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Showing posts with label Fielding. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Fielding. Show all posts

Friday, 19 October 2018

It is perfectly true, as the philosophers say, that life must be understood backwards ~ Søren Kierkegaard

This is a Festival preview of Jean-François and The Meaning of Life (2018)

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


21 September

This is a Festival preview of Jean-François i el sentit de la vida (Jean-François and The Meaning of Life) (2018) (for Cambridge Film Festival 2018)


The #CamFF synopsis, duration and other details for the film can be found here,
and it screens on Friday 26 October [in Screen 2 at Festival Central] at 8.00 p.m.,
and also on Sunday 28 October at 2.30 p.m. [at The Light Cinema]


It becomes an author generally to divide a book, as it does a butcher to joint his meat, for such assistance is of great help to both the reader and the carver
Henry Fielding ~ Joseph Andrews² (Book II, Chapter I)


The right book, at the right time, can change a life - and what makes it 'right' is the person whom it is trying to seek out (who could be thirteen - or thirty-three) :
Therefore, if (despite the fact that hearing Kafka's 'Die Verwandlung', read some years earlier, had made no impact) it was a reading aloud of his 'In der Strafkolonie' (from the same collection), then this Franz Kafka of Prague (as a book-title styles him) was to become an essential travelling-companion in life, along with his three novels (all unfinished), diaries, stories, fragments of ideas, even a play, and those highly curious letters written to Felice Bauer¹ (the woman whom he barely knew, but, although she was very different from him, to whom he was engaged to be married, until he withdrew from it)...


Containing many surprising adventures which Joseph Andrews met with on the road, scarce credible to those who have never travelled in a stage-coach
Henry Fielding – ibid. [title to Book I, Chapter XII]

It is this elasticity of Time's perspective (and there are further thoughts about Time below), in our living and travelling with (unknown to anyone else) the author whom we know that we - and only we - have discovered for the first time, that Jean-François i el sentit de la vida (Jean-François and The Meaning of Life) (2018) celebrates : in this sense, our experience tells us that no one else read this book before, and so we have a personal right of audience with the writer, from which we obtain direct communication and insight.
Alice sighed wearily. 'I think you might do something better with the time,' she said, 'than waste it in asking riddles that have no answers.'

'If you knew Time as well as I do,' said the Hatter, 'you wouldn't talk about wasting it. It's him.'


It is natural, and not unhelpful, to think of Lea von Acken in the role of Maria in Kreuzweg (Stations of the Cross) (2014) when first watching Jean-François : to give Jean-François his birth-name, Francesc Rubió is not French, but now must attend a school in France, and - as Maria does - is facing difficulties in fitting in.


In Kreuzweg, director Dietrich Brüggemann and his co-writer Anna Brüggemann's screenplay is very knowing, but also, as here, sympathetic to their subject without laying the film open to the charge that it is manipulative. The 'chapter' titles in Jean-François i el sentit de la vida - just as Kreuzweg is divided by the names of the Roman Catholic Stations of the Cross [the title Kreuzweg translates as 'The Way of the Cross'] - assist in giving a level of detachment.

A scene of roasting, very nicely adapted to the present taste and times
Henry Fielding – ibid. [title to Book II, Chapter VII]

Almost like musical punctuation - or mile-stones (for this film is as Picaresque as Henry Fielding's novels, quotations from whose Joseph Andrews we have already read above²) ? - there is likewise the use of Neo-Baroque and other musical interludes in Gerard Pastor's fully-composed score, which, along with their individual tone, and how they have been positioned in editing the film, deny us the leisure to be able to dwell overlong always on what we have just seen. (We may, if mid-eighteenth century novels appeal to us, find them what some nowadays may call 'page-turners', but the art of the writing is in what Fielding tells us in 'Of divisions in authors' (as quoted above, and below), and pertinent to the art of film-making.)

The musical pastiche / parody has all the poise and self-awareness of the self-proclaimed Auto Mechanics, seen here re-creating The Anatomy Lesson (1632) by Rembrandt


As cited above (and towards the close of this preview), in Joseph Andrews² the novelist Henry Fielding (1707–1754) has self-referentially devoted ‘Of divisions in authors’ (the first chapter of Book II) to the question why authors divide their novels into chapters. (Fielding is probably better known as the author of the much longer and raunchier novel Tom Jones (which was published seven years later.)


In the conduct of this matter, I say, Molly so well played her part, that Jones attributed the conquest entirely to himself, and considered the young woman as one who had yielded to the violent attacks of his passion. He likewise imputed her yielding to the ungovernable force of her love towards him ; and this the reader will allow to have been a very natural and probable supposition, as we have more than once mentioned the uncommon comeliness of his person : and, indeed, he was one of the handsomest young fellows in the world.³


Henry Fielding also overlapped with the last half-century of Johann Sebastian Bach’s life (1685–1750), in whose musical world the older composer Antonio Vivaldi (1678–1741) and Georg Philipp Telemann (1681–1767) were important figures : quite apart from anything else about the film, we hear in Gerard Pastor’s witty score pastiches of these and other composers of the time.


Since sundry details in the film, if we try to dwell on them, also defy us to be sure when exactly Portabella might have set his story, the musical dimension – along with the chapter-titles – would seem to be part of writer / director Sergi Portabella’s deliberate mechanism to evoke a multiplicity of other eras. All of these elements, maybe without our consciously realizing the fact, appear to have the disjunctive intent of adding an ironical or quizzical dimension to what we see⁴.

