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Showing posts with label #CamFF. Show all posts
Showing posts with label #CamFF. Show all posts

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Pre-Festival reviews of films in Camera Catalonia I (for Cambridge Film Festival 2015)

Three films in Camera Catalonia (for Cambridge Film Festival 2015)

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

23 August

Three films in Camera Catalonia (for Cambridge Film Festival 2015)

For the fourth year, Ramon Lamarca has curated Camera Catalonia screenings (films with a connection in language, themes, directors or actors with the autonomous Catalan region within Spain*), and it is a pleasure to have worked with him and with the kind help of the producers of the films to prepare pre-Festival reviews this year : Ramon is thanked for his generous assistance and encouragement (as in 2014).

The titles are links to full-length, 'non-spoilery' previews of three films from Camera Catalonia at Cambridge Film Festival 2015 (@camfilmfest / #CamFF) (the links to the others are here, in a second posting) :

* Born (2014)

* El Cafè de la Marina (The Harbour Bar**) (2015)

* Tots els camins de Déu (All The Ways of God) (2014)

The films can be seen as follows, and the title, in each case, is a link to the booking-page for that screening***

NB Except for the second screening of El Cafè de la Marina, which is at The Light cinema (@lightcambridge) and now at 1.15 p.m. (originally at 1.00 p.m.), all screenings are at The Arts Picturehouse (@CamPicturehouse).

The time of another screening has changed since the programme booklet was produced : the correct time for the screening of El Cafè de la Marina is now 9.00 p.m. (not 8.00 p.m.), in Screen 1 (not Screen 3).

Sunday 6 September

9.30 p.m. Born (Screen 3)

Monday 7 September

1.15 p.m. Born (Screen 2)

Tuesday 8 September

8.00 p.m. Tots els camins de Déu (All The Ways of God NB listed under the English title) (Screen 3)

Friday 11 September

9.00 p.m. El Cafè de la Marina (Screen 1)

Saturday 12 September

4.15 p.m. NB At The Light cinema El Cafè de la Marina (Screen A)


* Please read further about the region and its cinematic style in What is Catalan cinema ? [with 1,800+ page-views, though now in need of being updated].
** Since it is not a café, the title seems better translated thus than The Marina Café.

*** Notes on screenings :

NB The allocation of films between the three screens at Festival Central (and elsewhere) can always change (as can, if one is coming from a distance for a specific film, the programme as a whole) : if the audience for a film scheduled for Screen 3 (the smallest screen, around half the capacity of the largest, Screen 1) proves greater than expected, it may end up being swapped, so there could be a change in the exact time of the screening, too.

In the programme (that is a link to the where the PDF file can be consulted / downloaded printed copies are available at Festival Central and all good local outlets), some slots are also kept blank, so that popular screenings can be repeated : announcements are on Cambridge Film Festival 2015's (@camfilmfest's) web-site, as are alterations to the programme (or the allocation between screens).

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

Monday, 10 August 2015

A historically informed and painterly work of cinema

This is a pre-Festival review of Born (2014) (for Cambridge Film Festival 2015)

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

This is a pre-Festival review of Born (2014) (for Cambridge Film Festival 2015)

Note on the title of the film* :

Born is nothing to do with birth, but denotes an area of Barcelona known as El Born (or El Bornet), sometimes conflated with that of La Ribera (meaning ‘the bank’ (of the coastal variety)) in such a way as to denote both areas by the term ‘Born’.

A late-nineteenth-century building survives, called the Mercat del Born (constructed from iron, and formerly a public market), and on its site, when development was planned there (in 2002), extensive remains of the mediaeval city were discovered. Amongst other people, Albert Garcia Espuche has written about this area’s history, and his La Ciutat del Born was an inspiration for this film.

Two years ago, at Cambridge Film Festival (2013) [@camfilmfest / #CamFF], there were two screenings of Eyes on the Sky (Mirant al Cel) (2008) in the Catalan strand (Camera Catalonia) :

That film centred on memories of, and one’s present relationship to, the time when the Italian Air Force was helping Franco’s fascist forces by bombing Barcelona (16 to 18 March 1938), and is described in What is Catalan cinema ? as Movingly mixing documentary, acting, and faux-documentary to dig into past pain. Born evokes that period in Catalan history by observations that one of the characters makes in tidying up the wreckage, and whatever can be salvaged, during the city’s bombardment in the War of [the Spanish] Succession (17011714) :

First time was ten years ago. Then it was the French. Now the British. And they will do it again. And every time it will be worse. And us, the poor… the people who only want to earn an honest living, will always be under the bombs. Until we say enough.

