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Monday, 31 October 2011

Quiz night in Bermondsey

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31 October

For some obscure reason, I had known of this part of London for years, but I really did not know where it was.

I was quite surprised that it turned out to be near Tower Bridge, London Bridge, Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital, and that incomplete pointy building, highly visible from Tate Modern. (I think, perhaps, I had been confusing Bermondsey with Bethnal Green in some corner of my mind, although, rationally, I knew that that was Bethnal Green (and, therefore, not Bermondsey), and so placing it north of central London.)

Near the hospital, and on the way from the Tate to the venue of New Empress Magazine’s first quiz night at – and in association with – Shortwave Cinema, I turned out to pass the pointy building (I wonder if there is there some connection other than its proximity). The hoarding told me that it’s properly called London Bridge Quarter, but what I now know to be The Shard of Glass still looked no nearer completion: maybe the money’s run out, or ‘quarter’ (or 'shard': shards are like that, unlike shreds!) relates to the unfinished pinnacle…

What beckoned all the while was a film quiz, courtesy of Helen Cox, editor in chief of NEM (which I now know to be named after a cinema in Nottingham, which closed in 1927), and compered by comedian (and film buff) Adrian Mackinder (it may not be spelt quite that way...), with the general assistance of film-maker Phil Bowman (sure a Sagittarius, and a devotee of the works of Beaumont and Fletcher). (In one round, various combinations of the three valiantly acted out dialogue from various films for us to identify, if we'd ever seen them.)

On getting there, it was straightaway apparent from the question papers (why are they often called that when they are answer-sheets?), since I know no film with a shark in it (except perhaps a cartoon like Marine Boy, who was always terribly, maybe – except for the title – unnecessarily aquatic in his tastes), that the picture round wasn’t going to be where (if at all) I could shine.

Which was a shame, because, as a free radical, I had accosted and oxidized the team of Betty, Ulli and Stephanie (I never did - try to - discover any connection between them, and maybe they just met when they all got off at the nearby bus-stop), just at that vulnerable moment when they had brought chairs in from outside and hadn’t yet ordered drinks, and Betty had stipulated that I could join them, provided that I was a film geek. (OK, I lied…)

They had agreed to take me in as an orphan, and I accordingly owed them my share of points in the final score (if that’s not soccer, rather than quiz nights). However, little did any of us probably realize that an early inspiration regarding that page of shark-laden images was our best chance of winning anything…

All in all, what I guessed at, rather than knew, was that the film that had been banned and is being remade is Straw Dogs; that the MGM lion had had five incarnations; and that Douglas Fairbanks was one of the four founders of United Artists; but, I think nothing else, and none of these (except that the Dustin Hoffman film had been banned) was any more than luck.

(Oh, and I ought to have said that, in the round with clips from music that had run over unnamed films’ closing credits, I thought that one was from The Matrix, but, as is the way with a quiz, another team member had another answer, and I felt meek. I also recognized the vocalist in the next clip as Freddie Mercury, and, I suppose, although that did not help me to the name of the film, I could have shared that with the team.)

All in all, my participation led to a gain for the Sleeping Beauties (Stephanie had preferred that name to my impulsive first suggestion of The Geeks, and it was adopted by default) of two-and-a-half points, as one of us also named Charlie Chaplin as a UA founder, and so we got credit for two out of four. (No one had seen the film from which I derived the name, but someone had spotted the poster: unfairly, I suggested that, in my opinion, this was the best thing about the film.) Those points – no pun intended – actually counted, as we would otherwise not have been nudged ahead as fifth overall.

During the time allowed for finishing off our second-half answers, no one objected to me doodling, by filling in the blanks of the picture round with unrelated titles such as Citizen Kane, Hannah and Her Sisters, and even, nautically enough, 10,000 Leagues Under the Sea (although I probably wrote 1,000).

Admittedly, I was taking what I had been taught to extremes, but I knew not to leave a blank where a well-educated guess (Hannah and Her Sisters? the scene where Michael Caine first makes a move on his sister-in-law?) might give a chance of a point: of course, this became the norm with the advent of examination papers with multiple-choice answers – why is it even called multiple choice, when you can usually choose only one answer, and, with ordinary questions, there is a infinite choice?

Apart from these meaningless answers, my first reaction to seeing the depiction of a large tooth-filled mouth lunging at a bridge had been to say Sophie’s Choice, so I stuck with that answer, as I still liked it (despite telling poor Stephanie, who did not seem to connect with it). I think that the premise must have been that the water level had risen, amongst other devastating effects, and thus that the bridge – or those on it – were within striking distance…

When I helped with marking tests at GCSE (more multiple choice, but thankfully long ago!), I just memorized the string of intended responses, and did not really register the content of incorrect ones. Fortunately, Helen had not only clearly read the answers minutely, but found the intended humour in my choice for that image, because that was the basis on which we won a prize, a copy of the – now rare – first issue of New Empress Magazine.

So, as my team members ceded it to me, double the reading of NEM for me (I had bought the latest issue on the night), and very good and varied it is, too!

Oh, and a further prize was talking to Rob, who owns Shortwave, and the jewel of seeing the auditorium - as I told him, I was reminded of The Electric Picture Palace in my beloved Southwold.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Melancholia: Gravity, levity, or some more middling place? (2)

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31 October

Perhaps a good night on which to write a follow-up, after, at last, I had a chance to hear from Amy what she thought:

* She doesn't generally see films with special effects, so did not have my expectations / criticisms;

* She was fine with how Wagner had been used, particularly later, as Melancholia gets closer, and thought that it worked well;

* She liked the visual imagery, and thought it unusual;

* I learnt that the world of the mansion and its golf-course is our ambit (which did not seem unlikely);

* It appeared from what she said about the sisters that they were archetypal, and she agreed with that.

Nothing in any of this made me regret having used the ejector-seat, and I had no desire to have seen, in what was missed, Justine bathing naked in the light of the planet.

Chris, to whom I had outlined my critique of the quality of the effects and the depiction of a seemingly gaseous planet just absorbing another solid one (and it is, apparently, meant to be Earth), did not think that the latter was good science, even if the gases of the planet were uniformly mixed.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

A. E. Housman and God

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29 October 2011

The so-called 'scholar-poet', probably best known for A Shropshire Lad*, is said to have opined:

A malt does more than Milton can
To justify God's ways to man

Even so, one wonders which dram he had to hand - or, else, in mind - when he wrote (assuming that this was not a Johnsonian quip, noted by another)...


