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    Citizen Loach

    Posted by Mike Finnegan on

    Tonight at the 69th Cannes Film Festival, revered British director Ken Loach unveils his 19th film to screen at the annual event. Continuing his probative and provocative cinematic legacy of portraying individuals vs. institutions and reteaming him with long-time screenwriting collaborator Paul Laverty, I, Daniel Blake chronicles the dual dilemmas of a middle-aged carpenter (Dave Johns) whose sudden illness compels him to seek state welfare, who encounters a single mother (Hayley Squires) in a similar situation, as both cope with the punishing prospects of navigating government bureaucracy, the “striver-and-skiver” mentality of modern-day Britain and the challenges presented by the dire solutions that can result. Its themes coincide with those of earlier Loach titles in the Twilight Time hi-def Blu-ray library. The 2 by Ken Loach Double-Feature disc pairs Riff-Raff (1991), about an immigrant-labor construction gang facing unsafe working conditions at a luxury-home building site, and Raining Stones (1993, a Cannes Jury Prize winner), following the hard-luck plight of an unemployed laborer and his outlandish schemes to get money for his daughter’s First Communion dress. Fatherland (1986) chronicles an East German musician’s move to England, where his “capitalist” sponsors bear striking, manipulative similarities to the repressive bureaucrats of his homeland with regard to art and politics. Carla’s Song (1996, written by Laverty) portrays the unlikely but ultimately poignant romance of a Scottish bus driver and a Nicaraguan refugee that takes them both back to her Central American homeland to encounter the brutality and dislocation of civil war up dangerously close. Loach’s explorations of societal ills and social injustice are rooted in artfully crafted personal stories and often leavened by frissons of humor, but it’s all in service of deepening our relationships with the characters not just as moviegoers but as fellow citizens of a troubled, unequal world that requires further investigation. It’s been said that I, Daniel Blake may be the final film for citizen Loach, who turns 80 next month. Hopefully, in the spirit of the four Loach gems on three TT discs as well as his 50+-year body of work from Poor Cow and Kes through Land and Freedom, The Wind That Shakes the Barley and Jimmy’s Hall, the mantle of personally engaged, morally activist storytelling will pass on to other gifted cineastes.