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Monday, 24 September 2012

Fly Australian Airlines to nowhere

This is a Festival review of Holy Motors (2012)

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2012
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)

This is a Festival review of Holy Motors (2012)

* Contains spoilers *

If you want to see Kylie play a cameo as an airline hostess*, you’re clutching at straws, and would be better off queuing for one of her stage-shows than watching Holy Motors** (2012): if you watched the film first, you’d have no desire to hear her version of any other song. The other song was just mawkish dross about time, regret and the past – or was that Kylie’s song instead / as well, and trauma has bereft me of remembering ?

I have Tweeted that Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949) and Subway (1985) meet in a mortal embrace, and it is a fight that kills off the best of both, leaving a facile scene in a warehouse-sized garage at the end that was apt to make the ritual close of t.v.’s The Waltons seem profound. It did not even visually convince that so many similar vehicles had been assembled, not least since they insisted on drawing attention to their artificiality by flashing their brake-lights.

Could anything worthwhile have preceded such a banal ending, little better than imputing significance to the fact that the vital club in Enter the Void (2009) is called – wait for it! – The Void? A few moments did, but only a very few in the whole 115 minutes, comprising : an erotic dance; a building that I could swear owes something to the likes of Frank Lloyd Wright (but I could not spot it in the credits); the bizarre pastiche of a beauty, a beast and a photographer; the first of several humorous grave-stones; and a terrific interlude (called such), in which a gathering group of musicians, centred on an accordion ensemble, processed around a large church.

After then, and despite some intrigue concerning a crime and its ritualized repetition, it was a decline, not just musically, as a continuation of the episodic. Simply put, there was simply almost no interest in how (or even why) it all hung together, and it became, if possible, less and less significant. It was as if a premise of The Matrix (1999) that, when plugged in, Neo, Trinity and the others, can enter the machine-world had been stretched out to become some sort of secret, kept to the end.

I would happily have walked out of Holy Motors, at around the point that I describe, but, as my friend did not evince the desire to leave, I stayed so that we would have both seen all of it to discuss afterwards. He thought it a sort of purgatory for M. Oscar, I thought it a purgatory for me in this parade of the pointless, and that any notion that it meant more than the following quotation*** was vain speculation (though I was, also, reminded of Edgar Allen Poe’s story The Man of the Crowd):

As the gom yawncher man passed me I recognized him as the man in the broken-rimmed hat who'd spoken to me in the underground when I was on my way home from Istvan Fallok's studio with electrodes all over my head.

'Hello,' I said.

'Nimser vo,' he said.

'You weren't talking like that the other day. How come?'

'I must've been somebody else then.'

'How's that?'

'Economy. You have a little chat with a stranger now and then, right? So do I, so does everyone. How many lines has the stranger got? Two or three maybe. There's really no need for a new actor each time, is there?'

'So you play them all.'

'The same as you.'

'What do you mean?'

'Yesterday you were the conductor on the 11 bus and you also did quite a nice little tobacconist in the Charing Cross Road. Actually London hasn't got that big a cast, there's only about fifty of us, all working flat out.'

'Are you writing a novel?'

'Novel-writing is for weaklings,' he said, and moved on.

After which, not only go to [to come], for an unfavourable comparison with The Night Elvis Died (2010), but here for a further conceit


* I have never heard the male equivalent called ‘a host’.

** Surely a take-off of the Batman dialogue.

*** From The Medusa Frequency by Russell Hoban, Pan Books (Picador), London, 1988, p. 56.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Vertiginous Hitch

This is a Festival review of Vertigo (1958)

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2012
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22 September

This is a Festival review of Vertigo (1958)

* Contains spoilers *

When the Jimmy Stewart / Alfred Hitchcock collaborations that had been quickly taken out of circulation were released again in the mid-1980s, I went to see two or three, certainly Rear Window (1954) and Vertigo (1958). I remember not being much struck by either, the former because I found its device - as it assuredly is meant to be - so limiting, the latter because I just did not get it, and the suddenness with which some films from that era ended, with the words 'THE END' and the studio logo coming up, did not help.

Yesterday, watching Vertigo for the first time since then, I found myself coming at it with the eye of someone who loved Chinatown (1974), and found much that links the two, including a way of viewing that had me questioning who was the client and what had Stewart John 'Scottie' Ferguson been engaged to do and why. The key scene, for this way of thinking, was not at Gavin Elster's office, but the next one, at Ernie's, and questioning for whose benefit it was that Scottie was there, in terms of who was identifying whom.

Thereafter, having postulated that Scottie was the one to be seen by Madeleine Elster (Kim Novak), it was easy enough to see him being led a dance, even to the extent of her, more than once, taking a parking-space that left him pulling in where no space existed. When she threw herself into San Francisco Bay, she then did so knowing that Scottie was there. (How all this connects with the foundation novel, D'Entre les Morts, I do not know, but research may tell me without having to look it out.)

In the meantime, it is the way of thinking that relates to Chinatown that interests me. Both films have secrets, a crime, someone pretending to be someone else and in whom a third someone should not fall in love, and all end with the death of that someone. In Vertigo, the private investigator (or PI) as a means to an end not known to him is hardly new*, but we are immersed in his pursuit such that we can be blinded to the fact that he has been blinded and bought a story.

To be continued


* In a way it goes all the way at least back to Jonah, with texts such as Sir Gawain, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, and G. K. Chesterton's The Man who was Thursday in between.

Friday, 21 September 2012

More like Pirandello

This is a review of V.O.S. (2009), as screened at Cambridge Film Festival

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2012
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20 September

This is a review of V.O.S. (2009), as screened at Cambridge Film Festival (@Camfilmfest) 2012

V.O.S. (2009) (which denotes that it is the original version, but with sub-titles, i.e. not dubbed) was introduced as a film within a film, taken from a play within a play (which is by Carl Lopez), but it is more like Pirandello than anything else, with Brechtian Verfremdungseffekte thrown in for good measure, plus a hint of Woody Allen's Deconstructing Harry.

For the four principal characters do not have - are not shown to have - any existence outside of the film, and though they are stepping in and out of the role as scenes are played out (and envisaged, in discussion, as having taken or to take a different course), it's as though their life is on the set or lot, which makes the experience of watching a lot like that of seeing Nine (2009) or Dogville (2003).

Woody Allen is even mentioned by Clara (Àgata Roca), the pregnant partner of Ander (Andres Herrera) who is seemingly writing the film as it goes, as if it were a linear process that leads up to the scene that we see at the beginning : one audience review that I have seen recently at Cambridge Film Festival critiques an accent as if were less convincing at the beginning of shooting and that that fact is necessarily reflected in where the scene appears within the film.

