Any Way The Winds Blows is the first feature film by Belgian musician Tom Barman, frontman of the art rock group dEUS, as well as one half of the dance act Magnus with techno DJ, CJ Bolland. Having previously only made one short film Turnpike as well as a number of music videos for other Belgian acts, Barman’s first feature film seems to draw on all the diverse elements that influence him, not least of which is the city of Antwerp.
Taking place entirely in Antwerp over 32 hours, encompassing an ordinary Friday, an all-night party and the aftermath of the following morning, Any Way The Winds Blows follows a number of characters from diverse walks of life going through their daily life. There is no underlying storyline that they are all involved in other than the fact that they will all meet together at a party being held at the home of Nathalie (Natali Broods), a freelance IT specialist. There is Walter (Frank Vercruyssen), Nathalie’s new boyfriend, who has just been fired from his job as a cinema projectionist for scratching a reel of a film print. Walter has a young daughter by his ex, Lara (Diane De Belder), who will also be turning up at the party later that night. Nathalie’s brother Chouki (Matthias Schoenaerts) is a former medical research scientist, now a Damien Hirst-style artist, who creates works out of laboratory experiments. He hopes to exhibit for Fermin (Dirk Roofthooft), the owner of a modern art and video installation gallery. Also going about their daily lives are Felix (Titus De Voogdt) and Fré (Jonas Boel), two young guys in love with the 80s, sticking posters up around town, on the run from the police, picking up girls along the way. Paul Garcin (Eric Kloeck), a French teacher, has just published a book. The book has been badly received and at 52 years old, with a wife he no longer gets on with and two kids – one of whom has just taken an AIDS test – Paul is starting to think that his life is over.
Weaving in and out of the lives of these characters is the Windman (Sam Louwyck), a strange character who walks the streets and subways of Antwerp, who has an uncontrollable ability to cause the wind to surge around him. The Windman is like the film itself, or the music that supports the diverse incidents that these characters get involved with – an invisible, uncontrollable and unpredictable force that weaves lives and incidents together. There is nothing particularly exceptional about any of these characters or the lives they lead, and the bizarre incidents that occur are the kind that can happen anywhere where lives come together – meetings with new people, reencounters with old flames, fights, arguments, little moments of magic and disillusionment. In this respect, Any Way The Winds Blows is very much a musician’s film, drawing on diverse elements from daily lives – observational and autobiographical - and putting it to a beat or a rhythm. And since it’s directed by a particularly eclectic musician, it’s a film that is characterised by a variety of styles, tempos and moods - Barman’s own music from dEUS and Magnus evidently featuring heavily - all brought together with the skilful ear of a practiced DJ.
If some of sequences are filmed a little too much like a music video and are way too reliant on the soundtrack to propel any sense of purpose, there are at least some nice moments scattered throughout the film, some witty exchanges of dialogue and an excellent choice of music – even if none of them add up to anything at all coherent or meaningful. The film’s lack of purpose is clearly its raison d’être however, so there’s little point in complaining about any failings in the narrative or characterisation. Rather frustratingly, the film ends just as it looks like it is about to take on some sense of direction, but I guess that’s rather a lot like life, isn’t it?
Any Way The Wind Blows is released in the UK by Axiom as a 2-disc set. The DVD is in PAL format and is encoded for Region 2.
Presented in anamorphic 2.35:1, there is little that can be faulted about the image presentation. There are no significant marks or scratches and no problems with digital transfer artefacts. The image is slightly on the soft side and there is a slight ochre tone to the whole film and blacks are consequently a little bit flattened-out with no great shadow detail. This could be the intended colour scheme for the film – and I’m rating the image quality on that assumption – but it does looks a little more colourful in the trailers and extra features.
There is a choice of Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 mixes for the film – both of which function rather well. The film is not particularly showy in terms of sounds and effects, remaining largely front and centre based for dialogues, but the tracks kick into life during the musical segments of the film, which are evidently quite frequent. The party scene in particular, with its pounding dance music, gives the subwoofer a bit of a workout.
The DVD has been produced to make the film and the extra features fully compatible for Dutch, French and English viewers. The English subtitles are clear and readable in a white font.
The extra features are all contained on Disc 2 of the set. Some of them are useful, but it’s more a case of too much unnecessary information. Rewind: On The Set (24:12) is a Making Of of reasonable length, covering the rehearsals, shooting, discussions and reshooting of a number of scenes, giving an idea of how the director was seeking to capture the right rhythm and intonation for the film. Four non-anamorphic Deleted Scenes (6:28) are included with optional director’s commentary (in English, French and Dutch). Like the scenes in the film these are however fairly self-explanatory and were cut only for reasons of time. You can however see where the film takes its title from. An Interview and Photo Gallery (18:00) best captures the spirit and intention of the film. A radio interview, it is illustrated by a large number of still and promotional photos. The Portrait of Tom Barman (1:00:47) however gives you much more information than you need to know about the director’s other work in the music business. At over an hour long, with many eulogies from other Belgian musicians, and interspersed with an unplugged performance, it all unfortunately makes Barman seem very self-important. A video of the Magnus song used in the film “Summer’s Here” (4:21) is also included, as are the Theatrical Trailer (2:18) and an Extra Trailer (0:50).
Essentially Any Way The Wind Blows is a party thrown by Tom Barman and you’ve been invited along to sample a taste of the character and people of his home city of Antwerp. Sure, he’s a bit pushy about playing his own music, and some of the people are a bit boring, but you can enjoy yourself for as long as the music lasts and then forget all about it the next morning. It’s a film that is certainly worth a look and we have Axiom to thank for bring lesser seen films like this to DVD, and presenting it so well with more extra features than you could imagine for an international film getting a straight-to-DVD release in the UK.