* Somewhat tempting, in the reverse tendency to the title of The Winter's Tale, to type The Shropshire Lad - probably because, in the words 'a' and 'the', it is the same dull, unstressed vowel-sound, which peppers English speech (or, at any rate, British English), and so the variant title sounds very similar in my head.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Dimensions - another screening (in Cambridge) (2)

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20 October

As to Wallingford, I quote directly from

Next chance to see the film is at a preview screening at the Wallingford Corn Exchange in Oxfordshire on Nov 4th. If you know anyone in the area, please tell them!

The Cambridge event is, indeed, on Tuesday 22 November from 10.00 to 1.00 (a morning event, not a late-nighter, this time). The current Arts Picturehouse booklet (p. 22) lists it as a 'Contemporary British film industry event: producers and audiences', with the further subtitle 'Funding and producing an independent British film:

Sloane U'Ren (Art / Set Director on Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Being John Malkovich and Ant Neeley [sic], composer of Six Feet Under, will discuss their current production Dimensions, a period sci-fi drama shot on location in Cambridgeshire.

NB However, given that this listing is on a spread headed 'Cambridgeshire Film Consortium Education Events' (there are details of the consortium in a column on the same page as quoted from above), and that it is under a banner reading 'Education events for schools and colleges' plus 'Suitable for a/as/undergraduate film/Media Studies / Cost £3.50 accompanying teachers free', it may be that others are not encouraged to attend...

Maybe I shall enquire?

What's in a mind?

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20 October

News, if it were really something that has just been proposed (rather than known about weeks ago), of another cut in mental-health services in Cambridgeshire prompted this thought (for want of a better word):

Is mental ill-health really a disease of the brain,
Or is the brain just a disease of the rest of the body?

Please interpret that 'thought' how you see fit...

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Dimensions - another screening (in Cambridge) (1)

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20 October

Some will know that, on 4 November, Dimensions hits (hit?!) Wallingford, in Oxfordshire, which I believe that I read about on
the film's web-site...

But, and I really should check the date, on 22 November the film (through the Arts Picturehouse, or at least the mention is in its latest booklet of what's on) is being screened for the fourth time in Cambridge, its home city, and I shall provide details here, just as soon as I can (possibly or otherwise - six impossible things before breakfast, etc.)!

As I recall, Sloane and Ant will also be talking about how to make such a film (or any full-length film) without (the usual) funding - if their names are not already familiar to you, then you have been caught napping on the job of jeeping (?) abreast of this blog, and need to remedy that omission, whilst you can, by reading some earlier postings (if you can find them amongst the plethora of dross).

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Making law and criminal evidence

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19 October

A year or more ago, Professor Michael Zander gave a talk on the subject of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (affectionately known as PACE).

The title was PACE: Past, Present, and Future: Professor Zander's thrust was more on how PACE (and its various subordinate Codes) had come to be revised, than on the need for and initial implementation of the legislation, or any requirements to do so in the future.

In the session afterwards, I asked him this question:

In the light of the various apparently wry observations in your most informative talk, and of your status as an author on parliamentary procedure, what confidence do you think that we can - or should - have in the processes of legislation's being made, reviewed or amended?

What indeed?!

Monday, 17 October 2011

Melancholia: Gravity, levity, or some more middling place? (1)

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18 October

One almost inevitably knows, at some point, how long a film lasts (especially if planning eleven consecutive days’ viewing at a film festival), even if that is information that has been forgotten at the time that the feature begins.

In this case, buying a ticket on the evening and (in case things got tight beforehand - with having some proper food, for a change) asking how many minutes’ worth of trailers there were, I also got told roughly when the film would come out. (I already knew that it ran to around 2 hours 15, and what I learnt confirmed that it would not be over till past 11.00.)

In the event, after accounting for the reasons behind my early emergence to an usher whom I know, I was back in the bar by 9.45, feeling that a cup of tea and catching up on some writing were avenues that I had done well to open up to myself. So what had Melancholia done for me that was different from that pastime?

Well, it had not taken me somewhere else, and the write-up, which I had read around the end of August, had already revealed a lot about where it would go. (I have just reminded myself of what it said, and the opening sequence of the film itself placed the still from the poster in context (it had also appeared on the cover of the cinema booklet)). My reasons for not wanting to go, which I formulated when waiting for a good moment to leave, were numerous, diverse, and compelling.

Without being a fan of Wagner or his music, I know that the latter has some power, which can be appropriated, and has been many times*. Here, it seemed a lot more as if it were misappropriation, and when it started, and I registered the music’s period and what it was, I recalled that I had read a comment about the use of Wagner – pun intended, I was attuned to what I was listening to, and it gave me a disjunction (intentional, for all that I know) between the aimed-at dreaminess or other-worldliness, which, to me, Roy Andersson has achieved much more effortlessly.

Which takes me on to special effects. Fine, an Earth that does not resemble the views from space with which we are all familiar, because there is no way of knowing when what unfolds is happening, and continental drift does, after all, continue**. Not so good when one heavenly body, in close shot (with another in the background partly occluded), resembles nothing so much as a painted polystyrene sphere (I was once given one by someone studying degree-level chemistry, and sprayed it gold as the finishing-touch to a prop crown).

As to the collision between – these or other – spheres, where one (as I likened it to the usher in describing my experience) simply absorbed the other as a blancmange would a grape, I do not for certain know who, if anyone, was imagining these scenes, but it did not bode well for her (?), the film’s credibility, or my desire to see much more.

Still, one didn’t wish to be hasty, so, the suite of moving scenes being finished (including Pieter Bruegel’s The Hunters in the Snow (or The Return of the Hunters) being given a treatment reminiscent of Gilliam in the early Python shows), the announcement of whose film it is, and of the first section being ‘Justine’.

Clearly, a wedding – at some stage, though one knows that bride and groom are not conventionally in the bridal car till after the ceremony. Perhaps it is meant to be a farcical scene, but, even at this stage, the script, the delivery, Justine apologizing to Michael (rather the timid driver whose cars the pair of them have ineptly contrived to drive into a boundary stone), none of it worked. Not setting up, for me, an expectation that the subsequent frames are going to redeem what has been faulty in the preceding ones.

The script / scenario goes on, the accents that sometimes sound US, sometimes British English within the same performance are introduced (including John Hurt, as the bride’s father), and we have the wedding breakfast that no one wants: the bride’s mother (Charlotte Rampling) ably and suitably embarrassingly saying what a waste of time marriage is (except that no one seemed that awkward about witnessing it – heard it all before?); the groom not twigging beforehand that now is the first time that he is expected to make a speech (and bizarrely giving Ms Rampling another opportunity to heckle); and the bride, probably miffed that no one else seemed interested in what she has spotted in the heavens, absents herself, as and when she sees fit, with liquid-related activity such as having a bath or finding a new take on watering the fairway.