In this one way, the writers of the screenplay [credited as including Albert Garcia Espuche (please see the note on the film’s title (above)), and director Claudio Zulian] momentarily step outside the period, making a reference that necessarily reaches forward in time to those both attacking, and trying to defend, Barcelona more than 220 years later [and, in turn in Eyes on the Sky, to the lives of combatants, on each side, 70 years later].

The cover of Albert Garcia Espuche's publication

Not that concerns such as whom to trust, borrowing money to feed one’s family, and being subject to external forces, influences and events are not, now as then, what we will recognize as part of life, but in every other respect than this passing allusion Born does what it can to keep closely to its period : the approach of Claudio Zuliano, with which both his cast and crew show themselves to be quite in accord, seems to be not to convince us that the action is in the early 1700s, but for them to believe it themselves. So, not for the first time with Catalan film-making, one finds oneself referencing a piece by Borges (previously, it was with Hammudi Al-Rahmoun Font’s Otel.lo (2012) (@otel_lo), from this blog's review of which this is quoted) :

The Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges, composing a story, in essay form, that touches on the life of the Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes (Pierre Menard, ‘Author of the Quixote’ (‘Pierre Menard, autor del Quijote’)), imagined how someone (in this case, the fictional Pierre Menard) becomes as Cervantes, partly, at first, by living in exactly the same circumstances as Cervantes and then ends up recreating, word for word, parts of his most famous oeuvre (so, maybe, Borges mocking - amongst literary and intellectual fashions and factions the Laplacean theory of determinism (as well as the writer(s) whom academics consider the model(s) for Menard) ?)

Not method acting as such necessarily, but, as one looks at these locations and how the actors are deporting themselves, one never has in mind that stagey character of, say, some BBC adaptations of Dickens, where one just senses that a street of Georgian properties has been doctored to look as if it is now being occupied in Victorian times [sometimes, one recognizes the Inns of Court in disguise, as they have been well preserved by the legal profession]. Much more, one thinks of how Ralph Fiennes’ The Invisible Woman (2013) looked and felt, and because it was so beautifully lit: Born has a painterly regard for how its scenes are composed, and in the use of light and dark*** (another point of contact with Otel.lo (and also El Cafè de la Marina please see below)).

The film falls into three sections, named after Bonaventura (Bonaventura Alberni : Marc Martínez), his sister Marianna (Vicky Luengo), and Vicenç (Josep Julien), an ambitious businessman, who is one of the former’s creditors : in this respect, as well as in the interconnectedness of people who live in proximity to one another, one is reminded of Marcel Pagnol’s Marseille trilogy (on which there is more information here in relation to El Cafè de la Marina (2014) (another film in Camera Catalonia 2015)) : the first two parts, in Daniel Auteuil’s version, screened at Cambridge Film Festival in 2013, Marius (2013) and Fanny (2013).

Vicky Luengo as Marianna

Unlike, though, Auteuil’s films of gorgeous technical clarity of image, this film resembles Otel.lo, by making good use of an edgy, documentary style, which really first comes into its own after fifteen minutes : we track Bonaventura, following a confrontation with his landlord, and the immediacy involves us in his inner workings, through the language of demeanour and expression, as he walks the streets.

As we will see both Marianna and Vicenç do, we are with Bonaventura when, after refreshing himself with water from the spring, he makes an important realization / decision in his life, and not conveyed in speech no moment of soliloquy, but in his look, and then in his movements and gestures, until his purpose becomes clear with what the Notary announces a couple of minutes later. For those who like this sort of approach, and realize that a really good piece of cinema may have been made with dialogue not in English, Born has great dramatic quality, and all the rootedness in how ships and trade govern people’s lives and fortunes that we esteem in a play such as The Merchant of Venice.


