Thursday, 31 March 2011

reviews: moddi, stranded horse, le reno amps

Moddi -  Floriography

Moddi - Floriography (***)

Floriography has already topped the charts in Pål Moddi Knutsen’s native Norway, which considering the unleavened tone is no mean feat; Damien Rice is the nearest equivalent in the UK charts, though O was a smash hits carnival by comparison. The evocative settings are permanently dialled to ‘freezing cold’ and ‘glum as mud’, but there’s something rather moving about the interplay between Knutsen’s tremulous voice and the oft-used wheezing accordion.

The opening tracks – an impassioned Rubble and majestic Magpie Eggs – mirror the first half of last year’s Rubbles EP (though curiously, the song Floriography is absent…), which in some ways was a more manageable dose of such a ponderous style. Of the new songs, Smoke is the highlight, beginning unassumingly before Knutsen flares up and lets loose. It helps guide Floriography away from tedium, just don’t expect to hear Reggie Yates gabbing over it any time soon.

Out 18th April

Stranded Horse - Humbling Tides

Stranded Horse - Humbling Tides (***)

Yann Tambour – formerly Thee Stranded Horse, now Thee-less – writes and performs on a miniature kora, a kind of African harp/guitar. Throughout Humbling Tides, its arpeggios sit at the fore, off-set by bi-lingual vocals and occasional strings.

A penultimate cover of What Difference Does It Make takes an enjoyable but unnecessary diversion from the core sound, its comparatively springy gait making the closing Halos more of a slog than it need be - unfortunate, since, when tackled alone, the finale is quite possibly the album’s pinnacle: intricate and atmospheric, though likely too unwieldy an entrance point for newcomers.

Luckily, Humbling Tides contains accessible moments as well, such as mood-setting opener And the Shoreline It Withdrew In Anger. The latter’s wordy title also underscores a possible kindred spirit in Joanna Newsom, and though something as deeply fascinating as Have One On Me seems unlikely at this juncture, there’s still plenty to admire.

Out 11th April

Le Reno  Amps - Appetite

Le Reno Amps - Appetite (***)

Amongst the more perplexing criticisms to crop up in reviews is ‘X is not life-changing’. How much personal tumult does a listener actually crave? How unstable must emotions be for cataclysmic transformation to be not just a rarity, but a legitimate yardstick with which to beat those who don’t measure up? Is a record that leaves a listener relatively unchanged really a failure; surely enjoyment, however transitory, is honourable in itself?

Take Le Reno Amps: they’re not life-changing (other than at the smallest biological level, with their catchy genre-hopping more than capable of getting the endorphins flowing) and they’re unlikely to be playing through your mind as you lie prostrate on your death bed. But for Appetite’s duration, they’ll lift spirits pleasingly with a mix of Elvis Costello-style pop (Saturation Day), haunted house theatrics (Never Be Alone) and Green Day circa Warning (You Must Remember). Screw hyperbole; that’ll do us nicely.

Out 18th April

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

reviews: tindersticks, vivian girls, little scream

Tindersticks - Claire Denis Film Scores 1996-2009

Tindersticks - Claire Denis Film Scores 1996-2009 (****)

Over two decades, Nottingham’s Tindersticks have won hearts and minds with their idiosyncratic brand of brooding elegance, while across the channel, Claire Denis has proven similarly ascendant in her field (named ‘greatest filmmaker of the last decade’ by cine-buffs Sight and Sound). Along the way, they’ve connected, the former providing suitably moody sounds for Nanette et Boni, Trouble Every Day, and Denis’ most recent successes 35 Shots of Rum and White Material.

Some of these soundtracks have been previously unavailable, so the impetus for this collection – which also includes solo scores by Stuart Staples and Dickon Hinchliffe for The Intruder and Vendredi Soir respectively – is undoubtedly sound. Fans of either the auteur or the band will relish the opportunity to explore the fruits of their creative partnership in concentration, though the current price tag will naturally limit its appeal. Then again, seeking out the films themselves is highly recommended.

Out 25th April

The Vivian Girls - Share the Joy

Vivian Girls - Share the Joy (****)

There’s not enough mathematical analysis in music reviews, is there? Shame – a wee bit of number crunching can be insightful. For instance, take the average track lengths of The Vivian Girls albums to date: approximately two minutes on their debut, two and a half on its successor, and now another thirty seconds added on their third.

