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Monday, 28 October 2019

The Shining (1980) : The #UCFF Tweets

The Shining (1980) : The #UCFF Tweets

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2019 (17 to 24 October)
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)


28 October


The Shining (1980) : The #UCFF Tweets









Post-script :







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

Thursday, 17 October 2019

In around three initial Tweets (and then a little more), a #UCFF reaction to Rocks (2019)

In around three Tweets, a #UCFF reaction to Rocks (2019)


More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2019 (17 to 24 October)
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)


17 October

In around three Tweets, a #UCFF reaction to Rocks (2019)





Other (non-spoilery) comments :

* The set-up is that what happens, early in the film, has happened before ; yet, the film seems to want ‘to have its cake and eat it’, because the other things that follow it appear as if new (and, given that the starting circumstance has happened before, some of them (or the idea of them), or some of the means of finding out where someone might be, would not be new)

* The occluding of the view, when Rocks and her friends are all together (somewhere), and when we know what looms in the background even as it is talked of, establishes that group, but promises other things about the story-telling that are not given to us

* For, although it is understandable that a new person at her school would ask Rocks why that is her name, we indistinctly hear what is said so do we feel that we need never have heard her ask for the explanation – when, by then in the film, we were quite happy not to know ? (Unless, perhaps, it was an act of telling, but we were not intended to understand what she said ?)

* A film can, of course, end without an ending – Rocks does not appear to end as it does, i.e. to subvert the story-telling that brought us into these lives, or to provide a resolution that is not a resolution, and yet it does seem (unlike that in, say, Abgebrannt (2011)) to serve to take us casually away from the conundrums with which we have seen Rocks wrestle




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

Sunday, 13 October 2019

Infinite series : A Festival preview (work in progress) of 7 Raons per Fugir (de la societat) (7 Reasons to Run Away (from society)) (2019)

This is a Festival preview of 7 Raons per Fugir (2019) (for Cambridge Film Festival)

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2019 (17 to 24 October)
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)


13 October

This is a Festival preview (work in progress) of 7 Raons per Fugir (de la societat) (7 Reasons to Run Away (from society)) (2019) (for Cambridge Film Festival 2019)


One of the cast, Aina Clotet, is expected as a Festival guest of Ramon Lamarca, programmer of Camera Catalonia, for a Q&A following the screening on Tuesday 22 October (please see below) - and also that of La filla d'algú (2019), earlier that evening


The #CamFF synopsis, duration and other details for the film can be found here,
and it screens on Sunday 20 October [in Screen 2 at APH (Festival Central)] at 6.30 p.m., and again on Tuesday 22 October [in Screen 1 at APH (Festival Central)] at 10.30 p.m.


Principal themes (alphabetical order) :

* Callous behaviour
* Inconvenient reminders
* Money
* Opportunism
* Self-preserving pragmatism


Just as reactionary politics, or the corporate and fiscal push for so-called neo-liberal values (a term itself an insult to the real notion of 'liberality' ?), might promote policies in the name of, and by invoking, such seemingly positive things as order, progress or commitment, but hypocritically mean the opposite (and challenge others to say so), so Esteve Soler flips those words (and four others) on their head in this film, in an open, but ironic and creative, critique of our subversive attitudes towards each other nowadays.

7 Raons per Fugir (de la societat) is of a highly Swiftian, satirical nature, and, where there is most humour, it is often of an audacious nature – our laughing despite ourselves, in surprise, or at the working-out of a scenario to a logical but grim conclusion (or, again, at its casually working-through to an end that we had not envisaged) : we might know (or think that we know ?) Jonathan Swift from Gulliver’s Travels*, but it was he, after all, who gave the world that sustained but succinct killer essay that we know as ‘A Modest Proposal’…



Not uniquely in Camera Catalonia 2019, as it so happens, 7 Raons per Fugir (de la societat) (7 Reasons to Run Away (from society)) (2019) is a multi-stranded film. Yet it is more obviously so (as if it were New York Stories (1989) - or, more relevantly (though not a film), David Eagleman's Sum : Forty Tales from the Afterlives), and it is most likely to appeal to those who rejoiced in the film-making of Marc Crehuet's El rei borni (The One-Eyed King) (2016) and / or Rudy Gnutti's In the Same Boat (2016), which were both screened during #CameraCatalonia 2017 at Cambridge Film Festival (@camfilmfest).




