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Showing posts with label Sally Hawkins. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sally Hawkins. Show all posts

Monday, 7 August 2017

Maudie - or Maudit ?

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


7 August


Some observations, partly by Tweet, about Maudie (2016)

You are determined to put a stain on this family name !
Aunt Ida


This film, however based in reality, could only work on the level of parable -
and it unnecessarily laboured even that
Jacob Apsley










Some film-references :

* Being There (1979)

* Big Eyes (2014)

* Caravaggio (1986)

* Forrest Gump (1994)

* La belle et la bête (1946)

* Mr. Turner (2014)

* New York Stories (1989)








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

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Happiness is a warm gun ~ The Beatles

This is a short-form review of x + y (2014) plus Q&A with director Morgan Matthews

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


21 March

This is a review of x + y (2014), as screened at The Arts Picturehouse, Cambridge (@CamPicturehouse), followed by a Q&A with director Morgan Matthews, on Thursday 19 March at 6.15 p.m.




NB This is the edited version (without the Pre-text, and the Sub-text) the full version is here



This is a charming film, which rotates the notions of what hinders, and what assists, communication and, although the question put to director Morgan Matthews suggested that x + y (2014) has a convergence with the story of Good Will Hunting (1997), it does very much more than what is, in essence, a two-hander for Robin Williams and Matt Damon*.




Actually, x + y sometimes feels as though it is doing slightly too much, both for its running-time** and own good, in trying to touch upon the immense issue of self-harm only in passing, and also as to whether it unduly offers hope, even if rooted in one person’s life (please see below), for overcoming what seems intractable behaviour of an autistic nature. Thus, we hear the words ‘the spectrum’ several times, as well as a cynical attitude from Richard (Eddie Marsan) about disability, in specific relation to (intellectual) achievement and whether MS (multiple sclerosis) is [being used as] an excuse :

In common with What’s Eating Gilbert Grape ? (1993) (reviewed by Professor Simon Baron-Cohen for TAKE ONE), a connection is found in the experience of loss. There is, though, a further one in that Baron-Cohen (who also appeared in Matthews’ documentary Beautiful Young Minds (2007)) introduced that screening at The Arts Picturehouse for SciScreen, as well as, as we were told, being at one of x + y a week ago. Baron-Cohen, pre-eminent in his field, is hardly immune as a practitioner in promulgating his own 'take on' autism, which is, let us say (and as recollected from 2013), somewhat suspicious of some notion of not colluding with the sort of diagnostic findings that are made by, amongst others institutions not as rigorous, perhaps, as his / our Cambridge Lifespan Asperger Syndrome Service (CLASS)... ?

Not that, though, the film is all Asperger’s / autistic spectrum, because without wishing to make it sound any more top heavy, when it really is not, but, as Made in Dagenham (2010) does (with this fim's Sally Hawkins), treats of non-childish things there are also significant resonances with portrayals of grieving, mentoring and awkward patterns of behaviour, which may have us mentally referencing (to name a few, in alphabetical order)***  :

* Another Earth (2011)
* The History Boys (2006)
* The Imitation Game (2014)


Matthews, asked about Good Will, did say that he had revisited the film since its release, and positively so, but did not identify with the convergence* (whose elements will not be argued for more here, beyond that we see finding oneself become more important than ‘success’, and Will being helped to work out, by others, what really does matter...). What Matthews did agree, which he later summarized when answering another question as three films, i.e. (1) the one that one writes, (2) the one that one shoots, and (3) the one that one edits, is that, at stage (3), that he had felt it necessary (not his words) to open up Nathan from the start with a voice-over, which tells us that, whatever Nathan says / fails to say, he is feeling things, but is afraid to say them.


When asked about the character of Luke***, and his role in the film (played by Jake Davies), Matthews was very careful not unlike with Daniel Lightwing to name the person, but said that he had met someone on whom Luke was based in the same (or a similar) connection. (So it is possible that one could identify him from Beautiful Young Minds, if one wanted ?) In the context of the film, it felt as though Luke might have been a not totally assimilated version of what Matthews had observed when making that documentary :

As if expecting we human-beings to be consistent (and live lives in obedience to rational principles, such as in mathematics ?), Matthews, talking to the Picturehouse audience as he oulined the origins of Luke, still seemed struck by the fact that, although some of the young mathematicians had been treated badly at school (as also evoked in The Imitation Game) for being (not his exact words) ‘nerdy’ and ‘not fitting in’, they were apparently blind to the fact that they then did the same to a fellow competitor. (Hardly uniquely, given a part-Cambridge setting, the International Mathematical Olympiad (IMO – with its whizzy web-site), was shown as edgily competitive, and not above 'dirty tricks'.)

Matthews acknowledged that, at times, Luke does exclude himself, but said that, when he desires to do otherwise [studying Cleese and Palin, with The Norwegian Blue, and attempting to bring comedy in at the wrong time and in the wrong way], his clumsiness brings him rejection. Almost as if (as fellow IMO competitor Isaac [Cooper***] (Alex Lowther) wants to assert and as Baron-Cohen had seemed to want to allude to, when talking about people such as Arnie Grape (Leonardo di Caprio) in relation to Johnny Depp, as his brother in Gilbert Grape)) there are acceptable 'faces of' autism, and those where people are treated as if they are not making sufficient effort to normalize how they are…

Not for the first time (e.g. Tyrannosaur (2011)), bullying and Eddie Marsan come together. Here, in Richard, it may be of the ostensibly nice variety, which wants nebulous, noble things such as the best for the UK team (whatever the cost to individuals ?), and relishes the competitiveness of life in the IMO village (complete with immediately ominous, but not threatening, Big-Brother-type eye mural), but who vicariously desires a win from those who, he hopes, will be medalists. So he is not uninvolved in what happens and can thus casually seek to side-line the man who has been Nathan’s teacher for seven years…

As for a few other things, such as yoking Keats ‘Ode on a Grecian Urn’****, in asserting the beauty of mathematics (when the syllogism that cites an equality between ‘truth’ and ‘beauty’, and vice versa, does not even mention mathematics, and the last two lines are the urn’s apostrophe to another age ?), the very overt symbolism of lights, signals and other sensory overload, and whether Nathan’s problems are really autistic in nature (and / or psychological, in some other interpretation ?), the viewer must judge the weight to give them.


