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Showing posts with label El virus de la por. Show all posts
Showing posts with label El virus de la por. Show all posts

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Captured in amber - or Skin, touching skin

This is a Cambridge Film Festival preview of The Next Skin¹ (2015)

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

3 October

This is a Festival preview of La propera pell (The Next Skin¹) (2015)
(for Cambridge Film Festival 2017)

The synopsis, duration and other details for the film can be found here

The question that arises with cinema may sometimes be whether to value a stone for itself -
or for its fossil contents ?

Or - as with the best pieces of amber (even if not strictly constituting ‘a stone’) - for both ?

A mosquito in amber
Photographed (and licensed for use) by Didier Desouens

Early on, La propera pell (The Next Skin¹) (2015) sets its scene in the Pyrenees (with a sparing score by Gerard Gil, and a sound-design that echoes the mountainous landscape). It is then located there, save in retrospect, for the duration, as Michel (a French social worker) travels with and accompanies a teenager², along with the family that lost Gabriel eight years earlier, to settle him in.

In this film, the part of that it that is its location is neither over- nor understated : it is not one of those films where it is typically called (for want of anything better to say) ‘another character’ (or brooding), but it is where it is, and even Ana, Gabriel’s mother (who is ‘from the south’), needs to bear with it³.

Nothing is rushed in this film-making - the initial sounds, and then shots, of thawing ice assure us of this. The cinematographic choices that have been made prefer for what we see to be realistic to our visual sense, and so do not show us sharply what cannot be seen so clearly, and, at other times, employ for narratorial purposes uncertain images, or the effects of a shallow depth of field.

Using the word ‘uncertain’ just now (and – impliedly – ‘unclear’) reflects Isaki Lacuesta and Isa Campo’s tacit acknowledgement to us, as directors, that there is much that just will not be explained in La propera pell [or, as is the custom, in this preview]. However, it is not likely to be – as with Michael Haneke’s films, such as Amour (2012) – that the director / writers profess (as Haneke does) no more than we to know what happened : rather (with work on the script from Fran Araújo), they seem to have differently made such uncertainty part of their subject-matter, i.e. how they tell and / or show what we see. (Thus, one need not necessarily conceive of their not knowing what they choose not to show, but more - in order to put us in the position of the characters - of not showing it.)

The scope of the film is largely located in the time that Michel (Bruno Todeschini) safely believes that he can stay away (before feeling obliged to return to his colleagues). In fact, despite his having been much in the midst of the fuss and friction of unexpectedly fraught relationships and reactions [although – believably – just as often not happening to be there, too (with his off-screen actions are not accounted for)], not only is Michel increasingly not our eyes and ears, but we are also not simply or largely left to decide what we make of the tension, and of the past to which it relates.

Instead, we co-puzzle with the principals about what meant what, and why people’s attitudes might be as they are : from the first, we are aware of Sergi López' (Enric’s) generalized scepticism towards Àlex Monner² (or anyone in the position of his long-lost nephew Gabriel). What we come to gather more is in what his suspicion may be thought to reside… but we will wait in vain for La propera pell to spell everything out.

Àlex Monner and Sergi López

As alluded to in the heading of this posting (elaborating on how the preview has been titled), maybe we will feel ourselves invited, in watching the film, to judge what is true : it may be that one expects of films that, when they have ended, they have apparently said their piece. Yet, if one had watched El virus de la por (The Virus of Fear) (2015) in that expectation, during last year’s Camera Catalonia, the truth is that it simply would not even have 'spoken' fully, if the only time available for it do so was before being due at another screening.

Rubén de Eguia (Jordi) in El virus de la por (2015)

At face value, El virus is naturalistic, but its director, Ventura Pons, is arguably not intending it to be realistic per se. Such a reflective and thoughtful film needs time for us to be of a mind with it, and a film that may seem to concern itself with one thing (i.e. the staff of a sports centre and their interactions with those who use the facilities) may prove to have other pre-occupations⁴ :

What it is to be human, and not just frightened - but terrified - in the face of forces that one does not control or understand.

Brian Dennehy (as Krapp) with tape-recorder

As to Samuel Beckettt, his dramatic œuvre is as varied, about memory and the past⁶, as just the fraction of it that is represented by Krapp's Last Tape (or Not I) - but we could tell from them alone that he knows what it is ruminate, recollect and recall. Likewise, in Company (masterly amongst the last of the prose works), whose limpid telling - which begins with A voice comes to one in the dark. Imagine (and then travels via reflection and cogitation such as Deviser of the voice and of its hearer and of himself. Deviser of himself for company) - may most obviously appear to descend, via a closing form of words, to a single word :

[...] And you as you always were.