And so, unpromisingly to my mind, it went on, with Ms Rampling’s bags being dumped outside the host brother-in-law’s front doors (since she is another inappropriate and antisocial bather), only to be brought in again, and the brother-in-law agreeing that he usually makes this gesture: acknowledging it in a tone and manner perhaps directed as deliberately intermediate between farce and something more serious.

When he confronts the bride (she had already promised his wife, her sister, not to cause a scene, and then absented herself at key moments of wedding ritual) with how much the reception has cost him (though, apparently, he is immensely rich), she not only (maybe implausibly) does not know, but he (certainly implausibly) says that it will be worth it, if she agrees to be happy (which, of course, she does).

On what planet (pun intended) does anyone make any sort of pact where her side of the bargain is to be happy? Would that I had the power to choose! Yet, except, perhaps, on some higher plane relating to the influence of the planets in their orbits (or, even, from somewhere else), how was I to engage with what was being presented (and, if so, as a metaphor for what?)?

If, as the write-up suggests, the real message was that life is too short, then mine was being curtailed as I watched - and the deliberately shaky camera-work in the function room, which was just making me feel dizzy (rather than, maybe, causing a sensation of anxiety that could have been created in a less crude way), meant my well-being was being sacrificed at the same time.

* At least it wasn't Strauss and Also Sprach Zarathustra!

** Of course, it could be that it was not intended to be Earth at all, but otherwise to be some other so similiar planet that one might be forgiven for thinking that it were...

Preparatory to a review of Melancholia

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18 October

One must get one's priorities right, and not get side-tracked by visiting the feedback web-site of
Pizza Express - unless, of course, the visit there before the film was the best part of the evening...

So it was that I end up suggesting (as my one thing that I would change) the retirement of garlic dough balls, and replacing them with a lightly fried combination of fresh garlic, porcini mushrooms and bacon, with the option of a freshly grated Italian cheese (not sure which) sprinkled over the dish to melt when it is fresh from the pan.

And I'm sure that I didn't steal that from the feature either!

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Matt Damon has post addressed to my house

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15 October

Well, occasionally – when he has nothing better to do than order items on the Internet!

For he, like the rest of us, is wary of having his identity stolen, so, a little like the self-styled Lord Voldemort (whose real name is, it has to be said, just pathetic), he has split it into several pieces: if a piece gets fraudulently taken, he still has the other pieces – that sort of thing.

And each piece has a different name, Ant Dammot, Toad M. Mant, Damon Matt, Tam Modant, that sort of thing – so don’t buy insurance from anyone with such a name, or you’ll be horrified to find out who the underwriters are!

Why he doesn’t anagrammatize his real name (as, at least, Tom Riddell had the decency to do) remains a mystery, because, for example, the one immortalized as Homer’s Arctic Lay gave rise to such wonders as Trashy McAlister, and Matt Damon (the name) does not. Probably a matter best taken up with his agent, as Matt is too concerned with dodging international terrorist plots, and the possibility of threats on the life of his pet cobra, to be much occupied with these daily foibles of the anagram community...

Friday, 14 October 2011

The Hunter, one year on

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14 October

I have been reminded of a film from last year's Festival, The Hunter (2010), whose main character, Ali Alavi, is played by its director, Rafi Pitts. At the time (a bit like Kosmos at this year's Festival), it seemed likely to be too subtle to be readily understood (though not quite as the film's official wording would suggest):

In an act of vengeance, a young man randomly kills two police officers. He escapes to the forest, where he is arrested by two other officers. The three men are surrounded by trees, the woods. They are lost in a maze, a desolate landscape, where the boundaries between the hunter and the hunted are difficult to perceive (edited for punctuation).

On the Rotten Tomatoes web-site (, Jason Wood (in Little White Lies) is quoted as saying 'Seemingly destined to go largely under-appreciated, this is a work of precision and complexity'. (Given that someone - presumably by mistake - has posted a review of the film from 2011 of the same name on IMDb's web-page for this film (, there is evidence of under-appreciation that it even exists as a separate entity!)

Looking at what both who Wood is (or appears to be?) in relation to the film's distribution and what has written (, he is clearly not going to give away exactly what happens or, more importantly, the rationale behind it. But there are two short sections (amongst others) that I think most worth quoting, the first for where the film is, the second for where it may have come from:

[...] And yet the film also feels incredibly universal. In its sense of intrigue, unrest and corruption in high places, it perhaps has more in common with a number of iconic American films of the 1970s.

[...] Minimalism has been a watchword for this confident, intelligent and distinctive filmmaker, and in his pared-down aesthetic, introspection and nominal dialogue Pitts exhibits echoes of Jean-Pierre Melville and recalls Walter Hill’s
The Driver (edited for punctuation).

At the screening, I definitely felt as Wood does in the first quotation - it was a very intelligent take on those earlier films, with a good dose of redneck lawlessness thrown in for good measure.

As for the specific echoes that he identifies, I will need to consider them, and also to look at obtaining my own copy of The Hunter. What I will say is this, by way of indicating my own thinking about the film: what is it that we are told about how Ali's wife comes to be killed?

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Kennedy on the campaign trail

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14 October

Not just because the documentary was covered in an edition of the Festival booklet TAKE ONE, I have relatively little to say about The Camera That Changed the World. The side of it that looked at the development of handheld cameras at around the same time in the States and in France, rather than the applications to which they were then put, was certainly made much more entertaining and less dry by the appearance of the delightfully eccentric Jean-Pierre Beauviala, who also spoke far more to the point than some of the others.

As to why a camera cut down from a model intended to be used on a tripod and which still weighed 30lb (the Auricon in the States) should ever have been a competitor for the ultralight Éclair, which was, I understand, engineered from scratch to be so, I could not figure. (Weight was not the only difference, as the Auricon had to be directed from the shoulder, and blind, at the intended subject, whereas I believe that the Éclair had an eyepiece.) And the wording of the title almost leads you to believe that there was one camera, not two...

However, although the preference for cinematographers to use one over the other was certainly touched upon, it was not in a very obvious or, to my mind, convincing way: that said, it did not seem to be a matter of mere patriotism, but to have some basis in experience of using the equipment, which, I do not think, was sufficiently explored (or capable of being) in the 62 minutes given to the topic.