* Derived from the Wiki articles and

** Essentially, to see whether Charles III or Philip V would rule Spain (amongst other countries).

*** The director of photography and art director are, respectively, Jimmy Gimferrer and Lali Canosa. One is reminded of the use of darkness in masterpieces by Caravaggio, such as The Supper at Emmaus :

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

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

An environmental thread at #CamFF 2014 : Energized and (incomplete) Last Call

An environmental thread at Cambridge Film Festival : Energized (2014) and Last Call (2013)

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

22 July

An environmental thread at Cambridge Film Festival 2014 : Energized (2014) and (incomplete) Last Call (2013)

There is synergy (no pun intended !) between Last Call (2013) and Energized (2014), which is why they should be being reviewed together. (That said, a clash of programme at Cambridge Film Festival 2014 (#CamFF)* meant that only the last part of Energized could be seen – and the review of Last Call has been ‘forever’ finishing itself, so it will continue to linger, and we hope that it may follow…)

The latter seems more focused, because its sections, although in some ways discrete, bleed into each other – in a short space of time, we get a good sense of the energy-independency of Murnau, in Austria, with examples, facts and statistics concisely given, and then move on (via narration and then a caption) to a related topic. This is the style of the film, which means that it can cover much ground by linking segments in this way.

Who benefits from large-scale solar arrays, the possible merits of a super-grid for power distribution, and the competing claims about power loss when conveying electricity over vast distances were all presented – quite apart from France’s near-total reliance on nuclear as a source of energy, and the concerns about the integrity of how its nuclear waste is kept (nothing to do with the risk of terrorists gaining access, but the relatively poorly understood systems of storage that were apparently used in the early years (as mentioned in the review of Containment (2015) at Sheffield Doc/Fest (@sheffdocfest)), but which no one, except the campaigner shown (who installed them), seems to want to acknowledge and revisit) – the film is a compendium of issues that affect the choices that nations make for the future of Earth’s resources.

Yet one simple example hits home very hard, that of a farmer growing sunflowers on one-tenth of his farmland. He told us that harvesting crops (one assumes that he meant the whole process of planting seeds, spraying, harvesting, tilling and levelling) uses 23% of the world’s consumption of fuel. However, he has converted his machinery to be powered by the sunflower oil that he produces (and in a way that satisfied his wife that he was not ruining the machinery) : the oil not only provides fuel for his farm, but gives him the means to plant and harvest future sunflowers.

By contrast, Last Call (2013) takes a longer view, because its ambit is from when the study The Limits to Growth was published (in 1972 – we see footage of the hopeful launch), how it came to be written, and what has happened since. It suffers – not inevitably – on this account, because, at times, its focus seems to be on where its authors were twenty years on, a subtle shift from how the study itself is being viewed at that remove (although, for those still alive and campaigning, there is common ground).

With the fortieth anniversary, it becomes even less clear whether we are following the authors’ fortunes or that of their work, some of whom, such as Dennis Meadows, are still addressing conferences, whereas others, such as his ex-wife Donella, set up an environmental community (and had died before the anniversary)… The narration also suffers from the fact that the voice used seems to have a patronizing tone to it, which tends to make one feel that one is not being given credit for what one already knew :

For example, Geography lessons at school (shortly after the report had appeared) had treated things such as the impending population explosion as understood – even if, when it comes to governments, they generally have not, of course, had the resolve to do very much to address it, despite the related problems of increased consumption of limited resources…

What one did not appreciate, until now, was the existence of The Club of Rome (as instigated by the invitation of Aurelio Peccei and Alexander King), which had a significant role in the publication of The Limits to Growth, because it sponsored the visit to MIT and commissioned the report. Likewise, one does not recall footage of Jimmy Carter addressing the American nation about the challenges that it faced, and also putting solar-panels on The White House :

That with which one is more familiar is the attitude that ignored or disdained the possibility that mankind might be having any effect on the environment, typified by further footage, this time of Ronald Reagan, dismissing any idea of limits to growth as unthinkable – as if growth were a God-given right, even an undeniable virtue, and so anyone talking of limiting it were calling for a curb on the American spirit itself, if not pronouncing anathema.

One takes from the film the idealism of the writers of the report, imagining that their views would be influential for good, and their not expecting a vigorous and very hostile reaction against them, which in the press – as a file of newspaper clippings show – rarely, if ever, engaged with the real issues, or represented the writers’ arguments for what they were.

The report had been a scholarly plea, based on the best modelling available of the world’s interrelated and potentially ungovernable infrastructure (i.e. if left until out of control), to consider what growth upon growth would yield for the Earth’s future : just as Carter embraced the possibility of changing path to ensure mankind’s survival, so – because politically motivated – Regan’s administration ridiculed it.

