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Monday, 26 October 2015

Depression - what is it that anyone means by this word ?

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2015 (3 to 13 September)
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)

26 October (Tweets added, 1 December)

Dunno what it - the word 'depression' - might mean to you...

One thing is that you could be unable to sleep, or conversely - which is my experience - sleeping all the time (or wanting to sleep), but the thing that links us is this word (and the use of this word) :

The reason being that the sleeplessness is not positive or sparky or creative in the way that being unable to rest / stay asleep might be with mania or psychosis or paranoia (at the beginning, at least), but just an inability to get away, into sleep (or stay there), from what feels bad or wrong or uneasy at some level, maybe because of recriminatory or accusatory thoughts or guilt or some deep feeling of guilt or doom or despair - or of worthlessness and nothing mattering, even the people or things who did matter before, irrespective of knowing that they should matter.

For those who can - generally - sleep at such times, it is just that the sleeping feels a whole lot better than all of those alarming and frightening thoughts and feelings / absences of feeling, and so the experience of those who cannot sleep / stay asleep are mirrored - if I stay asleep, I might feel safe, and I can pretend to myself that those things are not there (unless they come crashing in, and I cannot sleep).

For some, a word to cane others for being (without, probably, knowing what it is) - the irony being that one can be depressed without being aware that that is what one is experiencing, because it is a highly inapt, non-descriptive word...

For others, something that they - rightly or wrongly - think that they see in others, and offer advice that might be trite, might be the right thing at the wrong time, whereas comfort, kindness and - above all - not 'concern', but the care that the other asks for, are better ways of being a friend or relative to the person whom you say that you like or love.

Unless stated otherwise, all films reviewed were screened at Festival Central (Arts Picturehouse, Cambridge)

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

We are living in a material world - and I am a material girl !

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2015 (3 to 13 September)
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)

14 October

And, as AOL (@AOL) highly pertinently asks, Who owns the world's wealth ?

And, when Madonna flounced around counter-intuitively on a gondola for song / album 'Like a Virgin', did she want us to see her ironic stance, there and in 'Material Girl' [link is to the Official Music Video on YouTube (@YouTube)] ]... ?

Unless stated otherwise, all films reviewed were screened at Festival Central (Arts Picturehouse, Cambridge)

Saturday, 10 October 2015

For World Mental Health Day 2015 : Where, in me, is Kafka’s Josef K. ?

More views of or before Cambridge Film Festival 2015 (3 to 13 September)
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10 October, World Mental Health Day

A personal vision of trying to relate to the experience of breakdown / psychiatric challenge in the form of ongoing existential / spiritual self-examination

This is not [meant to be], on #WMHD2015, @THEAGENTAPSLEY talking about others as if about the self (or vice versa)*.

Rather, it is more in the nature of a confession, of trying to be honest and open about what breakdown, and admission under section (circa 21 April 1996), deep down meant and felt like, and still does, just now when the feeling of how I act, and have acted, hypocritically can be keen, as here :

If needed, here is a paragraph from Wikipedia®'s summary of the plot of The Trial**, by way of partial context for those Tweets :

K. is visited by his uncle, who was K.'s guardian. The uncle seems distressed by K.'s predicament. At first sympathetic, he becomes concerned that K. is underestimating the seriousness of the case. The uncle introduces K. to a lawyer, who is attended by Leni, a nurse, who K.'s uncle suspects is the advocate's mistress. During the discussion it becomes clear how different this process is from regular legal proceedings: guilt is assumed, the bureaucracy running it is vast with many levels, and everything is secret, from the charge, to the rules of the court, to the authority behind the courts – even the identity of the judges at the higher levels. The attorney tells him that he can prepare a brief for K., but since the charge is unknown and the rules are unknown, it is difficult work. It also never may be read, but is still very important. The lawyer says that his most important task is to deal with powerful court officials behind the scenes. As they talk, the lawyer reveals that the Chief Clerk of the Court has been sitting hidden in the darkness of a corner. The Chief Clerk emerges to join the conversation, but K. is called away by Leni, who takes him to the next room, where she offers to help him and seduces him. They have a sexual encounter. Afterwards K. meets his uncle outside, who is angry, claiming that K.'s lack of respect has hurt K.'s case.

NB Looking back, in that way, to sectioning in 1996 (and again in January 1997), there is no intention to suggest that anyone else does feel, or ought to feel, twinges of conscience that are tied up with their experience of mental-health issues or services.

