Steve McQueen's "Hunger" is boring…

Since I was continually being asked by acquaintances what I thought of Steve McQueen’s _Hunge_r (2008), I finally went to see it this week… on second run at central London’s only budget cinema The Prince Charles. The film turned out to be exactly the type of middle-brow bollocks I can’t stand; it takes a political subject and turns it into a typical Hollywood-style fairytale about an ‘exceptional’ individual. Yes, this is yet another completely unsatisfactory drama about a generic white centred male subject.
The movie starts by showing a patriarchal screw getting ready for work, then descending the stairs of his council house and sitting down to eat. There follows a typical example of McQueen’s cack-handed symbolism as we are shown crumbs falling onto the screw’s napkin in close-up. Just in case you needed a pointer here it is, this particular character is a crumb! Wow! Next the crumb checks under his car for bombs, then trundles off to beat up republican prisoners in the H-block. Fortunately the crumb in question is bumped off about half-way through the film, I was sick of him before he left his home.
Another section of this film concerns the dirty protests, during which republican detainees went naked rather than wear prison uniforms and refused to slop out, to draw attention to their demands for political status. McQueen makes his depiction of this episode particularly boring by using muted colours and shots designed to display his ‘knowledge’ of both renaissance and modernist art. More tedium follows with a long theatre-style conversation between Bobby Sands and a wee shite of a priest. The rest of the film is dedicated to the 1981 hunger strike that resulted in the death of Sands. This is accompanied by some extremely cheap cinematic tricks: among other things voices are distorted to complete incomprehensibility in order to indicate how not eating has weakened Sands, and there are even shots of birds flying up into a dark sky from bare winter trees as a means of signalling the approach of death. Subtle it ain’t! McQueen’s focus is exclusively on Sands, thereby obscuring the fact that it was broad communal ties that gave both him and his fellow prisoner’s – in total ten men died during the course of this particular hunger strike – the strength to see their actions through to their logical conclusion.
This movie reminded me of a whole host of other Brit films and TV dramas that I’ve always hated for their luvvie-style staging: Scum, Made In Britain, Meantime, Scrubbers etc.  McQueen makes his snore-fest slightly more ‘arty’ but it is nonetheless unrepentantly middle-brow: thus the H-block setting is used extensively but not exclusively, resulting in the movie feeling a little claustrophobic but not intensely enough to alienate you average bourgeois fuck-wit. Since McQueen singularly fails to deal with the political dimensions of the H-block protests, this messy and surprisingly bland film is ultimately no more than a disposable – albeit exploitative – piece of fluff.
And while you’re at it don’t forget to check – – you know it makes (no) sense!


Comment by Russ Meyer on 2009-02-13 10:16:15 +0000

Personally I prefer a movie with campy humor, sly satire and actresses who’ve got huge knockers.

Comment by The Digital Julie Driscoll on 2009-02-13 11:39:09 +0000

For me the Belfast movie that is crying out to be made is one about Van The Man and his early days with his band Them!

Comment by John Lee Hooker on 2009-02-13 13:43:38 +0000

Homes, that’s a holla and when Van Morrison formed an R&B club with the entrepreneurs Jimmy Conlon, Jerry McKenna and Gerry McCurvey (known as the “3Js”) at the Maritime Hotel in April 1964, he gave notice to the Golden Eagles, the group with which he performed at the time. This left him without a group. With an anticipated opening night for the new R&B club approaching, he embarked on a mission to find his ideal line-up. He had recently been introduced to The Gamblers, a Belfast East group formed by Ronnie Millings, Billy Harrison, and Alan Henderson in 1962. Still a schoolboy, Eric Wrixon had been recruited as piano player and keyboardist. Morrison soon joined up with this group playing saxophone and harmonica and sharing vocals with Billy Harrison. The group rehearsed together in a room over a bicycle shop in preparation for their debut at the Maritime. Deciding the group now needed a new name, they followed Eric Wrixon’s suggestion, and The Gamblers morphed into Them after the 1954 sci-fi horror film.
Plus there were loads of girls with big knockers so maybe Russ could direct this biopic???

