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Showing posts with label Drive. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Drive. Show all posts

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Edgar Wright's Baby Driver : A musical, in a Tarantino sort of way ?

This is a review, partly by Tweet, of Baby Driver (2017)

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

3 July

This is a review, partly by Tweet, of Edgar Wright's Baby Driver (2017)

Baby Driver (2017) palpably cannot be about what it seems, any more than is writer / director Edgar Wright's The World's End (2013), but did the audience seem to be missing that* ?

Here, there is a quantity of humour - wry, grim, and worse - that, if one is too believing of the film as story, will perhaps not have one snorting, or shaking one's head, at the audacity of the film-making (i.e. concept / script / delivery)... which is unfortunate, because these shots, the quality and precision that Edgar Wright gives us in the framing, wording, and editing, deserve our respect for what they are, i.e. not just part of, say, another 2 Guns (2013).

By contrast, Nicolas Winding Refn's Drive (2011) really does take itself so seriously [as does [ ] The Neon Demon (2016) ?], with Ryan Gosling (credited only as Driver, though one choice of garment** suggests that he models himself elsewhere) as the man who can not only be wholesome to Carey Mulligan*** (Irene = Greek for 'Peace'), but buck an approach to and use of violence based on retribution.

Nerdist also picked up on that use of colour(s) in its posting about the film's trailer(s) :

If the trailers are any indication, it would seem Wright’s been itching at giving us some beautiful shots with vibrant color palettes and, in the moment Baby and his girlfriend are talking, a shot that just screams 'EDGAR WRIGHT NEEDS TO BE DIRECTING EVERYTHING !'

Centre right, Edgar Wright evokes a grander place than My Beautiful Laundrette (1985)



End-notes :

* In Screen 1, at 6.30 on a Monday evening.

** As mentioned in the #UCFF review.

*** Also known as Mary Culligan... :

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

Thursday, 21 July 2016

In a few sentences, casting out NWR¹'s The Neon Demon (2016)

In a few choice sentences, casting out NWR¹'s The Neon Demon (2016)

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

21 July

In a few choice sentences, casting out NWR¹'s The Neon Demon (2016)

Martin Creed ~ Work No. 232 (2000) at Tate Modern (@tate)

With a film, some will want to go into it, already knowing everything about it...

Or having (in its proper sense of reading every word) perused what Little White Lies (@LWLies) – or even Picturehouse Recommends – had to say (or did say, without ‘having to’ say it), and which will have determined them to watch - or to shun².

'when you were young, you dressed yourself and walked where you wanted'
John 21 : 18

Nicolas Winding Refn's (NWR¹'s) The Neon Demon (2016) is very deliberately mannered, and to the extent that his dialogue desires - in massive swathes of overly-delayed reaction - to be portentous. However, alongside its mise-en-scène³, instead it ends up just feeling very ponderous : nigh tediously so, with an affect that aims at insightful awkwardness, but largely conveys leadenness.

Music choices, as ever, are strong, but, having made a graphic point of doing so in Drive (2011), NWR seems unable to do other than try to shock his audience, as if crediting that it will have a lack of interest in the first-blush, well-worn premise of the traps of (the topos of) a beautiful young girl, come to California to trade on attributes that she knows herself to possess.

Prey on her what may - which, of course (and in order to provide the shocks), it duly does...

This is what [some] others said, at more length… :


End-notes :

¹ Winding Refn is now monogrammed, with the claimed status of the royal or the regal, at the head of his films. (Although, according to Wikipedia®, A series of uncombined initials is properly referred to as a cypher (e.g. a royal cypher) and is not a monogram.)

² Maybe it is the bane of many a film-maker (or distributor) that a book is judged by what is not even its cover, though those in the latter category do not entirely help their cause when a trailer makes an excellent film seem weak, or a poor film worth the watch, because of how scenes, snippets and elements of dialogue have been unrepresentatively mixed up and divorced from their filmic setting, in favour of creating an impression that the work itself does not substantiate (let alone footage that is in a trailer, but did not make the cut to appear in the film itself…).

³ Which obviously heavily evokes Tony Scott's Tarantino-scripted True Romance (1993) (whose being shot by Scott left Tarantino himself free to direct Reservoir Dogs (1992)).