Since the ambitions of the film were also to do justice to accounting for the first documentary uses to which the pioneers put their new machines, this was quite a tall order. Here, also, the commentary became unnecessarily emphatic (by way of repetition) in stating that, because the new cameras were light enough to carry, they could 'go with the action' and follow it into places that were inaccesible to the static models: if we had not grasped that this was the purpose of developing them, we would surely have been napping!

However, showing footage from the film Primary, which John F. Kennedy allowed Robert Drew's team in the States to make on the campaign trail (and, in a rather enigmatic formula, that he would not contact Drew, unless his answer to the filming were 'no') demonstrated this point admirably: in addition to what else we saw, the well-known long take, following Kennedy through a large group in a convention hall (full of people, all of whom wanted to shake his hand), was chief amongst the evidence.

As someone else had commented before I saw the film (possibly the Festival's own David Perilli, although I only recall speaking to him about the film afterwards), the French developers / film-makers were not given equal billing: we always heard about Drew and what he wanted to achieve first, and, in telling us about the filming of the first project (certainly not in terms of showing us what was shot, although various people involved in the project were shown interviewed), the film-makers in France got the raw deal.

All this apart, the film paired well with Pennebaker's film Dont [sic] Look Back about Dylan's UK tour in 1965, filmed by Pennebaker himself and others (using the Auricon), with which it was screened. (It could almost have been made too thin in places to allow the pairing not to be too long...)

Lack of Drive ?

This is a review of Drive (2011)

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14 October

This is a review of Drive (2011)

* Contains spoilers *

It took me a long time to seek to work this one out:

The lack of impetus for a review that I have experienced comes from no lasting impression of Drive (2011), in terms of thoughts that arise from it. It's not that one cannot choose to think about it, because I can, say, summon Carey Mulligan's face and demeanour (as Irene) to mind quite easily, but there is nothing in superficially recalling the fact that I have seen this film that makes me want to.

As with seeking to review Drive, it's not exactly that I have to force myself to revisit it, but that the film just doesn't seek me out unbidden and remind me of it (unlike, dare I say it, Tirza? - or Dimensions?).

Not that I think that anything is necessarily wrong, or, indeed that this isn't a good film (or that I wouldn't watch it again), because, unless there is a long list to be critical about, I would not find it natural to write as much about most documentaries than about most feature films - but without implying any superiority of one type over the other. Not having anything to say does not mean much, as the film may be eloquent enough on its own account (as is Charlotte Rampling in The Look, for example).

What I will say is this: Dirty Harry; restraint erupting into violence; Clint Eastwood. Those are all things that echo, not so much through Ryan Gosling's performance as Driver, as the character himself. A review in the Festival booklet TAKE ONE, of which I was a little and (I hope) no more than gently mocking, drew attention to the fact that, although we (I?) could swear that we hear him called something, we do not: Ryan Gosling is credited simply as Driver. (By contrast, in 1971, Eastwood was the Harry of the film's title.)

Does the lack of a name say more than Driver's prepared speech? Definitely, the speech is where I came in with thinking of Harry Callahan and his famous 'Do I feel lucky?' spiel.(Moreover, Harry is relatively nearby in San Francisco, where he is seeking a gunman calling himself Scorpio: and what is the emblem on Driver's light-coloured jacket?) For anyone who knows Harry, I cannot believe his formulation would not have been a touchstone for Driver's own, either because, as with Travis Bickle, Driver has modelled a persona, or (or as well) because the film is nodding to that sort of territory:

We first hear the set speech (as a recalled voiceover) where Driver is very much in control, dictating the terms; when we hear it again, he is trying to pretend (to himself, as much as anyone?) not only that he is still in control, but also that he knows what he has let himself in for - which he (clearly) does not. (Though there has been a foreshadowing of the violence in the scene where he is accosted, when drinking in a bar, by someone who recognizes him as having driven for him: it had not gone well for that man's accomplice and him, but he is told quite clearly where to get off when he makes a proposition to Driver.)

But is the attempt to be in control linked to, and just an aspect (albeit a central one) of, the namelessness? I think that it may be (don't worry, this isn't a review of the Eastwood film - trust me!): Harry asserts himself, asserts the role of chance, in confronting another man with a weapon that may (or may not) be out of ammunition, but does so through a set pattern of words - a mantra, a prayer, it doesn't matter what it is, it works for him, and that is what it is intended to do. After Driver's second utterance of his speech, he is more and more on his own in making choices, planning, seeking to regain control, to protect and survive.

Whatever his life exactly has been before, he has survived with work in the garage and, relatedly, driving. Yes, he does different sorts of driving (and there is a neat misdirection with the scene where he is about to do a stunt, and is dressed in LAPD uniform), but there is no detail, no feeling of a life led other than by a cipher.

When Irene asks him, he says that he has recently moved to the - unfurnished, unpersonalized? - apartment around the corner from her, but, after a hesitation, he continues that he is not new to Los Angeles (as becomes evident - from where he works, and from how he knows where he is going when he drives). (Yet, with the stunning night views of the city, I almost feel that we know LA better than we do Driver.)

So is what the film wants to say that meeting Irene and her son Benicio changes his life? - and, not necessarily for the better, vice versa? He wants to help and protect her - but in his chosen way, which involves exposing her to an epsiode in the lift that will surely gain a life of its own. However, as things happen (not entirely outside his own making - a self-destructive streak, consistent with the nature of the night driving that he does?), he cannot be with her, cannot do any more than further conceal his identity and who he is.

Maybe, if anywhere, that's where there is scope to wonder: what does he really see in Irene, and what is his vantage-point? Yes, she seeks his company (and, in doing so, is not being strictly honest about what her intentions are and what is possible), and she would - might? - not have sought it, if she had known the truth about him. He does more than go along, clearly enjoying spending some time (the film is vague as to how much or for how long) with Benicio and her, and becoming aware that they may be exposed to risk.

Regarding the timing of the second time that we hear Driver's speech, and where everything really starts to change, he tells Irene that he had offered to help Standard, her husband. That may or may not be true, as Standard is shown playing a line in innuendo and low-level menace that suggests that he thought ill of Driver's recent attentions to his wife and son, and that appearance seems more consistent with his having 'suggested' that Driver should help Standard with his problems.

In any event, whether he is free or not to do what he does, he assuredly does it for Irene and for Benicio, not for Standard. Maybe it seems likely that he would, maybe it doesn't, but he does, and that is just another part of his unknowability: the tender (but quiet) times in Irene's company, contrasted with the explosions of violence. Maybe more of Travis, along with Harry, after all...?

