By Rene Rodriguez, The Miami Herald
A cinematic gauntlet for the hardcore, Hunger practically defies you to watch it. ”Harrowing” does not begin to describe director Steve McQueen’s recounting of the 1981 hunger strike by Irish Republican Bobby Sands, who starved himself to death in protest over Britain’s refusal to recognize IRA members as political prisoners.
With practically no historical context to ground the viewer, Hunger plunges us inside the walls of the block in Belfast’s Maze prison where IRA prisoners were kept — and routinely abused, in increasingly violent manner, by guards responding to the inmates’ rebellious behavior.
McQueen, a multimedia artist turned filmmaker, uses his widescreen canvas in a painterly fashion, coming up with striking compositions to depict the incessant turmoil and brutality within the prison’s walls: In one memorable shot, a prison guard weeps silently on the right hand of the frame, while his peers mercilessly beat a defenseless, naked inmate on the extreme left of the screen.
Although most of Hunger is uncommonly spare in dialogue, a 20-minute conversation between Sands (Michael Fassbender) and a priest (Liam Cunningham), shot almost entirely in one static take, doubles as a debate on the ethics of the IRA’s beliefs and the meaning of life.
Bringing a movie to a standstill for a Frost/Nixon-ish confrontation between talking heads is a daring artistic choice, but there is little about Hunger that doesn’t constantly challenge the audience, from its profusion of body fluids and substances to its unblinking depiction of the effects of starvation on the human body. McQueen maintains a cool and uncompromising tone throughout, except for the film’s closing moments, when he resorts to some florid, cliched symbolism. But for those who can tough it out — and not everyone will — Hunger is a searing experience. Just don’t expect to have much of an appetite when it’s over.
Cast: Michael Fassbender, Liam Cunningham, Stuart Graham, Brian Milligan, Liam McMahon.
Director: Steve McQueen.
Screenwriters: Enda Walsh, Steve McQueen.
Producers: Laura Hastings-Smith, Robin Gutch.
Running time: 92 minutes. Vulgar language, violence, nudity, strong adult themes. Plays at 9:15 p.m. Friday at Regal South Beach.
By Connie Ogle, The Miami Herald
”Before I was addicted to drugs, I was addicted to faces,” says photographer Edo Bertoglio in his documentary about returning to New York City years after his late ’70s/early ’80s heyday photographing Andy Warhol, The Factory and the glorious collision of punk, fashion, music, art and heroin.
Bertoglio is ambivalent about his return for good reason: The ranks of the hedonists have been scarily decimated by drugs or AIDS (”Those pictures of yours are like a graveyard,” his ex-wife tells him grimly.) Far too many of the flamboyant personalities enshrined in his work — Warhol, artist Jean-Michel Basquiat and a host of others — are gone. So Bertoglio turns to the survivors, chronicling their stories of the wild days past and their present struggles. Audiences already interested in the period will enjoy Face Addict best, but Bertoglio makes it surprisingly inclusive and accessible. His sober reflections remind us of the wisdom to be gained in growing older, even when the good times aren’t so good anymore.
Director: Edo Bertoglio.
Screenwriters: Edo Bertoglio, Gaia Guasti.
Producers: Viviana Queirolo, Tiziana Soudani, Marco Muller.
Running time: 102 minutes. Plays 4 p.m. Saturday, REGAL.