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Old 1st Nov 2006, 21:33   #1
The Badger
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Default Red Road

Red Road is a black-hearted manipulative slice of longuers, punctuated with an explicit sex scene. It might be garnering praise everywhere (it's won awards and critical acclaim) but it has a bitter soul and makes you cry inside with the cynicism of it all.

Jackie works as a CCTV operator. Each day she watches over a small part of Glasgow, protecting the people living their oppressively dull lives under her gaze. One day a man (Clyde) appears on her monitor, a man she thought she would never see again, a man she never wanted to see again. She is compelled to confront him.

Clyde has done A Bad Thing. He's just out of nick and it upsets Jackie, so she determines to...well, to do 'something'. I can't say what, the plot is so slight that almost any extended summation will give it away, so I'll stop there. But that's not the point.

There are no happy places in this film. It's all unrelentingly bleak (I was getting plenty bored with the shots of chip wrappers and newspapers blowing around the tenement flats, let me tell you), everyone just hangs around looking threatening, the sun never shines, minutes and minutes go by without anyone saying a word, and nobody smiles.

When the sex scene arrives it's fairly shocking (it's not Intimacy, but it's close, and that's a way better movie anyway), but more than that, it's depressing. It's so so depressing. OK, so you're bludgeoned into submission at this point, but even so. The aftermath of that scene compounds the grimness further.

And so, what is all of this supposed to prove? That people have shitty lives? I know that. That we're fascinated by the things that scare us? Yep, I'm aware of that, too. That cinema verité will always pluck the heartstrings of the film festival illuminati? Oh yeah, that'll be it.
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Old 6th Nov 2006, 11:05   #2
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Default Re: Red Road

Thanks for this Badger, RR is showing at my local at the moment and i had been half intregued - I read somewhere (although I may be completely wrong and it refered to an entirely different film) that the film was compiled largely through a series of improvisations by the actors working on a basic theme, that each character was given a starting point and the story came together through collective process, which made it seem somewhat interesting. However, I really can't remember if it is indeed RR that arrived through this method or another film!

Ho hum, by the sounds of it I don't need to go see to find out though!
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Old 6th Nov 2006, 11:39   #3
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Default Re: Red Road

I think the Metro gave it five stars. I'll definitely see it, although when it comes out on DVD.
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Old 14th Nov 2006, 0:22   #4
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Default Re: Red Road

Just watched the highlights of the Scottish BAFTAs (do we really need such a thing, given the lack of nominees) and Red Road took five awards:
  • Best Actor
  • Best Actress
  • Best Screenplay
  • Best Director
  • Best Film

The nominees for best actress numbered two: was there really only two films made in Scotland in the past year?

The only highlight was the fact that I hadn't heard of most of the tat being nominated, but I wouldn't mind seeing the short movies. I suppose I'll have to start going to film festivals and the like, as I never get to see these and they always look so much more interesting.
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Old 23rd Nov 2006, 15:41   #5
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That Lars von Trier is the mastermind behind the genesis of Red Road should come as no surprise, given the style in which it is shot and presented, and in the way it came to be. You see, it's the first film in the Advance Party trilogy, a series of films set in Scotland and directed by first timers each of whom have to use the same characters (as set out by Danish director, Lone Scherfig) as played by the same actors. The only difference is in which way the use of the characters is weighted to the individual film's storyline.

Thus we have Jackie, a CCTV operator who spends her working day spying on the people of Glasgow's run down Barmulloch area in which there is a bona fide Red Road. She's having a fling with one of her married colleagues and has little else in her life; the majority of people she knows is only via their daily routines as captured by the many cameras. One day, however, she spies a man she knows as Clyde who has recently been released from prison and becomes obsessed with him to the point that she isn't doing her job properly. For what purposes, her fascination with him, we are not told.

Jackie's interest in Clyde leads her to get involved in his life, her ever daring attempts to be in his company and learn about him forcing us, the audience, to ask questions of what her motivations are. And, when the film reaches a rather explicit sex scene acting as the fulcrum between mystery and revelation we find out just what it is that drives Jackie. And the depths to which she'll stoop in order to achieve her goals.

At it's heart, Red Road is a revenge movie with this path of anger being the figurative take on its title. There is an underlying theme of voyeurism which is not really developed but, as we join Jackie in her study of others via her cameras she does not make explicit conclusions about what she sees. Instead, the audience becomes a voyeur like Jackie and draw our own understandings from what silent footage we see. The paths our mind takes as we form opinions on Clyde are red too, if only due to the volume of red herrings afforded us.

Red Road, as you would expect, is not heavy on action. Or dialogue, for that matter. It's brooding, it's bleak, it's gritty, and none of the characters are wholly likeable, although they do have a few redeeming features. Clyde's genuine interest in Jackie, for example, is a far cry from the clinical sex only liaison with her colleague. The supporting cast do well to add to the atmosphere, whether they be ex-cons, runaways, or begrudged family. Everyone has their secrets, yet not one seems willing to confront themselves on it.

Andrea Arnold, who used to present Number 73 back in the eighties, is the first director in the trilogy. And she does a fine job: cameras go in close on the actors' faces, drag long and slow across panoramas of dirty Glasgow. The actors seem to know what they are doing. It will certainly be interesting to see how these people feature in the next movies and how our previous awareness of them affects our understanding o them. But for now, as a standalone, Red Road doesn't make promises of Happy Families and in this it delivers. It's a path work walking.
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Old 18th Dec 2007, 0:52   #6
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Default Re: Red Road

I walked the path recently. If the above mentions of Red Road's semi-improvised nature are true, I can believe it. There are a number of beats which failed for me, but probably the crucial one was the final confrontation between Jackie and Clyde. I had enjoyed the voyeuristic hunger generated in the monitoring room, felt the tension when Jackie started to invade Clyde's world first hand, and on the whole believed the more-or-less grotty reality being presented. There are some strongly dramatic themes played out, the best being the contrasting quality of Jackie's sex life - her participation as someone else's Other Woman is tepid and lifeless but her own, ultimate betrayal of her lost family proves powerful and satisfying, a very challenging realisation.

The problem I have is that when actors are released to improvise, what you usually get is dialogue. In a talky film a little freedom will likely not be a problem, but in a largely non-verbal piece - arguably the best kind of cinema - every spoken word stands out and loose lips sink ships. I much preferred their dark history when it was unspecified, in fact I thought it was fairly clear what had gone on, so when it was all spelled out right at the death it just seemed a bit hammy after the proceeding standoffishness. "You did this to me, you Badman!", "I'm really sorry!" - heavy-handed.

This last meeting between the two leads doesn't puncture the hull though. The atmosphere and performances generally are convincing, and in contrast to the Right Honourable Stewart I thought there was a little bit of Happy Families going on, if badly screwed up families as well. Totally different thing that it is, I still prefer Ratcatcher by a comfortable margin.

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