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Showing posts with label The Future. Show all posts
Showing posts with label The Future. Show all posts

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Secrets and lies – behind glass

This is a review of The Past (2013)

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

9 April

This is a review of The Past (2013)

The beautifully crafted script of The Past (Le passé) (2013), from its director Asghar Farhadi, reminds of so many strands of literature of the best kind, and all in a very good way (which is because the themes have rung down the ages on account of the issues that our lives together throw up).

Amongst them are : Ibsen’s The Wild Duck (and probably Ghosts), Chekhov in Uncle Vanya (or aspects of The Cherry Orchard, Death and the Maiden (1994) (adapted from Ariel Dorfman’s play), much of Michael Haneke’s cinematic work (not least Hidden (Caché) (2005), or Amour (2012)), to name some principal ones. (And it is only in the title that it bears any relation to Miranda July’s The Future (2011) (even if that film tried something of this kind*) !)

Casting, delivery, posture, gesture, editing – there is nothing to fault here, and the latter, with the other ingredients, means that there is never a moment slack at the wrong time, but, equally, we will be lingeringly with two men who have nothing to say to each other, and keenly, if awkwardly, wonder which will break by uttering something first, or abandoning the stage.

Marie-Anne (or Marie) is a far worthier role for Bérénice Bejo than that of Peppy Miller in The Artist (2011), and one where she can play a part that does not seem a caricature of itself. The Past also has Ali Mosaffa (Ahmad) and Tahar Rahim (Samir) along the other two sides of what is its often triangular heart, which is true all the time, because the centre of what we see is a form whose shape and structure change with time.

The presentation may be linear, but only in the way that, say, one of those Ibsen plays is. Thus, from the first moment when Marie spots Ahmad the other side of a glass partition that separates Arrivals from Baggage Reclamation and tries to attach his attention (before tellingly speaking to him through the transparent obstacle), we find that the past is an all-too-visible barrier in the reactions that are evoked.

In reacting to those three in this film who are sixteen or younger, it could be that acceptable discipline is viewed differently in France, but the way in which Marie and (to a lesser extent) Samir behave towards them in some scenes will shock. When, straight afterwards, Samir takes the time to listen to his son Fouad (Elyes Aguis) and hear what he says, he comes to a better understanding in a very moving moment together, and Fouad and he have then dynamically changed their positions in relation to each other (and, therefore, regarding the others).

Léa (Jeanne Jestin), who seems younger, has less of a role, but, when she challenges Fouad about the account of things that he gave to Marie earlier, the truth of their positions resonates. Likewise, Marie’s fury towards Lucie (Pauline Burlet, whose plausibility as Marie’s elder (16-year-old) daughter is undoubted) abates, as Ahmad knew that it would, but, as in a game of chess – where a player moving a piece can ‘reveal’ an attacking capability of another piece on his or her side, one answered question leads to another – much as steps in a dance (though, in literal terms, this is a piece of cinema that is refreshingly sparing in its score).

In The Past, there are references to depression, but they are no mere tokenistic ones, showing another experience in life that can drastically separate those having it from the world and from loved ones – which is not helped if family, friends, employers, and so on do not understand its capacity for suppression of feeling, even to the extent that nothing reaches through it or at all matters. For Farhadi’s dialogue shows that he knows what he is talking about, and includes scenes both when Marie reminds Ahmad of how it had been for him, and then when he, having remembered that time, talks to Lucie about what depression is like.

Depression is in this screenplay as an integral reflection of our lives, and so Ahmad’s restaurateur friend Shahryar (Babak Karimi), recognizing the pressures on Ahmad, points out to him that he does not belong in this place (he flew in from Tehran days before), here where the other barriers that, in a complex way, the film revolves are doubt, delusion and dilemmas.

Very subtly, without overplaying differences between West and East, Farhadi has Ahmad show that he can come alongside the others, relate to them, and help them to articulate and approach the fears that torment and threaten to overwhelm them. They kick and scream, and he may not always be right (mainly when talking about himself), but there is an empowering that they receive without necessarily appreciating that it came from outside them. However, as the ironic face of one of the impulses that can bring on (or heighten) depression, he is the sort of help to them that one senses that he could never be to himself when still in France.

