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Showing posts with label Kristin Scott Thomas. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Kristin Scott Thomas. Show all posts

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Catching up with Kristin - and her venerable ma

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

26 June

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

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

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

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

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

25 May

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

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

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

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Stranded (Excuse the pun) ?

This is a review of The Sea (2013)

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

8 May

This is a review of The Sea (2013)

With no knowledge of the prize-winning novel from which John Banville is credited with adapting the screenplay, one can only comment on other literary features that are apparent, the whiff of L. P. Hartley’s child- and class-centred novel The Go-Between* (also the film of that name from 1970), the feel of Harold Pinter’s troubling Old Times, and of Cocteau’s also troubling text Les Enfants Terribles (and his influence on Jean-Pierre Melville's directorship of Cocteau's screen adaptation). (Not to mention the ring and aura of many Irish actors who have played in Beckettt’s work, or read it aloud.)

The Pinter has a direct link here, for Rufus Sewell, this film’s register-twisting adult male (Carlo Grace), played opposite Kristin Scott Thomas and Lia Williams as Deeley when they magnificently alternated the roles of his wife Kate (reviewed here when KST played her) and Kate’s friend Anna (likewise reviewed – and that on the last night of the run at The Harold Pinter Theatre**).

Sewell brings to the part the mix of lightness and indefinable menace that he found in Deeley, and serves perfectly for Connie Grace’s (Natascha McElhone’s) mate, she seeming to be carefree – and open to misinterpretation (not only tones of Hartley, but also of the mystery of childhood for Stephen Wheatley, the narrator of Michael Frayn’s novel Spies (from 2002), who is similarly drawn back to his past). Connie, more welcoming than Carlo gustily feigns to be, does not reckon with the backlash from Carlo’s and her playful high spirits, in invasive yet immersive scenes that we cannot, deep down, utterly credit being remembered aright (any more than the Pinter trio’s competitive claims for their time in London), because (through colour-balancing in shooting or post production) they are tinged with colour, golden light – as if of a Golden Age.

The mixture of fascinated flirting, stark inadequacy / naivety, and simply being in love with this unworldly family of Graces that Matthew Dillon brings to the role of Max Morden has us hooked into what he feels and then tries to think through – without that immediate involvement with his world, his viewpoint, nothing that Ciarán Hinds brings to his stark, rather gruff universe, whose colour (in a Night and Day contrast, especially at the key moment in the drama) seems to have been sucked from it, would move and affect us.

If we are tempted to think that it is a mystery falsely postponed that Hinds’ character keeps from Charlotte Rampling’s, and hers from him, that each knows who the other is, then it is best thought of as an unfolding : as in Old Times, the power is not in knowing (or guessing) the story, but, as always with Pinter (or in mature Beckettt), in the telling itself, the words, actions, nuances.

As also with Pinter, the resolution – if there is one – is on the level of some sort of acceptance. Max Morden (Hinds), suspicious of whether fellow guest Karl Johnson (Blunden) has a real or invented military past, suspicious and frightened, in fact, of so much, and feeling such pain, hurt and guilt, senses that he has misjudged this man. Perhaps, in his heart, he senses that, even if the forces background is a convenient fabrication, then not only have been his own references to ‘my parole officer’ (or maybe needing to write about Pierre Bonnard), but also the stories and confusions with which he has dogged himself / allowed himself to be dogged by through some misplaced respect, reverence even…

The Sea impresses strongly with how it has been shot and put together, no least as a worthy companion for the stunning Calvary (2014) and its own Irish grounding. Not, in that trite way, that the location is another character – just to the extent that Morden, shunning the present, seeks to inhabit this place in County Wexford, and finds that he has the weight of its cruel reminders to bear, borne in Hinds’ terrified expression of being in thrall.

In its way, more alarming for Morden than the demons of Event Horizon (1997), though not, for us, with its lingering mood (or that of Under the Skin (2013)), but rather with a final promise of peace, which could be as redemptive as that of Eric Lomax in The Railway Man (2013).


* For no very good reason, a dear friend thinks of it as The Gobi Twin (though a title of some resonance after all).

** That review has, at the time of writing, a staggering 1,302 page-views on the blog, the other just 88… !

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

Monday, 24 February 2014

Dickens in Love

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

24 February

* Contains spoilers *

This is a follow-up piece to a review of The Invisible Woman (2013), and a question asked of actor / director Ralph Fiennes, partly about Dickens’ wife Catherine’s motives.

In Manchester, during the after-play party near the start of the film, Nelly Ternan (Felicity Jones) is sitting next to Catherine Dickens (Joanna Scanlan), and the former says how she had not expected anything to be so lasting in her memory as Bleak House, but is finding a rival in what she is now reading [David Copperfield ?]. One must judge with what motive, but the latter retorts ‘Tis a fiction, designed to entertain, with which opinion Nelly briefly, but strenuously, states her disagreement.

When the women meet again, Dickens (Ralph Fiennes) has sent his wife to Nelly’s mother’s house, and she asks Nelly if she is fond of Dickens. She scarcely allows Nelly to answer before she intervenes to say Silly question – he is Mr Charles Dickens !. The question arises (as it did in the Q&A with Fiennes) whether what she goes on to say to Nelly is out of any sort of envy or desire to put her off, or just from the simple motive of telling the truth, how it is with Dickens and her :

Essentially, she reports her own experience, that Dickens has an extra-marital devotion to his readership / audience that makes her uncertain to say which he cares more for, them or her. In saying what she does, she suggests that it is not easy to find his affections divided, and that may merely be a statement of fact.

