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Showing posts with label Cambridge Film Festival 2014. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Cambridge Film Festival 2014. Show all posts

Saturday, 2 January 2016

The Replicated Screenplay : A Fable

The Replicated Screenplay : A Fable

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

2 January

The Replicated Screenplay : A Fable

In thanks to Thurber for the pleasure given by his Fables for Our Time

In the hush-hush days of Hollywood, it is well past the point of no return before what has somehow happened comes to light. Through some staggering implausibility, the screenplay that has been developed in one studio is, word for word, identical with that worked on by another*, and they each had gone into production with it.

When the studio heads eventually come to believe (which is not easy for them to do) that this is truly not the result of espionage or collusion, and that litigating the matter will not get them nowhere, they accept the situation for whatever cosmic quirk it is. They agree different names for each film, and that they will battle it out at the box office, relying on the distinction brought to the screenplay of their producers, directors, stars, directors of photography, film editors, wardrobe, make-up, hair, set-design...

When the films are released, though, what amazes them most is that no one includes both films in their reviews, let alone praising one over the other : seemingly, no one has noticed.

From then on, as other studios watched in surprise, Hollywood learnt a lesson, realizing that they had been giving cinema-goers and critics too much credit. They have never looked back.


* Many will not be unaware that one is, of course, also indebted here to Jorge Luis Borges, for his story (in essay form) that re-creates the writings of Miguel de Cervantes, 'Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote’ (‘Pierre Menard, autor del Quijote’) (and for having had the opportunity to refer to it a preview, for Cambridge Film Festival 2014 (#CamFF), of Othello (Otel.lo) (2012)).

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)

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Camera Catalonia at Cambridge Film Festival 2014 Part III : Informal interview and punting with Jesús Monllaó, director of Son of Cain (Fill de Caín) (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)

4 October (updated 15 November)

Jesús Monllaó brought his first feature, Son of Cain (Fill de Caín) (2013), to Cambridge Film Festival 2014 (@Camfilmfest / #CamFF) on Day 9 (Friday 5 September 2014) as part of this year’s Camera Catalonia strand - on the following morning, @THEAGENTAPSLEY and he met again, and ended up going punting...

The Q&A in Screen 2 at Festival Central : Jesús Monllaó (left), Director of Son of Cain (2013), Ramon Lamarca (centre), curator of Camera Catalonia, and composer Ethan Lewis Malby (right) (please see below) - image by, and courtesy of, David Riley

* Contains spoilers *

This is a follow-up piece to an account of the previous night's Q&A

Middle game (continued)

As we walked to Clare to take the punt out, we talked a little further about a point that had arisen during the Q&A the previous night, when Jesús had said that Nico would next be seen in charge of a huge corporation – which was the suggestion that some people are just ruthless and evil, whereas calling that behaviour psychopathic or sociopathic invokes illness.

In commenting for this account of our chat, Jesús has written : What I tried to convey was that Nico appals us, whereas I consider him a perfectly adapted being to an utterly aggressive and competitive society. Calling him ILL just diverts the real debate.

The chat went along the lines of whether with other conditions, such as bi-polar disorder, it is justifiable to speak of them in those ways, and there was found to be common ground in experience that it is, leaving just how helpful it is, when, even if many people who have a psychopathic condition do not kill, there is no treatment, except perhaps in the very much longer term, for those who do.

For Jesús, at any rate, it helps to ask this question, and to resist a world that seeks to pathologize everything (and so the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, DSM-V, was mentioned). For his part, Jesús was not aware of the rather ambiguous novel Engleby by Sebastian Faulks, which was briefly described to him, and he, in turn, referred to a novel in Spanish, Los Renglones Torcidos de Dios by Torcuato Luca de Tena (seemingly not available in English translation).

Fluid, transitional stage

After equipping the vessel with crew, cushions, paddle and punt-pole, the following images are all by, and courtesy of, Vicky Monllaó...

Not quite the classic view of Clare Old Court,
as King's College Chapel is not visible next door

The punting guests were unavoidably told the old, old story about Queens' Mathematical Bridge - of the gift, of taking it apart to see how it worked, and not being able to put it back together (as it had been)

(Insulting, of course, to undergraduate engineers, and appropriating the word 'mathematical', when, if anything, it should be non-mathematical...)

At The Mill Pond, Jesús and his family were told how the building, now occupied by a faux-Italian restaurant-chain, used to have the working water-wheel from this former mill as a feature

(Anyone remember Sweeney Todd's there in the early 1980s, with its line of descriptions of items on the menu that ripped off and insulted the patrons over the years ?)

Heading the other way from Clare Bridge*, towards Trinity Hall and Trinity

The Bridge of Sighs - a name that connects the otherwise unrelated way into The Ducal Prison (Venezia), one route into St John's cloister-style nineteenth-century accommodation (the college uniquely boasts two bridges, for no obvious reason), and a bridge over a road, so not even over water (Oxford)

The atmospheric - if slightly dead ? - little stretch of water (as just sides of buildings within John's on either side, and barely a plant clinging on) between those bridges...