Seems they’re growing up and out, flexing their song-writing talents further with every release. Get closer, and you discover Share the Joy’s data is skewed by the six-minute outliers that top and tail the album. In a sense, they’re atypical, with Dance (If You Wanna) and Take It As It Comes elsewhere consolidating the charm and fuzz-pop Spector-echoes that have long constituted the band’s sound. But they also reveal a more ambitious side to the Brooklyn trio; cut from the same cloth as their scrappier past, but, to mix metaphors, mining new seams.

Out 11th April

Little Scream - The Golden Record

Little Scream - The Golden Record (****)

Earlier in the year, a free download of The Heron And The Fox gave an early taste of Little Scream’s debut album. Modestly backed by The National’s Aaron Dessner, it felt honest and candid, with lines like “They say anything’s possible but I know that that’s not true, especially when it comes to you,” delivered with palpable sincerity. The Golden Record is a busier affair, with more prominent production on the likes of The Lamb rendering The Heron And The Fox’s simplicity the exception rather than the rule.

Yet that’s never a flaw: Laurel Sprengelmeyer instead fulfils her promise via dissimilar yet complementary pairings like the sepulchral People Is Place and the exuberant Red Hunting Jacket, the latter a tap-shoe away from Tilly and the Wall. In Little Scream’s chosen musical style, the top of 2011’s podium may still belong to PJ Harvey, but The Golden Record can accept silver proudly.

Out 11th April

Monday, 28 March 2011

film review: essential killing

After being detained as an enemy combatant, Taliban fighter Mohammed (Vincent Gallo) is fortuitously freed mid-rendition, forcing the escapee to endure the inhospitably alien wilds of rural Poland. If you’re averse to political preaching, fear not: geopolitics acts as little more than window dressing in Jerzy Skolimowski’s wilfully enigmatic but structurally-familiar drama. Essential Killing is effectively Homeward Bound with plucky pets and jovial hijinks replaced by a beardy Gallo and existential despair; a wilderness drama uninterested in wagging fingers at Bush’s terror war or the Taliban insurgency, driven by a mute protagonist whose actions are born of desperation rather than ideology. Gallo – so frequently a liability – is the film’s strongest asset: willing to go to trademark extremes (add 'breastfeeding from an unconscious woman' to his list of onscreen depravity), yet otherwise carefully cryptic. The oblique tone may itself constitute an endurance test for those craving polemical engagement, but for the patient, Mohammed’s twin journeys (both geographical and metaphysical) prove magnetic.

Out Friday

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

reviews: trapped mice, the cave singers, the phoenix foundation

Trapped Mice - Portrait of a Great Father EP

Trapped Mice - Portrait of the Great Father EP (***)

Edinburgh’s Trapped Mice open their new EP quietly before stomping to a crescendo, a familiar but effective trick reminiscent of, amongst others, Okkervil River. The affinity is revisited in The Priest and the Boy’s winning waltz, while a Decemberists influence is locatable in lyrical references to sailing ships and “the finest wines”.

Like Colin and co., Trapped Mice aren't adverse to lengthy opuses either – see nine-minute centrepiece (and EP highlight) Beauty and the Beast, which moves from synth-backed overture to gentle coda without ever outstaying its welcome. Recording-wise, this feels very much an early effort, but that’s ok – it is. They’ve plenty of time to up the ante, and these foundations suggest ever-more impressive results will follow.

Out Now

The Cave Singers - No Witch

The Cave Singers - No Witch (**)

‘Authenticity’ is fetishised in folk and rock alike. It’s a vague, unempirical concept, the application of which relies upon a paraphrasing of Potter Stewart’s assessment of pornography: “I know it when I see it”. It can’t be measured, but those suitably steeped in a scene’s canon recognise it at once. The Cave Singers’ avowedly traditionalist debut passed the sight-test, but follow-up Welcome Joy faltered by introducing less convincing rock numbers.

Third album No Witch finds them move closer to the resolutely retro likes of The Dead Weather and further from the folk icons referenced at their outset. They mimic multiple Mojo cover-stars – Led Zep-esque blues drives Black Leaf, while Outer Realms echoes Summer of Love psychedelia – but no guise feels natural, save quieter moments like Distant Sures. They’re stretching their sound, but in the process they’ve diluted their identity, and it’s difficult to get excited by the residue.