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

Sunday, 28 December 2014

Revisiting City of Angels (1998) after The Matrix (1999) (and Drive (2011))

This is a review / exploration of City of Angels (1998)

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

28 December

This is a review / exploration of City of Angels (1998) (re-watched on DVD)

Appearing just before The Matrix (1999), City of Angels (1998) somehow inhabits a benign version of its city of also black-costumed guardians : there, Morpheus, Trinity, and Neo enter it from their reality, based in a submarine-like craft*, beyond The Matrix itself** – and are effectively (in the sense of an immune system) infections that Agents Smith, Brown and others (the guardians of that system) seek to locate and destroy. In City of Angels, Seth, unseen with his fellows, is a guardian of the angel variety (hence Los Angeles).

However, the idea of being watched over might not yet be counter to the spirit of enjoyment that is willing to entertain the framing-story of Capra’s now-classic It’s A Wonderful Life (1946), with Clarence (Henry Travers) ‘getting his wings’ (against a divine backdrop) through the saving of George Bailey and family (James Stewart, Donna Reed (Mary Bailey) and Thomas Mitchell (Uncle Billy)). It’s A Wonderful Life supposedly was a failure on its release, but is part of Christmas for many***. After the opening sequence, the God perspective, which is present throughout Meg Ryan’s (Dr Rice’s) involvement with Seth (Nicolas Cage), is downplayed in, and into, some moments of comedy (or fun).

Even so, when we have George, surveying the world that there would have been without him – a befuddled, slow-to-comprehend George**** (partly under the influence of cheap booze) – the mood, of course, is dismal, stark, chilling. And, for some, seeing how George has been put upon, disappointed, and ended up making sacrifices is too much to be balanced by how the film eventually closes : cruel vignette after vignette that show the optimism and hope of youth turned to 'service' and 'duty'*****.

Which brings us back to the angels, and whether contemplating them is a help to us : Messenger (Dennis Franz) and Cassiel (Andre Braugher) are the ones whom we come to know (alongside, and in relation to, Seth). Some of us, in a God-empty universe, might revolt at the notion that, in a lapse of attention, an air-traffic controller could, by the unfelt touch of an invisible angel, be brought back down to ground (pun not intended, but still included) – from thoughts of domestic matters to a flight on his screen that he has overlooked.

For some have to rejoice instead in asserting a post-Nietzschean world – preferring that to what are viewed as the empty comforts of religion (and ignoring the force of logic in Pascal’s Wager ?). In this film, Maggie Rice is seen, seeking to be rationalistic about the world and mortality (and even talking to herself, trying to get herself to believe it), but hurting with the fact of ‘losing’ her patient (Mr Balford) on the operating-table – whom Seth was, in parallel, tasked with taking to eternal realms.

Only a little licence that Maggie should take it so personally, because cardiac surgeons may well be bound, at times, both to examine themselves for what they may have done wrong, and to feel solely responsible for battling against death. Seth says that he has been struck by how hard Maggie fights, and believes that she could see him, ready to take Mr Balford away. From there on, and with Messenger’s help, their appreciation of the realities of their positions occupies the bulk of the film, with Seth (as does Neo) needing to test his powers to find out who he is.

It is a film infused by the theology and iconography of Milton in Paradise Lost, and, if considered in the context of the Matrix trilogy as a whole, it also ends with reconciliation, telling a story of loss and love : Seth, who had not even been heeding his own needs, ends up affirming the positive that there is in life by plunging into the sea, as Messenger earlier showed him how…

The New Testament’s First Letter of Peter seems to speak of the curiosity of the angels in desiring to know what will happen to mankind, and there is the same sense of the angels Seth and Cassiel, existing on the outside of their own experience – sitting together, as buddies, high above the city (on a sign or a statue), and marvelling at the nature and order of things :

Wonder not then, what God for you saw good
If I refuse not, but convert, as you,
To proper substance; time may come when men
With Angels may participate, and find
No inconvenient Diet, nor too light Fare:
And from these corporal nutriments perhaps
Your bodies may at last turn all to Spirit
Improv'd by tract of time, and wingd ascend
Ethereal, as wee, or may at choice
Here or in Heav'nly Paradises dwell;
If ye be found obedient, and retain
Unalterably firm his love entire
Whose progenie you are. Mean while enjoy
Your fill what happiness this happie state
Can comprehend, incapable of more.

(John Milton, Paradise Lost, Book V)


* Thankfully, the Nebuchadnezzar is not a yellow craft.

