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Monday, 31 October 2016

Stile Antico in Cambridge, but also in the musical world of William Shakespeare

An assemblage of Tweets : Stile Antico at Cambridge Early Music

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2016 (20 to 27 October)
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)

30 October

An accreting assemblage of Tweets after Stile Antico's concert for Cambridge Early Music on Saturday 29 October at 7.30 p.m.


More to come...

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

Friday, 28 October 2016

Tweets from Cambridge Film Festival 2016 : @SnowdenTheMovie (2016)

Tweets from Cambridge Film Festival 2016 about Snowden (2016)

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2016 (20 to 27 October)
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)

27 October

Tweets from Cambridge Film Festival 2016 about Snowden (2016)

Snowden, which has only closing credits, turned out to be the Festival's Surprise Film - with a brief recorded greeting from director Oliver Stone - at 11.00 p.m. on Thursday 27 October, in Screen 2 at Festival Central

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

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Demain - et après demain ?

This is a quick account – by Tweet – of Tomorrow (Demain) (2015)

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2016 (20 to 27 October)
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)

26 October

This is a quick account – by Tweet – of Tomorrow (Demain) (2015)

Film references :

* Energized (2014) [reviewed with Last Call (2013) - please see below]

* Freistunde (Doing Nothing All Day) (2015) [this link is to the film’s own web-site, not to a review]

* Last Call (2013) [reviewed with Energized (2014) - please see above]

* The Human Scale (2012)

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

Friday, 21 October 2016

Midsummer Night's Revelry and Revelations

This is a Festival preview of Barcelona Summer Night (2013)

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2016 (20 to 27 October)
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)

12 September

This is a Festival preview of Barcelona Summer Night (Barcelona, nit d'estiu) (2013) (for Cambridge Film Festival 2016)

What happens whilst waiting for the main event can be more important…

In our recent history, hearing the news of the shooting of John Lennon, or an occasion such as New Year’s Eve 1999 (but also built up by The Millennium Bug – and what its dread consequences were supposed to be), are alike often cited as moments when we can be confident of remembering where we were, and what we were doing, at the time :

However, Director Dani de la Orden’s film does not concern itself with learning the hard central facts of something that has happened (with subsidiary reports that follow, as the story ‘breaks’) - or the immediacy of wondering which city’s fireworks were going to be the best (Sydney Harbour Bridge ?), but about the curious nature of the time in between, where uncertainty precedes expectation… A comet called Rose (Roser in Catalan) is coming, but what will it / she do, what does it mean right now ?

A prodigy of fear and a portent
Of broached mischief to the unborn times
Henry IV, Part I (Act V, Scene 1)

Forty-eight years after Shakespeare’s death, there was another such bright comet, which not only provoked fears for what it might herald, but actually also turned out to precede both The Great Plague¹ (1665) and – as if it could then get no worse – The Great Fire of London (1666). Fear and portents indeed !

Albeit Shakespeare is present only in a low-key way in this film (for those who choose to find him), it is relevant to quote him because, be it in the accidental or deliberate confusions of A Midsummer Night's Dream (or those of As You Like It), he deals with themes and emotions that continue to occupy twenty-first-century hearts and minds² - ones which, for this reason, have long permeated Continental culture and literature. (Chaucer adapted Giovanni Boccaccio in The Canterbury Tales (in 'The Knight's Tale', for example.)

So, then as now, friends lead each other on, or astray, or even lead themselves off course. Although Barcelona Summer Night is an ensemble film, some characters may not have anything else in common, since it comprises six temporally matched strands, which do not intersect each other (even if, in passing, we may notice some little 'crossings-over'). In this respect, it necessarily shares something with Tasting Menu (Menú degustació) (2013), which was set amongst the diners on the closing night of a restaurant on the Catalan coast, and [had its UK premiere] at Cambridge Film Festival (#CamFF / @camfilmfest) in 2014 : on these pages, its Festival preview had, as its sub-title, A night of enchantment, misunderstanding, and phone-calls.

Here, there are perhaps fewer phone-calls, and whereas the sensibility of Catalunya may seem drawn to what enchants us (and also to what leads to misunderstanding), some of the energy in this film better resembles V.O.S. (2009), another Catalan film, which is surveyed in What is Catalan cinema ?, which looks more closely at films from Camera Catalonia in previous years at the Festival : Barcelona, nit d'estiu is not as playful (or knowing) with the cinematic medium, but the visual and relational vibrancy is of a different kind from that of Menú degustació.

