906 I, Daniel Blake

Discuss DVDs and Blu-rays released by Criterion and the films on them. If it's got a spine number, it's in here. Threads may contain spoilers.
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swo17
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906 I, Daniel Blake

#1 Post by swo17 » Mon Oct 16, 2017 5:31 pm

I, Daniel Blake

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An urgent response to the political realities of contemporary Britain, this bracing drama from celebrated filmmaker Ken Loach takes a hard look at bureaucratic injustice and ineptitude through the eyes of an unassuming working-class hero. After a heart attack leaves him unable to hold a job, the widowed carpenter Daniel Blake (Dave Johns) begins a long, lonely journey through the Kafka-esque labyrinth of the local welfare state. Along the way, he strikes up a friendship with a single mother (Hayley Squires) and her two children, at the mercy of the same system after being evicted from their home. Imbued with gentle humor and quiet rage and conceived for maximum real-world impact, the Palme d'Or–winning I, Daniel Blake is a testament to Loach's tireless commitment to a cinema of social engagement.

DIRECTOR-APPROVED EDITION:

• New high-definition digital master, supervised by director Ken Loach, with 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray
• Audio commentary from 2016 featuring Loach and screenwriter Paul Laverty
How to Make a Ken Loach Film, a 2016 documentary on the production of I, Daniel Blake, featuring interviews with Loach, Laverty, actors Dave Johns and Hayley Squires, director of photography Robbie Ryan, producer Rebecca O'Brien, and casting director Kahleen Crawford
Versus: The Life and Films of Ken Loach, a 93-minute documentary from 2016, directed by Louise Osmond
• Deleted scenes
• Trailer
• PLUS: An essay by critic Girish Shambu

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Re: 906 I, Daniel Blake

#2 Post by swo17 » Mon Oct 16, 2017 5:55 pm

OK guys, once the Palme winners start to become boring, let's release all of them...

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Re: 906 I, Daniel Blake

#3 Post by Apperson » Mon Oct 16, 2017 6:17 pm

It's interesting to watch the muted response for American film critics in comparison to the rapturous response the film has gotten here in the U.K.

I have not seen it, but for better or worse it appears utterly specific in it's social critique, which helps it engage in the national debate whilst alienating those not living here.

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Re: 906 I, Daniel Blake

#4 Post by Michael Kerpan » Mon Oct 16, 2017 7:09 pm

I liked it a lot (but, then again, I live in New England). ;-)

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Re: 906 I, Daniel Blake

#5 Post by D50 » Mon Oct 16, 2017 8:46 pm

I've been wanting to see this at the theater for months now - so having a Criterion release works for me.

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Re: 906 I, Daniel Blake

#6 Post by rossen » Mon Oct 16, 2017 9:44 pm

Yes, it's boring and mundane, just like life itself.

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Re: 906 I, Daniel Blake

#7 Post by colinr0380 » Tue Oct 17, 2017 4:24 am

Great to see Versus on there. Wasn't that career retrospective film released separately theatrically in the UK?

Embarrassingly I haven't picked up I, Daniel Blake as yet, so this should be my first experience of the film and I don't yet know if any of the following is specifically dealt with in the film, but dealing with the welfare state hits me a bit too hard, as the couple of times I signed on was a dispiriting experience of bureaucracy trumping any attempts to find suitable work. You'd have to apply for a certain number of jobs a week to guarantee your £55 weekly Job Seeker's Allowance but I found, especially living in a semi-rural area, that the lack of suitable jobs just led to having to spam every local business with your CV to meet your weekly quota, something that was dispiriting as a job seeker (the number of times I applied for that Magician's Assistant post was sadly many!) and I can only assume frustrating for businesses looking for suitable applicants too!