Probably (though other advocates are not much mentioned) they ridiculed Isaac Asimov, a scientist as well as a science-fiction writer. Green-house gases, and the effects that they may have had on the environments of other planets in the solar system, may have been fine for extraterrestrial science, but it was only in the little knee-jerk ban of CFCs (carbon fluorocarbons), when a hole was found in the ozone layer, that we have seen any obvious response to a consideration of Earth’s atmosphere.

For Dennis Meadows, even if the point may have been passed when the foot could have been taken off the throttle with regard to the effect on Earth, he keeps on campaigning and fighting for this cause. [...]


* Watching Menschen am Sonntag (People on Sunday) (1930), with interpretative commentary from Neil Brand and Jeff Davenport, meant that one was elsewhere at Energized's start-time of 5.00 p.m.

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

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

That film - again !

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2014 (28 August to 7 September)
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)

26 November

Before I Go to Sleep (2014) is that film at Cambridge Film Festival 2014 (#CamFF), which provoked an uncomfortable response afterwards from the persons questioned (the director / writer (Rowan Joffe), and the original novelist (Steve Watson)) - on a par with the following occasions when :

* A minister from the Home Office, at a launch event for the Community Legal Service, had to admit that making its information Internet based almost certainly meant that those who were most likely to qualify (those on low incomes and, as a likely subset, those also with disabilities) were least likely to be able to access it easily

* A composer, who had been commissioned to write a work in response to and for the same forces as a piece by Mozart, could not say – if Mozart had been plucked from history to meet him – what he would say to Mozart to explain his composition

A spoilery, stinging posting sets out some of the many ways in which the film’s plot fails so often to hang together, but it was then interesting to see, on the Rotten Tomatoes web-site, what even the positive reviews (the so-called ‘fresh’ ones) had to say about it…

Even the ‘Fresh’ reviews...

3* from Helen O’Hara, Empire Magazine

Perhaps it’s a limitation of the material, or overfamiliarity with the themes of the amnesia thriller, but you’re left wishing that the filmmakers hadn’t forgotten all that has gone before when approaching this.

3* from Stella Papamichael, Digital Spy

It's no wonder Christine is so confused about who she can trust, although there are times when she believes too willingly what she is told; often, when it's convenient for the plot. The verbal spills of information are always less interesting than the uncertainty and as the moment of epiphany draws closer, the truth seems less plausible. Consequently, what might have been a smart, insightful thriller is instead a creepy bedtime story.

3* from Allan Hunter, Sunday Express

The first half of the film is the strongest as Joffe retains a firm hold on the material, feeding us revelations that are like tiny explosions that completely change your sense of the story.

He also immerses us in Christine’s dilemma of trying to figure out what kind of person she is and what really happened before the night returns to steal away her memories all over again.
The second half is slightly less successful as the human dilemma gives way to the mechanics of the plot.

And these are people who give the film as many as three stars…

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

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Flaws that stopped one sleeping

This is principally a critique of Before I Go to Sleep (2014), not a review

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2014 (28 August to 7 September)
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)

2 September (updated 26 November)

* Contains many spoilers – this is principally a critique of Before I Go to Sleep (2014), not a review *

A film such as Cell 211 (Celda 211), despite having a flaw at its centre that was challenging to spot, deserved a release (and, at least on DVD, got one). However, to Before I Got to Sleep (2014), the following Tweet sadly does apply :

As to plausibility, if one wanted a digital camera, one would do well to buy Christine’s make – it is apparently indestructible ! But, on other matters, the question put mainly to Steve Watson, who wrote the novel on which the film is based, at the Q&A on Monday night at Cambridge Film Festival / #CamFF 2014 follows.

Premise : Christine does not remember the previous day, and sees no one, every day, but the person whom she takes to be Ben (because he tells her so)
Question : So what does reason does Mike have to pretend to be Ben [which, in fact, he may do out of guilt, but clearly resents doing] ?

An immediate answer was not forthcoming, which, accepting that writing the book had been some while ago, was fine. However, the best that director / writer Rowan Joffe and he came up with (slightly later) was that of cementing the memory by repeating a version of the past, because Christine’s forgetting is not certain.