Of course, the film is carefully constructed to have these qualities, but there are feelings of immediacy and naturalness in how it is shot, with cinematographer Ricard Canyellas ably showing that interesting the eye is not inconsistent with, or an interruption in, telling a story, and that cinema should neglect to do so : one could justly ask whether mere story-telling on celluloid deserves to be called or in the cinema...)

The film is also proud of Barcelona (the capital of Catalonia – Catalunya, in Catalan), but does not wish to be more than rooted in the city, rather than making it the much-coined character in its own right, with a clear 'personality', Which, although the screenplay was not originally set there, is what Woody Allen may have successfully done in Vicky Cristina Barcelona³ (2008) [Just as he had (with co-screenwriter Marshall Brickman) in Manhattan (1979) (and was to do again in Midnight in Paris (2011)).]

~ ~ ~

Not to say too much, but facets that Canyellas and de la Orden – and writers Dani González, Eric Navarro, and Eduard Sola – glint off include the following (in no particular order, maybe some imagined ?) :

* FC Barcelona (Barça)

* Montserrat, a legendary twenty-four-hour ice-cream parlour

* The view-point of Bunkers del Carmel (Turó de la Rovira)

* A semi-confessional drinking-game, in English called ‘I have never…’ (it really exists – will it catch on here ?)

* The LGBTQ and club scenes

* Plus, of course, Inca prophecies about Roser (‘Rose’), the comet that everyone is waiting for…

And what portent does Antoni Gaudí’s most famous building in the city have for the night's events ? At the time, surrounded as his cathedral is by cranes, the non-Catalan half of a couple is perhaps less than impressed :

It looks like Mordor, with the eye

Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans

‘Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy)’ ~ John Lennon⁴

* * * * *

End-notes :

¹ Indeed, some continue to hypothesize - and seem back in vogue, for doing so ? - that it was the meteorite that gave rise to the plague (through microbes from outer space, brought in via the meteorite). Naturally, many of the seventeenth-century associations were more grounded in fear and judgement, and of a less scientifically causal or nature...

² This film is far less complicated than As You Like It, which centres on a woman (Rosalind), pretending to be a man (Ganymede), and teaching a man (Orlando) to woo her (as if she were Rosalind) - and all that, in the process, happens all around her... By contrast, the film's love-coaching is fairly uncomplicated ! (But might Rosalind's story crop up in another way ?)

³ The film may have relatively little to commend it, beyond the montage of city-sights, and the contribution of Penélope Cruz (Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in The Academy Awards 2009 (@TheAcademy)) ?

⁴ Though the words are first attributed to Allen Saunders, in Reader’s Digest in January 1957, according to the Quote Investigator web-site.

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

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

I made millions of people happy with my music ~ Xavier Cugat

This is a Festival preview of Sex, Maracas & Chihuahuas (2016)

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2016 (20 to 27 October)
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)

1 October

This is a Festival preview of Sex, Maracas & Chihuahuas
Sexo, maracas y chihuahuas) (2016) (for Cambridge Film Festival 2016)

For the generations that grew up knowing him, perhaps band-leader, actor, caricaturist and cartoonist¹ Xavier Cugat seemed as though he had always been there - here, there and everywhere ? For, as this film readily shows us, Cugat was a household name, leading his Latin orchestra – although he had come, via Cuba, to make his fortune in the States, he and his background were actually Catalan By birth - please see below) – and seen, both in films and on television, with all the glamorous stars, his violin, and, often enough, a trademark Chihuahua under his left arm, as he conducted with the other.

Right at the opening, a curated set of introductions, heard just after the logos of production partners, funders, and distributors, and over psychedelic titles, straightaway establishes for audiences now that his was a name once conjured with : the film goes on to demonstrate how and why Cugat had so many stars on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame², and is credited with finding and making many names that have perhaps outlived his own in the memory of intervening decades.

Though, in fact, it is best left to Cugat himself in the film to tell us who most of these stars were, he is heard to tell us, amongst other things, that this is how it happened :

Stars are not made. I was lucky enough to have a keen eye...
and be able to recognise talent. I was very lucky.

Perhaps, though, denying any more than the luck of having an ability (and also having the opportunity) cuts both ways – just as Dvořák wanted to do, by asserting the opposite : fine, Dvořák said, to think that discovering themes was what mattered, but he wanted to claim that knowing how to use and develop them was far more important (e.g. employing, or being inspired by, traditional music in his 'American' string quartet, or the so-called New World Symphony (No. 9 in E Minor, ‘From the New World’, Op. 95)). In Cugat’s case, would saying that he had made others as important as Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis stars imply that he, too, had been made a star… ? If so, effectively the same argument as Dvořák’s : Talent matters, and will out.