This is all my amateur speculation but I also had the suspicion that there was a bit of semantic 'reorganisation' going on behind the scenes too. The big psychological barrier for the UK media and politicians is if the unemployment rate gets over 3 million (as it had back in the 1980s), and I remember during my mercifully brief unemployment experiences in the early and then again in the mid-2000s the beginnings of the change in terminology from unemployment benefit to the "Job Seeker's Allowance" which was regularly reviewed and stopped after six months or so. I think this became what the unemployment figures were calculated on, so it seemed to artificially keep the official unemployed figures down as once you dropped out after the six months and were not receiving the allowance any more you could be classified as some other statistic. Or there would be the idea that you'd drop out, wait the period before being able to sign on again and then re-apply as a new job seeker, so there would be a constant churn in the numbers and it would be easy to point to the number constantly dropping, even if that might not have been because people were actually getting employment and more just coming to the end of their claim period! This all suggested to me the wider and wider detachment between the figures and the reality of the situation, as well as where the bureaucracy's interests truly lie - in the figure, not the people the figures represent.

The other reason for dropping out of the system could also be because you had been put onto another benefit, such as disability, which was not quite as politically sensitive at the time, but has become a massive issue over the last decade or so with the government, in the wake of lots of newspaper stories and sensationalist TV series about generations of families living entirely on benefits (Channel 4 jumped on this area massively with the Shameless TV series and the reality show Benefits Street being the major examples) seemingly intentionally riling up Middle England voters, inspiring the introduction of the "Universal Credit", which rolls every specific benefit into one payment.

So I think the government changed the terminology to keep the unemployment figures artificially low, only to have it cause knock on problems elsewhere as a 'casualised employment' system operating outside of 'legitimate' employment grew up, everything from (untaxed of course) cash in hand jobs through to the more obviously exploitative uses of immigrant labour. Though once something like that happens, it is massively damaging to pull back on it, at least without significant damage to individuals trapped in the system that is constantly moving the goalposts around them (There was also the issue that during the period of New Labour it seemed that the benefits were almost being normalised and expected that every person should have a few 'top ups' to their income to supplement keeping actual wages low - something which seemed monstrous short-termism even at the time but which passed without much comment, and it seemed that everyone from your classic Benefit Street stereotypes using their child benefit for booze and cigarettes through to upper-middle class families claiming top ups to the childcare costs of their nannies internalised that over the 2000s. And this is something the current Conservative government is problematically trying to roll back on with this "Universal Credit" benefits reorganisation. Though it seems to take the form of cutting benefits without reorganising stagnant wage levels for much of the working class population at the same time). This aspect in itself is starting to have its own knock on development of causing certain areas of society to call for a move to a 'cashless' society, to prevent any 'unauthorised' and 'untrackable' exchanges of goods and services and prevent a underground economy from operating, again dealing with the symptom rather than the cause of the situation in the first place.

That Universal Credit (which is still in the process of getting rolled out) was intended to 'simplify' the process for everyone involved, as well as deal with this issue of bureaucratic departments not talking to each other and claimants exploiting that lack of communication, but it has seemed to have also led to seriously disabled people in particular having a lot of problems, having been thrown into the same system as 'job seekers' now and forced to be regularly assessed on their fitness to work on a much more stringent basis (I kind of think of it like the attitude to organ donation being gradually changed surreptitiously to one of 'implied consent', only in this case its implied that you are fit to work unless assessed otherwise for a brief period!). And of course people with mental health disabilities have an even tougher time 'proving' their fitness or otherwise for employment, because that is even less visible to assessors.
Last edited by colinr0380 on Wed Dec 13, 2017 4:41 am, edited 3 times in total.

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Re: 906 I, Daniel Blake

#8 Post by Sloper » Tue Oct 17, 2017 4:47 am

Boring? It's a hilarious comedy about benefits scroungers getting their comeuppance.

I really like Dheepan as well, so perhaps I'm not to be trusted, but I thought this was great.

As a piece of film-making it's very un-showy and unassuming: it's not meant to be a showcase for great cinematography or great acting (as some of Ken Loach's films are, at least in part). It just takes the conservative pieties and de-humanising rhetoric we're all so used to hearing from politicians and the media (and not just in relation to benefit claimants and the disabled), and shows what this bullshit actually means for individuals, in a very straightforward, powerful, and - judging from reactions to the film in the UK, and what Colin as just posted - authentic way. And contrary to what Iain Duncan Smith and others have said about the film demonising job centre employees (typical obfuscating 'support the troops' rhetoric), the film shows very clearly how the humiliations to which Blake is subjected are a consequence, not of a few evil low-level office workers, but of the pressures to which those workers are themselves subjected by the state.