Nothing, though, could address the fact (put to Steve) that, if Christine woke up with a sudden memory of the real Ben and being married to him, nothing that fake Ben could do to pretend to be he would make him look like him – and, if she remembered that she was married to the real Ben, he would have to persuade her that he is also Ben, and that he married her after Ben 1 and she divorced…

The book and film’s reality and need is that it wants to present the to us as much as to Christine man who is really Mike (Mike 2) as Ben, and so have us believe that he is her pre-injury husband. Yet, if Mike wanted to pretend that there are images of him marrying Christine, i.e. proof that he is her husband (and so legitimate), he would have done it photographically, not physically.

The images are so patently cut together that they would never convince anyone, let alone a woman staring at them because she cannot remember the events that they show : the film gives us what appeared to be a dishonest close-up of what a crude job it is, with a cut-line between their heads, whereas a medium shot shows the heads touching, or, at any rate, so close that there would be no white space in between

* * * * *

As to the positives, with a variation of date rape, any woman could wake up in bed with a man, not knowing who she is or why is there, and drugged into accepting that she has no memory and that he is her partner… Or we could ask, as philosophers in the past have, how we know that the external world exists and that we are not ‘brains in a vat’ : receiving sensory data with no senses, beyond having those stimuli, to perceive the world that we apparently see and feel …

So it is not as if the film / book does not pose questions. (Though, as Hugh Taylor (Festival supporter and regular put it), it is not as if it is not full of holes, and turns Nicole Kidman into that traditional character of the helpless woman.)

Nonetheless, there is such a spoilery list of things to consider (most of which were evident during or just after the screening, and just condensed into the criticism implied by the question posed) that one must wonder what Watson / Joffe thought they were doing regarding a plot that worked. Not an exhaustive list, but the more obvious ones, follows :

* Mike 1, even if he has good reason to suspect Mike 2, seems to act fairly strangely for a doctor – contacting Christine out of the blue, without her husband’s knowledge (and encouraging her not to change that position), and expecting her to trust him

* In fact, her levels of trust are worryingly high (given what she later fears about him, albeit curiously having been taken to a remote reservoir), and indicate that the issues below (of getting her discharged) should, from the point of view of her vulnerability to exploitation and abuse, have made that extremely difficult without very convincing bona fides

* How does Mike 2 have Christine’s telephone number, if, as we are told, she was discharged from a hospital / home (unless she has some contact with it or equivalent day services) ?

* And how does he have the photographs of Claire (with which he stimulates Christine’s memory of Claire), and would he not have been using photographs of her taken with the man who is really Ben (to trigger memories of those times, too, before the attack) ?

* Maybe some questions of acquired brain injury would be considered a psychiatric issue (under the provisions of s. 1 of the Mental Health Act 1983 (as amended)). If it were thought one, to protect the interests of a person with no memory from exploitation, signing them off to an appropriate place for her care and aftercare would almost certainly have had to be part of the discharge (please see below) – not to somewhere where she is at home all day and almost never leaves the house :

* What does Christine have for lunch ? How does she get vitamin D or exercise, for example, if she does not leave the house (she cannot leave the house, because she does not know where she is ?) ? How are her dental and health needs met, etc. ?

* And, although we only see a period inside term-time, what happens in the holiday ? Can their lives really be confined to a house that is as central to this fantasy as François Ozon’s is in In The House (Dans la maison) (2012) ?

* Neurological tests should have established what (important) part of her amnesia is from the injury, what from the fear-memories of the attack, if she came to this house as recently as four years ago : the film makes scant distinction

* The simplest divorce, where there are no real assets and no children, can be a paper exercise. However, with a wife with a son and who, because of her problems with memory, almost certainly lacks capacity, it is just not clear on what basis one would straightforwardly be obtained. (Out of the possible ones of adultery, ‘unreasonable behaviour’, desertion, two years’ separation with consent, or five years without consent, probably the last, being the time spent in hospital(s).)

* Whenever exactly it happened (the film seems a little unclear, maybe because Mike 2 is lying about the divorce ?), it would have been a major event in any hospital / care home, and almost certainly involving The Court of Protection, because of the need for someone’s valid agreement, to make sure that Christine’s interests would be represented, to what would happen to Adam and how the assets of the marriage would be divided :

* Her share of any proceeds of sale would be held on trust for her, again supervised by the Court, and yet we seem to have the house passed off as where Christine has always lived with Ben…

* Again according to Mike 2, Christine was in hospital / care when he came for her and discharged her – so who was he somehow pretending to be with his forgeries, and why, if that was Ben, he would not have been her next-of-kin as her former husband, so why was he allowed to take her ‘home’ (unless we are to suppose that the hospital / home has somehow forgotten that significant legal step in Christine’s life) ?