Which is fine, since the truth is that, although just listing here what Xavier Cugat could - and did - do might not make relatively little impression on us¹, Sex, Maracas & Chihuahuas aptly demonstrates that Cugat was not merely 'taken into' the world of Hollywood, but importantly helped create it. In, for example, those expensively elaborate cinematic productions that are often described as being from its ‘Golden Days’ – as composer, arranger, film-star, and musician / band-leader alone, he was not part of Hollywood, but was Hollywood embodied.

Referring to Xavier Cugat's latter years back in Catalonia - Cugat had been born in Girona, in Catalunya (‘Catalonia’ in Catalan), and went to live in Barcelona - historian and scriptwriter Román Gubern suggests that Cugat's Catalan spirit was a last-minute opportunistic claim.

So the film is neither so reverential that the sense of a real person, with human weakness, is absent, nor is it uncovering every stone so that the overriding impression is not of truthfulness, but of disrespect. (However, it must be said that, although Gubern, as an authority in his field, is one of the film's main commentators, here (and below) he does not seem very kind to Cugat's memory, or gracious about his credentials, as if not thoroughly appreciating his many achievements - please see below.) In this, it is in the best of documentary style, as typified – for the world of (popular) music – by Jeanie Finlay’s (@JeanieFinlay’s) Orion : The Man Who Would Be King (@OrionMovie), telling us a story (a history, in both cases) with most of which we may be unfamiliar, but of men who were sought after in their time (if in such different ways as Jimmy Ellis and he… ?).

Yet maybe not in wholly different ways, as we progress, and delve back with director Diego Mas Trelles from where Cugat got to in life to how he got there – even though Jimmy Ellis, to experience what he wanted and have fame, clearly both was and felt trapped by being obliged to be a performer just known as Orion (and only permitted to be a successful singer when wearing one of Orion’s many mysterious masks [Mark Kermode's review, for The Observer, contains some copyright imagery). In due time, we learn both how Cugat came to the States, and of his skill in fabricating an image of himself – for Cugat, unlike Ellis, seems to have been quite happy in deliberately trading on his time in Cuba and being taken for Latin American : all consistent with being in the States to be a success and, not unrelatedly, his view that Hollywood itself in the 1920s was such an evocation and incarnation of fantasy (but one which, in his estimation as he looks back, had started to diminish).

In the US he was considered a latino and lived like one. He earned a living as a latino.

Román Gubern

That said, as has been commented above, Gubern may effectively be being harsh on Cugat here, in saying this in relation to Cugat's returning to Catalonia towards the end of his life, since Cugat says that the family moved from Girona when he was three. (Although Gubern says that Cugat deserves his admiration for how he gained his career, he is also hardly uncritical elsewhere.) Cugat's formative years, in terms of an education in music and imbibing its colours and contours, were thus actually spent in Cuba.

Chucho Valdés

I think that those guys took Cuban music to another level. Cugat paved the way. Later, this helped others to follow suit. But, without him, it might have taken a lot longer.

Chucho Valdés (musician)

By the time that one of the film's speakers makes the comment that Cugat liked taking credit for things, we have already heard more than a little bit of boasting from him⁴, including his claim to have foreshadowed the first 'talkie', which is not now accepted to have been The Jazz Singer (1927), 'long before' - with Cugat and his Gigolos⁵. However, it seems that Cugat did, for example, really first see the talent of Margarita Cansino - even if Harry Cohn, studio head at Columbia Pictures, and not he, probably (according to such sources as IMDb (@IMDb)) gave her the famous name that we know her by (but who she was would be telling !)... Even so, Cugat is always one to behave graciously (and to ensure doing so), and so he acknowledges I've been very lucky, my friends wrote great tunes. I didn't compose a lot.

At the same time as being open, for example, that Cugat married very young women and remained happy with their success, but only as long as his billing at least equalled theirs, the overriding feeling of the film – and how it presents facts behind Cugat’s era and his career – is to embrace all of this on the level of fantasy and fun³, as the title Sex, Maracas & Chihuahuas implies, of course :

Carmen Miranda

The film lavishly gives us animated versions of Cugat’s cartoons, which mingle with the lights of Las Vegas, the bright colours and flamboyance of his bands’ costumes (using which, he co-creates the liveliness of the rumba, the seductiveness of the beguine), and the legendary and excessively fruit-laden headdresses of the tropical oasis that was Carmen Miranda – we really do see the strength behind Cugat’s claim that Hollywood then was more of a living fantasy !

