There are few certainties in this world for a movie fan, but there are a few things you can normally cling to. You can be sure that every year will bring a new Woody Allen, which someone somewhere will herald as a 'return to form.' You can be sure that when the cast and crew of a sequel dis a film's predecessor while plugging the second movie, the follow-up will be even worse. And you can generally be sure that, in even-numbered years, British auteur Ken Loach will have a new film doing the rounds, usually at Cannes.
But even that looks to be coming to an end, sadly. The director, who made his start with "Kes" in 1969, and who won the Palme D'Or in 2006 for "The Wind That Shakes The Barley," has just started shooting a new project, the Ireland-set period drama "Jimmy's Hall." But Loach's long-time producer Rebecca O'Brien has told Screen Daily that the filmmaker is likely to retire from narrative features once it's completed. "This is probably the last narrative feature for Ken," she says. "There are a few documentary ideas kicking around, and that will probably be the way to go, but this is a serious period-drama with a lot of moving parts, so it's a big thing to put together. I think we should go out while we're on top."
At 77, Loach is a fair bit older than fellow notable retirees like Steven Soderbergh, but he's remained remarkably consistent in his work. Nevertheless, O'Brien says that the stresses of long shoots are starting to take their toll: "It's such a huge operation and Ken doesn't sit in a director's chair, telling people what to do; he runs around. It requites a lot of physical and mental stamina. Realistically, I'd be very surprised if we made another feature after this one."
Sad news, certainly, but if those documentaries are of the quality of this year's "Spirit Of '45," there's a silver lining. And if nothing else, it creates an additional weight of expectation for "Jimmy's Hall," which began shooting this week. The film stars Irish theater actor Barry Ward as Irish communist leader James Gralton, who returns to the country after a decade in America to reopen the dance hall he opened in the 1920s. Also on board are Simone Kirby ("Pure Mule"), Jim Norton ("Water For Elephants"), Brian F. O Byrne ("Mildred Pierce") and Andrew Scott (Moriarty in TV's "Sherlock"), and if it's not a dead-cert for Cannes, we'll eat our flat-caps. In the meantime, you can read our interview with Loach from Berlin this year right here.