There was a conversation on this forum a while ago about the sentimentality of Loach's collaborations with Paul Laverty, in contrast to earlier films like Ladybird, Ladybird. Yes, Daniel and Katie are less complex and morally ambiguous than Maggie and Jorge, but I don't think the film idealises them as such. A key part of Ladybird, Ladybird was showing how victims of abuse internalise blame and start living up to the labels that are put on them, perpetuating the cycles they are trapped in - especially when the authorities refuse to look past those labels. I, Daniel Blake makes similar points in a different context, by showing how the characters alternately rebel against systemic injustice and try to play along with it in order to survive.

I think it's clear enough that Daniel and Katie are imperfect, flawed people, capable of doing petty or stupid things, but it would dilute the message of the film if those flaws were given particular emphasis. Does that mean the potential for three-dimensional characterisation is stifled for the sake of that message? Sure, but so what - it's an important enough message, delivered with enormous dramatic power. Which is to say that I cried like a baby. Nor do I think the film is appealing to armchair socialists who like to weep over the suffering of people they would ordinarily cross the street to avoid. Loach's greatest strength as a storyteller (when he's on good form) is that he doesn't objectify his characters. If anyone watching this chooses to objectify and sentimentalise these people, I think that's a reflection on them rather than on the film.

And yes, good to see such substantial extra features - I think there's only been a barebones release of this up to now.

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Re: 906 I, Daniel Blake

#9 Post by TMDaines » Tue Oct 17, 2017 8:58 am

swo17 wrote:OK guys, once the Palme winners start to become boring, let's release all of them...
I'm going to disagree with you on this one too. Thought it was excellent. My wife cries at very few films, but did at this one. I did too.

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Re: 906 I, Daniel Blake

#10 Post by tenia » Tue Oct 17, 2017 10:05 am

I still have to watch this one but am afraid I might find it trying too much to make us pity the main characters by having them systematically stumbling into problematic situations (I'm saying this in an open manner, if the movie actually is more nuanced than that, I'm happy to learn about it).

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Re: 906 I, Daniel Blake

#11 Post by swo17 » Tue Oct 17, 2017 10:45 am

OK, I didn't mean "boring" in the sense that I failed to engage with these films. I liked Dheepan and actually haven't seen this one yet. It's been my impression though that these two films haven't really been received as particularly adventurous, fresh, or exciting, as the Palme sometimes signifies. (Tellingly, we had to create threads for both films, as they hadn't otherwise garnered much discussion.) Though I see now all of these fans coming out of the woodwork for the Loach, and I'm hopeful it will deliver.

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Re: 906 I, Daniel Blake

#12 Post by Michael Kerpan » Tue Oct 17, 2017 11:04 am

I saw this only on a little screen -- while flying. I welcome the opportunity to see it (more) properly.

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Re: 906 I, Daniel Blake

#13 Post by Sloper » Tue Oct 17, 2017 11:42 am

tenia wrote:I still have to watch this one but am afraid I might find it trying too much to make us pity the main characters by having them systematically stumbling into problematic situations (I'm saying this in an open manner, if the movie actually is more nuanced than that, I'm happy to learn about it).
It's annoying when a film puts its characters through a series of arbitrary trials, solely with the intent of making you pity them. This, I think, was another of Iain Duncan Smith's complaints about the film, that it lumps every possible misfortune into a single narrative and implies that this is what everyone goes through. However, I don't see the characters here as 'stumbling' into anything: the problems they encounter are systemic; these problems are ingrained in the environment Daniel and Katie inhabit and the culture of which they are a part, rather than just being random events. Indeed, one of the things I liked most about the film was how it largely avoided the cliché of the 'snowballing' misfortune, where bad luck leads to a mistake and more bad luck and then a bigger mistake, and so on and so on. The House of Mirth (which I love) is a good example of this kind of narrative. But here are a couple of illustrative examples from this film:
SpoilerShow
The titular graffiti incident is brilliantly anti-climactic: there's the rush of impulsive rebellion, the brief satisfaction this brings, then the inevitable crack-down from the authorities, and at this point you're expecting things to keep going from bad to worse; but instead we just see a resigned, philosophical Daniel listening to the (civil, professional, weary) police officers explaining the not-very-serious consequences of his actions. Similarly, when Katie shoplifts, the shop manager responds with pity and even generosity.
Like the ending of Bicycle Thieves, these moments enhance the poignancy of what we're seeing. The film doesn't conjure up a fantasy world of mindless, arbitrary, sadistic cruelty and despair - the fact that there are forces not working against these characters, or even forces that step in and try to help them, makes their predicament seem avoidable, and therefore more tragic.