* * * * *

There are two scheduled screenings of Sexo, maracas y chihuahuas (2015) [the link is to the #CamFF web-page for the film] during Camera Catalonia :

* Monday 24 October at 10.15 p.m.

* Tuesday 25 October at 10.30 a.m.


¹ Amongst other achievements such as composing, directing films, and running business ventures – or lending his name or self-stylized image to them.

² As laid out on the blocks of Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street :

³ Cugat even seems to have embraced a fantasy life in reality, by carefully ensuring that each one of his five wives - Rita Montaner, Carmen Castillo, Lorraine Allen, Abbe Lane, and Charo (Baeza) - had her own house (according to ??), but thereby seeming to have endangered the financial basis of his retirement.

⁴ Yet, it is charmingly done, and Cugat is a fine raconteur, so we enjoy hearing him tell us about Valentino, Clark Gable, Cole Porter, and so on...

⁵ A short, he tells us, for Warner when he was 28 : The sound wasn't recorded with the film. It was on a record that was synchronised with the film. That said, Cugat was born in 1900, also according to IMDb (@IMDb)).

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

It's only in uncertainty that we're naked and alive ~ Peter Gabriel¹

This is a Festival preview of The Virus of Fear (El virus de la por) (2015)

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2016 (20 to 27 October)
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)

16 October

This is a Festival preview of The Virus of Fear (El virus de la por) (2015) (for Cambridge Film Festival 2016)

Albert Ausellé (as Hèctor) and Diana Gómez (Laura)

Well meant, for those who do not look to film to be easy and entertaining, people will find this sharply-edited film provocatively claustrophobic, in the way that Arthur Miller's The Crucible² is (or Max Frich's Andorra - please see below). (Its effect is gripping as a Vimeo download on a laptop, so it should be wildly immersive in Screen 1 at The Arts Picturehouse (APH / Festival Central), where it is programmed both times : please see below for the times, and for links to book seats.)

Rubén de Eguia as Jordi

(Rubén is expected as a Festival guest of Ramon Lamarca,
programmer of Camera Catalonia)

The Virus of Fear (El virus de la por) is a film that may turn out not to be ‘about’ what its subject is likely to seem to be. Not least if one guesses at its nature from the film's title, and from ways in which, sometimes largely figuratively, we have come to think what a virus is (rather than in the literal sense of Contagion (2011), Surprise Film at Cambridge Film Festival (#CamFF) in that year).

It's so twisted ~ Jordi

Yet it is does not follow from any such realization³ that anyone would be precluded from wanting to watch El virus de la por again straightaway, because knowing what happens may leave us wanting to know more closely how we got there⁴ – how the experience gained by seeing the film has been created. Though - unlike Mulholland Drive (2001) might cause us to feel - it is not that Ventura Pons' cinematic world, as director (and co-writer), involves rather bewildering sleights of hand - yet, at the same time (and in an apparently naturalistic setting), the unfamiliar does assuredly appear familiar (and vice versa, as considered further below).

An image from a review of Archimedes' Principle
The play and this film's screenplay developed in a coeval manner

It is rather that we may know that is going to be worth retracing the journey that we took with the film : as one may have found with the power in and of Kreuzweg (Stations of the Cross) (2014) at the Festival in 2014, whose impact was even stronger on a second viewing - or with The Taste of Money (2012) [one of Fifteen fine festival films at the Festival, from 2011 to 2013].

The stage-play Archimedes’ Principle [does physics still, more long-windedly, talk of The Principle of Archimedes ?] and the screenplay for El virus de la por originated alongside each other, since playwright Josep Maria Miró (@josepmariamiro / was working with director Ventura Pons to co-write the screenplay. As a review of Archimedes’ Principle put it two years ago, when it was playing at London’s Park Theatre : we jump around in time, playing and replaying scenes, which take on different meanings once an alternative position has been expressed.