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

New allegations: Matt Damon opens my post

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11 October

Not that I have, knowingly, seen him sitting down doing so with my paper-knife, but you can never be too sure, after Dylan Thomas besmirched the name of postal workers in that play for voices of his (and provoked a three-week stoppage in Swansea, some say)!

I probably wouldn't recognize him anyway, since his appearance in Festival Surprise Film Contagion on 25 September (which became Surprise Film (1), and its companion SF (2) thereby took away any audience for the Closing Film) as the slightly bovine focus for our concerns (obliged, as we are, by what peers out at us from the lens of the camera) did not make me cry out (to myself - in a hushed auditorium, after all) 'Ah, m'ol' mate and mucker Matt!'.

Still, sooner that than be spotted straightaway as Jude Law, but with the puzzlement of what on earth that non-Kiwi accent was supposed to be! It sounded as though it wanted to be from that part of the world, and maybe, like a virus, it had mutated by merging with the local one (I think that he was supposed to be in San Francisco)...

However, the internal evidence, i.e. of being called Alan Krumwiede, hints more at Afrikaans, of happy, youthful times spent in what - depending on his supposed age - might have been the white privilege of Rhodesia, if Law hadn't sounded much more like a Cockney than anything. (And yet not even that interpretation would have been convincing...)

Sunday, 9 October 2011

'You're now as famous as Matt Damon!'

More views of - or after - Cambridge Film Festival 2011
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10 October

The Agent is none the wiser, really, what this means: when he was told, during the Festival, that he now was this famous, he made some response, but not really to ask the question.

Yet it cannot alter the fact that he wrongly attributed, to Damon's co-writer and fellow actor Ben Affleck, the title role in Good Will Hunting*, so that has been remedied:

The Agent can now be as famous as someone whom he mistook for someone else... - which is what fame is all about, I guess: thinking that the person who is famous is the one whom we see

* But, at least, Affleck had been in - was a major part of and force behind - the film, he cavilled abjectly

The (supposed) power of the written word

More views of - or after - Cambridge Film Festival 2011
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9 October

There must have been belief in such a power in the (sixteenth or) seventeenth century (I forget which), when (by reprehensible accident) the famous so-called naughty bible was printed, which, amongst the usual commandments, stipulated 'Thou must commit adultery'.

At long last, I have seen a copy of this bible, and I also read more about the penalty that was imposed upon the printer - all of which must be predicated on the understanding that people could not infer that the word 'not' was missing, and would therefore do what the instructions on the packet stated. (It would be intriguing to know if any case is recorded where a licentious spouse pleaded the wording of this bible in his or her defence!)

From this, I jump to a review of Tirza, which - if it needs saying - rather crassly describes Tirza's father as 'a loser, a confusing low moral guy who actually just used the excuse of finding his estranged daughter in order to get over the shames and the losses of his own life'. (In the rest of the review, we are told that Tirza is 'a very boring movie that I didn't find any depth in anything', and one which is 'mixed with the past and the present, the regret, the loss, the father and the prodigal daughter, the constant flashbacks and the confusing mix ups'.)

So how do we look at each other? Do we come down hard on the printer of the bible, as a loser, a low moral guy, or on the director, for producing this very boring movie? Or do we place any store in such formulations as 'there but for the grace of God', do we have what some might call 'compassion', others 'understanding' (but does it matter what we call it?)?

As for me, to read a review like this, posted from the country of the happy ending (NB its mainstream film industry) and of hard work turned into an inevitable fortune in a land of limitless opportunities, could I not justly say that all that is just utter hokum as far as most people's lives is concerned - and, even if it weren't, would it actually make anyone (lastingly) happier? So on what is this judgement of someone else as 'a low moral guy' predicated? Who is better than anyone else - and in whose judgement?

Unless, of course, you really do believe in 'the person of reasonable firmness', a fiction to excuse people, during what is laughingly called 'the troubles', from escaping the consequences of - what were thought of as - their own actions. Would I have liked, at the risk of reprisals towards me or my family if I didn't, to try to refuse to drive a car (which might very well have had a bomb in it - why was I being asked to drive it, if not?) into the centre of Derry and leave it there?

Well, the person of 'reasonable firmness', dead in a ditch with a bullet in his or her head, wouldn't have done, so why are you so such a 'low moral guy'?


More views of - or after - Cambridge Film Festival 2011
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9 October

* Contains spoilers *

Perhaps because of some residual squeamishness (despite the director wanting it to be there), the two films in the Festival (Kosmos and Sleeping Beauty) that I recall* depicting a cigarette-burn being given (or made - neither verb sounds quite right, because it is really 'inflicted') did so really very briefly.

Yet, as I was told (a fact intended to shock) in the context of training on child abuse and child protection (and so we are talking about a child's skin, not even an adult's), it takes more than a second for a burn to be made that leaves a lasting visible scar. (I forget how long: 1.3 seconds? 3 seconds? And searching for the term leads one discreetly just to search-results about damage to car upholstery or to carpets...)

*A topos that would not have been out of place in Abegebrannt (Burnout) or Tyrannosaur.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Perspectives on boxes and bags

More views of - or after - Cambridge Film Festival 2011
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9 October

A carrier-bag can give rise to some strange, if related, thoughts. The one in question was given to me when I bought some books from Amnesty yesterday, which I later saw declared itself to have been made from a potato (I think).

From there, a short hop (which ignored the feeling that it was sturdier than whatever the ones from the shop that hardly ever helps are made from) to attempts to make CD boxes with little (a moulded tray glued to a fold-up card cover) or no plastic (the same thing, but with a slot into which the CD can be pushed home).

Which, because of the way that DVD boxes look, would be difficult to replicate with them – but is there any reason, other than convention, why they should be any other shape or size than a CD box? CDs and DVDs are visually indistinguishable, and many players will also work with the former, so are we really so incapable of knowing which we are looking at or buying that the box has to have (such) a different format?

Its only – slight – justification is that it bears a resemblance to a VHS box (the video being the predecessor of the DVD), but, of course, it does not contain something of those proportions to warrant it, but, rather, what could be, and needs as little packaging as, a CD. (And those proportions are largely observed by the boxes for BluRay® discs.)

Perhaps someone knows the answer… Perhaps the same person can, then, explain what appears to be the redundancy in the term ‘carrier-bag’.

