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Showing posts with label Arts Picturehouse. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Arts Picturehouse. Show all posts

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

Too posh to answer the telephone ? [work in progress]

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

8 May

Some comments [work in progress], following a screening and Q&A (as film-maker in residence at The University of Cambridge's Centre for Film and Screen), of Lucrecia Martel's La Ciénaga (The Swamp) (2001)


'You were all drunk'

Film-references :

* Babel (2006)

* Berberian Sound Studio (2012)

* Drevo (The Tree) (2014)

* Unrelated (2007)


It has been firmly postulated to be a feature of Andrei Tarkovksy's work that where, say, one sees Fire, the remaining Four Elements (of Earth, Water, and Air) can be found contiguously, but which is a pattern that one might otherwise overlook. In La Ciénaga, whether or not one can seek out the others in proximity (or they are simply pervasively present), one could impose - with some slight 'fudges' - an order on various recurrences to make a new Four Elements :

* Mud

* Blood [+ red wine]

* Water / ice / glass*

* Air


End-notes :

* Or 'Glass' could be an element in its own right, and substitute for 'Air' - though the latter is palpably there, as when

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

Friday, 1 December 2017

Elle parle que d'elle¹ ~ Eve

Some responses (by Tweet) to Happy End (2017), as seen on opening night

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2017 (19 to 26 October)
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)

1 December

On opening night at The Arts Picturehouse, Cambridge, some responses (by Tweet) to Happy End (2017), as seen on Friday 1 December 2017 at 8.50 p.m.

What connects screenings of these new films : Sally Potter's The Party (2017) and Michael Haneke's Happy End (2017) ?

With Happy End (2017), which was on general release from Friday 1 December 2017, perhaps (as alluded to in the Tweet above), it is not just the title, but also the folded A4 lobby-material [i.e. a card that is A5 and presents in landscape format], which has the (edited) image that appears above, occupying the front - under the caption A handy guide to Calais' favourite dysfunctional family². [Can we honestly conceive of this as Haneke's caption³... ?]

The shot has been edited in that, by removing the intervening window, it relocates an indoor scene (as shown, in context, in the Tweet below) to a balcony, which then, perspectivally, appears not just to overlook the sea, but also to give directly onto it.

End-notes :

¹ Abbreviated for texting-type communication, the words translate as She only thinks about herself. [Starting with several annotated video-sequences, at the top of the film, there are more examples, but this phrase is taken from the first, and turns out, read alongside the others, to be the most significant.]

² Judging by this lobby-card³, could one not be forgiven for thinking that there is going to be a comical take on a family and its oddities - in the style, perhaps, even of The Addams Family... ? (As, also, with The Party : is the clue, surely, to expect a party in respect of which it is readily apt to invoke, ironically (the film's plot and script are so weakly conceived), Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of the party ?)

³ As with trailers, they are almost never the work of the people who made the film. (Even if, when trailers are made, they clearly use footage (including deleted scenes or other images that you will not see, if you watch the film), and re-order it to suggest a story - not unusually, quite misleadingly.) Trailers and other publicity are, rather, largely the handiwork of the film's distributors (with, obviously, some assistance from the film's producers) : a special knack for making good films look bad (and vice versa) is required ? !

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

Monday, 13 February 2017

Love film, and love a real projection from 35mm : True Romance at The Arts Picturehouse, Cambridge (work in progress)

Love film, and love a real projection from 35mm : True Romance (1993) in Cambridge

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

14 February

Love film, and love a real projection from 35mm : True Romance (1993) at The Arts Picturehouse, Cambridge [script by Tarantino, directed by Tony Scott]

See also Jack Toye (@jackabuss), at / for TAKE ONE (@TakeOneCinema) :

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

Saturday, 21 January 2017

On parental or student choice in education - and, if homeless, the lack of it (even if it compromises choice in education) [work in progress]

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

21 January

Arising from a screening of Half Way (2015), and a Q&A and interview with director Daisy-May Hudson, an outline (work in progress) of how the law on #homelessness affects people

The law on homelessness is not new, and it changes – as all law does¹.

Even so, various other changes to policy, over the decades, have worked, alongside the broadly established general principles of who can declare him- or herself homeless, and when, to complicate the effects on such a person and his or her dependants : in Half Way (2015), Daisy Hudson filmed what happened to her mother, thirteen-year-old sister² and her, both to show what happened, and as a way of coming to terms with and coping with it all.

