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Sunday, 14 October 2018

Angela Hewitt and BWV 870-893

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2018 (25 October to 1 November)
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)

14 October

Tweets, etc., in appreciation of Angela Hewitt's (@ ??)performance of the complete Book II of Das Wohltemperierte Klavier, BWV 870-893, at West Road Concert Hall, Cambridge, on Friday 12 October at 7.30 p.m.

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

Une maison est une machine à habiter [...] un fauteuil est une machine à s’asseoir ~ Le Corbusier* [a pre-proof (incomplete) release]

This is a Festival preview [a pre-proof (incomplete) release] of Júlia ist (2017) (for Cambridge Film Festival 2018)

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2018 (25 October to 1 November)
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)

21 August

This is a Festival preview [a pre-proof (incomplete) release] of Júlia ist (2017) (for Cambridge Film Festival 2018)

The #CamFF synopsis, duration and other details for the film can be found here,
and it screens on Sunday 28 October [in Screen 2 at Festival Central] at 5.45 p.m.

As was said last year, about La propera pell (The Next Skin) (2015), Júlia ist (2017) is likely to leave one in need of time for reflection, and so is not likely to benefit from hurrying, Festival style, to the bar for coffee (or stronger) and then straight to one's next film** !

Immediate points of comparison may come to mind in the form of Jeune femme (2017) or Lady Bird (2017), but just using them (although they also defy the notion of fitting into a genre called ‘coming of age’ as such, and the former's protagonist [Paula Simonian, impressively brought to us by Laetitia Dosch] is anyway said to be thirty-one ?) would fail to reflect the fact that the film’s pre-occupations are not necessarily those of a young(er) person – any more than those of Gloria (2013) or Aquarius (2016) are of someone older – but ones that help define our humanity :

They are questions such as how do we want to live, in what relation to others – and in what way might the type of dwelling where we choose to live affect and shape our behaviour and, in consequence, us*** ?

Looking back to Camera Catalonia in 2014, those are amongst questions that Geni (Nora Navas) asks herself in Mar Coll’s Tots volem il millor per a ella (We All Want What’s Best for Her) (2013) : the expectations - partly from Geni herself, but mainly from others (and thus the ‘Tots volem’ of the title) - are that, with help and over time, she will be able to rehabilitate herself, physically and mentally, after the change in her life that has been brought about by a road-traffic accident. However, as discussed with Mar Coll at the start of an interview (as appended to Rebecca Naghten's review of the film for TAKE ONE), although Geni is seen to put a brave face on things in a medical appointment at the start of the film, she is beginning to realize otherwise : here is a link to the longer version of the trailer for the film.

In Berlin, with Júlia (director and co-writer Elena Martín)

In Júlia ist (2017), and with no more mise-en-scène to paint the background for us than is essential, the change in life is not at all of this magnitude, but of going to Berlin as an Erasmus student as part of Júlia's architecture course (maybe with not good enough German ?) : it seems to have been Júlia’s choice to be in Berlin, but we will ask whose expectations were they of this profession or of coming there to study (and also whether they are wholly realistic). There are certainly numerous hints that we will pick up, amongst the distinctive and stylish presentation of the vibrancy of Berlin⁴, and they should be allowed to speak to us in an intuitive way that connects us to Júlia as a person, irrespective of her age, but not of her qualities of emotional intelligence, in this role in which Elena Martín directs herself.

Gloria (2013) and Aquarius (2016) raised issues of their
principal characters’ personal and emotional qualities :
Paulina García and Sônia Braga are pictured (upper two images and lower, respectively)

Early on, for example, Júlia goes to buy some beer in a shop, and, having picked a couple of bottles out, then seems to play safe by buying ones, instead, with a gold-coloured star on a red cap (the familiar trademark of Catalunya’s own Estrella Damm). (She may not realize it herself, but, when she is asked questions, one of the answers that we will hear her give most often is ‘I don’t know’.) On Júlia’s return to the flat, it is evident that the others with whom she is staying do not share her attitudes or interests, and it then also becomes more so that, from home (via Skype®), there is parental disapproval of her finding somewhere with a friend, with whom she thinks that she will find it more congenial to live.

In terms of Júlia's participation in the group that is devising an entry for a prize-competition, where they debate what dwellings are and the related question how they should be designed, we are probably not much meant to follow the ideas and the discussion about them in literal or specific terms (or just to go to the other extreme, and see that their taking place concerning such themes is a necessary means of structuring the film). Rather, we will almost certainly find - on account of how each scene has been edited, and the cut-together of the film as a whole - a meaningful juxtaposition between how, in ideal and non-personal terms, living with others might be viewed and yet how it relates to Júlia's everyday domestic arrangements and / or as an individual in a social circle.