** Unlike The Wachowskis’ machine-city, where the only outside (at least in the first part of the trilogy) is that of the rebels’ quasi-submarine, the final section of City of Angels takes us beyond LA (and even Drive (2011), with its similarly impressive noctilucent cityscapes, has a brief interlude of respite).

*** Though there are interesting, lesser-known alternatives such as The Bishop’s Wife (1947) (Cary Grant, Loretta Young, David Niven), or even Meet Me in St. Louis (1944) (Judy Garland).

**** One is almost reminded of Macduff, feelingly denying the acceptance that all my pretty chickens and their dam have been lost.

***** Pot o’ Gold (1941) (later known as The Golden Hour) has Stewart as a character (Jimmy Haskel) who seems to move in the opposite direction from the battles with Potter (Lionel Barrymore) that embroil George Bailey :

Jimmy gives up the happy, but parlous, mayhem of the music shop that he runs to go to work for his music-hating uncle, Charley Haskel (a CJ decades before that of David Nobbs’ Perrin). Music then becomes the symbol around which the warm-hearted unite, and which the bigoted CJ despises (largely to comic effect, as when he is obliged to try to sing by Jimmy’s former cell-mates, and ends up – thanks to Charles Winninger’s skill – amusingly hoarse).

In a plot that makes no / few pretensions to hang together (except through music, and centred for no very obvious reason on Ma McCorkle’s orderly yet anarchic boarding-house), Pot o’ Gold still revolves entertainingly around chucking a rotten tomato, gratuitous off-screen violence, proud lovers, and just as stubborn neighbours…

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

Saturday, 30 November 2013

The cable guy

This is a review of Channeling (2013), as shown at Bath Film Festival 2013

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

30 November (revised 3 December)

This is a review of Channeling (2013), as shown at Bath Film Festival 2013 (@BathFilm) and thanks to a complimentary ticket from the festival

89 = S : 15 / A : 15 / C : 14 / M : 16 / P : 14 / F : 15

A rating and review of Channeling (2013)

S = script

A = acting

C = cinematography

M = music

P = pacing

F = feel

9 = mid-point of scale (all scored out of 17, 17 x 6 = 102)

The title of Channeling* (2013) is deliberately multivalent, meaning both the sense of He channelled his energies into archery, and putting something on a channel (so that others can see and hear it).

As director / writer Drew Thomas told us in answer to one of my questions, the family of whom Wyatt (Taylor Handley), Jonah (Dominic DeVore) and Ashleigh (Skyler Day) are the grown-up offspring is a dysfunctional one : one son travels from Yemen for a funeral, and is then (in his only real-time appearance) told off by the father for not being there in time. I had asked because, when we see him, as a younger man caught on home video, pick up a boy at whom he has barked orders, it is unclear what he did, but it smacked of abuse.

As with Ashleigh’s confessional moment on camera into the mirror, Thomas said that he had intended to portray a self-loathing that might lead someone to seek approval from ratings for their actions or choices (made or to be made). When we saw this system of rating manipulated in the night club, and indeed the events that had led up to it, the film did seem momentarily a bit insubstantial and trivial in a way that The Bling Ring (2013) is in spades, but it moved away from it, and this was something, perhaps a little self-indulgently, that Thomas almost did throughout the film of mining different genres for what they were worth before moving on, and a little too much at the risk of lacking cohesion.

Saying that, the dummy commercial that opens the film is funny, thought provoking, and satirical, with insights into where the world of Twatter and what I call Arsebook logically lead to – it plunges one straight into a counterfactual world that, as in Looper (2012), does not stray far from the things that we know in what it changes.

The moments of humour characterize the film, although we are not always sure that it is permitted to laugh, and it also expects us to do some work in piecing together what has happened in and following the pursuit sequence that we see. Whether it is the equipment that was giving us the audio or how it has been recorded that made the early dialogue hard to follow was unclear – it might partly have been ‘tuning into’ Wyatt’s accent (different from that of his brother, but then his brother is an army sergeant, and has been serving for a long time), or partly that, as in Top Gun (1986) (for example), those in situations of combat or other peril are not perfectly audible in their pressurized communication.