However, what cannot be denied is the centrality and power of what Sally Hawkins brings to this film : heightened, certainly, by the emotional valleys in which we have to be so much, nonetheless the sense of what she feels in this film as Nathan’s mum Julie is very present, and almost bursts through 'the third wall' of the screen, with her fervent wish to find a way to relate to him and for him to understand that she loves him, not that she is a nuisance, or an embarrassment, to be rejected.


End-notes

* Quite apart from anything, this film does not have Minnie Driver (however funny she is, telling the joke with the black coffee), but the splendid Sally Hawkins, whose acting seems to get ever deeper and more moving, though it has always engaged and entranced (in Happy-go-Lucky (2008), for Mike Leigh, and Made in Dagenham (2010), to name but two).

The convergence itself is also in where the pivotal (and equally therapeutic relationship) between Nathan Ellis (Asa Butterfield) and Zhang Mei (Jo Yang) ultimately leads**, which results in finding something within Nathan that neither Richard*** (Eddie Marsan), nor he, had been hunting. (Even if the story-arc (though maybe for lacking a clear sensation of the passing of time ?) feels as though it truncates the real-life story of Daniel Lightwing, who, we learnt, features in Matthews’ documentary Beautiful Young Minds (2007) (a title that references the Russell Crowe portrayal of John Nash in 2001 ? – with all its implications for linking, as The Imitation Game does, genius with otherness and separateness ?).)

** Even one of 111 minutes, which – confidently – do not flag at all.

*** One could mention Fill de Caín (Son of Cain) (2013), but, after all, there is nothing new under the sun, and it is unlikely that this would have been known to Matthews and James Graham, on which :

Graham was named by Matthews as his co-writer, but IMDb gives only Graham a writing credit. However, it provides no surname for Marsan’s character (Richard), only the surname for Rafe Spall’s (i.e. Humphreys), yet tells us that Nathan’s fellow competitor is Luke Shelton (whereas Nathan is just given as Nathan, but Martin McCann as Michael Ellis)…

**** The poem ends :

When old age shall this generation waste,
Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe
Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say'st,
'Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.'





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

The Happiness Equation ?

This is a review of x + y (2014) plus Q&A with director Morgan Matthews

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


20 March

This is a review of x + y (2014), as screened at The Arts Picturehouse, Cambridge (@CamPicturehouse), followed by a Q&A with director Morgan Matthews, on Thursday 19 March at 6.15 p.m.




NB If you prefer a straight review, an edited version is here, which renders these instructions unnecessary : skip what follows, resume with the heading Text, and omit what follows after Sub-text


Pre-text

Since we commonly talk of what we value, we might be presented with (or devise) the following simultaneous equations, the form of the first of which is almost implied by the title (equally with the element, albeit of descriptive language (not algebra), that has us talk of X and Y chromosomes ?).


We can then solve them just by adding (1) and (2), which causes the second term (y) to cancel out, leaving (3), i.e. [the value of] x was zero all along, and, feeding it back into (1), so was [that of] y :

(1) x + y = 0
(2) 6xy = 0

(3) 7x = 0


If, instead, we seek to substitute what follows, as (2A), for (2), we can scale it up to the value of the first term in (1) (x), by multiplying through by 4, to give (3A), and then subtract (1) from (3A), to give (4), so therefore [the value of] y is 7, and, when it is put into (1), [that of] x must be 7 :

(1) x + y = 0
(2A) ¼x + 2y = 7

(3A) x + 8y = 49

(4) 7y = 49



Text

This is a charming film, which rotates the notions of what hinders, and what assists, communication and, although the question put to director Morgan Matthews suggested that x + y (2014) has a convergence with the story of Good Will Hunting (1997), it does very much more than what is, in essence, a two-hander for Robin Williams and Matt Damon*.




Actually, x + y sometimes feels as though it is doing slightly too much, both for its running-time** and own good, in trying to touch upon the immense issue of self-harm only in passing, and also as to whether it unduly offers hope, even if rooted in one person’s life (please see below), for overcoming what seems intractable behaviour of an autistic nature. Thus, we hear the words ‘the spectrum’ several times, as well as a cynical attitude from Richard (Eddie Marsan) about disability, in specific relation to (intellectual) achievement and whether MS (multiple sclerosis) is [being used as] an excuse :

In common with What’s Eating Gilbert Grape ? (1993) (reviewed by Professor Simon Baron-Cohen for TAKE ONE), a connection is found in the experience of loss. There is, though, a further one in that Baron-Cohen (who also appeared in Matthews’ documentary Beautiful Young Minds (2007)) introduced that screening at The Arts Picturehouse for SciScreen, as well as, as we were told, being at one of x + y a week ago. Baron-Cohen, pre-eminent in his field, is hardly immune as a practitioner in promulgating his own 'take on' autism, which is, let us say (and as recollected from 2013), somewhat suspicious of some notion of not colluding with the sort of diagnostic findings that are made by, amongst others institutions not as rigorous, perhaps, as his / our Cambridge Lifespan Asperger Syndrome Service (CLASS)... ?