All too soon, the pleasant time on the Cam was over, and thoughts turned to directing the guests to the station for their onward journey…

Jesús does not play chess profesionally, only sometimes as an aficionado, but, when asked about how real the positions in the games were, he said that a chess master had worked with them as an adviser, and they are all famous matches – except in mirror form, because (curiously) there would otherwise have been some form of copyright for reproducing them, requiring payment of a fee.

On the right, composer of Son of Cain (2013), Ethan Lewis Malby (ELM, as he calls himself on his web-site), who has written compositions from DrumChasers to anthems for the FA and for UEFA - image by, and courtesy of, David Riley

Fighting for Ethan Lewis Maltby to score the film had been on the level of someone known to him whom he wanted to write the music, but who was not in the sphere of the backers. As Jesús himself achieves success with Son of Cain, and works on his next film in pre-production, it is clear that he is proud of Ethan’s work, and that fighting for his artistic vision should become easier…


* The oldest bridge on the river, dating back to 1641.

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

Friday, 3 October 2014

Camera Catalonia at Cambridge Film Festival 2014 Part IV : Punting-lesson with Hammudi al-Rahmoun Pont*, director of Othello (Otel.lo) (2012)

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

3 October

Camera Catalonia at Cambridge Film Festival 2014 Part IV : Punting-lesson with Hammudi al-Rahmoun Pont*, director of Othello (Otel.lo) (2012)

* NB contains spoilers (but only about punting) *

Principles of punting

* Stand stably on the back-board of the punt – unfortunately, climbing up and down from there in the first place is one thing that makes the punt most unsteady (as does anyone moving position, unless they keep low)

Balance is crucial, but not difficult to achieve

* Be aware, at all times, of overhanging trees (however decorative)

This is where the Cam turns a literal corner between St John's and Trinity

* Likewise, have regard for people in the way, especially those who clearly have no idea how to punt, and steer out of harm’s way

The punt behind is the danger here - unless it changes course, the only way is down, or into, the left-hand side of ours

Adjustment of our position averts the likelihood of being knocked on the side

* Drop the pole, into the water by the side of the punt, as vertically and quickly as possible

To begin with, dropping the pole in its optimal position will feel awkward, and require care and concentration

* Push through the pole as straight as possible, using the side of the punt to push along – it is effective, even if it makes a rough-sounding noise

In this position, the vagaries of not pushing straight, and then ending up having to adjust, mean that bumping against the side-wall is not unlikely (unless a conscious move is made towards the centre of the river)

* Except when avoiding a hazard, steer once the pole has been dropped in and pushed through, using it like a rudder, which simply needs to become second nature – for a large adjustment, pulling the pole through the water from side to back steers it one way, whereas lifting it out from the side, dropping it at the back, and moving it around to the front brings it the other way

Being in a good position to begin with (nothing behind, ahead clear) make being able to push and make any adjustment afterwards much easier

* NB Be aware that, at some points, the river is very deep, so one will have almost no push once the pole comes in contact with the bottom

* At other points, the end of the pole will engage with mud – unless it comes free on a first pull, and with a twist, leave it, as going back for the pole is what the paddle is for

* Other than having a brilliant teacher (four pupils, no dunkings) and admiring the view (when safe to do so), there are no other rules of punting - except getting through a gap in the traffic safely when one can (rather than the niceties of being on one side of the river, not least when scenic willow boughs are less lovely to punt through, and some spots are always deep or muddy)

It's tough teaching - you just need to relax, amongst the detritus of someone else's enjoyment, and relish your pupil's moves

The Wren Library, Trinity College

One can testify that Cambridge's Pint Shop provided a very acceptable alternative to Guinness®, for our Catalan punter, as a reward for his studious efforts on the Cam !


* OK, the name is Hammudi al-Rahmoun Font, but it is fun for the Freudian slip to evoke 'bridge' and 'punt'...

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

Monday, 15 September 2014

Camera Catalonia at Cambridge Film Festival 2014 Part I : Q&A with Mar Coll, director and co-writer of We All Want What's Best For Her (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)

15 September

Summary account of a Q&A at Cambridge Film Festival 2014 with Mar Coll, director and co-writer of We All Want What’s Best For Her (Tots volem il millor per a ella) (2013)

* Contains spoilers *

As detail fades already, this is necessarily an impressionistic account of a Q&A that followed the second screening, at Cambridge Film Festival 2014 (#CamFF), of We All Want What’s Best For Her (Tots volem il millor per a ella) (2013) with director and co-writer Mar Coll, and hosted by the curator of Camera Catalonia (for the third year running), Ramon Lamarca, at 1.00 p.m. on Friday 5 September

Next on the blog (the 1,000th posting), a write-up of Q&A2 from @camfilmfest with Mar Coll, director of We All Want What's Best For Her...