Not least since this is set in California and begins with a car chase, expectations of topping Drive (2011) spring to mind, but the excitement of the action on the road, and elsewhere, has been styled, Thomas told us, to be more like the era of Dirty Harry (1971) (he did not name that series of films) and of film noir. Just in these things (there was a feel of The Rockford Files or Starsky and Hutch, not least with the token black guy who is the IT whizz), there was already quite a mixture of feels, let alone with a gangland punishment (including a British-sounding baddie ?) that made one wonder if it was going to have equivalent scenes in Seven Psychopaths (2012) or – sticking with Colin Farrell – In Bruges (2008) in its sights.

Whether these disparate elements enhance or dissipate the film’s energies, I remain unsure, as it is all too true that many a science-fiction film sticks to type, whereas this one shows off its director’s literacy of references. It also has an enviable soundtrack, making an impact right with the opening commercial, and even a live band in the night club reminiscent of The Doors.

The other question that I asked relates to a film that I only saw once, but which teasingly plays with the question of free will versus determinism, which is Michael Douglas in The Game (1997) : appropriately ‘channelled’ by the festival’s founder**, Chris King, I asked Thomas whether the technology of people sharing their actions and following their ratings, which the film initially seems to be about, had come first, or whether the deterministic theme had always been what interested him most (it had). He had wanted to explore the ways in which people do not (or refuse) to take responsibility for what concerns them, and had seen a link with how people in the US use the technology of social media to arrive at an answer based on what others tell them.

If that Doors tribute was deliberate, maybe it leads off in some other directions : Maybe not the advocacy of mescalin and other mind-altering substances, though, in the film, we see tablets of what turns out to be called Oxy crushed and then snorted as if it were coke, but using the edge of the pervasive sort of mini-tablet as a straight edge to line it up.

Perhaps the Warhol-type being famous for fifteen minutes, and just doing things to get a higher number of followers, is a sort of intoxicant or tranquillizer, not unlike Marx’s ‘opiate of the masses’, not least when we see both what use the club bosses are putting participants’ behaviour to and how they control it ?

All in all, a thoughtful film, even if it may be too much of a rich blend of influences for the competing calls on our attention to allow us to settle down – though, since Thomas seems to have aimed at the feel that it has, and if it does still hold together, it may not be right (in a film about people taking responsibility) to imagine a film that he have made by suppressing some of those instincts***…


Through fatigue and oversight, a few comments did not get formulated originally as more than notes, from which this text is developed :

Wyatt is not alone in his perilous exploits, for he has an accomplice (or whose side is she on ?) in Tara (Kate French). When Jonah tries to explore what his elder brother has been up to, Tara's allure is tangible, but her first reaction to Jonah using Wyatt's device and channel is hostile (a number of retorts to his attempts to speak, such as wishing him cancer).

Comparisons between the brothers are inevitable and deliberate, and, although we see that the professional soldier (Jonah) is tough, and can also drive, he is never going to be Wyatt (perhaps a pressure that he has always put on himself, helped by his father's attitude and actions).

Perhaps it is Tara's confusion, on all levels, that leads her to blow hot and cold towards Jonah, but she definitely starts by imputing blame : here, there seems to be a sort of fog of war about who people really are and who did what, which, in a digital age, when people do masquerade, and when the film explores the boundaries between what is real, what staged (and what predictable, what fixed), makes for even greater richness of reference.

Other questions from the Q&A

Had the Eyecast technology been patented ? Thomas seemed pleased enough not to have been sued, and did mention Google glasses (which, he said, make one look like a dork). He did not appear to have investigated whether it had any commercial possibilities.

Was Eyecast a real application (some would say 'app'), or had the screens that showed it been green-screened ? Yes, it is a real application, but, for technical reasons, some screen-shots had been re-done in post production.

Was Ashleigh meant to be sympathetic or irritating ? Thomas took it that the questioner must have found her irritating (which was confirmed), but answered by emphasizing her position as a person seeking approval (see main text, above).

Given the acts that people are performing or committing on a live channel, why were the police not - or slow to be - involved ? Thomas pointed to other works on film and t.v. where the police lag behind, and suggested that the same might be as true here. (The Agent Apsley wondered whether Eyecast had bought them.)


* One ‘l’, because it is a US spelling.

** Who relayed questions through a microphone linked to the laptop for the Skype connection.

*** Just one likely flaw : when Jonah goes to Eyecast, gains access by his brother’s account name, and passes himself off as he, the assumption is that Wyatt never did what Ashleigh does and put herself on camera by reflection. (It could be that, given how the account has been used, that was never done.)

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

Saturday, 3 August 2013

Only God forgives – so you’re dog-meat !