Not that, though, the film is all Asperger’s / autistic spectrum, because without wishing to make it sound any more top heavy, when it really is not, but, as Made in Dagenham (2010) does (with this fim's Sally Hawkins), treats of non-childish things there are also significant resonances with portrayals of grieving, mentoring and awkward patterns of behaviour, which may have us mentally referencing (to name a few, in alphabetical order)***  :

* Another Earth (2011)
* The History Boys (2006)
* The Imitation Game (2014)


Matthews, asked about Good Will, did say that he had revisited the film since its release, and positively so, but did not identify with the convergence* (whose elements will not be argued for more here, beyond that we see finding oneself become more important than ‘success’, and Will being helped to work out, by others, what really does matter...). What Matthews did agree, which he later summarized when answering another question as three films, i.e. (1) the one that one writes, (2) the one that one shoots, and (3) the one that one edits, is that, at stage (3), that he had felt it necessary (not his words) to open up Nathan from the start with a voice-over, which tells us that, whatever Nathan says / fails to say, he is feeling things, but is afraid to say them.


When asked about the character of Luke***, and his role in the film (played by Jake Davies), Matthews was very careful not unlike with Daniel Lightwing to name the person, but said that he had met someone on whom Luke was based in the same (or a similar) connection. (So it is possible that one could identify him from Beautiful Young Minds, if one wanted ?) In the context of the film, it felt as though Luke might have been a not totally assimilated version of what Matthews had observed when making that documentary :

As if expecting we human-beings to be consistent (and live lives in obedience to rational principles, such as in mathematics ?), Matthews, talking to the Picturehouse audience as he oulined the origins of Luke, still seemed struck by the fact that, although some of the young mathematicians had been treated badly at school (as also evoked in The Imitation Game) for being (not his exact words) ‘nerdy’ and ‘not fitting in’, they were apparently blind to the fact that they then did the same to a fellow competitor. (Hardly uniquely, given a part-Cambridge setting, the International Mathematical Olympiad (IMO – with its whizzy web-site), was shown as edgily competitive, and not above 'dirty tricks'.)

Matthews acknowledged that, at times, Luke does exclude himself, but said that, when he desires to do otherwise [studying Cleese and Palin, with The Norwegian Blue, and attempting to bring comedy in at the wrong time and in the wrong way], his clumsiness brings him rejection. Almost as if (as fellow IMO competitor Isaac [Cooper***] (Alex Lowther) wants to assert and as Baron-Cohen had seemed to want to allude to, when talking about people such as Arnie Grape (Leonardo di Caprio) in relation to Johnny Depp, as his brother in Gilbert Grape)) there are acceptable 'faces of' autism, and those where people are treated as if they are not making sufficient effort to normalize how they are…

Not for the first time (e.g. Tyrannosaur (2011)), bullying and Eddie Marsan come together. Here, in Richard, it may be of the ostensibly nice variety, which wants nebulous, noble things such as the best for the UK team (whatever the cost to individuals ?), and relishes the competitiveness of life in the IMO village (complete with immediately ominous, but not threatening, Big-Brother-type eye mural), but who vicariously desires a win from those who, he hopes, will be medalists. So he is not uninvolved in what happens and can thus casually seek to side-line the man who has been Nathan’s teacher for seven years…

As for a few other things, such as yoking Keats ‘Ode on a Grecian Urn’****, in asserting the beauty of mathematics (when the syllogism that cites an equality between ‘truth’ and ‘beauty’, and vice versa, does not even mention mathematics, and the last two lines are the urn’s apostrophe to another age ?), the very overt symbolism of lights, signals and other sensory overload, and whether Nathan’s problems are really autistic in nature (and / or psychological, in some other interpretation ?), the viewer must judge the weight to give them.


However, what cannot be denied is the centrality and power of what Sally Hawkins brings to this film : heightened, certainly, by the emotional valleys in which we have to be so much, nonetheless the sense of what she feels in this film as Nathan’s mum Julie is very present, and almost bursts through 'the third wall' of the screen, with her fervent wish to find a way to relate to him and for him to understand that she loves him, not that she is a nuisance, or an embarrassment, to be rejected.



Sub-text

In what little we hear between Nathan and his father Michael (Martin McCann), there is a fleeting suggestion that Michael queries his son’s diagnosis on the spectrum : for, semi-rhetorically, Michael asks him what the doctor knows whom we see with Nathan at the clinic, plunged into a split-level moment of confrontation for him (and of incomprehension / interpretation for parents and us ?) with an illuminated / illuminating stegosaurus.


In on-screen terms, we do not perhaps have much down-time to ask, but do we sense that someone’s (Julie’s, maybe ?) (over)concern about Nathan has actually brought about a medicalization of the family’s experience which, by missing what it is really like to be a child in that family and (to try) to relate to that child, overlooks that relationships are a dynamic process, with (at least) paired feedback loops à la Knots (pace R. D. Laing)... ?


End-notes

* Quite apart from anything, this film does not have Minnie Driver (however funny she is, telling the joke with the black coffee), but the splendid Sally Hawkins, whose acting seems to get ever deeper and more moving, though it has always engaged and entranced (in Happy-go-Lucky (2008), for Mike Leigh, and Made in Dagenham (2010), to name but two).

The convergence itself is also in where the pivotal (and equally therapeutic relationship) between Nathan Ellis (Asa Butterfield) and Zhang Mei (Jo Yang) ultimately leads**, which results in finding something within Nathan that neither Richard*** (Eddie Marsan), nor he, had been hunting. (Even if the story-arc (though maybe for lacking a clear sensation of the passing of time ?) feels as though it truncates the real-life story of Daniel Lightwing, who, we learnt, features in Matthews’ documentary Beautiful Young Minds (2007) (a title that references the Russell Crowe portrayal of John Nash in 2001 ? – with all its implications for linking, as The Imitation Game does, genius with otherness and separateness ?).)