However, for me, conscience / awareness of feeling a fraud seem in the midst of what happened then, now, and everywhere in between.

If I see a spiritual or existential dimension in my own issues of mental health, it is for me to see or, more likely, pretend to myself that I am aware of it, when largely I keep it well hidden (at least from myself) : it is all in relation to wanting to work out my paranoia, and why I can, so easily, find accusation in comments, words and texts (mainly from memory, though also in recollected things that people said or wrote, and what they meant / whether they really meant xyz)…

Coda :

And remembering may be, for some, to do with learning not to forget... ? :


* As one of Beckettt’s authorial voices says somewhere (in The Unnamable, or is it Company ?), When I say ‘I’, and having addressed the question whatever / whoever ‘I’ is (and he digresses, as I do, in the fashion of Laurence Sterne’s principal narrator, Tristram Shandy) he goes on to say just that : when saying ‘I’, he does not intend to talk about someone else (as if it were he).

(Molloy, too, certainly mentions that he may lapse into talking of himself as if of another.)

** Kafka wrote the (incomplete) novel in German, entitled Der Prozeß.

Unless stated otherwise, all films reviewed were screened at Festival Central (Arts Picturehouse, Cambridge)

Monday, 5 October 2015

A dream-time concert : Schumann and Donohoe

Peter Donohoe performs Schumann’s Concerto for Piano at The Corn Exchange

More views of or before Cambridge Film Festival 2015 (3 to 13 September)
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4 October (Proof corrected / end-note extended, 13 October)

This is a review of Peter Donohoe’s performance of Schumann’s Concerto for Piano with the Dresdener Philharmonie, under the baton of Michael Sanderling, at The Corn Exchange in Cambridge on Thursday 1 October 2015 at 7.30 p.m.

Peter Donohoe had clearly not done anything as crude as ‘thinking out’ his approach to playing Schumann’s Piano Concerto (in A Minor, Op. 54), but he must know the piece from the inside out, and he could work with it, on the night, to bring out its and his very best (the latter through the former) :

In all honesty, and not wishing to denigrate any specific piano soloists, it is rare to hear this concerto infused with such spark and feeling. (Those qualities, too, typified Michael Sanderling’s conductorship of Brahms’ last symphony*, in the second half of the concert.)

Robert Schumann (18101856) ~ Piano Concerto in A Minor, Op. 54 :

1. Allegro affetuoso

2. Intermezzo : Andantino grazioso

3. Allegro vivace

In Schumann’s measured, but lyrically narrative, initial bars, one catches the Grieg concerto (his Opus 16, and also in A Minor). Schumann's concerto was completed barely more than twenty years earlier, and its (1) Allegro affetuoso feels distinctly a series of interludes yet seamlessly so, as befits having first been a Fantasia (for piano and orchestra).

Very early, a deft trill introduces the theme’s being stated and, as will emerge, the trill is used for a purpose, not as ornament. Here, there is grandeur, before the theme scales down with a decrescendo, and is quizzically given in a varied form : to which Peter Donohoe brought a singing, ‘placed’ quality, and thus carefully linked to a passage with clarinet and strings.

The poetry and the emotion were evident in scoring and playing, with such features as the ease with which, after Donohoe had been restrained in a short solo section, clarinet passed material to oboe, and Donohoe then took time before an outpouring in the piano voice. It felt unquenchable, but did abate into a string ritardando, cantabile keyboard work, a clarinet passage, and light arpeggios, which, too, felt held back by Michael Sanderling.

Soloist, woodwind-players, strings, all demonstrated together the real felt emotion, there amongst lighter touches. We heard that, within the notes, Schumann has notes that need to flow, and that a burst from the piano can be experienced within the orchestra (not seeming external to it).

As with the finale, one feels driven inevitability, but that it is coupled with an easiness in using thematic material : the oboe is given a statement, but it is underpinned by brass and woodwind, then handed to the soloist to play with it and, as Donohoe did, bring out its pianism. Then, just as soon, the pulse moves on : the effect being that our familiarity now, with the structure, allowed the use of underplaying as a way of making the string-effect that followed stronger.

One moment we can have aching engagement with a very Schumannesque subject ; the next, scales or arpeggios that feel more regimented. It is as if we are to glimpse beauty amongst the mundane, and so a formal cadenza can, ushered in by strings, become a tender interlude : those who know the solo piano works will identify a sense of the familiar mixed with the intense, and of pain, but yet also comfort, in outcries (even if they get cut off, by the structural outworking ?).