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2012
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)

3 August

* Contains spoilers *

I doubt that one can look for morality in this tale of Only God Forgives (2013), no more so, say, than in Webster’s play The Duchess of Malfi, or Ford’s ’Tis Pity she’s a Whore – not to say that there are not motivations, codes of behaviour, because there are, and it is their inconsistency with each other that leads to conflict, death, slaughter.

Slaughter is the word for it, in its purest sense – despatching a beast with some ceremonial, even if not with the supposed aim of the abattoir to be humane about what is done in the service of butchery. In others’ responses, I detect an air of if not revulsion, then distaste, in wanting to relish this film, not so much as if it were a guilty pleasure as if it were immoral to say that one had watched it – might or would watch it again…

I am unsure about whether that is right, whether there is a moral issue, and find myself wondering whether director Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive (2011), which has more propulsion from Ryan Gosling than here (where he plays Julian), is so far away : are we rooting for Gosling’s character Driver because he seems ‘selflessly’ to be risking his own well-being, life, future to protect Irene (Carey Mulligan) and her family, whom he comes to know and then she turns out to have a soon-to-be ex-convict husband ? That excuses the violence, the brutality that, bidden, seem to erupt from Driver, because it is in the knight’s service of a lady ?

We really know little about Driver’s inner life, however he has existed with his underpaid garage job and bare dwellings, because he seems to have no needs other than looking at and knowing Los Angeles and using that in the thrill of his night job – of course, we approve of him, because our film head allows us to reckon that the burglaries / robberies are of a faceless kind where there is no real victim, or, if there is a victim, then Driver is only the driver, and we want him to do what his name says, and get away.

And morality ? Is it really any more present in Drive than in Kill Bill Vol. 1 (2003) and Vol. 2 (2004), for, in a world where X is killing Y because of – or to avoid – the death of Z, we stand back, willing The Bride (Uma Thurman) on since she seems more sinned against than sinning. Whatever the history of revenge may be, and whether we choose to trace it back to Aeschylus or to Cain and Abel, the phrase an eye for an eye (and a tooth for a tooth is part of our culture :

Which is where we come to this film’s portentous-sounding title, which has the ring of being a Biblical / Shakespearean / classical text, but without identifiably* being one : do we watch the film, bearing in mind that there seems no evidence that anyone facing, as the case might be, severance, immolation or decapitation (a sort of one-armed bandit of death, if the ‘right’ line of three comes up), appears to be preparing to meet any sort of maker ? If we do, then I think that the issue of immorality disappears – no one here is seeking any sort of forgiveness, only a craven avoidance of death or other penalty.

But not quite everyone : when requested, the man who aided the failed ambush on the police in the eating-place / bar goes into a corner in the shadows and writes his excuse, which is read by Chang (Vithaya Pansringarm), and then handed to one of his officers. We have no more notion than that of what the man has to say for himself, and there is then a moment of uncertainty until Chang acts – when he does so, the story moves on, and we do not know what effect, if any, ‘the excuse’ had… Except that, in this respect, the film is explicit about crime and punishment, so can we suppose that he received clemency (of some sort) ?

If by immorality it is not the downward spiral of retribution to which people object (which haunts A Midsummer Night’s Dream just as fully as it does the graphic bloodiness of Titus Andronicus, to which, to King Lear, and to the Sophoclean Theban trilogy of plays concerning Oedipus there is more than a shallow nod), but the tribal, self-appointed justice of the police through the offices of Chang, then I am at a loss to follow the argument or experience the feeling.

The echoes that I have mentioned are there, and I shall explore them at greater length in a separate posting, but musically, in tone, in plot, and in modes that essentially consist of stasis (fixed poses, unblinking gazes, etc.), slow motion (for example, slowly receding down or proceeding along corridors, as if of a maze) and sudden activity (Julian chasing Chang, Chang enacting vengeance, or Chang chasing the man whom he gives a Bob-and-Vic-type treatment) I was hugely put in mind of Enter the Void (2009).

As to music, I found it as unsubtle, because I was fully aware, say, that the only tension in the scene where Mai (Yayaying Rhatha Phongam) seems – if the scene happens in reality, not imagination – to be masturbating in from of Julian after tying his arms to a chair came from the chordal disharmony, which I mentally stripped away, and the visuals were devoid of it. Since, in these terms, the soundtrack was too much on the surface, too obvious, I could not help detaching it at other times, such as the early appearance of Kristin Scott Thomas as Crystal, Julian’s mother, and a moment that, better done, could have been laden with the significance that was sought. With Void, I could likewise not help being aware that the cinematic effect was largely created by an attempt to manipulate the viewer and create sensation that was lacking from the screen itself.