Whether heard or read, this word (although it may literally conclude Company) simply is not summative of the foregoing text, or of the import of having experienced the beauty of the writing, the intricacies of the thoughts and the imaginings...

Similarly, with La propera pell, it is suggested that we ought not to let its closing scenes limit what – given space and time – we would find ourselves thinking further. Sometimes, making an instant judgement at the end of a film may satisfy, but only where one it is in virtue of a revelation at its end that its worth consists :

Can we find ourselves content to feel that - within what the film does tell us - there is no scope to think beyond the terms of a single notion of What really happened ? If we cannot view it as such a film, it is one where to reflect about what has been seen will yield what it most means to us.

End-notes :

¹ It seems likely that, as with the phrase mon propre peau in French, the Catalan title translates as 'My own skin'.

² * If you were at Cambridge Film Festival for Camera Catalonia last year, Àlex Monner may seem familiar to you : he played the footballer Jordi in both Barcelona Summer Night (2013) and Barcelona Christmas Night (2015).

³ Assuming, that is, that Ana is Catalan (not Castilian Spanish), the south may be The Balearics, or within the land-mass of mainland Catalunya, and we do not know why Ana (Emma Suárez) moved. (Presumably to be with her husband (??).)

⁴ Thus, on this level, the process of the film – the presenting plot and whether it seems plausible – is subsidiary : how we get to the final scene is less important than realizing, as Jordi (alongside Anna, Hèctor and Laura) is besieged at the end of the film. (Or near the end of the film, before the camera lifts smoothly back to the omniscient vantage-point that it occupied at the start…)

⁵ Taken from ‘Brian Dennehy Knows His Krapp : A discussion with the star of Krapp’s Last Tape, opening this week at the Long Wharf Theatre’, Christopher Arnott’s posting for New Haven Theater Jerk (on 28 November 2011).

⁶ Not for nothing was Beckettt a devotee of Proust and À la recherche du temps perdu (of which Harold Pinter wrote a screen-play).

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

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Some Tweets about London Korean Film Festival Teaser Bluebeard (2017)

Some Tweets about London Korean Film Festival Teaser Bluebeard (2017)

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

Some Tweets about London Korean Film Festival Teaser Bluebeard (2017)

Photo credits : Dae-myung Kim (and Jin-woong Jo) (upper image) ;
Actor not credited (by IMDb), and Jin-woong Jo (lower image)

Photo credits : Jin-woong Jo (upper image) ;
Goo Shin and Dae-myung Kim (centre image)
Jin-woong Jo and Yoon Se-ah (lower image)

Film-references :

* A Girl at my Door (Dohee-ya) (2014)

* Delicatessen (1991)

* El virus de la por (The Virus of Fear) (2015)

* It’s A Wonderful Life (1946)

* The Handmaiden (2016)

* The Trial (1962)

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

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

It's only in uncertainty that we're naked and alive ~ Peter Gabriel¹

This is a Festival preview of The Virus of Fear (El virus de la por) (2015)

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

16 October

This is a Festival preview of The Virus of Fear (El virus de la por) (2015) (for Cambridge Film Festival 2016)

Albert Ausellé (as Hèctor) and Diana Gómez (Laura)

Well meant, for those who do not look to film to be easy and entertaining, people will find this sharply-edited film provocatively claustrophobic, in the way that Arthur Miller's The Crucible² is (or Max Frich's Andorra - please see below). (Its effect is gripping as a Vimeo download on a laptop, so it should be wildly immersive in Screen 1 at The Arts Picturehouse (APH / Festival Central), where it is programmed both times : please see below for the times, and for links to book seats.)

Rubén de Eguia as Jordi

(Rubén is expected as a Festival guest of Ramon Lamarca,
programmer of Camera Catalonia)

The Virus of Fear (El virus de la por) is a film that may turn out not to be ‘about’ what its subject is likely to seem to be. Not least if one guesses at its nature from the film's title, and from ways in which, sometimes largely figuratively, we have come to think what a virus is (rather than in the literal sense of Contagion (2011), Surprise Film at Cambridge Film Festival (#CamFF) in that year).

