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Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Burns made me do it...

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1 May

A poem, written in the pub - if not over a malt - yesterday, because of seeing* :

How would you talk about the liquid of whisky.....? Is there a word you would say, or a formula or a poem, or what?

Here goes:

To a Dram

Note one thing :
These words,
The water of life,
Are not


No, a direct
Of pure fact,
Pure as barley

As water
As living yeast,
Which drives
Sugar to thrive

Huge vessels
Whose real size
Defies our mind
(All those litres !)

Cannot contain
The breath of God,
A holy embrace
That blossoms

'Volatile', we say,
And all of these –
And none – is Scotch…

©   Copyright Belston Night Works 2013


* This should be, for those in the know, 'an embedded Tweet', but Pratter tells me that I'm not authorized** - pretty rough Version, The Agent, not the Authorized Version...

** In fact, I now see that '@WildAndMagic's account is protected'. How lovely !

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Box perfect[ly] - tick all the boxes !

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28 April

Does any phrase containing the word 'box' avoid contention, or just tick all the boxes (as the phrase has it)... ?

It's a wonder that we don't say 'check' all the boxes, but I am sure that it's upcoming, i.e. forthcoming !

Let my little survey explode into life - like a jack-in-the-box (not to be pigeon-holed - another sort of box - it's in any old order) :

* Thinking outside the box, namely not responding with inertia and paralysis to a problem, but solving - or getting near to solving - it, so really just 'thinking' (instead of 'stagnating')

* Would you like to come inside my box ? - a dubious proposition of a sexual nature, calculated to make one think cheaply about the beauty of physical union

* If one did tick all the boxes, what a nonsense that would be : Are you □ Employed □ Self-employed □ Unemployed (unless you are an unpaid intern) !

* You need to box perfect - and, as we've said, Stuff the adverb !

* Tick the box on Amazon® to send a Twat that says I've ordered the Cary Grant boxset ! - thereby prove that you reject boxed set

* No, this is my cardboard box - for those who like cheap gibes at those on the streets, and wouldn't support @StreetwiseOpera by buying its beautiful single with @LizWattsSoprano, the Sacconi Quartet and Duncan Ward, available as a download straight from iTunes, or you can first watch that extract from their film The Answer to Everything before you buy at :

An unending list of derision

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Kelly Brook's ex hit by doube-decker (according to AOL®)

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25 April

At any rate, the hedline (sic) talks of a doube-decker.

Knowing that a deck denotes part of the equipment of the likes of DJ Skunk, I dare not assume that this is a merror (a portmanteau word*, comprising 'error' and 'mere'), but guess that doube might denote :

* That 'whole dub thing'

* A Routemaster smeared with melted cheese and barbeque sauce

* A bi-plane flown by a dove**

* A love-track sung by Kelly, which went straight to this former partner's heart

Yes, I am too lazy to read 'the actual' story, or rather, me and my doube, we're havin' too much craic... !

Postscript : 26 April

And to-day AOL® excels itself :

Woman defiant against bag theif [sic]


* Thank you, Lewis Carroll !

** German Taub.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

The 100 best romantic movies ? (according to @TimeOutFilm)

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24 April

It all started with Catherine Bray (whom The Agent Follows on Pratter)... :

Catherine Tweeted :

Stupid Apsley looked at her 1 to 10 (as previously Tweeted), since she had been one of Time Out's 101 'experts, including the folks who make their living from giving movies a critical mauling', and Tweeted Catherine :

Skipping a few more of Apsley's irritating questions, we move on to :

So, if it were all democratic - with a lot of great strictness thrown in - what did the 100 list really mean ? :

And what about those 'romantic' films. For what it's worth, Apsley has this to comment :

So Apsley got thinking... :

Ten free choices for each of 101 voters, so 1010 selections to be whittled down to a ranked list of 100 by, where possible, weighting the choices according to preference.

Obviously not a scientific experiment to which a test of significance need necessarily be applied, but assume, for argument's sake, that one in every two or three list of ten choices would be a duplicate : 505 discrete selections, but how skewed might the voting get if, say, 1st place carried 15 points, 2nd place 13 points, 3rd place 11 points, and then allocating a range of 10 points to the remaining 7 positions?

Could it possibly be that a relatively very small number of the overall 101 voters, choosing the same film in 1st place, might out-vote a larger number ranking it, but putting it lower down their list ? If so, democracy would mean that those with 'a passion for' a film within their choice of 10 would vote down (or, even, out) a greater number putting it, say, 8th...