But why express it to Nelly ? Out of sheer feminine feeling and a desire to be helpful ? The context is as follows :

* Some time before at the Dickens' home, Charles expresses his defiance in the garden at what his sister-in-law and Catherine are urging about the rumours, and declares that he will not stop seeing Nelly* – he then goes back to playing with the children

* At some other point that summer, it is Nelly's twentieth birthday, and we are at the Ternans' house – this is when Catherine calls, with the redirected present from Charles

* When, later that day, Charles and Wilkie (Tom Hollander) whisk Nelly away to Wilkie's home, and she leaves, she confronts Charles on the steps of her family home (just before a policeman intervenes), criticizing him for sending the mother of his children to her – he says that he wanted Catherine to see what he sees in Nelly, and says that Catherine has no understanding

* There is the ambiguous scene of proximity indoors, then the next thing is the boarding-up to partition the Dickens house, a very quick scene

* After the awkward meeting between Charles and Nelly and Charley, Charley reads the letter in The Times about the separation to Catherine

It indicates what Catherine thinks of Charles, he of her, in these clues : as early as sending Catherine around with the gift that he had intended to have delivered to Nelly, he wanted Catherine to see that it was over between her and him, and why (he tells Nelly so that day). Catherine is not stupid. She knows herself to have been humiliated by being told to call on Nelly, but she can use the call to her advantage :

Doubtless, there is truth in what she says about Charles being torn away from her by his public, and that one will never know which he cares for more, but, if one watches the scene closely, she has a subtle way of laying it on thick, and does hope to discourage Nelly, if she cannot discourage Charles, but with the subtext I've seen it all before, and let me tell you, as a friend, how it is....

What Catherine does not reckon on is that ambiguous scene of near-kisses, and that Nelly then seeks out advice from her mother (Kristin Scott Thomas) and from Wilkie, before making an entry, dressed and framed as a Pre-Raphaelite subject, in Charles' rooms. There, she gets close to him, in an energetic meeting of minds over the galley-proofs, through the closing chapters to Great Expectations – until then, taken to see Wilkie living unmarried with a woman, she thinks that Charles sees her as his whore.

Catherine had her own agenda, but was prudent enough to act the part of the woman on the way out looking after the new one.

At the end of the film, hurt and anxious Nelly uses the words shadow / parting / haunting to describe being separated from Charles in the life that she lives now, where she cannot admit how she knew him. As her husband says :

The memories of a child, Nelly

Or, then again, 180 years since Charles Dickens sneezed publicly in Cardiff - to great acclaim...

End-notes :

* Catherine says 'More gossip in The London Diary', as Dickens sits down with the newspaper. After comments around the table about not having kept it a secret, and denying it, she says 'You must stop this', to which Dickens replies, 'What if I do not wish to ?'. She retorts, 'Do not be foolish - you cannot keep her a secret', and a challenge to which - then and later - he rises.

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

Friday, 7 February 2014

Lit by Saul Leiter

This report is from a special preview screening of The Invisible Woman (2013)

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

6 February

* Contains spoilers *

This report is from a special preview screening of The Invisible Woman (2013) at The Arts Picturehouse (@CamPicturehouse) on 1 February, followed by a Q&A with director and lead actor, Ralph Fiennes

The time of the film is clearly the nineteenth century, but labels are largely given to places, not to dates. Charles Dickens died in June 1870, and an important scene has him showing Nelly (Felicity Jones) the galley-proofs of what would have been chapter 59 of Great Expectations, which was being published in instalments between 1 December 1860 and 3 August 1861.

The title-character really has to be Nelly, but, when Catherine Dickens (Joanna Scanlan) visits her with a gift that the jeweller wrongly had delivered to Catherine, she says what the following question, asked of Fiennes (during the Q&A in Screen 1 at The Arts Picturehouse), summarizes :

Mrs Dickens, probably out of envy, warns that her husband is drawn to his audience as well as to her. Is the challenge that Nelly faces to know Dickens not as a writer, but as a man*?

Catherine does not appear to have wanted herself the acclaim that Charles receives, from other things, at public readings, so she presumably allowed herself to be relatively in his shadow : after such a reading, Nelly’s mother, Frances Ternan (Kristin Scott Thomas), expresses regret that Catherine could not have been there (and Charles gives some reason why she is not there), which means that she is unlike a royal consort, and is free not to do what he chooses to do.

(If she is envious (see more here), maybe it is of Nelly that she can see Charles as a writer, for a comment early in the film (when The Ternans, mother and daughters, have travelled to Manchester to the production of Wilkie Collins The Frozen Deep (published in 1856), which Dickens is mounting with Collins) suggests that she does not personally view the novels as more than entertainment (‘Tis a fiction, designed to entertain), at which Nelly, expressing her surprise, says what she sees in them. So, in Manchester, Catherine was with Wilkie and Charles, but she later appears to withdraw from that role.)

In Collins, we have the example of a man co-habiting since 1858 (with Caroline Graves (Michelle Fairley) and her daughter Harriet (known as ‘The Butler’)), but perhaps at the expense of the greater reception of his writing** ? If so, he compromised greater success and not living with Graves (they were only apart for two years, when she married another man), and with spending part of his time with her and with Martha Rudd, a woman whom he met as a nineteen-year-old when researching Armadale. The family arrangements that we know so well from The Pre-Raphaelite Brethren (founded in 1848, and initially secretively operating under the initials PRB) and from Dickens in this film (based on Claire Tomalin’s book of the same name) were actually closer with those of Collins than we might have imagined.

