for a long time; whether you want it there or not.
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Post by Admin on Wed Mar 31, 2010 11:41 pm

http://www.collider.com/2010/03/31/hunger-criterion-blu-ray-review/

HUNGER Criterion Blu-ray Review
by Andre Dellamorte Posted:March 31st, 2010 at 1:16 pm

There are performances, rare though they may be, that come in and grab you by the short and curlies. There is no denying Daniel Day Lewis in There Will Be Blood, Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight, and David Thewlis in Naked. In Steve McQueen’s Hunger, Michael Fassbender gives one of those performances that you have to genuflect in awe. It’s not because for the last section of the film he drops more weight than Christian Bale did for The Machinist. That’s a great commitment, for sure, and shows a dedicated performer. But it’s a scene in the middle of the film that plays out in three shots over twenty minutes that shows the man has the gift to command - he makes it impossible to take you eyes off of him. Playing the real-life Bobby Sands, in one scene Fassbender lays out his plan for a hunger strike, and how and why he can commit to doing it. And that hunger strike by members of the IRA is the center of a film about “the troubles” in this rather brilliant film. My review of The Criterion Collection’s Blu-ray of Hunger after the jump.

To start, director Steve McQueen is of no relation to the actor (he both British and Black). That out of the way, Hunger is set in Thatcher’s England, and opens with a prison guard (Stuart Graham) washing his hands, and then checking under his car for bombs. It’s a hard time, and when Davey Gillen (Brian Milligan) comes into prison, and is celled up with Bobby Sands (Fassbender) we see how everyone behaves. The prisoners offer resistance by smearing fecal matter on their cells and dumping urine in the hallways, while beatings and shavings are the norm. Bobby calls a meeting with Father Dominic (Liam Cunningham) to tell him his plans for protestation. He’s going on a hunger strike with other men in the organization, and is willing to lay down his life for what he believes in. The father tries to talk him out of it, but Sands is resolute.

McQueen’s film is a tone piece, and it doesn’t play itself out in a heavy-handed way. It expects you to have some sense of what was going on, though the text is complete in that way. There’s no hand tipping about whether one side is right or not. It’s just the way things are (though Thatcher doesn’t come off particularly well). What Fassbender does with his performance as Sands is show someone with the commitment to stop eating and starve himself to death for the sake of what he believes in. Like McQueen, I can see how this would be enough to hang a movie on, I’m fascinated by this - it’s a terrible thing, but also horribly impressive because of what it requires. And Fassbender gets in the headspace to present that. It’s a calm and cool decision, it’s a thing he believes in so thoroughly that there is no doubt or hesitation.

McQueen’s cadence as a filmmaker is fascinating. He has a painter’s eye, and doesn’t think in terms of coverage or anything standardized, so the film grips you by never letting itself be easy to get a handle on where it’s going to go. And this gives his images a real power; it’s smart that he never lets the film go on too long (it’s a quick 96 minutes). But what holds the film together is Fassbender’s performance. It’s a marvel.

The Criterion collection’s Blu-ray presents the film in widescreen (2.35:1) and in DTS-HD 5.1. The transfer is perfect. Just perfect. Extras include an interview with McQueen (18 min.), a making of (13 min.) and an interview with Fassbender (14 min.). Together you get a fairly good portrait of the making of the film and artistic intentions. Since Cunningham and Fassbender have one scene together that was twenty eight pages long and shot in three set ups, the two moved in together to rehearse. Also included is the documentary “The Provos’ Last Card?” (45 min.), which gives the film a greater historical context. The film’s theatrical trailer is also included.
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Post by Admin on Wed Apr 14, 2010 3:10 am

http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/121902-hunger/

Hunger
By Cyrus Fard 19 March 2010

Making a film about legendary IRA prisoner Bobby Sands is no easy task to take upon, but English artist Steve McQueen’s (no, not that one) approach is nothing short of riveting. Starring Michael Fassbender of recent Inglourious Basterds fame as Sands, Hunger is a meditative symphony of human struggle and resilience. Faith, whether it be in regards to religion or political belief, is put to the test using the body as a metaphor for a site of contestation. McQueen’s contemplative filmmaking evokes an empathy that for some might be offensive to their politics, but for most audiences reveals the startling lengths people will go to prove their convictions.