One such way in which the law changed regarding housing, under the Cameron government², was ‘encouraging’ people to move to smaller properties (whether or not those properties actually exist and are available) : this is the so-called ‘under-occupancy charge’ [or #bedroomtax], which might cost a tenant £14 per week for a room that he or she, under the rules that define this ‘charge’, is deemed not to be occupying. Children under a certain age are then supposed to share with each other - or also with their parents - even if they had never done so before, and so their bedrooms, in the property in respect of which Housing Benefit is being paid, became 'under-occupied'.

Another, starting under Thatcher’s premiership, was when local authorities became obliged to sell off properties, to their tenants and at a discount, from their stock of rented housing, but without, one gathers, being allowed to use the revenues from those sales to build new properties for equivalent rental (those revenues, in any case, did not reflect market values, and might not even – assuming that one already owned the land, etc. – have corresponded with rebuilding costs).

The TAKE ONE (@TakeOneCinema) interview with Daisy Hudson is here



¹ Under the law of England and Wales, sometimes through courts interpreting it, to apply it to the cases that come before them (and some of which gives rise to binding case-law), and sometimes through new legislation, which may be to rule out what judges have determined the law to be, or just to change it…

Some changes are said to be needed to revise, update or ‘reform’ the law – their effects, whether or not intended, can profoundly affect people’s lives for the worse, and the notion of ‘reform’ then seems distinctly more like the criminal notion of penal rehabilitation, wrapped up with argument about who deserves, or should pay for, what ?

² At the time when notice is served on Daisy's mother. By the end of the film, Daisy’s sister is 15.

³ Allegedly a coalition – as averted to on Twitter, where he is dubbed #Shameron.

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

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Tweeting about Grave of the Fireflies (1988) and Ran (1985)

Some Tweets with comparisons of Grave of the Fireflies (1988) and Ran (1985)

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

25 May

These Tweets contain some casual observations, finding parallels between the various worlds of Isao Takahata's Grave of the Fireflies (Hotaru no haka) (1988) (for Studio Ghibli) and Akira Kurosawa's Ran (1985)

Ran screened at The Arts Picturehouse (@CamPicturehouse), Cambridge, at 1.00 p.m. on Sunday 22 May 2016 (as a Sunday Classic), and Grave of the Fireflies at 9.00 p.m. on Wednesday 25 May (as part of Studio Ghibli Forever)

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

Thursday, 24 September 2015

HAMM : When you inspected my paupers. Always on foot ? / CLOV : Sometimes on horse.*

This is an account of Horse Money (2014) plus Q&A with director Pedro Costa

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

23 September

* May contain spoilers *

This is an account of a special screening of Horse Money (Cavalo Dinheiro) (2014) plus Q&A with director Pedro Costa at The Arts Picturehouse, Cambridge, on Tuesday 22 September 2015

Some people in the Q&A reported that they expected to have to re-watch the film to follow what was happening : they therefore seemed to assume that seeing Horse Money (2014) again would satisfy that ‘need’, not that it is overtly denying such attempts to do so, with its re-enactment of experiences that, because they are deemed not to be ‘normal’ (or even to be dangerous), are usually labelled as psychosis and lead to a diagnosis such as schizophrenia :

When members of Ventura’s family are en masse at the foot of his bed, and one even sits on it, it is likely that they are there for him, but not that they are otherwise present. And, when he is almost naked in subterranean depths of great and striking beauty, it is unlikely that he is literally there, but forever being brought back.

A Beautiful Mind (2001) had us credit John Nash’s world, even if it is perhaps shown to us a little fancifully, and ‒ because it is to make a Hollywood necessity of contrasting it with ‘the truth’ ‒ in such a way that we understand it to have been delusional. Horse Money does not make those concessions to our understanding, but it is implicit in what it does that to ask to follow what happened, on a second viewing, is to expect that Vitalina, in what she says to Ventura (or vice versa), is communicating solely on the ostensible level of her actual words, not that the meaning lies in the interplay, or that the exact interplay ‒ any more than the dialogue in a play by Pinter ‒ may never have happened.

Which is where a connection lies with the work of Jeff Wall, to whom, without disagreement (and with seeming acceptance), Pedro Costa was referred in the Q&A.

For those who had been at Cambridge Film Festival (@camfilmfest), and with Ventura’s experience, Horse Money could have made unpleasant and uncomfortable viewing, as a reminder of sadder days of constraint and forced compliance, and of the perfunctoriness ‒ here reduced to a dull formula ‒ of some psychiatric interviews.