No doubt more than one way to analyse these data-sets and arrive at a 1 to 100, then...

For example, Annie Hall :

* Richard Gere (who didn't choose it) only voted for 2 films

* Sally Hawkins put it 7th

* Frances O'Connor put it 4th

* Sara Pascoe put it in an unranked list

* Christopher Walken - as Gere

Summary : 3 out of 18 Actors voted for it

* Dave Calhoun (Time Out) had it 1st

* Kate Muir (The Times) put it 5th

Summary : 2 out of 18 Critics voted for it

* Judd Apatow only voted for 3 - this was the 3rd

* Richard Curtis put it 1st

* Aside - Gideon Koppel's choice for 1st was Carry on Camping...

* Jamie Travis says 4th [and, for my money, wisely names Hannah and her Sisters as 9th, which I didn't notice in anyone else's list]

* Penny Woolcock goes for 2nd

Summary : 4 out of 21 Film-makers voted for it


Overall, out of 57 people in these three lists who could have voted for Annie Hall, only 9 did, with 2 x 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 2 x 4th, 5th, 7th and an unranked.

To me, though Annie Hall is a great film (if not, in my view, really a romance), it suggests that the voting must (if 57 / 101 is a representative sample - I can analyse the other three categories...) be too diffuse for the votes of many to count for anything and / or that the weighting gives an unrepresentative result.

Taking this on :

Of the Film industry insiders Of whom there were 20), Shira MacLeod rated it 3rd, and Louisa Dent 2nd, but no one else named it. 2 out of 20

There were 13 Cultural heroes* : Lauren Cuthbertson put it 6th, Robyn Hitchcock 3rd**, Tim Key voted (but didn't rank it), Tom Odell said 5th, and Isy Suttie 4th. 5 out of 13

Finally, 11 Writers, of whom Moira Buffini listed it, chronologically, penultimate, Joe Dunthorne put it 6th, and Jack Thorne 1st. 3 out of 11

Those new categories make, all in all, 10 out of 44, with a further 1st, 2nd, 2 x 3rd, 4th, 5th, 2 x 6th, plus 2 x unranked.

Added to the categories above, 19 out of 101 (more respectable) :

1st x 3 (Critic, Film-maker, Writer)

2nd x 2 (Film-maker, Film industry insider)

3rd x 3 (Film-maker, Film industry insider, Cultural hero)

4th x 3 (Actor, Film-maker, Cultural hero)

5th x 2 (Critic, Cultural hero)

6th x 2 (Cultural hero, Writer)

7th x 1 (Actor)

Unranked x 3 (Actor, Cultural hero, Writer)

With the new categories, around one in five named Annie Hall, and that got it 4th in the 100 list. How much that is down to the weighting, with 8 out of 19 in the 1st to 3rd positions, is anyone's guess...

And, of course, if the three voters who declined to rank their choices had not done so, that might have made things different again !


And what about Dr Zhivago (1965), ranked only no. 96 - to the digust of someone who commented on Time Out's pages ?

Well, I guess that there couldn't have been many votes, and, out of their 10 choices, this is what I find:

* No Actors voted for it

* No Critics voted for it

* In Film-makers, Gillies MacKinnon put it 7th, and Shirin Neshat 8th

Just over the halfway point (57 from the 101 who made some sort of selection), only two picked it - how many more secured Dr Zhivago its position at 96 ?

No Film industry insiders or Writers, and just Bella Freud from Cultural heroes (5th), so 3 votes out of 101, nothing higher than 5th place, gets 96th place.

Fourth place overall secured by 19 votes, 96th by 9, so where anything came in that list of 100 could be depend on the weighting given by - or lack of weighting - one person who chose the film...

Highly scientific (or democratic) ? Maybe a much-higher place was won for a film with, again, just three votes, because it had all its votes in positions 1st to 3rd

Comments, especially from @TimeOutFilm, welcome !


* Bella Freud is to be valued for listing Subway (1985).

** Hitchcock came up with The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985).

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Video: Woman shocked to see tiger in public toilet (according to AOL®)

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23 April

Of course, a tiger in the petrol-station, or in the woman's bedroom, would have been unremarkable*.

After all, Esso still seems to like tigers (though, I am quick to say, I do not have any idea what it does to forestall their extinction - nearly said 'secure', but that was just  a confusion of seeking and stopping), and many a home has a Tigger, either a fluffy version, or built into a photograph-frame.

