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Film tip this week: Bait, intriguing black-and-white debut gets Dutch online stage at Cineville

Is black and white in film making a small comeback? You'd almost think so. From the critically acclaimed Parasite a black-and-white version was released. Many film fans, meanwhile, also enjoyed the bizarre but impressive The Lighthouse, in which black and white helps lift the drama above reality.

Now then Bait. Shot by Brit Mark Jenkin even with an antique Bolex 16mm camera, on gritty black-and-white film where scratches and other damage have not been polished away. Thus, he not only pays tribute to a lost way of filming, but gives this drama about a former fishing village that has become a tourist destination a special charge.

Brooding stubbornness

Among its inaugural awards is the British BAFTA Award for best debut. After premiering last year at the Berlinale, Bait established itself as a minor festival hit, but did not make it beyond a few occasional screenings in the Netherlands. Those who have become curious can now visit Cineville. Bait is not subtitled here, but that won't be a major drawback. To enhance the film experience, Cineville has also recently started organising a weekly so-called Viewing Party. Film with live aftertalk with the maker. On Tuesday night, then, we will see what the Cornish-born Jenkins has to say about his simultaneously topical and timeless experiment Bait has to say.

Bait is set on the Cornish coast, where Martin (Edward Rowe) tries to insist with gruff stubbornness that he is a fisherman. A fisherman without a boat. That's because his brother Steven (Giles King) uses it to entertain bored-looking tourists from London with short 30-minute trips. Meanwhile, Martin repairs the nets he throws into the water from the shore to catch a few sea bass or hopefully lobsters. Which he manages to sell off to newcomers at exorbitant prices. 'Boat', it says on the rusty tin in which he collects the notes of 10 pounds and more. His cousin is happy to help him. Yet he is also not insensitive to a girl who is one of the tenants of Martin's old house.

Power of image

Enough material for explosive developments, but at least as convincing is the evocative way Jenkin portrays the subcutaneous tension between those two worlds. Lots of close-ups, extremely concise dialogue and evocative parallel montages in which, for instance, wine glasses contrast with fish heads. It all helps to give a contemporary theme around tradition and imposed change a universal character as well.

At first glance, the subject matter is a fairly obvious representative of familiar British social realism. Nostalgia seems to be an important keyword, which can apply to both the story and the film style. But we soon see that Jenkin is not romanticising anything, rather showing the wry side. And the images and style may evoke memories of cinema of yesteryear, but he also knows how to apply its power effectively. So that Bait feels at once old-fashioned and new, classic and contemporary.

The intriguing thing is that with Jenkin too, the choice of a sometimes almost primitive black and white gives the realism a kind of depth. As if you are drawn into the experience of the characters in an oppressive way. Black and white makes it more intense. And whether, as I suspect, he was inspired by the masters of, say, a hundred years ago, we will hopefully find out on Tuesday night.

Good to know Good to know
Bait is available to Cineville pass holders online at Vitamin Cineville. The Viewing Party is on Tuesday 7 April. Walk-in at 20:00, film 20:15, Q&A with Mark Jenkin at 22:00. Before that, go to at.cineville.co.uk/ytlive2 or at.cineville.co.uk/fblive

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Wijbrand Schaap

Cultural journalist since 1996. Worked as theatre critic, columnist and reporter for Algemeen Dagblad, Utrechts Nieuwsblad, Rotterdams Dagblad, Parool and regional newspapers through Associated Press Services. Interviews for TheaterMaker, Theatererkrant Magazine, Ons Erfdeel, Boekman. Podcast maker, likes to experiment with new media. Culture Press is called the brainchild I gave birth to in 2009. Life partner of Suzanne Brink roommate of Edje, Fonzie and Rufus. Search and find me on Mastodon.View Author posts

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