Save the Kino!

By now we are all aware that our sole individual art house cinema is in difficulty. The Kino has long been the cinematic triumph of tiny Cork, a big player during the Cork Film Festival, and a pearl of our local culture. It comes as no surprise to some that, being somewhat specialist, the Kino must have seen troubles over the past few months of economic drain. I was always of the opinion that the Kino would always be there, tipping away politely on its own; a small indie house where the staff are pleasant and the seats are comfy. I was wrong; the cinema will close at the end of this month if we don’t act to save it.

The Kino was established by Mick Hannigan in 1996 with just one ‘screen and it remains the only art house cinema outside of Dublin. While you might not be aware of it, Cork has a very rich history of film -cinemas from the Coliseum to the Pav (ask your Ma about them!) have long since disappeared and with the departure of the Capital, it seems that the Kino is treading water, almost alone.

Lately when I see the sad, boarded up face of the old Capital building on Grand Parade, I can’t help thinking that it would be a huge loss for the Kino to end up like that. To the exact end of escaping that, a Facebook page has been set up to organise the people of Cork into saving the Kino, as has a website designed for donations. There are fund raisers organised and the Friends of Kino are always on the lookout for volunteers.

Chris Neill, a programmer at the cinema, called to Cork Campus Radio last week to talk about the issues –the interview is available by podcast at www.ucc.ie/ccr. But running something based solely on donations isn’t a viable option long-term. At a meeting held on October 31st in the Opera House, an interim Steering Committee was appointed to consider the possibility of saving the cinema.

The Steering Committee went to the Civic Trust Building the following day, and resolved to establish a trust fund and business plan for the maintenance of the Kino as a permanent business in Cork. This is clearly a serious effort to save an important amenity for our city. One of many fundraisers is taking place this November 15th in An Realt Dearg -go along to pledge your support.

I’m happy to declare my support for the Kino. I intend to donate to the Kino fund, because I think that without this cinema, anybody interested in independent film wil110se a vital resource including students in this University. UCC is literally up the road from the Kino. 4000 people use it every year. If it needs help to survive, then UCC students have a strong chance of providing for it. Here we have an opportunity to stand up for something small and beloved. It would be a true shame to not bother.

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas

If you’ve not read the book, the end of this film will come as a shocking surprise. It has a pervasive ability to make you feel ill at ease without even trying. The film makes you a witness to a horror so corruptive of innocence that you struggle to understand the meaning of such a tale.

The film tells the story of Bruno, an eight year old boy. The upheaval of his family to a house on the edge of the concentration camp is a source of agony for Bruno. He misses his friends, he dislikes his new tutor (who speaks in vehement tones of the devil “Jew”), and he feel enclosed in a tiny space. He makes friends with a Jewish boy, Shmuel, a camp prisoner, and it is their friendship that is the central storyline. The risks they take, games they play and moments they share are the things we are shown in beautifully moving scenes before the degradation and cruelty of the final few moments.

David Thewlis is the biggest name here in terms of acting- a cult icon after his performance in Mike Leigh’s “Naked”. Thewlis brings something dreadfully ironic and tragically manipulated to the role of the Father- a Nazi serving in the Final Solution. His is a gifted performance, understated and powerful, offering an insider’s look at the propaganda and lies of the Nazi Party.

The cinematography here is perfect. There is nothing supersaturated, nothing overtly dramatic- everything is carefully plotted. Authenticated and strung together, ensuring that the human quality and emotion is what really draws us in. The backdrop, perfectly orchestrated though it is, is of no true importance in the light of the characterisation.

When the film ended in its way, nobody said a word. Nobody tittered, no chatter broke out. Nobody in the entire cinema moved for about a minute. Nobody wanted to be the person to stand up and talk. Nobody wanted to sniffle. even though there were tears galore. Nobody wanted to move because to move meant you were turning your back on such awfulness and looking away. Indeed, I was so shocked, so dumbstruck., by this absolutely beautiful orchestration of the worst thing in the world- that I couldn’t respond at all.

It was as though for all the imagery and beauty of the film, none of which ever bordered on melodrama, I had entered the cinema with the same ignorance of the children in the story- people with no idea of what they were about to witness and to be part of. It is a story I will not forget.

The focus wasn’t on the costumes, the history, the periphery characters. The focus was on Bruno and what he saw and why he couldn’t comprehend it. And I wished, for one brief second, that he would realise the truth. And then I wished that instead, my knowledge would be replaced with that innocence. This is without doubt a wonderfully powerful and horrifying story- of both innocence and despair.

Twin Atlantic

When I talked to Ross McNae of Twin Atlantic, a Scottish based alternative rock band, I instantly liked him. Unflappable and enthusiastic, he was more than happy to answer my questions ….

 

Q: You guys already have some big fans in the music scene –The List and Kerrang! are both very supportive. Does it ever feel like too much pressure? Or are you just enjoying it as it happens?

A: D’you know what, we’re just totally enjoying the ride at the moment. We’re kinda lucky at the moment in that we come from Scotland and most of the industry is based in the south: We’re not always in the forefront of their minds and we’re not always in magazines. We have time to develop by ourselves and not always be in the spotlight, which is good.

 

Q: Kerrang! has sometimes been criticised for jumping on the bandwagon and following a trend only to dump it just as quickly. Does it ever worry you that the possibility of fading away is always so huge in the music industry?