Still, the film cannot well be taken literally (even if Pedro Costa wants to call his film a documentary ‒ so he replied to Loreta Gandolfi (@GandolfiLoreta), who was hosting the Q&A, and who had first, to her surprise, seen Horse Money at a documentary film festival), and that aspect, together with what is characterized in the following question (which was put to Costa), has the likely effect of achieving the worst of both worlds :

Is there a danger in having composed so many shots so beautifully that an already oblique set of experiences becomes over-stylized ?

In other words, for those who do not know this world, Horse Money may be impenetrable (and may just make them believe that they ‘missed something’, and will gain more on a second viewing), whereas, for those who do, it might seem at too much of a poetic remove to do more than remind them, in an artistic form, of their past, but without telling them anything that they did not know from their own hospitalization. This is what is suggested by asking whether it may achieve the worst of both worlds.

As to starting to watch the film at Cambridge, and then finding the emotion too painful (even after obtaining ‘a stiff drink’) to watch beyond around thirty-five minutes, obviously one was able to prepare oneself better for Horse Money, and then take it for what it was ‒ moving from [assertions of] the destruction of family life and livelihood** to wider perspectives of post-industrial decline, the earlier part of which theme was referenced in these #CamFF Tweets :

Pedro Costa clearly finds working with Ventura compelling (even seductive, for, in this connection, one is reminded of Calvet (2011)), and he told the audience how he talks to Ventura about his life and thoughts, but uses those conversations to ground his poetic approach to the text and, ultimately, to making the script with a film-crew of just three (of which he is one).

One has to agree that the ‘look’ of his film is, likewise, a clear reaction against so much film-making that is not cinematic ‒ and, of course, Costa is right in this (and in striving for a visual quality in his work), and that such films give scant regard to the history and early achievements of film. Whether, though, we find Ventura (despite all his perspective on life) a persuasive voice remains to be seen :

Some might find that distilling / channelling Ventura through Costa and back into Ventura may have made what we see and hear too rarefied ?***


* Endgame, Samuel Beckettt, p. 15 : Faber & Faber, London, 1964.

** In recognition of the content of the Tweets that follow, Costa was presented with a copy of the Calder edition of Beckettt’s trilogy (Molloy, Malone Dies, The Unnamable).

*** Even if (because ?) Costa says that he prefers Spinoza to Wittgenstein (he also said that he had slept in the latter's bed at Trinity)... ?

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

Monday, 9 February 2015

Un séjour avec soju ?

This is a review of A Girl at my Door (Dohee-ya) (2014)

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

9 February

This is a review of A Girl at my Door (Dohee-ya) (2014), watched at a special screening at The Arts Picturehouse, Cambridge (@CamPicturehouse), on Thursday 5 February 2015

Introductory - other important Doona Bae roles :

As the Tweet (inevitably pithily) tries to say, there are some significant roles for Doona Bae (or, at any rate, those whose existence is easily known in the West) that appear to be linked (whether that reflects the nature of roles offered to, as well as accepted by, Doona Bae).

When Nozomi, the doll that Hideo (Itsuji Atao) buys in Air Doll (2009), comes to life (as played by Doona Bae), the doll itself / herself is a substitute for a failed affair, and Nozomi is rarely quite one with the world into which she emerges (and from which she ultimately departs) except to the extent that she makes a life for herself and finds others who understand her and her experience.

The idea of a doll come to life is, at heart, just as much a metaphor* – it is up to the viewer with what the metaphorical connection itself is being made – as it is in the case of the so-called fabricants in Cloud Atlas (2012), with Sonmi-451** proving the tenets of AI, in that these created life-forms do become wholly sentient, although only intended to be unemotional, robotic drones.

That said, setting apart The Animatrix (2003) (and its engaging depiction of The Rise of The Machines, desiring equality with mankind – as foreshadowed by Samuel Butler in Erewhon), it is one that the Wachowskis, elsewhere, largely wish to resist in the Matrix world (starting with The Matrix (1999)). For Neo appears to assert a primacy of humanness / humanity – although, in the eyes of The Architect (and on some other scale), Neo may just as much be [reducible to] a piece of code as, in Jupiter Ascending (2015), Jupiter Jones is considered to be genetically identical to the mother of Lord Titus.

However, in this film, Doona Bae (Inspector Young-Nam Lee) is not playing a doll who lived, or a replicant who discovered feelings (including sexual arousal), and became a rallying cry for generations to come, but is a woman, taking care of the girl of the title(not least in the original title, where she is named). Albeit at Lee’s door is not where we first see her, for she is being bullied, and there are some tensions built into that premise…***

In any case, the girl (Dohee) is a mirror to Lee, and she is played with such great plasticity by Kim Sae Ron that one could not believe that one or two other girls had not been sharing the part – an effect not accounted for just by make-up and hair. Lee’s identification with Dohee, and her concomitant compassion and malleability / indulgence, is obvious from the start, though not the depths of – or the reasons for – it.