** Even one of 111 minutes, which – confidently – do not flag at all.

*** One could mention Fill de Caín (Son of Cain) (2013), but, after all, there is nothing new under the sun, and it is unlikely that this would have been known to Matthews and James Graham, on which :

Graham was named by Matthews as his co-writer, but IMDb gives only Graham a writing credit. However, it provides no surname for Marsan’s character (Richard), only the surname for Rafe Spall’s (i.e. Humphreys), yet tells us that Nathan’s fellow competitor is Luke Shelton (whereas Nathan is just given as Nathan, but Martin McCann as Michael Ellis)…

**** The poem ends :

When old age shall this generation waste,
Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe
Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say'st,
'Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.'





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

Sunday, 2 November 2014

An Education revisited - or Why did they include that on the DVD ?

This is a follow-up piece to a review of An  Education (2009)

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


2 November (updated 4 November)

This is a follow-up piece to a review of An  Education (2009)

* Contains spoilers *

The advice is always to hand in your working, as well as your answers, at the end of Maths exams* (probably applicable to those in Physics, too).

We get to see the film-makers’ working (having been shown it by distributor E1 Entertainment) on the DVD of An Education (2009), which was, as it were, ‘educational’ – but only in how not to tell a story (or how to undermine the story that you have just had the likes of Mulligan, Molina and Pike tell on the disc).

In this case, it is less that one bothered to film these false steps (i.e. the deleted scenes) in this BBC Films’ production, or even scripted them in the first place : for one should be in little doubt that, when Sam Mendes says (on Radio 3’s (@BBCRadio3blog’s) Night Waves (now re-labelled as Free Thinking – @BBCFreeThinking)) that another ending for American Beauty (1999) tempted him, there probably was one.

Yet, even if it was not, at the time of the original VHS release, generally the fashion to put ‘Bonus Features’ or ‘Extras’ at the end of the video-tape, one may wager that Mendes would not have allowed that other ending (if it had survived) anywhere near the DVD re-release (in July 2006) – quite sufficient that he should mention it on air some six years later…

More than any of this, it was just the misjudgement embodied in including this material as a ‘Bonus Feature’, as if it ‘might interest’ the viewer who had just watched An Education – although, almost necessarily, this critique is from the viewpoint of having seen the film as released, and treating that assemblage of scenes as having ascendancy over those that were wholly rejected (or which here appear in a different, usually longer, form).

That said, maybe one can already program modern DVD-players to add in or cut out scenes, so that one has (and can store the settings for) the viewer’s cut at will, an idea with which – in connection with an unfinished version of this posting – Mark Cousins (@markcousinsfilm) was horrified quite a few months back at The Arts Picturehouse (@CamPicturehouse) (when he brought A History of Children and Film (2013)) !

Even so, there is barely anything here that one would have wanted to keep, albeit some are decisions that would easily not get made until editing – too much time with the school-friends has been wisely relegated, because Jenny’s (Carey Mulligan’s) interaction with them there either adds nothing to the whole, or overstates what we already know / infer : when they are in the window of the café, one asks ‘What do you do all day, Lady Muck ?’, to which one of the answers is ‘Helping to look at some flats’. Or when the three meet for a post-mortem on Jenny’s romance, and, again, we learn what was better not mentioned, but passed over - or guessed at.


Yet the possibility that we probably least want to see filmed is that of David being ahead of Jenny at the end of the street in Oxford as she cycles with a male friend** – and, when she has asked the friend to wait and approaches David on foot (please see transcript, below), his seeking to make her accept his apology / explanation, and inviting her to resume a relationship with him (as if she is likely to agree, even in principle) :

On one level, the scene wants at once both to impart the fact that David has been in prison (You probably know I’ve been away), and to suggest that it is realistic that he would already be at liberty during Jenny’s time at university : Jenny tells him that she knows, because of a piece in the local paper that her mother sent to her, that he asked for 190 other offences to be taken into consideration : One hundred and ninety ! You must have ‘liberated’ most of the antiques in The Home Counties !

To be able to credit this scene, we would have to believe – as, for good reason, Jenny no longer does, having met David’s shocked wife Sarah (played by Sally Hawkins in a quick scene*, who was shocked at Jenny’s age) – that she, out of the others (of whom Sarah makes Jenny and us aware), has been special to David (Peter Sarsgaard).

Which is what the film has us believe only so far, then chips away at it, first with his convenient lying (about visiting C. S. Lewis), and his morals in ‘liberating’ an old map, and managing to justify himself to Jenny afterwards in terms of mere pragmatism (that he cannot buy her drinks, etc., otherwise).

As a closing moment, this request (whose refusal the deleted scene shows him simply accepting) asks too much of us, i.e. that David should really have cared about Jenny, for him to be making this approach, this speech – although it is consistent with what he says to Danny (Dominic Cooper) at Walthamstow, when he has been challenged about his intentions : to look at Jenny, and see that she is different.


Even if it happened in Lynn Barber’s memoir, on which Nick Hornby based the screenplay (and which might now be worth checking…), we are better off not having David appear in Oxford, or our hearing what happened to him. Not to make a better ending, but because it seems consistent with the scene with David’s wife Sarah Goldman, which, in the film is shorter (and without a child in a pram, or Jenny listening to everything that Sarah has to say), but carries the same meaning :

David’s involvement with other women (at least one of whom, even in the included version of the scene, he has made pregnant : You’re not in the family way ? – that’s happened before) has clearly enough been a repeating pattern of offering himself as available, when he is not, but not (as Sarah views it, again in that longer scene) being able to go through with it, because he loves his children**. (As Sarah says, answering her own question about whether Jenny knew about the house, child and her, They never do.)