Attempting to address Tirza

More views of - or after - Cambridge Film Festival 2011
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9 October

* Contains spoilers *

Since I saw Tirza (my second viewing being on 21 September), I have thought about it on many days – unlike some, I would not choose to describe it as having haunted me, even though the visitations would be benign ones, but say that I have pictured scenes in it and their emotional force, or the latter through the former.

On a first viewing, I was less sure, because I am interested in the depiction of issues relating to mental health, and I wanted to be sure that I was still persuaded, despite knowing the end from the beginning: I am now convinced that I should read the novel, to see which is the more powerful work. In the meantime – in the face of a list of reading priorities - the essential triangle of Jörgen, looking for Tirza with Kaisa, remains highly evocative.

The pressures that have been on Jörgen become clear early on: staged redundancy, domestic abuse verging on a humiliating kind of violence, unforeseen loss of financial stability, and, amidst it all, overcompensating by trying too hard to be a good father. The list is not meant to be reductionist or exhaustive, and it is not one whose force Jörgen recognizes or understands (in its totality), but they are facts (from some of which he knows that he tries to escape through alcohol, which he calls a medicine for shame) - and all of us would react differently to any one of them.

If I had to say what the film is, I would end up with a phrase such as ‘meditative tragedy’. However, that term in no way gives expression to the ambivalent relationship between Jörgen and Tirza, his daughter; which, itself, is one that Kaisa, in another country (although she should be able to follow Jörgen, whether he speaks in Dutch or English), only knows about directly through him (and, probably also, because of what he does not say).

Tirza, although the film as named after her, is the absence at the heart of the film to - and through - which Kaisa and Jörgen relate, and around whom they navigate Namibia (whose scenery is beautifully portrayed, when we leave the confined atmosphere of Windhoek, and, even more so, the area where Kaisa lives). This is all very sensitively and thoughtfully done, with tremendous, and very inner, performances from Keitumetse Matlabo (as Kaisa) and Gijs Scholten van Aschat (Jörgen).

Early on, Jörgen says that he likes Kaisa, because he can talk to her – we may (as I did) not be sure how much she understands, but the scene in Big Mama shows perfectly that she has followed what has gone on, with, if it does not sound patronizing, wisdom and depth beyond her years. (It does not matter that she does not have much to say, because she does far more than speak lines.)

For she is no mere excuse for us to hear what is on Jörgen’s heart, hear his confession, as she would be in a lesser work that failed to think out the dynamics. Kaisa is the catalyst for much, if not all, that happens in this land to which Jörgen is foreign (and where, perhaps aware of the colonial past, feels his awkwardness and embarrassment): she senses his need, his literal need, when she says ‘Need company, sir?’, and she helps and guides him to find what he has buried in and from himself.

We are left thinking about her, left wondering what could have been, left remembering how it all unfolded – when that happens, and when it is still happening weeks later, a real piece of cinema has been made and witnessed. Thank you, Rudolf van den Berg, for bringing Tirza to the big screen!

Guilty of love or Guilty of Romance

More views of - or after - Cambridge Film Festival 2011
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9 October

* Contains spoilers *

One sounds rather better than the other, more mysterious. (Less accurate?)

The starting voiceover sounded as though details being given about district with the greatest concentration of love-hotels were in spite of boredom ('romance-hotels' doesn't sound quite right - and 'love', anyway, is a poor euphemism), but maybe it was just meant to sound a matter-of-fact tone, perhaps as a bid (they did regularly crop up, not usually successfully) to wrong-foot the viewer.

Maybe, having left only 70 minutes in, I am not in a position to judge, but this film just seemed like a whodunnit, and a not particularly interesting one (except for students of mutilation), but one with (attempts at) embellishments. Attempted, because the Effi Briest, Madame Bovary, Anna Karenina, The Kreutzer Sonata sort of neglected wife with a boorish husband (and / or otherwise unhappy marriage) was only one sort of springboard into this 'adventure' for Mitzuko, and it was neither followed up, nor very convincing (e.g. the absence of her pre-existing life, except when - exceptionally awkwardly - some friends are produced and invited around for tea).

The stupid husband seemed, from what I could judge from the subtitles, to be a celebrated writer, but actually, despite his airs, of Mills & Boon (perhaps where the romance comes in?), or maybe Alan Titchmarsh. (By contrast, Sleeping Beauty did not need an such excuse, and went straight in, not even via touting hot sausages in a supermarket, but with a proper waitressing job that was not enough to finance university and lifestyle.)

Then, along with that Australian film, we move off into the territory of Buñuel's Belle de Jour (frankly more challenging, after all these years (1967), than either), but only as a build-up for sexual liberation generally and, specifically, a cheap laugh about how doing a porno-shoot with a stud makes one better at offering hot sausages enthusiastically (those scenes, in themselves, were surely a surprise to no one, least of all Mitzuko).

And that leads us into the domain (no going back) of casual sex, dressing differently / seductively, and the love-hotels about which we were so carefully told before. After that, and an autopsy complete with maggots, a crime scene with violently coloured pink paint, and a sex-scene in a show with the odd paint capsule thrown in, does one care much about where it is going or, more importantly, how it is going there?

Well, I didn't, but I cared even less to hear what I am fairly sure was Wagner's Siegfried Idyll and Bach's works for cello accompany all this, and that, apart from not being interested in how it unfolded, was my main impulse for leaving. (Perhaps the incongruity would have been less for those who were unfamiliar with this, even so, admittedly well-known music, perhaps not, but it turned the switch to 'off' for me.)

Or was this really an attack on the culural imperialism and globalism of the western world, disguised as a film? Certainly, there was little evidence of the restaurant and retail chains that dominate most cities. Certainly, we were being shown a culture particular to Japan in the love-hotel. Certainly, the western music of the baroque and the nineteenth century was being challenged to stand up against the most graphically demanding of bedfellows (and thereby proved that Bach is not, after all, strong enough to survive any treatment, even if that of Jacques Loussier were not enough to demonstrate otherwise), so maybe...

Still don't care!

Friday, 7 October 2011

Contagion and what is contagious

This is a Festival review of the Surprise Film, Contagion (2011)

More views of - or after - Cambridge Film Festival 2011
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8 October (Tweets added, 21 July 2015)

This is a Festival review of the Surprise Film, Contagion (2011)

I’m not imagining that I understand, not having looked at it, much about the spread of disease and its control. However, I cannot believe the following sort of scenario, without seeing some credible evidence that it makes real biological sense:

If a fox, detected in a chicken-run, drops something that it has been eating in its flight, and that food is not only palatable to the chickens, but is also infected with a virus that the fox has had, the chicken (or chickens) that eats its, merely by having eaten that food, will give rise to a fox/chicken-type virus (whose genotyping will show origins in both the fox and the chicken).