As some will recognize, pairs of images from, respectively, The Wachowskis' The Matrix** (1999), Fritz Lang's Metropolis (1927), and François Ozon's Dans la maison (In the House) (2012) - all at the intersection of individual behaviour or drives and of the societal force(s) that [we let] govern us (and give us those drives and behaviour ?), but, of which, Germain Germain (Fabrice Luchni), as manipulated by Claude Garcia (Ernst Umhauer) (and Jeanne Germain (Kristin Scott Thomas)), is most cynically 'on the nail' for 7 Raons per Fugir.


[...]


End-notes :

* So we may know Swift's most famous title, but do we as little know it, from a children’s or other heavily edited version, as the true work of this Dean of St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin as if we do not know that it was actually published as Travels into Several remote Nations of the World. In four parts. By Lemuel Gulliver (1726) ?

** The latter is now proving highly relevant to the greater prominence and recognition of the causes that Greta Thunberg and Extinction Rebellion are promoting.

*** Somewhat arbitrarily, these are likely to be the most famous ones from what, with The Animatrix (2003), are the four connected films (five, if The Matrix 4 does get released in 2022), because there are likewise multitudinous possibilities, in The Matrix Reloaded (2003), when Neo meets The Architect, and, in Matrix Revolutions (2003), the possibilities – witnessed by a score of other Agents Smith – reduce to 1, then 0, when Smith and he fight :


(But the many serving-girls cum sex-slaves in Cloud Atlas (2012), of whom Sonmi-451 is the one who ‘got away’ (once she had undeniably been shown her future), and the fate(s) of many, at the hands - and whims - of the warring Abrasax siblings, in Jupiter Ascending (2015), are all pertinent additional examples of Crowds and Power.)




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

Thursday, 10 October 2019

Back in Berlin¹, the silence(s) behind the chatter : A Festival preview of Les distàncies (Distances) (2018)

This is a Preview of Les distàncies (2018) (for Cambridge Film Festival 2019)

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2019 (17 to 24 October)
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)


19 September

This is a Festival preview (uncorrected proof) of Les distàncies (Distances) (2018) (for Cambridge Film Festival 2019)


The #CamFF synopsis, duration and other details for the film can be found here,
and it screens on Friday 19 October [in Screen 2 at APH (Festival Central)] at 5.45 p.m.


Principal themes (alphabetical order) :

* Fears
* Friendship
* Jealousy
* Possessiveness
* Surprises


If it makes you happy
It can't be that bad
If it makes you happy
Then why the hell are you so sad ?


'If It Makes You Happy' ~ Sheryl Crow (from her album If It Makes You Happy)


Those who recall the films Barcelona Summer Night (2013) or Barcelona Christmas Night (2015), during #CameraCatalonia² at Cambridge Film Festival 2016 (@camfilmfest), will find themselves recollecting another side of meeting to party : which is when the heart, and its affections, and the mind, and its afflictions, will not necessarily co-operate with such aims.

Les distàncies (Distances) (2018) is not a million miles away, in mood, from texts by Milton, and how Handel sets them, in L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato, HWV 55 - or even from the Pixar film Inside Out (2015) ?

Hence loathed Melancholy,
Of Cerberus, and blackest Midnight born,
In Stygian cave forlorn,
'Mongst horrid shapes, and shrieks, and sights unholy;
Find out some uncouth cell,
Where brooding Darkness spreads his jealous wings,
And the night-raven sings;
There under ebon shades, and low-brow'd rocks,
As ragged as thy locks,
In dark Cimmerian desert ever dwell



'L'Allegro'³ ~ John Milton

For, whereas the Barcelona films arguably took up the frailties of our relations with each other, be they ineptly saying the wrong thing, vying for another's attentions, or (nearly) making the same mistake again, two factors mitigated against those elements being treated 'heavily', and so risking over-balancing the lighter feeling of the film(s) overall⁴ (than that of Les distàncies) :

First, those films were in strands⁵, which meant that one did not (or could not ?) easily follow the film as a whole, and yet leave one's thoughts for long, say, in over-analysing, in Barcelona nit d'estiu (2013), the stages of interaction / attraction between Albert and Roser. Or, in both films, with the plight of Miki Esparbé - who is also in Les distàncies (Distances) - as the hapless prospective, or actual, father (as the case might be).