Out Now

The Phoenix Foundation - Buffalo

The Phoenix Foundation - Buffalo (***)

Buffalo
starts uncharacteristically with the drifting psychedelia-lite of Eventually, its laid-back vibe redolent of a long musical lineage stretching back decades. But, to paraphrase Jermaine from Flight of the Conchords, this lot aren’t from the sixties, they’re from New Zealand; the Conchords connection isn’t flippant either. The Phoenix Foundation have scored both director Taika Waititi’s big screen ventures to date, though this finds them in a less twee mood than Eagle Vs. Shark.

For their fourth album, they’re more like a time capsule of some of 2006’s leading indie lights: Shout Out Louds on Bitte Bitte; I’m From Barcelona on cheery sing-along Pot; Band of Horses on the title track, and The Shins fairly regularly throughout. Ultimately, the sense of déjà vu scuppers their efforts somewhat, but doesn’t undo them entirely: after well over a decade spent honing their skills back home, The Phoenix Foundation are ready for their close-up.

Out Now

Monday, 21 March 2011

Sunday, 20 March 2011

march playlist!

here's what was played on a night that will LITERALLY go down in history as 'another awesome bottle rocket'.

1. titus andronicus - a more perfect union
2. fugazi - combination lock
3. parts and labor - skin and bones
4. imperial teen - you're one
5. zoey van goey - the cake and eating it
6. allo darlin' - kiss your lips
7. acid house kings - are we lovers or are we friends?
8. aidan moffat and the best ofs - big blonde
9. the postal service - such great heights
10. jimi hendrix - crosstown traffic
11. captain beefheart - zig zag wanderer
12. chuck berry - johnny b. goode
13. eux autres - molly
14. the detroit cobras - i'll keep holding on
15. roxy music - virigina plain
16. telekinesis - ask for help
17. ladytron - high rise
18. love is all - repetition
19. april march - laisse tomber les filles
20. blondie - call me
21. all girl summer fun band - oh no
22. elastica - stutter
23. ike and tina turner - nutbush city limits
24. secret affair - time for action
25. japan - fall in love with me
26. pet shop boys - always on my mind
27. lcd soundsystem - drunk girls
28. the rapture - house of jealous lovers
29. ian dury and the blockheads - reasons to be cheerful pt. 3
30. the kinks - people take pictures of each other
31. kate bush - babooshka
32. bruce springsteen - dancing in the dark
33. yazoo - nobody's diary
34. paul simon - you can call me al
35. patrick wolf - the magic position
36. of montreal - suffer for fashion
37. abba - lay all your love on me
38. belle and sebastian - me and the major
39. paul revere - kicks
40. modern lovers - modern world
41. ash - a life less ordinary
42. kenickie - punka
43. weezer - hash pipe
44. the cramps - domino
45. prince - raspberry beret
46. cyndi lauper - money changes everything
47. david bowie - ziggy stardust
48. the monochrome set - strange boutique
49. the damned - neat neat neat
50. the beastie boys - body movin'
51. the smiths - there is a light that never goes out
52. talking heads - burning down the house
53. franz ferdinand - take me out
54. presidents of the united states of america - peaches
55. average white band - work to do
56. fleetwood mac - little lies
57. pulp - do you remember the first time
58. elvis presley - always on my mind

voila!

Saturday, 19 March 2011

TONIGHT TONIGHT TONIGHT

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/--CLgfop5N9g/TWuyARMSnxI/AAAAAAAAAqo/7gbZIaX1dRE/s1600/march%2B2011.JPG

bottle rocket is tonight!

Friday, 18 March 2011

GFT programme note: Submarine

Submarine_web_thumb

Prior to the start of shooting, a statement was issued to journalists regarding the forthcoming adaptation of the 2008 novel Submarine. The press release was ostensibly written not by director Richard Ayoade, nor any of the film’s producers, but by protagonist Oliver Tate personally. “I have been waiting too long for the film of my life” he announced, heralding a cinematic extravaganza intended to capture his “particular idiosyncrasies” via “helicopter shots” and “slow-mo”. “Knowing me as I do”, Oliver noted, “I will be surprised if this film runs to less than three hours.” His statement concluded with editorial instructions for reporters, specifying “appropriate adjectives to describe this film”, including “breath-taking” and “a monumental achievement”.[1] Ayoade might have signed on as director, but Oliver was clearly destined to be Submarine’s guiding authorial voice.

