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Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Daniella Westbrook: 'Drugs Have Ruined My Looks' (courtesy of Huffpost)

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1 March

Yes, well, there might be one pose chosen for this story where Daniella resembles an Emma Watson, but - unless I am hopelessly misinformed - she was never awarded the beauty contracts that come the ex-Potter star's way.

Or are we all supposed to be having amnesia and believing that she was some sort of raging beauty in her significant t.v. role in a family of crooks?

To flip the coin, Marilyn was, of course, never comfortable with the attention that came with her looks (and, needless to say, they were enhanced for lenses of all sorts), but it wasn't as if she said that she wished she could be plain once more - why did those Martians have to whisk her away and beautify her one day?

Maybe I'm being mean, but we all knew years back about Daniella and her septum, so why is this news?

Mysteries of Lisbon: The varieties of self-destruction

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1 March

* Contains spoilers *

If I hadn't given the game away in the title, and you told me that you, as I did last night, went into a film for 6.40* and - including a 15-minute interval - did not come out until minutes before 11.30, I'd have asked if you had been watching the full version of Fanny and Alexander (1982).

Actually, not just because of the scale**, I had that film on my mind, and, in the interval between the parts, tried to engage one known from last year's Festival-going with that conceit. (Actually, I should have known better from having said, then, that I had taken my chance, when I could, to see The Seventh Seal on the big screen that it would not be a good thing to air it***.)

As with that earlier conversation, I was met with the notion that Bergman's films are chamber works (and so are just as perfectly seen at home), which The SS, waves pounding on the cliffs and beach, patently isn't. (And nor, for my money, is Fanny and Alexander, despite its domestic roots, but the suggestion was that the proper comparison was with The Forsyte Saga.)

Still, after the (welcome) interval, my belief that a debt is owed to Fanny and Alexander (its being set in a different century notwithstanding, and, really, nothing to do with what I felt that Bergman had demonstrated in that film) did not abate with continued viewing. As to the Galsworthy link, I do not see it myself, any more than I was really reminded of Buddenbrooks (2008) (of which I thought, as of a longer film, but then dismissed), because both are dynastic in a way that Mysteries of Lisbon truly is not.

What I did get put in mind of, momentarily, was The Leopard (1963) in the scenes of nobility in their finery, but, unlike in Visconti's film, I had the feeling that some extras in some scenes just did not move or look as if they belonged in their elaborate clothes, i.e. it seemed that they were not used either to the costumes, or to what those wearing them in that period would have done.

Mention was made, in the film (I forget where), of Ann Radcliffe, and (apart from its usefulness now) I still rue having been required to read her Mysteries of Udolpho (1794) - on the slender basis that it would inform Northanger Abbey. Sixty years later, Branco's novel, from which Mysteries of Lisbon derives, clearly took a cue from the title of Radcliffe's book.

However, although the film does yield answers, it casually replaces them with nearly as many mysteries (though some may be created by sheer fatigue in concentrating on a set of interconnecting stories for so long - as against two unrelated films of the same duration - and having to remember who everyone is): by contrast, the Austen text presents us with a world where, despite appearances to the contrary, an utterly rationalistic approach is capable of explaining everything, however spooky or sinister.

Not that Austen (in this and other books) is necessarily always meaning to show us what a nincompoop everyone but her narrator is, but one could be forgiven for thinking so. Father Dinis, for all that he delves into mysteries (as well as creating them), is, in this respect, more like Chesterton's Father Brown, having a healthy respect for others' capacity to set out to mystify him, but at the same time teasing out those things that can be caused to yield to the joint attack of persistence and intellect.

And I would be very interested to know, if I can look into the matter at some point, why I was so put in mind, by this Portuguese film, of the works of the late Argentinian writer, Jorge Luis Borges (as well as struck by the beauty of at least two of the female members of the cast).


* And still didn't manage to avoid these over-energized trailers that just leave you in the wrong state of mind to watch the film that you paid to see, let alone that incessant VW Ghostbusters [(1984)] mess about 'seeing films differently', as against seeing the same damn' thing every time!

** IMDb claims that FaA only clocks in at 188 mins, as compared to 266 mins for MoL, but I shall rummage for a better reckoning of its true intended length (even if a version may have been released at that duration of around three hours)...

Yes, according to the running times of the two DVDs on which it was released by Artificial Eye, it is 309 mins (i.e. 5 h, 9 mins).

*** It is almost a commonplace that Bergman is - is supposed to be - a director on the small scale, and thus that his films can conveniently be viewed from a DVD on a smaller screen: to me, that makes as little sense as suggesting that seeing / hearing / feeling string quartets played live adds nothing to one's appreciation, and that one might as well listen to one's favourite recording on CD instead.

What satisfaction does a good - or better - novel give?

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11 March

Of course, start by defining your terms - is On Chesil Beach (which Philip French probably thinks is a palaeontology manual) a novel or a novella? Maybe, just maybe, it depends - in part - on what the author calls it.

That said, I have a lovely red pepper sitting in my kitchen (well, it's on top of a mug), but, if I called it a novel, I doubt that anyone would approach it as one, but rather with a knife and / or some cheese, mushrooms and breadcrumbs.