It is for those such as Tomalin to explain and speculate why Dickens felt himself different from his friend Collins, in not being able to copy an arrangement that was less complicated than his own would have been. It was not until a century later that our present divorce laws were enacted, but it appears that an informal separation, such as Dickens is quoted as announcing to his family in The Times, might have been an acceptable position, whereas an affair with Nelly being known of during it clearly would not. Only such reading can shed light on this question…

Back at reviewing the film, Abi Morgan had written a script that sounded as though it might have been spoken 150 years ago, but without drawing attention to its age :

The emphasis is on the spoken words resembling speech. Amanda Randall (@amandarandall5) reports that the dialogue in Slave sounds as it does, because it is taken directly from Solomon Northup’s book, which can easily be believed : it satisfies her that it should be, but, to some, that might seem a cop-out… (After all, Northup wrote his memoir, with the help of a writer, during the course of three months, and he is in, in this way, writing dialogue that could have occurred ten years earlier, so it can scarcely be verbatim.)

This is not one of Andrew Davies’ celebrated adaptations of Dickens or of other classic novelists, but giving a plausible voice to Dickens the man. It is a voice that is strengthened by the judicious use of very effective music by Ilan Eshkeri (who scored Fiennes debut as director, Coriolanus (2011)) – more detail will have to wait until another time, when (furniture-shifting for) the Q&A (and the consequent lack of detail about musicians on IMDb) does not obtrude reading the credits…

None of that would be worth a candle without Fiennes, who brought to the figure, familiar through Simon Callow (and even Doctor Who), a conviction and a humanity – it was not for nothing that Dickens was amongst those who campaigned for sanitary conditions for all, and we see him here at a benefit for The Hospital for Sick Children, and also hear him privately speak poignantly of his father’s and his family’s plight in poverty***.

A character very different either from Fiennes’ last Dickensian film role, as Magwitch, or his self-directed part as Caius Martius Coriolanus (let alone in Potter), and there we find his compelling versatility. To Dickens, a man shown to be not without tetchiness or anger, Fiennes seemed to bring some of the qualities that his character Stephen Tulloch had in his sister Martha Fiennes’ writer / director feature Chromophobia (2005) : despite that film’s fate in history, nothing is wasted.

Opening with a gorgeous expanse of the coast at what we are told is Margate, and, with Nelly’s introduction, anxious, quick cutting, and one wants to know what drives her there, what her anguish is. We know of a connection with Dickens, but has she just come from him**** ? Nelly is a true Wilkie-Collins-type heroine, in her black against the washed-out sand (in more senses than one), and this could be The Shifting Sands, and some source of mystery.

Both within the dynamic of a scene, and from one to the next, the film is paced beautifully : once we have seen a later Felicity Jones in a Dickens-laden situation where she is unable to say what she knows, it unfolds with her in an almost Becketttean way, seeming to revolve it all, and without a friend to turn to*****. Nelly has been out too long, yet she knows what she must do, and straightaway does it, throwing herself into the rehearsal of Collins and Dickens’ No Thoroughfare.

Perhaps they are her memories, or maybe it is purely by the medium of cinema, but the play connects with the event of arriving in Manchester on a foul day, and first meeting our two writers in another collaboration. Nothing is over-explained, with ambiguity to keep us involved (Is the young man called Charley with the umbrella somehow the young Dickens … ?).

It is a fairly dark rehearsal space, and the polarity between so many interiors to come and the luminescence of views such as that beach at Margate is one of the themes of the film : the interiors are shot, by Rob Hardy, in a way that Fiennes told us came out of finding that Hardy and he had a common interest in the photography of Saul Leiter, and with Hardy’s eye for composition, but using Leiter’s effects and aesthetic. The effect, and the result of shooting on film, is gorgeous and inviting.

We guess at what has happened between Nelly and Charles, but it is only when Wilkie and he take her to the former’s home that it becomes clear that the state of affairs is more fragile, this coming hard on the heels of Catherine’s visit that day. In fact, it is apparent that Charles does not seem to know what he seeks, although he enjoys Nelly’s company, his writing, and appearing in public, but that more has been claimed in the press.

In all of this, Kristin Scott Thomas, as Nelly’s mother Frances, has been more apt than any to see what is happening early on, and to raise her concerns about Nelly with Charles – hers is a modest part, but, along with that of Wilkie (Tom Hollander), central to what unfolds, and both convincingly portray a circle of those close to Nelly, which later she seems to lack. A reflective and poignant film, which will repay watching again.


* Fiennes, although questioning Catherine's envy, did indicate that Jones had followed such a path in preparing her role with him. The way in which what Catherine says to Nelly about Charles' public is structured does, however, suggest not only that she is sharing her experience of Charles to benefit Nelly, but also that she may hope to put her off by it.

** Having said that, Collins wrote four novels in ten years, which allowed him to give others financial support : The Woman in White, No Name, Armadale and The Moonstone.

*** Rev. Charles Lutwidge Dogson (1832 – 1898), i.e. Lewis Carroll courted social danger in this same century not only by going to the theatre, whether to see, say, the celebrated Ellen Terry perform, or his child-actor friends, but also by his association with Terry, such as seeing her backstage, or keeping up a correspondence. (In Carroll’s case, that might partly have been because the theatre was not thought a fit place at which a member of the clergy should be seen.)