At the outset, Oliver imagines his premature demise in comically overblown detail, visualising candle-lit vigils and a glorious resurrection. “I often find the only way to get through life is to imagine myself in a totally disconnected reality” he muses, envisioning his life as fodder for auteurs and acting accordingly (ponderously staring into the sea; listening “exclusively” to old French crooners). His precocious world-view produces statements alternately asinine and pretentious (for instance, stating with deadpan pabulum “I’m not sure I believe in scenery”), with Ayoade’s screenplay believably capturing Oliver’s distinctively teenage brand of affected ennui.

Oliver’s ambitious intellect and self-identified outsider status locate him in a long lineage of literary teens, from Salinger’s Holden Caulfield to Amis’s Charles Highway. Like The Catcher in the Rye and The Rachel Papers, Dunthorne’s source novel is narrated in the first person, the reader privy to Oliver’s every high-brow citation and inquisitive observation. Some are transplanted into the screenplay intact; for instance, his attempts to monitor his parents’ fluctuating passions via their bedroom dimmer switch, with halfway equating to romance the night before. But a humorously-deployed voice-over is only one way in which Ayoade translates the novel’s subjectivity from page to screen. Literalising the novel’s subjective perspective, the IT Crowd star joked at a recent Q&A, would have resembled the opening credits of Fight Club (Fincher, 1999) stretched to feature length, containing nothing but abstract “synaptic twinges”. Instead, Oliver’s story is presented the way Oliver himself might present it, were he to defy his fictional status and replace Ayoade in the director’s chair. This is realised not through the promised helicopter shots, but with self-conscious ‘arty’ cultural allusions and unabashed romanticism. Voracious cinephilia is indulged: diegetically by the Le Samouraï (Melville, 1967) poster adorning Oliver’s bedroom wall, and reflected at a formal level by multiple references to the French New Wave. This is most notably invoked by the blue-and-white inter-titles that segment the plot, each accompanied by grandiose orchestral swells that recall Une Femme est Une Femme (Godard, 1961). On the subject of creativity, Godard once reportedly stated “it’s not important where you take things from; it’s where you take them to”.[2] Oliver might beg to differ: with his nascent self-identity constructed at least partially from the cultural artefacts he studiously shores around him, sources would seem to be integrally important.

Ayoade went on to identify Taxi Driver (Scorsese, 1976) as a specific influence. The reference prompted laughter from the audience (further fuelled by the punch-line “we had to cut the climactic gun fight”), but it is nonetheless revealing. Like Taxi Driver’s Travis Bickle, Oliver is a self-mythologising protagonist, but one influenced by libraries and art-house cinemas rather than porn theatres and gun culture. Where the former prays for a rain to wash the scum from the streets, Oliver just hopes he can convince his girlfriend to sleep with him. In pursuit of said goal, he enlists Nietszche (introduced with the delightfully limp appraisal “I may not agree with everything he says, but he makes some interesting points”), Shakespeare and Dreyer as unlikely accomplices.

In addition to the aforementioned Holden and Charlie, Oliver’s scheming courtship of Jordana recalls the creations of Noah Baumbach and Wes Anderson, though his heart is arguably closer to the surface than that of Max Fischer, Rushmore’s teenage Machiavelli. Oliver may have no qualms about strategically bullying an unfortunate classmate if it impresses his would-be sweetheart, but at least he expresses regret afterwards – though his attempts at atonement (a lengthy pamphlet coaching his target on ‘how to break out of the victim cycle’) are decidedly misguided.

Notably, Ayoade appears uninterested in challenging Oliver for the position of auteur. At the aforementioned Q&A, he persistently diffused the politique’s aura by responding to queries with a mix of matter-of-fact pragmatism (Q. Why did you get involved? A. they asked me…) and self-effacement (introducing the film with the caveat “there’s a good chance you might not like it”). But while Ayoade may not wish to appoint himself to the pantheon, auteurism remains a widely-subscribed critical field, its continued prominence most recently evidenced by an editorial in the March Sight and Sound, which declared the publication proudly and unquestionably indebted to its tenets. Therefore, when traces of Ayoade’s previous television and music-video work surface in Submarine, the echoes will likely interest many: thematically, pompous egos have previously driven the likes of Man to Man With Dean Lerner, while a scene in which Oliver floats away in a stylised sea bears a strong visual resemblance to Ayoade’s aquatic promo for The Arctic Monkeys’ Crying Lightning. Furthermore, by openly admitting inspirations ranging from Louis Malle (modelling Jordana on Catherine Demongeot in Zazie Dans Le Metro) to Federico Fellini (in a Toby Dammit-inspired video for The Last Shadow Puppets), Ayoade demonstrates similar infatuations to Oliver – a biographical congruity that’s catnip to auteur advocates. Ultimately, the camp you occupy – whether subscribing to the notion of individual authorial genius, or instead understanding cinema to be integrally collaborative – will determine to whom you assign credit for Submarine’s monumental, breath-taking achievements, but it won’t alter the enjoyment itself one iota.

