LFF 2020 ‘Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets’ Review: Last Orders

Following the final day of operation of an American bar as it’s patrons celebrate good times past, bond with each other and fight a little. As the hour grows late and inhibitions diminish even further, we wonder what is to become of this little community once the bar calls last orders for the final time.

The film is incredibly naturalistic and  unaffected. Real patrons of the bar behave authentically. Real insight is achieved into their lives, their reasons for being in this bar and their relationships to each other. Artificiality in their behaviour is natural and bespeaks the barriers people really put between each other in social situations. The sadness and strange sense of delirium is very believable.

The bar has no windows and is artificially lit in a dusky, neon hue. Consequently it appears to be night time throughout the day. It’s hard to say how much time has passed until somebody arrives or has to leave. This again, is very authentic of the dive bar experience and creates an almost otherworldly aspect to the bar. The inhabitants enter a different plain of existence when they enter. It’s clearly a seductive experience but the consequences and dangers are also demonstrated, particularly when a incoherently drunk man is told he must go to work.

What the film most beautifully captures is bar talk. The uninhibited but progressively more performative monologues that are projected out to the void where sometimes people listen and interject with disembodied witticisms and encouragement. Topics include the problems of the world, generational differences, love, and of course music. It ranges from genuinely insightful to the philosophy of the gutter. Characters listen to each other and sometimes actually hear what’s being said. That this is the final night of this bars operation adds further poignancy to the morose scene.

In the UK, traditional pubs were in trouble even before the lockdown. Younger generations are preferring to drink at home, and many are chosing not to drink at all. This film affirms the universal nature of drinking establishments. The inhabitants, the conversations, you can practically smell the closeness of bodies and booze. Perhaps this is a dying world, and perhaps that’s no bad thing. But Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets is as fitting an epitaph as you’re likely to get.

Four Stars

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