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Re: 906 I, Daniel Blake

#14 Post by colinr0380 » Tue Oct 17, 2017 12:43 pm

I guess in the end everyone has their own (impossible) targets to meet, or else!

By the way, my favourite recent use of graffiti has to be the bait and switch opening sequence of the Maths episode of Look Around You, the show that satirised 1980s BBC Schools programmes!:
By the way, my favourite recent use of graffiti has to be the bait and switch opening sequence of Look Around You, the show that satirised 1980s BBC Schools programmes!

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Re: 906 I, Daniel Blake

#15 Post by alacal2 » Tue Oct 17, 2017 1:21 pm

Irrespective of how the film moves or doesn't move you on viewing I can confirm that everything about the benefits system portrayed is extremely accurate. I was a benefits adviser until retirement 3 years ago and the film brilliantly creates a real series of arbitrary trials that the social security system puts its claimants through. The actor who plays Daniel Blake is a non-professional and a stand-up comedian (in real life) who reacts with humour and genuine bewilderment at his circumstances. Loach can sometimes wear his heart a little too much on his sleeve but, as a jaundiced welfare rights worker I found the film a tough watch. There is a rightly-lauded scene in a food bank that I defy anyone not to be moved by.

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Re: 906 I, Daniel Blake

#16 Post by tenia » Tue Oct 17, 2017 2:37 pm

Sloper wrote:
tenia wrote:I still have to watch this one but am afraid I might find it trying too much to make us pity the main characters by having them systematically stumbling into problematic situations (I'm saying this in an open manner, if the movie actually is more nuanced than that, I'm happy to learn about it).
It's annoying when a film puts its characters through a series of arbitrary trials, solely with the intent of making you pity them. This, I think, was another of Iain Duncan Smith's complaints about the film, that it lumps every possible misfortune into a single narrative and implies that this is what everyone goes through. However, I don't see the characters here as 'stumbling' into anything: the problems they encounter are systemic; these problems are ingrained in the environment Daniel and Katie inhabit and the culture of which they are a part, rather than just being random events.
I meant "stumbling into" for the lack of a better word at the moment of the writing. What I meant is that some movies (or TV shows or made-for-TV movies for what it matters) sometimes unroll a crapload of bad situations on their characters which, while they can relate to some reality, really feel like it's just too much. At some point, it just feels unreal and just arbitrary bad situations that borders on cartoonish by the sheer effect of accumulation, no matter how accurate it can be.

I didn't mean it in a way of being unlucky or something, or at least that's not what I was focusing on.

But the latest posts here reassured me somehow that I might not be so much bothered by this effect, so I guess I should give it a spin.

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Re: 906 I, Daniel Blake

#17 Post by MichaelB » Tue Oct 17, 2017 3:06 pm

Sloper wrote:It's annoying when a film puts its characters through a series of arbitrary trials, solely with the intent of making you pity them. This, I think, was another of Iain Duncan Smith's complaints about the film, that it lumps every possible misfortune into a single narrative and implies that this is what everyone goes through.
Interestingly, this was the substance of the official complaint about the BBC version of Alan Clarke's Scum - while it was grudgingly acknowledged that every incident depicted was based on real events, the argument was that by telescoping everything together into what was purportedly a brief period of time (although the events clearly take place over several weeks minimum), it sensationalised what juvenile offenders had to go through and it would therefore be irresponsible of the BBC to broadcast it (which they didn't for fourteen years). But when you look at the substance of the piece (I'm trying to avoid calling the 1977 version a "film", even though it was shot in 16mm, to avoid confusion with the 1979 35mm version), it's clear that this argument is more convenient than substantive - they were trying to find an excuse not to show it, and that seemed as convincing as any.