A: Yeah but you know what, to be totally honest with you, as long as you can keep justifying a reason for people to keep seeing your band and as long as you’re constantly pushing the boundaries you can then control your own fate, you know? As long as you never get lacklustre then there’s no problem. I’ve read somewhere that you guys were hand chosen by Jimmy Chamberlin to support Smashing Pumpkins on tour.

 

Q: How did that come about?

A: Basically when the Smashing Pumpkins go on tour, they rarely ever take support with them, they take local bands in instead –probably because they’re so massive that they don’t need support. Our promoter who does our shows with us in Scotland gave them a list of acts that were up and coming. They went through it and . picked us. It was really special, in a really big venue, a massive show. It was like nothing we’d ever done before, to be given that opportunity by a band who are so respected was a brilliant opportunity.

 

Q: Speaking of big shows, Twin Atlantic have played a lot of festivals now –T in the Park in 2008 and 2009, RockNess 2008 and Download this year. What’s the best gig you’ve ever played?

A: The best show -that’s hard! We’ve been away for quite a while and some nights you’re like, d’you know what, was that the best show we’ve ever played? Most of the time it’s just the adrenaline when you come off stage. T in the Park this year was pretty good for us, we’ve been going there as punters since we were younger. Getting a chance to play it again this year for the second time was amazing, and on a main stage instead of one of the smaller ones. But it might not have been the best we’ve ever played!

 

Q: Even thinking about those festivals, it’s only too easy to see that there’s a ton of music out there. What bands have inspired Twin Atlantic?

A: We listen to a lot of different bands, but the inspiration to be like we are comes from bands like Radiohead probably -they never just go from A to B, they always go on journeys and we don’t want to be tied down to every single one of our songs being an obvious pop format. They’re probably our main inspiration. We all like , ‘irvana, Foo Fighters, Death Cab for Cutie, Rage Against the Machine -all of them have tried to do something different and their songs are all different and have their own meanings and journeys.

 

Q: In all the touring, the shows, the studios and the recording –is there anything about the music life you guys don’t like?

A: I suppose the only thing I don’t like about it is, well, we all have girlfriends and especially for me – I’ve been with my girlfriend for a long time- and it’s hard to go away knowing that you won’t see her for a while. Same with your family. It has its advantages – when you do see them, the time you spend with them is more valuable. But all in all, that’s probably the only downside.

 

Q: That’s something that fans don’t think about all that often, but I see how tough it must be. My last question for you is where do you guys see yourselves in five years time?

A: Do you want the ambitious, pompous answer, or something more modest?!

 

Q: Whichever is the more truthful! The pompous one sounds great!!

A: The thing that we always say is; every year we take a step forward, more people are listening to our music -it would be incredible if that were to keep going. We’re not really too guarded about our feelings, we want our band to be a massive success. If we can get to the stage where we’re playing to millions, that would be amazing. But that’s not the main reason for being in the band, as long as there are people listening and as long as we’re making music, that’s enough for us!

Valkyrie

Tom Cruise is in this film. For many people, that would automatically make it a no go area- but I don’t really think there’s anything wrong with him. I mean, he’s a bit of a prat, but really that’s about it. I could say the same about lots of people.

Anyway, let’s put Tom Cruise aside for a moment. Valkyrie tells the story of the July 20 Plot- the last recognised plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler in 1944. The plot was orchestrated by Colonel von Stauffenberg (Cruise) and a group of allies who had come to the conclusion that Hitler was laying waste to Germany, and had to be removed from power.

The name of the film comes from Operation Valkyrie, a system of emergency response to mobilise the Reserve Army in the event of a panic throughout Germany. It was the means by which Stauffenberg intended to take over power once Hitler was deposed.

There’s a lot of frenetic action throughout the film, which is surprising, given that a lot of it revolves around phone calls, nervous quiet conversations and general bureaucracy. Weirdly enough, the segments based around actual movement are the calmest, most deliberate and least jerky of them all.

Cruise does get a thumbs up. He brings Stauffenberg to life pretty well in what is honestly a fairly accurate reproduction of the event. He is the embodiment of a soldier, upright and conservative- and not at all afraid of standing up against Hitler, in an honourable attempt to save Germany. He maybe shows a lack of charisma in some places (although in others he is powerfully convincing), which has been criticised elsewhere, but it means that he ranks as a normal soldier who has simply reached breaking point.

The supporting cast arc very impressive- Bill Nighy, Eddie Izzard and Tom Wilkinson all make the  most of their smaller roles, adding to the overbearing tension of the time. A special mention goes to Jamie Parker, who played Werner von Haeften, the young Wehrmacht soldier caught up in an immense loyalty to Stauffenberg.

The cinematography is really good here. The early desert scenes and images of historical Berlin arc really great, and every single costume is perfectly accurate. There’s an interesting shot of Stauffenberg’s mangled eye in the movie. The focus on his false eye’s whereabouts at separate times is a bit disjointed to be honest- but otherwise, the character looks and sounds great- and even speaks German in the beginning, before we are weaned into English.

The other thing that is deserving of mention here are the historical sites. Reproductions of the Wolf’s Lair and the Berghof are excellent, and so too are the scenes shot at the Reich Air Ministry and Benderblock. All in all, the film looks great, the tension is good and the cast is fairly strong. But there is no Hollywood element- which, though usually crap anyway, would probably have made the film more accessible overall.