SPOILER ALERT: '71
"Rich cunts telling thick cunts to kill poor cunts - that's all the army is"
I have tickets to see The Color of Pomegranates at LFF. I know little about the film except that Martin Scorsese recently presented this 4K restoration and describes the film as ‘opening a door and walking into another dimension, where time has stopped and beauty has been unleashed’; Which is more than good enough a recommendation for me. I take along a friend who has even less of an idea of what she’s getting herself into but still feels the need to warn me ‘its Russian and over three hours long’ (turns out she is only half right).
The film is a marvel – visually up there with The Holy Mountain, except instead of Jodorowsky's satire of organised religion and ocular language of new mysticism, Pomegranates celebrates and indulges the old symbolism of the Armenian Apostolic Church through its depiction of of the life and times of poet Sayat Nova.
Various ceremonial customs are each presented in wonderfully static and surreal tableaux - the bold and souful attempt to convert poetry into images and explore cinema as a spirtual medium remindes me of films by fellow Russian Andrei Tarkovsky; where as the scope of the film and the curiosity with which it explores the Armenian culture and the rural ritual of tasks such as wine making, reminds me of Mikhail Kalatozov’s 'I am Cuba' (which I also have Scorsese to thank for restoring in the early 90’s).
The film only turns out to be just over an hour and I’m happy to say I loved every minute. I have a friend who has had a fear of pomegranates ever since a bad salvia trip and I can’t wait to share. When the film is over I meet some friends in the bar who are here to see a different film – even though I try to bend their ears about my experience with this Russian/Armenian masterpiece, Yann Demange’s ’71 is what they’re here for and despite me having little interest in seeing the film they badger me into it.
Now let me be clear, it’s not that I think the film will be bad, in fact quite the opposite, I know it’s likely to be quite good. I think Yann Demange is going places, having had the pleasure of hanging out with the guy for an afternoon I can say that he seems lucid, sharp and most importantly down to earth - all of which really comes through in the precision of his direction and believability of the performances he gets. The reason I’m uninterested is that with the exception of Apocalypse Now, Good Morning Vietnam, A Very Long Engagement and Sgt. Bilko, I generally dislike army flicks. I’m also slightly concerned that if it is as good as I expect it to be, the British film industry will lose its shit and start trying to make the same film over and over again.
We arrive late and thankfully miss the obligatory ‘be the best’ training scenes. I’m thrown right into the action and immediately hooked, it’s hard not to be – I know right away that not only am I going to enjoy the ride but that I’m also going to eat a great deal of humble pie over being so vocal about my earlier reservations.
'71 doesn’t drag for a moment, it’s as streamlined as a film gets and is never preachy or broody; which is a refreshing change for most British films. It is essentially a ninety minute chase scene which, whilst not allowing room for any real character development, is thrilling as shit. The world looks fantastic and is extremely well maintained. The characterisation, drawn from pitch perfect performances (with a little help from costume and some killer moustaches), is instantly readable and as much as I really need to get along with the plot.
A thumping soundtrack keeps my heart pounding as David Holmes does his best impression of Brian Eno and I’m really enjoying the ride despite being well aware I’m basically watching Top Boy with less rudeboys and more paddies. The palette of the camera is tonally perfect for the time period and Demange always manages to put it in the right place. I think some of the camera work is a bit too close at points especially considering how turbulent it is but I think this is one of the necessary casualties of trying to maintain such a believable outdoors seventies aethetic on a tight budget. It could also be because I’m sat too close to the screen.
Anyway, long story short, this guy from Derbyshire runs around for ages and he never really seems to be able to find a phone. The Irish radicals want to get him and some of the Brits want to get him too cause he saw some shit he wasn’t supposed to but, low and behold, he doesn’t get gotten. Pretty much everyone else however does get fist fucked in one way or another. He gets home and steals a kid, which I think is supposed to show he has changed but it’s a bit trite and having missed the beginning I don’t really care about this at all. Luckily the coda isn’t too long and so doesn’t spoil the fun I had whilst in the trill of the chase.
Afterwards we go to the pub, I tell people I think Nolan’s Batman films are shit and make a new friend.