The first screening of We All Want What’s Best For Her at Cambridge Film Festival, at 6.15 p.m. on Thursday 4 September, had been a UK premiere and so was also followed by a Q&A*.

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

To judge only by the end of that previous Q&A, this second one maybe gave a little too much weight to the question of Geni’s character (played beautifully by Nora Navas**) being a woman. That said, Ramon has since indicated that, because Birds Eye View is interested in and for exploring issues of gender and society (in relation to film-making), they had been very present in the discussion on Thursday evening – some might therefore be coincidentally interested in the following Tweet :

The reason for asking about Geni’s gender is that the main friend, on whom the film’s handling of the topic of recovery Mar Coll and her co-writer had based the premise, was a man called Eugènio (hence Eugènia, shortened to Geni) – maybe one of those slightly irritating facts that everyone wrongly thinks that they are alone in having heard and then so many people ask about it…

In fact, Mar did not think that it would have made much / any difference for Geni’s character to have stayed as a man (and, unfortunately, the reason that she gave for making the change has not registered mentally). [However, one is – only slightly – reminded of Cambridge Film Festival 2011, and confronting British actor and first-time director Paddy Considine with the possibility of such a reversal in his Tyrannosaur (2011), i.e. the idea of Peter Mullan’s character Joseph switching, say by becoming Josephine, with that of the now-everywhere Olivia Colman, so that we have a battered man (they exist), rather than a battered woman…]

For those who had seen Mar’s film before, this repeat screening was an opportunity to notice that, however ambiguously (and, of course, fully deliberately so) the question of paying the taxi-driver may have been left, we do not see Geni’s wedding ring after when she decided (after a hesitation) to leave it with him as a ransom,: the driver has been mean to her, and could she – on some level – have been acknowledging her husband Dani’s own meanness and have been making a symbolic sacrifice ? (For example, we soon see Dani (Pau Durà) criticizing Geni for stumbling in her speech, not talking in full sentences because she is upset, and how he patronizingly cajoles her, whilst all the time calling her ‘babe’.)

Mar acknowledged the possibility (which another audience member thought might even have been at the subconscious level of a Freudian slip) that parting with the ring is symbolic : as expected in the best of film-making, Mar wants the viewer to conclude what he or she thinks happened before / is happening on screen. (So when, after the Q&A, it was briefly mentioned that maybe Geni senses that Dani is attracted to Geni’s sister Raquel (Àgata Roca***), and perhaps has even been having an affair with her, Mar just agreed about the attraction, and left the rest as a possibility**** (although it is consistent with Dani’s lack of arousal when Geni, feeling close to him, tries to initiate sex on her return home, if he had been with Raquel earlier.))

Portrait of Mar Coll by, and image courtesy of, Tom Catchesides (@TomCatchesides)

As to future projects, Mar tempted us with mention of an exploration that she is doing with a group of film students, working on an adaptation of a Pinter play, and which your correspondent established to be Betrayal. When Mar asked, many of us knew the play, even the Jeremy Irons / Ben Kingsley / Patricia Hodge film (which Mar indicated that she was less keen on), so that sounds something to look forward to…

To come (when time / energies permit) : transcript / write-up of a interview that Mar Coll kindly gave about the film and its main character…

In the meantime, this is a link to a pre-Festival review (written with the kind assistance of Ramon, the producers of the film, and the Festival), which this account of the Q&A, and, in due course, the interview are intended to amplify (as the review had consciously been of a non-spoilery nature)


* At which Tom Catchesides’ (@TomCatchesides’) striking double portrait of Mar and Ramon was taken, when Ramon interviewed Mar (together with Birds Eye View) :

** Whom we had seen before, in the Catalan strand at the Festival in 2012, as the mother in Black Bread (Pa negre) (2010).

*** Whom we also saw during the Catalan strand two years ago, in V.O.S. (2009), and also this year in Camera Catalonia, in the same director’s (Cesc Gay’s) earlier Fiction (Ficció) (2006), which screened at 2.30 p.m. on Saturday 6 September – review to come...

**** At Enric’s – Geni and Raquel’s father’s – lunch-table, we seem to gather that Dani and Raquel knew / shared with each other at university, which strengthens the parallel drawn in the review with that wonderful predecessor Hannah and Her Sisters (1986).

Mar was pleased with that link, and also with having spotted the design influence of Allen’s earlier, neglected drama Interiors (1978) (for making which he had to endure such criticism, even abuse, because it was a drama, not comedy :

A style of film to which, after Match Point (2005) and Cassandra’s Dream (2007) (a review that, implausibly, has more than 10,000 page-views on the blog…), he has only fully returned to great acclaim, in Blue Jasmine (2013).)

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)

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)