Comment by Klaus on 2009-02-13 17:29:55 +0000

Wie langweilig es war! Todlich langweilig! Er ist schrecklich langweilig!

Comment by The Inauthentic Dennis Hopper on 2009-02-13 18:12:18 +0000

By way of comparison Steve McQueen’s efforts make “Reefer Madness” look like the 1959 “Ben Hur” with Charlton Heston. Maybe he should have spent more time watching “The Last Movie” before making “Hunger”!

Comment by Rip Van Winkle on 2009-02-13 18:55:10 +0000

What, what? Is the film over? I must have slept through it! Guess it must have been a total snore fest!

Comment by Msmarmitelover on 2009-02-13 18:58:06 +0000

Fraid I have to disagree. I thought it was beautifully made, a painter’s film.
My only disappointment was the end. After the quiet pale slow starvation I felt that McQueen should have shown the reactions to Sands death. I remember it well, the riots in Glasgow as well as in Ireland.
Made in Britain is one of my favourite films too, when Tim Roth was so cool.

Comment by mistertrippy on 2009-02-13 19:02:47 +0000

Oh well, we’ll just have to agree to disagree on the film as entertainment, but I think the removal of a proper political dimension from the film is really really bad. To me this is more like Hollywood than a painter’s film My idea of a painter’s film is more like the early Warhol stuff when he was operating the camera, or the work of John Latham and Jeff Keen in the UK in the sixties when there were hardly any underground film-makers here…

Comment by Don & Phil Everly on 2009-02-13 20:29:50 +0000

Wake up little Susie, wake up!

Comment by Díre McCain on 2009-02-14 00:04:35 +0000

And there are flesh-eating fembots on Skype too! Who knew? Like an idiot, I forgot to disconnect yesterday, after a three-way with Kelso and Darius, and five minutes ago, the following message (from “. woman sexy”) popped up on my screen…
Salut je me sent un peu seul a la maison j’ai envie de parler a quelqu’un as tu 5 min?
Woo hoo!

Comment by Díre McCain on 2009-02-14 00:06:31 +0000

P.S. Haven’t seen the film, but I’m not terribly fond of the “other” Steve McQueen…

Comment by Jeff Keen on 2009-02-14 14:48:08 +0000

Hey Steve McQueen was great in ‘Bullitt’ but I’m more interested in the mention of my own work which is being screened next Wednesday at the BFI with an introduction by Michael K…I mean..Stewart Home.

Comment by John Latham on 2009-02-14 14:52:14 +0000

Hey Jeff…not to be outdone with the plugs, don’t forget that Stewart…I mean…Michael…I mean sploshing…is curating a night programmed around a re-enactment of my play without words “Romeo & Juliet”. Please note, this is curated by Michael K…I mean….Tony White, he will NOT be participating in the performances.

Comment by Díre McCain on 2009-02-14 16:21:05 +0000

I was referring to Steve McQueen the Gagauzian bridge salesman…

Comment by klhlhlhk on 2009-02-14 16:22:02 +0000

not too keen on “made in britain” but “made in england” is proper racist filth – at least 3 racist monologues in that film – steer clear of that shit 4 sure

Comment by klhlhlhk on 2009-02-14 16:24:22 +0000

and the mad thing with that film is that people dont even think its racist – they say oh its critical oh its showing the reality – just goes to show how racist this society is and yet thinks its not. its like clockwork orange and all that violence againt women in holywood and all taht – its just nasty man – burn it all

Comment by klhlhlhk on 2009-02-14 16:26:44 +0000

i think thats the real shit with films like “made in britain” or “scum” they are anti working class – by default they push ‘enlightened’ middle class values – by not giving voice to working class values and power – fuck em all comrades

