Glasgow, summer, 1973. Dustmen are striking; bags of garbage add to the blight of council flats and a fetid canal. Ryan, who's about 12, drowns during a play fight with his neighbor, the jug-eared James. James runs home, a flat where he lives with his often-drunk da, his ma, and sisters, who live in hope of moving to newly-built council flats. The slice-of-life, coming-of-age story follows James as he tags along with the older lads; has a friendship with his quirky wee rodent-loving neighbor, Kenny; spends time with Margaret Anne, myopic, slightly older, the local sexual punching bag; and, has a moment or two of joy. The strike may end, but is there any way out for James?Written by
Performed by The Chordettes
Written by Beverly Ross (uncredited) and Julius E. Dixson Sr. (uncredited)
Courtesy of Barnaby Records, Inc.
By Arrangement with Celebrity Licensing Inc.
1958 Edward B Marks Music Company Copyright renewed
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"Ratcatcher" is a fairly auspicious debut for a young director. Lynne Ramsay has a powerful command of the visual aspects of filmmaking (dare I say it approaching the poetic images of Tarkovsky) but her narrative authority is a lot less notable. This is a film in the manner of "Kes" but without the true humanity that that film had in spades. "Kes" is a masterpiece of social-realist humanism because the element of hope is never obvious but is always apparent; I think "Rosetta" is similar in this regard, too. But in recent Scottish cinema, in particular, there seems to be a masochist pleasure in dwelling on representing the worst kinds of poverty and despair, merely to serve a sensationalist agenda. In this respect I'm referring to films like "Small Faces", "Stella Does Tricks" and to a lesser degree "Trainspotting" (a film with other benefits overshadowing its gleeful focus on abject misery). This is an aspect of "Ratcatcher" which soon becomes wearying through the constancy of its emphasis the images of garbage, vermin, filth and indigence becomes all consuming. But with that said, Ramsay's aesthetic approach is always interesting and at times incredibly poetic and beautiful. Some scenes of whimsical fantasy may seem laboured but they do lighten the load of the film's relentless social-realist agenda.
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