For the film as made, with Jenny’s voiceover about getting to Oxford (and having had to make out to a boy who wanted to take her to Paris that she had not been), physically - though not necessarily emotionally - distances us from what she has gone through : even the closing shot does not retain the splendour or triumph implicit in a crane-shot, and then drawing out, but just slowly backs up to a wide shot and a blackout (as against a slow fade, after a significantly long hold).


The original memoir would, one imagines, have been in the first person. However, in the film, Jenny has not been at much distance from her own story before, or outside it, and has only been seen telling it to others in the fairly immediate moment – or, indeed, trying to avoid doing so, after finding the letters in the glove compartment***, and having required David to take her parents and her straight back home :

At this point, and despite being unfairly urged Don't be like this (which echoes his words Please don't be unkind in the deleted closing scene - please see below), she had put him on the spot with When were you going to tell me ?, and seems to take at face value when he replies Soon… it just never seemed like the right time. He tries to divert onto the good times, to justify asserting I can get a divorce – everything will turn out for the best. The truth, though, is that he drives off, when she requires him to speak to her parents and his wife.

The effect of giving Jenny a voiceover implies exactly the opposite of having her meet David, an accommodation with a past about which she feels very differently from when he tried to manipulate her with it there : Which, in this alternative world that we are shown, she has to express to David, who conveniently obliges by turning tail, and she goes back to her life in Oxford.

For this version to be on the DVD, David’s approach to Jenny has to be plausible and worth showing, neither of which it is, when he seems to invest no real energy in convincing a woman who now can have no reason to listen to him, let alone believe him – and David has always been seen to talk around the people whom he knew that he could persuade, because he knew how, not that he thought his powers to be unfailing.


Characterization of the first twelve deleted scenes

1. After Mulligan has whispered to Sarsgaard ‘That was scandalous’, regarding his manipulation of Molina’s mood and morality (approval that suggests a greater level of complicity / endorsement), closing business with his putting his hat over her eyes.

2. Pike and Mulligan, clearly having swapped hats, and the former initially lying on the bonnet of the car, and casually (as her character is) being quite candid about how little there is to do in the places where Sarsgaard and Cooper (Danny) stop.

3. A kiss in what initially looks like a railway compartment, but, as we draw back, is a private booth (where one can hear the 45 of one’s choice).

4, 5. Mulligan and her school chums caught smoking (when they thought themselves out of view around a corner), and then brought before Thompson – ‘Not surprised to see you’ (to Mulligan).

6. Curling around the café, in a pan, to the picture-window where Mulligan and co. are sitting. After she has put one of them right that the literature question that she is looking at asks for two examples (and the light quip from one friend that the other is excused, for being ‘rubbish at maths’), they turn to asking her about her (post-school) life : ‘What do you do all day anyway, Lady Muck ?’, to which Mulligan answers (not altogether convincingly) : Um (Pause.) I’ve been… trying on dresses, helping to look at some flats – I’ve been reading a lot, too.

7. In through the door of the kitchen, where Mulligan is being tutored, by Colman (her mother) in how to make afternoon tea, and we realize that Sarsgaard is there : he is asked, again, where the flat is, and eventually answers Down near Russell Square – two minutes’ walk from the Underground.

After Mulligan jokes about putting the tea-cosy on her head, Colman leaves. When questioned about where he is living now, Sarsgaard, after saying that he has only stayed there a couple of nights, states – when pressed – that Mulligan must think him very odd (You do seem to float around…), but I live at home […] – just [with] my mother, my father’s dead […].

8, 9. Inconsequential scenes, with Colman at the foot of the stairs (That’s what David sees, lots of nice places / You won’t be bored, you know – he’s not boring.), and outside the house, Sarsgaard kissing Mulligan, and sweeping her off her feet.

10. Extended scene with Hawkins (after No, don’t tell me… Good God, you’re a child !, and just before the moment when Mulligan walks away), where a longer speech from Hawkins catches her :

You didn’t know about any of this, presumably – no, they never do. Did he ask you to marry him ? Yes, of course he did. You’re not ‘in the family way’, are you, because that’s happened before ? […] (Brings out pram.) […] That’s why he never goes through with anything – he does love them. […] He’s four months old […] Perhaps you can remember a night, four months ago, when my husband seemed… a little distracted. […]

11. By the river / weir, distractedly smoking, then throwing the cigarette-packet away into the water.

12. Mulligan with her friends, around a table at the back of the café (where she had been waiting for them) – I’m sure my uncle knows someone who could kill him, if that would helpThere was lots I didn’t tell you, plus a moment of attempted profundity : That’s the thing about our lives, isn’t it – it’s so easy to fall asleep, when there’s nothing to keep you awake….



(Transcript of the last deleted scene


13. Mulligan cycling, Sarsgaard in distance, and, as is revealed in a wide, tracking-shot, the Bridge of Sighs in the near background. Concentrating, though, on the dialogue (rather than the shots) – and what a quantity of dialogue for a scene that was not used (the whole sequence is 3 minutes 25 seconds) !

Mulligan : Good God !

Sarsgaard : Hello, Jenny.

Mulligan : What are you doing here ?

Sarsgaard : Uh (Pause.) I came to see you.

Mulligan : I think, in this case, ‘Better never, than late’.

Sarsgaard : Please don’t be unkind. (Pause.) You probably know (Pause.) Um… I’ve been away. (Pause, nodding.) So, I couldn’t come before—

Mulligan : Yes, my mother sent me a piece from the local paper. You asked for 190 other offences to be taken into consideration. One hundred and ninety ! You must have ‘liberated’ most of the antiques in The Home Counties !

Sarsgaard : I wanted to make a clean start, for a new beginning – (Slight pause.) together. (Pause.
) I came to tell you… I’m going to speak to my wife about a divorce.

Mulligan : Don’t you understand what you did ?