Here, when Marie and he got soaked walking to the car, he does the right thing and offers to dry the hair at the back for her. However, he is distracted, and maybe he only offered because he thought that he should, and so ends up holding the drier in one place and burns her head – throughout, there are instances of people doing or saying something on the basis that it is expected (with Fouad a largely welcome change). Farhadi permits, amidst a narrative that takes us by surprise, these gentle moments of dramatic irony, when we momentarily see the course of things and smile, or snort with amusement.

This is a stunningly strong film and, agonize as one might that, under it all, it would fall apart and betray its promise, it disappoints in no respect. In short :


* Another film that tried and, in other ways, spectacularly misjudged was the histrionic Dust on our Hearts (Staub auf unseren Herzen) (2012), complete with its own scene with paint...

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

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Whiter than White Star

This is a Festival review of White Star (1983)

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2013
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6 October

This is a Festival review of White Star (1983)

You could not call it a Roland Klick* retrospective as such (Cambridge Film Festival did not), because (so I gather) many of his films had not been released in the UK. Not wishing to do a Jos Stelling, I decided on White Star (1983), and then, depending on how it went, maybe Supermarkt (1974).

However, I had, of course, not reckoned on making a mistake (going into Screen 3, rather than Screen 2), so missing the beginning of Leviathan (2013), and ending up with dubbed Klickery in Deadlock (1970), a film not on my list.

A desert, a guy who finds a dressed-up other guy, then takes more interest in his case and its contents, but hesitates – rock held high – to ensure that he does not survive, as if leaving him for dead were better. Second thoughts, going back, but the suited guy is gone, and holds him up. They drive off, arrive somewhere, only for the man with the upper hand to be easily overpowered. A mysterious woman. And so on, but all dubbed.

Did it seem bizarre, as the Festival write-up tells me that some had thought it ? No, not least because the word is overused, but really because it seemed arbitrarily wafer thin (to the point where I sneaked out, having stayed too long – until just after the title, because I had bizarrely thought it to be a preceding short that I had overlooked) who was in control. Hence ‘Deadlock’ ? Maybe, but the dubbing was killing me (even if subtitles were not then the norm) for its way of sucking the life (any of the film’s and mine)…

So Star, with its stark title, no longer seemed such a good choice, but there would be a Q&A with Klick. It, too, was supposed to be strange, but it seemed amazingly one dimensional in the way that Deadlock had threatened to be :

The opening scene is, I think, of Dennis Hopper (as producer Kenneth Barlow) trying to persuade Terrance Robay (as star Moody) to appear on stage in a club full of restless punks – either that, or of him, with his stooge Frank (David Hess), setting up for the latter to smash windows (which will later look as if there has been a riot), and arranging the foment of said punks. Oh, and, in arguing with the club’s owner, Barlow reveals that Moody is his sister’s boy. Nothing else do we need to know, and nothing else of significance emerges save from this starting-point.

Do we know why Moody trusts Barlow to be his producer, or why he goes along with this ‘White Star’ branding (with all its connotations of white supremacy, apart from those of space and of a burst of creation : it certainly is not Moody’s choice, though it is the best that the pair have to offer, even when Moody seeks to collaborate with a female vocalist (Sandra ?? Mascha ??)) ? Quite simply, other than probably having no other hope, no – since the conceit of the film is that Moody lives in Berlin**, the club would have been notorious, and he would never have agreed to try to play his synthesizer there.

The same objection is not dependent on being a denizen of Berlin. Since nothing in the film suggests that Moody is trusting (or, at any rate, trusts Barlow – except disastrously to take unspecified tablets in the back of a dangerously driven car when also ordered to change into his white suit), it hardly seems likely that he would not have objected to the choice of opening gig long before being there.