So, peppers and McEwan (or even McEwan's lager) apart, you are reading this book, and a bit as if it's a lover keep wanting to spend time with it, and its takes you not quite where you wanted, but where you were content to be taken (because of the dialogue, the descriptions, the ideas, the characters...), right to the final word.

Is that better than when, as with Das Schloss (The Castle), that novel of Kafka's allegedly snatched from the fire to which he had mentally consigned it, there is no ending, as he did not finish it (although I think that it is Max Brod, the man who refused to destroy it and other works, who reports that Kafka had something in mind, and says what it is)?

Probably a pig to read it to that point - in whichever of numerous editions / translations comes one's way - not knowing, but would one, say, with Gogol's Dead Souls curse God and Man on finishing what we have and learning that there is no more, because - if we believe the story - the wrong MS, that of the reworked later part, was thrown into the fire?

Do things have to be wrapped up by the author, if he or she can, so that we can put the book down with a sigh of satisfaction, or can we declare, as I do with The Medusa Frequency and Angelica's Grotto, that the books are still great, even if it is clear enough - as debated elsewhere - that the books terminate with what, in musical terms, is a final cadence, but one that, for its formally ending, nonetheless smacks of an ending to be done with it as none other promoted itself in the mind of Russell Hoban.

And then, with that idea of an end to a symphonty* or like, we steer dangerously close - and so pull back, pretending that we touched the leg by mistake - to the labours left unfinished of Schubert, Bruckner, Mahler and the like (not to mention Fartov and Belcher).


* I'm keeping that in, and I shall write to Peter Maxwell Davies, urging him to abandon the symphonic form (he's written at least four, after all), and compose a Symphonty instead!

Bath-times with a difference (3)

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29 February

Someone who was foolish¹ enough to post a comment on the first of what has become a trio of these postings did so to ask what my advice would be on the matter of croutons. To which my immediate response was:

That is a good question, but not one not to be thought of apart from that of the use of condiments, or, of course, of the edicts as a whole of the court of Louis XIV², I must say (probably in a later posting, on a quite diferent topic)...

For, that epoch³ was, just as we still have the origins there of our code of dining etiquette (e.g. not eating off the knife, how to set out the cutlery, and other impermissible uses of it, etc.), the source of various rulings about food and wine (and how, when and why they are to be consumed - with a very special section on cake).

If I had the energy to invent them, we could spend a merrily long time considering them all, but let us confine ourselves - willing prisoners - to the matter of soup (and avoid, if at all possible, the tangentially connected one of letting cheese melt in it).

Well, of course (miser that he was), Louis invented the crouton. You know how it is: you have some pretty big palace stuck in a field outside Paris, and it's hard to get the catering right. The Royal Baker produces too much for numbers at court that day, and Louis is fretting about this bread that is going uneaten and stale, so he tasks said regal bakery with the task of devising a way of using it.

They are bakers, so they already know about freshening up bread by warming it up again a little, and just take it a little further, rescuing bread that has gone beyond those bounds in this form of what can be added not just to soup, but to any dish with a signifcantly liquid element⁴.

Louis is, of course, delighted, and willingly takes the credit in front of those first to see him sprinkle what he dubs croûtons into his French onion (which, of course, The French assuredly don't - and never have - called it, any more than Danish pastries go by that name in Norway): he was thinking of cru plus tons, by which he meant the top-notch crunching noises that would result.

However, that real origin has been subsumed, in the search for some wholesome derivation, by some piffle about the word 'crust' (when there may be no crust involved on any side of the dice that croutons essentially are - though, but at the risk of burning the apex, they could be tetrahedra, or, without that problem (but the much greater one of making them), icosaehdra or dodecahedra).

However, Louis ends up having to banish croûtons, because his - sometimes not very classy - courtiers end up mucking around with them during meals, and even having games of craps with them later. (They were only emancipated after the Revolution, when Danton much prized them.)

The same sparing qualities can be seen in the well-known account of Marie Antoinette - also, as it happens, addressing what to do if bread is short. (No doubt this was the practice of Louis - if numbers at court exceeded supply, the bakers were asked to find some gâteaux to fill the lack.)

I'll wager that she would have used the subjunctive⁵, which I hazily recall being something of the order of Qu'ils mangèrent des gâteaux!, but I'm certainly not going to check that!


¹ The word is used for reasons that may become apparent.

² We - seem to - take for granted that a monarch's name has such trailing capital Roman numerals to denote how many Henrys there have been (strange that we stopped at VIII - did the name fall out of fashion, for some reason (probably related to that king's eating habits)?), but why did we adopt this practice (from the Roman Empire, I think - either that, or from someone's repeated playing of Risk), and what happened at the time to lead to that choice?

³ Until cut short by what happened in (and leading up to) 1789 and afterwards, with the rise to power of Gérard Depardieu (and the coincidental reinstatement of chocolate as a form of currency, still marked to-day, more than two centuries later, by those little string-bags of chocolate money at Christmas).

⁴ If you happen to believe in the merits of Wikipedia®, I suppose that you can be forgiven for crediting it when it launches into an explanation of their purpose with salads first ('notably the Caesar salad')...

⁵ Unless a speaker is really classy (or attempting to impress - as impress one must - an examiner in advanced French), people don't go out of their way to use this mood, so knowledge of it all becomes a little vestigial...

