Framing John DeLorean 2019 ****

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The title is an interesting one; we know who John DeLorean was, or at least we may have some ideas. Don Argott and Sheena M Joyce have constructed a documentary that aims to ‘frame’ him; are they suggesting that the various crimes that John DeLorean was accused of constituted a frame job? That’s not what their film is about; there’s very little in the way of conspiracy theory or speculation here, just a journey through the key facts of the car moguls rise and fall from grace. This well-constructed doc also has a narrative frame in that it features reconstructions featuring Alec Baldwin as DeLorean, and we also get to see off-cuts showing rehearsals and the actor in make-up, discussing his role. With Back to the Future’s Bob Gale amongst those testifying to the number of potential films which might be made about the subject, Framing John DeLorean is one of the the first out of the gate, but unlikely to be the last.

Like Preston Tucker, DeLorean was a man with a dream, to innovate in the expensive world of car production, and to take on the big boys in the corporate world. Setting up a huge plant in Ireland in the 1980’s, DeLorean was not short of enemies; the key moment comes when he stops dealing with Margaret Thatcher and Jim Prior (the latter interviewed here) and started dealing with Colombian cocaine traffikers. DeLorean managed to move a massive consignment of coke in order to provide finance for his company, and jobs for many workers who had no other options, and he brazenly paid for it in worthless share certificates. If he’d pulled that deception off, it would have been one for the memoirs, a Danny Ocean-style masterstroke that beat the system, but the deal had been set up by a narc and public ignominy followed. Even after DeLorean was found innocent of drug-dealing in the courts, it took a separate scandal to bring him down involving the embezzling of funds. Other public figures have got away with far more; it’s clear that someone had it in for DeLorean. In retrospect, DeLorean’s mistake seems to be not that he stole money or dealt with drugs cartels, but that he accepted public ie government rather than private money; that lack of business savvy seems to have been the real reason for the scrutiny that led to his downfall. Americans often imaging UK government funding to be free money, when the truth is that it’s often the most expensive kind, as DeLorean found to his cost.

Framing John DeLorean is an entertaining, informative documentary with strong source material and plenty to draw the viewer in, not least the sight of the car immortalised by Back To The Future. The sight of thousands of the cars lying unsold in Irish car-parks, or driven en masse to ferries for US import is surreal, as is a glimpse of a red DeLorean; even if it didn’t actually drive terribly well, the car was beautiful to look at. Like the man who created it, the DeLorean had style to burn, and this artful documentary captures the essence of the man and the machine.

Framing John DeLorean, available on Amazon Video and ITunes in the UK from 29th July

In the US…

https://www.amazon.com/Framing-John-DeLorean-Alec-Baldwin/dp/B07SN62Y5K

 

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End of Sentence 2019 ****

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Sometimes it’s the tiniest detail that sparks a good film into life; as Frank Fogle (John Hawkes) enters an American prison alongside his terminally ill wife, she’s asked to remove her head-scarf, revealing her bald head and suggesting how short her remaining time on earth will be. A small moment, but one that elicits sympathy and interest; her death and funeral are not seen, but it’s obvious that Frank is left bereft by her passing. When their son, Sean (Logan Lerman) is finally allowed back from behind bars, Frank manages to persuade Sean to accompany him on a trip to rural Ireland, with the intention of spreading her ashes. But Sean would rather be in California, and the parental clash is sharpened when Sean picks up a girl in the form of Jewel (Sarah Bolger).
Audiences might feel that if they’ve seen one bitter-sweet drama about a father and son’s unlikely road trip to spread their mother’s ashes, they’ve seen them all. But End of Sentence comes up fresh as a daisy under the direction of Elfar Adalsteins, with Michael Armbruster’s script given space to sing. Hawkes has been a powerful force in films as diverse as Winter’s Bone and The Sessions, and manages to convincingly depict Frank as a man strong in conviction, but weak in action. Just as good is Logan Lerman; in his Percy Jackson series, Lerman seems to have been encouraged to play up the Jack Nicholson in his looks, but here he dispenses with the mannerisms to make something dour and forceful about Sean’s inner demons. Bolger’s striking turn as a hitch-hiker with unexpected musical abilities completes an intriguing trio; End of Sentence ends up as a road movie in the vein of Five Easy Pieces, and that’s high praise indeed for a drama that skilfully turns some venerable indie clichés inside out. An Irish/Icelandic co-production, this comes from Samson Films, who hit big with Oscar-winner Once, and End of Sentence is every bit as good as that popular success.

A Man of No Importance 1992 ****

Albert Finney’s career had phases rather than just a highlights; while his 80’s output was something of an anti-climax for the actor who burst into world cinema in Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, by the 1990’s, there were increasing opportunities to see the great man giving it both barrels. In Suri Krishnamma’s charming comedy-drama, Finney excels as Alfred Byrne, a gay bus-conductor who feels forced to repress his sexuality due to the mores of the time. His unrequited passion for fellow driver (Rufus Sewell) remains just so, but Byrne sees an opportunity when the striking Adele Rice (Tara Fitzgerald) gets on his bus. He quickly arranges a performance of Oscar Wilde’s Salome with Adele as the star, but emboldened by Wilde’s words, Byrne’s attempts to reveal his true nature end badly for him.  With the atmosphere of 1963 Dublin persuasively caught, A Man of No Importance is one of these lucky films that sees great talent well harnessed; after Finney’s death, this was deservedly mentioned alongside Tom Jones, Under The Volcano and The Dresser as amongst Finney’s best.

Philomena 2013 ***

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Steve Coogan is a fairly significant player in the UK comedy scene, but finding worldwide vehicles for his talents has resulted in minor roles in funny films such as Tropic Thunder and The Other Guys, and leading role misfires in unlovable fare like Hamlet 2 and Around The World in 80 Days. Coogan scored something of a breakthrough with Philomena, adapting (with Jeff Pope) BBC reporter Martin Sixsmith’s The Lost Child of Philomena Lee as an international road movie, playing Sixsmith himself and with Judy Dench as Lee, a mother searching for his missing son. Coogan uses much of the same two-handed patter which made his TV show with Rob Brydon, The Trip, so entertaining, but doesn’t cop out of the criticism of religion, and specifically the Catholic church, that the story demands. Coogan and Dench do well with their roles under the direction of Stephen Frears, and there’s plenty of funny lines and amusing situations (Lee’s fascination with Big Momma’s House) on the way to an unsurprisingly tear-stained finale that casts Sixsmith in a surprisingly unfavourable light.