As the opening scene of the film wisely avoids making clear (because having due regard to class and social distinctions would have complicated the story : Rev. Benham’s (John Kavanagh’s) admiration for Dickens’ works and seeming interest in theatrical matters), the theatre was frowned upon often enough, and there would have been an attitude towards Mrs Ternan and her daughters for the way that they supported themselves, and the film does not disguise their lack of means at home, and so why they act.

**** We are told that it is 1883, but the year might not register (not least because of the stunning view of the shore), unless one knows Dickens’ era well.

***** We do not know what has befallen her mother and sisters, but she is the youngest.

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

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Navigating a labyrinth

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2013
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21 August

Looking for Hortense* (2012) is engaged with its characters, rather than driven by a plot, and Kristin Scott Thomas, for all that she is a striking woman as Iva, is not a primary player in this film (perhaps even less so than in In the House (201?) – towards the end, she is not on the screen, and we hear her activities narrated. It is not for me to know whether Damien has always been suspicious of her, and Iva always held back from her desires by duty, but, if we felt that we wanted to know, there is enough to guess by.

What emerges more slowly, shown unfolding in Damien’s attempts to speak to his father (Sébastien Hauer, an important judge) to ask him to bend the ear of an authority, is what intervenes, in him, between action and execution, what impedes**. The connection of the matter with Judge Hauer, which is indirect at his end, is tenuous at the other, and when the couple known to Iva and him have sex in their bathroom, she, unlike he, is able to pass it off as being in love (as well, probably, as a natural way of celebrating what they believe that he has achieved).

Jean-Pierre Bacri plays Damien beautifully well, and, whether in the apartment, about the streets of Paris, or giving his lecture course in two post-modern confections of architecture, always feels in place. Set him, however, in relation to his father and to the man whom he finally and momentarily gets to meet (expertly played by, respectively, Claude Rich and Philippe Duclos), and it is clear that the latter two are of a kind, and from a different mould from the sort of man who he is : when the former calmly says that he is self centred and apologizes for any way in which he may have hurt Damien, it costs him nothing any more than it does for him to be candid and amaze his son, over a hasty lunch, by his attitudes to sex***.

When, eventually, Damien challenges Sébastien, as a passenger on the vehicle of life, to get off and make way for others to get on, all that shocks the judge is the fact that a weapon has got through security, and he then straightforwardly rejects, as if it were the most natural suggestion in the world to be invited to consider, anyone else saying how and when he might choose to end his life. For those with a bent for Kafka’s writing, this sense of obstacles, of getting to the impossible appointment and then being distracted not to make use of the time, will be familiar : more on that here.

Only in relation to Iva does Damien seem to stand his ground, in a like manner to that of his father with him, by rejecting her manipulative analysis that what has happened between them is what he wants, or that what she wanted changes having to address what is. The teenager Noé (Marin Orcand Tourrès) creeps to the door and listens. There is nothing to say, but I have a sense that maybe he was not Iva’s child, but came from a previous relationship. (If IMDb can be trusted thus far, he has Damien’s surname.)

A dazed Sébastien seems energized by what happened, although clearly upset by it, and we go with him as he appears to find more of who he really is and what matters to him. Not for nothing, surely, has Zorica sought to put the French at their ease (and not attract attention) by calling herself Aurore, dawn, and Isabelle Carré has captured the essence of this vital, if naive, younger woman****.

Yes, she shares characteristics with that idealized type of woman who is suddenly there, but she has an ease of manner, a breadth of emotional intelligence, and her heart appears to be in the right place. Perpetually keeping us guessing, the film leaves us with a vision of leaves on a tree, transformed as if into a painting made with a Chinese brush, perhaps an image of evanescence such as Damien first strove to find in the sky as a boy…


* The original French title, Cherchez Hortense, takes the form of an instruction (or command) (Find Hortense !), not a present participle. If, as I do, one goes into films blind, one was early wondering whether Iva’s actor Antoine was going to be the last person who saw her (and she was Hortense).

** IMDb tries to summarize in one sentence : A wife pressures her husband to solicit work papers from his civil servant father, but they are a couple, not married, and judges probably are civil servants in France, but one doubts that IMDb realizes.

*** Unconsciously or not, Damien later seems to set out to test his own attitudes (and risk missing a nine o’clock appointment into the bargain) by drunkenly placing himself near one of his father’s favourites.

**** Dare I say it (and risk detracting from my own thesis), but Carré has been put in a potentially perilously equivalent position to that in Romantics Anonymous (2010), a chocolate morsel so lacking in substance that my interest soon collapsed.




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.

Monday, 8 April 2013

Kristin at the Harold Pinter Theatre II

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

8 April

In the last performance of Old Times at The Harold Pinter Theatre (formerly The Comedy, and home to nine or so previous Pinter productions), I saw Lia Williams as Kate (Deeley’s wife), and therefore Kristin Scott Thomas as Anna (Kate’s friend) (Rufus Sewell was Deeley).

