The cin­e­matic Bait you have to take

The Dominion Post - - Front Page -


(M, 89 mins) Di­rected by Mark Jenkin Re­viewed by Graeme Tuck­ett


It’s hardly a bonus of Covid-19, but with very few films be­ing made avail­able for cin­e­mas to show, there are un­ex­pected treats find­ing space on the big screen that might oth­er­wise have gone undis­tributed and un­re­marked.

So, as well as wel­come re­peat runs for Par­a­site, Knives Out, Jojo Rab­bit, Dark Wa­ters, and a few other gems from ear­lier in the year, we can also make room for Bait, which is likely to be about as po­lar­is­ing and net­tle­some as any­thing you have seen, out­side of the fur­thest reaches of a film fes­ti­val.

The story of Bait is straight­for­ward enough. We are in Corn­wall, on the south­west coast of the Bri­tish Isles, some decades ago.

Al­ready there is ten­sion be­tween the lo­cal fish­ing com­mu­nity and the cashed-up new­com­ers from the city, hop­ing to buy into the myth of the ‘‘quaint vil­lage’’, with all its charm­ing and ec­cen­tric lo­cals only too happy to wel­come them and their money.

Ten­sions flare soon enough, be­tween fish­er­man Martin Ward and the newly ar­rived Leigh fam­ily, who have bought the old Ward fam­ily home as a week­end re­treat.

Martin is al­ready feud­ing with his brother, Stephen, who re­fuses to let him use their late dad’s fish­ing boat for the pur­pose it was built and is in­stead mak­ing a liv­ing tak­ing tourists on day trips around the har­bour.

Put like that, Bait sounds like a sim­ple and un­re­mark­able thing. Tem­pers will be lost and hope­fully found again. Blood might even be spilled. This much we have seen be­fore.

But, trust me, you have never seen a film quite like Bait.

Film-maker Mark Jenkin is a unique voice. He has no in­ter­est in the cliches of this much mis­un­der­stood area.

His char­ac­ters are gruff, in­su­lar, sus­pi­cious of strangers, and fe­ro­ciously loyal to fam­ily, scratch­ing out a liv­ing in this jagged, salt-crusted and as­ton­ish­ingly beau­ti­ful cor­ner of the is­land.

To plant the roots of Bait au­then­ti­cally in this place and time, Jenkin has shot the film (on film) on a vin­tage Bolex hand­wound cam­era. He then de­vel­oped the stock at home, edited it to­gether into a sparse but en­gross­ing whole, and then recorded all di­a­logue and sound sep­a­rately.

Just as a film-maker work­ing in the early 1970s would have.

On the screen, Bait isn’t just a film about a time and a place. With his meth­ods and his equip­ment, Jenkin has opened a fis­sure to the past and made Bait as a vir­tual arte­fact of an­other age. Short of find­ing this film in­tact in an archive or a time-cap­sule, Bait could not be more real.

When they’re next hand­ing out the awards for ‘‘Best Spe­cial Ef­fects’’, I’ll be think­ing of Bait. Its en­tire ex­is­tence is a gor­geous spe­cial ef­fect.

As with Pablo Lar­rain’s No (2012) and Haskell Wexler’s

(1969), the medium is an in­te­gral part of the mes­sage.

is an ele­giac piece of work. Like a sculp­ture that we can­not eas­ily turn away from, its form might be sim­ple enough, but the craft and thought that have gone into its con­struc­tion are the stuff of ge­nius.

There might not be a big-screen film fes­ti­val this year, but at least we have this.

Film-maker Mark Jenkin is a unique voice. He has no in­ter­est in the cliches of this much mis­un­der­stood area.

Bait be­gins screen­ing in se­lect cin­e­mas on May 21.

Bait isa vir­tual arte­fact of an­other age.

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