28 April 2014

Finish With All Your Gobbledygook



Religion has brought so much good to this world that it's no surprise that people are open enough to believe in it. Just look at the great works of art, the literature and the millions of lives that have been given some sort of comfort. Of course, where the Catholic Church is concerned, there's the small matter of its fondness for child rape to put a small downer on things, but I guess that's just swings and roundabouts isn't it? Err- no, obviously it isn't. The whole church-pedo-thing is fucked up beyond belief, with more effort seeming to be placed on hushing it up than stamping it out. I swear that only the other year, in the church down the road from me, the priest was caught mid blow-job with a boy in his care. Not only that but a friend who has relatives that attended that church told me that his family were apparently more concerned by when the abuse started in case it meant that they had an impure Priest perform the ceremony at their wedding. I mean, what the actual fuck? I'm sure religion has brought some good to the world but at the end of the day I'm also sure that we all have to agree that it's really more trouble than it's worth. To quote the great Billy Connolly who was himself a victim of child abuse and for which he also holds the Catholic Church accountable, “that's it for me- religion is fucking finished. That's it, it's fucking over lads. It's fucking over! You've had a couple of thousand years, you've fucked it, it's over. It's fucking over! So take your reformation, your Vatican, your fucking Mecca and fuck off”.

So... Calvary is the latest film to star the always amazing Brendan Gleeson and originated from the psychotically dark mind of writer/director John Michael McDonagh. It tells the story of the one good Priest in an area full of selfish arseholes who are all intent on abusing him in some way for the various atrocities being committed by the Catholic Church. Whereas most people are simply content to verbally punish or belittle him, the film begins during confession when one angry fucknugget goes one further and informs the priest that he's going to kill him in seven days time. His murder however won't be a revenge attack for one of his own past crimes but rather because the would-be-killer had also previously been abused and feels it'd send a stronger message if he killed a good priest rather than a bad one. Within the first thirty seconds, the entire film has now been laid out as Father James then potters about his local area whilst trying to help the various scummy people wherever he can and yet also coming to terms with the possibility of his own upcoming death. I can honestly say that if this film was an emotional roller-coaster then it couldn't have been more of a ride had they replaced the chairs with the raging hard-on of a weeping sex-pest. I'm currently writing this blog at midnight on April the twentieth and as of now Calvary is by far my favourite film of the year. Perhaps even of the last couple of years. I'm in awe. Oh, and yes, for those who looked it up, that does means I'm writing a film blog at the peak social hours of a Saturday night but you know... Fuck you!

I retract that bit about your cunt fucking kids...
Anyway, I saw In Bruges when it first came out a few years ago and it has also since become one of my top ten favourite films of all time. That was of course directed by Martin and not John Michael McDonagh however having now seen all of their movies it seems that the two brothers have a lot in common. Both make the darkest and most bleak- but hilarious- comedies that deal with themes such as guilt, duty and forgiveness and generally revolve around an Irish actor at the centre of it. And by Irish actor I guess I mean Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson or both of them. The two directors can also be quite self referential at times too, with Martin Mcdonagh's Seven Psychopaths basically being a film about a writer called Martin who is writing the film that he's unknowingly in. Even here with Calvary, characters comment on everything from the opening line of the movie, they discuss which of them is an interesting character and which is clichéd and they also try to second guess what they actually refer to as the upcoming 'third act revelations'. I don't want to spoil too much but for what are presumably sold as comedies, each one of their four films has a fucking grim-as-fuck ending to it too. Particularly in the case of In Bruges and Calvary too, half of the jokes aren't even jokes with both films really being more like downbeat, melancholic dramas but with an obvious sense of the absurdity of life. I guess my point to all of this is to suggest that the McDonaghs must have had some seriously fucked up parents... and thank god they did because their work is amazing.