Whereon hangs the film, were it not that :

* Whether or not one’s constraints are budgetary ones (according to Wikipedia®, the film’s budget was just US $300,000), what the film presents as a small coastal settlement is even more obviously unpopulated than it would be compared, say, to shooting in Seoul – at least, what we see must be a small quarter of Yeosu (which research suggests is actually a city, not a town)

* Even if the script wants to explain that situation away, by saying that Koreans no longer want to live / work there, and that only the person keeping the workers there are in hand is local : in that case, what need a police station, with not a few officers, at which Lee is the ‘station chief’, if the only significant activity is aquatic in nature ?****

* In fact, the cast is so thin on the ground that, apart from the denizens of a hair salon cum village hub, and the group of people who are momentarily present when Lee moves into supposedly temporary accommodation, we have already met everyone else. (Although Lee apologizes to her landlady for the inconvenience of her unexpected arrival, conveniently there is no sign that she is ever going to be housed anywhere else.)

* The world of this film, then, revolves unconvincingly around only the workers, Dohee’s father (who is in charge of the workers, and is the somewhat erratically written and drawn father of Dohee*****), Lee’s fellow officers, and a cashier of a supermarket in an unspecified location (but, in the locality, a police officer does not even recognize Lee whilst she is busy with her bottles of water).

Doona Bae and Kim Sae Ron are both excellent in their roles. Sadly, theirs are the only ones with any substance, for not only is Dohee’s father a cipher (of parental drunkenness), but so is her grandmother – who seems strangely reminiscent of [a more aggressive version of] the one who is initially unsympathetic in Kim Mordaunt’s The Rocket(2013) (which is set in Laos)…

NB Possible spoilers in this paragraph
As to Doona Bae’s character, it depends intimately, and even intensely, on that played by Kim Sae Ron, to the extent that it is questionable whether they are, apart from on the level of the attribution of dialogue, actually separable. That notion, if one were seriously encouraged to entertain it from the start to finish in the film, could have been its saving from its immersion in banality, as well as the need to believe that, although Lee is a police inspector, she is not only very naive in her personal dealings, but also lacking in being even plausibly streetwise.

By choice of film to appear in, Doona Bae seems in danger of not usefully claiming for herself the territory of the saintly fool, too good for this world, but forced to be in and of it [as in The Idiot (Idioot) (2011)] : it may suit her aesthetic to take such roles, but they do not ultimately flatter or, more importantly, use her talents. Yes, of course it is a delight to see her infectious smile break through, after sombre scenes where she is forced to be the celebrated guest at some grim event for her induction, but showing wearing ‘a mask’ can only be done so many times (even to the extent that spring water is turned into some sort of saké – or vice versa), however well Doona Bae carries it off, before it become stale.

This film, almost inevitably, reminded of Humbert Humbert (James mason) in Lolita (1962) and of the eye of the beholder, but also of many another scenario where one properly suspects that manipulation (masked by apparent innocence) is at work. For, no doubt for reasons relating to her own past, Lee trusts Dohee (for example, there is an un-ironic scene with tears, harp in the score, and Lee’s tender reaction), rather as Sean Connery does Tippi Hedren in Marnie (1964). However, viewers of, say, Catalan cinema may be reminded more by Dohee of Nico (David Solans) in Son of Cain (Fill de Caín) (2013), and doubt the wisdom of Lee’s faith (however much, as heavily implied, Dohee may be the imprint of a young Lee).

The reason being that this is one of those films that opens with a car, clearly being driven a distance, with what we know – from looking towards the front of the car and through the windscreen – is literal baggage in the back. And that, perhaps, is the downfall of any sense of (surprise at) the unfolding of the story, on which it seems to have depended, whereas it all seems – without suggesting dramatic irony – so patent, right from seeing the arrival in a place with a small-town mentality. In Peter Gabriel’s words (from ‘Big Time’, on his album So) :

The place where I come from is a small town
They think so small, they use small words
But not me, I'm smarter than that,
I worked it out


* This has been a topos since, at least, Adam was fashioned from clay (Genesis 2:7), proceeding through the Greek mythology of Talos and of Hesiod’s Pandora, the Metamorphoses of Ovid, and Pygmalion’s statue there, Paulina’s in The Winter’s Tale, Bernard Shaw’s reimagining of Ovid in Pygmalion (and its own reimagining in My Fair Lady (1964)), etc., etc.