Sarsgaard : Jenny, I do, I really do, and I know that… my behaviour… must’ve… been – confusing. (Pause.) Um. (Pause.) We never sat down and had a chat about it all, the ‘why’s and the ‘wherefore’s – that can wait. (Slight pause.) The important thing (Pause.) is – (Pause.) you’re still my Minnie Mouse (Pause.) – and… (Pause.) I love you. (Long Pause. She looks across at her friend, waiting.) And we had fun, you know you had fun.

Mulligan : (Long pause.) Yes, I had fun. (Long pause.) But I had fun with the wrong person. (Pause.) And at all the wrong times, and I can’t ever get those times back. (Pause.) But I’ve got my own life back now. (Pause.) Look, David – I’m at (With a boast.
) Oxford.

Sarsgaard : (Snorts.)



End-notes

* Not surprisingly, in reviewing How I Came to Hate Maths (Comment j’ai détesté les maths), Mark Liversidge (@MoveEvangelist) remarks as much.

** Admittedly, this argument conveniently uses the content of one deleted scene to prove that another deleted scene has no merit, but the upset to Jenny in finding out that David is married is, in its own terms, so great that, having gone further and met his wife, she is likely to believe that he has taken her for a ride.

*** In truth, there is no clear reason why she looks in there or now, and not only now, but not before.




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

Thursday, 27 March 2014

That was big of you - oh no, it was bigamy !

This is a review of An Education (2009) (seen on DVD)

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


27 March

This is a review of An Education (2009) (seen on DVD)

* Contains spoilers *



Biedermann und die Brandstifter, not least through its Epilogue, implies that what we have seen is a slice from a cyclical pattern. In the scene with Sally Hawkins, we learn that Jenny (Carey Mulligan) is just the last in a line, yet what makes no sense is why (a) the former tolerates this behaviour, (b) Danny (Dominic Cooper) seems to react in private to David (Peter Sarsgaard) as if this is the first time that this has happened, and (c) why the letters that Jenny finds would be in the glove compartment (unless - although such a notion does not accord with what we see - she is meant to find them).

Maybe all that is in Lynn Barber's 'memoir' (and adopted by Nick Hornby in writing the screenplay), but it does not make for credibility that Jenny is (excuse the rhyme !) one of many, and so of less importance (to David), and more of a victim. (Where the resonance with the Epilogue of the Frisch is strongest is when parents (Alfred Molina and Cara Seymour) and daughter blame each other, as responsible for what happened.)



As for the two or three longish scenes with Emma Thompson as the head, whether, in 1961, even an intelligent pupil such as Jenny would realistically have been permitted (by such head) to speak to her as Jenny does seems doubtful - Jenny may be spirited, spurred by David's attentions, but figures in authority have never taken to those whom they are dressing down or warning 'talking back', whereas this one seems to take it on the chin (if reserving only the power to reject when ignored).

Otherwise, it is a nice enough tale of duplicity and hopes only postponed, not dashed*, and it does not hang around, at 96 minutes, in the way that a more recent would-be morality story does. However, it tries to end with the rather trite message of I was wiser for what happened as if it is some profundity, not a cliché : by contrast, Frisch's play is Ein Lehrstück ohne Lehre, which is broadly a lesson without teaching, and, in common with Haneke's films, one is not directed what to think about, or how to interpret, what one sees and hears.





Fair enough to nominate Mulligan for an Academy Award for best actress, but best film or best adapted screenplay ??

There is now a follow-up piece about what favours the so-called 'Bonus Features' on the DVD did the film...


Or this review, from Time Out's Dave Calhoun, makes for interesting reading...


End-notes

* Maybe it feels a little like My Week with Marilyn (2011) - important to the young person at the time, but one gets over it ? (Each film has a (different) Williams, too...)




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

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Match Point re-made with a Macbeth split in two

This is a review of Cassandra's Dream (2007)

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


2 November (watched on DVD)

This is a review of Cassandra's Dream (2007)
* Contains spoilers *

It was highly commercially successful, but that fact provides me with no reason to have liked Match Point (2005), whose flaws outweighed the Dostoyevskyian tones that it brought to re-entering the territory of Crimes and Misdemeanours (1989).

By contrast, I believe that Cassandra's Dream (2007) is not merely leaps, but bounds, ahead, and cannot relate to the admittedly many critics who pan this later film, thinking it a falling-off of quality from what I do not detect in the earlier film : it is not merely that we are willing Jonathan Rhys Meyers (as the Raskolnikov-like Chris Wilton) to get caught, but - despite Allen's valiant attempt at a plot with a twist - he would have done, and he failed to command my attention in the way that Martin Landau does (as Judah Rosenthal) sixteen years earlier.

Dream gives me many more things to like - Sally Hawkins as the older (?) brother Terry's (Colin Farrell's) wife Kate, a convincing portrayal of mental ill-health and of addictive gambling, the allure of Angela (Hayley Atwell) as the other brother Ian's (Ewan McGregor's) girlfriend and his vaulting, reckless ambition, a soundtrack by Philip Glass, a creepy, self-obsessed Tom Wilkinson (as Uncle Howard)...

A perfect crime to do the generous Uncle Howard a favour (generous, but at whose cost ?), but, just as Wilton is under the pressure of denying the voices of his victims in the night, it is really all too much, and what one has steeled oneself to (and still nearly does not do) will not allow one to rest : the two parts of the Macbethean psyche are divided against each other, and one seeks survival at the other's expense.

What the brothers wanted and gambled for they find themselves having never valued very much when the time comes, and, just as they did not heed Cassandra at the outset, so they do not at the close. The words of Uncle Howard, differently meant, could almost be hovering on the air :

In the end, all you have in this life that you can count on is family




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

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Who is Woody Allen in Blue Jasmine ?