What does the suggestion that the actors have a life beyond the parts that they play add, when doors that we have been shown into a hospital theatre are later revealed as a mock-up, but then have figures dressed for a procedure emerge from them and appear to be received by the crew as if they are real surgeons or the like? As far as I could see, it merely put a layer of doubt as to whether any of the scenes played out have any status, which is something that Allen has explored, for example, with the use of a chorus (in Mighty Aphrodite (1995), with the alternative realities of Melinda and Melinda (2004), and in Harry or Stardust Memories (1980).

That said, the story of how Ander and Clara become a couple is still an engaging one, because it shows how they have interacted with Vicky and Manu, and it is not as if Allen has just done it all before. Those who are interested can read more in Variety.

Jarman and jerking-off

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2012
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21 September

You might or might not like Jarman's style of working, and I couldn't make it all the way through Jubilee (1978), but he was patently a film-maker.

At Cambridge Film Festival last night, All Divided Selves (2011) and the demeanour of its director, Luke Fowler, gave a very different impression from that made by Jarman, and the film did not seem much like a film, and the artist - as all artists tend to do - tried, although his language kept tripping him up*, to distance himself from the idea that his work said something or had a message.

The message that All Divided Selves had consisted almost entirely of Laing talking, often enough with visuals, about psychiatric conditions and his personal and cultural background, plus some others talking with or about him, his theories and psychiatry in general. As it is not difficult to pull quotations out of Laing's works, let alone footage, that says something pertinent to us and to now, then there may be no great merit in having done so, even if you have embellished the enterprise with bits and pieces that you have shot.

Conclusion : Would I prefer to have the chance to see Tacita Dean's FILM 2011 from Tate Modern's Turbine Hall again and have it substitute for my memory of Fowler's film? Yes!


* He seemed not to want to say 'illustrative', but nonetheless kept saying it, so drawing atention to a word that he purported to eschew.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Images arbitrarily made interesting

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2012
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21 September

Many people will have chosen to see the film All Divided Selves (2011) because it concerns Ronnie Laing, not because the director, Luke Fowler, is a candidate for The Turner Prize.

They will not have been disappointed to see some footage from when Laing became famous, and maybe from before, and they will have kept with his voice when it was heard alongside seeing material interposed between it and visuals of him speaking: sometimes we cut away from him to that material, sometimes we only heard his voice (perhaps because the recording was just audio, perhaps not). The interest, though, was not in that material, and it could even have been the test-card for all that it mattered.

Laing we saw at many ages, and with varying style of dress, but we always knew that it was he, and, once we heard him speaking and saw his lips move, we knew when we had his words being spoken. As to anyone else in the film and who they were, nothing told us, and only original captions - apart from what seemed a new inter-title regarding Esterson - told us two or three times what community we were being shown, so we might have had Thomas Szasz on the screen and not have known it.

So, yes, we hear Laing talking and being interviewed, but what the film offered as a polemic, as Fowler called it, might have been better achieved by a reading of select passages from Laing's publications, or by reading Adrian Laing's biography of his father. Plus there's Mike Moran's one-man play about Ronnie...

More on this topic here and a review, from the Berlinale, in The Hollywood Reporter here

A lifeless lack of feeling

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2012
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20 September

* Contains spoilers *

Totem (2011) is a film of relatively few words, but it arguably has relatively little to say. I wish that it were like Ali Smith's novel The Accidental, but it is not.

Fiona has advertised herself as a maid, apparently through the Internet, and, although she calls her mother as if from a sea-side resort (perhaps she has claimed to be on holiday), she has claimed that both her parents are dead, and that she is 23, which she does not often look. The family make fun of her at first, but that seems to dissolve as a motif when she does a passable pretence at being Keith Jarrett in solo-piano mode.

Otherwise, Claudia shows her how to clean, pushes her around (literally) a few times, and Fiona mutters to herself, when no one is around, about how they do not clean properly and are pigs. Later, when she had seemed to be going, but did not, she talks to herself in the same way, but it sounds more Biblical, maybe Isaiah.

Apparently based on a true story, the write-up in Cambridge Film Festival's programme makes it sound more doomy and laden with meaning than it is, and it is hard to see what, in what unfolds, needs or is made any more relevant by a factual basis. Nothing does happen, and we wonder why the resources of a film needed to be devoted to what is the territory, at best, of a short story.

PS As I left, not wanting the embarrassment of the Q&A (but also having something else to do), I heard one couple saying how they had been trying to work out who the characters were in relation to each other, another firmly decided that it was a dysfunctional family, that beloved phrase of yore that means not a whit, which jut shows that some viewers will blame themselves for not following, and others put a label on it.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Inside the family

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2012
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19 September

* Contains spoilers *

Home for the Weekend (2012) (originally Was Bleibt) is not, for me, a film that bears comparison with Woody Allen’s Interiors, shot just before Manhattan. In the introduction, we were told that films do not often show the lives of the German upper middle-classes, and, although this film may do so, it does not, largely, do so in a novel way, as if what it shows were, in itself, enough.

Allen’s film, too, has a mother with a history of mental ill-health and siblings gathering at the family home, one of whom is more put upon by being local, but the highly-strung mother in his family has not simply stopped taking medication as Gitte has - which just seems forced in reinforcing the pat belief that the only problems are when people are not compliant. What, more importantly, is very unsympathetic is the language, typified by talking about Gitte going nuts, whereas my fantasy about Germany is that there is far more acceptance, not least within this class, of mental-health issues and how to support those with them than in Britain.

In this film, for all that the characters just react badly to the news that Gitte stopped her medication, none of them seems either to appreciate her not wanting to be drugged so that she has no feeling, or that their concern at what she has done lacks any obvious meaning if they then go on to reveal that they have just been humouring her. She already feels that they have been pretending, and that she has no important say in anything, but it makes little sense to confirm it at this time.

We see the brothers angry and physical with each other over who is to blame for their mother, but they ultimately move on quite quickly to fulfil themselves away from home, which, sadly, seems to send the message that Gitte had been holding them back, and she is remembered largely as a source of recrimination between father and son. Allen's three sisters seem a little less slow to forget...

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Once bitten...

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18 September

(Or more than one use for a collar...)

To say that Dax Shepard's film Hit and Run (2012) is playful makes it sound terribly fay, but it has a veneer of being some other kind of film, which deliberately gets chipped or smoothed away (a bit like Gerhart Richter with his layers of paint showing through, as the upper one(s) are squeegeed and scraped).

I'm choosing playful, because ironic and post-modern irony have been just about done to death by over- and misuse (not, I am sure, starting with Alanis Morisette), but I could just as well emphasize that this is part of Tarantino's legacy, but that it is a strange junction between his film-making and the ethos and feel of something like Friends.

In itself, that needs some explanation. There is a lot of shouting in the film, but it abates as soon as it began, whereas human-beings do not just calm down when faced with the voice of reason. Even people who, one might reckon, have reason to do something brutal just seem to settle for money, not revenge. Irrespective of the references that I have given, what this film most resembles is Wacky Races, not least with the cars and their stunts, the chasing around in circles, the burnt rubber, the high-octane exhaust used to disguise onward movement and choke the opposition.

