Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets is released nationwide on Curzon Home Cinema on the 24th of December
Many of us will have frequented one or two pubs in our life that, for a time, became the centre of our community and friendship circle. The doors of these venues were a gateway to familiar faces, political debates, tears and drunken nights of smoking and laughter. For me, one of those pubs was the Rainbow and Dove in Leicester, a gay bar that became a second home for many years. In the R&D, every face was familiar; every conversation was laced with humour, and every bar stool was occupied by the same regular punters.
It all sounds perfect, right? Well, in many ways, it was. But, there was also a darker side to the joy it offered and the sense of belonging it created. Many regular drinkers would sit at the bar from late morning to late evening, with alcohol their escape, their crutch and their demon. Here the pub was a refuge for addiction as much as it was a family of support. Over many years the bar or the pub has sat at the heart of both film and TV shows as they attempted to reflect this unique environment and micro-society. From Cheers to Eastenders, Coronation Street and An American Werewolf in London each has attempted to reflect the ongoing allure and wonder of the Tavern. However, few have managed to capture the multi-faceted darkness and light of the pub until now.
Bill and Turner Ross’ Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets captures a rare and beautiful honesty in exploring the ecosystem of the bar. Labelled as a documentary, Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets is something far more complex in construct; a constructed reality movie set in Las Vegas but filmed in New Orleans, exploring the final night of a cosy, shabby community bar. Here we are offered a devilishly clever mix of fiction and reality full of humour and emotion. The Ross brothers handpicked the punters and created the ‘Roaring 20s’ bar to feel like the spit and sawdust local many of us have known during our lives. Part scripted and part free-flowing documentary, their fictional bar captures a rarely found realism through a gloriously clever deception.
As a constructed reality film, Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets reflects an unspoken truth of the environment it pays homage to; after all, all bars and pubs are a constructed reality, aren’t they? From the design of the environment to the alcohol-fuelled friendships that begin and often end at the door, pubs and bars are a form of theatre, a circus where the ringmaster pulls the pints. However, dig even deeper and Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets also offers us a conversation on the erosion of these unique circuses and the slow gentrification of our pubs and bars as they transformed into chain venues, gastro-pubs and family-friendly venues for kids. In too many towns, the dysfunctional family of bar performers has been replaced by two-for-one meals, cocktails and burgers.
The Ross Brothers create an environment where those beautiful moments of human connection and conversation a bar or pub creates are placed centre stage in a theatre of debate, music, dance and poetry. Here there is no need for gastro food, luxury cocktails or kid-friendly zones, just a bar, a stool and a safe and warm haven where even the lost and lonely can find a sense of belonging. Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets isn’t interested in answering the big social questions it raises; instead, it’s interested in what makes us human and the role the pub or bar plays. Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets is authentic, engaging and strangely real; an unforgettable night out among people who jump from the screen and into your heart. Just like that pub or bar that used to sit at the heart of your world, the Ross Brother’s movie is a warm, comforting, sometimes dark but always entertaining escape from the world.