This is a review of Blue Jasmine (2013)

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


19 October (updated, with a 102-point rating, 20 October; Tweet added 1 January 2015)

This is a review of Blue Jasmine (2013)

I was waiting for something to happen - and it never did


Obviously, what is revealed about Jasmine (and to her) in the last ten or so minutes did not count for the person who made this comment - what sort of film was this meant to be in which this elusive 'something' might eventuate ?

Having seen Blue Jasmine (2013) exactly a month ago, on the opening night of Cambridge Film Festival, I was pleased to have watched it again, and pleased for Woody Allen that Screen 2 this Saturday night was sold out. Do I vainly hope for some of those people to go back and see some of the fifty or so other Allen films, whether or not they missed them before ?


If so, I would commend, in addition to the well enough known Annie Hall and Manhattan, these personal favourites :


Interiors (1978)

Stardust Memories (1980)

Hannah and Her Sisters (1986)

Deconstructing Harry (1997)

Love and Death (1975)



Back at the film, and the question posed, I have heard it suggested that Dr Flicker is the person closest to Allen himself (i.e. the parts that he writes for himself to play), and I watched him with that in mind. No, he is not Allen - Allen is, I think, Jasmine (Cate Blanchett).

Tuned to Allen, knowing almost all of his films, and having seen this one before, I could hear his cadences, his little excited rages in this role – not exactly, but Jasmine is the one who approaches his self-expression, his fluidity, his vocabulary and assurance. Listen for him, and I think that you will find his voice in Blanchett’s.


97 = S : 16 / A : 17 / C : 15 / M : 17 / P : 16 / F : 16


A rating and review of Blue Jasmine (2013)


S = script

A = acting

C = cinematography

M = music

P = pacing

F = feel

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


Meanwhile, back at the nub, the film is not as dark as Interiors, but it is a drama, and I hope that it is being appreciated for that, though one with the humour that Interiors almost entirely lacks : there are themes in common here, and the Allen who cut up footage of Charlotte Rampling for a vivid portrayal of her distressed state of mind (as Dorrie) in hospital in Stardust has long had, if not themes of mental health, then hints at it, and I respect him immensely for that.

Blanchett almost cannot fail to win something big for this performance, because, for me, it is so easily convincing, so true to the psychology of her life (explored more here) and to the experiences that she has, but I am, if anything, even more delighted at a peach of a role like this for the tremendous Sally Hawkins, who really shows what a versatile actor she is at playing a character who has a capacity to delight in the smaller things and be radiant – Allen had cast her in Cassandra’s Dream, and this new part she carries off perfectly.

As to the story, no, there is no big something, and I did not have to absorb two previous films as at the time of the previous viewing, but I am very pleased to run this one through again and see how beautifully it holds together. When Allen crafts a screenplay, as in Hannah (or Harry, or Manhattan Murder Mystery (1993), there is nothing that one would change with it – when, for me, he does not, in Match Point (2005) and Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008), it is hard to know where and how one would rescue it.

So my hope is for people to be patient with Jasmine’s story, and the choices that she has made – when she meets Dwight (Peter Sarsgaard), she clicks into a fantasy where she has always been called Jasmine, etc., etc., and I could see her entering into straightaway believing things, just because she was saying them and wanted them to be true. We can reach back into the story, and see how much – and, at the same time, how little – she knew about what was happening and what she was doing, and how, as we see her doing all along with prioritizing her needs, she hurts her stepson and husband.

I also hope that they will look out some other Allen, not Midnight in Paris (2011), really, but maybe some of the ones that I have listed; that Hawkins now has the recognition that she deserves; that Allen keeps on with his film every year; and that good film-making like this will be taken to people’s hearts, and cherished.






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

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Three short reviews

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


13 October

My Beautiful Country (2012) is a German production whose German name translates as The Bridge on the Ibar, and the English title refers to a Serbian national song that a group of Albanians who have been captured are asked to sing. We see one of them, Ramiz, given the chance to escape, but he ends up on the Serbian side of the river, and Danica, who has been widowed, takes pity on him when she finds that he has broken in.

Both Mišel Matičević and Zrinka Cvitešić are very strong and natural in these roles, and we see Ramiz develop in relation to one of her sons (Danilo), who has not spoken since his father died, whereas his elder brother Vlado has disaffection for life, and ends up behaving dishonestly. Petty jealousy upsets things and sets in train a course of events that provides a fulcrum for the story in the shape of the bridge. It is a powerful film that makes one sees how destructive what divides us can be, but ultimately offers hope.


With Hawking (2013), we had a documentary about the 71-year-old Cambridge professor that received what must have been a premiere, but was not billed as one. After a t.v. film in 2004, it sets out to be Hawking’s own account of his life, based on his script or early writings about his diagnosis with Motorneurone Disease.

The film used actors to represent some scenes, as well as contemporary footage and stills. All in all, just as the expanding universe (the famous Big Bang) was represented schematically by shapes and whirls, so, too, are key moments, with shots of parts of faces, or faces or bodies out of focus.

Once Hawking’s marriage to Jane had been described as breaking down in the face of a private life very different from a public one, much of the nineties and beyond was passed over quickly. So much so that one might be forgiven for thinking that the last thing that Hawking did was write A Brief History of Time in the late 1980s, not that he has made more discoveries about black holes recently.

Krishnan Guru-Murthy presided over question session with Hawking and various people such as film-maker Stephen Finnigan, but Hawking did not seem to be put at the centre of that experience, with Guru-Murthy’s back to him much of the time. Some strategically left before the end, rather than watch what – no reflection on the Festival – was quite embarrassingly weak.


