Bait (Mark Jenkin, 2019)

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Bait appears to have attracted nothing but reviews full of superlatives due to its timely themes of gentrification (about the economic threat to fishermen in a Cornish coastal village thanks to the influx of the urban middle-classes), and its form (shot on 16mm with a clockwork Bolex, hand processed, and with a soundtrack fully built during post-production).

It is certainly a striking piece of work. The cinematography, combined with the other worldly soundtrack – including the voices and sounds, as well as music – is folksy and feels timeless. It brings to mind, among other films, Kevin Brownlow’s Winstanley (1975). I also thought of Requiem for a Village (David Gladwell, 1975). Had it been released a few years ago, clips from Bait could well have formed a part of the kaleidoscopic Arcadia (2018), Paul Wright’s documentary that uses an extraordinary array of archive footage as an ode to Britain’s connection to its landscape and suppressed anarchistic history (in which clips from Winstanley and Requiem for a Village feature).

The black and white, 16mm footage occasionally has a flickering, strobe like effect. The cracks, crackles, grain, and the odd hair are all particularly visible when blown up onto a big screen. It is wonderful to see the form so overtly in an age where the means of production are typically hidden and anathema to modern cinema. It makes the film look as if it has aged, and makes for perennial images that contrast beautifully with the contemporary and relevant story. The film looks like an enduring artefact, mirroring the architecture of the village and its way of life. But, like the community it depicts, it has its own life which the modern cannot, or should not, interfere with.

The editing, which utilises flash forwards, and the soundtrack of rolling waves, droning sounds, and loud dubbing of spot effects and dialogue, combines with the cinematography to form a hypnotic and hallucinatory effect. Jenkin shoots the film with mainly close ups and mid shots – waves, knots, fish, and fisherman’s boots seem to dominate. This creates a rhythm to the movie, rather than just a straight retelling of a story.

The middle classes, announced via a close up sequence of them filling their fridge with champagne and brie, are portrayed as clueless, chinless, and believing in their own inherent goodness. They don’t think they are helping to destroy the village, but instead consider themselves as part of the community, whose contribution through their tourism and holiday homes is instead supporting its continued existence. The struggle of the fishermen, some of whom have had to turn to cab driving or running tourist trips, is never romanticised as part of the contrast to the middle classes we are shown. But there is a definite commentary threaded throughout that reminds us that gentrification and tourism can take as much away from a community as it brings.

Like 2017’s Apostasy (Daniel Kokotajlo), it is another British film that takes a very low key, small story, and makes it cinematic through the use of such a dynamic form.

As a person who is also a filmmaker, for me Bait is an excellent and humblingly confident film.

 

Waves of Horror 2015 news

In the lead up to the Waves of Horror 2015 festival we are hosting a series of one off screenings, beginning with The Strange Colour of Your Body’s Tears (Helene Cattet, Bruno Forzani, 2014) at the Gulbenkian cinema in Canterbury on Monday 23rd February at 9pm.

It will be followed by a series of other European horror films including Martyrs on Thursday 5th March at 9pm(2008) and  Amer Tuesday 10th March at 6.30pm (2009).

All of this is in preparation for our big annual festival, taking place this year on Halloween weekend 30th Oct – 1st Nov. Hopefully we will be hosting a short film competition as part of the festival weekend.

Progressive Spaces – the Bristol Radical Film Festival

Now published is my article on the Bristol Radical Film Festival which I attended last March in the Necsus European Journal of Media Studies. The theme of the autumn 2014 journal is ‘war’, which neatly fitted with many of the themes of the festival.

You can read the article here:
http://www.necsus-ejms.org/progressive-spaces-lines-battle-bristol-radical-film-festival-2014/

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