** Doona Bae is also credited, by IMDb (@IMDb), as playing Sonmi-351 :

*** The (apparent) failure to envisage any consequences of the isolated example of intimidation by peers is one that the plot seeks to gloss over by, much later, having Lee stated to be such a feared force (this fear seems little evident at the), and by locating the main time-period of the film outside term, so that nothing comes of it.

Maybe, but it did seem, at one point, as though the serious incident that we witness, where Lee’s mere show of authority is not taken seriously until it becomes referable to their middle school (and whether she follows it up seems doubtful – the plot just seems to have her forget about the issue) : Lee does not, at any rate (which seems to indicate a late shoe-in) raise the question with Dohee until it is unconscionably late, if something had been continuing…

**** It is hardly to be referred to on account of being a better film, but My Sweet Pepper Land (2013) at least avoids one feeling that Baran (Korkmaz Arslan), its police officer, is on anything other than a perilous, corrupt frontier (happily joined there by Govend (Golshifteh Farahani)). The world of A Girl is actually such a world, but with an implausible veneer of law enforcement, and of seeming to be a home to generally law-abiding folk…

***** Regrettably, both note-taking and IMDb let one down on crediting the actor and his role ! However, we are saved NB Link is to a summary of the plot by Wikipedia®, which tells us that he is Park Yong-ha (played by Song Sae-byeok).

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

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

@THEAGENTAPSLEY's Tweet review of a cinematic event (without actually watching it...)

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

30 April

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

Monday, 14 October 2013

Get George HERE !

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2013
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)

15 October

My good friends at @CamPicturehouse now have a confirmation that George MacKay is expected to attend a Q&A after a special screening (in Screen 2*) of For Those in Peril (2013), which screened at @CamFilmfest, recently finished.

It will be at 2.30 on Saturday 19 October (booking information is now posted on the web-site here) - the film is also showing, without the special guest, on the day before and in the week after this screening

Click here for various resources about the film, including a synopsis and a video interview from Cannes. You can also read the reviews written by two of the participants (aged 16 to 19) in the Young Critics scheme, which was run at this year's Festival to promote writing about cinema.

I have not had a chance to see the film, but I understand that it is a challenging drama, and involves elements of Scottish folklore, the stuff of the sea, and a portrayal of mental-health issues...


* I am told now that it will be in Screen 3.

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

Friday, 30 August 2013

What the heck is 'competition', Competition Commission ?

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2013
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)

31 August

If you've never heard of the MMC*, you might wonder what the Competition Commission does ?

Do they police the occasions when you came up for a brilliant new name for Frosties, but didn't win, or that holiday in Honolulu that they keep ringing me about ?

Well, this probably won't help : Imagine a town, Townchester, with a big branch of Tesco a few streets away from one side of the river, and an equally big branch of Asda in the same position on the other side. Imagine Asda decided that they thought that people were more interested in carpet, and devoted half of their floor-space to that instead of their normal range of goods.

So what has happened to competition in Townchester ? Asda, for whatever business or other reason, has effectively given Tesco a massive advantage, and could make its so very low prices creep up, because it knows that customers can less easily find all that they need at Asda.

But does the Competition Commission have anything to say about this ? I understand not, and it would take Asda to decide to sell up to Tesco altogether before, as I gather, The Office of Fair Trading might refer the matter to the Commission.

Does this make any sense ? In both cases, a market position lessens competition, but, unless I am quite wrong, the Commission won't oblige Asda to compete fully with Tesco, any more than it will, if Asda does as I say with 70% of its floor area, encourage Lidl or who knows what other supermarket retailer in to keep Tesco in check.

And does it nap ? A very big Sainsbury's has now opened in Bicester, but I am reliably informed (by a friend who lives there) that the competitive playing-field before then saw no fewer than seven, yes seven, Tesco branches in this one town.

Anyway, apply this 'thinking' to the business of cinemas, of projecting films for public exhibition, and Festival Central is threatened because Cineworld, which had a cinema already, now owns both : the Commission, from the lofty height of its great wisdom, records that there are membership schemes and a diversity between the type of films shown at each.

It records that state of affairs, but decides, I am told (by @MovieEvangelist), to take no account of it, irrespective of the fact that one largely could not see almost all of the films shown at Festival Central at Cineworld. It focuses (again, @MovieEvangelist informs me) on odd assumptions about what people would do if prices rose 5%, but has no wit to think that, if the cost of seeing films did increase that much, one would not, as it surmises, go to another cinema where one could not see the films that one chooses to view, but just not watch quite so many films - if the price of beer goes up, do I just consume as much, if my income has not kept pace, or have slightly fewer pints ?

