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With the exception of Julian Schnabel, visual artists have had a tough time at the cinema, but like the American painter before him, Britain's Steve McQueen beat the odds with the award-winningHunger. In his visceral depiction of a political hunger strike, McQueen emphasizes specific moments over plot mechanics. Guard Raymond Lohan (Stuart Graham) serves as a guide into the hell of Belfast's Maze Prison, circa 1981, where Bobby Sands (Michael Fassbender in a remarkable performance) and his IRA brethren hunker down in blankets, since they refuse to don uniforms and can't wear their own clothes. They dump food on the floor, smear waste on the walls, and sleep with maggots in protest against their conditions. Even after moving the prisoners, the mistreatment continues, so they step up their campaign. It's no way to live, and it isn't easy to watch, but McQueen provides a reprieve through Sands's riveting conversation with Father Dominic Moran (Liam Cunningham), a scene his backers pressured him to cut, but the filmmaker wisely stood firm In his director's statement, McQueen says he wanted to "show what it was like to see, hear, smell, and touch in the H-Block." Because he avoids editorializing, it's as easy to condemn his subjects for their naïve idealism as it is to admire their singularity of purpose. Art background aside, McQueen clearly knows his U.K. film history, and appears to have spent time with the works of Alan Clarke (specificallyElephant) and Stanley Kubrick ...
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Director: Steve McQueen
DVD Release Date: February 16, 2010
Runtime: 96 minutes
Studio: Criterion Collection
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