I, Daniel Blake is a film not about injustice (which we can all read about), but about hardship (which we do not) and how its victims cope with it. We are never allowed to forget the inhumane backdrop, via the mind-numbing repetition of ghastly, subliterate welfare terminology.
An astute conceit in Beyond Hatred is the mirroring of the legal process and the filmmaking process, as it depicts two legal teams tasked with telling a story to an audience (the jury): like the director, they must stress-test the effect on their audience of each method of presentation of the facts.
The essence of his realism is that he presents his characters to the audience exactly as they would present themselves. Only later, as he begins to decorticate their personalities through his increasingly intimate dramatization of their relationships, will they reveal themselves as they really are.
Pialat’s quest was to seek out something more artistically valuable and emotionally direct: a cinema of genuine immediacy and truth, a cinema from which fragments of real life could erupt from the screen, where moments could simply exist, freed from the yoke of their context or origins.
Gere’s performance, aggressively understated, is subtle to the point of nondescription. His character’s complexity is comprised entirely of a refusal to reveal anything at all, until it dawns on the viewer that this is because there is going to be nothing to reveal.
It's the tale of two men who are striving, against a background of fear, distrust, and discouragement, to work out what they want from each other and how to achieve it. And it's one of the most complex and beguiling cinematic love stories since Wong Kar-wai's turn-of-the-century monument In the Mood for Love.
The 4:3 aspect ratio is often referred to as the shape of a conventional television screen, but when contemplating the work of Powell and Pressburger, there is a far more rewarding comparison to be made, which is with the shape of a traditional 19th-century Victorian theater stage.
In the early nineties, London’s remaining rep cinemas were slashing prices and recycling their stock in the hope of staving off the inevitable. The market followed: an impoverished student with a bus pass, like me, could englut himself.
Later adaptations such as the musical version with Claude Rains and of course, the Andrew Lloyd Webber stage behemoth, tried to harness this sympathetic dimension overtly, but ended up playing down the horror. This is not something Chaney’s Phantom will ever be accused of.
Other critics have looked at the psychopath Cady (a role De Niro lobbied hard for) as an extension of Travis Bickle or Rupert Pupkin, but this rather misses the point. It is Nolte's Bowden who is the “Scorsese male” here (Cape Fear's own Henry Hill, or Jordan Belfort).
The reason is that a section of the U.S. comic fraternity (the likes of Ben Stiller and Will Ferrell) has seen something the vast majority of the American public hasn’t yet, and that something is what Coogan does better than anything else: Alan Partridge.