The only way in which this film works is if it is just a vehicle for a Hoppermonster, and we watch him barge through life like a giant game of PAC-MAN. Klick may not have hired him with that intention, and what he said about Hopper in the Q&A suggested that both that the man whom he had met before he arrived in Berlin, and what other people had said about working with him, had not prepared him for the reality :

Klick told the Festival audience (apparently, a story that he has told before), a coke story about Hopper, that, when he arrived in Berlin, the first thing that he wanted was cocaine, and Klick had to arrange something such that a man arrived with a briefcase every week with Hopper’s fix. The story went on : that Hopper was too high to act for the first part of the day, and too tired later on, but Klick had a clear two hours to get what he wanted from him (and, moreover, Hopper is scarcely off the screen).

Maybe, then, with the roles reversed, the film is a paradigm for making the film itself, with Hopper as the maverick star whom the director struggles to control, versus Hopper as the hell-bent producer, using all means and any to promote ‘White Star’ and ‘The Future’. A model of capitalism gone crazy in search of selling goods, but one that has really very little to say about why Moody goes along with it all and, say, sells the fittings of his studio (and shafts his black colleague) for Barlow to sell them for a song.

Glengarry Glenn Ross (1992), O Lucky Man ! (1973), The Color of Money (1986) – maybe (I don’t know) some of these films could have learnt something from Klick, and it is a helluva show from Hopper, but the ‘terrifying, unhinged performance’ (Festival write-up) is not enough, and Lindsay Anderson is careful to throw Malcolm McDowell into relief.


* What sort of name is that ? I knew the phrase Das klickt nicht and the like, but still – perhaps he could develop and print a film for me…

** As we learn later, even if it may be a poor translation, since he is staying in a hotel.

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

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Too good to be true ?

This is a review of Frances Ha (2012)

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

This is a review of Frances Ha (2012)

* Contains spoilers *

I had heard such positive noises about Frances Ha (2012) that I feared that I would be disappointed - and would squirm. But my worry was groundless, and I have nothing but praise for the film and for Greta Gerwig, who co-wrote it, as well as starring.

The script had all the urbanity of, say, Dianne Wiest as Holly and her friend and business partner April (played by Carrie Fisher) in Hannah and her Sisters (1986), and one likewise felt that, just as Woody Allen produces very good parts for himself (apart from giving himself the lion's share of the jokes), so Gerwig gauged her own nuances perfectly in the writing. (Allen gave her the part of Sally in To Rome with Love (2012), which, of course, does not surprise.)

The film is shot in monochrome, and uses a montage to give us quickly the breadth of the relationship between Frances and her best friend Sophie (Mickey Sumner). Coincidentally, and in no ways as a detraction from this film's originality and expressive power, I found myself reminded of those long-lost stories of another inhabitant of New York and her sister, from the t.v. series Rhoda : not pressing the similarities, but the quirkiness, the humanity, and the sense of being an individual.

Frances is gorgeously composed and shot, edited with style and precision, and the music is as it should be, so unobtrusive that, when one sees the list of what has been used, one is boggled not to have noticed so much of it, even well-known classical pieces. To prove the rule, two deliberately prominent tracks are David Bowie's 'Modern Love' and 'Every 1's a Winner' by Hot Chocolate, which feel just right, both in their exact context, and their emotional contribution.

So who is Frances exactly ? I shall say nothing about the film's title other than that one is kept waiting right to the end*, where we feel again the healthily pragmatic and impulsive part of Frances' character to the fore. Throughout, she is her own woman, and those who struggled with the role of Poppy in Mike Leigh's Happy-go-Lucky (2008), an excellent piece of work by Sally Hawkins, might be reminded of it.

If one took seriously what IMDb's headline statement had to say about Frances, one would think that she is simply a dreamer, which she is not : I do not believe that Poppy or Frances is an incurable optimist, but that they have a not infallible sense of others' hurts and susceptibilities, and live their lives trying to take account of them. (Unlike me before this film, Frances approaches things, and people, with expectancy.)

Sumner and Gerwig have to be singled out since, just as Poppy has her trusted flatmate in Zoe (Alexis Zegerman) for their own bohemian world, they are at the heart of the film (though a heart that beats at a distance when Sophie goes to Tokyo), but everyone seems well cast, and to give of their very best as part of the ensemble.

