Starring Role: Ratcatcher

ratcatcherOften when I’m watching films for the purpose of writing about them on this blog, I’m sitting taking a lot of notes. I also find myself frequently pausing the movie to take a closer look at a location, or skipping back to catch a bit I’d missed because I was too busy scribbling down notes.

ratcatcher 3I had my pen and paper at the ready for Ratcatcher, but it is such a captivating film that I found myself giving it my full attention – only going back to take notes once the closing credits had rolled.

ratcatcher 4The 1999 movie – the first full length feature film to be directed by Glaswegian Lynne Ramsay – is set in Glasgow in 1973. The film opens with a tragedy in which central character James, a young boy played by William Eadie, is involved although his part in the incident is not revealed to the other characters. What follows is something of a snapshot of life in a run down Glasgow housing estate in the 1970s – through James’ eyes we see the strain placed on a low income family living together in such small quarters, the unusual friendship with the slightly older schoolgirl Margaret Anne and of course the backdrop of a city undergoing change with the added complication of a binmen’s strike.

ratcatcher 5At points in the film it seems like there is no obvious plot as such – just people plodding along with life – but ultimately the socially awkward James’ guilt about the opening incident is always hanging over him.

ratcatcher 6Glasgow locations include the banks of the Clyde canal, with areas such as Dennistoun, Maryhill and even the spires of Park Circus providing the backdrops along its route. The housing estate scenes are always atmospheric – despite their decline and depopulation, a sense that they are still living and breathing communities is tangible in the film. Perhaps one of the most striking images to be presented on these streets is the sight of army trucks sweeping around a corner – not to drag people from their flats or to protect them from zombies, but simply to clear up the rubbish.

Talking of striking images – more unusual features that contrast against the grey estate and the dark canal are the view of a vast cornfield from the window of an under construction housing development and a dream-like sequence involving a mouse travelling to the moon.

Last word on this post goes to a great cameo appearance – when James’ father (Tommy Flanagan) is collecting a bravery award, the man presenting it to him is legendary Glasgow Lord Provost (who was in office at the time of the film’s production) Pat Lally.

 

 

 

Movie Glaswegians: Tommy Flanagan

Tommy FlanaganBorn in Easterhouse on 3rd July 1965, Tommy Flanagan today resides in Malibu, California, and plays one of the main characters in major American television series Sons of Anarchy.

Unlike the roles taken on by many of his compatriots in American shows, Flanagan’s character is a Scot – complete with Glasgow as the place of birth in his biography. The character’s name is Filip ‘Chibs’ Telford – the nickname a reference to the scarring on his face and the Scottish slang “chibbed”, meaning stabbed.

It would appear that the turn of events that resulted in Flanagan’s real-life scarring is what ultimately lead to his acting career – one that has seen him amass a number of roles in major film productions. In the early 1990s Tommy Flanagan was leaving a Glasgow nightclub where he DJ’d when he was attacked and viciously stabbed in the face by a man trying to steal his records.

During his rehabilitation following the attack, Flanagan’s friend – actor Robert Carlyle – suggested that he get into acting. He took his advice and joined the Raindog Theatre Company, which had been co-founded by Carlyle.

His membership of Raindog was to act as a springboard to the screen, landing parts in television series including Taggart before making his first film appearance as the rebel Morrison in Braveheart. Since then he has gone on to enjoy a successful career in both television and film. As well as the aforementioned part in Sons of Anarchy Tommy Flanagan has appeared in the likes of 24 and Peaky Blinders, while film credits have included GladiatorSmokin’ Aces and The Saint. He also appeared in Glasgow set features Ratcatcher and Strictly Sinatra.

Post-trip catch up

Glasgow on Film has regretfully been neglecting blogging duties recently due to some time away with work, and then last week a holiday in the USA. However -hopefully back to business as usual now and among the many and varied subjects coming this way soon will be: Glasgow’s roles and contributions in Dear Frankie, Hallam Foe, Beautiful Creatures and Ratcatcher; visits to the city by Dwight Yoakam, Jean Reno and Charlton Heston; a look at the acting careers of David O’Hara and Billy Boyd.

Before we look at these matters in the coming days though it really is necessary to have a catch up on what has been a big week for film in Glasgow…

World Film Locations: Glasgow

world film locationsWhile across the Atlantic, GoF’s postlady had been with a delivery from Amazon – the brand new book World Film Locations: Glasgow, edited by Nicola Balkind. It is everything Glasgow on Film could ask for in a book – packed full of profiles of movies old and new that have been made in the city, as well as studying themes such as Glasgow’s passion for cinema and Glaswegian humour.

GoF is looking forward to sitting down and reading this book – the latest in a series which includes other cities such as London, Los Angeles and Dublin. If you are interested in film to the point of reading this blog, then you will almost certainly be familiar with Nicola Balkind’s work – she is a freelance web editor and film journalist who has contributed to a number of previous World Film Locations titles. Edited by Nicola and with contributions from more of Scotland’s best and brightest film commentators, this will be essential reading for all film enthusiasts – Glaswegian or otherwise. You can read more about the book and order it on Amazon and you can also visit Nicola’s website.

Glasgow Film Festival

empireThe ninth Glasgow Film Festival (www.glasgowfilm.org) kicked off on 14th February and lasts until 24th February. Alongside the premieres of new films and screenings of classics, plus visits from the likes of Eli Roth and Joss Whedon, are themed strands which this year include a retrospective of James Cagney, a celebration of Brazilian cinema and “Game Cats Go Miaow!” in which Burnistoun star Robert Florence looks at Scotland’s passion for gaming. It is fantastic to witness this festival grow in stature each year and when sitting in Heathrow last Saturday awaiting the flight to New York it was very pleasing to see this stylish advert in Empire magazine.

Cloud Atlas

Cloud Atlas comes out on general release in UK cinemas this Friday, but had its first UK cinema screening at Glasgow Film Theatre last night as part of the Glasgow Film Festival. Glasgow on Film was lucky enough to be in the audience. A full analysis will follow on here at a later date when more people have had a chance to see the film first hand, but some top line points to make about it are:

– it’s really, really good – the THREE directors have lovingly crafted a truly impressive production.

– the acting is tremendous – you’ll see well known actors play in styles you’ve never seen them do before. While it would be tough to choose a stand out performance, Glasgow on Film if pushed would have to highlight Hugh Grant – not one of his multiple roles bear any resemblance to the foppish romantic comedy roles that he has previously been best known for.

– Glasgow looks brilliant in its guises as San Francisco, London and – something not widely reported previously – Cambridge.

– There are a number of nods to Scotland, including scenes filmed and actually set in Edinburgh, therefore coupled with the Glasgow filming connections these make Cloud Atlas likely to be a conversation piece across the land for weeks and months to come.

Well done to the festival organisers for securing this screening, which included a Q&A session with one of the film’s stars – James D’Arcy.