Anyone who mistakes Hit and Run for something with a more serious golf-club to grind in another's face is missing the point, and this is typified by a woman (Kristen Bell) taking a shower who, when told by her partner (Shephard playing Yul Perrkins) that the engine has been lifted clean out of his Lincoln overnight, asks if there is anything that she can do.

Laughing at crap psychology and the foibles and hypocrisy of others may wear a bit thin at times (the same woman, Annie Bean (sic) who forbad doing violence when they are being tailed, because so proud of her doctorate in conflict resolution, seems suddenly not bothered that Yul's father is beating someone around the head with a shovel), but the film delivers on the level on which I understand it should be taken.

Any time soon

This is a Festival review of Now is Good (2012)

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18 September

This is a Festival review of Now is Good (2012)

The words of the film's title, Now is Good (2012), come as a reply when Tessa (skilfully played by Dakota Fanning) is asked on a date, and shortly before something unexpected happens. Knowing that she isn’t, she has been treating herself as if she were indestructible, much to the dismay of her father (Paddy Considine), who would have wanted her to persevere with having leukaemia treated.

He may no longer be seeking an answer that would save her for a while longer, but he has not given up thinking that things other than medical science may preserve her or that there is a sense in which he almost owns her remaining life. Much to her irritation, he is always trying to speak for her, whether to a radio-show host or the medical staff (and those people collude, as anyone who uses a wheelchair would tell you that they would).

However, tellingly, when Tessa asks the Macmillan nurse (with whom she had previously been a little abrasive, as if she represented not help for her, but an embodiment of what she was battling) what her last days have in store, they are alone. By contrast with her father, Tessa’s mother (Olivia Williams), from whom he is separated, does not seem much interested (though turns out to have her reasons for that appearance), and both parents ‘get to’ Tessa by failing to understand her needs and motivations.

Adam, the boy next door (who has had his own life affected by his father’s death in a crash), meets her when she stalks out with things from her bedroom wall that she wants burnt and starts putting them in the lit brazier of garden waste. Excellently played by Jeremy Irvine in dialogue that, of high quality throughout, reaches its peak of expressiveness when Tessa and he are talking, there is a sense of advanced maturity in Adam, which postponing study and acting as support to his mother probably has brought out in him.

The frailties that surround talking about and confronting death are fully explored (as when younger brother Cal, quite honestly, asks if they will go on holiday when Tessa is dead, because he doesn’t remember the previous trip to Spain), but, for all the tears that come at so many points in the second half, this is also a joyous film.

It makes you gasp at what people are capable of, as when Adam sets out to make Tessa famous, or surprises her by taking her up onto the cliffs. Tessa does not want to be thought of as brave, but she shows that she faith to reach out beyond and disregard the limitations of physical strength, and of the norms and mores that her father would have her obey.

Ol Parker has brought his own script beautifully to the screen, with cast and photography all of a piece in locating Tessa’s story in and around Brighton. And I think that it would be no less strong the second time, because the film is built around not what must happen, but about the relationships that make it something no longer to fear.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Never go back

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17 September

* Contains spoilers *

The film Postcards from the Zoo, in white letters on a black screen, five or six times gives us definitions (acknowledged to be from Webster's or from Wikipedia®) of terms such as translocation and reintroduction, and - as I realized - they relate to Lana's story as much to that of the animals of Ragunan Zoo.

That said, it is possible that the animals whom we see have been tamed in a way that many zoo-captives would not have been, for a young tigress enjoys being showered, and the sole giraffe (Jera) and the hippopotami seem unaverse to touch or to being fed from the hand. Although Jakarta is not known to me, someone in the screening to whom I spoke afterwards had visited the zoo itself, and rated it highly by the standard of others in Indonesia.

We do not know Lana's exact past, except from seeing pictures of a younger she, but she appears to have had no life outside the zoo, until she is captivated (pun intended) and led away by an appealing figure with a hint of Johnny Depp about him (Nicholas Saputra), who turns out happily to let her shoulder pushing a heavy handcart behind him.

Leaving the zoo with him may be the fantasy, and - to the extent that the zoo itself is highly symbolic - it may or may not happen, but, at any rate, he would only have needed, as he more or less does, to snap his fingers at her for her to follow him. (There are echoes of The Girl on the Bridge (1999), though Lana does not need rescuing in the same way, and maybe Gabor (Daniel Auteuil) has more to offer Vanessa Paradis as Adèle than is given to Lana in the role of assistant to this man of few words, however fetchingly she dresses to become his pair).

Whatever her connection to him, Lana then seems, when he departs, cut off from relating to the zoo, which she once loved: we painfully see her essentially motionless figure in scenes of activity, sensing that she is barely participating in or witnessing the life going on around her. The contact will get re-established, but it takes the massive dream equivalent of the elephant in the room to get her there.

Unlike being shooed out of Eden, it is as if the zoo itself transports Lana back to where her real life lies, and perhaps, in legends of Indira, we can find a further level of meaning. (In Strindberg's A Dream Play, it is Indra, whose daughter Agnes goes to Earth to experience life there.)

Don't get too close

This is a Festival review of Intouchables (Untouchable) (2011)

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17 September

This is a Festival review of Intouchables (Untouchable) (2011)

An unlikely relationship, this one a real-life friendship taken as the basis for Untouchable (2011) (curiously, as Intouchables, plural in the French), has seen many a feature through as its underlying theme, whether DeVito and Schwarzenegger, Withnail and I (1987), or, as someone was overheard saying in relation to this film, Scent of a Woman (1992).

For all the difference in age, though, there is more of a sharing in both directions between François Cluzet as Philippe and Omay Sy as Driss, and that is what makes for broad fun, even if it does lead to the implausibility of one's first painting being sold for 11,000 euros by the other: Al Pacino is very much (pun intended) in the driving-seat for all his need for help from Chris O'Donnell.

Cluzet, looking at times like Dustin Hoffman, has a wickedly engaging smile (I cannot, surely, be remembering him from as far back as French Kiss (1995)) with which Philippe disarms any tension, more often than not when Driss has fooled him, rather than the other way. Sy has one, too, but broader, and Driss keeps a straight face to fool Philippe, although, with judgements that are quick to get to the heart of things, sometimes there is joke behind what he has said.

The selling of the painting is, if I remember right, an almost exact steal from Conversations with my Gardener (2007), but I do not mind that (although it has taken me an age to think where I have seen this done before), but what I cannot overlook, because I could not overlook it in the screening (overhear would mean something else), is the music. Not the classical music that Philippe has played to Driss on his birthday, or the number to which Driss dances so fabulously and gets everone on their feet, but the incidental music when it is not from songs:
It grated with me, in thinking that it was making me edgy without my noticing simply by playing on the piano with the same note or a few adjacent ones, rather than being a decent piece of film score and not drawing attention to itself with its limited range. That said, when it converted its skeletal self into an emotional theme near the end, it did work, despite the overtly romantic character, with the scene, and not against it.