The film covers a lot of ground, and feels a lot like a portrait of Frances done with honesty and compassion : quite naturally, I believe that one feels for her, whether it is being let down about the Christmas show, or finding that a conversation with new room-mates Lev and Benji that she relied on about rent has been forgotten.

A key scene is the rather awkward dinner-party with friends of another room-mate, this time reluctant, where we learn a lot about where Frances stands in relation to others who are not of her kind - with Benji, she was able to communicate naturally, whereas these people seem unable to understand even when, metatextually, she drunkenly tries to explain what makes her able to get on with people.

Perhaps a bit of a loner, an outsider, she is still valued, and she sticks to her convictions. (In this connection, whatever dancer Gerwig may be, the film wisely limits what we see of her on her feet, choosing instead to show her nimbleness as she runs and twirls with ease along the streets of New York and of Paris, so that the status as dancer is established, but does not distract.)

In Poppy, one might have felt that her vibrant persona in the world was a response to something deeper. What we get to know of Frances, with her spontaneity and with a problematic way with money, makes a similar hint, not to be much dwelt on**, but noticed. What I take away is a special person, loving and caring (even for someone whom she does not know who is sad), and a bit of an outsider. If this is what Miranda July had in mind in The Future, I believe that she is way off, whereas Gerwig and the film's co-writer and director, Noah Baumbach, are spot on.


* But there is a joke from A. A. Milne...

** Unless one's bedtime reading is informed by such things as the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, and it guides trying to understand a whole person : one would quickly rule out high-functioning autism, but ponder a mild form of bi-polar disorder, or even traits of borderline personality disorder, on which more here...

Also, I'm not sure that it's just not having the money that means that Sophie has a mobile on which she can get e-mail and Frances hasn't, or that Frances has a computer that she doubts will enable her to communicate with a distant Sophie as suggested. Even if she could, I don't see Frances spending on those things, because her priorities, her notions of relations, are different : Sophie makes an up-beat blog in Tokyo so that her mother will not worry, whereas, tellingly, Frances envisages her mother seeing the truth on her own blog and coping with it. (I forget the quotation, but the word 'depressed' / 'depressing' is used.)

Monday, 30 April 2012

The Tower of Pritter

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

May Day

Once upon a time, on his album Up (2002), Peter Gabriel included a track in which he had taken the phrase signal to noise (from the world of hi-fi) and created a song - which, of course, one can interpret as one will (just as one can, say, the song 'Wallflower' from a much earlier album: whose theme is used in Birdy (1984), a film on whose music I commented in The Future or How do you choose a satisfying film? (Part 2))

On my interpretation of what some might find a limited (because repetitive) lyric, Gabriel is clearly distinguishing between what is valuable (the signal) and what might impede it (the noise). Therefore its own message (something like, from memory, turn up the signal, keep out the noise) is just as applicable to finding the occasional real news-story amongst what else appears in a number of our alleged newspapers as it is to that convenient triangle of factors - perhaps unthinkingly beloved by those who run training courses on assertiveness or communication skills - that purports to establish as empirical fact that some very low percentage* of what we (think that we) say is in our (choice of) words**

I have given counter-examples elsewhere, but, on what level of perversity as to the power of actual words does one have to be on to think that contextual data supply all 93% of what is meant to be lacking in simply saying?:

* You're fired!

* I want you to sleep with me

* You're standing on my foot!

* You've won first prize

* This duck is delicious

* Do you mind if I sit here / take this chair?

Bombard yourself, as Splatter can (I mean Twatter), with messages from an unlimited number of people, though, and you might - amongst 'the noise' - miss someone asking you to tea / to bed / for a drink.

Or following Bassfuck in a crowded bar on your preferred mobile device, highly meaningful though I'm really sure that all of its content is, might make you unaware that you are some banknotes and a credit-card or two lighter than when you started the evening.

Remember: the value of the Internet can go up as well as down


* Usually between 7 and 11%.