In the best traditions of Camera Catalonia, Júlia ist (2017) has – as Tots volem does – significant elements of a character-study, although the character may also be a place or city (e.g. L’adopció (Awaiting) (2015)), rather than a person (Tots els camins de Déu (All the Ways of God (2014)). (Or the effect of one on the other, as in La propera pell, or El camí més llarg per tornar a casa (The Long Way Home) (2014), though none of these films absolutely has to be looked at in one way rather than in one of the other two.)

He envied Miss Barrace at any rate her power of not being. She seemed, with little cries and protests and quick recognitions, movements like the darts of some fine high-feathered free-pecking bird, to stand before life as before some full shop-window. You could fairly hear, as she selected and pointed, the tap of her tortoise-shell against the glass.
The Ambassadors ~ Henry James

When the character is a place and its differing mores, sometimes one is reminded of the clash of cultures in Henry James that is experienced by visitors to Europe from the States, such as in The Ambassadors or The Golden Bowl, and of which a vivid example would be of the shock to Marc (Miquel Quer) of Venice, as an innocent abroad, in Jordi Torrent’s La redempció dels peixos (The Redemption of the Fish) (2013) [which screened in Camera Catalonia in 2013].

A production-shot from La redempció dels peixos (2013)

If we think of Barcelona as A City that does not Sleep, which is an image shown by the opening to what is the tragic unfolding of Stockholm (2013) or the setting, from Camera Catalonia in 2016, of Barcelona nit d’estiu (Barcelona Summer Night) (2013), we may forget that whether one is used to night-life may be partly a matter of class (as we can tell from her family, and the fact that she is an Erasmus student), and may also be determined by whether Júlia has attended her university studies from home in Catalunya (Catalonia).

Earlier, Geni was talked about, as a woman facing a very significant change (in Tots volem), and the film L’adopció (2015) was mentioned, in which the great Nora Navas likewise stars, as an example of where a place acts as a character-study in Catalan cinema : leaving aside how that film riffs on The Christmas Story⁵, Natàlia, and her partner Daniel (feelingly played by Francesc Garrido), find themselves called to make all sorts of unenvisaged financial, moral and familial compromises - or else abandon the purpose, international adoption, that brought them there.


Amidst the reviews for Pere Portabella’s Pont de Varsòvia (Warsaw Bridge) (1989), on the IMDb web-page, is written what is apt to cite here for Elena Martín's film :

There are ambitious and elaborate shots, serious attention is paid to colour and palette,
and the camera is put to work, no laziness in this film whatsoever.

The #CamFF synopsis, duration and other details for the film can be found here,
and it screens on Sunday 28 October [in Screen 2 at Festival Central] at 5.45 p.m.

End-notes :

* We may not consider this matter at all, but, if we know this proposition Une maison est une machine-à-habiter [as sometimes rendered], we think of it as having been made by Le Corbusier :

However, his given name was Charles-Édouard Jeanneret, not Le Corbusier, and – as with many assertions that are so pithy that they seem to declaim themselves as utterances ? – this one of his, both highly celebrated and controversial (please see below), is often quoted on its own, without the context that he gave it in his writings (not even in a full sentence (or paragraph)).

Yet, in searching for la formule si célèbre et si controversée, as Sylvette Denèfle, Sabrina Bresson, Annie Dussuet et al. - the authors of Habiter Le Corbusier - call it, one can curiously find these words cited both as ‘Le Corbusier, Vers une architecture, Arthaud, Paris, 1977, p. 73’ [the text dates to 1923, so this appears to be the edition that they have used], and, in an article by Thibaud Zippinger called ‘Humanisme et urbanisme‘ (on the web-site implications philosophiques), as ‘Le Corbusier, Urbanisme, Paris, Crès, 1925, p. 219’.

** During Camera Catalonia in 2016, one would certainly have missed much of the point and import of Ventura Pons' El virus de la por (The Virus of Fear) (2015) by thinking no more than that it was 'about a leisure centre', but - because it wouldn't happen like that in one - dismissing it (for not plausibly being what it only superficially ever was...).

*** As to 'habitat', the Catalan film Sobre la Marxa (The Creator of the Jungle) (2013) also has some questions to ask.

⁴ Pere Portabella’s Warsaw Bridge (Pont de Varsòvia) (1989), which screened, in 2012, in the first Camera Catalonia at Cambridge Film Festival (@camfilmfest / #CamFF), also mixes the Berlin of its title with Barcelona, and the more reflective part of Futuro Beach (2014) takes place there, after starting in the director's native Brazil.