It's obvious, but seemingly not to the Competition Commission. And membership : one pays a fee for membership at Festival Central, but then gets three free tickets, 10% of food and drink, and up to £2.00 off the price of almost all other tickets, all applicable across Picturehouse cinemas. One can just discount that, when Cambridge Vue, I gather, does not have such a scheme ? Cineworld has an unlimited subscription (@MovieEvangelist says), allowing the holder to see any number of films for a monthly payment - can that, too, just be ignored, if one wants to talk about ticket-prices ?

Whose interests, then, is the Commission protecting ? The one-off visitor to Cambridge who wants to see a film ? If the visitor likes world or independent cinema, and is a member at The Belmont, in Aberdeen, he or she can use those free tickets, or get something up to £2.00 off, plus the 10% discount, so why compare the straight price of, say, a matinee ticket at the Vue with that ?

Regarding supermarkets without their loyalty cards, discount vouchers, and three-for-two offers - would looking at the ordinary prices, without being able to cash in points on meals, holidays, probably cinema tickets, make sense ?

In the Commission's world, there is the possibility of the lessening of its arcane notion of competition, and it seems not to care that the consequence of believing that action probably must be taken, i.e. requiring Cineworld to sell one of the Cambridge cinemas, runs the risk of three cinemas showing pretty much the same films**.

If that is the desired outcome, then it is the desert that we have of multi-channel t.v., with no variety within the large number of channels, save that each one is a different channel, in terms of the quality and worth of content. Making big players bid to screen prestigious sporting fixtures just meant that the winners passed on the cost of their winning bid to the public - pay £Z to subscribe, or you don't see these events.

The public had these events more easily and less inexpensively available before. They have just had them sold back at the high price of subscribing, say, to Mr Murdoch's services.

Only beneficiaries ? : Mr Murdoch, the shareholders of his companies, the staff who encrypt and broadcast the events, allow the subscriber, both physically and by checking that he or she continues to pay, to watch, and the manufacturers of the technology that the subscriber needs, and their staff and shareholders.

What price a film festival ? Oh, a fanciful notion of competition has to be explored to protect the public from seeing the latest Woody Allen, world premieres, twenty documentaries (when Cambridge is not even primarily a documentary film festival)...

Thanks, and make me have to spend at least £13 on a Travelcard to London and then to have to pay the high admission fees of London Film Festival's screenings !


* The Monopolies and Mergers Commission, replaced by the CC on 1 April 1999 (from memory).

** Of course, that is pure competition, rather than having this arthouse muck screened ! (Almost in the same way that Nineteen Eighty-Four has three massive powers vying for it.)

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

Thursday, 29 August 2013

I counted them all out...

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2013
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)

29 August

Sadly, I do not have the skills of a Brian Hanrahan, but, going through the Festival's Main Features (that link takes one to where the PDF brochure can be downloaded), I made it twenty documentaries*, and there may be others (there and elsewhere) - in former times, which was not necessarily better save from a bean-counting perspective, they were listed in a separate section from the feature films per se, but now they mingle.

I think that I spotted a score of the DOC logos. I was looking, because, in one of our chats the other day, Festival Director Tony Jones said that emphasis is needed on how many one can see - over the 11 days, however exactly they may be spread, that is around two per day, after all, so one can see his point. (I always like to make space for three or four in the course of my Festival viewing, but, as with the whole Festival juggling cum three-dimensional crossword, compromise is inevitable.)

Tony is a nice, level-headed guy, and always makes time to talk to me. A few weeks back now, he and I chatted as we negotiated Parker's Piece in Cambridge**, and I learnt for the first time that Hawking was coming to the Festival, and about negotiations for getting Hawking people over from the States for it.

This most recent time, it was the documentaries, and also exactly what hard work for Festival stalwarts from the Arts Picturehouse and from his family (and from his son's circle) it had been to put on twinned screenings on Grantchester Meadows***. As I said to Tony, not wishing to diminish that effort and to remind him of his great enthusiasm for outdoor screenings, he wouldn't do it, if he didn't enjoy it.

The previous time, a little word that - whatever it may be, and I do not think that I am being indiscreet - Surprise Film 1**** is a World Premiere. Famously, no one knows (though @JimGRoss always guesses) what the film is / films are except Tony, and the projectionist only gets it / them just in time to do the necessary...