I was partly encouraged to do so by what Lia had said to me at the stage door before Easter, when she had come off stage from being Anna : that Kristin and she looked very different, and that, with her dark wig, I wouldn’t recognize her. It sounded fascinating for these very clear portrayals one way around to swap over, and for Kristin to be not ‘dark’ as Anna, as the opening word of the play would have her, but blonde, and to imbue the other woman with character, form, shape…

This way around, the play was different from the start : KST was standing, as Lia had done (according to the stage directions), looking out of the window at the back, but she was audience right, not left, and Lia, on the sofa, was on the one audience left, not the other. As the interaction between Deeley and Kate proceeds, the gestures, the blocking of the two on and around the stage, were quite different, not mere mirror-images*, and, as I made comparisons, I contemplated that memorizing the roles, even for Rufus, would be made more distinct by such partitioning, lest (a word that Deeley thinks not often heard) he should suddenly mistake Kate for Anna, or vice versa.

At the moment when the text directs Anna to turn ‘from the window, speaking’, the full presence of Kristin burst onto the stage. Knowing the play anyway, it had been a striking moment with Lia, but it was if suddenly she had always been in the room. Her movement, her energy, her grace were fantastic, and the relief in which Lia’s Anna was cast enlivened one’s appreciation of what they each had done – this suited KST down to the ground, the enthusiasm tempered by, but seeking to cover, the uncertainty that Deeley seeks to exploit by his interjections.

Sewell seemed a different Deeley, hard to characterize, but maybe a bit more bluff at the outset, a little more active on his feet, but no less drawing attention to himself when (as he did in both versions) he leant forward, put his mouth to the brandy-glass, and, in one swift bending move backwards, downed a very good measure, before trotting over, naughtily, to the brandy bottle.

As the sort of man that he is, wanting to stress how travelled he is, how much he enjoys his job and how important it is, this larger-than-life Salmon Fishing in the Yemen sort of woman (KST’s role in it, that is) is a threat to him – that is, at any rate, how he responds to her, trying to knock holes in her recollections, what she says her life in Sicily is like, etc. KST’s Anna stood up very well to this treatment, not by ignoring it, but by posture, movement, expression, and she got, by it, the lion’s share of the laughs that were not already on the face of the script.

It is clear enough to me, more so as I think back on Saturday night, that the tailoring of how Lia and Kristin played each part, and how their Rufus responded to them, must have been worked out in wonderful detail all along. What a marvellous piece of theatre to have gone to such trouble to create the play twice over to fit with this fascinating experiment of switching over !

Lia’s Kate was, I guess, much more how I tried to imagine her when I first devoured Pinter plays in several afternoons at the time of studying The Caretaker for ‘A’ level, that acquisitive sort of juvenile desire to know as much as possible about something (thankfully, not from the Internet, then, but from Pinter’s own words, though largely not words enacted on stage or screen) : she lived that sort of distance, that inwardness of Kate that makes her awkward, makes them, much as the bare situation invites it, end up talking about her in the third person.

That feature of the play, both when Deeley is first seeking information about Kate (following Anna’s exuberance about the lives / life that she says that they lived in London), and in the time when, after Kate has gone for her bath, they have moved together for Deeley to show Anna the bedroom, is more than just a feature : it is the bedrock that both are drawn to use Kate as the only thing that they have in common, whether as offensive gesture or defence, and to propound the Kate that they assert that they know, however much at odds with that of the other.

Lia’s Kate seems to invite being fought over in a quite other way from that of Kristin – Kristin was quiet, as Kate has to be in words when they are allocated to the other two, but not in a way that did not let us into her movements, expressions, smiles, be they only the adjustment of a limb, a calmness of the face, or the radiance of her pleasure. Lia, by contrast, had a more stark take on Kate, one that burnt oh so slowly right up to the final sets of blocks of words that she delivers to close the dialogue.

That approach seemed to work better as what Woody Allen would always have described as a ‘passive aggressive’ interpretation, but, at the same time, Kristin came to those utterances from a different place, and so, perhaps, we were more shocked by these words*, and the sense of enigma had a contrasting origin :

But I remember you. I remember you dead.

It is quite apparent to me that the play can unfold in very unlike ways, and yet still be close to the conception of the text, and not, I suspect, exhaust it.

More here on what seeing this production twice now makes me believe…


* In the first viewing of the play, before the tableau, Anna (Lia) is at the foot of the bed that is audience left, after being pushed off the end by Kate, whereas Lia’s Kate stood over Anna.

** Just after Anna has said to Deeley :

Oh, it was my skirt. It was me. I remember your look… very well. I remember you well.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

DJ Kristin is spinning discs

This is a review of In the House (Dans la maison) (2012)

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

3 April

* Contains spoilers *

This is a review of In the House (Dans la maison) (2012)

Another posting is a detailed attempt to understand what is happening in this film, but it is not a review – this is.

The story presents itself as an unfolding, a relationship between a teacher and a sixteen-year-old ‘learner’ (as the staff now have to call the pupils), in his class Sophomore C* at the Lycée Gustave Flaubert** : Germain (Fabrice Luchini), the teacher, first learns that he has this class (we know nothing about what else he does – whether, even, he teaches any other class) from Anouk, the school secretary (with whom, if not now, he has almost certainly had an affair).

Less interested in his wife Jeanne (Kristin Scott Thomas) than in marking homework (does the affair with Anouk subsist, a diversion of Germain’s care and attention ?), he is excited by an account (marked à suivre, to be continued) of his weekend by a Claude Garcia (Ernst Umhauer) fully as much as if Claude had spied upon Germain’s thought, actions and life and written it up, gives it a B+, and shares it with Jeanne – she has to suspend her uncertainty about what will happen in the wake (pun intended !) of the death of Bruno, the owner of the gallery that she runs, whose funeral service Germain, kindly, declined to accompany her to.