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Who gets diagnosed - and where are the psychiatrists when this is happening?

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29 February

It's not just on Composer of the Week, a Radio 3 programme whose content and production I very much esteem, that, centuries after the event, musicians get diagnosed with bi-polar disorder or the like*. It's just that I struggle to think of somewhere else - or somewhere else recently - that I have heard this done.

Let's not take Robert Schumann (and I very much appreciated what Steeven Isserlis wrote in a recent magazine article, seeking to focus attention on the music), but think about Johannes Brahms: we factually know that the Intermezzi are late works, so, when Peter Donohue introduced playing four of them to-night, he had to correct himself when he said that Brahms was writing them in the face of the end of his life, when he was actually doing so, as he then said, when he had retired.

But isn't this all a bit tiresome, reading autumn notes into these works that are not there (I couldn't hear them, at any rate)? If the pieces are any good, they should be played on their own merits, not listened to with an 'Ah, now this is late Brahms' posture, when, as I have said before, we know J. S. Bach's life but sketchily, and also the exact time of composition of some works, so we are freed from these stupid and pointless games.

And I shall scream if I hear any more of this end-of-life nonsense about Scubert's final compositions!

No psychiatric diagnosis with Brahms or Schubert, agreed, but it is not letting the music be free. And, in another sphere, what about William Blake? Blake is always talked about as a visionary, but what that means is that, for all the gubbins written by way of commentary on opaque works such as Milton, no one knows what the hell they are about. Blake writes, engraves, illustrates poetry that may reach few other than himself, but, despite his claims to converse with angels, I have never - to my knowledge - heard him given a posthumous psychiatric diagnosis.

Nor, also, Sir Thomas Browne. No, it's only ever - in the literary world - people who, if they were not ever incarcerated for their mental ill-health, were certainly otherwise known to have been treated for it: John Clare and Virginia Woolf.

And, if I ever hear anyone else described as 'a depressive', I shall bellow!


* Where are the case-notes, and who studied them?

Monday, 27 February 2012

Somehow I blinked... (1)

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28 February

What appeared to be a Festival thing, TAKE ONE, has become a beast in its own right, under the banner Picturehouse Review:

Whether I should have known about this, and how I have just found it, I do not know, but it is at for future reference...

Kristin allures again

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28 February

* Contains spoilers *

A friend in the cinema had already warned me of what his friend and he had found not only a surprising, but an inexplicable, ending to The Woman in the Fifth (2011), so I was on the alert.

That said, in the dark and not tempted to look at my watch (or the phone), I nonetheless knew that it was an eighty-four-minuter, but had no sense of how far in I was. Waiting for this surprise actually helped me concentrate wonderfully, and it did not, when it came, seem out of place.

What did keep me waiting was when Kristin Scott Thomas, who was presumably the woman of the title, was going to appear, and I had forgotten about the invitation that Ethan Hawke (as Tom) had been given to a literary evening:

Which, it must be said, seemed as dire as one might imagine, with even the effrontery of being asked for a contribution of twenty euros on arrival. If I didn't know that KST would be much better company than all of these old bores, I still wouldn't have blamed Ethan for, having caught sight of her, wanting to follow her (up to the roof, with the base of Le Tour Eiffel seemingly in touching distance) and leave them behind.

As to the way that everything was told (although, quite in the right way, nothing did get told), what arose from an initial feeling that things were uneasy was one of mysteriousness, especially in relation to KST (playing Margit Kadar, half-French, half-Romanian). The seductiveness that she had shown so tellingly well in her role in Leaving* (2009) was not to the fore as such, although she did greet Tom in a very intimate way when he came to her flat for the first time, but was simmeringly, almost glitteringly, present.

And it was fine that she could see an attractive quality in Tom, because his glasses (I am probably not one to speak) didn't suit him, and his face was much better without them when, in the same scene, she removed them (we possibly hadn't seen him properly like that before, because, talking to his daughter through some railings, we just catch him when he swaps glasses with her).

Tom had an inward quality to him that made it seem as if he had not even noticed that another woman (French-speaking Ania from Poland, played by Joanna Kulig) was taking an interest in him, until she arrives at his door very obviously dressed up and (likewise) takes him up to the roof. One almost thought, in the same way, that his curiosity would not get the better of him when on duty in his mysterious night-job (although his employer must surely have thought that, sooner or later, he would have that impulse), and that he would never go to the 5th arrondissement (the Fifth of the title, or, in the French, La Femme du Vème).

I wanted to see this film again, but I may not have the chance - not at my usual cinema, as it turned out that I had made it to the last screening - and I have ordered the book by Douglas Kennedy on which Pawel Pawlikowski based the screenplay that he has directed.

All in all, this was a film that credited me as a filmgoer to follow connections, to be confused, to work it out, and to construct a reality. I was deeply reminded of Kafka, largely the sort of internal logic of The Castle and (to a lesser extent) The Trial, but that's always fine with me.

Tom, I think, is also creating a reality, and his drifting (e.g. his apparent lack, after the initial concern, of action when he finds that his luggage has been taken from him when he is woken at the bus terminus at Quai de l'Ourcq, and then his inertia when, despite having no real money, he is given a room (no. 7) at Le Bon Coin) is part of that. If I get the chance, I will watch it all over again...