In addition, some of the strands were, in themselves, intended to be lighter in mood, such as Miki Esparbé, barely knowing how to react to fatherhood, let alone the fact that it becomes known to others when he only just knew of it, or the two friends, chasing after the same girl in a way that did not preclude a ruthless mistranslation from English by the one who speaks it.



In Les distàncies (Distances), we see writ large how a difficult situation for the entire cast of five, albeit one of their own making or choosing, so quickly puts finer feeling beyond easy reach, and thereby exemplifying our tendencies to sleuthing, sabotage (and self-sabotage), and side-lining or side-stepping others : for example, we see someone, who has no more right to be in a building than the person who comes to call, pull out all the stops to be deflective and intrusive of that other’s feelings, and then to find and be very disrespectful to that person’s possessions afterwards.

As we will find out, almost no one has a good reason to be in Berlin – at least, not one that, behind the pretext, was known to the others – and the hurts and the expectations, the unspoken attitudes and the assumptions, soon become exposed and raw. As with the double-doors between the parts of the flat in Michael Haneke's Amour (2012), we those in the one that Comas / Alex has acquired being used to partition and barricade the space.


Except that it was a pair of principals, the great Nora Navas (Natàlia) and Francesc Garrido (Daniel) in L’adopció (Awaiting) (2015) (during Camera Catalonia in 2016) showed how a stressful situation and having to be in another country did not merely double their difficulties, but magnified the uncertainties within the relationship, and, in Júlia ist, the new experiences and opportunities in Berlin are tempered by ambivalences that arise from being there.


In a very effective touch at the close of the film, all the lack of communication comes out all at once, and some things that we thought that we understood at the time have assumed a different meaning.


End-notes :

¹ During #CameraCatalonia 2018, we were also in Berlin (most of the time) for Elena Martín's brilliant Júlia ist (2017) : Martín played Júlia, and directed and co-wrote the film. (As well as the preview (by #UCFF), Sarah Henkel wrote this review for TAKE ONE.)

² Plus Q&As afterwards, with guests from the cast(s) in conversation with the Catalan programmer, Ramon Lamarca : always a feature of Camera Catalonia, for guests to come from Catalunya to talk about their work, with Ventura Pons and Claire Bloom last year (2018), talking about Miss Dalí (2018).

³ 'Il Penseroso' embraces Melancholy, as the opening of 'L'Allegro' (as quoted) rejects it / him, but - for the purposes of Handel's libretto, in setting them for L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato - James Harris arranged and interleaved Milton's orginal antithetical poems, and Charles Jennens originated the text of a third voice, in 'Il Moderato'.

⁴ Though not just the darker nights around Epiphany (6 January), which is when, in Catalunya (as in Spain as a whole), gifts are given (not the UK's wonted 25 December), perhaps made for a slightly more sombre (reflective ?) feel to Christmas Night ?

⁵ However, these were not strands in the discrete, but interlocking, sense of a unity, which is what Esteve Soler gives us, for this year’s #CameraCatalonia, in 7 Raons de Fugir (de la societat) (2019). (The film is Soler's adaptation, for cinema, of portions from his dramatic work, and which (with David Torras and Gerard Quinto) he co-directed.)




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

Tuesday, 8 October 2019

Scheherazade reads Tolstoy - to some effect : A Festival preview [work in progress] of La vida sense la Sara Amat (Life without Sara Amat) (2019)

This is a preview of Life without Sara Amat (2019) (for Cambridge Film Festival 2019)

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2019 (17 to 24 October)
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)


19 September

This is a Festival preview (work in progress) of La vida sense la Sara Amat
(
Life without Sara Amat) (2019) (for Cambridge Film Festival 2019)


Director Laura Jou is to be the guest of Ramon Lamarca, the programmer of the Camera Catalonia strand at Cambridge Film Festival, for a Q&A following the film


The #CamFF synopsis, duration and other details for the film can be found here, and it screens on Wednesday 23 October [in Screen 2 at APH (Festival Central)] at 6.00 p.m.