* Why would her actual next-of-kin (probably her elder parent) not have been contacted – or is that the nature of Mike 2’s forgery, e.g. to pretend, say, to be her brother ?

* If the attack on Christine was as violent as we see, not only would blood be all over the room and the corridor, but pathology would also have established that it did not take place where her body is found :

* Mike and she may have been checked in under assumed names, but they had met before (maybe there), and no proper police enquiry would have failed to link the injured body to the hotel (because of the blood and a sheet from a hotel), and hence to the people who had occupied it

* One reason is that there are laundry-tags or codes (even if removed), and missing sheets from hotels that night and the type and size of the sheet in which she has been found wrapped would have narrowed the field – just using a hotel sheet, in itself, did so much to implicate Mike

* He did not seem to premeditate the attack, since he was attempting to get Christine to agree for him to call Ben to tell him of the affair, and then got angry and violent towards her with the phone when she tried to stop him : he left her, for some reason naked (would someone have recognized her clothes as such ?), where it is clear that the sheet that he used to clothe her would have been from an airport hotel in the vicinity

* If Claire has been contacting the last place where Christine was an in-patient, why would they have been telling her what she reports about Christine – and why does she not tell Christine that she has a grown-up son ?

* Has Mike dummied up a forged death certificate for Adam (in case Christine has the energy to go through the contents of the tin ?

* The fact that he tells her that she has remembered Claire before is not conclusive that she has not had a memory of her real (former) husband before, but maybe chloroforming her and relying on her having forgotten in the morning is a sufficient remedy for someone intent on living with the woman whom he nearly killed and who is frightened of seeing him every morning – perhaps just for the occasional times when (as we see) her levels of trust lead to intercourse…

* The film also seemed confused as to when Adam was said to have died / when Christine was attacked in relation to it (but maybe because of Mike 2’s lies again)


Whatever the quality of the production (with Colin Firth having to contain his role much of the time to give us a shock - and, to go back to that question in the Q&A, the shock that he gives us is precisely because, for our benefit alone, he needlessly pretends to be Ben, rather than being himself), the plotting is just not worthy of it.

With a 36% rating of Rotten on the Rotten Tomatoes web-site from critics, and 50% from audiences, here is a link to what some of even the most positive reviews admitted...

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

Return visit to Alphaville

This is a review of Mary is Happy, Mary is Happy (2013)

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2014 (28 August to 7 September)
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)

2 September (updated 17 September - Tweets added, 10 January 2015)

This is a review of Mary is Happy, Mary is Happy (2013)

Some may be disconcerted by the subtitles seeming to be in advance of the dialogue, although largely they lag (if not synchronized) : if that seems like it is a problem to your sort of viewing (of course, it may not be deliberate (please see below), though that seems unlikely), read no further :

Do not make a date with your second chance to see a screening of Mary is Happy, Mary is Happy (2013) at Cambridge Film Festival / #CamFF 2014 (Thursday 4 September at 6.00 p.m. in The Queen’s Building, Emmanuel College)

Those staying with this review can safely be told that there are lots of black-outs, big pink capitals that announce the advancing months, jump-cuts and quick cutting, and both a skilful use of a limited number of locations and an unshowily impressive performance by Patcha Poonpirya (Mary). Nor will it spoil things to know that an incoming head teacher turns Mary’s school’s status from day to boarding, stores and promulgates his own-branded coffee and soup, and that (not introduced by him) her fellow schoolmates wear tops that, in autumn 2012, state :


Yet, although set in and around a school, with Mary's best friend Suri, it is not a coming-of-age film, but one that challenges the notions both of what we expect from cinema and of what we think that reality is. If that is still seeming like a little too much, some of us may be doing some rearranging to be able to watch the film again, but please feel free to alight now.

Nothing draws attention to a budget that must be modest, except that one continues to nudge oneself, impressed by the quality of what one sees, with its search for photography’s magic hour, for (in the title of a series of booklets) Calculating Future Probability, and for recognition that The mouth does more damage than the hand. The film plays to its limited resources, with sly repetitions, variations of light and angle, and that disjunctive use of text.