If the chicken is then, sadly, run over, its blood will be infected with the virus, and another species that comes into contact with it will (or could) contract the virus that it contains.

As I say, it may be that I know nothing about the matter, but this seems about as simplistic as thinking that, because certain foods contain more anti-oxidants than others, because anti-oxidants will react with and neutralize free radicals, and because free radicals can react with cells to give rise to ageing and cancer, eating those foods will reduce one’s liability to those undesirable effects.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Gerhard Richter: Painting - less painting, than trying not to be disrupted painting

This is a Festival review of Gerhard Richter : Painting (2011)

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7 October

This is a Festival review of Gerhard Richter : Painting (2011)

* Contains spoilers *

Arshile Gorky’s wife reported, when he was still working in his New York studio, that she would see a canvas in one state, and, by the time that she awoke, it had been worked upon so much that it was largely unrecognizable. There are elements of this in what Gerhard Richter seeks to achieve in spite of the presence of those filming him at work, but that is the territory of this kind of work, and, really, it ought not to be too surprising (to which I shall return later).

Rather than wondering, rather pointlessly, whether Gorky would have allowed director Corinna Belz in when he was working, I can only profess admiration for Richter that, despite the fact that it was putting him off, he did not close down the access. That said, whether he would have welcomed – or, if given the choice, approved of – the temporal juxtaposition of how what he was working on looked at different moments, I do not know.

What I do know is that he loads the squeegee with paint, and then has to say that what he was about to do cannot be done then, because it will not succeed. Whatever Richter may ‘really’ be like, he gave the impression on camera of being a sensitive man, and he seemed unnerved that he had started preparing for something that was not possible, and which, one would like to think, he might not have done, if he had felt at ease. He did not, not when trying to work on his canvases.

Indeed, following on from that, if we invest an artist and his or her work with worth, then we have to leave him or her free to decide when a work is finished, and what is effective and what is not. And yet I am imagining that the moment when he white-washes over a grey composition may have left some who watched the film wishing that he had left it untouched: I can understand that, but I take the different view – that he created it, and he must be satisfied with it, if it is to bear his name.

His assistants, his wife, recognize the knife-edge on which the creative process is balanced at this stage, and say that, if they were to comment that they think that something is right as it stands, what they have said would be more likely to cause Richter to re-work it. Not out of perversity, I fully believe, but because, as the camera and crew do, the remark would interrupt and subvert the process.

Unlike artists who have their studios, and would, throughout history, delegate tasks to assistants, Richter’s was shown getting the paint ready, but the artist himself was even cleaning off his materials at the end of the session. He was, as he several times expressed in response to questioning (some of which was better and more artistically minded than other parts of it), clearly finding his way with the works, and we were told about how their current state had to stand up (as if to scrutiny, scrutiny of a most honest kind – and Richter believes in truth in painting) for several days: white-washing over was not something over which those in his entourage could regularly afford to be regretful.

As I say, the creation is the artist’s, and he or she is the one to find a way ahead. In the case, for example, of Joan Miró, he had the luxury of being able to re-work canvases decades later that were still in his possession, whereas the Tate refused, I think, Francis Bacon, access to some of his, because it did not want them – as it owned them – any different from how they were, and knew that that would be the result otherwise.

One observation, amongst many intelligent things that Richter said about his work (and it was also fascinating to see him about the business not only of planning out exhibition spaces in 1:50 scale, but to hear him pleading with photographers at the opening of a show who required just one more pose that they had so many shots already), was that a painting makes an assertion that does not bear much company: in the context of having to hang several pieces on each wall, and plan it all out, that seemed just as much a challenge as in the studio, with canvases making differing assertions in different ways about how they should work.

So the supremacy of each work’s voice, its statement, and, I would say, for the painter to decide what it is to say and when it is saying it. Then, for Richter, what he said that he valued was people adopting the attitude of those attending a gallery in New York, who would more freely, more honestly, say that they liked this group of paintings, but that the grey compositions were terrible. The point that he was making is he does not feel the polite comment that something is ‘interesting’, to which he is usually exposed, is that kind of genuine response.

As for me, I’m looking forward to spending time at the new exhibition at Tate Modern – and maybe to watching this film again there during the time that it is on.

As if I am not There: from the claustrophobia of a concentration camp back to the outside world

This is a Festival review of As if I am not There (2010)

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7 October

This is a Festival review of As if I am not There (2010)

* Contains spoilers *

One usually gets so much of the feel of what a foreign-language film will be from the title that it has been given, and that can be misleading (or just a bad choice), so it is good to know that this one was intended. Obviously, such things should not carry too much weight, but there is the feeling in these words ‘How can this be happening to me? How can something so outside my experience be taking place?’

And this film shows a response to that horrible feeling of unreality. Any suggestion, as in another review that I have read, that it was just made to have some sort of gruesome residue of appeal that it does not really deserve is just so bizarre as not to merit any real further comment. Things on which this film relies happened (maybe to different people and at different times), and I really struggle to believe that anyone would think the film made just to exploit those people’s suffering.

It does not rejoice in that suffering, but shows how the small group of women with whom we end up managed – or chose to manage – in humiliating conditions after their menfolk had just been executed for no crime other than being men, and being from the wrong racial group.

No one depicts rape for its own sake, and here, in the case of Samira (Nastasa Petrovic), it is a vehicle for us to witness her seeking to absent herself from the brutal and disgusting way in which she is being handled – ‘treated’ is too genteel a word for it. And, of course, there are worse atrocities that could have been committed (and which are visited upon a young girl in a cruel parody of the Christian cross and what it is meant to symbolize), but, for Samira, recently travelled from home and family to a new place where she expects to teach and care for children, this must be unimaginable, unbearable.

When she expects to be raped again, but the soldier shown into her prefers to fall asleep next to her, there is a short moment of respite from the cruelty and dehumanisation, even though, as one of the women selected to satisfy the soldiers, she and they probably have better conditions than the others, with whom we lose contact until much later. For Samira, and for her increasing bravery, the decision comes to be that of staying a woman, of putting on lipstick, and not remaining the unwilling recipient of sex, but asserting her right to be a person, to reject the men’s belief in their right to strike and abuse her.