I really enjoy playing with discontinuous narrative ~ Ventura Pons

If we have not seen El virus de la por, the description in the review may at first remind us of Harold Pinter’s Betrayal⁵, a play with starts backwards and forwards in time, which make us ever aware that nothing, after all that we have seen and heard in the opening scene and then straight afterwards, is what it seems. However, in terms of theatre, there are closer analogues to what we see, such as in Max Frisch’s Andorra, with clashes between fact, what people believe, and how they act, or in Jean-Paul Sartre’s Huis clos [the play gives us the quotation much used in translation, Hell is other people (L'enfer, c'est les autres)]. The link is to a t.v. production in English (in 1964), with Pinter himself, Jane Arden, and Catherine Woodville : in In Camera (as the title in French is rendered), there is no static presentation, but a camera that roams, and with a wide selection of angles and framing-shots...

Much of which, for a work of cinema, is perhaps significantly missing from the film Betrayal⁵ (1983) ? And yet was present in the way that Werner Heisenberg, Niels Bohr and his wife Margrethe - as if, physically, they were sub-atomic particles - vividly seemed to relocate and rotate, at times, in a production of Michael Frayn's Copenhagen that came to The Arts Theatre, Cambridge (@camartstheatre) [Frayn was interviewed by The Stage (@TheStage), and starts by talking about the play].

If one reads what Edward Murray wrote (albeit in 1972), he does not disagree with what is said in the Tweet by Raindance Film Festival (@Raindance). (Chapters 7 and 20 of his book The Cinematic Imagination⁶ are critiques of, respectively, ‘the Cinematic Drama’ and ‘the Cinematic Novel’, and of present trends in each.) Even so, Murray goes further, raising serious doubts about the wisdom of the enterprise :

The immense majority of superior plays fail to survive the transfer from stage to screen ; while inferior plays ― though they ordinarily adapt better than major works ― hardly ever achieve the level of the most distinguished original screenplays.

The Cinematic Imagination⁶, pp. 101–102

Told later – by Ramon Lamarca, programmer of Camera Catalonia – that El virus de la por’s essential scenario also exists as a stage-play, this ‘clicked’, and made sense. However, because it is a very good collaboration, and does not even feel like a deliberately respectful adaptation of ‘a classic’ (such as is Sílvia Munt’s of Josep María de Sagarra in El Cafè de la Marina [Munt was interviewed, as reported here, and the film which screened at Cambridge Film Festival in 2015, with guest Vicky Luengo]), it is highly sympathetic to the medium, and immediately in tune with what Murray rightly says that we look to in such a screenplay :

When a play is brought to the screen, the audience has a right to expect a degree of cinematic technical complexity, and a level of thematic depth at least comparable to the original. There is no question here of literal fidelity to the source [emphasis added].

The Cinematic Imagination, p. 169

Reassure me that I don't have any reason to worry ~ Anna (Roser Batalla)

Unless one is highly adjusted to trailers and the work of excessive revelation that they usually perform, it is unideal to watch the film’s ‘making of’ first. That said, one does hear in it how director Ventura Pons and playwright Josep Maria Miró wrote the screenplay, and of the wider possibilities that it offered both – such as a real swimming-pool and water for Miró, and what Pons found when, breaking the habit of eight earlier adaptations, he worked with what were mainly stage-actors from the play’s original cast (from whom we also hear what they learnt by (adjusting to) being on a film-set, not just on a stage…).

This film is one whose opening gaze, an establishing shot from a vantage, and with the sound of the clock-display that we see clicking over, second by second, presents the time, is also located in time, and concerns itself with what happens within its chosen shifting timescale - for, including credits, we move from 7.45 a.m. to 3.09  p.m. within the first four minutes and thirty seconds :

By then, the seeds of everything have been sown, and yet everyone proves to know so little – we included – about how to protect all that we value. (Max Frisch – whose play Andorra was referred to above – famously sub-titled another of his plays (Biedermann und Die Brandstifter) ‘ein Lehrstück ohne Lehre’, which (although we might directly translate it as A lesson without teaching) effectively means that it is a parable.)

Maybe not for some a camera that is all too rigorous in obsessively looking at everything from every viewpoint. However, it has to be said that this film is ultimately not an extreme, practical lesson in moral relativism – those in tune with it will both find Pons’ directorial approach (and, of course, the cinematography of Andalu Vila-San-Juan) compelling, and then feel a sense of anxious reconsideration of the situation transmuted to embrace all of our own deepest feelings about what it means to be alive.

NB Potential spoiler (especially for those who like to go into a film 'blind')

The broad theme treated of in El virus de la por (The Virus of Fear) might lead one to expect the same genre, mood and manner of development as in Thomas Vinterberg’s The Hunt (Jagten) (2012) [the link is to the entry on IMDb (@IMDb)].