* I hadn't thought, when I saw it on DVD, that its title translated Partir, but I think that it does so effectively enough.

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Thank goodness for Faber & Faber!

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26 February

Simply for this piece of drafting, which I spotted on the imprint page of Alan Bennett's Writing Home (Faber & Faber, London, 1995):

Alan Bennett is hereby identified as author of this work
in accordance with Section 77 of the Copyright,
Designs and Patents Act 1988

That may not be sheer joy to you, but look at what is in the front of other books - until such time as I can explain myself...

Which seems to be now.

This is the more usual (if, I think, flawed) form of the notice under the 1988 Act, which in this case protects - thankfully - a rare talent*:

Mark Kermode has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988,
to be identified as the author of this work

The difference being that, according to this latter formulation, something - some prior act - other than the notice itself constitutes the assertion of the right to be identified as the author.

However, when I last attacked the Act in earnest - and probably s. 77 in particular - I could see no antecedent step envisaged by the legislation. So why this past tense of 'has asserted', and why the suggestion that, say, MK bellowed an announcement (which would still be an 'announcement', not an 'assertion') to that effect at daybreak in Parliament Square for seven days running?

Probably just foolish lawyers' caution, from which F&F wisely seems to have broken free - though I'd have to look at a few more of its titles to establish when, if I were that interested...

PS In fact, there is a more intriguing use of the second type of formulation quoted above that I have now found, which is in a Vintage Classics edition of Brave New World:

Aldous Huxley has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work

Most people, I think, who know when the book was first published will be surprised by that statement (for Huxley, who was born in the tail end of the nineteenth century, died in 1963).

But not, perhaps, if they know the story that relates to Huxley's wife's and his belief in the possibility of extra-corporeal survival, and the story that is recounted about her attempts to make contact with him after he died...


* For, and let's be honest, who else would want to lay claim to The Good, The Bad and The Multiplex (or The Boring, The Marginally Less Boring, and The Outright Tiresome), based on said author's tediously pedestrian account, in the first half of the first chapter, of collecting / buying cinema tickets for his daughter and him (which, so far, has taken up fourteen pages of my life)?

The cover of the book is loaded with plaudits: well, if (Empire), 'Film criticism is rarely [this] much fun', then Heaven help film critics; and, if MK (Sunday Times) has 'More opinions than Delia Smith has baking trays', then I not only fail to spot the relevance of the Delia-related comparison (unless she is cook-in-residence to that organ), but also think that I know where MK is best advised to shove such opinions (along with the trays)!

In fully working order

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26 February

Now that sounds good, unlike, maybe:

* In working order

* In an order that sometimes works, sometimes not

* In an intermediate and indeterminable working order

* Just plain broken

I've got to go all the way home first

No partial measures, then, such as going five-eighths and pretending that that's enough?

I had to go all the way to London to meet Vanessa

Well, presumably (unless Vanessa budged) going just halfway wouldn't even have given sight of her...

Non-Euclidean logic (2)

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26 February

The packet says:

Delicious in* rye bread
or with salads

Does that mean that it is otherwise not 'delicious', and will only become so in these circumstances?

Does it, like some hapless atom with differing electron-states**, flip-flop out of deliciousness, if you try it on its own, then have some with a salad, then try some on its own again?

And please don't confuse it, by having it 'in rye' and with several salads all at once!


* An attempt - one that fails, if so - to place distance between this statement and the formulation of ordering 'pastrami on rye'?

** I Know - a hopelessly unfashionable model nowadays...

Indecent Tinsel (2011) - the follow-up

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26 February

OK, I confess it: I have been spammed again!

Those guys who ran the screening caught me with a few minutes of what, if I had waited, would have morphed into a docu-style feature with its centre the development, by a flagging family firm that supplies soft-core titillation, of a new range of porno-decorations (including tinsel with a phallic imprint):

The whole thing an excuse for the man running the firm to fall in love with the woman who, taken on to sell its fading products, turns out to be a renowned designer, and also to have fallen in love with him. The only problem being that both are allergic to the products - or some such.

I'd only give it two stars, and I haven't even watched it!

Saturday, 25 February 2012

My 'favourite' browser (1)

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26 February

Just from the sound of its name, you understand, which is pleasing in the way that the gruff term 'browser' is: GranParadiso.

Although, it has echoes of Cinema Paradiso (1988), and, inevitably, Dante's canti, it reminds me most of a cheese (you know the one!).

And, within less time than it took to pen what appears above, I could know quite a bit more about this browser, thanks to another one, and, probably, even download it and set it as my default:

This software of whose existence I had been unaware until the lifetime statistics revealed that 21 pageviews had been made using it, some of them, perhaps, by you...

Bath-times with a difference (2)

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25 February

Of course, some scientists appear to want to link the intake, through the lining of the stomach*, of certain fats, or rather kinds of fats (you know, the hydrogenated ones, where the molecule's carbon atoms (or more of them) have more hydrogen atoms attached to them (or, even, so many that no more will attach)), with nasty things that happen in the rest of the body**.