For a feature film debut, McQueen is self-assured in his direction, and wrote the screenplay with Irish playwright Enda Walsh. Commissioned by Channel 4 and Film4, the film benefits from not having the pressure to conform to any Hollywood standard of what a political story should feel like. True to the real events, it does not try to dress up the cruelties and violence that were acted on the Maze prisoners. Fortunately, this is not a simple biopic used to deify a historical figure, but rather an attempt to capture the mood and events surrounding the 1981 hunger strike by Irish Republican prisoners attempting to regain political status.

The film begins with the routines of two different perspectives, prison officer Raymond Lohan (Stuart Graham), and Davey (Brian Milligan), a new IRA prisoner at Maze. For Raymond, his daily rituals include searching for bombs underneath his car, dealing with the solitary and cold lifestyle of a prison officer who regularly beats prisoners, and having little to say to his colleagues. After being labeled a “non-conforming prisoner” and forced to strip naked, Davey arrives at his prison cell. The camera addresses both perspectives with a calm and casual pace, which lets us infer that this is a typical environment these prisoners and officers who are pitted against each other.

At this point the prisoners are engaged in a no wash protest, refusing to shave or bathe, and smearing the walls of their cell with feces. If that’s not dedication to your cause, then I don’t know what is. We see the prisoners as they go through everything, whether it’s sexual frustration, disgusting living conditions, or harsh treatment by prison officers. We come with the prisoners as they talk in the visitor room with friends and family, and see the lengths they must go to retain their sanity in such an inhuman atmosphere. The lack of dramatic pacing may be jarring for some, considering the horrific acts that punctuate minutes of lingering shots, but it is all done in the spirit of realism.

During a scene in which the officers are forcibly bathing and cutting the hair of prisoners in a brutal fashion, we finally come upon Bobby Sands (Michael Fassbender), who resists by spitting in Raymond’s face, only to be beaten and forcibly bathed in response. Fassbender gives a performance that was completely overlooked during awards season; unfortunate considering the depths he went to achieve physical and emotional realism.

His best moment is the 17-minute single shot between Sands and a priest played by Liam Cunningham. The two actors had lived with one another for a few days, practicing the extended dialog for hours on end. The longest shot in a mainstream film is also one of the most thematically rich scenes in the film, where the priest tries to persuade Sands from going on with a hunger strike which will inevitably kill him and many other prisoners. Sands likens his devotion to the cause to an inherent feeling in him which dictates his sacrifice.

The last act of the film focuses on the hunger strike taken upon Sands, and the deteriorating effects it has on his body. This is harrowing stuff to watch, and a lot of viewers might have trouble stomaching the pain that Sands has to withstand. That seems to be the point of the film, trying to give the viewers a look at what drives those who sacrifice. Hunger stops short of drawing comparisons between Sands and any other known martyrs (hint hint), and treats the material with a great deal of respect. The film’s closing scenes make for a painfully difficult experience, because you already know there won’t be a happy ending, and yet you still pull for Sands in his weakest moments.

As usual, Criterion does another great job with its release of Hunger. The digital transfer looks great for a DVD release, and the surround sound really makes you feel like you’re in the prison with them. Bonus features gathered for the disc include video interviews with McQueen and Fassbender, a short documentary on the making of the film, and a 1981 episode of a BBC program about the Maze prison hunger strikes. All of these bonuses help enrich an already deep film, giving viewers greater context for the film and a bit of historical background for those that might not be aware of the political history of Britain.