Comment by klhlhlhk on 2009-02-14 16:33:33 +0000


Comment by Michael K on 2009-02-14 16:51:06 +0000

I dont watch many British films (in fact attach the word ‘British’ to anything whatsoever and I see The Daily Mail) but the thing about fetishising ‘working class values’ (whatever the fuck they are…can anybody remind me?) is that you’re either mid-identifying the massive with some ‘notional’ representative body OR you’re blindly ascribing nobility to what, in practice amounts to fuckwitted consumerdom OR you’re pursuing an agenda which seeks (ineffectively to date) to mobilise a notional ‘massive’ in terms of their non-managerial status at the workplace.
Actually, the power lies with the point of sale. If you’re buying it, it’s there not because they’re selling it but because you’re buying it.
The revolution has already been upon us for some time and it wasn’t built by no committee but by the underground workers with REAL class.
Watch and learn…..

Comment by klhlhlhk on 2009-02-14 17:28:43 +0000

thats some of them values tight there – but theres more 4sure

Comment by klhlhlhk on 2009-02-14 17:45:41 +0000

working class values is whatever creates a class of people as the workers – its created (as a multi-schizo creation/production of self as class and vice versa – ie a dialectic of individual and class ) through principles like: never sleep alone, never eat alone, never work alone – ie togetherness or human community – and comes about through opposition to slavery (enslavement by values or people)
so its not a matter of watch – or smell, touch, listen, feel) and learn but do (not as i do, or you do but a synthesised trajectory between them) … and learn …

Comment by 47 Weddings and a Funeral on 2009-02-14 19:07:17 +0000

Date: Wednesday, May 27, 2009 At 11:00 AM
Die-in at Northwood for NATO victims in Afghanistan
Northwood: A die-in for NATO’s victims in Afghanistan. Meet 11am,
outside Northwood tube station for a wedding procession to the gates of
the UK’s military nerve centre and NATO regional command. Wear symbolic wedding clothes.
The 27th May is the 2nd anniversary of a US attack on a wedding party at
Haji Nabu, in which 47 civilians were killed.
Action is organised by ad hoc group and supported by Voices in the
Wilderness UK, Justice not Vengeance and CND.
See contact details for more information.
Contact Info:
0845-458 2564

Comment by Michael K on 2009-02-15 08:19:44 +0000

Yeah, K…..’do and learn’ is much better and ‘what it is’ too 😉

Comment by Carmen Electra on 2009-02-15 21:11:16 +0000

My Name is Prince and I am funky

Comment by howling wizard, shrieking toad on 2009-02-16 12:49:34 +0000

Comment by P. O’Neil on 2009-02-18 11:19:06 +0000

I really felt I had to say something about this. Personally I am sick to the back teeth of films, artworks et al made about Northern Ireland by people who did not grow up in the middle of the political situation. The representation of the Troubles – as they are understood by those outside northern ireland – is largely a media manipulation of a very complex but still graspable political/military situation. The Troubles was fueled not only by paramilitaries but also by members of the British and Irish security forces operating beyond the confines of the law in Northern Ireland. Anyone who doubts this should visit the policing ombudsman of Northern Ireland’s web site and download and read the lengthy report into the death of Raymond McCord Junior. It seems to me that the Troubles were kept going by these factions at the expense of the well being Northern Irish population. Now that we have some form of social stability people like Mcqueen – a war artist – are putting the final icing on the cake in the form of a veneer of romanticisation in an attempt to mask the harsh political realities of 40 year of violence. In short, this is more propaganda and should be treated as such. When will we see the Troubles represented through the lens of the gaze of Northern Irish eyes. Now that would be an eye opener for some.

Comment by joe herbert on 2009-06-13 11:44:47 +0000

You speak crap mate. Your thoughts on HUNGER is lousy and says nothing…. If you think that this is on par with stupid films such as SCUM- your needing to do more CRACK! j

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