Some journalists and / or some of the public (some of whom may have read the said journalism) may be persuaded of 'findings' that they would be hard pressed to explain stone sober to you in the market-place of Hartlepool (not the place where they hanged the moneky, but with which it is often confused), even given until closing-time, but never mind:

The new thinking is this. Enjoy all the benefits, just as you did with the cream of tomato soup, of the lovely ingredients of a mixed grill, but, because the skin is a less-permeable membrane than that stomach lining, it will keep all the nasties out, but still feed you And, at the same time, by proton-impelled reverse osmosis all those horrible lipids and triglycerides will be sucked out of your body***.

So empty the contents of your grill-pan into the bath, and sit back to enjoy pork and lamb chops, sausages, steak, mushrooms and tomato**** floating around you and giving you nourishment - and, if you do feel self-conscious, just find the web-cam and put a flannel over it, and pretend that you are Amanda Barrie (in Carry on Cleo (1964), not a later reincarnation).

If you like, you can even whistle - whistling is good for the heart (it traps and eliminates ozone, and all good free radicals run at the sound of it, allowing for natural anti-oxidation). A good thing might be the main theme (leaving out Two-Ton Ted from Toddington) from Ernie, The Fastest Milkman in the West...


* In order not to offend, let's call it that, and not 'the gut wall'.

** Which, of course, we won't call 'coronary heart disease'.

*** Rather coarsely, that Fleming's Bond character denigrated the bath, preferring the shower on the basis that he was not immersing himself in his own effluvia. However, he was not far wrong, so it's a good idea - after your pleasurably slow soak, I mean meal - to rinse yourself over (a bit like a finger-bowl).

**** Those, I believe, are traditional elements of such a meal, but notice that I have omitted the chips (or 'the healthy option' of the jacket potato) - you'll need them later, as (purely an illusion) you may still feel hungry: the stomach only knows what the body has taken in, after all, because it knows what you have been chewing and swallowing (the so-called Creosote effect).

DVD release: Misrepresentation (2009)

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25 February

For more on why what follows was written, go to the web-site of New Empress Magazine:

Myself (in a sideways take on this), I’d watch out for a DVD issue of a film called Misrepresentation (2009).

You won’t happen to remember it being on general release, which is strange, because it is said to star (amongst others) Johnny Depp and Lady Gaga, so you are fascinated.

When, having bought it (in said state of fascination), you finally take it out of the pile of DVDs like mine that you know, if you’re being honest, you’ve got of films that you ‘haven’t quite yet’ caught up with, you won’t be disappointed:

You’ll actually prefer what you see, because it’s that winning team of Hepburn and Grant in Charade (1963).

So, enjoy it, and just thank the kind distributor for your not having to witness the film – if it had been made – that would otherwise be on your screen!

(By the way, more such oddities – sometimes, amid genuine reviews – on the blog at Unofficial Cambridge Film Festival)

Thursday, 23 February 2012

The latest on Dimensions

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24 February

New Empress Magazine's on-line content has beaten me to posting the news that Dimensions (2011) has won a prestigious award, which I had first by e-mail from Ant Neely (with the following image).

NEM's coverage is available at:

Helen Cox, who wrote the item, has - understandably - a soft spot for the film, and may even have seen it as many times as I, since, at NEM's third quiz night - as ever in Bermondsey - there was a screening laid on for the first fifty to sign up as participants (because Shortwave Cinema only seats fifty-two).

She mentions two festivals, but Ant told me a while back that there is a third - looking back, I see that, then, he asked me not to mention it, so I'm not doing so...

Letting the music speak for itself

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24 February

That’s what I reckon that Ronald Brautigam was doing in his all-Beethoven programme to-night by not noticeably using rubato*.

Three well-known sonatas (all of them with probably non-Beethovenian nick-names, as publishers then, amongst others, tried to get you to buy something with a catchy title), played quite straight, plus the Variations on the Eroica theme (Op. 35), which I did not know. (In position in Symphony No. 3, assuming that that work came first, the movement is in variation form.)

With all pieces taken from memory, yes he used variations in tempi between sections (as well as between movements), and contrasted quieter moments with louder ones: the so-called Pathétique, for example, opened with the thunder and explosion of what seems to be the fashion to call ‘a gesture’**.

Not strange when, after all, I think of him as playing the forte piano, where the nature of the instrument leads to a certain way of playing. It was therefore a little odd that the first time that I see him is at the keyboard of a grand piano, but he respected the works that he played by not adding expression, but allowing the expressive quality of the writing itself.

Where the benefit of the grand piano did come to the fore under Brautigam’s playing was in the articulation of motifs that would have sounded very different on a forte piano: there was a precision and clarity in the phrasing of significant passages that made sure that everything was audible, and every note had its full weight.

How such a big name gets invited to play must remain a mystery when the venue is distinctly intimate (not to say quirky), but I am an uncomplaining beneficiary, who next week hopes to see Simon Leper as accompanist***…


* In the same way as Alexandre Tharaud on Radio 3 recently (on Wednesday last week, in fact), in his all-Scarlatti first half, broadcast live from the Wigmore Hall: his playing had me so captivated that it kept me listening in the car (and outside the intended destination of the pub), for nigh-on half-an-hour after I had first intercepted it (on the way to said pub).