Everything stems from these facts, Claude’s attitude(s), Germain’s obsessive fascination, and his continued sharing with Jeanne : it is almost as if, on one level, Claude is writing to Jeanne by the epistolary mediation of Germain, because, when Jeanne says that she is reminded of the fondness for gossip of her cousin in Yorkshire (which, I believe, explains why her accent in French is less tight than usual, because we are not meant to see her as native to this country), Germain opens his critique of the latest instalment from Claude by saying that he writes like ‘a provincial cousin’.

It is patent that Germain is forgetting who he is, what he is doing, and almost fictionalizing his own work as a teacher by devoting himself to a creative effort and a creator who, although good, do not objectively merit it, a risky projection, most likely, of the ambitions that he could not fulfil for himself as a writer.

Who is teacher, who is being taught lessons, and what of this family with which Claude involves Germain (and Jeanne, through him : at least twice, Claude asks Germain if he is showing the episodes to anyone else, who straightaway denies it, although he keeps trying to moderate by invoking the spectre What if someone else read this ?) ?

These are the essential questions that this film poses in three very good performances by the named characters, and also by the family whose house, lives and thoughts Claude effortlessly seems to infiltrate (reminiscent of the manipulation in Funny Games (1997) and, more recently, The Imposter (2012)) – they will not directly lead to the answers that I have found in this film, and, without them, the ending will only partly work.

Yet it is as striking as Ali Smith’s close to her stunning novel The Accidental, and, if a viewer is anything like me, he or she will want to watch a second time*** to track how its course as affected by knowing where it is going.


* The French education system may have taken this from that of the States, or vice versa.

** There seems to be such an establishment in Rouen (where Flaubert was born, and died).

*** This film is, with its cinematic credentials in place, all about the watching that audiences do.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

KST with a Yorkshire cousin

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2012
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3 April

* NB Spoiler City : What follows is not a review as such, and takes as read that the film has been watched and its plot is no surprise *

The closing shot of the film, before a screen comes across from left and right to meet at the point where a double shooting has taken place, shows a two-storey building with eight (or ten ?) sets of French doors onto balconies. Dusk has somehow fallen, and the lit-up windows are mini-screens or stages on which we witness dancing, sex, etc., and, in one case, first a man and then a woman being shot (top, second from left). Other stories for Scheherazade to tell...

The opening shots were of a boy of around sixteen dressing, first his muscular torso with no head, and he will turn out to be Claude Garcia (Ernst Umhauer), but, by the time of the closing shot, we may even have forgotten how the film started, such has been our journey, circumscribed and maybe claustrophobic as its locations have been :

* In and around the Lycée Gustave Flaubert

* The flat of Germain (Fabrice Luchini) and his wife Jeanne (Kristin Scott Thomas)

* In and around the house of what comes to be called that of 'the Raphas' (Denis Ménocet (Rapha Artole père), Emmanuelle Seigner (Esther), and Bastien Ughetto (fils))

* In and around the gallery that Jeanne runs (and thinks of as hers), Labyrinthe du Minotaur (with all its echoes of Theseus and Ariadne, Minos, Pasiphaë, and Dædalus)

* Approaching and inside the complex that contains the basketball court

* Queuing outside and in the cinema

* Finally, just outside the Germains' flat (after we have been shown Garcia's house and him on a bus to the former)

That is the entire compass, I believe, of In the House (Dans la Maison) (2012), but one may not have realized as much in watching. Our cast, too, is quite narrow beyond those mentioned, being Anouk (the school's secretary), the headmaster, the twins Rosalie et Eugénie (both played by Yolande Moreau), and Bernard, the maths teacher whose test Germain 'steals'.

I hypothesize that :

* French forms of greeting apart, Germain and Anouk are (or have been) more intimate than just colleagues

* Even before the events unfold, nobody atthe school much liked Germain, who may have been reactionary (or otherwise caused conflict with authority)

* Jeanne has probably thrown herself into the gallery both because childless, and because of Germain's relative lack of interest in her and what she does (and maybe she, in her turn, was intimate with the former gallery owner Bruno, whose funeral Germain early does not attend, calling it 'a mass')

* Maybe some (or all) of this does not exist outside Germain's head in the present of the film, for the following reasons :

(1) As with Nabokov's Humbert Humbert in Lolita, Germain is fascinated by Garcia because of the latter's writing, and is a Germain Germain, seeking, as Humbert does, to be untruthful to himself about what the fascination is

(2) If Garcia = Germain, Germain projecting his desire and drive for good writing onto another part of himself that concocts an enticing supply (after all, although what he takes to be the inventiveness (if it is not autobiographical) of Garcia's writing keeps him interested, the writing itself (at best) shows promise, not great genius), he can distance himself psychologically, by entering a psychotic experience, from any or all guilt for attacking his wife, humiliating 'a learner', and stealing the maths test

(3) For all that we know, the return to school (and the announcement of the reintroduction of school uniform, complete with the prurience of seeing Garcia dressing) onwards is imagined, because Germain has already been suspended (and maybe is already at the Institut de la Verrière, the psychiatric provision where his other, younger, more promising self (Garcia) visits him) - the scene, shown to us and which Garcia tells him that he watched, with learners in everyday clothes strikes a strange note, which might suggest the unreality of the uniformed scenes

(4) If so, then he tells himself a story of his own being drawn in (perhaps as to the centre of a labyrinth, Ariadne's (Garcia's) string taking him to face the Minotaur monster at the heart of him / his life) to excuse the three culpable acts listed in (2), above, and to provide his internal rationale for being led on and on, as if like Macbeth or Othello, to his destruction

