Filth (2013)

Filth (2013)

I don’t often get self-conscious when going to see a film. One of the joys and burdens of being a self-appointed critic is seeing as many films as you can.. although the major cost of this is that sometimes you have to head out to see a film by yourself. That’s a taboo over here in the UK – just what kind of weirdo are you going by yourself? However, the only time I’ve truly felt such a weirdo has been when going to see films that are primarily aimed at a younger demographic (for obvious reasons), or when I was sitting and watching the ample bosoms of several topless girls at the beginning of Spring Breakers. Well, this has now been added to by heading out to catch the latest Scottish opus derived from the mind of novelist Irvine Welsh… “Can I have a ticket for Filth please?”… Quite…

Filth (2013)

Yes, Filth is an evocative word. To some it makes them think of dirt and grime, whilst to others it’s all about the carnal pleasures of the flesh. The Phage won’t divulge which side we come down on! But Filth aims to capitalise on its name sake by running through sex, drugs, violence… and a bit more sex; just for good measure. All of this is wrapped up in the somewhat odd and off-the-wall stylings you’d come to expect from a film that’s closest cousin is Trainspotting, owing to the fact that both of the novels behind the films were written by Irvine Welsh.

Filth (2013)

So, like Trainspotting, FIlth is based in Scotland; replete with Scottish actors. At the head of the film we have Bruce Robertson (James McAvoy) a detective that’s intent on landing that promotion. All he has to do is get ahead of his competition within his department. This leads to him systematically trying to destroy each one of them and turn them against one another so that he can secure his spot. But Bruce has many more problems than just his colleagues… he’s also got some internal demons that are determined to destroy him too.

Filth, as the name would imply, is not a merry little ride through Scotland. The film is dark, twisted and more than occasionally funny. What truly gripped me here was James McAvoy‘s performance. For me, it came closest to when I saw him onstage in London as Macbeth – he was ferocious and damn near unhinged in his acting. I like this. Some have said this is a reinvigoration for McAvoy, but I think he’s been doing rather well for himself as of late. He’s not been type-cast and hasn’t hit a rut, so I fail to see what other critics are levying this comment against if I’m honest! That being said, this is definitely one of his most compelling performances in recent years.

What I quite enjoyed about Filth was the style in which the film was put together. Like Trainspotting, this film isn’t afraid to cut away into illusions and delusions, or travel inside the twisted minds of its protagonists. This style won’t be for everyone, as it certainly breaks the flow of the film and removes some of that “slickness” we’re all used to with glossy films nowadays… but this is Scotland. This works. It works well.

Filth (2013)

To top it off, Filth has a great story, albeit with an admittedly bonkers concluding act. I’ve not read the book of the same name, so I can’t comment on how well it adheres to Welsh‘s vision. However, I have read several other of his books and it definitely adheres to the “Welsh-ness” of it all (that’s Welsh the author, not the country… I am well aware of the difference between Wales and Scotland). What remains to be seen though is how well this translates to the wider world. It’s telling that Filth‘s premiere was in Scotland (yes, it was a week earlier in Scotland than the rest of the UK), as it IS very Scottish. If you “got” Trainspotting and its glum look at Glasgow, you’ll “get” Filth too. But if not? Well, you’ll be missing out on much of the dark charm that is Filth. Like McAvoy‘s role in Trance, FIlth won’t be for everyone anyway. But you’ll probably be hindering yourself somewhat if ya dinne get tha Scottish tongue…

Filth is a deliciously dark film that’s as twisted as the name would imply. I wouldn’t go as far as calling the film “shocking” or “depraved”, because it could have done far more to earn those adjectives. What it is is another fantastic tale from the deepest recesses of Scotland. Although I’ve solely paid attention to McAvoy here, the whole primary cast is without fault and truly hold the film together to keep you entertained from beginning to end. Sure, the ending will leave you slightly puzzled… but just try not to think about it too hard.

I don’t know if Filth ranks up as the most embarassing trip to the cinema though. I tend to bumble into people, sit on their laps (by accident) and trip up a lot. But asking for “a ticket for Filth” did feel a bit weird. I’m not in Amsterdam, and I’m not staring through a peephole at some lady girating away; her dead eyes staring out into the middle distance. But then again, maybe they’ll finally adapt Irvine Welsh‘s Porno, which’d definitely give me more cause for an awkward moment with the cashier girl…

Phage Factor:

4 Star

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Brave (2012)

Pixar's Brave

Teenage issues eh? Ungrateful parents who’ve never done anything for you in their entire lives, issues with your body getting more bumpy and bulbous (hopefully in the right areas), and invoking magic to get your own way to prevent an arranged marriage. Wait… what?! I’m sure we can all attest to two out of those three issues. If you can say “yes” to all three then kudos to your for being brought up in mediaeval Britain with wizards and warlocks. And if you’re reading this, then I guess Paganism really pays off considering you’d be about 8-900 years old by now. AND you managed to find Film Phage. You sir, or madam, deserve a medal. Or an eye of newt, whichever you want.