Apart from attempts from someone to intrude into the sequence with the first beat of intended applause, Tharaud played ten sonatas without a break (I have edited 'Kk.' back to 'K.', because, even if it may be the new convention, everyone knows that the K. numbering credits Ralph Kirkpatrick, its inventor): D minor K. 64, D minor K. 9, C major K. 72, C major K. 132, D major K. 29, E major K. 380, A minor K. 3, C major K. 514, F minor K. 481, D minor K. 141.

I think that his choice of piece and their order owes something to Kirkpatrick's famous study of the allegedly 555 sonatas, so I must take a look...

** Just as the art world has come around to talking about painters and the like ‘making a mark’.

*** To whom, you might well ask, but I have not noticed that name alongside his.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Bath-times with a difference (1)

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22 February

Forget these bath essences, foams or gels that have ingredients such as pepper* or ginseng:

Just slowly add a tin of cream of tomato soup** to your bath as it is running, and, when it is run, and you have lowered yourself into it, luxuriate in the exotic feeling of what being on the hob is like

NB Needless to say, I can't guarantee to have tried this myself, but I'm just waiting for your appreciative comments so that I can deviate from my habitual - and rather tiresome practice - of eating the soup.

The whole affair is perpetuated here, and also here...


* NB It is always qualified as 'black pepper' - poor old white pepper has clearly had its day, whatever its uses...

** The brand doesn't matter - you'll take in its healing properties, but not taste it.

Non-Euclidean logic (1)

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22 February

They say that No news is good news

So can we infer:

All news is bad news?

They also say that There is no such thing as a free lunch

So does that mean:

Lunch is the Cinderella of meals, in thrall to ugly sisters Breakfast and Dinner*?

And is lunch, on average, the weekday meal least likely not only to be eaten at home, but to have been made there**?


* Not to mention the hideous brothers, Supper and Snack.

When is Lunch ever celebrated? We have Dinner in the diner / Nothing could be finer, and Breakfast at Tiffany's, but Lunch is Out In The Cold, Lunch means He's Out To Lunch, or is even subsumed as 'Brunch'...

** If one can talk of making a bowl of cereal, which may be many's breakfast.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Indecent Tinsel (2011)

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20 February

Following in the noble tradition of Philip French, I like to approach a film with a clean slate, knowing nothing but (not even?) the title:

So, as I fantasized eagerly on the tube (one has to, you know) to get to the screening, I pictured some young number in a racy, naughty even, Christmas outfit, propositioning Richard Gere in a seasonal version of the 'tart with a heart' story.

What I had in mind for that morning's viewing didn't leave very much to the imagination, so I (or the film) had been built up to fail, when I realized that it was the pre-pubescent worst parts of American Beauty (1999) and Lolita (1962), in a Yuletide tale of a Santa in Santa Fe, who somehow slipped through the usual checks and has very young children on the lap that you would least wish them to grace.

Even a cameo role for a distinguished player could not redeem this piece of sleaze and the sickening way in which it (I imagine - I couldn't stay) unfolded: as if, even could - God forbid! - such a thing could happen in real life, I would want to know about it...

Sunday, 19 February 2012

What was it with Sibelius and the milk pudding? (1)

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19 February

We know how they* like 'to tidy up' history, to make it History, but one can still act the role of detective and uncover some uncomfortable truths:

Jean Sibelius
Met Vesalius
For a piece of cake
After one slice
It is no surprise
Another they did take

These shocking lines tell us all! The late-twentieth century liked to believe that it had invented the concept of the dessert party (call it what you will, the name doesn't really matter), but one only has to think what Roman orgies were really about - tackling a mountain of cream cakes - to realize the error.

For some reason (if you've ever been to that country, you'll probably know why), the Finnish authorities thought it more acceptable to represent what happened to the composer as 'a drink problem' (I have no problem with drink: I just say Yes, please!).

It's not hard to guess why - unlike liking cakes (and puddings), hard drinking is a manly state of affairs, and one only has to think of Hemingway to recognize the force in that archetype**, plus Finland's (often unwilling) ties with the lands of the Russian peoples and the type of and attitude towards drinking there.


* Thought to be meaning something with a referent such as Orwell's 'thought police'.

** Even if, rather worryingly, what he had a leaning towards in his sessions at Harry's Bar, is essentially, a cocktail, albeit a powerful one.

Bowed Eric, beautifully

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11 March

Anne Thrack's in town agin!

M'mate George says she's a stubborn mule.

Mare, more like!

Yes, La Mer, if you like - prefer the damn' Sea Pictures missel'.

What's the right waiter work this damn' thin'?


This thing on't wall that sells you a few Minstrels.

Dunno, but nothing to the instruction on the wall of the condom-machine:


Seen some confused guys with their tackle out, I kin tell ya!

Saturday, 18 February 2012

How's this for a contention?

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18 February

Messaging isn't talking:

I've known one friend, with whom I regularly swap text-messages, for 15 years, but we still sometimes misunderstand each other.

So I believe that you can't really talk to someone by e-mail or anything like it, if you don't know the person.

What do we need 'for free' for?

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18 February

Why would I prefer something free, rather than for free?

Some examples:

(a) Free fudge here - call in for a sample!

(b) Law For Free

(c) Free Nelson Mandela!

(d) Did you get a ticket for free at the train station?

(e) Click here to try our quiz free

(f) In a quiz-free world, you could talk to your mate over a quiet pint

(g) Claim your free prize from The Agent Apsley

(h) Click here to try our free quiz

(i) Fudge for free here - call in for a sample!