Which is where some make much of the fact that, centrally on the screen, and most often with a click as they appear, are words, mainly not in English script, but with an unvarying line that appears underneath : Expand / Reply / Delete / Favorite, which may mean little to those who do not Tweet, but which would (before Twitter changed its format) be the line beneath only one’s own Tweets* (i.e. broadly short, public messages (a maximum of 140 characters, including spaces and punctuation), as one cannot delete another person’s Tweets, only (broadly speaking) choose not to see his or her Tweets any more).

What seems of much more interest than whether these are real Tweets from an account in the name of Mary Malony is the fact that this film is steeped in cinema, so much so that Mary’s form has a class – announced by a painted board in the background – in which her film-script is being discussed. Not in the knowing sort of way (which some might associate with Holy Motors) that tries to make you feel that you ‘should’ know all the references (or admit your inadequacy), but that uses film as a dynamic and creative medium, whose capacity – if we enter into it – is enhanced by the image that we watch is writ so large, and being able to explore cinematographers and directors’ works when one learns how they have been an influence on what interests one (though that latter feature is not unique to film).

Here, although the quiet pulse that ran through the film was that of Jean-Luc Godard (those incongruous scenes where the paramedics suddenly appear, the moodily evocative setting of the disused railway-lines, and a US diner full of bike helmets and cake…), it was nonetheless pleasing to have confirmation in the form of open acknowledgements, towards the end, of him and of Nouvelle Vague.

Director Nawapol Thamrongrattanrit has not just absorbed Godard’s key work, but has given it a fresh, strong spirit, and this film is sure to have filmgoers revisiting it to share his enthusiasm.

On again, at the very least, on Thursday 4 September at 6.00 p.m. in The Queen’s Building, Emmanuel College


Watching a second time did not bring very much more into focus, but was more of a battle - albeit a successful one, maintaining the original view of this film - with a sceptical inner voice, which sought to argue that the film was not as strong :

Just picture how it feels to get a friend to watch something that one things highly of, and then seeing it through what one imagines are his or her eyes.

Quite a test to pass - and it also gave a chance to catch the subtitles and the midline Tweets that were in English !

Postlude by Tweet :


* The question being : how could these be the real Tweets of another person, if the person reading them has the privileged option to delete ? That said, @marylony, the Twitter account that the Festival booklet names, does exist...

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

Thursday, 28 August 2014

News and views from Cambridge Film Festival / #CamFF 2014

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2014 (28 August to 7 September)
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)

15 September (updated 17 November)

Following the elaborate planning, this posting records what actually happened, and when, with links to reviews (two still lagging behind)...

As in 2012 (and 2011), there is a code, which is :

A Abandoned - Walked out partway through

AA Wished to abandon - But, against better judgement, could not (or did not) leave partway through

B Blog - There is a posting about the film on the blog, to which the link takes one (although it may not be a review)

C Catalan preview - A film from the Camera Catalonia strand, reviewed ahead of and for the Festival

M Missed - Planned - or had tickets - to see, but had to skip

P Partly watched - A clash with an earlier (or later) film prevented seeing it as a whole

O Take One - Published on line as a guest review

S Seen - The opposite of Missed

Tony Jones, Trustee of Cambridge Film Trust and director of Cambridge Film Festival for 30 (?) years - the longest-serving UK festival director

Thursday 28 August

6.00 P Peter Sellers : The Early Shorts (1957) : Emmanuel (90 mins) - The one caught, Dearth of a Salesman, was also short on laughs...

7.00 AA The Kidnapping of Michel Houellebecq (summed up, pretty much, in Andrew Pulver's review for The Guardian) (Opening Film) : Screen 1 (93 mins)

10.00 B S Magic in the Moonlight (2014) (plus a riposte to TAKE ONE's reviewer) (Opening Film) : Screen 1 (97 mins)

Friday 29 August to Sunday 31 August (both inclusive)

Delayed response to the loss of a dearly loved companion subverted any plans for cinema-going on these days, but, by proxy...