It's so twisted ~ Jordi

Yet it is does not follow from any such realization³ that anyone would be precluded from wanting to watch El virus de la por again straightaway, because knowing what happens may leave us wanting to know more closely how we got there⁴ – how the experience gained by seeing the film has been created. Though - unlike Mulholland Drive (2001) might cause us to feel - it is not that Ventura Pons' cinematic world, as director (and co-writer), involves rather bewildering sleights of hand - yet, at the same time (and in an apparently naturalistic setting), the unfamiliar does assuredly appear familiar (and vice versa, as considered further below).

An image from a review of Archimedes' Principle
The play and this film's screenplay developed in a coeval manner

It is rather that we may know that is going to be worth retracing the journey that we took with the film : as one may have found with the power in and of Kreuzweg (Stations of the Cross) (2014) at the Festival in 2014, whose impact was even stronger on a second viewing - or with The Taste of Money (2012) [one of Fifteen fine festival films at the Festival, from 2011 to 2013].

The stage-play Archimedes’ Principle [does physics still, more long-windedly, talk of The Principle of Archimedes ?] and the screenplay for El virus de la por originated alongside each other, since playwright Josep Maria Miró (@josepmariamiro / was working with director Ventura Pons to co-write the screenplay. As a review of Archimedes’ Principle put it two years ago, when it was playing at London’s Park Theatre : we jump around in time, playing and replaying scenes, which take on different meanings once an alternative position has been expressed.

I really enjoy playing with discontinuous narrative ~ Ventura Pons

If we have not seen El virus de la por, the description in the review may at first remind us of Harold Pinter’s Betrayal⁵, a play with starts backwards and forwards in time, which make us ever aware that nothing, after all that we have seen and heard in the opening scene and then straight afterwards, is what it seems. However, in terms of theatre, there are closer analogues to what we see, such as in Max Frisch’s Andorra, with clashes between fact, what people believe, and how they act, or in Jean-Paul Sartre’s Huis clos [the play gives us the quotation much used in translation, Hell is other people (L'enfer, c'est les autres)]. The link is to a t.v. production in English (in 1964), with Pinter himself, Jane Arden, and Catherine Woodville : in In Camera (as the title in French is rendered), there is no static presentation, but a camera that roams, and with a wide selection of angles and framing-shots...

Much of which, for a work of cinema, is perhaps significantly missing from the film Betrayal⁵ (1983) ? And yet was present in the way that Werner Heisenberg, Niels Bohr and his wife Margrethe - as if, physically, they were sub-atomic particles - vividly seemed to relocate and rotate, at times, in a production of Michael Frayn's Copenhagen that came to The Arts Theatre, Cambridge (@camartstheatre) [Frayn was interviewed by The Stage (@TheStage), and starts by talking about the play].

If one reads what Edward Murray wrote (albeit in 1972), he does not disagree with what is said in the Tweet by Raindance Film Festival (@Raindance). (Chapters 7 and 20 of his book The Cinematic Imagination⁶ are critiques of, respectively, ‘the Cinematic Drama’ and ‘the Cinematic Novel’, and of present trends in each.) Even so, Murray goes further, raising serious doubts about the wisdom of the enterprise :

The immense majority of superior plays fail to survive the transfer from stage to screen ; while inferior plays ― though they ordinarily adapt better than major works ― hardly ever achieve the level of the most distinguished original screenplays.

The Cinematic Imagination⁶, pp. 101–102

Told later – by Ramon Lamarca, programmer of Camera Catalonia – that El virus de la por’s essential scenario also exists as a stage-play, this ‘clicked’, and made sense. However, because it is a very good collaboration, and does not even feel like a deliberately respectful adaptation of ‘a classic’ (such as is Sílvia Munt’s of Josep María de Sagarra in El Cafè de la Marina [Munt was interviewed, as reported here, and the film which screened at Cambridge Film Festival in 2015, with guest Vicky Luengo]), it is highly sympathetic to the medium, and immediately in tune with what Murray rightly says that we look to in such a screenplay :

When a play is brought to the screen, the audience has a right to expect a degree of cinematic technical complexity, and a level of thematic depth at least comparable to the original. There is no question here of literal fidelity to the source [emphasis added].