So why am I bothering to invoke references to teenage life and mediaeval times? Well, you can thank Brave for that. Pixar’s latest animated endeavour focusing on the story of Merida (Kelly Macdonald): first born to King Fergus (Billy Connelly) and Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson) of Scotland. Her tale isn’t a new one: a young girl feels controlled by her overbearing mother, wants to rebel, rebels, deals with the repercussions of doing so and learns a lesson. You could take any Disney / Pixar / Dreamworks story and put the same framework over it, which is why I went into Brave not exactly expecting much; especially since I feel jaded after my last foray into the animated world with The Lorax. But you have to give credit to Pixar… they sure do know how to show and tell a story!

Whilst regular readers will know I get especially hung up on predictable plot lines, I guess you have to forgo these irritations in any U / PG-rated movie aimed primarily at kids, so I will. For now. Beyond this, my reasons for my initial frostiness towards the film stem from the trailers not engaging me in the slightest. They were devoid of humour and quickly became stale. Couple this with the hoo-ha surrounding the “first female protagonist of a Pixar film” and I was turned off. Making a fuss of gender – for me – means there’s nothing much else to brag about in the film. If you felt the same, then I urge you to put this aside, as the film is definitely worth your pounds and pennies, dollars and cents, or pieces of eight… whatever.

Ginger children: no matter how many buns they eat, they’ll never gain a soul.

Firstly, it looks truly stunning. Pixar really are leaps and bounds ahead of their competition in this regard. Much fuss was made of 2010’s Tangled being the most aesthetically pleasing animated film of all time (Walt Disney played the “female lead” card with that film too because she wasn’t a damsel in distress. We get it, women and men are equals. This isn’t the 1950’s. It’s a given now isn’t it? Let me know when you make a bloody Labrador the lead ok?!), but this blows it out of the water. You also cannot talk about the quality of an animated film without also discussing the voice work. And whilst Brave doesn’t boast A-list Hollywood royalty, it does a fantastic job. I’m very glad of this actually, considering the film’s Scottish setting. There’s nothing worse than a US actor having a ham-fisted attempt at a Scottish accent. You can’t pull it off. Don’t try.

I particularly enjoyed Billy Connelly‘s turn as King Fergus: a rough-and-tumble leader who’s indebted to his loving wife, but also encourages his daughter’s tendencies to wield weapons and act more like a warrior, much to his wife’s disdain. Credit also has to be given to Kelly Macdonald for taking the lead and running with it. Although Macdonald is far older than her on-screen character, she pulls it off. She’s come a long way since 1996 where she starred in Danny Boyle‘s Transpotting. From a tale of heroin-addicts in Glasgow to a tale of a fiery princess… also based in Scotland.

“There Can Only Be One!” Oh wait, wrong Scottish-themed movie.

Sure, it all comes to a head in that saccharine way you expect of animated movies, with no emotionally devastating curveballs (ala Up!), but the story does opt for a charming take on reconciliation between mother and daughter: one that you wouldn’t expect. Although you will wonder why the witch in the movie is still in employment considering her panacea cure-all approach to spell-weaving. Why’d they all have the same outcome? It was also very refreshing to see a movie that doesn’t rely on the cliché guy-meets-girl love story. And no, that’s not a spoiler, as that’s not what the film’s about so reel your anger back in if you thought that was spoiling anything about the movie.

The film’s scope also merits discussion. Pixar and Dreamworks both have a tendency to tackle epics. Not quite Avengers Assemble style epic, but epic nevertheless. How To Train Your Dragon, another Scotland-based romp, is apt here. In that our young protagonist strives for independence and earns his father’s respect. The film also culminates in a whopping great battle – a feast for the eyes. Brave is nothing like this; it’s very pared back and the story never leaves the Scottish glens. Yes, it would be odd to see Merida fly off into space or battle massive super-villains, but there was a lack of “final conflict” between her and anyone. Here the hero wins with love and words, as opposed to steel and bravery, which is ironic considering the title of the film. Some will mourn the loss of such a climax, whilst others will be happy to see a more focused story. The only way to find out is to judge for yourself.

Brave is another shot on target for Pixar, even if not squarely in the bullseye. Whilst it’s not in the same leagues as Toy Story, Monsters Inc. or Wall-E, it’s certainly no Cars 2. Mind you, considering how high Pixar’s standards have been, this is nothing to be ashamed about. Whether the film has the lasting appeal of its contemporaries however remains to be seen. You can’t judge whether a film is a classic without the passage of time.

That is unless you’re the 800 year old Pagan witch that’s still reading this review. For you, it’ll take no time – just mix 56 Bavarian herbs and spices, the blood of a deer and liquid of the scarlet bull and there you go: a potion to see the future. Either that, or it’s how I ended up in ER last weekend. Can’t remember which… I’ll try again and let you know.

Phage Factor:

4 Star