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Re: 906 I, Daniel Blake

#18 Post by CSM126 » Tue Dec 12, 2017 3:11 pm


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Re: 906 I, Daniel Blake

#19 Post by Michael Kerpan » Tue Dec 12, 2017 4:58 pm

I found the Kiarostami comment a bit mystifying ...

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Re: 906 I, Daniel Blake

#20 Post by 371229 » Tue Dec 12, 2017 5:27 pm

Gary is trolling you.

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Re: 906 I, Daniel Blake

#21 Post by knives » Fri Feb 23, 2018 12:00 pm

This was surprisingly good, though I must admit some of my enjoyment may have come from my experiences with the American equivalent of this system. It's easily the lightest of the Loach films I've seen playing the Susyphic trials of getting assistance as an act of slapstick though of course Loach plays out a lot of real drama too especially with the mother character who is in the more dramatic situation having children to take care of. I guess I could see a complaint of sentimentality with that, but considering she is a surprisingly small subplot it doesn't seem worth the complaint.

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Re: 906 I, Daniel Blake

#22 Post by ando » Sun May 27, 2018 11:46 am

Wow. The film came across as surprisingly unsentimental to me. Neither Katy nor Daniel elicited pity, probably because - as characters - they are pitiless with themselves. While not exactly models of virtue both characters, as written anyway, are nevertheless a bit like types; Katy, the self sacrificing mother who'll do anything to raise her children decently and, of course, Daniel, the old school bloke with unshakable integrity who's up against seemingly unsurmountable odds despite a debilitating illness. "The State" and its labyrinthine bureaucracy looks unquestionably evil and unnecessarily petty in relief but the best portrait in the film is that of the friendships between the principal actors. When they actually engage wth each other, whatever the nature of the relationship, the film is lifted above its narrative concern.

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Re: 906 I, Daniel Blake

#23 Post by Lost Highway » Sun May 27, 2018 12:35 pm

Having had personal experience with the benefits system the film condemns, I found the movie emotionally rigged in ways that verge on the cartoonish. It’s later period Loach at his his worst.

The policies which the Tory government implemented to take away benefits from those who need them the most are extremely cruel. The civil servants who have to implement them are not. I was a EU foreigner who paid his taxes and insurance contributions for three decades in the UK. When I had to rely on that system due to a health crisis, I was questioned about my eligibility due to my status as a EU foreigner in ways which I found insulting. This was before the Brexit vote, there should have been no question that I’m eligible due to what I’ve paid into the system. The staff at the benefits office however were very aware of that and always kind and apologetic. They didn’t agree with the policies and found having to implement them humiliating. For Loach there only ever is black and white, there is no nuance. Everybody who works in a benefits office is an ogre.

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Re: 906 I, Daniel Blake

#24 Post by Gregory » Sun May 27, 2018 1:54 pm

Lost Highway wrote:
Sun May 27, 2018 12:35 pm
For Loach there only ever is black and white, there is no nuance. Everybody who works in a benefits office is an ogre.
Right, those horrible two-dimensional ogre characters who say things like,
Please, just keep signing on. Get somebody to help you with the online job searches. Otherwise, you could lose everything.
Please don't do this. I've seen it before. Good people, honest people, on the street.

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Re: 906 I, Daniel Blake

#25 Post by Lost Highway » Sun May 27, 2018 2:44 pm

I am referring to the female Jobcenter worker called Sheila, who is nothing short of a Disney villain in the movie. Since Loach has started to co-write his films with Paul Laverty I’ve found them so didactic and manipulative that I can’t take them seriously, even as I agree with his politics. He shows his hand from the first piece of dialogue and there is no doubt where the film will go from that moment on. Dramatically I don’t find that very interesting. The movie feels like it’s been taken from ten case studies and then every crappy thing from those, happens to two characters. He stacks everything against them way too high. I don’t need to be manipulated to that degree to agree that the British benefits system has become a disgrace.

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