Sunday, March 5, 2023

Mark Jenkin’s “Enys Men” and “Bait” at The Grand Illusion Cinema: Mar 31 - Apr 11 | "The Beguiling Folk-Horror of Mark Jenkin” | The Guardian

In his five star review for The Guardian, “Bait: One of the Defining British Films of the Decade”, Mark Kermode calls Mark Jenkin's debut feature film "a genuine modern masterpiece, which establishes Jenkin as one of the most arresting and intriguing British filmmakers of his generation". In this vital and authentic tale of tensions between working class locals and tourists in a once-thriving industrial fishing village, the film's evocative portrait of familiar and cultural clashes with modernization, drives a drama where traditional trades and lifestyles are under threat. Concerns which Jenkin mirrors in his interview for The Irish Times, “‘We’re Cornish. We Can Just Have Our Own Culture’”. Building on the promise of his short film, "Broncho's House", which tackles Cornwall's housing crisis, "Bait" found the filmmaker addressing social issues with an experimental and poetic sensibility. Revealed in his proceeding decade of experimental films, "Mark Jenkin Heralds the New Weird Britain", and with a refining technique, he has produced a string of award winning shorts like "The Essential Cornishman", and "The Road to Zennor". These laid the groundwork for his recent feature length films, in them exhibiting an obsession with physical film stock and style that relishes in the chemical and technical accidents, ephemera, and artifacts of home-developed celluloid. As with these short films, "Bait" is shot without sound. Music, effects, and audio are added later, along with Jenkin's own synthesizer score. The effect is dreamlike and disorienting, as the alignments and imprecision of the sound weaves in and out of Daniel Thompson’s layered sound designs. This "Hypnotic Take on Tourists Ruining Cornwall", went on to win best director in Stockholm, both the International Competition Grand Prize, and the Audience Award at the New Horizons International Film Festival, and was the recipient of multiple BAFTA awards.

Featured in the first Seattle screening of his work, "Bait" will be presented as part of The Grand Illusion's yearlong 16mm Centennial Celebration Series, alongside Jenkin's most recent film, "Enys Men". Premiering at last year's Cannes , this "Perfect, Anti-Romantic Expression of Cornish Eeriness" was hailed as one of the festival's hidden gems, and exhibits what Jenkin calls; "a level of abstraction that comes from shooting small-gauge film," he says of his Bolex 16mm camera, "but most of the eerie comes later in the process, how the images bump up against each other and most importantly how the sound works with, and against, the image.” Speaking with The Guardian, the director expresses his favor of oblique narratives, that exhibit uneasy destinations, “‘I Like Films that Take You into the Woods - Then Leave You There’: The Beguiling Folk-Horror of Mark Jenkin”. Which he himself has crafted, in a superb example that embraces such divergent material as the psychological inner workings of Shirley Jackson’s "The Haunting of Hill House", the image juxtapositions and editing seen in the films of Nicolas Roeg, muted tales of haunting shared with the likes of Kaneto Shindo's "Onibaba", and established examples of the 1970's  British folk-horror genre, such as "The Wicker Man". But the abstraction of this "Supremely Disquieting Study of Solitude", evades precise stylistic associations, and its luxuriously saturated cinematic poetry is resiliently resistant to any easy assimilation into genre. As Mark Kermode again states, better to allow this uncanny evocation of how, when left utterly on our own in a isolated place, the mind spirals into memories, dreams and fears, the viewer's imagination enabling, "Mark Jenkin’s Cornish Psychodrama to Sweep You Away".