(j) Book your holiday with us - children travel free!

(k) Claim your prize for free from The Agent Apsley

(l) Did you get a free ticket at the station?

(m) The best things in life are for free

I shall freely leave those examples simmering, and return when they're cooked...

Friday, 17 February 2012

Is Kelly Brook really engaged? (asks AOL®)

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17 February

No doubt a sage question - does she just think that she's engaged, when she's not*? Probably the poor woman is wondering over** the legitimacy of her engagement as I write!

(Whereas Kelly B. Rook has no qualms - she's never going to leave 'The Rookery' and take up with some other nook, because she's not the marrying kind.)

Meanwhile, is Cameron (only just) beginning to wonder whether he is actually Prime Minister, or whether - as in that masterpiece of paranoid schizophrenia turned into a comedy, The Truman Show (1998) - everyone's just been humouring him?

PS If our Kelly turns out not to be engaged, I seem to remember that she is really a Parsons - she could always go back to her natal name and aim to marry a Mr Nicholas (Paul Nicholas?), or, if she could put her surname first, a Mr Green (or a Mr Nose - or Egg).


* And what would - either party not being eligible to marry apart - constitute such an erroneous belief? Maybe false memory that the offer of marriage and the acceptance took place...

** Well, I might have meant 'worrying over' or 'wondering about', but who cares? - it's a portmanteau day, after all!

Present show at The Tavern Gallery, Meldreth : Royston Arts Society

Present show at The Tavern Gallery, Meldreth : Royston Arts Society

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17 February

Present show at The Tavern Gallery, Meldreth : Royston Arts Society

It’s unmistakably someone whom you know – they say that people divided as to whether they supported The Stones or The Beatles, but I think that I just happen to know the former less well, so I would have struggled to find the name of Ronnie Wood, but I knew the connection. (Saying that, it’s alleged that people have trouble naming all of the Fab Four straight off: Can you do it?)

Which is not the sine qua non of a good portrait, that it should resemble the person who sat for it, as Picasso [may have] proved, but this one is a striking likeness, and I think that, as with the divide just mentioned, there might be those who dislike the schematic of the colours and textures employed, whereas others will be very pleased with it.

To judge for yourself, it is one of the most obvious works on entering The Tavern Gallery, and be informed that this show welcomes visitors between 10.00 and 4.00 from Wednesday to Sunday, with its last day on Sunday 26 February.

The rest of what I shall share here, in the form of my attempts at producing images of some of the other sixty-three framed works, is almost inevitably my taste, as why would I choose something that I don’t like – OK, that didn’t stop me with my major dislike of The Future (to which the series of postings The Future or How do you choose a satisfying film? bear testimony) - when I can enthuse over something that I do? Sorry about that, but the breadth of what is on show (and Val Pettifer, to whom I talked about it there yesterday afternoon, tells me that there are probably around another one hundred unframed works) means that I have to start somewhere, so I have selected a few things as representative of the whole.

So why not start with a figurative piece (which, you will see, has sold)? Winter Fox by Rosalind Ridley (which was priced at £110), next to which I have dared to place Beth Hardwicke's Winter Scene after Lu Cheng-Yuan, priced at £95*.

Other than the season, the works, in feel (let alone technique), have nothing in common- which is my point, that there is much to please in the variety of approaches. Moving on, as if promenading through the gallery in Mussorgsky's suite for piano...

I am a sucker for this view towards Santa Maria Della Salute (which Dennis Langridge has called The Grand Canal, Venice and put on sale for £70), and I have contrasted its colours with those in A Solitary Existence by Val Pettifer, which sold at [price to come].

... And so on to the landscape in watercolour, juxtaposing The Ouse Washes by Norman Rushton (on sale at £55) with Derek Bunting's West Highlands, which is £38.

And for a finishing-touch, as I really don't want to say any more, or display further inadequate attempts to capture the spirit of these works (which words can only hint at), View through Crumbling Cottage by Caroline Fookes for £75, and which very much puts me in mind of the artistic interests of a painter friend of mine.


* I do apologize for the lack of quality in the images that I have made of Beth and Rosalind's images (and of those that follow), but it is down partly to trying to avoid unwelcome reflection, but largely to the inadequacy of the photographic device (a camera on a phone) - the aim is to give an idea of what is on offer to see, not to substitute for going to Meldreth.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

'Lines here and there' at Writer's Rest

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16 February

There is a posting that could give rise to a quite interesting thread (or whatever it's called) - needless to say, I have made a reply:

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Crowds outside Houston's hotel (according to AOL®) (2)

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15 February

There is reputed to be a newspaper called The Sun, and it appears that issues of this newspaper have have borne the headline Whitney's Death Bath.

I cannot comment, and, if the newspaper were to have carried a photograph of a bath, I would not have looked at it - after all, if I want to look at a bath (not my own), I go to the showroom at IKEA® (some such place), as it is inconceivable that I should not know what a bath looks like, or take any satisfaction from seeing what is supposed to be one where any person died, whoever that person may have been.