Mads Mikkelsen as the hunted Lucas

So it needs to be said that all of those are very different here : if the latter is more like Contagion (2011) (mentioned above in passing, and also near that date of first release), El virus de la por is more like Sílvia Munt’s El Cafè de la Marina

End of spoiler...

* * * * *

There are two scheduled screenings of El virus de la por (2015) [the link is to the #CamFF web-page for the film] during Camera Catalonia (the links below are to the booking-pages for each screening) :

* Sunday 23 October at 3.30 p.m.

* Wednesday 26 October at 11.50 a.m.

End-notes :

¹ From Peter Gabriel's (@itspetergabriel's) ‘That Voice Again’ (on the album So (1986) (PG5)).

² Or even his own adapted screenplay, with Daniel Day-Lewis and Winona Ryder, in 1996 ?

³ If one does find it right that the varying perspectives with which we find ourselves presented, as, within and between events, we move around spatially and temporally, at last coalesce into another dimension of life, taking on quite a different dimension, or even a changed Weltanschauung : if, from naturalistic presentation, we find ourselves entering a more symbolic realm, where we confront what our common humanity comprises (perhaps as in The Idiot (Idioot (2011), which screened in 2012).

⁴ Not uniquely (as, for example, audio-recordings can be exactly replayed), films can have this fascination about them – as some say that they found with Jonathan Glazer’s adaptation of Michael Faber’s Under the Skin (2013) – and one very clearly knows that one wants to watch them again.

⁵ Pinter gave it a fairly direct translation to film in his screenplay of Betrayal (1983), with Ben Kingsley, Jeremy Irons, and Patricia Hodge – a film that director Mar Coll, Festival guest at Camera Catalonia in 2014, in passing indicated not approving, when talking about her work on the play’s material with students of film-making.

⁶ Edward Murray, The Cinematic Imagination : Writers and the Motion Pictures. Frederick Ungar Publishing Co., New York (1972). Leading up to Chapter 7, Murray has considered examples both of plays that try to be too cinematic, and ‘film versions [that] suffer from a bad case of staginess’. [In contemporary cinema, the latter still seems the case with August, Osage County (2013) or Venus in Fur (La Vénus à la fourrure (2013)].

Murray goes on to say that such staginess [in most film versions of plays] 'has not deterred the movie moguls from buying nearly every play ― good, bad, and indifferent ― in sight’ (p. 102), and to quote Eugene O’Neill (in 1960) (p. 105) :

Plays should never be written with … Hollywood in mind. This is a terrific handicap to an author, although few of them seem to realize it.

Quoted in Arthur and Barbara Gelb, O’Neill (New York, 1960), p. 858

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

I’m less scared this way ~ Natàlia

This is a Festival preview of Awaiting (L’adopció) (2015)

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2016 (20 to 27 October)
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)

5 October

This is a Festival preview of Awaiting (L’adopció) (2015) (for Cambridge Film Festival 2016)

Even down to the name Natàlia (originally meaning ‘Christmas Day’) and also when in the year the film is set, one could be tempted to make much of clear elements that parallel the account of The Nativity in Matthew’s gospel¹. Although acknowledging them, since they may inform one’s understanding of Awaiting (L’adopció) when reflecting on the film afterwards, what director Daniela Fejerman primarily seems to have on her mind (with her co-writer Alejo Flah) are questions of what, emotionally and otherwise, something is truly worth, and whom one trusts – and why.

Which is not to suggest that Awaiting conveys itself as applied moral philosophy (or sociology) : no more so than when those matters figure, in dramatic terms, in the films of Ken Loach (e.g. Jimmy’s Hall (2014)), or in the Dardenne brothers’ Two Days, One Night (Deux Jours, Une Nuit (2014)), which are also set in a different stratum of society – please see the following paragraph. Rather, these are questions in life that we can find ourselves asking at any time, such as :

What am I willing to continue to do, even given what I have already invested of myself ?

Daniel (Francesc Garrido) and Natàlia (Nora Navas)

Unlike Loach, which is perhaps typical of Catalan cinema, we are concerned with a middle-class couple, but we see still how pressures, both from within the wider family and from the situation to which Daniel (Dani) and Natàlia have committed themselves, feed each other, and affect them both. In a film such as We All Want What’s Best For Her (Tots volem el millor per a ella (2013), which director Mar Coll brought to Cambridge Film Festival in 2014²), some of us may already have had the chance to see the remarkable psychological insight that, then as now, Nora Navas (Natàlia) brings to her roles. (There, her life has been turned inside out by the emotional and relational consequences of (what we learn was) a car accident.)