Hunger is a challenge to watch, and at the end of it you won’t come away feeling any sort of relief. The experience is rewarding, however, because it dares to go where other films won’t, and with a respectful eye by McQueen which fully immerses you in the tragic story. By exploring the plight of these IRA prisoners, McQueen has created a film about faith and devotion. Except this is not regarding religion, but rather the devotion to voice and cause, and the mystifying lengths people will go to defend them.

Rating: 9

Extras rating: 7
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Post by Admin on Mon Apr 26, 2010 12:07 am

http://www.undertheradarmag.com/reviews/hunger_blu-ray_dvd

Hunger Blu-ray/DVD
Studio: Criterion

Apr 22, 2010 Web Exclusive By Chris Tinkham Bookmark and Share

"Let's be quiet," Hunger director Steve McQueen says, raising his index finger to his lips during a video interview. "Let's shut up and just look, observe, before one makes a judgment of anything." At that moment in the interview—included as a special feature on this Criterion release—McQueen is explaining his decision to abandon dialogue throughout much of his impressive and sometimes disorienting debut feature, which depicts the disturbing events leading up to the starvation and death of IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands in the Maze Prison outside of Belfast, Ireland in 1981.

A renowned visual artist from England, McQueen speaks in bold, rapid-fire statements, and his lively 17-minute interview is the perfect antidote for his bleak, methodically paced film. There's an experimental quality to Hunger's narrative structure; its first 30 minutes focus on a prison guard and two inmates while the camera slowly lingers on atmosphere (the prison's excrement-caked walls and urine-covered floors, for example). Eventually, the film gravitates to Sands (played by Michael Fassbender), and the drama is galvanized when he and a Catholic priest (Liam Cunningham) debate the repercussions of his intended hunger strike. 17 minutes of the sharp-tongued exchange (written by award-winning playwright Enda Walsh along with McQueen) were shot in an astonishing single take. Executed impeccably by Fassbender and Cunningham, the scene is one of the most enthralling conversations ever depicted on camera. Also remarkable is Fassbender's physical transformation in portraying Sands' dying days.

McQueen demonstrates a precise eye for composition, but Sean Bobbit's cinematography is at times too attractive; it gives the film a romantic aura—particularly near the end—that undermines McQueen's purported aim for objectivity. Grittier and more immediate is the 45-minute episode of the BBC news program Panorama, included as a special feature. Titled The Provos' Last Card? (Provos being the Provisional Irish Republican Army, more commonly known as the IRA), the program was produced shortly after Sands' death and, through numerous interviews, surveys the political and civilian climate in Northern Ireland at the time. It's essential viewing, an oftentimes chilling document of late 20th century history. Also included as special features are a 13-minute interview with Fassbender and a 13-minute making-of documentary.

The Caméra d'Or, a prize given to debut features at Cannes, was awarded to Hunger in 2008. (www.criterion.com)

Read a 2008 Under the Radar interview with director Steve McQueen.

Read a 2009 Under the Radar interview with actor Michael Fassbender.

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Post by Admin on Mon May 17, 2010 6:26 pm

http://dvdarthouseinternational.icezablog.com/hunger-criterion-collection-blu-ray.html

May 16, 2010
Hunger (Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]

* ISBN13: 0715515052917

Hunger (Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray] Overview

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.

Hunger (Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray] Review

Hunger does what it says on the tin,it abstracts from a polemical,ideological situation about hunger strikes in the Maze Prison in Northern Ireland in 1981 and removes the heat of the local personalities and history of the time, and gives us a film based on the individual humanity and decisions of individuals based at a stressful time.We get the essence without the controversy,coming as it does 27 years after the events described.We also get a film maker who has come from making video art works into the strange world of film making with all its taboos and shibboleths.Bobby Sands is the central character but doesn’t come in until 35 minutes into the film.So the performance does not shout:this is Bobby Sands,he arrives as an organic part of the central and last triptychs.The films tripartite structure moves through the physical-the sheer claustrophobic hell of physical beatings,to the ideas at the heart of the motivation behind the hunger strike in the immaculate boxing match dialogue,to the wasting away of a human body in its last defence against an all powerful state.

