The Filth and The Fury

Filth *1/2 (out of five)

filth-posterAt a slender 97 minutes, Filth, adapted faithfully from Irvine Welsh’s terrific 1998 novel, is 95 minutes too long. From the opening monologue by James McAvoy’s Bruce Robertson, decrying Scotland as the place that gave the world “deep fried Mars Bars”, you know you’re in terrible hands all around. Not only has that gag dated, so has the entire world these characters populate, yet the film is set in the here and now, and its’ characters attitudes have moved from humorously cutting-edge to deeply offensive.

Robertson is a cop hoping for a promotion. He’s also a huge drug taker and a terrible person. We watch him systematically destroy the reputations of his fellow officers up for the gig as he attempts to solve a murder, and deal with his own demons.

The subject matter is ripe for a bold, original, dark and funny treatment, but director Jon S. Baird has so obviously tried to ape the style of Danny Boyle’s Trainspotting that it’s embarrassing. Everything is off: the “fantasy sequences” with Jim Broadbent are so unfunny as to be deeply cringe-worthy; actually, so is the whole film. This is a misfire from beginning to end.

Blackfish **** (out of five)

blackfish-poster-artwork-kim-ashdown-ken-balcomb-samantha-berg-smallWhatever your feelings on the imprisonment and exploitation of sea mammals for profit – ambivalence, acceptance, unease or indignation – the sober, level-headed and extremely well constructed documentary Blackfish is sure to open your eyes a little wider, introduce you to some aspects of the industry that you didn’t know, and perhaps, of you’re of the ambivalent or accepting camps, change your point of view. I’m in the indignant camp and it still taught me an awful lot about this dispicable industry.

Focusing on the richest, world-leading practitioner of the entertainment form, Florida-based Seaworld, and featuring extensive interviews with a swathe of former trainers whose own eyes have been opened by the tragedies they’ve witnessed on the job, Blackfish (the name comes from a translation of a Native American term for what we know as the killer whale) shines a light on that company’s active, consistent and conspiratorial efforts to misrepresent, distort, hide and outright lie about the vast number of attacks on trainers by killer whales at their resorts over the decades. Along the way we learn why these attacks occur (evolving from what should be the self-evident fact that these animals should never be imprisoned in the first place), but the telling is calm and composed, avoiding any form of sensationalism or heightened anger. Basically, the filmmakers, Gabriella Cowperthwaite and Eli B. Despres, let the facts – which are all publicly obtainable, but buried deep within the annals of news history, given that most of the reporting of trainer attacks, mutilations and deaths has remained localized – speak for themselves. It probably won’t win the Oscar for Best Documentary, as The Cove did on the subject of dolphin slaughter, but Blackfish is solid, revealing, quietly moving, and highly recommended.

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