Principal themes (alphabetical order) :

* Deception
* Desire
* Family
* Friendship
* Loss


[...] Wouldst thou have that
Which thou esteem'st the ornament of life,
And live a coward in thine own esteem,
Letting 'I dare not' wait upon 'I would',
Like the poor cat i' th' adage ?

Macbeth (Act I, Scene 7)


If one were to mention other film-adaptations, such as My cousin Rachel (2017) [adapting Daphne du Maurier], Oscar and Lucinda (1997) [Peter Carey] or The Go-Between (1971) [L. P. Hartley], they are illustrative only, in cinematic terms, of a certain type of trajectory - in no way do they limit or define Laura Jou's playfully colourful La vida sense la Sara Amat (2019). Quite the opposite, because the allusive qualities of the script and the film-making, the use of the diurnal rhythm of scenes at night and by day, and the liveliness and crispness of the cinematographic image - they all make what is a sort of twist on Scheherazade, and what Scheherazade's situation and story-telling might fully signify*, wholly fresh.

Therefore, a film-reference such as The Miseducation of Cameron Post (2018), itself quite different from Sara Amat (please also see below), is just as relevant. For here, too, there is a sense of a time, and (in our twenty-first-century terms) both of its limitations and yet also permissions, and an (equally constructed**) sense of place - it might likewise usefully put one in mind of the locale envisaged by James Ivory, in his script for Call me by your Name (2017). But, as Sara Amat itself might be seen to do (depending how one 'reads' it), one is here making suggestions, not giving exact Reasons to Watch, whereas, just in a few jottings (after a first viewing for this preview), some of them certainly are :


* Very strong trio of Pep, Sara and Pep's grandma !

* Easy to recommend to those who saw Jean-François i el sentit de la vida (2018) last year (2018)

* One also realizes the connections with other previous Camera Catalonia choices, such as La vida lliure (2017) (also last year), Fill de Caín (2013) [Camera Catalonia 2014] or La propera pell (2015) [Camera Catalonia 2017]

* Other references : The Miseducation of Cameron Post (2018) and Todos lo saben (2018)

* Tightly edited, with neat use of jumps of perspective within a scene, as well as cutting-away to external shots - we do not ever stay with a scene or shot longer than we need to

* Mirrors and making use of light

* Atmospheric score [Pau Vallvé]


This film dwells with what it is like to keep a secret, and what it is like when one learns that others have been keeping secrets ; not unconnectedly, its stuff is the things that have been left behind (whether a book, or pairs of shoes), and the question what purpose it serves, and for whom, to continue with something when one is tired of it.

Others, such as Henrik Ibsen or Mike Leigh, have made secrecy about the past, and especially the destructive potential when it is discovered, prominent themes in their work, but Sara Amat’s protagonists*** face it with pragmatism, as something verifiable that simplifies the need to perpetuate pretence : albeit the content and context are definitely more adult, this is a strong point of connection with The Miseducation of Cameron Post (2018) (and with director Desiree Akhavan's work in her earlier film Appropriate Behaviour (2014)).


[...]


At the centre of this film is what, typically, in a slow movement in a Sonata or Concerto (or even some intimate central section of it), might feel like its emotional heart : taking the example of J. S. Bach's so-called Italian Concerto (in F Major) [played, in that YouTube link, by Glenn Gould], BWV 971, the inner, tender movement - amongst all that one beautifully listens to in the composition (if one likes Gould) - may be what seems to matter most to the composer (or performer).

Not that Life without Sara Amat (2019) cannot be seen, more obviously, to engage with other topics - the literal and other distance that there is (and which Pep desires to maintain), between his unseen parents and how and where his grandmother lives, or, connectedly, of growing into or occupying a different place there in one's circle of friends or in their esteem.


[...]


End-notes :

* Time, and the passing (or implied passing) of Time, is sometimes embedded into the stuff of stories, dreams, and the best of cinema - for example Orphée (1950) (or, not unrelatedly, La belle et la bête (1946)).