The film opens with taking us through the daily rituals of Officer Lohan(Graham) as he prepares himself for another day’s work in prison.He is lonely,suffers stress,we see crumbs dropping as he eats his breakfast.We see him smoking outside and snowflakes falling on his bloodied knuckles.As he leaves and opens his front gate like a prison door,he searches under his car for any bomb devices.In the Maze we see the admission process of another prisoner Brian and his refusal to wear prison uniform,and his receipt of a blanket as he is lead to his cell.Inside his cell, walls smeared with faeces greet him and he is met by Davey.There are scenes where the blanket protest is followed by the `dirty’ protest,where prisoners object to having the status of `political prisoner’ removed,they smear their cell walls with faeces or they empty their urine under their cell doors into the main corridor where it meets other streams of urine. Also the prisoners don’t wash,let their hair grow long, leave food to rot on the cell floor. Every so often the men are pulled out of their cells and made to run the gauntlet of officers in full armoury as they run naked under the blows that rain down on them or they are forcibly scrubbed in a bath by several warders,hair cut.All the prisoners want is to be able to wear their own clothes, freely associate,receive letters and parcels once a week and not be treated like criminals.They have to resort to smuggling thingslike radio receivers up their anus from visitors or concealing paper notes in their mouths.The prison officers,often of the UDA,resent the conditions and stress of their work and the anxiety of being killed themselves as Lohan is when he visitshis dementing mother in an old people’s home.Sixteen in all were killed at the time.We get the cold hand of the state with an implacable disembodied voice of Margaret Thatcher on radio.

The central unexpected part of the film is a static two takes 22 minute dialogue shot backlit in the visitors room between Sands(Fassbender) and Father Moran (Cunningham).Before this everything had been filmed without dialogue, setting the context of the dysfunction and degradation of the prison environment.Now Sands goes head- to-head in an argument with the priest .They both start off bantering,then talk of their respective childhoods,Sands telling Moran how he became a leader. They move into more serious gear with Moran arguing that he is speaking to a dead man,why not value his life and family more? Sands wants to be a martyr like Pearse.Sands showing the steel in his determination to go through with the hunger strike to the death as leader of many more.This scene is remarkably intense and has our full attention.There is rhythm as the two dance around,testing each other’s mettle.Following this scene there is a warder clearing the corridor of urine,laying down disinfectant,pushing it forward with a squeegee in slow,methodical strokes.This scene is impressive as he moves from one end to the camera at the other where the viewer is. The repetition and the movement serve to underline the dialogue scene.They both take place in real time and help us absorb what has happened.

The final part of the film has a different tone:it is about Sands slowly starving to death over 66 days, so he becomes an emaciated ghost.This largely takes place in the hospital section of the prison in one room.Time passing suggested by meals brought,taken away and replaced by other uneaten meals.As he is lifted there are suggestions of him being like a Christ figure.There are flashbacks to his childhood.As he lies in bed a feather glides down poignantly in one shot,which seems heavier than him.McQueen has spoken of the difficulty of watching even actors beating other actors,where he did the prison beating scene in 6 takes.He also sent Fassbinder away for 10 weeks to diet severely to 58 kg.Due to the trust he created on the film set what he asked of his actors they delivered like performance artists of extreme authenticity.So the camaraderie amongst the film crew was high. Because he is primarily an artist he also evokes the material nature of the faeces,the urine,the physicality of being beaten and starvation,the claustrophobic enclosure and terror.The film was made in N.Ireland.The only thing missing is the collective camaraderie of the prisoners,the singing of songs,the noise.He gives you the minimum of information and mostly lets the images speak,gives the desperation of using the human body as the ultimate form of protest.Shortof narrative the film as body installation speaks more eloquently of that time.A ritualistic tragedy abstracted into
art.
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Hunger
(2008, Not Rated, 96 min., HD)