My recollection is of an over-indulgent sense of stasis in that film, connected largely with the use of drugs – as here, drug-induced crime leads to dislocation, mayhem, revenge, and I cannot claim, ever since Robert de Niro was shown stoned in Once Upon a Time in America (1984), to have found those under the influence a source of fascination, whether going ‘to meet the devil’ as Billy (Tom Burke) does, or sitting staring on a sofa. If either film sees itself as a meditation on death or the truths of life, it falls far short for me :

Void felt pretentious, and Only God feels too much like a mash-up to be more than pastiche, whether referencing (slightly) The Matrix (1999) and the film-world that influenced The Wachowskis in making it, or William Shakespeare’s bloodier moments, as well as the softer ones that we see in Julian, both in would-be revenger Hamlet, or in Macbeth, needing Lady Macbeth (equals Crystal ?) to stir him to the pitch where he can murder Duncan.

I believe that Only God is a step or two in the wrong direction from the impact of Drive, which impelled the viewer – this viewer found more in the naivety and yet, with it, un-guessed-at ferocity of Driver than in the sub-Freudian musings behind portraying Billy, Julian, Mai and Crystal.

Our film-maker may believe that he is using reflectiveness and moments of quiet to speak to us, but the techniques are so evident that, unless he intends an alienation to make us step back from the detail of the action and view it as a sort of ballet, as a sort of death-laden dance in the spirit of Greenaway’s The Pillow Book (1996), he simply fires up our critical faculties to unpick what plot there is and whether it hangs together. In that respect, a response very like that to Holy Motors (2012).

More to come


* The Internet / Google does not help much here with a search, because it is laden with references to the film, but The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations does.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Lack of Drive ?

This is a review of Drive (2011)

More views of - or after - Cambridge Film Festival 2011
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)

14 October

This is a review of Drive (2011)

* Contains spoilers *

It took me a long time to seek to work this one out:

The lack of impetus for a review that I have experienced comes from no lasting impression of Drive (2011), in terms of thoughts that arise from it. It's not that one cannot choose to think about it, because I can, say, summon Carey Mulligan's face and demeanour (as Irene) to mind quite easily, but there is nothing in superficially recalling the fact that I have seen this film that makes me want to.

As with seeking to review Drive, it's not exactly that I have to force myself to revisit it, but that the film just doesn't seek me out unbidden and remind me of it (unlike, dare I say it, Tirza? - or Dimensions?).

Not that I think that anything is necessarily wrong, or, indeed that this isn't a good film (or that I wouldn't watch it again), because, unless there is a long list to be critical about, I would not find it natural to write as much about most documentaries than about most feature films - but without implying any superiority of one type over the other. Not having anything to say does not mean much, as the film may be eloquent enough on its own account (as is Charlotte Rampling in The Look, for example).

What I will say is this: Dirty Harry; restraint erupting into violence; Clint Eastwood. Those are all things that echo, not so much through Ryan Gosling's performance as Driver, as the character himself. A review in the Festival booklet TAKE ONE, of which I was a little and (I hope) no more than gently mocking, drew attention to the fact that, although we (I?) could swear that we hear him called something, we do not: Ryan Gosling is credited simply as Driver. (By contrast, in 1971, Eastwood was the Harry of the film's title.)

Does the lack of a name say more than Driver's prepared speech? Definitely, the speech is where I came in with thinking of Harry Callahan and his famous 'Do I feel lucky?' spiel.(Moreover, Harry is relatively nearby in San Francisco, where he is seeking a gunman calling himself Scorpio: and what is the emblem on Driver's light-coloured jacket?) For anyone who knows Harry, I cannot believe his formulation would not have been a touchstone for Driver's own, either because, as with Travis Bickle, Driver has modelled a persona, or (or as well) because the film is nodding to that sort of territory:

We first hear the set speech (as a recalled voiceover) where Driver is very much in control, dictating the terms; when we hear it again, he is trying to pretend (to himself, as much as anyone?) not only that he is still in control, but also that he knows what he has let himself in for - which he (clearly) does not. (Though there has been a foreshadowing of the violence in the scene where he is accosted, when drinking in a bar, by someone who recognizes him as having driven for him: it had not gone well for that man's accomplice and him, but he is told quite clearly where to get off when he makes a proposition to Driver.)