A very curious adventure, in which Mr. Adams gave a much greater instance of the honest simplicity of his heart, than of his experience in the ways of this world

Henry Fielding – ibid. [title to Book II, Chapter XVI]

Just as the disparate observations made in watching 'screeners' of these #CameraCatalonia films coalesce - one hopes - into a coherent whole in the process of writing previews such as this, so a film director's vision for how such elements as script, actors, hair and make-up, lighting, locations, cinematography, set-construction, etc., will come together is what causes Sergi Portabella to have Gerard Pastor write in the style of composers from the time of Fielding : one could swear, at one dramatic point, that one is hearing one of Bach's towering Orgelwerke.



Even if it is allegorically (though not just on the level of Golden Age thinking'), Midnight in Paris - as also referenced in the #UCFF preview for Miss Dali (2018) - suggests that one can be nostalgic about a time that was never one's own : Gil both desires to be a writer such as those whom he admires from Paris in the 1920s and so to have been there at that time (and accordingly - with no explanatory device⁵, and to this extent this is magical realism, finds himself able to be in Paris in the 1920s), where he meets and is captivated by Adriana (Marion Cotillard).

Which some readers will think too short and others too long
Henry Fielding – ibid. [title to Book III, Chapter VIII]

However, which is the film's thrust, it is ironic that Adriana ultimately no more wants to be in her era, the 1920s, than Gil in his... and just as he realizes that he insufficiently wishes to marry Inez, so he has to admit that he insufficiently wants to be with Adriana to go with her to the time of [Henri de] Toulouse-Lautrec. We may see that something of this order, though not reducible to or in these terms, is going on for and with our young hero in Jean-François, because of entering the orbit and world of Albert Camus.



One might also be put in mind of a number of other films, such as are referred to in this Tweet :



Thus, for example, one may discern that, as well as the closing scene of Kreuzweg, the very opening of this film somehow partly reminds of the early Woody Allen / Diane Keaton collaboration that is Love and Death (as does a note of whimsy in what turns out to be a score that comprises pastiches). In essence, the adventurous, implausible and unpredictable elements of Michel Gondry's Microbe et Gasoil (2015) [Surprise Film at Cambridge Film Festival (@camfilmfest) that year] are here turned into chapters, whose titles may prove not to be any less equivocal than some of Fielding's in Joseph Andrews (or Tom Jones).

Of which you are desired to read no more than you like
Fielding ~ ibid. [title to Book IV, Chapter VI]


And few things can be as misleading (not to say mischievous and wayward ?) as the man who called himself Laurence Sterne, and, after creating the character in The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman (1759-1767), called where he lived in North Yorkshire Shandy Hall (now a Sterne museum) - Sterne causes a black page to be printed, when his character Yorick dies, and leaves us a blank page so that we can conceive of our own description of a female character ! :


Arguably, Portabella imbues Jean-François and Jean-François with this spirit. And also with that of what Hemingway somewhere said (or wrote)⁶ :

Always do sober what you said you'd do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut.



A volume without any such places of rest resembles the opening of wilds or seas, which tires the eye and fatigues the spirit when entered upon.
Henry Fielding ~ ibid. (Book II, Chapter I)



The #CamFF synopsis, duration and other details for the film can be found here,
and it screens on Friday 26 October [in Screen 2 at Festival Central] at 8.00 p.m.,
and also on Sunday 28 October at 2.30 p.m. [at The Light Cinema]


End-notes :

¹ Are Kafka’s Letters to Felice even real, we might ask – or is it an epistolary novel, written essentially as if only ‘his’ letters survive ? When we watch Miss Dalí (2018) [the #UCFF preview is under way], during this year’s Camera Catalonia at Cambridge Film Festival, There are highly equivalent matters on which we may find ourselves reflecting about, say, what did happen when Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí collaborated...

At any rate, they are certainly amongst those parts of The Kafka Myth that suggest that other people, especially Kafka’s father, did not ‘get’ him – whereas we do, So, Brief an den Vater [Letter to My Father] duly gets collected and published – almost certainly by Max Brod. (Maybe not wholly successfully, Alan Bennett seeks to examine some of these relations, and versions of them, in his ‘irreverent’ play Kafka’s Dick.)


² Joseph Andrews, as we call it, was published in 1742 : Fielding styles it 'The history of the adventures of Joseph Andrews, and his friend Mr. Abraham Adams. Written in imitation of the manner of Cervantes, author of Don Quixote'.

Or - as expansively published in its first part in 1605, more than a century before Fielding's birth - in El Ingenioso Hidalgo Don Quijote de la Mancha of Miguel de Cervantes ? For example (from the Penguin Classics translation by J. M. Cohen) :

In which is related the device Sancho adopted to enchant the Lady Dulcinea, and other incidents as comical as they are true
[Second Part, Chapter X]


³ Quoted from Tom Jones, Book IV, Chapter 6.

⁴ On one level, Sergi Portabella is quietly asking us how much we ‘buy into’ / ‘invest in’ the knowing illusion that is cinema – although, of course, do we not remember arriving at the cinema, and that we had a ticket to present (which is our only proof of a right to occupy this seat, and see these projected images that we call a film) ?

As we find in Joseph Andrews, a chapter-title such as 'Of which you are desired to read no more than you like' [Book IV, Chapter VI] gives us what impulse to carry on reading regardless ? !


⁵ Such as is imperfectly invoked by Richard Curtis in About Time (2013)...

⁶ On this, there seems to be a consensus - so, in many ways, it is immaterial whether he did.




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