** Since film-making has an almost innate need to mix and 'mash up' separate locations to create a new reality - in a film as pleasingly made as Colette (2018), locations such as parts of Kecskemét, Budapest, can be passed off as France (or a farm in Witney, Oxon., used for the library / study scenes). (Let alone in one like Bel Ami (2012), where it is, often enough, too obviously London, not Paris...)

*** #UCFF does not subscribe to the belief that there can never be more than one protagonist.




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

Sunday, 6 October 2019

Fearful of shadows - and phantoms : A Festival preview [work in progress] of La filla d'algú (Somebody’s Daughter*) (2019)

This is a Festival preview of La filla d'algú (2019) (for Cambridge Film Festival 2019)

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2019 (17 to 24 October)
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)


25 September

This is a Festival preview (work in progress) of La filla d'algú (Somebody’s Daughter*) (2019) (for Cambridge Film Festival 2019)


Aina Clotet as Eli, who is expected as a Festival guest of Ramon Lamarca, programmer of Camera Catalonia, for a Q&A following the screening on Tuesday 22 October (please see below)
- and also that of
7 Raons de Fugir (de la societat) (2019) on the same night


The #CamFF synopsis, duration and other details for the film can be found here, and it screens on Friday 18 October [in Screen 1 at APH (Festival Central)] at 12.00 p.m.,
and again on Tuesday 22 October [in Screen 3 at APH (Festival Central)] at 6.00 p.m.


Principal themes (alphabetical order) :

* Anxiety
* Confusion
* Danger
* Family
* Suspicion


Now we're busy making all our busy plans
On foundations built to last
But nothing fades as fast as the future


From 'More than This' ~ Peter Gabriel (on the album Up (2002), Real World Records)


A recent screening at Festival Central (APH) of the 4K restoration of Carol Reed’s The Third Man (1949), complete with pre-show and a guide by zither to the film’s thematic material, as introduced by Matthew Sweet (who also hosted a Q&A), reminded one of two things :

Both how quickly Holly Martins is met with the fact that Harry Lime, the man whom he flew to Austria to meet, is no longer around to greet him**, and how, almost from the start (when faced by what he cannot grasp or understand), Martins cannot but pick away at what he has been told, collating and questioning all its inconsistencies. Several times called Harry (instead of Holly), Martins (Joseph Cotten), and this story about him, are one whose genesis in Vienna, in voice-over, is given by a narrator who then 'vanishes' – leaving us and Martins alike with the enigma of working out who Lime (Orson Welles***) is - and who, in relation to Lime, that then makes Martins.

Arguably, Martins might have been happier, if he had not had a desire that impelled him to keep uncovering things : in common with Eli in La filla d'algú (Someone’s Daughter) (2019) – wonderfully played by Aina Clotet in a performance that deserved a win at Málaga Spanish Film Festival 2019 [Zonacine - Best Actress (Mejor Actriz)] – he loses the everyday certainties of person and place on which, in such experiences, we find that we have put so much reliance (and have needed to do so).


Though not wishing to press these incidental parallels too far, the disembodied opening voice that tells us about the work with and for Lime, which (as well as wanting to renew their friendship) brought Martins to Vienna, yet it is a phone-call over the opening credits for La filla that suggests to us various things : high-profile legal practice, involving the pressures of travel to another city (and having to perform court-work there), but with the expectation of returning to familiar surroundings, and, with her interlocutor, of a plan of action for important proceedings back in Barcelona.

From the point when Eli is, again, in Barcelona, we seem no more to stray from her side than we do from that of Martins, but, in Eli's case, all that is familiar and expected seems to have strayed into some other domain, and the certainties seem to start to desert her...


[...]



End-notes :

* So the title La filla d'algú has been rendered, but perhaps Someone’s Daughter would have had more richly resonant connotations… ?

** Hammered home by our next being in the all-important cemetery – though the word Friedhof captures the atmosphere so much more, despite the edgy glances of those whom we will meet fully later, and (starting with when one asks Wer ist das ?) with no quarter given to non-speakers of German.

*** As for Welles, he was the man who was often enough not in Vienna when he was needed for the shoot (so stand-ins had to be used), and who, in contradiction to the opening credits, claimed that he, and not Reed, had directed it.




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