The story remains, of course, a heartening one, as is the extent to which Driss shows not only that he has a better understanding of Philippe's psychology, but also that he is able to learn from Philippe and for the two men to find a common ground in fun, sex and flight.
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Sunday, 16 September 2012

Who is Andy?

This is a review of Andy Needs his Milk (2012)

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16 September

This is a review of Andy Needs his Milk (2012)

I know from asking him that Carl Peck hasn't read Barcelona Plates, a collection of short stories by Alexei Sayle (which I think that he published before appearing as a novelist), but something about the walk that Carl's mind works in his short Andy Needs his Milk chimes with the feel of many of those pieces, and with the meat of one in particular (whose title I must look up).

In Project Tridentfest's gig at Cambridge Film Festival, Carl said that he had taken as a starting-point the reported last words of Michael Jackson, and he wove from that utterance, in which he found a sinister ring, a tale that, even without considering the resonances, is both amusing and chilling. Looked at in figurative terms, we have a narrator blaming his extreme actions on an irrational desire to keep satisfied the insatiable, because we know, if we stop to think, that what he is telling us (for good and ill) is not verifiable.

Yet, even at a subsconscious level, we know that he has locked himself into a behaviour, and that, even if we can trust his account, it is a sort of victim mentality that has led him to appeasement just literally for a quiet life. The whole piece is carried off in a way that takes us with it, which is the point of connection with the Sayle pieces: creating an interior logic that beguiles us, simply because the presentation effortlessly makes us feel within the thinking looking out, however distorted and contorted it may be.

Scripting and directing the short, Carl even has a cameo role, but the whole project needed a solid player at its heart, and it has that in his casting of the narrator (who would get a credit, if I had a name), bringing off this fine balance between desperation and servility that is in the character / situation.

Fried and dressed

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2012
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16 September

You could say that Project Tridentfest’s tried and tested, but that’s only the abiding support for these short films (some very short), not in their nature as works, which is to be inventive and very different from each other.

Meanwhile, as I blather, Carl Peck has only one hand, a lovely birthday cake has been made to slide deftly off the plate and into the bin, and a monstrous head is gorging itself, again and again*: what good are words at a time like this, when we need superhero action to reconstitute Carl’s hand from the blender, expose the wiles of the brat Devrin (Carl again), and resist the head’s resistless complaint? We get it in the form of an agent for change who creates far more mess than ever did the thing to be remedied!

Mix in some music videos, a hilarious series of skate-board challenges, and Simon and Andrej in a multitude of two-handed interchanges, and you only need some footage of a chess-player for everyone to get ponderous about how and why it was made and whether it should be shown, a serious response that, in comparison, only points up how strong and effective the comedy was, a bit like inviting a Baptist minister to an orgy. A good evening was had by all, I believe, and the affection for our intrepid loose assemblage of alien-zapping superheroes is surely stronger than ever.

Long live Project Tridentfest!


* And which deserves its own ravenous posting... which is here.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Video: Cat survives trip to Disney in airline luggage (according to AOL®)

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15 September

Well, cats might be discerning, and would prefer the Methuen Winnie-the-Pooh to the Disney one any day, but why would they be so traumatized by Walt's Wonderful World that they did not even survive a trip there?

Piglet, in contrast, would probably have pigged out on haycorns through sheer terror, and done his poor little piggy ticker no good into the bargain with hyper-anxiety.

Friday, 14 September 2012

Full of noises

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14 September

Last year’s festival screened Abgebrannt (2011, known as Burnout), which, too, featured a holiday, but the place where the holiday happened, although regimented, did not have a character (in the way that Island (2011) worked hard to give the Isle of Mull one (other than its obvious beauty)).

In Formentera (2012), which is likewise a German-language feature (with pretty good subtitles), the place and the action seem inseparable, seem first to last unavoidably intertwined as to cause and effect, chicken and egg. It may once have been just a holiday in The Balearic Isles, but it is more than that, and we are with Nina (Sabine Timoteo) all the way, as, in a medium shot of them both on the ferry to Formentera, Ben whispers into her ear Ich liebe dich (I love you), but one will look in them in vain for that as they disembark, not holding hands, and with Ben seemingly content for her to carry a cylinder-bag that seems heavier than what is on his shoulder.

They then take a scooter to where the community, the female of one pair of which has invited them, they will be staying: Nina does not clutch, does not ever clutch, Ben's chest just because she has to, but, in return, Ben takes her somewhere to stay that will feel exposed, invasive and downright nosy, probably partly in a way indicative of their not having much money as a family (Nina's mother is looking after their three-year-old daughter, but it's not as if the people with whom they have to rub along give them much peace or privacy.

The strength of Timoteo's acting, and her primacy in the story, is clear when around the table for the first night: Ben has opened her up to something, and then does too little and too late to protect her from the comments and attitudes of those known to him, but not to her. Resembling a little Boris Becker (I am unsure about the gap in the teeth), her partner does not accord her needs the attention that he gives to his own about being in Berlin.

Nina is played with superb expression and appropriate inwardness, for she has really been taken for granted, not however much, but just because, Ben understands part of her motivation and some of her ways: as she says to him, he cannot want something for her.

Not in a chilling way, but this film's impulses and atmosphere will haunt me for a while, in particular the awkward scenes on Ibiza that typify and symbolize Nina's isolation, but also her profound strength as a person: she cannot but be affected by her experiences, but she is a fighter, and she is an encouragement to us all, not least as she shows signs of having to keep in check negative impulses.

I notice with interest, and with pleasant surprise, that 55 page-views have clocked up hitherto unnoticed until now (26 October), but no comments...

Would you Adam and Eve it?

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14 September

Not much to say about Salma and the Apple (2011), except that, as I was feeling, I'd probably have watched Salar the Salmon in preference to this story set in Iran, which I walked out of just now : Rafi Pitts' The Hunter (2010) (about which I have written elsewhere), rightly or wrongly, spoke to me far more about modern Iran at this festival two years ago.

Maybe if the subtitles had been more accessible - everyone wants to 'get off' the taxi, the wheelbarrow is a tricycle, and one sometimes had to read two full lines of text and yet follow the rest of the screen - it would have helped, but the cinematography, too, right from the opening shot with the son on the horizon at daybreak, is extremely variable. One shot is in sharp focus, the next (say, taking in the wider scene of the garden, or the tree with the eponymous fruit) not far short of fuzzy. (And the music is portentous in a way that draws attention to the over-reached pretensions of the story.)