⁵ Which, as the end-notes to the Camera Catalonia preview in these pages make clear, are also apparent in not using a direct translation for the English title, but invoking Advent by calling it Awaiting.

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

Sunday, 7 October 2018

What is seen – or maybe not quite seen – in the half-light ?

This is a Festival preview of La vida lliure (The Free Life¹) (2017) (for Cambridge Film Festival 2018)

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2018 (25 October to 1 November)
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)

7 September

This is a Festival preview of La vida lliure (The Free Life¹) (2017) (for Cambridge Film Festival 2018)

The #CamFF synopsis, duration and other details for the film can be found here,
and it screens on Monday 29 October [in Screen 2 at Festival Central] at 7.15 p.m.

We are thoughtfully introduced to a beautiful setting on Menorca (which, however, we do not see that often in full sunshine - please see the comments below) by footage of what appears to be the sinking of a vessel by a U-boat, and so we are partly located in time : as with everything in this film, right through to when, starting with a jazzy title-sequence, the end-credits roll² (and which one therefore cannot afford to miss), there is a significance to it all, but probably only the avid readers of certain types of fiction would be alive to them all.

For, when reading Joyce in Ulysses (or even Finnegans Wake), it is not as if we need to be able to know all the different languages that he uses, or follow the references that he makes to Dublin (current as at 16 June 1904), to take in the novel's sweep³.

Here, Marc Recha's La vida lliure (2017) is a similar, but direct, immersion of the senses, which just asks us to see and hear as much as possible, and absorb it : a gorgeous sound-scape complements cinematography that, at least, apparently feasts itself on the effects that can be achieved by using available light (in what seems to have been a shoot of only 15 days) – and they will blossom wonderfully in a darkened auditorium where a film like this belongs, projected on a cinema-screen and evoking aspect of the penumbral, crepuscular and nocturnal :

If we can think of how Marc (Michel Quer) looked at Venice in La redempció dels peixos (The Redemption of the Fish) (2013), and what director Jordi Torrent showed us through his visitor’s eyes [here is a link to the trailer (on the industry film-sharing platform Vimeo)], or of Agustí Villaronga and his co-writers, in setting Incerta glòria (Uncertain Glory) (2017) in Aragón in 1937, we will have suitable film-references from previous seasons of Camera Catalonia in mind.

Four stills : from La redempció dels peixos (above), and Incerta glòria (below)

What we essentially have here is a boy (Biel) (who noticeably gets an interest in his name above that in that of Tina, his older sister), and both of whom are now with their uncle on Menorca (Minorca), because their mother could not take them with her to Algeria. (We do not know where they came from, but might guess that it is not one of the other Balearic Islands, but the mainland territory of Catalunya [Catalonia], far from here ? [Incidentally, the Catalan director Villaronga was born in Palma, on Mallorca (Majorca).])

A physical geographical map of Islas Baleares (The Balearic Islands) - from Wikipedia

In a residence by the harbour, a man calling himself Rom, from whom – without much force or effect – their uncle tells them to stay away. Yet, other than their uncle lovingly spending time with them when he rests, and their doing jobs around the farm that he tenants, there is little to occupy them.

Biel (Macià Arguimbau), Rom (Sergi López), and Tina (Mariona Gomila)

Time on their hands does not exactly lead to mischief, but we will find – amongst other things, if we are observant – that Rom fixes up a swing that their uncle did not find time to do (and which he had forbad Tina attempting, when she suggested it). For, part of the purpose and intent of the film is to acclimatize us to the sounds and rhythms of this simple place and the way of living there, and to get used to what stays the same (or to what changes) - as if, ourselves, we become Tina and Biel... ? :

Although Núria Prims is credited for a very minor part in the film, Ramon Lamarca (who programmes Camera Catalonia at #CamFF) stressed that she also carried out the important role of coaching Biel (Macià Arguimbau) and Tina (Mariona Gomila). (Prims strikingly played La Carlana last year in Incerta glòria, and one suspects that she may have done the same office for, as well as being the mother of, her murdered husband’s supposedly illegitimate children⁴ in the film.)

Núria Prims (as La Carlana) on set in Incerta glòria

As in Guillermo del Toro’s superb Pan’s Labyrinth (El laberinto del fauno) (2006), La vida lliure’s success depends on their performances, and therefore on our being engaged with whether - and, if so, the extent to which - they should trust Rom, of whom their uncle seems to disapprove strongly (and whom, with mistrust, he even confronts).