As for this toilet tiger, it couldn't have been a bothersome sort, because there is no claim that the woman was hurt ('mauled' is the preferred term), but just that she was shocked by seeing it. Perhaps she was under the faulty impression that they are extinct...

Mean of someone, then, to go and proof her wrong by attracting it inside the WC, but you know what these activists are like !


* Oh, the perils of what T. S. Eliot (to be specific) liked, I think, to call specificity !

Sunday, 21 April 2013

In Praise of Baxter

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21 April 2013

Dear Bruce Baxter

Forget it, Susan Tomes !

You have always been the best, but your new all-Mozart recording is just blinding.

The music critic for The Times called it revelatory, but, for me, its effect is very shiny and totally chic - not at all redundant.

I know that you treasure these epistles, and I am more in awe of you than ever, but I remain your number-one fan


Saturday, 20 April 2013

Film reviews : Pretending to know more than one does... ?

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21 April

I have blogged elsewhere how slips in what a reviewer, say, of films writes might make one think that he or she did not see (all of) the film in question. From which one might infer that I think that the minimum that one can expect, if the reviewer did not watch the whole film, is for him or her to say so.

What, though, about a film whose screenplay is not original, but adapted from a book or a play (most higher-budget films are such films) ? Can the reviewer meaningfully comment about the adaptation if, say, he or she has not read the book or play ?

In asking which, I recognize that, with such a film, it is one thing to criticize an infelicity or the implausibility of a character or part of what he or she does, another to locate the reason for it with the various film-makers (screenwriter, director, actor, etc.), without seeming to stop to ask Was this in the original, and what would deviating from that, if possible, have meant – and how would it have been done ?

If, of course, without having read the original book or play and not admitting not to know it, one wrote a review that gave the impression that one had, or that the infelicity or implausibility was squarely that of the film-makers alone, would one be pretending to know things that one did not ? If so, is the temptation for a reviewer to do it to seem convincing in that capacity, authoritative ? :

In the House (2012)

Anyway, let me get on to Francois Ozon's intriguing story of the unusual relationship between a 16-year-old pupil, Claude, (Ernst Umhauer) and his teacher (Fabrice Luchini).

The teacher sets his class the task of recounting what they did the previous weekend and Claude begins a sequence of writing about the home life of a classmate (Bastien Ughetto).

At first, this amounts to viewing through a window but to make the work more realistic he inveigles himself into his subjects' lives.

Gradually, the essays become more sinister and the teacher effectively becomes a voyeur, demanding richer writing from the boy who becomes his 'protege'.

Ozon has adapted Juan Mayorga's play without losing a theatrical feel to the movie (there are only three sets in the film; school, the classmate's home and the teacher's house).

In The House benefits from outstanding performances: Umhauer shows a superb streak of underlying malevolence while Luchini does a fine job as a teacher whose initial apparent naivety may be a cloak for uglier motives.

Courtesy of Neil White (@everyfilmdteled)

I am pretty sure that the Mayorga original has not been read. For one thing, the Amazon® search that I did when I was interested to find the source material suggested that it is not available (not, at any rate, in English, but instead under the name El chico de la última fila (which IMDb gives me)).

However, the reference here is vague enough to suggest that it might be known, but which of us knows whether the play has 'a theatrical feel' to lose ? I suggest that this is an inference, without reference to whether Mayorga wrote in, for example, a naturalistic, post-modern, or Brechtian mode (or a mixture of any one of these and others).

As I have already blogged, the locations are constricted and claustrophobic, but one cannot simply suppose either that the play proposed them, rather than using some other approach or device, and there are more than the three mentioned : near and at the basketball court, outside and inside the cinema, in and around the gallery, and, fleetingly, Garcia's house and a bus.

Here's another take on the film and how it has been constructed:

For a film maker to turn his gaze back on his own narrative can be risky, and exploring the nature of writing and the creative process risks alienating the viewer if not handled well, but François Ozon has a solid track record in handling such matters. In The House creates a world of moral ambiguity within which its characters’ motivations are always reasonable, if not always rational, and events are allowed to spiral gently out of control (or further into control, depending on your perspective). While the genitalia and breast themed artworks on the wall of Jeanne’s gallery suggests that absence of morality becoming more prevalent in contemporary society, the motivations of Germain and Claude are more timeless and satisfyingly shaded in grey. The script by succeeds in having its cake and eating it, cocking its nose at trite genre conventions while successfully weaving them into the plot.