I've read a fair few reviews of Calvary since seeing it and pretty much all of them have gushed over it as much as I am now. However, the one slight criticism I've read is that perhaps it has some minor tonal inconsistencies to it but I disagree. I mean- yes, this is a film with a laugh out loud scene in which a weird young man argues that he should be allowed join the army because his desire kill women is basically a qualification, and yet, at the same time, there are scenes of such sadness and emotion that I was honestly holding back tears at times. I mean, I suppose I could have just had a little cry but you know... I was with friends, I'm young, male and British so fuck that! However for me, the balance seemed just right with the first half being more about the jokes and the second half simply being the observations of the shitness of life. I think if there's one scene that sums this film up then it's one in which a coffin is being wheeled to a plane for transportation. At first, the sheer lack of dignity as the corpse is trollied over seems quite funny, however when Father James looks again, the two baggage handlers in charge are now leaning over the coffin and chatting before it can be loaded on board. What was originally fairly amusing becomes heartbreaking as, along with James, we see the emptiness of life in all its pointlessness. I mean, maybe I'm wrong but the journey from jokes to melancholy seemed perfectly natural to me. Compare this to Tarantino's Inglorious Bastards for example which would go from a tense scene of Jewish abuse at the hands of the Nazis to one in which Mike Myers did his Austin Powers schtick and Calvary will look like a tonal fucking masterpiece... but then again, by comparison so would most films, I suppose.

As I said, this film is an emotional roller-coaster which, as well as the director, is also thanks to the mesmerising performance of Brendan Gleeson whose huge talent is only matched in size by his huge ears. Seriously- check them out. The man he plays isn't a saint but rather a human trying to do his best below that shroud of misery that smothers our lives. He's the one man attempting to show that the Church isn't the child-fucking-nonce-fest that it's presumed to be and as a result every member of that town is trying to break him to validate their own positions on the matter. However, as he absorbs all of their abuse and even their problems, and tries to counter it, you get the sense that actually they don't want to beat him. As much as they're trying to justify their own cynical positions, he represents hope to them and at the end of the day they need him to give them a chance of redemption. Gleeson's priest is basically a piñata at a party of the angriest, brattiest children who might be hitting him as hard as they can to vent their frustrations by hurting him but secretly they really just want to eat his sweets and enjoy the party. Okay.. not sure if that analogy works and it's also kind of weird but fuck it, you get the point.

Speaking of the locals, it's also worth stating how amazing some of the performances surrounding Gleeson are with randomly small but memorable performances from Dylan Moran, Aidan Gillen, Chris O'Dowd and some creepy looking old coffin dodger that I later realised was M. Emmet Walsh. I haven't seen Walsh in anything since Blade Runner and he looked old then and yet it seems in the subsequent few decades he's managed to age even more into what looks like creepy, porn addicted hobbit. Still good though, and I suppose he's in his late fucking seventies so it'd probably be weirder if he didn't look old. In fact, you've got to just presume that all of these people have turned up solely as a result of the writing which is up there with The Coen's at their best and easily matches the genius that people wrongly credit Tarantino for being.

It's easy to moan about how easy it is to make fun of their religion... That should be a clue...
Anyway, I don't want to say much more because I'd hate to give away the ending and I'd hate to just spoil everything that made me laugh. Although, I do think that it's ironic that Aronofsky's Noah is the film that's causing the most controversy at the moment seems as all that movie did was try and make the religious fairy-story seem a little more believable. Considering that this is an angry film with genuine issues that the Church needs to address you've got to wonder where the outrage and attempted censorship is here? Is it that religious people only get mad when the film that they believe is offensive to them has a bigger budget or perhaps more likely is it that in the case of Calvary they've actually got something to be ashamed of? With its mass marketing, there's no way that Noah is going to go away but perhaps if it's just ignored then Calvary's accusations of the Church’s evil just might... for now. There's nothing left for either of us to do now except just go and see this film again because it's the most hilarious, profound thing I've seen probably since In Bruges. Apparently the next 'comedy' that Gleeson and McDonagh will make will centre around an angry paraplegic, investigating the murder of his best friend. Count me the fuck in.  

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