(5) Esther Artole tells Claude Germain that his thinking that he loves her is 'in his head' and irréelle, and he is only in proximity to her by having, in part, helped her son Rapha with unreal numbers (such as the square-root of -2) : if Germain is - as Beckettt says about his prime character in Company - devising it all for company, then his neglect of Jeanne becomes Claude's interest in getting close to and seeking to seduce Esther (with all her Old Testament echoes in a book of her own)

On quite another level, the film seems to present itself to us much like Woody Allen and Diane Keaton, trying to piece together the puzzle of what is happening in Manhattan Murder Mystery (1993), and there is often its playful feeling to the unfolding of each instalment from Garcia and its reception by the Germains. On another, Garcia is not unlike the son in Benny's Video (1992), or another schemer in the rather dire Bel Ami (2012) (not to mention The Imposter (2012)).

If, though, Germain had his admission, prior to (on a 'straight' reading) or during which (on a reading where, as Germain showed on the blackboard, the conflict is within) Garcia is the internal enemy (= the younger writer who Germain once was, back to haunt him, but at the same time intrigue him), the film has a different character that fits the ending.

Perhaps consumed by his failure as a writer and being but a teacher (just as Jeanne's biological 'failure' may have caused her to seek a career), we may see Germain spurred to fond imaginings that turn toxic and bring / have brought his downfall, a little in the same way that a noise that we hear in sleep incorporates itself into a dream and then, at what seems a remove of time, appears to wake us.

Interestingly, I have now seen a variant of the landscape poster that is in @CamPicturehouse on Neil White's (@everyfilmteled's) web-site, which shows Garcia next to Germain on a bench, with the Rapha house foregrounded (and even with a Narnia-style lamp-post, which, rather, reminds me of Magritte and his anarchic Empire of Light paintings)...

We cannot see Garcia's face, but just look at the expression on Germain's, regarding him !

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Kristin at the Harold Pinter Theatre I

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2012
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24 March

I admit that I went to see Old Times, not because of Rufus Sewell, or because of Lia Williams, but Kristin Scott Thomas, who played Emma so beautifully in the same director’s, Ian Rickson’s, production a few years ago (since when The Comedy has become The Harold Pinter Theatre). (Quite apart, even if IMDb ratings disagree, from her striking roles in In Your Hands (2010), Leaving (2009), In Your Hands (2010), The Woman in the Fifth (2011), and I’ve Loved You So Long (2008)*.)

I have seen this play before, and the role of Kate has its difficulties. Moreover, Williams and she have their work cut out by a schedule that has them alternating who will play it, and who her friend Anna, from one performance to another – even, when there is a matinee, within one day, and, on a few days, ‘the actresses playing the roles of Kate and Anna will be decided on the night of the performance with a coin toss’ ! I’m not sure whether it’s gimmickry, but it will have me seeking a time to see KST as Anna.

Anna is the part that Pinter’s first wife, Vivien Merchant**, played – I knew that she had appeared in it, her last of his, but had assumed / misremembered her being Kate – and, to my eye, there are facial similarities between her and KST. (Likewise, I found a still of Pinter appearing in the play as Deeley, and his Kate was Nicola Pagett.) Getting back to the actresses swapping the roles, they obviously aren’t a pair, being mistaken one for the other, in the way of Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, but it is an interesting thing for the freshness, the dynamics, of the staging to do it.

Talking, before the performance, to some people sitting near me, I explained about how Old Times confuses or blends memory, imagination and reality, and how alliances are tacitly proposed by one to another against the third. However, they shift, so that the characters also employ challenges to each other’s recollection, status, even the words that they use, and sometimes outright intimidate. These skeletal remembrances of my last encounter with the play were to hand, but not, even if it had been wanted, the detail of the unfolding.

Afterwards, waiting at the stage door, I talked to a couple who had not known the play before, but read good reviews, knew some of the films, and wanted to see KST. As we chatted about it, there was a convenient centre-ground that what really happened is down to interpretation***, resulting from my clarifying that the silent tableau acted out at the end is what Anna told us about earlier, with the unknown man in Kate's and her shared room, and his head in Kate's lap, etc.****.

As our discussion progressed, the intriguing suggestion arose that Kate and Anna are perhaps the same person : what if they were, with the visit of Anna as some sort of psychological way of interpreting the things in Kate that Deeley could relate to better, if she took the form of Anna ? The play was first put on in 1971, and Pinter had had that affair with Bakewell in the decade before, so maybe he knew all about, as the case might be, splitting up his affections between two women, or having a publicly visible wife and another with whom he had an unacknowledged intimacy.

If so, I cannot see the situation with Merchant, Pinter and Bakewell, although credited as the origins of the later play Betrayal, being any more than the germ of it or (of Old Times) : this is not Pinter working out his angst and anguish, and actually puts me more in mind of Beckettt’s aptly titled Play, another two women and a man, seemingly being tortured or interrogated about their past. Play was from 1963, and Beckettt and Pinter not only knew each other, but were friends (with a shared love of cricket, too).

The text supports this notion, because, at the close of a long speech towards the end of Act Two, Deeley says (talking to Kate about Anna) :

She thought she was you, said little, so little. Maybe she was you. Maybe it was you, having coffee with me, saying little, so little.