"Dinner and a movie" will never make you feel more guilty. Based on real events, Hunger stars potential Magneto Michael Fassbender as Bobby Sands, the leader of a six-week hunger strike by a group of IRA prisoners in Britain's Prison Maze in 1981. The film won a slew of awards and earned plenty of attention for artist-turned-director Steve McQueen (no, not that one). It's currently sitting at a 90% Fresh rating over on RottenTomatoes, with the general consensus being that it's an intense, affecting film that also happens to be disturbing and hard to watch. Fassbender gets particular praise his commitment to the role, which left him 40 pounds slimmer thanks to a medically supervised crash diet. He might not have lapped Machinist-era Christian Bale, but that's still bloody impressive for those of us who get cranky without an afternoon snack. Hunger ain't exactly feel-good entertainment, but it's a powerful film if you've got the stomach for it.
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Post by Admin on Fri Jun 25, 2010 7:06 pm

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HUNGER (2009) (***1/2)
23 06 2010

This bleak tale of the IRA’s protest strikes in British prisons is like three short films in one. Various characters float in and out of the three sections, making the film more of an experience of a place and time than a traditional narrative. This compels the audience because director Steve McQueen has quiet patience that draws us in and then grabs the viewer by the eyeballs with harsh realism.

The film begins with Davey Gillen (Brian Milligan, THE BOXER) introduced to prison life. He refuses to wear the prison uniform, because he believes he is not a criminal. Stripped naked, given only a blanket, he is put in a cell with Gerry Campbell (Liam McMahon, SNATCH), who too only wears a blanket. Campbell has smeared feces all over the walls as part of the Irish no wash protest. With little to no dialogue, the film watches as their loved ones smuggle items to them and the British guards beat them and even subject some to forceful rectal searches.

Eventually, the leader of the IRA prisoners, Bobby Sands (Michael Fassbender, INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS) is drug from his cell and is given a bath and haircut against his will. In the process, he spits in the face of the conflicted guard Raymond Lohan (Stuart Graham, TV’s THE CLINIC), who at the beginning of the film we see with his wife in a peaceful domestic setting. A shot of him casually wiping crumbs off his lap at breakfast is a stark remind of the difference between is life and those of his prisoners. When the IRA’s request for civilian clothes is granted, the British give them clownish attire from the 1970s. This marks the first section of the film.

The middle is an extended conversation between Sands and the priest Dominic Moran (Liam Cunningham, THE WIND THAT SHAKES THE BARLEY). Sands has decided that he will be the first of a list of IRA prisoners to engage in a hunger strike. Moran argues the morality of virtually committing suicide as a form of protest. Sands cannot be persuaded against it. For him, there is a point where a person’s people are suffering with no hope of change that a true believer has to be willing to make the ultimate sacrifice to prove how serious the cause is. He doesn’t care what happens to him, only how it will help his friends in the grand scheme. This is the second section.

The third and final section is the physical ramifications of the hunger strike on Sands’ body. He becomes rail thin and his organs start giving out one by one. If one isn’t impressed with Fassbender’s performance during the monologue heavy middle sequence, you have to be impressed with his dedication to his craft, knowing he went from 170 to 132 lbs for the role. Following this film and INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS, he has become a hot actor in Hollywood. He provides this artistic experiment with a guttural emotion that is moving.

McQueen and cinematographer Sean Bobbitt bring an ethereal beauty to the raw images. With the film’s quiet tempo, the imagery creates a disquiet that envelops somberness over the entire film. It works perfectly with the message at hand.