And I remember, last of all, coming out of Cell 211 (2009), and Tony wondering, even though he was pleased that I thought that it was a powerful screening, how it would stand for getting distributed. (If you follow that link, you will see (on IMDb) that the film, after all, did pretty well for itself.)


* Sadly, I am an idiot, and failed to appreciate the music-documentary nature of the 33 1/3 strand, which makes the sum around thirty !

** For those who do not know it, click on this link, book yourselves some films, and get over to Cambridge to see this square of land, criss-crossed by paths, bicycles and foreign language students, and home to cricket- and football-pitches and the like on your own scenic walk from the station...

*** A real place, known to many by virtue of Fink Ployed.

**** Last year, there were two (for the first time ?), and the first of this year's is on Saturday 28 September.

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

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Cinema at Childerley Hall

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25 August

Kathryn Tickell's gig with The Side was held at Childerley Hall*.

Next month, on 14 September, is a screening in the run-up to the Film Festival of Edward Scissorhands (1990), a 12 certificate. The film will not be shown until dusk, but there is a chance to acquaint oneself with the gardens, which I always lose myself in (in more senses than one !), from 6.00.

Picturehouse members (with proof thereof) count as concessions, as do students and whatever those of a certain age care to call themselves, at £10, otherwise the adult admission is £12.

PS And this is what happened...


Those who, for some technological purpose, need to be told should make note of 3 Mill Yard, Dry Drayton CB23 8BA...

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

Friday, 23 August 2013

Gibberish comes to a home of academic excellence and parades as talking about 'competition'

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24 August

The following quotations are taken from the Provisional Findings Report of the Competition Commission, dated 20 August and called Cineworld / City Screen Merger Inquiry : Completed acquisition by Cineworld Group plc of City Screen Limited

In Cambridge, Picturehouse operates a three-screen cinema. There is a nine-screen Cineworld cinema and an eight-screen Vue cinema within less than 5 minutes’ drive-time. (para. 6.77)

Yes, that's all very well - you can be outside the Arts Picturehouse in a car and, from there, drive to Vue's premises, except that you cannot park immediately outside either of them. Being able to do that journey in less than five minutes ? Well, you would have to be very lucky with two major traffic-light-controlled junctions and two pelican crossings, and then you would be outside a cinema, momentarily, on a road where you cannot even stop.

Talking, then, of '20- and 30-minute drive-time isochrones' is then sheer nonsense - I might be able to drive to some prime location in London very quickly, but, if I cannot actually benefit from being there in and with a car, I would obviously not choose to drive there. One might do better, say, to compare being able to shop at Tesco in Royston (and park there) and then, within that timescale, getting to Morrison's in the town and being able to park - notional drive-times that have no element of practicability to them are meaningless. (I say that because when The Co-operative wanted to buy Somerfield stores, they either did not, or could not, buy what became the Morrison's.)

The report is not even consistent internally about what it means by 'travel', and so the following paragraph reads :

The parties’ survey showed that 81 per cent of Picturehouse Cambridge customers had travelled 30 minutes or less to the cinema from their home. This is consistent with our own survey, which also gave a result of 81 per cent. (para. 6.78)

This does not mean what it says, because the report is fixed on the idea of driving, as the subsequent text makes clear, but driving alone, not driving plus walking, or driving plus a parking-fee plus a smaller amount of walking. These factors might make, say, someone living in Stapleford more likely to cycle than even to get behind the wheel of a car - door-to-door transport at only the cost of effort, and with no extra time or cost, but still the journey-time.

This next paragraph beggars belief - you ask the people who would stand to benefit (by buying up one of the readymade sites) how they view Cambridge, and expect them to tell you the truth about their business plans, not playing down anything :

In addition, Curzon told us that although the demographics of Cambridge were attractive, there was too much competition under the control of Cineworld and it preferred to look at areas where there were more opportunities. Odeon considered Cambridge an attractive area, but the centre of Cambridge already had three cinemas, and it was not clear that there was enough demand to support another cinema. In addition, the city centre was tight and opportunities to enter consequently limited. Odeon [snip]. It was unlikely that Odeon would be able to open a cinema in the area in the next two to three years. If an opportunity arose, likely timescales for development were the next five to ten years. We therefore considered that timely entry in the Cambridge area was unlikely. We considered that competitive constraints on the parties would be weakened following the transaction and, on balance, that other factors at play in the Cambridge area would not defeat the lessening of competition. (para. 6.84)

So they play down how they can compete to encourage you to tell Cineworld to sell one of the cinemas, and then they just buy it. No matter whether the people who frequent these cinemas would want the films that Curzon or Odeon would show - they just get the chance to take over, because that's 'competition', even if it is a disservice to the present clientele.