** As Cher successfully suggested in her cover-version of 'The Shoop Shoop Song' in Mermaids (1990), it's in his kiss.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

The Future or How do you choose a satisying film? (Part 5)

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

9 February

* Contains (almost nothing but) spoilers *

Probably full circle, and definitely the end of this group of postings, and to that alleged film The Future* (2011) and how, no less, it was sold to me by that clearly blasphemous publication, Picturehouse Recommends - sooner read Uncle Joe Stalin Rather Unequivocally Recommends**, and at least know where I stand and the permitted level of adoration!

I am confronted, once more, by that whole-page image of July*** (I think that the background has been edited out to make it more stark, as far as I recollect), leaning urgently out of the window as if - and this is the clever bit!? - some emergency is happening beneath her, and she is doing her best to intervene.

Rather than, when they both know that he should not be able to hear her (given where they both live), shouting nonethless - I forget what she does shout - to see if someone she has spoken to one the phone for the first time after all does. The image, as I say, suggests a crisis, because one wouldn't - unless Sophie (July) - go to the window with a hair-dryer and stick one's torso so emphatically out of it just to shout to someone who's not there, but it provides a great opportunity for the hair-dryer, a love-gift that has just been presented, to be pointed out of the window and suggest, in a phallic way, the direction of events and where her interest lies.

Redolent of that crazy connection that there is between teenage friends, who might try such a thing, rather than a woman of 35 trying to engage with an older man (Marshall) whom she probably didn't even meet when her partner Jason talked to Marshall and his daughter, and Jason, who had seen the drawing of the daughter's hamster (or whatever it was - possibly to raise funds for the animal welfare centre, possibly to line Marshall's pocket, as I don't recall, and don't intend to find out) bought it for Sophie.

The facing page is in two parts, the top about the film, the bottom about July. Here, mainly in order, are some quotations from what the write-up alleges (mostly, as if it were stating facts) from the top part, with a commentary as to why I take issue of them and believe that they built up a sigificantly misleading portrait of The Future:

July returns in typically charming fashion
I think that it’s very much a matter of opinion whether this film is charming – a Sundance jury might have thought it so, where a differently constituted one might not – and might not have found any real depths in this piece of work.

A film about confronting the stark realities of adulthood
Well, to be honest, this couple (meaning a pair of people, not an entity) does not have a clue about any sort of reality, and, if so, they have left it half their lives to address things that another generation does much younger than 35 (please see below - they are not a thirtysomething couple).

After weighing up all the pros and cons
I must confess that, aiming to skip the trailers, I missed the very opening minutes, and only met the three of them (including the cat, who confronts stark realities, for my money, far more meaningfully than Jason or Sophie does) when the humans have gone to collect the feline.

Only to be told that, allowing time for healing of the wounded (bandaged) paw, they must come back in twenty-eight days (or was it a month? I don’t care). They also learn that the thing that they have clearly been banking on, life-expectancy of six months, could be five years with love and care.

So whatever they weighed up offscreen to me, the two were never looking for a pet capable of surviving, but, frankly, an opportunity for short-term do-gooding, not a commitment to an animal’s life and well-being.

Of course, if they were wholly cynical (which they are too soft to be), they would go away, realize their mistake, and just call in to cancel the arrangement. But what arrangement? The clinic is crazy enough to say (words put into its mouth by July, and purely for reasons of the pretty thin plot) that it will put the cat down, after feeding and watering it for almost a month, if they do not show up – brilliant ethics for an animal shelter, and an insane way of spending someone’s money on sick or injured animals that you end up killing****.

[They] decide to take the next big step in their relationship: they are going to adopt a cat
As outlined above, they have no intention, at the outset, that this cat will be around very long – what big step? It’s more like an extended version of pet-sitting, with a limited duration. I do not know whether the clinic misled them initially, but they know that what they believed was wrong, and somehow, with a limited access to their own psyches, feel trapped with their previous decision. The write-up does not acknowledge any of this in:

But before they can bring their new pet back to their cost apartment, they will have to wait an entire month for the rescue centre to give them the all-clear
So, it’s hugely convenient that, when they expect that they are collecting the cat, they have a month in their questionably cosy dwelling (which may or may not be given a once-over by the centre) in which to regret being tied down – a bit like going to the dentist for an appointment for a filling, only to find that it is just one at which you are asked what sort of injection you’d like, and you have to come back another day for the filling.