In other words, Mawkish photography of where Whitney died

Harriet and Hector

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15 February

Perhaps evidence for 'the collective unconscious', perhaps the Orchestra of the Age of the Enlightenment has just been reading my mind (or I its), but Berlioz was on my mind yesterday, when I heard announced on Radio 3 how he had wrought his own libretto for The Trojans, just as he did - as I blogged about last year - with L'enfance du Christ.

He was still on my mind just now, as I indulged one of the themes from the symphony that both threatened his union with Harriet Smithson and, strangely, brought them together. Still loudly humming it, I was moved to search for (the name of) Harriet, and soon found this link to the OAE for last night's concert*:

I have no doubt that it was good, and I wish well all who had the chance to hear it!


* My mistake for assuming - there was no concert, but this was 'a trail-blazer' for things Berlioz to come from the OAE, so maybe see you there...

Tuesday, 14 February 2012


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14 February

Life is full of puzzles (some more fun than others)...

If you named your home (or, at any rate, a house) Bunroy, might you not fail to envisage how wearing it would be to explain both why it needed a name as well as a house number, as well as what it means - or would it be in the spirit of blagging (so like blogging), of making up some blarney to meet each new enquiry*?

Yes, it takes its name from the Scottish camp-site** where:

* I was born
* All our children were conceived
* My wife and I [
met / first slept together]

Well, my pet name for my wife is Bunny, and I grew up in Rosyton, so it seemed the obvious choice!

Really?! Is there a sign outside saying that? Well, in all the time that I've lived here, I've never noticed it - are you sure?

Ah, well - it spells something backwards, you see: Yor nub, i.e. Your nub? What bloody point are you making?

Hours of fun for all the family at the price of a house-sign!


* As some like to say, glass half full, rather than half empty...

** 13 miles from Fort William, and not far from the River Spean.

What does that Italian at the top of the music mean?

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14 February

An example. Does striggio mean:

(a) Excitedly - a bit like a tremolo?

(b) The opposite of sforzando?

(c) There's a hole in the score here, where the composer dropped his or her cigarette on the manuscript original?

(d) Just for the strings, i.e. the players are encouraged to sound really stringy?

(e) He's that other composer of a choral work in forty parts?

And why Italian anyway? Not always, because some composers (e.g. Schumann, Dvorak) shun it, but is it really the language of music (or, even, Music)?

And, if you thought None of these in (a) to (e), above, then you're probably right, and 'that Itlian' is Carlo Maria Giulini, ready to conduct the piece...

My top three Blondie songs

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14 February

With the following qualifications:

* Not including after Deborah Harry's solo albums (which give rise to their own favourites); and

* So not from when Blondie started producing albums again (ditto)

If they are not all from one original album (I forget - probably Eat to the Beat), two out of three are.

In no order (save that I think of them in this order):


Union City Blues


Britten and the concentration camps

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14 February

[For which, of course, read extermination camps - or death camps.]

But can we really hear, in the writing of his String Quartet No. 2, that Britten had made a visit to these camps? Surely, if we could, we wouldn't need to be told the fact, because the music itself would tell us!

The essence of my point is the old, old one: does the detail of a biography (even an autobiography) inform how we listen to a composer's work*? If so, are we then not unbelievably alienated, according to that belief, from Bach's highly alive compositions, because we do not really know very much about his life?

After hearing a quartet, five or so years back, announce Shostakovich's inescapable String Quartet No. 8 in a different way from what predominates, I have been freed from crediting that old chestnut about the bombing of Dresden, even if the composer was, indeed, in Dresden to write music for a film about that very subject (Five Days, Five Nights), and wrote it there in the three days from 12 to 14 July 1960.

Rightly or wrongly, I feel that I can now hear that quartet without these supposed guides to an interpretative view of what is - purely - music: it is not, I believe, programme (or programmatic) music.

And we also ought not only to get a good chance for an airing of more than a dozen other string quartets except to mark the 52nd anniversary of his stubbing his toe in Dresden (a bit like Poulenc: 50 years since Poulenc stubbed his toe in Montmartre).


* Orrin Howard seems to inform us, regarding Britten, that 'In spite of his being a Britisher through and through, he didn't go the folk route of Vaughan Williams'. Well, yes...

Monday, 13 February 2012

Crowds outside Houston's hotel (according to AOL®) (1)

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13 February

So why does Whitney Houston become known by her surname when she's dead? I don't mean it irreverently, but I am inescapably reminded of the Apollo missions:

Do you read me, Houston?

And what makes for 'crowds', distinct from a 'crowd', in this case? Does it just sound better, does it fit the space where 'Huge crowd' might not (actually, there is room)?

And these people - are they being mournful or macabre, wanting to be the first to book into the room where she was found dead? (And I'm sure that there were those who did the same with Sid Vicious - or who want to stay in Hemingway's suite at the Danieli.)

Perhaps they are respectful, perhaps they will endow a fund so that the room can be permanently be set up as a shrine and reverentially visited by bona fide fans...

In any case, who can forget the singer looking so in need of being rescued in Costner's arms*?


* By the looks of it, Kevin has had a pretty hard time of it: poor lad had the misfortune to cohabit with Elle MacPherson for a while, and his fraternity, of all things, was Delta Chi! Still, at least his wife designs handbags, for which I'm sure that we're all grateful, and he apparently took her for a ride in a canoe after their wedding ceremony - no doubt inspiration for a whole range of bags...