In The House thrives on its relationships: between Germain and Jeanne, the couple whose relationship becomes defined by their reactions to Claude’s work; between Germain and Claude, as the line between fact and fiction blurs and the definition of their pupil and mentor relationship blurs with it; and between Claude and the mother of the family at the centre of his writings, Esther (Emmanualle Seigner), defying the age gap between the two to give an additional layer of uncertainty and ambiguity. These relationships are all sold by uniformly excellent performances from the cast, especially newcomer Unhauer, and it’s a step up from the almost forced frivolity of Ozon’s last film, Potiche. There’s just a couple of unfortunate notes, including the insistence on every French film featuring Kristin Scott Thomas feeling the need in some way to draw attention to her English roots (here a reference to Yorkshire), and the ending, an extra portion of cake too much in the having-and-eating-of-cake. But if I had to mark the efforts of Ozon and his cast, they’d be looking at a solid grade this time around.

Courtesy of The Movie Evangelist (@MovieEvangelist)

If Ozon is the 'film maker', what does he make is film of or from ? Can he be credited with the work - the 'risky' turning 'his gaze back on his own narrative' - when it seems unlikely that Mayorga, with his experience, would have been excluded from participation in the adaptation ?

At the moment, that is just a guess on my part - but is it likely, even if I gather that it happens often enough, that Ozon would simply adapt the play for the screen without seeking Mayorga's input ?

And the ending, whose closing shot The Evangelist tells me that he simply does not like ? - the grammar of the film implies that what we see is and has continued to be what Germain and Garcia are looking at, but that may not be so. Is it any better (or worse) if it is (a) in Germain's head, (b) a deliberately boggling kaleidoscopic depiction of the varieties of life that we can (happen to) see into, or (c) Garcia projecting his imagination onto the world as a creator who has Germain in thrall ?

To be continued

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Hey, Cinephiles ! I'm a Philokinotologist - are you ?

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18 April

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Goldberg and McCann ride again

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17 April

The pair who turn up and sometimes threaten more with innuendo, and what they don’t say rather than what they do, bear these names in Pinter’s The Birthday Party. The Homecoming has the unseen figure of MacGregor, who – so Sam claims at the close of the play – had Max’s wife in the back of the car as he drove.

In Old Times, the Gaelic name is McCabe, mentioned only in the sequences when Kate and Anna seem to inhabit another time and place – or another place and time to inhabit them. But who is McCabe ?

The play’s dialogue accustoms us to the possibility that, for example, we may never be sure whether it was Anna’s skirt that Deeley, with her compliance, looked up – or says that he did.

Anna’s eventually agreeing with him that it was she does not, in itself, signify that it did happen. Yet it does come immediately before Kate’s unleashing her fractured and furious speech about Deeley and Anna, with which the dialogue ends, and leads to the tableau with which it concludes.

The names McCann and McCabe share, to some extent, in euphony, but more so in the fact that they betoken an Irish, rather than a Scots, origin (on the rule that the prefix ‘Mc’ is one, and ‘Mac’ the other). If that rule is valid and if, as it seems, Deeley is an Irish name, could we posit that McCabe is really he ?

The Homecoming’s MacGregor is the only person not referred to by his or her Christian name or a pet form of it (Teddy, Lenny, etc., but just Ruth), although it is shortened to Mac. That pattern seems true in Old Times, because (in Act 2) the other names that Anna uses are Charley, Duncan and Christy – in Act 1, Anna had suggested Jake (whom Kate said that she does not like), or ‘Charley…or…’, and Anna then named McCabe, when Kate asks whom she meant.
Managing, the second time, to break in to whatever is happening between Anna and Kate again in Act 2, Deeley claims that Christy ‘can’t make it. He’s out of town’, and Kate says ‘Oh, what a pity’, before, after marking silence, the three talk together ‘normally’ again.

Prior to Deeley’s words, she feelingly and tellingly said about Christy (after saying that she liked him best, and Anna said that he is ‘lovely’) :

He’s so gentle, isn’t he ? And his humour. Hasn’t he got a lovely sense of humour ? And I think he’s…so sensitive. Why don’t you ask him round ?

Even a fondness and admiration for another man twenty years ago – or is it now ? – seems to have been too much for Deeley, too much of a threat, as Anna (after Deeley’s eruption) seems to perceive herself to be:

(To Deeley, quietly) I would like you to understand that I came here not to disrupt but to celebrate.