With the big day marked on the calendar, our couple soon begin to fret over the consequences of their commitment
Yes, they fret straightaway about learning that it could be five years, but there is no actual commitment: they could pick up the phone and say ‘We’ve changed our minds’ – and let the centre kill the cat then and there? – is that the issue?

This mog’s going to tie them down; they will be trapped in a round-the clock routine for the next 10 years of their lives
It may be that what I missed is that this an HIV-positive LA cat, and thus that such a routine could be relevant, otherwise do these people really not know how capable cats are of looking after themselves? (They also, then, cannot have any friends who could do pet-sitting so that they go on vacation, and don’t know that, anyway, such help can be hired.)

Where ten years crept in from, I do not know, but Jason makes a rather fatuous speech that has been written for him to say that 5 years onto their 35 is 40, 40 is the new 50, and there’s nothing worthwhile in life then, so they are effectively dead now. Sadly, not very convincing, and even The Sophists of old came up with better reasons than that for the things of which they wished to persuade others: but it does need to allow those watching the film to believe these two credible, and their lacklustre thinking doesn’t do that.

[D]ay by day they drift apart. Until, that is, a moment of catharsis reunites their souls and reconnects them with their suburban world.
Funny, not in the film - of the same name - that I saw. Yes, they drift apart, but what is this cathartic moment supposed to be? Whatever it is, nothing reunites anybody's souls, and the rest is just fanciful padding!

Narrated by Paw-Paw (July herself putting on her best purr), The Future is a contemplative indie gem from one of American cinema's most enlightening free spirits.
So am I seriously being told that this film is enlightening? (And, yes, that was the cat's name, but, no, it doesn't narrate the film - it just narrates its own experience in the rescue centre of getting excited about going somewhere else and being happy, then reconciliation to not going there, then being killed, but there's an afterlife, so that's OK, and really contemplative, too!)

This may just be enthusiastic opinion, but it is making some pretty big claims, for July and The Future. In the section about her:

Like her films, she is understated, she is a citizen of a world far removed from the showy artificiality of Hollywood: the real world.
Oh, I think that I might vomit! It's not the studios' gizmos, hype and big budgets, so it must be good and appeal to those who prefer arthouse films - law of the excluded middle, again, for even if all Hollywood did = Bad, it doesn't follow that non-Hollywood = Good.

I end, speechless (at both ever having read this twaddle / seen the film), and feeling only that there is an enormous effort in this write-up to strong-arm me into why I should see / like it, viz.

Call her kooky or cute, but there is a truth in July's works that distinguishes them from other like-minded films. Without the slightest shade of pretence, The Future captures a tentative step along the potholed corridor towards middle age and an existential dead end*****.


* Even Philip French (who he?) doesn't like it - he dismisses it in one outraged paragraph at

** By the way, none of this 57 varieties stuff about which I've just piffled on (at, funnily enough, 57 alleged varieties) - one bloody tin of soup and, if you're lucky, you might be at the head of the queue when that one tin is on the shelf!

But it beats all this possibility for deliberation as to whether this bloody 18-month-cured prosciutto is better than a 12-month-cured packet of real Parma ham... Reminiscent of 'Should I see The Future, or save my pennies for The Artist?'?

*** With just the title top right in pinkish capitals, and some details of actors, director, etc., bottom right.

**** Perhaps Sophie and Jason are paying (even though they went there to collect the cat)?

***** There is another sentence, but I just don't feel the need to inflict it on both myelf or anyone reading this posting.