Christopher Buckle

Researcher and freelance writer

University of Glasgow

March 2011

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

GFT programme note: Route Irish

here's another programme note that i've written for the GFT. Route Irish is on selected release Friday, and copies of the notes will be available in the foyer of the theatre itself. unlike the Black Swan ones, these aren't gonna spoil nuffin (well, they give away nothing that you won't gather from your average magazine review...

Route-irish_thumb

Against reports of extraordinary rendition, water-boarding and the ‘bad apples’ of Abu Ghraib, Coalition Provisional Authority Order 17 seems a relatively incongruous component of the ‘War on Terror’. The apparent barbarism of ‘enhanced interrogation’ may have earned more column inches and protestations, but it is Order 17 that has arguably had the greatest impact upon the way in which the ‘coalition of the willing’ has structured and conducted its war in the Persian Gulf. The controversial order awards private military firms licences to operate in Iraq, immunising their employees against prosecution by local courts. This has sparked outrage when companies are seen to abuse their power and get away with it: by way of example, consider an incident outlined by law clerk Richard Morgan in the Chicago Journal of International Law, in which Triple Canopy employees shot at a civilian vehicle driving down ‘Route Irish’ – the road linking Baghdad airport with the fortified central ‘Green Zone’ – killing its driver. The incident went unreported by the company in question lest it jeopardise contracts, and though two of the men directly responsible subsequently lost their jobs, no criminal case was mounted. Were such an act committed by the American armed forces, Morgan argues, both the culprits and their supervisors could have been tried for war crimes.[1]

The precise legal parameters of Order 17 might be new, but licenced mercenaries are, of course, far from recent innovations. Engseng Ho, amongst others, has sketched historical parallels to the privateers of the sixteenth century, who hunted foreign ships in order to seize their riches, an act beneficial to British monarchs fearful of Spain’s formidably powerful armada. “So privateers were pirates with licences from their government: they were private contractors” Ho concludes, “and English Queens and Kings grew fat and majestic selling those foreign licences; they listened less and less to their own people at home, and more and more to the private contractors abroad.”[2] The fear of compromised loyalties – of governments indebted to corporations rather than citizens – is of continued concern to those who have addressed the recent intensification of such privatisation, not least Naomi Klein in her study/indictment of the ‘disaster-capitalists’ who profit heavily from war’s perpetuation. Route Irish hints at the scale and ambition of this growing industry by having a fictional CEO boast, not unbelievably, his intention to “sort out a place like Darfur” once Iraq’s opportunities have been exhausted.

Considering their reputations as outspoken members of the filmmaking left, it might surprise some that Ken Loach and screenwriter Paul Laverty haven’t tackled the subject of Iraq before now; indeed, Loach admits that it was for a long time “the elephant in our sitting room”.[3] Furthermore, the decision to target businesses rather than politicians might strike some as unusual – though a recent statement from Loach suggesting that “David Milliband shouldn’t be in office, he should be in prison” suggests it’s not for lack of anger at the actions of Blair and co.[4] Instead, Loach and Laverty focus on the systematic restructuring of war not as the pursuit of politics by other means (to paraphrase Carl von Clausewitz’s oft-quoted aphorism) but the pure pursuit of profits, which has produced, in the words of Newsweek reporter Michael Hirsh, a “moral vacuum… where a man can gun down women and children anytime he pleases, knowing he will never be brought to justice… where morality is null and void, and arbitrary killing is the rule”.[5] Loach and Laverty are careful, however, not to tar all contractors with the same brush. The obvious motivation – money – is naturally addressed, but while financial rewards are plentiful (£10,000 a month, tax-free is the figure quoted in the film) high wages aren’t the characters’ sole incentive for returning to the streets of Baghdad time and time again. The substantial paycheques buy Fergus a swanky flat, but its interior is bear, little more than a polished fox-hole for sleeping in, with rations of instant noodles on the marble worktop confirming his sparse existence. The opening credits imply a more likely, similarly non-political impetus for his chosen vocation, with a teenage Fergus and Frankie gazing out across the Mersey and debating the infinite possibilities the wide world has to offer. In this context, a military career (whether enlisting for Queen and country, or joining the payroll of a private firm) equates to adventure – a means to tour the globe. Later, Frankie’s widow Rachel offers a further possibility – the fraternal bond of brothers in arms – by bitterly blaming Fergus for her husband’s death, arguing “he didn’t go to Iraq for the money; he went to be with you… I think he loved you”.

