Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
The Selfish Giant: Clio Barnard Adapts Oscar Wilde (sort of)
the shadow of nuclear containment domes, Arbor Fenton and his mate Swifty
collect scrap metal with a horse-drawn cart.
It is more or less modern day Yorkshire, but the vibe is often
Dickensian. However, it was inspired by
Oscar Wilde’s Christian parable. Light
years removed from the mythical giant’s garden, Clio Barnard creates her own
modern fable in The Selfish Giant (trailer here), which opens this
Friday at the IFC Center.
the “hard kid to love” cliché. The aggressively
annoying Fenton is a hard kid not to pummel whenever you see him. It is not entirely his fault. He is the irregularly medicated, hyperactive
product of a completely fractured home. Fenton has affection for his mother,
but openly defies her parental authority.
He is even more contemptuous of his teachers, welcoming his expulsion
from school as a personal victory.
Fenton has only one friend, the mild mannered Swifty, who was also
temporarily dismissed from class due to Fenton’s misadventures.
Fenton, this is a fine turn of events, allowing them time to collect scrap
metal for the dodgy local dealer, Kitten. The grizzled junkman is the sort of
authority figure Fenton can finally relate to.
However, Kitten has more use for the horse savvy Swifty, whom he
recruits to drive his trotter in the local unsanctioned sulkie races. Always unstable, Fenton takes Kitten’s
rejection rather badly.
Kitten is the giant (after all, he carries an ax during his big entrance), but
viewers will be hard pressed to find any other remnants of Wilde lingering in
the film. It hardly matters though. Barnard’s Giant
is a grimly naturalistic but deeply humane morality tale. Sort of like Wilde, Barnard ends on a
redemptive note, but she really makes viewers work for it.
cutesy shenanigans, Giant features
two remarkably assured performances from its young principle cast members. It is rather rare to see such a thoroughly
unlikable young character on-screen, but Conner Chapman wholeheartedly throws
himself into the role of Fenton with a twitchy, petulant tour de force
performance. Shaun Thomas nicely
counterbalances him as the shy, empathic Swifty.
Barnard masterfully sets the scene and controls
the uncompromisingly cheerless vibe, immersing the audience in the profoundly
depressed working class estate. Viewers
will definitely feel like they are there, sharing their cold, dingy, over-cramped
quarters (and doesn’t that sound appealing?).
Think of it as apolitical proletarian cinema. Recommended for the work of its young cast
and Barnard’s distinctive vision, The
Selfish Giant opens this Friday (12/20) in New York at the IFC Center.
Labels: British Cinema, Clio Barnard