To celebrate a very old and treasured friendship, something that was forged between us long before you knew of our existence*.

The description of Christy does not seem to match Deeley’s nature and behaviour, and, with it, comes a portrayal of a time when men friends of Anna’s would be invited around, by Anna, to where Kate and she lived. (That is, if we believe the play’s opening dialogue to the effect that Kate had no friends other than Anna, and in the light of Anna’s saying Would you like me to ask someone over ?)

If he is not Deeley, McCabe is, at any rate, a mystery in Act 1 : in the scenario of the 1950s at its end, Kate says that she will think in the bath about Anna’s hesitant suggestion of asking McCabe, so not the definite rejection that Jake gets. Yet, by Act 2, we have :

Kate : Is Charley coming ?

Anna : I can ring him if you like.

Kate : What about McCabe ?

Anna : Do you really want to see anyone ?

Kate : I don’t think I like McCabe.

Anna : Nor do I.

Kate : He’s strange. He says some very strange things to me.

Anna : What things ?

Kate : Oh, all sorts of funny things.

Anna : I’ve never liked him.

Kate : Duncan’s nice though, isn’t he ?

As two women discussing men whom they know might, they turn briefly to Duncan, having more or less agreed that they do not like McCabe, and then to Christy, whereupon Deeley makes his successful interruption.

In context, then, is that intervention made in genuine fear, because he – McCabe – has heard himself rejected, and it seems that Christy might be asked to come to see Kate in his stead ?

Couple that with how Anna eventually validates Deeley for maintaining that he had a liaison with her**, and Kate’s words to Deeley about Anna’s feelings for him (events which he gives the impression of not quite remembering, not quite crediting, and which Anna does not even attempt to deny), and, with a consequence reminiscent of the unfolding of an Ibsen play, the trap has snapped shut.

For Anna, despite being the one for whom Deeley felt a real attraction, is not the one whom he chose to marry, and he had gone along with allowing Kate to efface the memory and reality of Anna :

He asked me once, at about that time, who had slept in that bed before him. I told him no one. No one at all.

That links back to when, just to Deeley, Anna had been denying his saying that they had had prior contact and having been at the party. Deeley said that afterwards

I never saw you again. You disappeared from the area. Perhaps you moved out..

In negating what Deeley proposes, Anna does not challenge him identifying her as that woman, but simply says No. I didn’t. Deeley then asks where Anna was, and, before he appears to drop the subject, she says Oh, at concerts, I should think, or the ballet.

By doing so, Anna lamely resuscitates the impression of a social whirl for Kate and her with which she launched herself into the play, whereas it seems just as plausible that, at some point, Anna’s world had revolved around The Wayfarers Tavern – despite her protestation I wasn’t rich, you know. I didn’t have money for alcohol., which Deeley rejects by saying that men, himself included, bought her drinks.

Knowing that Deeley is Kate’s husband, Anna maybe does not want to remember, and she does not appear able to parry Deeley’s claims now that he has her alone. He, for his part, almost certainly takes advantage, either of embellishing a real situation, or – if Pinter leaves us thinking it amounts to anything different – fabricating an account so far back that Anna cannot easily and definitely contradict him.

If Deeley is McCabe, any disappearance of Anna could not even be on a figurative level as Kate’s narration of Anna being dead or Anna’s of a man in the room who is sobbing and puts his head in Kate’s lap : that silent closing scenario, with the three of them, is like the dumbshow in Pericles or, more famously, in Hamlet, which sums up what dare not be spoken, but they know as truth, remembered truth.

In writing this, I find myself back at Beckettt’s Play, with Kate, Deeley and Anna linked as are his voices, doomed by an inextricable past…


What a bastard relation to appreciating a play reading a text and thinking that one understands it is ! I say this, having just re-read Landscape, from 1968, and feeling an effect from it - an effect so different from a production, a performance, not least with Pinter, where the cumulative effect of the stage-directions Pause, Silence or even Long silence cannot be experienced on the page.

Such a crooked teaching that encouraged one to approach plays - and poems - as texts, when they are merely notated in writing, and live outside it !

My copy tells me that Peggy Ashcroft and Eric Porter were first broadcast on the radio in it, and then, in 1969, Peter Hall staged it (Ashcroft again, but not Porter). That figures. Is it conceivable that Pinter did not hear and know Beckettt's radio play Embers, broadcast first in 1959 ? And this play and also Silence, how they feed into the mood and nature of Old Times


* Was the friendship, though, long before ?