This is the moment when we realize that the use of trills actually comes across as very emotionally informed and when, in the context of a pianistic outpouring, reintroducing the trill, and passing over to the woodwind, feels absolutely right in terms of the psyche.

Bass notes in the piano herald a brief coda, and we are led into the movement’s close.

Called an Intermezzo (and typically accounting for less than one-sixth of the length of a performance), the (2) Andantino grazioso may seem inconsequential when it opens, but this is far from the truth : as with many ‘a musical bridge’, it effects our transition to the mood at the close of the work. Breathing and living through the music, Donohoe brought us a moment of exceptional poise with the re-entry of the principal theme, and, not for the last time, some very quiet tones.

Further on, and despite Sanderling bringing up a full Viennese string-sound, we cannot pretend that there is not hurt to be felt here : the balance of the piano against the orchestra was impeccable, and the attentive stillness allowed Donohoe to be daringly pianissimo.

When a repeat came, it did so with the tiny suggestion that it might be perfunctorily attempting ‘to go through the motions’, since what was telling was the sensation that the rhythmicity was swaying a little, and, at the close, of the music wanting to hold back.

In the (3) Allegro vivace finale, both a sense of release and of relative ease, with, for example, a tutti statement, and Donohoe just playing quietly underneath it, but then moving, alongside the other players and through and with Sanderling, to bring out the chordal complexity.

Yet, although Schumann’s heroic sense of triumph may be heard, at one point, in a bold utterance, it dissolves, in the next, into the orchestra, or we enter a semi-questioning episode : the concerto seems to be seeking a different model of pianist / soloist, and one can see how Brahms must have had close regard to it (e.g. with what symphonic ambitions he had (before the Symphony No. 1 in C Minor) for what became his Piano Concerto No. 1 (in D Minor, Op. 15), first performed (by Brahms) in 1859).

Yes, we had Donohoe’s fists raised with the conclusion of a bold assertion, but one senses, now, that the piano is present more in the momentum (and not so much in the hurt or beauty within individual notes), as if Schumann’s writing is drawing rhythmically back and forth, in broader sweeps. Thus, a sense of outreach, and of opening out although there is still ‘angularity’ in his choice of intervals when he leads up to the main theme, and then gives a feeling of tranquillity (and a sense of purpose even destiny ?) in the harmonic resolution.

Right at the end, Schumann gives us dance-forms, the cadences of motion against the patterning of a finale. However, after a moment of quiet, timpani (which have been integrated into the concerto throughout) duly propel the concluding chords.


* This Tweet aims to amplify the comment :

The fact is that one can hear Brahms played perfectly well, but one may also feel that the experience added relatively little other than (a) unamplified sound, (b) seeing the performers as they interact with each other and with their instruments, and (c) appreciating, at some level, that the totality of what one desired to hear is the result of the interaction at (b) :

Yet, at its least good, this can amount to little more than a fleeting consumer pleasure, i.e. knowing that these men, women and resources are here at the collective bidding of those who have paid the ticket-price (matters of effective concert-promotion apart)... ?

Against which, one might propose counterposing an alternative, the practice of actively engaging with the performance, rather than 'going to hear' a familiar piece of music of listening agog, or with new ears, maybe as if one had to give an account of what was good or fresh in it to a friend who could not be there ?

Unless stated otherwise, all films reviewed were screened at Festival Central (Arts Picturehouse, Cambridge)

Saturday, 3 October 2015

How Many Children Had Lady Macbeth ?*

This is a review of Macbeth (2015)

More views of or before Cambridge Film Festival 2015 (3 to 13 September)
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3 October (End-note / Tweets added, 4 October)

This is a review of Macbeth (2015)

Some of the inventive ways in which the Shakespeare play has been transmuted in this film simply will not have people seeking out the original, because they probably will not conceive that the play (in the form, at any rate, in which it has come down to us) has here been (in places) very much abridged, or that material has been relocated within it (sometimes within an immediate context, sometimes scarcely so, and even to the extent of introducing repetition) : at other times, it will be clear that, under licence, painting with images or with poetry are part of this endeavour. (This will be evident without anyone needing to know that it is those who have edited Shakespeare, over the centuries (and by a process of inference and deduction), who have given us both scene-locations and some of the usual printed stage-directions (e.g. as to who is on stage during a scene, and when he or she enters or exits), and thus that a licence to do something different, if it were needed even in the theatre, can be claimed.)

