'What's the Story' (2013) Directed by Paco Torres
Paco Torres. You may not have heard the name before, but one day, I guarantee, if you love movies - you will. This young Spanish filmmaker, now living and working in Dublin, has a new 'webcom' featuring a couple of hipster vamps; two blokes setting the world (and mainly Dublin, right?) to rights. It's called 'What's The Story'.
"What's the going rate for dignity these days?"
"Ahh, less than the minimum wage."
Johnner (Paul Butler Lennox) and Curtis (Tristan Heaune) hang around park playgrounds (places, they think, that are in enough of a sad decline to ensure even the local kids don't hang out in them anymore and disturb their debates!) discussing world recession, loss of community, local issues and the fact that Bono and Geldof are so busy saving the world, and urging us to donate to the likes of Live Aid, that they forget to speak out about Dublin and the problems that these two think the City faces. And so they get together to talk for those that know (or any that care) in that neck of the woods - less 'two chords and the truth' - more 'two fangs and the probable truth'.
"I've an idea, why don't they actually say something - anything - about their own country for a change?" they say, when talking about Bono and Geldof again.
These two men are like the local pub bores of old - the Steptoe and Son of Dublin City Centre; the hoodie version, with fashionably red-tinted eyes and curiously gnarled fingernails. But the vampire vibe isn't overplayed, these two wannabe do-righters waiting forever for Godot (or more likely - Bono) may just be regular blokes with stupid contact lenses in, and a lack of nail scissors (interestingly, only one of the two has men long, Nosferatu-ish nails, though they both have the requisite red eyes - a nice touch that may imply that vampires can have either good or bad personal hygiene too, or that these guys are just regular blokes after all, the fangs and the bleeding of a City, entirely symbolic).
The areas that Johnner and Curtis hang around in are built-up concrete-shaded corners of nowhere, maybe slightly rundown, but by God - this lilted landscape (as shot by Paco Torres) is achingly beautiful. All mythical greys, and blue tinted underpasses of residential concrete towers or cold, graffiti-autographed, broken playgrounds where the red eyes of the undead shine out as the sole beacon of quietly burning truth.
It's your truth too, maybe - and this series in an ongoing one, fuelled (in future episodes) by debate and rounding up of issues that fans of the series may want these two Guinness-scarred problem solvers to discuss, and do something about. While they moan about the likes of Bono and Geldof and discuss local issues that you probably have to live in the area to zone in on completely; their chit-chat rebellion and personal discord is universal. We feel it too, even if some of the time we start to wonder (as they do) what exactly it is they ARE talking about (diverted by such themes as the different ways of saying 'shit' out loud!). The things they want to discuss may be real for many or you may feel the problems don't exist, that everything's ok really - as you don't have to agree. You can, if you prefer, just watch and tut silently at these two (who may be as vitalised by that Bono-style pop star spirit to heal the world with one gob than they think, just not as often, and upon plenty of prompting). The blood flows in Johnner and Curtis, not from the necks of any victims (yet!), but from the artery of their lives; from the veins that make up their community and their home - it seeps just as easily from our necks too, as soon as they start talking. A sympathetic bleeding of sorts, perhaps. Either that or a bleeding ear from all their chat! Delete, as they say, as appropriate.
Don't worry - this isn't as pretentious as it may sound. The two vampire problem-solvers are everyman; every two men. Their chat is often broken up by bitching - about not interrupting when the other is speaking, about a fondness for booze and about the use of long words from Bono and Sir Bob (a lovely scene has one of the two come up with an especially impressive long word suddenly, and laugh about doing so, having just moaned about popstar do-gooders using similar techniques to get the point across; "always using long words they are").
There's no real inverted snobbery here - Johnner and Curtis realise they, and their community, are as much a part of the problem as those that have the power to enforce change and revitalise the system because, right now, parts of it - of themselves - are dead. Whether everyone living in the area would agree or not is beside the point - these two feel it, for whatever reason, and want to do something. So what do they do? They hang around outside Dublin City Hall with a placard telling passers-by "WE ARE CONFUSED". And when the authorities come calling, you hear the words: "What's the story?" as their only defence. No, Johnner and Curtis don't have the answers, they probably - half the time - don't even know what the question or problem is. But you can bet your life (or lack of one) they will try and fix whatever problems or red-eyed ranting you wish them to - in their own languid, passionate (when the pubs aren't open - and hey, that's also one of their concerns; that pubs are so often empty these days!) way.
"Let's do something about it. Go to the Governance. Act the bollocks with THEM. Tell THEM who's boss. Take THEM...down to Chinatown."
"Though having said that they do have some awful nice restaurants opened up down their now. Some of them you can even take your own food in."
'What's the Story' is stuffed with witty, bitchy, heartaching dialogue that feels wonderfully improvised, even when it probably isn't.
Paco Torres has already proved himself as a director to keep up with. Recent short films include 'Halowin' (a trip out to a Halloween party with a car full of youngsters out for a good time zones-out on violence, drug-dealing gone wrong and a gun to the head in a pithy, bitter and stylish film that showcases a director with a sense of doom and stylish, pitch perfect agony). 'Halowin' was selected for Lars Von Triers's 'Gesamt' project collecting short works under similar themes of narrative and construction.
There's even more agony and heartbreak in his even better short film (that I also consider among the best I've ever seen, by any director) - the multi-film festival award-winning 'The Rattle of Benghazi' in which two children play with guns in the woods around this war-torn Libyan city. There's a tragic consequence of course, cleverly, unexpectedly conveyed with quiet sadness, with sweetly bitter tears. I've never seen a short film that left such a scar of impact on me emotionally - I urge you to seek out 'The Battle of Benghazi' and relish film-making as more than just work; as a way to understand life (and death), and kickstart your emotions, should they be ever so slightly stagnating.
The next big Torres project is the feature length 'Blue Guitar' that has been co-written with Johnny (Gangster No.1) Ferguson. For now, the web series 'What's the Story' is a smart and witty, engaging diversion that Torres describes as being: "made with a zero budget, it's part of a new wave of filming exploring difficult yet important subject matters" and "an interactive project informed by the reaction of the viewer. The viewer will contribute to the direction of the show and we will endeavor to 'give the people what they want' in terms of what they'd like to see and share around their social media".
OK, so if you have any ideas for what you'd like to see these two grumpy vampire chaps talk about in future episodes - get commenting online! 'What's the Story' was "shot in a day and went online within a week" so future news won't go stale at the point of impact - it's a project truly for, and by, the people. You don't have to be a vampire to take part, but it may help. One of the two men is from Dublin, the other from Galway. It provides a close, sometimes prickly, always agreeable mix in the chatter, and the streets of Dublin, glistening with rain, hued in blue and bright grey sky, never looked more beautiful - and from such a wonderful, historic city of passion and culture, that's no small achievement.
Here's the link, remember to pack the garlic! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CuP6ZsUSVI0
words: mark gordon palmer