** Of which he tells Kate, after telling alone Anna that this is his recollection, with the apparent intent of demeaning both Anna (for being the woman whose skirt he was allowed him to look up) and, by association, Kate herself for letting him become her husband when his interests were not in her, despite his story, with homoerotic mentions of Robert Newton, of meeting Kate at a screening of Odd Man Out.

Despatching Thatcher - who always had cost in her arsenal to justify cuts

This is a review of Ken Loach's documentary The Spirit of '45 (2013)

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17 April

This is a review of Ken Loach's documentary The Spirit of '45 (2013)

In reassuring me that there was no expectation of a delay in my journey using The Tube, Transport for London's notices called 'Baroness' one whom some recently have been referring to as 'Lady' - who knows what the protocol is, but it seems more than a little odd that no one knows what to call Thatcher.

Certainly not, to my mind and the title of a recent waste of the medium of film, The Iron Lady. More like, if a noisy band hadn't got there first, an iron maiden, choking and skewering to death those whom she despised : just look at the footage from the time of the miners' strike in Ken Loach's excellent The Spirit of '45 (2013).

In London, this seems a day like any other, apart from those notices - just imagine a horrible world where everyone around you wore a black arm-band !

Which takes me, by an inevitable association, to the tomb of The Black Prince in Canterbury Cathedral - about him, as about the snuffed-out promise of Prince Henry (i.e. the elder son of James I (of England)), there was no doubt what was felt. Yes, even in the seventeenth century, people were not as free as we now think ourselves, but there was a lively press, and a spirit that would lead to a monarch on trial for crimes against his own country...

Not that the chummy trio of Cameron, Clegg and Osborne need face any more than tha ballot-box, but they are fools if they think that their self-minded and motivated support of their cronies builds this country, rather than their wealth and interests, and that it will all go unforgiven, let alone unnoticed !

Sunday, 14 April 2013

In the clouds

This is a review of Cloud Atlas (2012)

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14 April 2013

This is a review of Cloud Atlas (2012)

* Spoiler warning : assumes a knowledge of the film, so best not read without one *

Follows on from A cloudy prospect

As a re-viewing reminded me, there are even clouds in Warner Bros' corporate title, and there are probably many more than the other ones that I did spot, which include the striking ones reflected in water (impossibly and Dalíesquely) on the beach when Adam Ewing (Jim Sturgess) fatefully first meets Dr Henry Goose (Tom Hanks)

Clouds are transient things, a fact that Hamlet exploits (and even artist Alexander Cozens in his illustrated treatise, A New Method of Landscape), but I do not yet know what role they play in David Mitchell's novel, on which this film is based.

Yet there are, just as clouds pass overhead, communications between :

1849 and 1936 - Adam Ewing's journal (read by Robert Frobisher (Ben Whishaw)), plus the effects on history of Tilda's (Doona Bae's) and his joining the abolitionists

1936 and 1973 - Robert Frobisher's compositions (heard by Luisa Rey (Halle Berry)), and letters to Rufus Sixsmith (James D'Arcy) (read by Luisa Ray, and passed to the mother of Megan), and it is through Sixsmith that Rey becomes aware of the report on the Hydra reactor at Swannekke, plus the effect of her exposing the attempt to discredit that form of power by allowing a nuclear catastrophe

1973 and 2012 - What Isaac Sachs (Tom Hanks) was writing on the plane could not physically have survived its being blown-up, but his words seem to resonate; in 1973, Luisa Rey was friends with Javier Gomez (Brody Nicholas Lee), and, in 2012, Timothy Cavendish (Jim Broadbent) is reading Gomez' script, heading north on the train; later, Cavendish writes of his experiences at Acacia House, and a film is made at some point (Tom Hanks)

2012 and 2144 - Yoona-939 (Xun Zhou) shows Sonmi-451 (Doona Bae) a device on which a short segment of the film based on Cavendish's writing is looping; a recording of Sonmi's broadcast, and the account that she gives in captivity (taken by James D'Arcy), form part of the archive on her

2144 and 2321 - A venerated form of some of Sonmi's words is kept sacred by the Abbess (Susan Sarandon), and read to Zachry (Tom Hanks) when he consults her, and Sonmi's image is represented both in the valleys, and on Mount Seoul

In short, a series of nested what ifs

I touched previously on what significance 'the doubling' of parts might have : in fact, if IMDb is to be trusted*, six actors play a part in all six time-strands, although those of Hugh Grant, though instrumental, are minor ones (and some of those played by, say, Doona Bae, are far less significant than that of Sonmi-451), which is surely no accident.

