Friday, July 22, 2011

RPIFF: Charlie Casanova (2010)

Blahblahblahgay's second outing at the Revelation Perth International Film Festival is another British movie, this time from Ireland/EIRE/Republic of Ireland, whatever your preference for the name of this country, it's the one that includes drinking capital of the world Dublin.

This is the directorial debut of Terry McMahon, who according to imdb (and this is my favourite anecdote of the day) was Bad SWAT Cop #1 in Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins. And he was in attendance for the screening, introducing his film and staying for a Q & A afterwards, which unfortunately I couldn't stay for (work is demanding.) His introduction featured him stating that at least half of the audience would hate the film and could they please stay afterwards to tell him why.

And he was totally accurate, this is an awkward film, very difficult to enjoy in the traditional sense and once more difficult to categorise. It's part psychotic breakdown, part political dissection, part kitchen sink domestic drama, part offensive (a large part at that,) part nightmare.

Charlie Casanova, played by Emmet Scanlan in a career making performance, is an extremely charismatic yet supremely unlikable person. He defines himself as a member of the middle class, with flash cars, flash suits, an IQ of 187 (maybe my IQ isn't high enough but I don't know what this number actually means, what is the difference between 187 and 170?) a seemingly close group of friends and a loving wife. Yet he is bored with his life and proposes a game involving playing cards quite similar to that proposed in the Luke Rhinehart novel The Dice Man - ask the cards a question with a yes or no answer, the card you turn over is either a yes or a no. Most of the questions asked seem to involve illegal acts and sexual behaviour.

The journey Charlie takes is occasionally slow moving but largely a difficult watch because his behaviour is so often completely abhorrent. What makes it watchable and in it's own way enjoyable is the incredibly powerful performance from Scanlan and the mostly tight direction from McMahon. He shoves the camera in the characters faces, you feel claustrophobic more often than not, you even (and maybe this is just me) find yourself identifying with the lunatic on screen before realising that his words are just an excuse for his behaviour, this I am pretty sure was intended by McMahon.

There is a scene in which Casanova tries some impromptu standup in a working class club, ripping the patrons apart with some very well observed humour before being dragged out of the bar. This scene feels like the one that the movie was written around, it's the strongest in it's content and the way that it was filmed and really pushes the movie forward in to the final act and the (at this point) slightly confusing ending.

At times it is a little difficult to understand some of the dialogue; as I have found from my personal experience of the Irish accent, sometimes they speak too fast for me to catch every word, other times the choice of slang is too confusing. But this doesn't actually detract from the film in any way. It may even add to the flavour, the realism of the piece.

The final 2 scenes are fantastic and have you leaving the film on a high note; Charlie is on a roof, talking to a camcorder, wild eyed and frantically spouting his political ideals, urging the masses to take some responsibility for their lives, defending his actions, an incredible piece of cinema to end with. And then there's a piece of broken domesticity, a beautiful piece of art that the camera holds on until we fade to back, nothing happens but you can't tear your eyes from it, mesmerising.

I would definitely recommend watching this film if you are partial to watching great acting performances in difficult films. It's certainly not for everyone but it is worth your time.

Anyone else seen this one? It's been at quite a few festivals so far, I'd love to hear from somebody who didn't like it. Leave me some blah and get the dialogue going.


  1. I did not like this film because it is not a film to be liked. It is a project to be appreciated and amazed at. Definitely not entertainment for pleasure as the screening is physically painful, however hypnotic and unmissable still!
    Above all a must see, not necessarily to 'like' though!

  2. let me rephrase, anybody out there not appreciating this film for all of its many good points?

  3. Fantastic review, this sounds like something I'd be interested in watching.
    I'll try and get hold of it when it become available...

  4. thank you jack, its good to see you back around these parts. its definitely worth watching. i actually read that it won an award at the galway festival so perhaps a cinematic release could be on the cards for you.

  5. Haven't seen this....great review Toby! Hope to see this movie get into theater's. Thought I would mention that there are 2 award wins for Charlie at this time:

    Charlie Casanova won Best First Feature at Galway Film Fleadh:

    Emmett Scanlan also won a Best Actor Award for his role as Charlie Casanova at ECU Film Festival in Paris:

  6. thanks for stopping by jan, very kind of you to say. it truly does deserve to be seen and it's certainly good news that emmett scanlan was been acknowledged by an award as he was quite impressive.

  7. Emmet Scanlan just owns this role. Truly deserved the award!

  8. Very harsh and unprofessional review, quite disappointed- Scott Sinclair, Manchester.

  9. Hi scott sinclair from manchester, I wonder if you feel like coming back and explaining why you feel that way?

    I don't pretend to be professional, this is a personal blog, but this was one of my favourite films of recent times and I think I sang its praises quite loudly.

  10. Wow, your first negative comment...
    You're becoming a real blogger!
    What a weirdo.

  11. it's like he didn't even read the review. we shall see if he bothers to come back. maybe he can explain his bizarre comment.