But is the attempt to be in control linked to, and just an aspect (albeit a central one) of, the namelessness? I think that it may be (don't worry, this isn't a review of the Eastwood film - trust me!): Harry asserts himself, asserts the role of chance, in confronting another man with a weapon that may (or may not) be out of ammunition, but does so through a set pattern of words - a mantra, a prayer, it doesn't matter what it is, it works for him, and that is what it is intended to do. After Driver's second utterance of his speech, he is more and more on his own in making choices, planning, seeking to regain control, to protect and survive.

Whatever his life exactly has been before, he has survived with work in the garage and, relatedly, driving. Yes, he does different sorts of driving (and there is a neat misdirection with the scene where he is about to do a stunt, and is dressed in LAPD uniform), but there is no detail, no feeling of a life led other than by a cipher.

When Irene asks him, he says that he has recently moved to the - unfurnished, unpersonalized? - apartment around the corner from her, but, after a hesitation, he continues that he is not new to Los Angeles (as becomes evident - from where he works, and from how he knows where he is going when he drives). (Yet, with the stunning night views of the city, I almost feel that we know LA better than we do Driver.)

So is what the film wants to say that meeting Irene and her son Benicio changes his life? - and, not necessarily for the better, vice versa? He wants to help and protect her - but in his chosen way, which involves exposing her to an epsiode in the lift that will surely gain a life of its own. However, as things happen (not entirely outside his own making - a self-destructive streak, consistent with the nature of the night driving that he does?), he cannot be with her, cannot do any more than further conceal his identity and who he is.

Maybe, if anywhere, that's where there is scope to wonder: what does he really see in Irene, and what is his vantage-point? Yes, she seeks his company (and, in doing so, is not being strictly honest about what her intentions are and what is possible), and she would - might? - not have sought it, if she had known the truth about him. He does more than go along, clearly enjoying spending some time (the film is vague as to how much or for how long) with Benicio and her, and becoming aware that they may be exposed to risk.

Regarding the timing of the second time that we hear Driver's speech, and where everything really starts to change, he tells Irene that he had offered to help Standard, her husband. That may or may not be true, as Standard is shown playing a line in innuendo and low-level menace that suggests that he thought ill of Driver's recent attentions to his wife and son, and that appearance seems more consistent with his having 'suggested' that Driver should help Standard with his problems.

In any event, whether he is free or not to do what he does, he assuredly does it for Irene and for Benicio, not for Standard. Maybe it seems likely that he would, maybe it doesn't, but he does, and that is just another part of his unknowability: the tender (but quiet) times in Irene's company, contrasted with the explosions of violence. Maybe more of Travis, along with Harry, after all...?

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Those CFF events (so far...)

7 September

Thursday 15
4.45 Ace In The Hole
8.00 Opening film: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (sold out)

Friday 16
12.45 Tomboy
3.15 Rembrandt Fecit 1669 (Jos S.)
8.00 The Illusionist (Jos S.)
11.00 The Day The Earth Caught Fire - decide on the night

Saturday 17
12.45 Jess + Moss
3.00 Black Butterflies
8.15 Jos Stelling in Conversation (Q&A)
10.30 Don't Be Afraid Of The Dark

Sunday 18
3.15 No Trains No Planes (Jos S.)
5.45 White White World
8.15 Burnout

Monday 19
1.00 Bombay Beach
3.30 The Camera That Changed The World + another
5.45 A Useful Life
10.30 Sympathy For Mr Vengeance - decide on the night

Tuesday 20
8.15 Drive
11.00 Red State - decide on the night

Wednesday 21
3.15 As If I Am Not There
8.15 Dimensions (sold out)
11.00 Wild Side - decide on the night

Thursday 22
12.30 The Seventh Seal
11.00 Bullhead - decide on the night

Friday 23
3.30 Jo For Jonathan
6.00 The Nine Muses
8.15 Gerhard Richter: Painting
10.30 Red White & Blue - decide on the night

Staurday (?) 24
12.30 Kosmos
8.00 Tyrannosaur
10.45 Guilty Of Romance - decide on the night

Sunday 25
3.15 Sleeping Beauty
6.00 Surprise Movie (probably sold out)
8.30 Closing film: The Look