Where many are most likely to come unstuck, however familiar they may be with the text that we have from the so-called First Folio of 1623, is with the bewilderment that is the film’s ending : none, almost needless to say, of the pat wrapping-up, in however mournful rhyming-couplets (which we might also recall from the close of Lear), but instead much confusion of image and action of thought, word and dream.

Thereby pursuing, relentlessly and acceleratingly, the blurring of sleeping and waking that builds across the film : just as the verse-speaking, simply gorgeous at the start (and therefore bringing tears at its beauty), becomes more and more degraded by fury, frenzy, and fire. Just, likewise, as Jed Kurzel’s score**, which began with so much heart-breaking keening and Celtic intonation, ends through partway beginning to incorporate electronica in quite another mood, and place. [He is sure some relation to director Justin Kurzel, being credited with scoring his Snowtown (2011) (amongst others) ?]).

On all of these levels, then, Macbeth (2015) both is and mimetically embodies a journey into night, and it slips further and further into it, whereas Shakespeare’s protagonist will have it that sleep has become elusive to his ambitious quest :

Still it cried 'Sleep no more!' to all the house:
'Glamis hath murder'd sleep, and therefore Cawdor
Shall sleep no more, Macbeth shall sleep no more!'

Act II, Scene II, 4042

Except that, in fact, what distinction is there between whatever ‘reality’ is and the distracted snatches of the world that come to us as part of and, to some significant extent, filtered through the medium of Macbeth’s mind, mood, and soul ? (Which makes the screenplay, and its approach to the text itself, quite sympathetic (as, with some musical instruments, ‘sympathetic strings’ are), in wanting to make interpolations and transpositions within it.) Nonetheless, the direction may have strayed, by trying too hard to give us a visible basis for others’ opinion, such as reported here (as well as co-opted from Macbeth’s attempts at self-diagnosis), in the form of montage ? :

Great Dunsinane he strongly fortifies.
Some say he's mad ; others that lesser hate him
Do call it valiant fury

Act V, Scene II, 1214

With some material, such as the case of merely truncating the interchange between Ross and Macduff (at the end of Act IV) to concentrate on one principal topic, the screenwriters give us Macbeth pretty straight ; with other parts, they bend them very much more to their will, and for a broad variety of purposes, such as :

* In the opening (crimson) captions, as well as explicating the origins and significance of - and forces behind - the conflict that we see, even naming a battle (that of Ellon)

* To clarify how it is that Macbeth becomes / expects to become king (which, it is arguable, is not the strongest element in the idea of eliminating Duncan / committing regicide)

* In doing so, and almost certainly on no naturalistic level (but rather on that of will (again***)), characterizing Malcolm’s impulse to flee – which is exemplified in the text, and at its peak, at the moment when Macbeth puts the witches under obligation****

* To expand Lady Macbeth’s familiar scene with the doctor into the general theme of sleep-walking into the future (which not a few ages have liked as an idiom), and thereby dis-locate time and space****

* In a linked way, to widen the scope and role of the witches so that they permeate the totality : in their two-handed Macbeth (in the building in Cambridge that is known as The Leper Chapel), Richard Spaul and Bella Stewart of in:situ made enchantment and being bewitched central to the production


* Quoting the title of the essay by L. C. Knights, ’How Many Children Had Lady Macbeth ? : An Essay in the Theory and Practice of Shakespeare Criticism’ (Explorations, New York University Press, 1964, 15-54).

** It would be so useful to pause the credits (during which so many others, blocking the screen and chattering, leave), because there are also ones for improvisation...

*** Endlessly shown in train, in literature and religious writing (which, from Paddy Considine’s Banquo, one feels that he well knows), from the Cabbalistic tradition of The Golem, and the creation of Adam, to that of Svengali and Trilby (in Trilby), or Frankenstein.

**** We do not directly, audibly witness these words in the film, but perhaps we already know that Macbeth demands information (openly calling it a form of conjuration), even at the cost of chaos – which is what the film, by other means, has us see, sense, and feel :

I conjure you, by that which you profess,
Howe'er you come to know it, answer me :
Though you untie the winds and let them fight
Against the churches ; though the yesty waves
Confound and swallow navigation up ;
Though bladed corn be lodged and trees blown down ;
Though castles topple on their warders' heads ;
Though palaces and pyramids do slope
Their heads to their foundations ; though the treasure
Of Nature's germens tumble all together,
Even till destruction sicken, answer me
To what I ask you.

Act IV, Scene I, 5061

Unless stated otherwise, all films reviewed were screened at Festival Central (Arts Picturehouse, Cambridge)