Monday, 23 January 2012

The Future or How do you choose a satisying film? (Part 1)

The Future or How do you choose a satisying film? (Part 1)

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

23 January

The Future or How do you choose a satisying film? (Part 1)

* Contains spoilers *

For sure, there's no easy way to do it, when:

* It can be hard to avoid trailers totally, which - whoever makes the things - dish up (as Percy Grainger described his arrangements of Bach) bits of the film (and maybe even bits that don't make it to the version that goes on general release and which you will see) in an often unrepresentative way¹ ;

* The man who can make Midnight in Paris (2011), no great masterpiece though it actually is², can also produce Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008), where, I believe, the point of interest is not Vicky or Cristina (whichever is which) and what they get up to, but very nearly the third named, if it weren't for the performance from Ms Cruz;

* Likewise, we were given Pan's Labyrinth (2006) by the director who followed it up with (?!) Don't be Afraid of the Dark (2010);

* Not knowing Luc Besson's canon that well (except Subway (1985) [and also The Fifth Element (1997)]), but being well aware that it was not that / either type of film, The Lady (2011) still wasn't what I expected at all in the wake of 2010's Festival opener (which said a lot, but probably not too much, in its title), The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec³ (2010);

* Even the publicity image used for The Future (2011), of much of the top half of Miranda July protruding diagonally from a sash-window (and dressed in a frilly white(ish) dress with black features), is a striking one. However, it actually captures a moment, for me, of utter inconsequence (save to demonstrate a write-up's description of audiences finding her work / acting either 'kooky or cute')⁴.

Which leads us, neatly or otherwise, on to Part 2 - to be found at The Future or How do you choose a satisying film? (Part 2)...


¹ Trailers often enough create a longing to see where that moment fits in, what happens next, when it turns out not to be that interesting. (And, of course, they (distributors, directors, whoever) know that it's not that interesting, but they show it to you out of context to create an appetite that they know that they cannot satisfy.)

² Review to come, some time: it was started in the third week of its run, and unnecessarily long delayed, although oft picked at in the meantime.

³ Call it versatility (DVD, again), I guess, which is what one gets in the range of Woody Allen's work, from mock-documentary Zelig (1983) about Leonard Zelig, 'the human chameleon', to a fraught, but chilling, drama in Interiors (1978).

⁴ Except that, for what one could loosely call The Future's plot, it is part of the zany way in which (as writer) July chooses to set her character up with another man: he is being asked to say whether he can hear the shout that she is making - or about to make, or has just made - from said window, although, from what he has already told her (us) about where he is in LA, he is almost assuredly out of earshot.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

An empty future

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

22 November

A great director, an Allen, can write for him- or herself perfectly and bring it off.

Miranda July has created, in Sophie, something that she could not inhabit - yes, the character is meant to have an awkwardness about and with herself, but the July behind it is not comfortable with that*.

By contrast, I can imagine a younger Diane Keaton playing this role brilliantly, with all of the nervous energy, but actually being a credible - not just rather irritating and inadequate - Sophie. Is Keaton one of July's heroines? I'd be very surprised, if not...


* Actually, it's a bit like Rapunzel - children might accept the story, and not think of the physics behind golden tresses being let down and the handsome suitor climbing up (which, by the way, is not the least of Marshall's charms, even if he is a bit Kirk Douglas - more Frog Prince than Prince Charming), whereas wiser heads can appreciate that she remains attached by her own to the tresses, and the whole of her, or it, will end up being pulled swiftly out of the tower window.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

IS this The Future?

Writing about The Future (2011) is / as post-trauma therapy

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

18 November

* Contains spoilers *

Writing about The Future (2011) is / as post-trauma therapy

One should be wary of having expectations of any film, based on a write-up in the cinema, or even a trailer.

Amy told me that the cat narrated the film, but that it was all right, when I said that such a thing could be dreadful. Thankfully, it did not narrate any more than its own part, in a slightly soporific or perhaps just lingeringly slow way, a little reminiscent of Miranda July’s own speech-patterns. (It is supposed to have lived on the streets, and dreaded the nights, but it just seemed like a perfectly likeable and well-adjusted tabby to me.)

If July’s character Sophie or that of Jason, the man with whom she lives, were not regular partakers of illicit substances, which I guess would not be shown in a film rated 12A, it would be surprising. The way that it showed these people, both wedded to their Apple laptops as they shared the sofa from opposite ends, and with Jason saying that he was just getting comfortable, when invited by Sophie to bring a glass of water, was telling: it seemed that neither of them wanted to do anything for the other that did not have to be done.