We may recognize Miquel Gelabert from El cafè de la marina (which these pages prefer to translate as The Harbour Café¹) (2014) - Libori, the inn-keeper father to Caterina (Marina Salas). Likewise, from last year in Camera Catalonia, Sergi López as Rom - from when he played a cynically unwelcoming uncle Enric to Gabriel (Àlex Monner) in La propera pell (The Next Skin) (2016).

Miquel Gelabert (and Marina Salas) ; below, Sergi López (R) (with Àlex Monner (L))

Those are simply observations, in case anyone is wondering why the face of Rom or the uncle might be familiar, but they are not given to suggest that, unlike Sílvia Munt [adopting Josep María de Sagarra, adopting Pagnol] in The Harbour Café, La vida lliure is likewise observational cinema per se, or essentially driven by the characters and their more-or-less known (or guessed-at) motivations.

In a sense, though, the film will come to us, if we come to it and treat it on its own terms, and, as with Pan’s Labyrinth (El laberinto del fauno), we should bear in mind how it opened, what we have noted in between in that light, and how it closes :

Stills from El laberinto del fauno (Pan's Labyrinth) (2006) [Doug Jones and Ivana Baquero]

Until which point, the gift of the use of light in Hélène Louvart's cinematography (please see the stills above), and in the beauty of the sound-design [on the film's web-page on IMDb, three individuals and a mixing studio are credited for the Foley], has similarly been a lesson in creating atmosphere, which furthers our mental uncertainty about a town or port that we have not seen, or about the influenza, which we similarly cannot see, but of whose results we hear.

The images are exact - it's our understanding that lacks precision

They are the ‘big things’ of life that penetrate - as in Michael Frayn’s powerful war-time novel Spies ? - into the consciousness of Tina and Biel, but from which they are expected to remain at a distance : as much as from why their mother had to travel without them (even though she is able to write to them) and leave them in this place⁵ ?

Tina (Mariona Gomila), their uncle (Miquel Gelabert), and Biel (Macià Arguimbau)

The #CamFF synopsis, duration and other details for the film can be found here,
and it screens on Monday 29 October [in Screen 2 at Festival Central] at 7.15 p.m.

End-notes :

¹ Without being a speaker of Catalan, one always hesitates about how / whether one should translate the definite article. (Thus, #UCFF has argued that Immense Beauty is nearer to what La grande bellezza (2013) conveys than the word-for-word English title.)

Galatea Ranzi and Toni Servillo in La grande bellezza (2013)

In some languages, the article must be there with a noun, i.e. one cannot just say Dolce vita - it has to be La dolce vita. Here, vita and vida are clear cognates, and so a less literal title in English might be A Life of Freedom ?

² At BAFTA (@BAFTA), they decently require that members and those whom they invite as their guests stay in their seats until the last line of the closing credits and the house-lights have gone up. (One forgets, from a solitary visit in 2015, but the curtain may go across as well.)

³ That date in June was that of his first date with Norah Barnacle, the woman whom he married. For such and much, much else, we have illustrated and / or foot-noted editions of Joyce (as for The Bible), such as Ulysses Annotated ! :

As to 'sweep', Joyce opens the Wake with riverrun, past Eve and Adam's, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs

⁴ Much hung on La Carlana's assertion of their illegitimacy, and, in this (and elsewhere), she may have deceived the local Republicans – who would have killed them, and her, too. Whereas they allow her to become stronger, almost unchallenged, until the battle for the soul and heart of Catalunya (Catalonia), against the will and weapons of fascism, erupts at the end of the film - with her sons and she retiring together under the covers : the significance of how Incerta glòria finishes, as if she has fomented this display of war-like action, will hardly have been lost on a Catalan audience.

La Carlana (Núria Prims) in Incerta glòria

⁵ As to what writer / director Marc Recha has done with what is in and amongst the credits, presenting the film’s title is deliberately ‘held back’ until just beforehand. As, perhaps, with Debussy’s titles to the works in his two Books of Préludes : only shown to us when relevant ?

Thus, the foot of the close of 'La cathédrale engloutie' (tenth in the first Book of Préludes) (taken from

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

Friday, 5 October 2018

#UCFF Tweets about Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)

The #UCFF Tweets about Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2018 (25 October to 1 November)
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)

5 October

The #UCFF Tweets about Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)

This Tweet is about the contrast between blonde Naomi Watts (as Betty / Diane Selwyn) and Laura Harring (playing Rita and Camilla Rhodes) in David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive (2001) :

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