While Fergus admits the two men shared everything, he insists that only Rachel knew the ‘real’ Frankie - the best part, the part “without a gun in his hand”. But this distinction between soldier and civilian is at risk: just as private military firms blur the distinction between warfare and industry, Fergus’s investigation into his best friend’s death hastens the fusing of the two sides of his identity. The first time Fergus surveys passing members of the public from his balcony it is through binoculars; the second time, through the sight of a sniper rifle. The merging culminates in a brutal waterboarding conducted in a garage in Liverpool; horrors previously kept ‘over there’ brought viscerally home.

Loach has reportedly steeled himself for a frosty response from critics and anticipates an underwhelming box office, noting the difficulty he faced securing a distribution deal. Though pragmatic in his view that “people don’t make films to communicate; they make it as a commodity”,[6] an unorthodox release strategy utilising Sky Movies Premier - which will place the film (and by extension, its subject matter) in a wider public sphere than it might otherwise have reached – suggests he hasn’t given up on pedagogy entirely. British troops first entered Iraq eight years ago this month, with combat operations declared over last year. But with an estimated 8300 private contractors still operating in the country at the start of 2011,[7] this film’s attempted intervention remains uncomfortably timely.



[1] Richard Morgan (2008) ‘Professional Military Firms under International Law’ Chicago Journal of International Law 9:1 pp. 213-4

[2] Engseng Ho (2004) ‘Pirate-Privateer-Private Contractor’ in Bregje van Eekelen (ed.) Shock and Awe: War on Words (New Pacific Press; Santa Cruz, California) pp. 118-20

[3] Mark Brown (2010) ‘After an unexpected detour into comedy, the old Ken Loach is back with an angry look at Iraq’ The Guardian accessed at http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2010/may/19/ken-loach-route-irish-cannes

[4] ibid

[5] Michael Hirsch (2007) ‘The Age of Responsibility’ Newsweek accessed at http://www.newsweek.com/2007/09/19/the-age-of-irresponsibility.html

[6] Q&A, conducted at the Glasgow Film Theatre February 2011

[7] Moshe Schwartz (2011) ‘The Department of Defense’s Use of Private Security Contractors in Afghanistan and Iraq: Background, Analysis, and Options for Congress’, Congressional Research Service report for Congress, accessed http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/R40764.pdf

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

I saw you


Club night entering its 33rd edition WLTM dance partners. GSOH, loves safety dancing, partying hard and remembering the first time, seeks born to run punkas with a penchant for modern love.

Here are our vital statistics:

19th March (phwoar!)

11:30pm – 3:00am (cor!)

£3 or free before 11:30pm (*wolf whistle*)

Nice n Sleazy (that’s what SHE said!)

We’ll be wearing checked shirts and scruffy jeans, standing near the front with a mit-full of Pulp.

And if there's anything specific you're gagging to hear, stick your request on the facebook page and we'll see what we can do.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

DVD review: confessions of a dog

Another review originally written for the cineskinny during the Glasgow Film Festival. The film gets a DVD release later this month.

Filmed back in 2005, director Gen Takashi struggled to get Confessions of a Dog screened domestically, its depiction of police corruption apparently cutting too close to the bone. In a prophetic opening scene, a policeman on a sleepy beat stops a passing student (and politician’s daughter), earning himself a reprimand. “Make sure you know exactly who you’re questioning” the Captain warns, the first sign of a rot later revealed to riddle the system. Detective Takeda (Shun Sugata) occupies the centre of the film’s gratifyingly complex web of colleagues, criminals and civilians, his moral corrosion acquiring Shakespearean overtones as his confessional diary entries mutate into expressionistic soliloquies. Sugata, best known in the West for small parts in Kill Bill and The Last Samurai, is exceptional: genial and disciplined in the opening act; increasingly cold and intimidating as the years go by and the toll grows heavy. At over three hours, his development is anything but rushed, but it’s always absorbing.

Out 14th March