Despite the Hollywood pedigree his name evokes, McQueen is a British fine artist who primarily works in photography and video installations. The artistic quality of museum pieces comes through in his first feature film. HUNGER is meant to evoke emotions and thoughts in its viewer. Sands was the first of nine other IRA members to die in the hunger strike. Margaret Thatcher’s government eventually relented and quietly gave into the Irish demands. In a provocative way, the film gets to the soul of what motivates a hunger striker. In their eyes what is the difference facing certain death on the battlefield or in a British prison by not taking food? The latter actually takes more dedication.
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Post by Admin on Wed Aug 18, 2010 6:10 pm

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Wednesday, August 18, 2010
Great Price Hunger (Blockbuster Exclusive)
Hunger (Blockbuster Exclusive) Review

HUNGER is a work of art - in more ways than one. It resembles to power of the majestic murals and altarpieces created for the medieval cathedrals, art that depicted worldly suffering and bitter realities that eventually promised something better in the future - after death. The film, based on a true event in Ireland of 1981 - the hunger strike and subsequent death of Bobby Sands who believed the only way to make the British government understand the political commitment of the IRA - and it is painted by British artist/writer/director Steve McQueen as a vast triptych. The first 'panel' depicts the incarceration in the filth of the H-Block in the Maze prison in Belfast: the silent 'narrator' is prison guard Raymond Lohan (Stuart Graham) who we meet as he dresses for work, bathing his knuckles bruised by the beatings of the prisoners he controls. A new character is introduced into the painting as recently arrested IRA member Davey Gillen (Brian Mulligan) who in keeping with the philosophy of his fellow prisoners refuses the prison uniform, opting to be naked and is through into a fecal smeared cell with Gerry Campbell (Liam McMahon). We follow these two as they breakdown after protesting the living conditions and the beatings of the guards, and a plan for revenge is made. In a poignant scene we see Lohan visiting his demented mother in a nursing home and during Lohan's attempts to share love with his mother an IRA hitman enters and murders him. The fuse for the repercussions is set.

The middle panel of this triptych is where we meet Bobby Sands (Michael Fassbender), shorn of his hair and brutally beaten, in conversation with an old friend, Father Dominic Moran, who came form the same background as Bobby but has been summoned for reasons not immediately explained. This middle panel of the triptych is static in that it is restricted to the two men at a table in the prison, smoking, and interchanging memories and conversation. In this dialogue we learn the reasons for the long lasting political animosity within Ireland - better than any movie so far - as it is at this point that Bobby informs Father Moran that he will be the first of 75 prisoners to go on a hunger strike. Despite Father Moran's attempts to show Bobby how futile his concept is, Bobby believes so firmly in his issues that he refuses to abandon his plan, knowing that he will die if the government doesn't respond to the prisoners' demands. (This portion of the screenplay was written by the playwright Edna Walsh and it is brilliantly terse, compact, and emotionally devastating.)

The final panel of the triptych is the gradual, almost silent deterioration of Bobby Sands as he spends the last 66 days of his life refusing all food, growing nearly flaccid from his loss of boy mass, covered with decubitus ulcers, and finally dying. It is a tragic third of the film and one that is so compelling that the viewer almost forgets to breathe. The manner in which the body of Bobby Sands is cared for is not unlike the tomb of Gethsemane, agonizingly quiet, gentle, and finally ending with a view of the Ireland outside the prison walls with birds flying off in the distance.

Throughout this intense drama there are moments supplied by Director McQueen that share the human side of both ends of the political/prisoner spectrum: during one of the most brutal beating scenes while the guards are in riot gear flailing the prisoners with clubs, we see in a hidden corner one of the prison guards hiding from the mêlée, crying. And there are moments of conversation between some of the prisoners and their families that are deeply touching. Michael Fassbinder gives an extraordinary performance as Bobby Sands: to make his hunger strike credible the actor lost weight to the point of emaciation, and yet this physical portion of his role, appalling though it is, does not compare to the nonverbal language of his face while he ends his life. This is a magnificent piece of filmmaking and one that should be shared by everyone who wonders about the history of modern politics in Ireland. Grady Harp, July 10
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