In what I read as a by-product of that assertion, she attracts the attention of the soldiers’ Captain (Miraj Grbic), and swaps civilized – but still meaningless – love-making, rather than enforced copulation at the hands of insensitive and brutish men who do not even view her as human. Within the constraints of that role (and in a fine performance), he shows Samira such kindness as he can, but it is all too undeniable – and, at several points, cannot be denied – that they both know that he has every power over her, and that he just chooses to give her some respect, the respect denied to so many of the others from her adoptive village.

The Captain seems partly drawn to her because she is educated, from Sarajevo, and believes in herself – in the ordinary course of the events that Samira could have had no knowledge of being about to unfold she would not have been there. When the painful physical and mental things that, for me, Nastasa Petrovic’s acting render totally compelling, with her face seeming like a window through which her disbelief and sense of degradation seem transparent, are over, she cannot even go back to her home city or her family, because it is all gone.

As if I am not There is a story that needs to be told, but it in no way has that sense of a worthy subject that has been attributed to it – to see where Samira, the woman at the beginning, has come from, to see what has shocked her, traumatized her, and the legacy with which she is left in another country, and with which she seems to take steps to come to terms, is such a powerful piece of individual heroism that it truly offers hope where it feels least likely.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

The cosmos of Kosmos

This is a Festival review of Kosmos (2010)

More views of - or after - Cambridge Film Festival 2011
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7 October

* Contains spoilers *

This is a Festival review of Kosmos (2010)

Kosmos is what he calls himself, when he is asked his name. He has previously saved the young woman’s brother, and he is delighted to hear her baying at him like a wolf, inviting him to follow her, to chase her. When he says that he is Kosmos, she says that she is Neptün, and I find myself thinking more of the seas, than of the planet. (Meeting the girl’s father, he gives a different name, but he is credited as Kosmos (Sermet Yesil), and she as Neptün (Türkü Turan.)

What we see is his visit to this indeterminate Muslim town in the snow, from when he arrives to when he leaves. All that we really know, as a foreign audience, is that he strays into areas where he should not be, that there are sounds of explosions, and that there is a border closed, which some would like opened, but which others say is just for their profit.

If we are trying to judge him, to see whether the words that he speaks when asked questions and which have a ring of teaching such as from the Koran or the book of Ecclesiastes, then we will find that he does things to disapprove of. (But don’t we all. He does not claim to be a great holy man, but answers people’s questions, and seems to seek to help.)

Ultimately, it is the disapproval, and the reliance that others have put upon him to cure as if it is without cost to himself (when we see at the start how he gives of himself to give life back to the boy whom he has rescued from the river), which cut short his time there. Some see him for who he is, but even the teacher, who sleeps with him, seeks to put her guilt on him – what he is looking for, he says, is love.

With Neptün, whether or not they sleep together, there is an unbridled energy and exuberance, a dance as of elemental forces such as their names suggest. Even his acts of healing, and what happens with natural phenomena (reminiscent of what Tarkovksy does in Mirror), suggest that he has a connection that others have forgotten about or overlooked, and which the girl sees in him more fully. The woman who places reliance in the medication Tralin® , an anti-depressant, seems at the opposite extreme, but he is nonetheless distressed for her.

The crash-landing of some sort of lunar module, which the authorities want hushed up, but which he has already seen, seem to herald a time when judgement turns against him, and he has to leave, although not without showing his care for those who are hurting. He leaves as he arrived, and, except when he is with Neptün, there is always an ambiguous quality about his anguish and about his joy, as if their being two sides of the same coin is very close to him.

This is a remarkable piece of cinema, and would invite me to see it again. What I would have to be clear about is not to do so to find out more about who Kosmos is, since we know only the time when he is with the people in this town and often have to guess at his motives or motivations, but to see how he is valued, to see what people see in him.

Loops and strips

7 October

More views of - or after - Cambridge Film Festival 2011
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If, depending on how much it had cost, it had been a Festival wristband that secured entry to, and the seat of my choice at, any screening, it would have been something worth treasuring.

Even though it actually wasn't, and had just been (somewhat needlessly?) issued to those of us who watched Some Like it Hot on Grantchester Meadows (probably amongst other events), I kept it with me until beyond 25 September, in fact for almost a whole month, as some sort of talisman. It bore up after the Festival was over, even if I didn't, remarkably well...

The ceremonial severing of the band, lest I still be marvelling at its durability in a twelvemonth, is less evident than said durability, but such is the way of these things.

A look at The Look

This is a Festival review of The Look (2011)

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7 October

This is a Festival review of The Look (2011)

There is not much to say about The Look, not because it is not good, but because it is worth watching, rather than talking about. A good documentary cannot be summed up (and, counter to this sense, I had been trying to remember the headings under which each section of the film falls), but has told or, as here, shown you something about the truth.

Even if the viewer has somehow never heard of Charlotte Rampling, I believe that he or she, quite apart from the fact that clips are shown from a number of her films, would want to go on to discover some of them. (Where I know her best from is Woody Allen’s misunderstood (at the time) Stardust Memories, where she was mad and desirable as Dorrie, and the first time that I had heard the term ‘basket case’ (one of Alvy’s voices describing her.)

The sections were headed with titles as large, but not actually as invading, as exposure, beauty, sex, death, life and two or so others: each was the introduction to Rampling in communion with someone whom she know, so, first, being photographed by and photographing Peter Lindbergh in an unfinished / unfurnished top-floor space in what was probably Paris, talking about what that meant to her and to him. Already, a very great entrée into hearing what Rampling said about herself and her look. Then talking to writer Paul Auster in a remarkable maritime location, etc.

The film had really one flaw, which was that it dragged towards the end: the sections at the end could just have been a little tighter, because I was not alone in finding that the attention was slipping. Indeed, one short scene, where Rampling has something and nothing of meeting up with one of her contacts (after an atmospheric call from a deli to try to arrange it), could just have been dropped all together. The judgement seemed to have been taken to include it, when it might better have been made to leave it out.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Bob Dylan is 70 (2)

More views of - or after - Cambridge Film Festival 2011
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When I said previously that Dylan in Don't Look Back was 27, I meant 24.

The day after seeing it, I looked out David Hadju's positively 4th street, from which it seems most apt to quote from a letter dated 5 May that Joan Baez wrote to her sister Mimi from the Savoy Hotel:

Dearest Mimishka - I love you.

We're leaving Bobby's entourage. He has become so unbelievably unmanageable that I can't stand to be around him. Everyone traveling with him is going mad - He walks around in new clothes with a cane - Has tantrums, orders fish, gets drunk, plays his record, phones up America, asks if his concert tonight is sold out - stops all three limousines every morning to buy all the newspapers that might have his name in them. [...]