Saturday, December 08, 2012

The Angels' Share

Enkelten siivu / Änglarnas del. GB/FR/BE/IT © 2012 Sixteen Films Ltd, Why Not Productions S.A., Wild Bunch S.A., Urania Pictures, Les Films du Fleuve, France 2 Cinéma, British Film Institute. P: Rebecca O'Brien. D: Ken Loach. SC: Paul Laverty. DP: Robbie Ryan - Camera: Arricam LT, Zeiss Master Prime Lenses - Film negative format: 35 mm (Kodak DeLuxe) - Cinematographic process: Digital Intermediate (2K) (master format), Super 35 (source format) - Release format: DCP - Aspect ratio: 1.85:1. Digital post-production: Len Brown, Molinare. PD: Fergus Clegg. AD: Zoe Wight. Makeup: Karen Brotherston. Prosthetics supplier: Kristyan Mallett. VFX: Sav Akyüz. M: George Fenton. S: Ray Beckett, Andrew Caller, Ian Tapp. ED: Jonathan Morris - edited on film. Casting: Kathleen Crawford. C: Paul Brannigan (Robbie), John Henshaw (Harry), Gary Maitland (Albert), Jasmin Riggins (Mo), William Ruane (Rhino), Roger Allam (Thaddeus), Siobhan Reilly (Leonie). Loc: Scotland - Glasgow, Mitchell Lane (Glasgow), Balblair Distillery (Edderton, Highland), Edinburgh, Arrochar (Argyll). Thanks: Inver House Distilleries, Burn Stewart & Ian MacLeod, and the staff of Balblair, Deanston and Glengoyne distilleries. Released by Cinema Mondo with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Arto Vartiainen / Joanna Erkkilä. 2K DCP viewed at Kinopalatsi 7, Helsinki, 8 Dec 2012 (weekend of Finnish premiere).

According to IMDb and Wikipedia the language spoken is English, but I would not have understood it without subtitles. Maybe at least part of the dialogue might be in Scottish English?

"The angels' share" means the 2% of the alcohol that disappears annually from the whisky because the casks are breathing.

Wikipedia synopsis: "In the opening scenes, the protagonists are sentenced to hours of community service. During his first community service session Robbie (Paul Brannigan), under the guidance of Harry (John Henshaw), is interrupted and taken to the hospital by Harry as his girlfriend, Leonie (Siobhan Reilly), has gone into labour. At the hospital Robbie is assaulted by two of his girlfriend's uncles. Harry takes Robbie back to his house, where Leonie calls to tell Robbie that his son, Luke, has been born. Harry insists that he and Robbie celebrate, and brings out a vintage whisky."

"Harry takes the group to a distillery as a reward for their good behaviour, where they learn what "the angels' share" is. Afterwards, the tour guide gives them each a dram of whisky and asks them to smell it, and Robbie is complimented on his ability to identify flavours. At the next community service session, Harry approaches Robbie and asks if he'd like to come to a whisky tasting session in Edinburgh. Robbie, in turn, invites the other members of the group, where they learn about a cask of priceless whisky, the "malt mill", set to go on auction soon, and Robbie is passed a card by a whisky collector, Thaddeus (Roger Allam)."

"After they leave, Mo (Jasmin Riggins) reveals she spotted and stole documents detailing the warehouse in which the "malt mill" is kept. Robbie agrees to meet with a victim of his former violent crimes, Anthony (Roderick Cowie) gives a heartbreaking performance recollecting the attack to a horrific flashback. After realising that he can't continue living under threat of assault on himself and his family, he begins planning to steal the malt mill, with his community service partners. They secure an invitation to the tasting and auction during which Robbie hides in the warehouse overnight and covertly witnesses Thaddeus attempting to bribe Angus Dobie (David Goodall) into selling him some of the whisky before the cask goes on auction. Dobie refuses and the two leave, after which Robbie siphons some whisky from the cask into empty Irn Bru bottles and then tops it up with cheaper whisky from an adjacent cask. At the auction, the group see Thaddeus outbid by an American, who tastes the cask, and is apparently happy with the slightly diluted blend."

"Afterwards, Robbie approaches Thaddeus and negotiates a sale of three bottles for £250,000. They plan to make the exchange in Glasgow, and so begin the trek home, but inadvertently break two of their four bottles during an encounter with the police. Robbie gets furious, but goes ahead with meeting Thaddeus, and negotiates a sale for £100,000 and a permanent job far away from Glasgow. Robbie reveals to his friends, that he didn't sell two bottles, but one. The scene cuts to show Harry coming home to find a bottle of Irn Bru sitting on his kitchen table next to an open window, with a note thanking him and presenting his "angels' share" next to a newspaper piece showing a photo of the payback group next to the cask. He smells the bottle and rejoices at the malt mill inside."

"In the final scene, we see Robbie and Leonie leave for Stirling in an immaculate old Volkswagen Type 2, having made temporary goodbyes to the rest of the group. After they leave, the rest of the group resolve to go get wasted. The film ends with The Proclaimers' "500 Miles" playing."

I have seen recently seen two new French movies, Rust and Bone, and The Intouchables, with which The Angels' Share resonates. Also here we meet a young, violent man (here: Robbie), who has been caught in a web of crime and violence, and who seems to face a desperate circle with no way out.

In the most powerful sequence of the movie, Robbie has to face a victim of his violence, a young man to whom he has inflicted permanent damage.

Meanwhile, Robbie and Leonie's baby has just been born, and Robbie learns about the baby's vulnerable brain which is not yet fully formed; "the rest depends on us".

The woman, Leonie, changes Robbie, and even more powerfully, the child changes the father. Robbie starts to grow up into a man.

Robbie has been convicted into hard labour in community service, not in prison. The guard and leader, Harry, is a tough, sympathetic, no-nonsense man who invites the convicts to a tour in a whisky distillery. Robbie's special talent in whisky tasting starts to emerge.

Ken Loach is at his best in the realistic account of Robbie's desperate circumstances. The vivid, compelling and never condescending approach in stories like this is a hallmark in Loach's oeuvre since the beginning - since Poor Cow and Kes.

New to Ken Loach's films is the Ealing style big caper comedy related to the ingenious whisky robbery.

Shot on 35 mm photochemical film, the digital intermediate to The Angels' Share has been processed with good taste, reproducing the warm and vibrant film sense in the digital projection. If "an angels' share" of the film feeling has gotten lost in the digital process, I did not notice it.

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