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High-Rise and Full Bins / Listings

by Now Then Sheffield

Rowing Against the Current in Austerity Britain

With echoes not just of Crash (Cronenberg’s J G Ballard adaptation), but of Videodrome, Dead Ringers and of course high-rise horror, Shivers (Cronenberg, 1975), the retro-futurism of High-Rise speaks to the state of contemporary Britain, offering a scathing critique of the consequences of Thatcherism, as well as an homage to Cronenberg as much as Ballard.

Very far from the documentary approach of both Full Bins, Empty Bellies, Lonely Lives (see below) andSleaford Mods: Invisible Britain (see listings), High-Rise (Ben Wheatley, 2015) nonetheless features a documentary filmmaker as a central character – albeit one who has, his wife Helen Wilder (Elisabeth Moss) opines, lost his focus when it comes to filmmaking.

Unfortunately, like its filmmaker character, High-Rise loses its focus. I’m all for experimental, non-linear narrative films, but after a powerful, tightly-constructed first 40 minutes or so, this film loses its way. Its revelling in the orgies of the upper classes and disintegration of social order into track-suited, violent confusion is often stylistically impressive, but it becomes harder and harder to see what matters, too much of the time.

Despite this latter lack of coherence, High-Rise strikes some significant chords, has some glorious moments, is stylistically impressive, and contains a number of excellent performances. Not least by Tom Hiddleston, who plays Dr Laing, our neurologist, if ultimately dog-roasting, hero. Another shining star is the soundtrack. Clint Mansell’s music is superb, often working inordinately well to complement or emphasise the layers of meaning in the film’s mise-en-scène, while the inclusion of a Portishead cover of Abba’s ‘SOS’ is appropriately atmospheric. That said, a cover of ‘Waterloo’ might have been more appropriate.

It’s also mildly disappointing not to hear anyone say, ‘Let them eat cake’, especially given the appearance of Bo Peep and her sheep, and the costumes at a party from which Laing is ejected. Notably, when sharing a few words with the waiter at that party, Laing is told how hard it is to "row against the current" – an image that resonates with his unusual social mobility as he roams between floors, friends with both Wilder and Royal (Jeremy Irons’ architect of the high-rise), and his self-contained ability to survive the violence of class war. It’s also an image repeated again and again, when we see Laing using the rowing machine irrespective of whether he’s surrounded by order or by chaos.

There’s plenty more to say about this film, including its echoes of Godard, Kubrick and Buñuel’s Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, and its inclusion of non-human animal characters, speaking to what our treatment of them says about society. But perhaps the most important thing to say is, watch it for yourself.

While documentary film Full Bins, Empty Bellies, Lonely Lives: The Story of Food Poverty and Social Isolation in a Land of Plenty (Daniel Vallin, 2015) is in many ways a million miles away from High-Rise, similar themes preoccupy both films. Full Bins focuses on three alarming aspects of the realities of life in the UK today. Millions live in food insecurity, but millions of tonnes of food are wasted every year, and at the same time another type of poverty is the experience of many - loneliness.

Full Bins considers the causes of this contradictory way of life in 21st-century Britain and asks how we might join the dots to solve all three problems. Offering its viewers sumptuous local footage alongside pertinent factual research, it weaves in interviews with Green Party leader Natalie Bennett, Waste author Tristram Stuart and other participants. Focusing on the Super Kitchen social eating model now successfully implemented in Nottinghamshire, the film is clearly inspired by organisations such as Feeding the Five Thousand and Fareshare, and projects including Sheffield’s Food Hall, a local example of pay-as-you-feel food provision that aims for accessibility to all (see article on page 7).

Watch a fantastic, uplifting short film about the Sheffield Food Hall, also by Daniel Vallin, at vimeo.com/156192397. You can see Full Bins at Sheffield Anarchist Bookfair 2016 on Saturday 23 April, 10am-6pm, at The Showroom Workstation (time TBC). More info at sheffieldbookfair.org.uk.

Samantha Holland, with thanks to Daniel Vallin

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Hosted by Samantha Holland

Dheepan

Jacques Audiard, 2015
8-21 April | Showroom | £8.30
A fiction film about a Tamil Tiger who flees Sri Lanka for France, taking with him a woman and girl in the hope they will improve his chances of obtaining asylum, Dheepan promises to be visually rich, with a thought-provoking perspective on refugees and the meaning of ‘family’ in our era of oft-touted globalisation.

Sheffield Steel, Yemeni Dreams

Optical Jukebox, 2015
16 April | 5.30pm | Vestry Hall, Burngreave, S3 9DD | Free
A huge favourite when screened at #9 last summer, this is one of two opportunities this month to see this excellent documentary about Yemeni men who came to Sheffield in response to the UK’s post-WW2 recruitment for jobs in the then-ailing steel industry. Q&A session and short set of Yemeni music. Also screening at Sheffield Anarchist Bookfair.

The Martian

Ridley Scott, 2015
17 April | 7.30pm | 215 Sharrow Vale Road | £3 w/ cake and coffee.
If, like me, you were too lazy to go and see this blockbuster, never fear, because Sharrow Reels can sort that right out. Plus they throw in a cuppa and awesome homemade cake for your ticket price. I can’t think of a better way to see what Ridley Scott’s gone and done with the tale of a man stranded on Mars.

Avant-Garde Shorts & Surrealist Canapés

28 April | 7pm | Café #9 | Free
This month, #9 is showing a range of surreal, Dadaist and other avant-garde short films, as well as something a little longer. The resident chef-cum-artist will be creating surrealist canapés in addition to the usual range of food and drink available for the evening. Bowler hats optional.

Sleaford Mods: Invisible Britain

Nathan Hannawin and Paul Sng, 2015
24 April | 6pm | Showroom | £8.30
Following Sleaford Mods on their tour of the UK ahead of the 2015 General Election, this film shows how the band articulates the rage and desperation of those without a voice in austerity Britain, and visits neglected parts of Britain too often ignored by those in power.)
by Now Then Sheffield

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