The Cinematic Imagination, p. 169

Reassure me that I don't have any reason to worry ~ Anna (Roser Batalla)

Unless one is highly adjusted to trailers and the work of excessive revelation that they usually perform, it is unideal to watch the film’s ‘making of’ first. That said, one does hear in it how director Ventura Pons and playwright Josep Maria Miró wrote the screenplay, and of the wider possibilities that it offered both – such as a real swimming-pool and water for Miró, and what Pons found when, breaking the habit of eight earlier adaptations, he worked with what were mainly stage-actors from the play’s original cast (from whom we also hear what they learnt by (adjusting to) being on a film-set, not just on a stage…).

This film is one whose opening gaze, an establishing shot from a vantage, and with the sound of the clock-display that we see clicking over, second by second, presents the time, is also located in time, and concerns itself with what happens within its chosen shifting timescale - for, including credits, we move from 7.45 a.m. to 3.09  p.m. within the first four minutes and thirty seconds :

By then, the seeds of everything have been sown, and yet everyone proves to know so little – we included – about how to protect all that we value. (Max Frisch – whose play Andorra was referred to above – famously sub-titled another of his plays (Biedermann und Die Brandstifter) ‘ein Lehrstück ohne Lehre’, which (although we might directly translate it as A lesson without teaching) effectively means that it is a parable.)

Maybe not for some a camera that is all too rigorous in obsessively looking at everything from every viewpoint. However, it has to be said that this film is ultimately not an extreme, practical lesson in moral relativism – those in tune with it will both find Pons’ directorial approach (and, of course, the cinematography of Andalu Vila-San-Juan) compelling, and then feel a sense of anxious reconsideration of the situation transmuted to embrace all of our own deepest feelings about what it means to be alive.

NB Potential spoiler (especially for those who like to go into a film 'blind')

The broad theme treated of in El virus de la por (The Virus of Fear) might lead one to expect the same genre, mood and manner of development as in Thomas Vinterberg’s The Hunt (Jagten) (2012) [the link is to the entry on IMDb (@IMDb)].

Mads Mikkelsen as the hunted Lucas

So it needs to be said that all of those are very different here : if the latter is more like Contagion (2011) (mentioned above in passing, and also near that date of first release), El virus de la por is more like Sílvia Munt’s El Cafè de la Marina

End of spoiler...

* * * * *

There are two scheduled screenings of El virus de la por (2015) [the link is to the #CamFF web-page for the film] during Camera Catalonia (the links below are to the booking-pages for each screening) :

* Sunday 23 October at 3.30 p.m.

* Wednesday 26 October at 11.50 a.m.

End-notes :

¹ From Peter Gabriel's (@itspetergabriel's) ‘That Voice Again’ (on the album So (1986) (PG5)).

² Or even his own adapted screenplay, with Daniel Day-Lewis and Winona Ryder, in 1996 ?

³ If one does find it right that the varying perspectives with which we find ourselves presented, as, within and between events, we move around spatially and temporally, at last coalesce into another dimension of life, taking on quite a different dimension, or even a changed Weltanschauung : if, from naturalistic presentation, we find ourselves entering a more symbolic realm, where we confront what our common humanity comprises (perhaps as in The Idiot (Idioot (2011), which screened in 2012).

⁴ Not uniquely (as, for example, audio-recordings can be exactly replayed), films can have this fascination about them – as some say that they found with Jonathan Glazer’s adaptation of Michael Faber’s Under the Skin (2013) – and one very clearly knows that one wants to watch them again.

⁵ Pinter gave it a fairly direct translation to film in his screenplay of Betrayal (1983), with Ben Kingsley, Jeremy Irons, and Patricia Hodge – a film that director Mar Coll, Festival guest at Camera Catalonia in 2014, in passing indicated not approving, when talking about her work on the play’s material with students of film-making.

⁶ Edward Murray, The Cinematic Imagination : Writers and the Motion Pictures. Frederick Ungar Publishing Co., New York (1972). Leading up to Chapter 7, Murray has considered examples both of plays that try to be too cinematic, and ‘film versions [that] suffer from a bad case of staginess’. [In contemporary cinema, the latter still seems the case with August, Osage County (2013) or Venus in Fur (La Vénus à la fourrure (2013)].

Murray goes on to say that such staginess [in most film versions of plays] 'has not deterred the movie moguls from buying nearly every play ― good, bad, and indifferent ― in sight’ (p. 102), and to quote Eugene O’Neill (in 1960) (p. 105) :

Plays should never be written with … Hollywood in mind. This is a terrific handicap to an author, although few of them seem to realize it.

Quoted in Arthur and Barbara Gelb, O’Neill (New York, 1960), p. 858

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