Four initial elements, which are dwelt on, are where ‘the development’ starts: the cat, which cannot be picked up until 26 April, by when its injured paw should be healed, and, as they are told when they go to collect it, they euthanize at the clinic; the drawing of a child and her pet, which Jason buys for Sophie when he talk to the girl, and then her father (who drew it), at the rescue centre; Jason’s claimed ability to stop time; and Sophie’s secret friend in the form of a sweat-shirt, bearing the legend C’est la nuit, which would not endear her to the cat.

They had gathered that the cat would be with them for just six months, but I missed the very opening, unless this was just Paw-Paw narrating in the dark (which does not make for easily finding a seat). The short-term reward is seemingly part of what attracts the couple to adopting the cat, but when they learn that, with good carers, the cat could live for five or six years, their balance is thrown, nay their whole lives (and let’s suspend disbelief as to what they would have been told before). It’s as if, perhaps reasonably, they are too meek to say that they cannot make a commitment of that length to the cat, and too caring just to leave it until 27 (or 28) April to collect it.

So the premise is that they must not waste time and make the most of the intervening month (four weeks ?), which, Jason reckons is the only worthwhile part of their lives left. After they have both left their jobs, it paralyses Sophie, and leads Jason into searching for patterns (which he duly finds), but, with very little self-knowledge (neither character possesses it the cat can tell us more about who it is, what it thinks, and why), she dismisses the sweat-shirt from her entourage for not helping her inability with a self-imposed project for which she does not seem the ideal candidate, and, finding numbers on the back of the drawing, contacts Marshall, who made it.

When Sophie has done more with her time sexually then Jason, who spends it at the house of a man from whom he bought a hair-dryer (seemingly, Sophie and Jason did not have one), Jason invokes his power of stopping time to prevent her telling him about Marshall. He talks to the moon (who sounded a lot like Sophie’s lover), who tells Jason what the changing date is: the moon is not female, as we might think, or changeable, but powerless, and fixed as a full moon).

With everything halted outside, Roy Andersson’s Songs from the Second Floor seems an obvious inspiration, but I wonder whether Superman stopping the earth turning and sending it backwards to save Lois Lane is a stronger one, though without the hero’s supreme effort and emotion. July gives us an image of a world that is frozen, until Jason goes to the ocean and assists the moon, by breaking the waves (it does not bear thinking what the moon should have to do with this).

This is not really Jason’s motivation, but to rescue the cat the moon tells him that there are a few hours left of 26 April, but, after the trip to the beach, Paw-Paw is nonetheless not rescued in time on 27 April. Paw-Paw tells us how waiting became death in the cage (not quite my understanding of how pet animals are put down), and concepts such as ‘I’ ceased to exist as he came to bathe and rejoice in the light.

An ambiguous reunion occurs when Sophie looks out Jason, and he offers her nothing, which she accepts; he also offers for her to stay the night and then leave for good; she seems to have longer than that Time itself has become rather ambivalent and maybe they will drift on together. (Equally, she could go back to Marshall.) Perhaps they, too, will come to the comfort of which Paw-Paw talks.

The dilemma is whether this film was bound to be what it was, or could have offered me something else in ‘a last-ditch bid to taste freedom’, which depends on an artificial countdown (except for Paw-Paw’s continued existence). Obviously, people do end up having affairs on a rather slight basis, and perhaps Sophie’s is about what she can still do and is more of a revelation to her. (If, that is, one doesn’t suppose that something must have happened in the 31 years before she met Jason, though maybe his way of being with her has knocked her faith in herself.)

In any case, she is suspicious of him being happy when she is not; he wants to hold time where it is and see if he can prevent her revealing her infidelity although he knows with whom and must know what. As I said, both of them seem only to be prepared to do for the other what has to be done. As, from memory, one of my favourite group’s Ezio’s, songs says (and maybe some of these songs say a whole lot more in five minutes than in ninety):

You only share the things you don’t own
Makes me fear that you’ll be forever alone