He wants both women, now as then (if there really ever was a then), so much is clear, and there he resembles Man in Play. Beckettt achieves a distillation of the essence of an affair by having the three voices speak parts of each of their story, one at a time and seemingly unaware of the others, literally disembodied (they are in urns), and, in the way that they are presented to us as spirits, compelled for eternity to tell their wrongs, they remind of the Inferno of Dante (beloved of Beckettt). In Pinter’s play, he muses on the uncertainties of memory, of identity, of remembering – or thinking to remember – another person and / or an event, and this production does justice to that aim.

I have already mentioned that Kate is on stage often enough with nothing to do. Scott Thomas did this perfectly, embodying this Kate who gets talked about, and who seems, if not other worldly, sometimes a bit emotionally distant – so much more dramatically stirring the flare-up, when she talks, in several chunks of text separated by silences and pauses, about Anna (who has no further words in the script), seems to gel with this notion that Anna is no more than she, killed off by having Deeley come to her room.

But perhaps Deeley, too, is Anna / Deeley, because Kate first describes Anna :

Your face was dirty. You lay dead, your face scrawled with dirt, all kinds of earnest inscriptions, but unblotted, so that they had run, all over your face, down to your throat.

Then, after a pause marked, in the same speech, she continues addressing Anna, but talks about Deeley :

I dug about in the windowbox, where you had planted our pretty pansies, scooped, filled the bowl, and plastered his face with dirt. He was bemused, aghast, resisted, resisted with force. He would not let me dirty his face, or smudge it, he wouldn’t let me.

The unclean face, the repetition of ‘dirty’ (albeit as a verb), and the vivid reminder of the description of Anna’s in ‘smudge’, they all suggest some link. Anna is said to be ‘lying dead’, with its finality, and Deeley’s response in the immediately succeeding words, proposes a solution to Anna and being in London (the explanation of the apparent opening present day) :

He suggested a wedding instead, and a change of environment.

Slight pause

Neither mattered.

The succeeding, closing words of the play, still from Kate, amount to a denial of Anna’s ever having existed :

He asked me once, about that time, who had slept in that bed before him. I told him no one. No one at all.

There has been a fair amount of barbed comment from Deeley to her, such as this exchange (about Anna’s possibly fanciful claims regarding her home and husband) :

Anna : He’s not a vegetarian. In fact he’s something of a gourmet. We live in a rather fine villa and have done so for many years. It’s very high up, on the cliffs.

Deeley : You eat well up there, eh ?

Anna : I would say so, yes.

Kate related (if Anna weren’t the side of Kate that she killed to become Deeley’s wife) Anna being dead, then, in almost magically-sounding way abouttaking Deeley to where she lived, ‘When I brought him into the room your body of course had gone’, then putting on his face, and his proposal : Deeley has substituted for / become Anna.

Seen from his perspective, the closing tableau of a sobbing Deeley, seeking attention or comfort from the women in turn, then, as Kate sits on her bed and Anna lies on hers, sitting in the armchair embodies a possible, but difficult, choice between the quiet Kate, who likes to go for walks, and the Anna who says (again, not convincingly) that she likes parties, the Tate and concerts.

As if as a provocation to Deeley, who claims to have been watching a film in an empty cinema in when he first saw Kate and spoke to her outside, Anna asserts that Kate hustled her out to ‘some totally unfamiliar district and, almost alone, saw a wonderful film called Odd Man Out’(the same film). After these words, a silence is marked, and then Deeley abruptly says ‘Yes, I do quite a bit of travelling in my job’, which Sewell reinforced by an angry look at Anna and tone.

We will never know what is going on amongst this apparent three any more than they, if they are three, do themselves, or what Deeley’s job and travelling are really about. As with all good art, what matters is how this play makes us think about what we see, remembering what Anna said :

There are some things one remembers even though they may never have happened. There are things I remember which may never have happened but as I recall them so they take place.

Three slight hesitations with the performance. First, when Deeley takes a second brandy, what Sewell is (meant to be) doing with his gyrations across the sofa on which Anna is sitting from behind it was beyond me. Later, I felt that he allowed the pace to go a little too slack in, I think, the long speech where he confuses the women, or in a sustained exchange with one of the others, when he is centre stage. And, finally, there is supposed to be a long silence, after lying across Kate’s lap, and before very slowly sitting up (the sitting up was not slow either), but that may be Rickson’s direction.

Now on the blog : when KST played Anna instead


* I throw a veil over Bel Ami (2012), not because KST isn’t good, but because she had been miscast as an older woman, who, through childlike desire and infatuation, gains a glow of someone more the real age of the actress.

** Curiously, to judge from the write-up of Pinter in the back pages of the programme, you’d have thought that he lived with Antonia Fraser for a while before marrying her, not that he’d already been married and a father, let alone had an affair with Joan Bakewell…

*** Perhaps one of the starting-points for Michael Frayn's play Copenhagen, precisely about interpretation, with (in the production that I saw) another three characters, Nils Bohr, his wife, and Werner Heisenberg, circling each other - and their relationships - like particles in an atom.

**** That speech, in context, shows what I first thought about the play when I read it, because there are pages of script leading up this point when just Deeley and Anna are talking (usually about Kate), and some stage business is needed for the listening Kate. (Between them, Rickson and Scott Thomas (and, no doubt, Williams) did this immensely well.) As she remarks, it’s almost as if she is dead or cannot hear them, an intensified form of what happens – as here – when some long-lost friend of one partner is being asked by the other what he or she was like then.