In Habbib Bahmani's take on Pilgrim's Progress meeting Isaac Newton discovering gravity, I did my best to engage with Hadi Dibaji as Sadegh, suddenly back home from years away, but I just wanted to save myself for something better - and there will be much better things, even to-day - and not find out how all these chance encounters, laden with significance by the barrow-load, unfold.

PS Oh, and forgot to say that, which I could not put out of my mind, there was a resemblance in appearance, naivety and enthusiasm to James McAvoy as Valentin in The Last Station (2009), which did not help me...

PPS Just another poke at the subtitles: someone might just about be called, or describe himself as, a clergyman nowadays, but the words have a ring about them (the 'clergy' part) that makes it about as apt for him to be a cleric. If the translation did happen to want to catch at an archaic air, OK, but I doubt it...

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Making out in Marseille

This is a Festival review of The Snows of Kilimanjaro (2011)

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14 September

This is a Festival review of The Snows of Kilimanjaro (2011)

The Snows of Kilimanjaro (2011) is a sort of fable for our time*, with strikingly strong performances, both from (as Michel) Jean-Pierre Darroussin (whom I knew from Conversations with my Gardener (2007)), and Ariane Ascaride as Marie-Claire, a couple whose integrity and good hearts are at its centre.

Subject to an event that leaves all shaken, but especially Marie-Claire's sister Denise (Marilyne Canto is very sympathetic), the course of things unfolds in a manner consistent with not only justice, but also responsibility and reconciliation, almost a modern Dostoyevsky, I often enough felt (which maybe Victor Hugo, a poem of whose is the film's starting-point, and he had in common).

Certainly, although The Angels' Share (2012) is equally good natured and hopeful, this film makes a challenge to our thoughts and prejudices far beyond it: this film treats of its themes seriously, whereas Loach launches into a romp from whose end the dark and threatening scenes from earlier seem far removed - director Robert Guédiguian has sketched a world that acknowledges deep-seated human emotions of envy, resentment and greed, but wants to offer those who feel them a way back.

The centre is the family, whether a party for Michel and Marie-Claire (to which he has invited the other nineteen whose posts were made redundant at the same time as his), them playing cards with Denise and her husband Raoul (a good part for Gérard Meylan), or at the home of their son Gilles and his partner / wife, and the tensions, more or less freely articulated, between them because of their differing viewpoints: in Leigh's Glasgow, the family has little or nothing to offer any more.

Guédiguian answered questions after the screening, and some (as well as some observations from the audience) were of a rather political or judgemental nature, as if depicting certain truths, rather than presenting a story, were the film's purpose. As he sought to stress, cinema is not reality, and the Internet was not there because a screen is not that inetersting, and the focus was elsewhere.

I asked about the use of Ravel's Pavane pour une infante défuncte, which is a beautiful theme, both thoughtful and with a hint of real, not over-blown, sadness to it: he did not comment on that theme in particular, but that, classical or otherwise, the music is fitted early in the editing and has to be what belongs. Later, I aked about the Hemingway novel with the same titles as this film, assuming that there was no connection, as the origins appeared in a song sung at the anniversary party. This was apparently a very popular song in the 60s, and Guédiguian did not comment on whether the Hemingway associations carried any regrettable or deliberate overtones.


* To quote a title of Tames Thurber's.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Popular postings this week (no, not 'trending')

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12 September

This is just a list of page-views (with hyperlinks and kinky boots), OK?

5th = All on one day (13)

4th =
Wilfredo gyrates in his Y-fronts - expanded view (20)

3rd =
Kristin shows her comedic flair (26)

2nd =
The patterns of Samsara (26)

1st =
How do you weigh 16,000 animals? Has AOL® done a Freudian? (48)

Video: Could Victoria Beckham be pregnant? (according to AOL®)

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12 September 2012

The answer, without looking at the video, self-evidently is Yes :

* VB is not known to have done anything to affect her fertility, and

* Nor is she, whatever the age is now, beyond child-bearing age

So why look at a video of someone who - like any other mother sharing those characteristics - could be pregnant

Sooner hear a determination as to whether, at any point, she could sing sweetly...

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Who is the imposter ?

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11 September - work in progress

* Contains spoilers - either resolve to know all about The Imposter (2012), or do not read *

It's a bit like odd one out (a game whose title has singularly always baffled me), or is it?

Well, we could play it with this film and others such as Zelig (1983), The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999), The Return of Martin Guerre (1982), maybe even with Roxanne (1987), and other media such as The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin (with the late and great Leonard Rossiter, 1976), and Orson Welles and his broadcast of The War of the Worlds :

(1) If you watch The Imposter and think that it is a documentary, then you are more gullible than even Welles conceived in around 1938 - it is not a documentary, and you can simply look at the credits to see so, if nothing else convinces you*.

Is it, then, (2) a well-done feature film, or, as I say, (3) a piss-take, which is funny, but whose purpose is unclear. It's unclear, but I'd be amazed if the person with the germ of the concept hadn't been influenced by something akin to the novel Engleby by Sebastian Faulks**. I still question, though, what the genre is, and who's deceiving whom and why?

It is, for me, as if Airplane passed itself for a flight-related real-life drama, in the way that Casualty does as events taking place in a hospital (not a vehicle for characters to interact concerning health-type excuses for action) : speak to anyone who thinks that they know about criminal or civil courts and how they operate, and you infer (they were never a witness or juror, never attended a trial at all), and it's all sucked in from t.v. and film, whereas the truth of the justice system is dry and dull, let alone how it operates.

OK so far? What I propound, then, is that just as you might be able to watch This is Spinal Tap (1984) or anything to do with Steve Coogan / Barry Humphreys / Sasha Baron Cohen / Matt Roper and their other selves, and believe, as at (1), that it's all real, you would then be a more-or-less willing victim (and you'd have lost a lot of money to that nice man in Nigeria). In other words, the equivalent of our hero in The Truman Show*** (1998).

I have Tweeted already about the Hitler diaries, but not, I think, alluded to Trevor, Lord Roper : I believe that it was claimed, when it was revealed that the diaries whose status he had approved were shown to be fakes, that so much should have been self-evident, and, with The Imposter, I cannot believe, dedicated popcorn-eating or using the cinema as a more effective bed apart, that anyone would take it for real (item (1), above), or that it was pretending to be real (item (2), above). For, here, we are not talking about Homer napping, as the phrase has it for when The Odyssey or The Iliad creak a bit too much.

Perhaps, though, the film (any film?) itself acts as a soporific for the higher functions of the brain for some, However, its score, for example, I found so intrusive that it was not good film music (of which, I fully believe, that one should laregly cosnciously be unaware, unless it is some big emotional theme, as in Superman (1978), or its reprise), but, again, I do believe that there was some of that Damien-Hirst-like post-modern irony lurking here: with passages that played with the in any case edgy interval of a semi-tone, as if a restless oscillation between neighbouring pitches could be remotely undetectable, or contained not the development of thematic material, but which just enacted descending scales, how could I have expected to acclimatize to them? - and I do not believe that, unless it was a joke at the expense of those who did, I was meant to.