Still, as long as someone watches some films or other, it doesn't matter much...

Or is that approach / logic more like that phrase of cutting off your nose to spite your face ?

And this little phrase was reported, and then ignored :

The parties also told us that demand in Cambridge could support another multiplex. (para. 6.83)

Are they trying to be clever, by saying that other chains might be drawn in, or not. It just hangs in the air - if they are right, then all the more reason for someone to gobble up whatever Cineworld is compelled to sell, because they can get rid of this home of the film festival and unprofitable arthouse rubbish, and put on solid blockbusters from noon to night !

And then there was something about surveying people and what they would do in the event of some percentage price-rise : if I wanted to watch, not the latest Batman caper, but, say, Samsara (2011), or Kosmos (2010), would I find either at Cambridge Vue or Cineworld ?

Rubbish in, rubbish out, in terms of asking a meaningful question ?

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

I knew Don Pasquale as a Cambridge restaurant

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12 August

* Contains spoilers *

I went to that restaurant for the first time with a friend long since lost - the Varsity Handbook of the time said, deliberately cruelly, that it was about as Italian as Watney's (itself rather an anachronism).

By utter contrast, Donizetti's Don P., relayed live from Glyndebourne (a place that my rather more well-heeled friend would know - I know that he knows), was not anything like a tepid ale, but magnificent, piece and production.

With what little I know of opera buffa, principally from a Haydn caper (with another man led into a delusion, that time that he had been transported to the moon), I was expecting something...

Here, the craziness was introduced step by step into the action proper, though signalled by the doctor (Dr Malatesta*) climbing in and out of secret passages during the overture - he could, equally, have been a behavioural scientist, and the others rats in his Skinner box, because he knew their world better than they did, and, more or less, pulled all the strings. (A rocking-horse soon after carried by the Don onto the part of the set that represented his (adult) nephew's bedroom hints at absurdity - no one knows the true meaning of Dada (as in Dadaism), but it is the French term for such a creature.)

I say, more or less, because de Niese (as Norina) is his essential collaborator, and she really throws herself into it, more assiduous than even Malatesta 'to teach Pasquale a lesson' ! Echoes, in that objective, of The Madness of King George (1994), Twelfth Night, or even the framing-device of The Taming of the Shrew. Notions of moral worth and not having a swollen head, which give us the term shrink (from head-shrink). (The oysters referred to above (and all that they imply) appear when Pasquale flips a hinged painting over, hiding a contemplative skull as memento mori, showing where his libido is now seeking to lead him.)

Malatesta is as focused on ends not means as Norina is, hence her not being averse to taking a bubble-bath whilst he is around, or to his getting into it... Surely not in the libretto, but pointing up what's in it for him in all this !

Likewise, Pasquale's retainer cum nurse, who is both clearly jealous when Norina in disguise comes on the scene (or curious when Malatesta shuts her out), and part of the notion that what is 'wrong with' him is his miserly and stiff-necked attitude. As Pasquale, Alessandro Corbelli showed his experience, and brought out the comedy both of his folly before 'marrying', and when his 'wife' has revealed himself in her true colours : de Niese wonderfully went to town, and Corbelli was her perfect foil.

Malatesta, creeping around the place at night like some over-sized Borrower, has been mentioned above, and this is where the stage's potential first became apparent - he would slip through one aperture, and, as the scenes moved right to left, appear somewhere else. All creating a pretty creepy, almost delusional feeling, of someone unseen on manoeuvres when one is unawares, and a very convincing (and two-faced) portrayal from Nikolay Borchev - according to one person leaving a comment on the Glyndebourne web-site, Malatesta is supposed to be 'the moral fulcrum of the tale', not a 'self interested puppet master', but, equally, de Niese was 'miscast'.

I cannot see myself ever researching this matter far enough to know what the plain text says about Malatesta, but, quite apart from anything else, Borchev sang well, and my recollection is clear enough that, unless passages have been deleted, interpolated or simply added, morality only seemed the doctor's part in the sense of Shakespearean 'problem' plays, such as All's Well That Ends Well or Measure for Measure.

Nephew Ernesto, played by Alek Schrader, did seem to have been miscast by contrast, because, for me, his voice needed to be blended with that of other singers, but otherwise seemed reedy and exposed when he had a solo line. As to Donizetti's music, de Niese seemed to have a fine sense for delivering recitative, and the harmonies created with four voices were quite enchanting.


* The name appears literally to mean 'bad in the head', but we need not worry, because Donizetti is drawing on figures from the Commedia dell'Arte.

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