To be continued


* Since, as seems accurate, Jim Broadbent is not credited in that from 1973.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Soft targets for scorn : Who gives a stuff about homoeopathy* ?

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13 April

Honestly, I'd really far rather that people such as Simon Singh, who campaign about homoeopathy, would consider the rights and wrongs of electro-convulsive therapy* (ECT), or even psychosurgery : that's keeping it within the so-called sphere of medicine (borderline butchery ?), but one could migrate to hammering many an alternative therapy, whereas homoeopathy seems to have an abiding fascination, which is what this posting concerns itself with.

To keep with ECT : it's odd that human-rights campaigners, journalists and the like want to stress the inhumanity of measures used against, say, Iraqi detainees to break them (whether or not to get information from them), but those - equally detained - under the Mental Health Act 1983 (as amended) seem to be have some different sort of emotional or moral status as victim, compared with military prisoners or officials of deposed regimes. Maybe I'm just weird in finding that curious...

Actually, I don't think so, because it actually seems easier (possibly as a result of documentary : but, then, who makes the documentaries, and why about that ?) for people to contemplate the ethics of the waterboarding or mock execution of a captive in (or brought from) a foreign country than what might happen, say, to an Afghani in a UK psychiatric unit, deemed to be in an unshakeable depression and (irrespective of consent) to need ECT to save his life or for some other reason under the 1983 Act.

And where are we with our headline issue, homoeopathy ? Well, isn't much criticism - dressing-up of the criticism aside - just saying either You're gullible pricks to believe in this crap (various royals included, I believe***), or You are exploiting gullible pricks who believe in this crap - and it matters because it is done 'on the NHS' ?

So what irritates me is the arbitrarily focused smugness of those who say that this is all crap and we're not such mugs as to believe in it, or to want it to continue :

Nothing better to get angry about (such as the mental-health or other humanitarian issues already mentioned) ?

Or just making a fuss because it's an easy battle to win, when most people grasp that the practice is one of repeated dilution, and don't need much stoking to concur that it should not happen at public expense.

Frankly, with the waste that is everywhere in this world, from unnecessarily upgrading phones or laptops (or PCs) just because people can, or have to****, is stopping homoeopathic treatment going to save anything sigificant in terms of money or lives ? Is is really such a huge topic that Pratter needs to be full of condemnation of it, whether in ridicule or rhetoric ?

Unless homoeopathy is banned by law (and might go underground ?), it will continue privately, so the people who were involved in the NHS have an incentive - called losing their job - to work for a private institution, or set up on their own. Net result what ? What savings, and what change ?

Maybe worthwhile in itself, but why not highlight the horrible and cruel isolation and poverty in which many with mental-health conditions have to live ? The lack of befriending or other support schemes, the lack of concern that poor diet, lifestyle and even the long-term effects of medication have on, and reciprocally so, physical health, the battles to be awarded and survive on wlefare benefits, etc., etc., ?

Honestly, Splatter, I really can't think that it matters any great amount, when such degraded lives are all around us, that a few people are being prescribed overdiluted extracts - don't mock or barrack this practice of low significance when people are living and dying in obscurity. If you choose to, you prove that your own mental and personal satisfaction in what you do outweighs the demands of your humanity, your integrity, and your intellect.


* How can something as damaging, as brutal and little understood as to its mechanism of effectiveness (when effective), be called 'a therapy' ?

** Most people who Tweet so much about it can't even spell it - they write homeopathy, when they'd probably pounce on someone not putting homoeothermy...

*** And some might know, far better than I, how there came to be a Bristol Homoeopathic Hospital.

**** Because applications and web-coding becomes ever more (gratuitously ?) complicated, and not (or no longer) supported by the only operating that will run on a computer because of its specification, whose functionality is otherwise perfectly good.

Monday, 8 April 2013

Kristin at the Harold Pinter Theatre II

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

8 April

In the last performance of Old Times at The Harold Pinter Theatre (formerly The Comedy, and home to nine or so previous Pinter productions), I saw Lia Williams as Kate (Deeley’s wife), and therefore Kristin Scott Thomas as Anna (Kate’s friend) (Rufus Sewell was Deeley).