That said, the friend with whom I saw the film has alerted me to the existence of both:

and also

as well as

From the first, I quote (sceptically) where the reviewer (Geoffrey MacNab) talks of the task faced by The Imposter's director, Bart Layton: Like [Frédéric] Bourdin, he withholds information from us or gives it us to us in such a selective fashion that we can't see the holes. No holes detected in my viewing, as you can see from the end-notes...!

In the second, Francisco Hernandez-Fernandez is supposed to have been used as an alias by the real Bourdin - yes, a very likely name to choose, like Franco del Bobbo! This was at a school that he attended until 'A teacher unmasked him last week [seemingly June 2005] after having watched a television programme about his exploits'.

Yet, at this date, after allegedly being imprisoned in the States for six year following impersonating Nicholas Barclay and having been found wanted, the piece lamely states:

He is said to have assumed numerous other identities

No facts there, then?

Just look at, and see whether there is a closer resemblance to something like (which I hope that you know isn't real) The Addams Family and to the people who might, in character, be playing such a thing - the poses, the expressions, don't they challenge you not to take it seriously?

From Wikipedia: Frédéric Bourdin is a French serial impostor the press has nicknamed "The Chameleon". He began his impersonations as a child and as of 2005 had assumed at least 500 false identities, three of which have been actual teenage missing persons.

More to come...


* An appendix can be found at ??, but how about :

 The charges for which Frederic is put away for six years (perjury and falsely obtaining a passport) - as if he could not have been found to have committed offences that would have justified and carried a much longer tariff, but he needs to be free to tell the story

 The calls to everywhere and anywhere, permitted by the prison to a man whose falsehood from making the calls near the beginning of this story must have been discovered - but he is supposedly released, and without any continuing restriction on his activities (wherever he may then be, as he would assuredly have been deported

 The ludicrously lengthy list of 'previous' when Frederic is caught in the events in this film, both as if he would somehow have avoided being put away for repeatedly committing deception all around Europe, and not have been a person under restriction then for his pattern of crime, with all children's homes on alert to him and to his modus operandi

 That list even contains (shown on the screen) the name Fernandez Fernandez, and the film revels in its absurdity, aurally and visually - I was in hoots, and my friend was laughing, but, bewilderingly, everyone else in the screen seemed to have taken it as indicative of how bad he was, not of sheer implausibility

** First published by Hutchinson in 2007 (3 May).

*** If the film were really about that : Tru + Man?, and his surname is, of course, Burbank (Truman is his Christian name, as we often forget), a real 'studio man'. Thinking about The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985) may not be amiss.

Wellington boot beef

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11 September

An army marches on its Napoleon. Any Napoleon worth the part takes the cat's whiskers, and she, instead, wears pyjamas.

Meanwhile, in Beijing, the duck still haven't got used to the enforced change of name, and, knowing no better, decide to petition Mao. John Adams, content with Nixon in China, dances with the Chairman of the Bank of England, soon to retire. Adams, however, has no intention of retiring, but, just to be on the same side, goes for a check-up with Dr Atomic.

Past Eve and Adam's, down at the Atomic Energy Authority's annual ceilidh and cake, there's plenty of craic, assuredly no crack, and, to Jennifer Saunders' infantile dismay, barely an arse-crack, let alone a builder's. She takes her tea rough, shaken not stirred on board a somehow sea-borne HMS Belfast, which was a damn-fool choice to sail up the Liffey.

Gub-boat duplomacy being what it is, they have discplined the Guardian's staff, who charter-partied the vessel for their own bash. Insurers rub their hands, having heard that it was for a bash, because their command of idiom is pedestrian, and a crossing such as this is, to be blunt, beyond even Mary's conception.

The army straggles on, into the territory that once was occupied by The Banana People. They had no objection to being named after a green fruit, and still live there, but International Law, International Relations, the UN, and International Rescue deemed them The Papaya People:

For all the sense that it made, it might as well have been The Pipistrelle People, or Pirelli People

Pan's People, anyone?

Leopard Generate is selected

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11 September

That'll be the name of my fifth novel (which I'll pay Will Self to ghost-write, if he could do anything quietly...), so remember - in a subliminal way - that you read it here first.

I am informed that an alternative modern-day pigmentation is undoubtedly purple, but do they mean purple? : looking at, being cruel, Damien Hirst's so-called spot-paintings (or a paint-card) convinces me that I don't know my puce from my eblow (elbow, even, as I am not 'licensed' to talk about e-blows before the watershed).

As to bringing back the semi-colon, I have just done it on Twitter - as with Peter M. and Michael P.*, it has spent its time out in the wilderness, can be welcomed back into the fold, and become the fatted calf (if it's half-lucky).

@OpiumBooks is now, as a good friend calls it, Twitterating (with) me : can't it get a bit dull just having titles on a topic less of interest to me (than ever it was) since, at the time of its release, seeing Robert de Niro wasting his life as David Aaronson** in Once upon a Time in America (1984)?

Which might take me to Inception (2010), but I had to leave last night's screening, so we won't go into that just now...

So I shall simply close with a comment (allegedly) made by Keith Lemon (or was it Keith Tangerine - or Grape?):

To be in a position to acquire this objective, I can invest hours in entrance of the mirror to get my look correct

Right on, baby - but don't give up Dave's job!***


* Oddly, I tend to think of his surname as being Portaloo... (Didn't you realize that the product was called after a family name?)

** I had remembered his nickname as Toots (touch of Dustin there?), but Noodles seems plum crazy even now!

*** Whih is what, on the pattern of Russell Hoban's hugely affecting novel Riddley Walker, is the fate of that phrase, I deem.

Monday, 10 September 2012

All on one day

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10 September

No, not a Hollywood title of a film, conflating One Fine Day (1996) with I Don't Know What (2012, post-production), or anything else...

I'm referring to World Suicide Prevention Day* (WSPD), but, being controversial, it all does seem a bit like that Spielberg film that I could never face seeing, Saving Private Ryan:

Tom Hanks, I am sure, is fine, but not so much what is the concept (or what facts - there apparently are some - is the concept rooted in?), as what's the point of the concept? (Substitute any other industry-standard (or non-standard) screenplay-writing word for 'concept', if you object.)

Mother of four (?) can't be subjected to the announcement of the death of x of them (where x is 3 (or fewer)) on one day, I gather, so save one of them (i.e. he doesn't die), y, so his death, too, doesn't need to be announced at the same time: 'take him out of' the dangerous position in which he is, at the risk of z lives, rather than lying about whether he is dead or not.