For this quality, in Awaiting, Nora Navas is well matched by the portrayal of Dani by Francesc Garrido, who runs a gamut of emotions with her – in his case, from joy, desire, and impishness to angry frustration, resignation, and despair. We have a strong sense of a pair whose understanding of each other, and patience with and belief in Lila (whose local agency has arranged their visit), is put to severe strain by what happens after they have travelled to Lithuania in the expectation of being able to adopt a child (a son ?).

It has to be said, for those who need everything explained to them, that - in common with lacking a complete explanation of the world of Geni (Nora Navas) in We All Want What’s Best For Her - they will look in vain for anything other than what can be inferred or hazarded about that which we see : for example, what Dani and Natàlia’s positions in life are, back in Catalonia (Catalunya in Catalan), or why there is a difficult relationship between Natalia and her father (Jordi Banacolocha), which (as Geni also does) she is obliged to start addressing...

Uniquely, just after the visuals behind the credits have imparted a sense of passage into coldness and otherness, we are privileged with a knowledge of the sort of difficulties that have been left for Dani and Natàlia to face - momentarily, we are prepared for the symbolic emptiness that is conveyed to them by the slatted belt of the carousel at baggage reclamation. When it stops, all that is there – as they look into the hall behind them (and as Juan Carlos Gómez’s camera gradually pulls back to show us) – is a perfunctory Christmas tree : the principle is immediately established that perhaps they need to wait to see what is happening.

Even so, at first we see that they are trying to influence what is happening – despite the fact that the airport official and they are both uttering words that the hearer(s) do not understand – except that, just when we may be noticing the repetition, Natàlia identifies it to Dani³. There is then a sense of their stepping back, and reclaiming what they share – what they have together, as an outlook, a sense of humour, and so on.

I have a good feeling about this ~ Natàlia

So, after meeting Lila (Larisa Kalpokaitė), being driven to their flat, and, when they are alone, the playfulness of their interaction early on, they take drags on a cigarette that they smoke in common - there is a continuing lightness in the interplay (before going on to have more fun with what Lila said, telling them that they need to dress to impress) :

Dani : The coffee is disgusting.

Natàlia (echoing his tone) : Disgusting.

The adeptness of the cinematography is an essential ingredient in what makes this a film to cherish, but the camerawork is enmeshed in the other qualities of the film-making : so, Gómez edges in, or comes around, carefully and in order not to intrude on our attention except for effect – just as when editor Teresa Font, at a few significant moments, uses montages, with fast-cutting between shots, to reflect the changing contours of emotions as different as buoyant pleasure and trying to meet a need for consolation.

We’ll leave it up to God ~ Dani

Xavier Capellas

Such contrasting aspects are implicit in Xavier Capellas’ score for the film (Capellas both directed the ensemble and played piano for the soundtrack, which is nominated for Best Original Music at the VIII Gaudí Awards, and the film for three other 'Gaudís'), and the way in which his original work of composition is used apart from, and yet in harmony with, the simplicity of solo piano - numbers from Béla Bartók’s Gyermekeknek (For Children⁵), feelingly played by Dani Espasa :

On the drive out of town, to the orphanage, there is the return of what is most easily characterized as the sadness-tinged theme of the title-music, except that – above sounds of what resembles cembalon or zither, but may well actually be that of a domra⁶ [the link is to YouTube (@YouTube)] – we hear how it is opening out into euphoria, led by violin (María Roca), but then through the accordion-playing of Josep Vila Campabadal.

In all of these deep changes and sometimes difficult plunges in the feelings, we are with – but fearful for (as we are for Nora Navas, as Geni, in Tots volem el millor per a ella [We All Want What's Best For Her]) – Natàlia and Dani, and whether what they want will heal them ; or harm them. What takes place with Bill Murray, or Scarlett Johansson, in Lost in Translation, is still a long way from being wholly dissimilar, as to cultures 'clashing', but the drama is somehow more akin to that within hearing what befalls the The Holy Family in Egypt (or Bethlehem)...

There are two scheduled screenings of L’adopció (2015) [the link is to the #CamFF web-page for the film] during Camera Catalonia (the links below are to the booking-pages for each screening) :

* Sunday 23 October at 8.45 p.m.