Saturday 30 August

7.30 Bx2 S Ida (2013) (plus spoilery critique) : Screen ?? (80 mins)

Monday 1 September

1.30 B S A Most Wanted Man (2014) : Screen 1 (121 mins)

4.00 AA B Four Corners (2014) : Screen 1 (114 mins)

6.30 B S Under Milk Wood plus Q&A (1971) (Dylan Thomas 100) : Screen 1 (88 mins)

9.00 B S Before I Go to Sleep plus Q&A (2014) : Screen 1 (92 mins)

Tuesday 2 September

1.00 M M : Screen 1 (1931) (117 mins)

3.30 S Last Call (2013) : Screen 2 (91 mins)

6.00 S How I Came to Hate Maths (Comment j'ai détesté les maths) (2013) : Emmanuel (110 mins)

8.30 B S Mary is Happy, Mary is Happy (2013) : Emmanuel (127 mins)

Wednesday 3 September

1.30 B S Iranian (2014) : Screen 1 (105 mins)

4.00 AA Eastern Boys (2013) : Screen 1 (128 mins)

6.30 B x 2 S Stations of the Cross (and further thoughts on a second viewing) (Kreuzweg) (2014) (German) : Screen 2 (104 mins)

9.00 C S Tasting Menu (plus a riposte to TAKE ONE's reviewer) (2013) (Camera Catalonia) : Screen 2 (85 mins)

11.00 M Short Fusion : Life Lessons : Screen 2 (79 mins)

Thursday 4 September (a day for not sticking to the plan at all !)

11.00 M Night will Fall (2014) : Screen 1 (75 mins)

1.30 M Le Jour se Lève (Daybreak) (1939) : Screen 1 (93 mins)

As to be on general release, substituted by rewatching :
2.30 B x 2 S Stations of the Cross (and further thoughts on a second viewing) (Kreuzweg) (2014) (German) : Screen 2 (104 mins)

4.00 P German Short Films (German) : Screen 1 (~70 mins) (all 2013) Will have to miss the end to get to Still the Enemy Within (2014)...

6.00 M Still the Enemy Within (2014) : St Philip's Church (112 mins)
Instead rewatched :
6.00 B S Mary is Happy, Mary is Happy (2013) (Festival link) : Emmanuel (127 mins)

8.30 M Under the Lantern (1928) (Lamprecht) : St Philip's Church (129 mins)
Stay for this - or head to Festival Central for...
9.00 M We Are Many (2014) : Screen 1 (104 mins)

Friday 5 September

1.00 B C S We All Want What's Best for Her (Tots volem el millor per a ella) (2013) plus write-up of Q&A (now with photos) (Camera Catalonia) : Screen 1 (105 mins)

Just time to interview Mar Coll (director and co-writer of We All Want What's Best for Her- write-up to come...) before :
4.00 S People on Sunday (Menschen am Sonntag) (Lamprecht) : Emmanuel (73 mins)

5.00 P Energized : Screen 1 (91 mins) Sadly, needing to miss the start of which...

7.50 C S Son of Cain (Fill de Caín) (2013) (plus write-up of Q&A) (Camera Catalonia) : Screen 2 (90 mins)

10.30 M The Mad Magician (Retro 3-D) : Screen 2 (72 mins)

Saturday 6 September

1.00 M Berlin, Symphony of a Great City (Lamprecht) : Screen 3 (74 mins)

Missed to interview - and take punting - Jesús Monllaó, director of Son of Cain (Fill de Caín)

2.30 B S Fiction (Ficció) (Camera Catalonia) : Screen 3 (107 mins)

5.00 AA B Amour Fou : Screen 1 (96 mins)

7.30 B S Tony Benn : Will and Testament : Screen 1 (running-time not advised)

Not likely to finish in time for (as was indeed so)...

9.00 M West (Lagerfeuer) (German) : Screen 2 (102 mins)

Sunday 7 September

1.00 C S Othello (Otel.lo) (Camera Catalonia) : Screen 2 (69 mins)

The next film was missed, because of lunch and then completing an interview with Hammudi Al-Rahmoun Font, director of Otel.lo (with the kind assistance, as translator, of Cristina Roures)

4.00 M A Poem in Exile (Camera Catalonia) : Emmanuel (77 mins)

5.30 M Set Fire to the Stars (Dylan Thomas 100) : Screen 1 (90 mins)

For the sceptical, there is evidence of that punting-trip, with star pupil Hammudi

8.00 A The Grandmaster (which turned out to be Surprise Film 1) : Screen 1 (?? mins)

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