The military, of course, always scrupulously honest, especially when (as with the Battle of Culloden (or Prestonpans, for that matter)) it comes to agreeing with the enemy where the sides will engage each other (cf. Winfrey's Last Case**), so a real bind for them to lie, if y were to have died:

How could they lie to a poor mother about whether her son is / sons are dead? Sob, sob.

Back at WSPD:

The parallel? A flurry of activity to publicize the cause, prevention and statistics of suicide on one world-wide day.

Why not a lot less, not all at once, just all the time, done properly, so that, on the 362[.25] days of the year that are not WSPD (or either side), Private Ryan gets as good a chance of getting saved then? For, aren't days*** and weeks of this kind in danger of being tokenistic, too little focused on a tiny part of the year, and no encouragement to proper funding, day in, day out?

I don't know, but when else have I had all these Tweets about suicide?: I don't mind - but don't much need - them, but couldn't they just piss off with overload and quash any compassion or understanding, when too many people wrongly think those weak who choose to end their own lives?

Requiescat in pacem


* The name is simply wrong, in Ronseal terms.

And I type it, to check, into Google®, and Google doesn't even know what 'world suic' leads to, in its form-completion mode!

** Ripping Yarns, courtesy of Jones & Palin.

*** And I might include World Mental Health Day, because the people with an interest in it huddle (and everyone else can pretend to have been 'off the radar' or 'not to have had a signal' that day, but, never mind - there's always next year...).

Did Keith Floyd really even like wine?

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10 September

Watched The Truman Show (1998) again - not for real, just on my chat show.

Made me wonder: could the t.v. programme actually have been showing a guy, before the days of I always cook with wine - sometimes I even add it to the food / meal*, consuming wines at that rate?

I reckon now that it was all done with CGI - seeing The Imposter (2012) yesterday proved it to me, because that (excuse the phrase) US government agent was shit hot...


* Even better, the story about Ice Cold in Alex(1958) (thankfully, nothing to do with Marianne Faithfull, for a change) and umpteen takes, real beer, and John Mills - priceless!

Sunday, 9 September 2012

My pussy is a woozle

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9 September

My pussy is a woozle,
A woozle made from cheese,
And, if my woozle sneezes,
She keeps me from disease

© Copyright Belston Night Works 2012

Sleepin' in mi Jag

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9 September

Who can forget confessional Bobby Chariot, top warm-up man (before ever Marion and Geoff, it has to be said, by a long chalk*)?

I have only just thought of him in a long while through that 'catch-phrase' of his, and another was On pills for mi neerves, but Alexei Sayle as Bobby is a natural person to think of, following on from Wilfredo.

Maybe more later... Maybe just look out mi Alexei video...


* Know what that means - and why? I think something to do with darts /keeping score, as a quick guess...

Friday, 7 September 2012

Those CFF events (2012) - booked so far

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25 September - an update of :

As of last night, tickets purchased for the Film Festival, though many a gap as more tickets than room in the universe to sort them! :

As last year, there is a code, which is :

A Abandoned - Walked out partway through

B Blog - There is a posting about the film on the blog, although it may not be a review, to which this links

M Missed - Planned - or had tickets - to see, but had to skip

O Take One - Published on line as a guest review

R Review - The blog posting was submitted as a review and appears on the Film Festival web-site, to which a link provided

S Seen - The opposite of Missed

T Technical - Some technical issue meant that the quality of the screening had been compromised and it was refunded

Summary : 30 films seen (or part-seen) in 11 days, with two that couldn't be watched, and quite a bit of juggling at the weekend of 15 to 16 September

Thursday 13

M 3.30 About Elly - too tight to see because of film at 6.00

1. S 6.00 Opening film : Hope Springs (selling out)

Somehow there's time afterwards for a Q&A and to get the new crowd seated in the size of space after About Elly that did me no favours...

2. S B R 8.30 Opening film : Snows of Kilimanjaro (selling out) Festival review

Friday 14

3. A B R 1.00 Salma and the Apple Festival review

4. S B R 3.30 Formentera Festival review

5. S B 8.30 The Body in the Woods

6. S B R 10.30 Tridentfest review 1 and review 2 Two Festival reviews

Saturday 15

T 12.30 Hemel - Gave up, because of picture-quality, for a refund

7. S 5.00 War Witch

8. S B 7.30 On the Road

Sunday 16

M 3.00 On the Road - Substituted by screening on Saturday night

M 6.40 Warsaw Bridge

clashed with

9. S B 8.00 Chimes at Midnight

Monday 17

M 10.15 The Temptation of St. Tony - Proved to be too early!

10. S B R 3.15 Postcards from the Zoo Festival review

11. S B R 8.00 Now is Good Festival review

12. S B R 10.45 Hit and Run Festival review

Tuesday 18

M 10.30 A Cube of Sugar - Also too early

13. S B R 3.00 Home for the Weekend Festival review

14. S B 5.30 The Idiot

15. S B 8.00 The Night Elvis Died

Wednesday 19

16. S B R 12.30 V.O.S. Festival review

17. S B 3.00 Salvatore Giuliano

18. S 6.00 Big Boys gone Bananas!

T 8.00 The Mattei Affair

Thursday 20

19. S B R 3.15 Totem

M 4.30 Event: George Perry on Hitchcock - NB To book separately : film's allocated, talk's not

M 5.15 Vertigo

20. S B O 8.15 All Divided Selves

Friday 21

21. S B 10.45 Vertigo

22. S B 2.00 Warsaw Bridge

23. S B 6.00 Blackmail

M 8.00 Aelita, Queen of Mars - free, no need to book - Too tired!

Saturday 22

M 12.45 Tony 10 - Still too tired

24. S O 6.00 The Lacey Rituals review interview with William Fowler (Curator, BFI)

25. S B 8.30 Black Bread

Sunday 23

26. S 11.00 A Trip to the Moon + Extraordinary Voyage

27. S B 1.00 Lucky Luciano

28. S 3.15 Marnie

29. S 5.30 Surprise film : Looper

30. S B R 8.00 Closing film : Holy Motors

News from Writer's Rest

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8 September

Lindsay's latest posting at has enthused me to write this :

Ah, The Turing Test, one of the beloved things that returns and returns, and always pays returns!

I always had an interest in Alan Turing and his fellow theorists and code-breakers, and had been to the place that gave rise to the present GCHQ (the UK’s Government Communications HQ), but seeing the play about his life, brilliantly performed by an all-amateur cast, had me taking my then girlfriend that same weekend to that place in Buckinghamshire, Bletchley Park.

Turing’s sister (who calls him Alan M. Turing) has written a book about him, which I shall some day read, as I shall some day read the text of the play and be amazed again at how much the actor who played him embodied that role and knew a huge role almost word perfect.

