Let Fury Have The Hour is the filmic companion to the identically named book that was published earlier this year by the film’s director Antonino D’Ambrosio. Having previously directed several shorts, this is his first attempt at feature length documentary. An attempt that has received mixed reviews since the film’s premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival in April, Rosemarie Hugill reports.
Let Fury Have The Hour is an investigation of, or more precisely an ode to protest art and art as a social platform and instigator of change, focusing mainly on the 1980’s during and after the rise of Thatcherism and Reaganism. The film’s content mostly consists of an array of well-edited interviews with a mixture of intriguing and eloquent artists, musicians, poets, writers and activists who share their views on the role that art has played in society. Among these are Billy Bragg, Eve Ensler, John Sayles, Shepard Fairey, Staceyann Chin, Chuck D., Lewis Black, and Ian MacKaye (to name but a few).
Even though more than fifty voices can be heard the interviews have been edited so precisely (sometimes the interviewees are even cut off in mid sentence and then finished off by another), that it almost seems as though we are listening to one main voice; presumably that of the director. Although the content of what is being said is of interest, this does cause the film to have a certain flatness and lack of colour, which might leave the viewer begging for an antagonistic voice amongst all the yea-sayers.
By the end the film’s ‘message’ is loud and clear, yet the first half of the film may be slightly disorientating in its lack of clear focus. The film opens with a poetic monologue of artists talking about art and society and then promptly dives into a history of the post-war New Deal era, the American Dream and consumerism, which is followed by a large jump to Thatcherism and Reaganism. This sudden ‘disappearance’ of a few decades might confuse the viewer as to what exactly the main theme of the piece will be. Only about half way through does the film start to steer in a clearer direction, but still there seem to be several slightly random detours, which are both disorientating, because they don’t seem to properly fit within the overall narrative structure, and dissatisfying, as some of these branch-offs, though perhaps not clearly relevant, do have weighty subjects which can’t just be skimmed over quickly. An example of this is when the Women’s Rights movement is highlighted and discussed for about a minute after which it is never mentioned again, even though several of the interviewees are feminists. A subject like this either needs to be taken on board wholeheartedly and properly interwoven into the fabric of the narrative, or it is better omitted; skimming over it like this somehow seems disrespectful.
It is intriguing to see such a diversity of artists speak out about the world of art and the film is therefore an interesting historical and humanitarian presentation. Even though documentaries that focus on history can of course be highly interesting it would have been intriguing if a clearer link to the current day had been made. Many of the film’s artists have already had there ‘heyday’ and were mostly speaking retrospectively. Art it a timeless and ever changing phenomenon, therefore a discussion of current artistic societal movements (or even lack thereof) may have brought this documentary more into the 21st century. The omission of this feels like a wasted opportunity.
One other small but visually important note is on the use of archive footage, which, next to the interviews, formed the content of the film. Even though the footage shown was mostly relevant and interesting, it was projected near constantly in the wrong aspect ratio. Footage therefore took on either a strange squished or stretched dimension. A contextual reason for this is difficult to find, so it seems as if the makers just didn’t ‘bother’ to resize the archive footage properly. This is a rather incomprehensible choice as not only does this just not look ‘good’ but this also might have an adverse effect on viewer involvement as this kind of visual distortion can put up a barrier between the viewer and image, limiting emotional connection.
Even when only focusing on the last century, ‘art’ is an enormous subject to try and somehow distill into a 90 minute film, especially when not concentrating on one art form but all art forms that have been involved in creative response. Add to the pile several branch-off themes such as skateboarding culture and suddenly the subject matter has become a mountain to climb. When you reach the top however, the sense of achievement is somewhat diminished by the sense of disorientation. It’s an admirable challenge that the director set himself but the result may have been slightly more successful if he had kept his subject matter slightly more compact.
Let Fury Have The Hour has promising content but seems to lack a certain sparkle and in parts even verges on monotonous, which, as film about the awakening and inspirational power of art, is both slightly ironic and disappointing.