Finally, Woody Allen was in thoughtful mood with Blue Jasmine (2013), with Cate Blanchett striking as a character a little reminiscent both of Tennesee Williams’ Blanche Dubobis (from A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)) and of the mother in Allen’s own drama Interiors, from the late 1970s : though we did not always relate to some of Jasmine’s posturing, and maybe Sally Hawkins as Ginger was a little more uncomplicated (with Hawkins bringing a genuine enthusiasm to the role), Blanchett had a poise and a grace that made her the natural victim of Alec Baldwin’s duplicitous arrangements.

For his part, he was a man one could easily credit as pushing the boundaries of how to use apparent wealth to create businesses on top of businesses – and the film ably walked the tightrope between Jasmine’s memories of a hurtful past and how we see her try to extricate herself from acknowledging it. Ultimately, when she is confronted with it, we understand what she did when she felt herself humiliated, and Allen kept that moment for us : nothing is quite as it seems, and we gather what repercussions Jasmine’s instinct had for all.

There are laughs along the way, notably in the manner of Bobby Cannavale (as Chili), but no one should expect anything near as light as Midnight in Paris (2011) (or, though, as dark as Cassandra’s Dream (2007)).




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

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

I'm a self-destructive fool (Thanks, Kate and Anna !)

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


1 October

* Contains spoilers *

During late-night Festival drinks, @tobytram was heard to say (words to the effect of) :

He has the self-delusion that [...]


According to said Tram, it was 'semantics' when @TheAgentApsley pounced, querying what delusion there is other than oneself being deluded, because, as with a headache, no one else can experience it as one's proxy - also, which was perfect true, that The Agent's point was not germane to whatever point he had been making*.

OK. Can X give Y a delusion ? In the world of films, it is often a device, but is it an illusion or a delusion, if someone pretends to be Mr Ripley, Martin Guerre, The Tichborne Claimant, or even Danny Rose as the beard ?

As would meet with Mr Allen's approval to mention, what magicians do is called an illusion - that card that someone scribbled on appears to have been found inside a perfectly ordinary orange, but maybe we do not know how it was done. Are we deluded ? Would we only be deluded, as I was as a 3-year-old, when I believed that the father of my next-door playmate could really cause coins to appear about her person ?

In common parlance, maybe we do not make much distinction between the world - he has set himself an illusory goal as against he is deluded about his likely success. Where, I would suggest, we should be thinking is where the belief is immutably fixed and not susceptible to reason, which could, say, be the paranoid belief that one's neighbours have trained birds to defecate when the washing is on the line (as I was once told) :

If the person will not just accept that shit happens and maybe she is just unlucky, we would probably describe that as delusional thinking. If, on the other hand, it is merely an explanation that comes out of some conflict, with a rational status, with the neighbours and which might cause a person out of sorts to wonder, then I am imagining that being amenable to reasoned argument would make calling it a delusion less certain, not least since the thoughts have passed with reassurance that it is coincidence. Some, though, might still say that the woman had been deluded, I guess.


Which is where we come on to what distinction a self-delusion makes. Can one really, as the phrase has it, delude oneself ? It sounds as though it is something that the person has set out to do, whereas, if we say that X deluded Y, it sounds more deliberate still - what about considering Allen's latest, Blue Jasmine (2013) ?

Does Alec Baldwin delude Cate Blanchett, or does he believe in what he is doing, and it is just infectious ? If he deceives her about other women (he says that he is doing something, when he is really with one of them), is he not, maybe, deceiving her about the stability of her lifestyle ?

Has he, then, created in his own head a world that is not supported by reality with regard to his finances, and to his and their vulnerability ? Would that amount to a self-delusion, a conviction built on an earlier conviction, but essentially no more stable than a house of cards - or is it just a delusion, because it may not mean anything to say that Blanchett has a delusion, when she may just be gullible, overly trusting, turning a blind eye to what seems crooked ?

What if her delusion consists in choosing to believe that she can live the life that Baldwin offers - has he deluded her, and is the delusion of the same kind or character as the semi-fantasy world that she occupies in the non-flashback part of the world ? That behaviour seems more like delusion : what characterizes it is that she drifts into recollection involuntarily, her notion to become designer does not seem either founded on a rational plan (the fixed idea about learning via the Internet, although the Internet is not something with which she is at all familiar) or capable of listening to objections, and she verges on being uncontrollably grandiose.

For all of this, we can see a psychological mechanism, i.e. that she has been built up to think herself worthy of good things, but lacks the insight either to address the past and come to terms with it (which flashing back into it cannot do - it merely paralyses the present), or, because of that paralysis, to operate outside the inherited preconceptions about the world and her place and that of Sally Hawkins in it. There has, as we come to see, been trauma, but it is hard to say that the delusions that Blanchett now has about where she fits in were put there by Baldwin - he wanted her to believe in his illusion, or even share in it with him, but it can hardly be said that he wanted, as such, her to be delusional as we see her.


On my view, maybe she was (willingly) deluded about Baldwin's and her wealth and its fixity, and it allowed her to have and / or accord herself the position of a moneyed woman of leisure and cultivation. The delusional aspects of her thinking and the psychological make-up resulting from realizing the truth are contingent on what happened - after the trauma and initial treatment, she is no longer fully functional, but that was not a delusional state that Baldwin sought or directly caused. I cannot see her as having deluded herself in the life that she tries to lead with Hawkins, only that she is wracked by the past, and is motivationally and functionally unable to adjust to her straitened surroundings.

In the end, I am left feeling, by this analysis, that ascribing a motive of deluding another, or oneself, lacks credibility - a true delusional state in another might be very hard to engineer (although films from Hitchcock's to The Ipcress File (1965) purport to show us how), and to try to bring about a delusion for and in oneself might be self defeating.

It could be that we are better off forgetting agency or causation (unless we are therapists), and just recognizing rooted delusions when we see them, as against conditions of fear, phobia or mistrust that they will respond to logical analysis and reasoning...


End-notes

* As if words do not matter outside of their context ?




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