Bait

****1/2

Reviewed by: Andrew Robertson

Bait
"Bait looks, sounds, feels amazing."

In a small Cornish fishing village there is conflict. Waitrose bags and bubbly in the fridge door, white plastic carriers holding fish to door handle. Range Rovers and P Reg Vauxhaull pickups, flared sport package wheel arches and bumpers gapped and part patched with hand rivets and hope. Contrast not just from hand-processed black and white 16mm, but in space and place and food.

Bait looks, sounds, feels amazing. It is an exercise in cinematic nostalgia, as if the French New Wave had suddenly washed over Cornwall. The shots are still and stilted, Bolex balance on faces that seem hewn from Shepperton central casting, clear eyes, dimpled chins, expressions so weary that one feels they are familiar even then they are not.

Copy picture

The cast are good. Their performances mannered, yes, but part of a constructed nature that becomes almost artlessness, but it is not, it's more than that, more special. It's not in the hipster haircut in the net loft, nor the whistle of cooking cruelty, it's not in a knotty high noon or the speed indicator that reads Scotstoun Glasgow another place left changed by the absence of industry. That and all of it is on Mark Jenkin. Writer, director, editor, cinematographer, processor of film.

Clear and striking framing, Cornish dialect, an accuracy of unflinching language that's not just muck but brassy, brash - how can one fail to love a line like "He's wasting his time. How she's going to suck his cock with that plum in her mouth?" There are overtones of class conflict, there are barriers in this community but no wall but Cornwall. There's drama, from implication, kitchen sinks, outhouses and lobster pots, the arrival of intermittent residents who know the price of everything and are the Cousteau of nothing. There's Brexit on the radio and the sign that says Skippers Cottage came after it wasn't. "You didn't have to sell," we hear. "Didn't we?". Some eat in what comes by diving, others from SPAR. Some cook-out at beachside barbecue, in other places it's the sauce that jars.

It's an astonishing work. The mix of the new and the nostalgic is as delicate a synthesis as actual film chemistry. There's an argument that Doctor Who could only have come from Britain, London especially, because you can open a door and see something from another century and turn the corner and see something from the next. As a frequent visitor to melancholic seasides this proximity of old and new to ageless and everchanging is in and of itself as Proustian a prompt as the salt air.

I was reminded of Hell Drivers, some sixty years older than this, of the 400 Blows that's perhaps as many days more recent. I was reminded of lots of things, not least by the film's structure as it moves itself back and forth in time, in places known and knowing one's place. There are the reversals of fortune that mean that estate and dockside are one above t'other, but there's more, and more, and more. Detail and execution near perfectly constrained, from footsteps and diesel and an absence of position and time that's still perfectly a seasonal place, a turning tide, a trap to be lost in. Bait is more than worth catching.

Reviewed on: 21 Jun 2019
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Bait packshot
Martin is a cove fisherman whose brother has started using their father’s boat to shuttle tourists, soon causing latent familial tensions to explode.

Festivals:

NDNF 2019
EIFF 2019

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