* Tuesday 25 October at 12.00 noon

* * * * *

The other four films in this Festival's Camera Catalonia are also warmly commended (the link is to the strand's own #CamFF page) - other previews to come very soon... but meanwhile there is :

End-notes :

¹ The Gospel According to Matthew 1:18-2:12 (link to the text at Bible Gateway (New International Version)) – also the basis of a masterpiece of film-making by Pasolini, Il vangelo secondo Matteo (The Gospel According to Matthew) (1964)).

² Mar Coll was the guest of Ramon Lamarca, who has now curated Camera Catalonia for five years running at Cambridge Film Festival (alongside his interests in 3-D and / or Retro cinema), for two Q&A sessions after screenings of her film at the Festival.

Ramon Lamarca and Mar Coll at Festival Central - image courtesy of Tom Catchesides

³ The first of several repetitions (and questions of who can follow the words of whom), which are a small hint at Lost in Translation (2003), but, except on the surface, this film goes on to speak of quite different experiences, and in its deepest moments.

⁴ This year, Camera Catalonia contains Sex, Maracas & Chihuahuas (Sexo, maracas y chihuahuas [a link to the film's IMDb page]) (2016), a documentary about 'the incredible life of the musician Xavier Cugat'. From Cugat’s era, by contrast with now, we may have heard accounts of how Gilda (1946) was put together ‘along the way’, or seen how the zaniness of Howard Hawks’ Bringing Up Baby (1938) also provides evidence of his (in studio terms) ‘unconventional’ methods of developing the film on set.

For his talk during Cary Grant Comes Home For The Weekend Festival 2016 (@carycomeshome), Mark Glancy looked into some of the film's documentary and other sources from the production, gleaned from researches at RKO.

⁵ From Vol. 1 (Sz. 42, BB 53), seven or eight pieces from a set of eighty-five, written for those studying the pianoforte. (Unlike Mikrokosmos, Sz. 107, BB 105, which is probably more famous, these are not graded exercises, and the pieces are not technically very difficult.) Plus we significantly hear the Allegro molto e mesto [played on YouTube (@YouTube) by The Matangi Quartet] from Beethoven’s String Quartet in F Major, Op. 59, No. 1 (the set of three that are together often called ‘the Razumovsky quartets’).

⁶ As is hardly unusual with IMDb (@IMDb), the instrumentalists, or their instruments, are imperfectly credited in listing the ‘Music Department’, because Eduard Iniesta does not, according to L’adopció’s (Awaiting’s) closing credits, just play guitar (guitarra), but bouzouki and domra as well, which are listed first… (One could describe the domra [the link is to YouTube] as related to the lute, but from Russia, and with three or four metal strings.)

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

Monday, 10 October 2016

For World Mental Health Day (#WMHD) 2016 : The #Glitch campaign from SANE

The #Glitch campaign from SANE (@CharitySANE)

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2016 (20 to 27 October)
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)

10 October (World Mental Health Day / #WMHD) (updated with text and Tweets, 12 and 17 October)

The #Glitch campaign from SANE (@CharitySANE)

Could SANE Tweet about what making a #Glitch of an image from a Twitter-profile is meant to do or mean* ? :

(a) At one level - to those with very little idea about mental-health issues*

(b) At the opposite level - to someone first diagnosed twenty years ago

By Tweet (to come), SANE has now directed us to a page on its web-site, where one, at least, can read as follows :

What is the #Glitch campaign ?

#Glitch is a campaign in support of World Mental Health Day 2016 (October 10) and is fronted by UK Number One artist and new SANE Ambassador, James Arthur.

We're encouraging anyone touched by mental illness to add a filter to their profile pictures as an act of solidarity. The filter imitates ‘glitch art’ by adding faults and interruptions to your profile photo. This shows how disorientating and alienating mental illness can be.

We need to get more people talking about mental illness online, to break down the stigma that stops so many people seeking or offering support.

How can I get involved ?

The ‘Glitch’ campaign is all about showing your support for anyone suffering from mental illness - all you have to do is apply a ‘Glitch’ filter to your profile photo on Facebook and Twitter.

Taking part couldn’t be easier. Supporters are invited to #Glitch by clicking on this link below and posting up a message on social media encouraging their friends and family to get involved too.

The imagery and film have been designed so you can share and push the message as far as possible across social networks, and influence those outside of the current mental health community. Together we can beat stigma and improve the lives of those coping with mental illness.

Did those who signed up to #Glitch also knowingly agree to all this ? :


* Not much at (or ?

** If they support #Frump's (Trump's) views, they will think anyone 'weak' (i.e. not 'strong'), who experiences (or acknowledges experiences of) disruptions to his or her mental well-being...

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