I was partly encouraged to do so by what Lia had said to me at the stage door before Easter, when she had come off stage from being Anna : that Kristin and she looked very different, and that, with her dark wig, I wouldn’t recognize her. It sounded fascinating for these very clear portrayals one way around to swap over, and for Kristin to be not ‘dark’ as Anna, as the opening word of the play would have her, but blonde, and to imbue the other woman with character, form, shape…

This way around, the play was different from the start : KST was standing, as Lia had done (according to the stage directions), looking out of the window at the back, but she was audience right, not left, and Lia, on the sofa, was on the one audience left, not the other. As the interaction between Deeley and Kate proceeds, the gestures, the blocking of the two on and around the stage, were quite different, not mere mirror-images*, and, as I made comparisons, I contemplated that memorizing the roles, even for Rufus, would be made more distinct by such partitioning, lest (a word that Deeley thinks not often heard) he should suddenly mistake Kate for Anna, or vice versa.

At the moment when the text directs Anna to turn ‘from the window, speaking’, the full presence of Kristin burst onto the stage. Knowing the play anyway, it had been a striking moment with Lia, but it was if suddenly she had always been in the room. Her movement, her energy, her grace were fantastic, and the relief in which Lia’s Anna was cast enlivened one’s appreciation of what they each had done – this suited KST down to the ground, the enthusiasm tempered by, but seeking to cover, the uncertainty that Deeley seeks to exploit by his interjections.

Sewell seemed a different Deeley, hard to characterize, but maybe a bit more bluff at the outset, a little more active on his feet, but no less drawing attention to himself when (as he did in both versions) he leant forward, put his mouth to the brandy-glass, and, in one swift bending move backwards, downed a very good measure, before trotting over, naughtily, to the brandy bottle.

As the sort of man that he is, wanting to stress how travelled he is, how much he enjoys his job and how important it is, this larger-than-life Salmon Fishing in the Yemen sort of woman (KST’s role in it, that is) is a threat to him – that is, at any rate, how he responds to her, trying to knock holes in her recollections, what she says her life in Sicily is like, etc. KST’s Anna stood up very well to this treatment, not by ignoring it, but by posture, movement, expression, and she got, by it, the lion’s share of the laughs that were not already on the face of the script.

It is clear enough to me, more so as I think back on Saturday night, that the tailoring of how Lia and Kristin played each part, and how their Rufus responded to them, must have been worked out in wonderful detail all along. What a marvellous piece of theatre to have gone to such trouble to create the play twice over to fit with this fascinating experiment of switching over !

Lia’s Kate was, I guess, much more how I tried to imagine her when I first devoured Pinter plays in several afternoons at the time of studying The Caretaker for ‘A’ level, that acquisitive sort of juvenile desire to know as much as possible about something (thankfully, not from the Internet, then, but from Pinter’s own words, though largely not words enacted on stage or screen) : she lived that sort of distance, that inwardness of Kate that makes her awkward, makes them, much as the bare situation invites it, end up talking about her in the third person.

That feature of the play, both when Deeley is first seeking information about Kate (following Anna’s exuberance about the lives / life that she says that they lived in London), and in the time when, after Kate has gone for her bath, they have moved together for Deeley to show Anna the bedroom, is more than just a feature : it is the bedrock that both are drawn to use Kate as the only thing that they have in common, whether as offensive gesture or defence, and to propound the Kate that they assert that they know, however much at odds with that of the other.

Lia’s Kate seems to invite being fought over in a quite other way from that of Kristin – Kristin was quiet, as Kate has to be in words when they are allocated to the other two, but not in a way that did not let us into her movements, expressions, smiles, be they only the adjustment of a limb, a calmness of the face, or the radiance of her pleasure. Lia, by contrast, had a more stark take on Kate, one that burnt oh so slowly right up to the final sets of blocks of words that she delivers to close the dialogue.

That approach seemed to work better as what Woody Allen would always have described as a ‘passive aggressive’ interpretation, but, at the same time, Kristin came to those utterances from a different place, and so, perhaps, we were more shocked by these words*, and the sense of enigma had a contrasting origin :

But I remember you. I remember you dead.

It is quite apparent to me that the play can unfold in very unlike ways, and yet still be close to the conception of the text, and not, I suspect, exhaust it.

More here on what seeing this production twice now makes me believe…


* In the first viewing of the play, before the tableau, Anna (Lia) is at the foot of the bed that is audience left, after being pushed off the end by Kate, whereas Lia’s Kate stood over Anna.

** Just after Anna has said to Deeley :

Oh, it was my skirt. It was me. I remember your look… very well. I remember you well.