For now, I see a little bit of his lively mind and thinking from the thirties and through and beyond the Second World War, and feel moved to support the campaign that he should be pardoned for being gay before his time, and also for his seeming suicide to be looked at not as the self-crime that it then was in law.

If that does not encourage you to visit Writer's Rest, I admit failure...

Plus there's now :

Another thing is that the best AI is where the money is being sought: it is not in the very unconvincing services that ‘direct your call’ by getting you to press 1 then 3 then 2, etc., etc., or the stilted automated announcements at the station, as they have no interest in conveying the notion that they are persons, just suitably comprehensible cut-up bits of persons’ voices.

Actually, that is no false economy, but not pretending to be any more than one is, whereas those who use highly developed AI fail to realize how objectionable people will almost always find a however-clever machine that rings them up, if they catch it out as one, and may have to learn a difficult lesson about what matters to human-beings.

The reason? Simply the same affront at a computer seeming to personalize a form-letter, but addressing me incompetently as Mrs Apsley, because of the principle rubbish in, rubbish out – the seeming care about me as this mythical ‘valued customer’ is belied by not even knowing who I am! Just as irritating as if the new doctor calls one by the wrong name, but he or she can be corrected, and should apologize…

This is a farce that makes you think (according to The Guardian)

This is what the theatre says was written about Hysteria by Terry Johnson

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7 September

This is what the theatre says was written about Hysteria by Terry Johnson

Johnson is best known to me as having written the play on which the film Insignificance (1985), directed by Nicolas Roeg, was based, but may also have directed the performance that I saw of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (taken from the novel), and almost certainly did that of Shelagh Stephenson's The Memory of Water.

I do not know Johnson's earlier play, but what do we have here ? : the fictionalization of a real meeting between the inventor of psychoanalysis and one of the world's most eccentric artists of the twentieth century. In Insignificance, Marilyn Monroe famously meets Albert Einstein (though I don't think that they ever did).

But this is not Michael Frayn with Copenhagen, Nils Bohr, Werner Heisenberg and Bohr's wife Margrethe circling like sub-atomic particles on the stage. Frayn's play is not exactly in the vein of scientific speculation (e.g. The Cambridge Quintet, and nor could Johnson's be imagined to be.

If you could see the last five to ten minutes before the first five to ten minutes you might simply not bother to watch what follows, it is as simple than that - any creative work that does not at least do what Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There to maintain the magic may not be worth the watching.

For does the play actually give rise to the thinking that is attributed to The Guardian? Not beyond thinking that three characters depicted might represent Freud's id, ego and super-ego in a dream, and that just is not that interesting. It is also not interesting that, at the end of his life, Freud might have contemplated again, and regretted having rejected the idea of sexual abuse in the infantile period as the basis of his patients' psychiatric problems - as I reflected on this conceit, I realized that I already knew of this rejection, and that the notion did not add very much.

A great advance on the play filmed as Insignificance? Not really.

The film is Ten (not 10)

This is a review of Berberian Sound Studio (2012)

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7 September

* Contains spoilers *

This is a review of Berberian Sound Studio (2012)

Sounds familiar ? :

A film project unlikely to be completed because of the effect of the director's erotic impulses and of psychological disintegration

No, this is Berberian Sound Studio* (2012), but you could be forgiven for thinking that it is meets Vincent Price with Black Swan (2010) in the room.

Apart from when we follow, in a disjunctive way that immediately suggests disassociation, Gilderoy (Toby Jones) to his unspecified lodgings - which seem more like his room at his mother's house than the building in which they are supposed to be located - we are trapped in the world of studio 4 at Berberian Sound Studios somewhere in an Italian city, where, for unknown reasons, he has been engaged to oversee the re-recording and foley work on a film whose scenes we only hear described (or their dialogue performed from a sound-booth, significantly well by Elena (Tonia Sotiropoulou)), but of which the title sequence has been suggestive.

The only connection with the outside world (for us, as we never see Gilderoy between his lodgings and the studio) is three or four seemingly inconsequential letters from his mother about the progress of 'chiff-chaffs' in her garden, and which we rather edgily have to read as they move down the screen (because there is no voice-over). We see him only in and on his arrival at the studios, where we might have the sinister realization that no one else seems to have any business, and he is instantly insulted by the film's producer (Francesco**) for having English manners and not the ones that he thinks proper.

So begins a struggle to get Gildeoroy's flight paid, a matter about which he is overly concerned, and everyone at the studios - as if paying people does not rate highly, since they eventually claim that the flight did not exist - is overly concerned not to deal with. Gilderoy is a mystery, but his work, as is the sadistic story, set at an equestrian school and involving priests, alleged witches and secrets, appears to have a grubby nature, because he shruggingly justifies it by saying, referring to his medium, 'quarter of an inch is quarter of an inch'.

Unless that professional background and his evident expertise (he is asked, when the power cuts again, to do a party-piece and make the sound of a UFO) justify him for the task, there seems no reason why he was flown in (seemingly at his own expense) to do it. That said, perhaps not unlike the film world of its time, Francesco conveniently talks to him like a menial, with that same way of putting the faults of his own attitude onto that of others seen at the opening and which hints at menace.

A melting-point for Gilderoy to crack up and for us to see that disintegration - there is no other word for what the visuals present - in, for example, the sound-schedule for a film at Box Hill that we know that he worked on where we are expecting to see the familiar one for the present project: as is so often the case, given as what we factually appear to see, whereas it reflects Gilderoy's disassociating mind.

In a way much, and in a way nothing, hangs on Gilderoy's engagement with the film: I have already said that is not apparent why he was engaged to do the work (and why those who had worked on other distasteful projects with inappropriate insertions of a red-hot poker, which Santini wheedlingly does his best to try to justify, are not available), and we see others replaced, when choosing to renounce the project (which Gilderoy does not have the apparent confidence - or, maybe, the cash for an air-fare back - to do).

If, however, he were replaced, no more Berberian Sound Studio, of course, and no more following the state of his tortured psyche. I say 'tortured', because what he is being demanded to do is a torment to this Brit, and it is bound to go one way or the other (if not both) of lashing out (such as in the destruction of part of the sound-recordings) or impacting on Gilderoy.

Toby Jones does an excellent job of embodying this nervous expert, and writer / director Peter Strickland has created an incestuous and self-focused universe, which the title neatly suggests (as also the unique talent of Cathy Berberian). It is a rough ride, but interesting, and one which I found that I engaged with more richly by relating to the world of Fellini's work about a non-film: the fact that, even when we think that we might, we never see what Gilderoy has to marshal the sound for making it not only more piquant, but even also hints at this antecedent.


* Why, as if it is like The Ministry of Sound, do I want to call this film Berberian Sound System?

** Played by Cosimo Fusco, who, like Gilderoy, has no surname (according to
IMDb), whereas the director, Santini (Antonio Mancino) has no Christian name.