Our Day Will Come + Q&A at the ICA

Our Day Will Come is the sort of polarising film that will upset a lot of people. It’s essentially an absurd road movie in which two red headed men take revenge for all the confusion and disappointments in their lives by exploiting racial prejudice and trying to con their way out of Northern France. This is in itself quite funny as neither of the men actually have very red hair, the boy’s is a fake looking reddish brown (very dark), and the older man’s a greying pepperish colour. Nevertheless they seem to believe they’ve found a common bond and a persecuted minority to claim them as their own, even going so far as developing the desire to go to Ireland so they can be among their people. However, after things come to a crisis point for Patrick (Vincent Cassel), the older man and possibly the worst guidance counselor ever (if he ever really was one), events take a definite turn for the worse.

The humour here is really very dark, a lot of people probably won’t quite get it or its absurd tone. For those who do though this is likely to be a very enjoyable film with a lot of interesting things going on. It’s a film that perhaps doesn’t have a direct message, is it a film about persecution? about violence and alienation? about French society, or more specifically Northern French society? All these elements are in the movie but as for which of any of them the films means to express in point, it can’t be said. The absurdity is perhaps the point itself. Cassel and Barthelemy both turn in astonishing performances as the conflicted leads with good support from the unfortunate people they encounter during their pointless quest, notably the sullen little girl in the red jacket. Romain Gavras has made a very strong feature debut and is definitely a voice to look out for in the future. It’s certainly a film that many will find offensive or fail to engage with but also one that will find its own audience.

Vincent Cassel and Romain Gavras  kindly came to the stage after the film to answer some questions, of which there were undoubtedly a few. They first explained how the film got made, that Cassel had known the younger Gavras and the film’s producer for many years and after seeing Gavras’ last music video had come to the conclusion that Gavras was now ready to direct a feature and so decided to produce and possibly star in it. Gavras and the creative team then set about writing the script which went through many iterations, it did not originally feature red hair as a plot element but Gavras liked the idea of these two men who didn’t really have red hair banding together as red heads and convincing themselves they’d been unfairly persecuted for this reason. The completely pointless quest to find and liberate their people then became the driving force of the film. However Gavras was quick to say he himself doesn’t really know the point of the film or if it has one. Apparently they did test dye Barthelemy’s hair bright red but it looked too odd and Cassel added that after that he would have himself refused a full red dye. Someone asked if Cassel actively sought out these more extreme parts or was it just that it’s what he’s offered to which he answered he’d tried playing nice guys but it wasn’t very interesting and anyway he doesn’t find the nice guy archetype very true true to life. The same person then asked how he’d been influenced by his father Jean-Pierre Cassel which he found he couldn’t possibly answer other than in ways he couldn’t tell, but pointed out also that he’d ended up making very different films from his father. The same question was put to Romain which he answered in a similar way but added he hadn’t really had any choice about becoming a director and that all his siblings had entered the same field. The Q&A session then ended with a slightly odd (and a bit redundant) question about the Irish tourism board which was answered with a fairly flat ‘yes they approved’ style answer but all in all a very interesting conversation about this film that defies explanation.

Pepi, Luci, Bom… + Q&A with Alaska

Pedro Almodóvar’s debut film may not be as polished as his later work, in fact it may be a bit messy and very rough around the edges but the trademark energy, wit, and charm are all here, and in abundance. Pepi (Maura), is listening to some music and playing with a sticker book when a policeman calls because he’s been noticing her funny looking plants. Fearing prosecution Pepi offers him other compensations, but the policeman takes things further than she was thinking, raping her and ‘stealing’ the virginity which she’d been planning to sell! Seeking revenge, Pepi enlists the help of her friends in a punk group, including Bom (Alaska), to beat him up, but it doesn’t quite go to plan. Later Pepi runs into the rapist policeman’s wife, Luci, (Silva) and convinces her to give her knitting lessons, where she finds out that Luci is a masochist upset that her husband treats her like his mother. These are our three crazy girls trying to make it in La Movida. The film is extremely funny, though dipping a little into poor taste at times which may spoil it a little for some. Even if it’s not an especially well made film, and its lack of budget and complicated production circumstances are very much in evidence it’s still a lot of fun and it’s very interesting for fans of Almodóvar’s more recent work to look at where it all started.

After the film the BFI brought out the actress and singer Alaska (Bom) to talk and answer a few questions about her work on this film. She began by commenting on the film’s genesis, that she was offered the part because she was friends with some artists that were also friends of Almodóvar’s and had read the script and recommended her. As there was no money at all to make the film filming would take place when enough money had been raised to buy the negative, consequently the film took a few years to actually complete filming here and there when possible. Other than Carmen Maura and Felix Rotaeta most of the cast were not professional actors but friends and other people from that particular underground scene at the time. Someone from the audience asked if she’d influenced her character seeing as there was a superficial similarity there with Alaska’s also being in a punk group, to which she replied no. She provided her own clothes/look etc seeing as there wasn’t a costume designer or stylist or even any money for costumes but the character was already 100% scripted before she got the part and Almodóvar was very strict about sticking to his script and did not allow any deviations from it whatever. However she did mention that the seen with the postman was originally intended to just be ‘hello’ but that the actor decided to go for it, much to the consternation of the producer because they only had the right amount of film for what was already planned out, but Almodóvar liked it so it worked out in that instance. A few questions also raised the question of how Alaska felt at the time regarding the changes in Spanish Society, whether she felt herself to be living in momentous times, she replied that being only fifteen or so at the time she just didn’t really react to it in that way. She felt sure that other people did, but being so young she was just really living her life. Someone then asked how she felt about Spanish society at the moment and she answered that she was old enough now to see that each generation criticises the next one for failing to react enough but perhaps it was just a case of times moving on and general apathy. Another questions asked if the film was representative of the youth of Spain during La Movida but she she pointed out that no, this was a definite minority subscene of people that were seen as ‘weird’ and that maybe the film was adopted by youth culture a bit later but at that moment didn’t really reflect it at the time of making. The question of reviews and reaction to the film was also brought up and it was pointed out that the film was more or less panned everywhere, there was not a good reaction anywhere. The film was screened at a couple of festivals where it received an adverse reaction particularly from feminist critics. One of the last questions asked for clarification on the film’s message and purpose, which in Alaska’s opinion (one that she was sure Almodóvar would share) were nil. She felt that if there was a message or purpose it was that there wasn’t one, and if anything simply a statement of intent – we are here and this is who we are, this is how we choose to live. What better message could there possibly be?