More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2018 (25 October to 1 November)
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)
and it screens on Sunday 28 October [in Screen 2 at Festival Central] at 5.45 p.m.
As was said last year, about La propera pell (The Next Skin) (2015), Júlia ist (2017) is likely to leave one in need of time for reflection, and so is not likely to benefit from hurrying, Festival style, to the bar for coffee (or stronger) and then straight to one's next film² !
Now working on the #UCFF preview for Júlia ist (2017), which screens during #CameraCatalonia at @camfilmfest on Sunday 28th (@CamPicturehouse) :— THE AGENT APSLEY #ScrapUniversalCredit (@THEAGENTAPSLEY) October 9, 2018
One measure of the film's impact is the number of Internet links to dodgy copies !
Immediate points of comparison may come to mind in the form of Jeune femme (2017) or Lady Bird (2017), but just using them (although they also defy the notion of fitting into a genre called ‘coming of age’ as such, and the former's protagonist [Paula Simonian, impressively brought to us by Laetitia Dosch] is anyway said to be thirty-one ?) would fail to reflect the fact that the film’s pre-occupations are not necessarily those of a young(er) person – any more than those of Gloria (2013) or Aquarius (2016) are of someone older – but ones that help define our humanity :
They are questions such as how do we want to live, in what relation to others – and in what way might the type of dwelling where we choose to live affect and shape our behaviour and, in consequence, us³ ?
The main thrust of [Tom Wolfe's] talk was to blame Americans for their servility to what he regarded as the socialist ideology of the Bauhaus :
[... It] meant, he said, that its highest goal was the creation of perfect worker housing, meaning housing which looked anti-bourgeois and remained resistant to the trappings of upward mobility. Such housing might be fine for pre-war German artisans, but it was out of place in America, especially in a century when 'the energies and idle pleasures of even the working classes became enormous, lurid, creamy, preposterous.'
[chapter 7 of Behind the Façade⁶]
Looking back to Camera Catalonia in 2014, those are amongst questions that Geni (Nora Navas) asks herself in Mar Coll’s Tots volem il millor per a ella (We All Want What’s Best for Her) (2013) : the expectations - partly from Geni herself, but mainly from others (and thus the ‘Tots volem’ of the title) - are that, with help and over time, she will be able to rehabilitate herself, physically and mentally, after the change in her life that has been brought about by a road-traffic accident. However, as discussed with Mar Coll at the start of an interview (as appended to Rebecca Naghten's review of the film for TAKE ONE), although Geni is seen to put a brave face on things in a medical appointment at the start of the film, she is beginning to realize otherwise : here is a link to the longer version of the trailer for the film.
In Júlia ist (2017), and with no more mise-en-scène to paint the background for us than is essential, the change in life is not at all of this magnitude, but of going to Berlin as an Erasmus student as part of Júlia's architecture course (maybe with not good enough German ?) : it seems to have been Júlia’s choice to be in Berlin, but we will ask whose expectations were they of this profession or of coming there to study (and also whether they are wholly realistic). There are certainly numerous hints that we will pick up, amongst the distinctive and stylish presentation of the vibrancy of Berlin⁵, and they should be allowed to speak to us in an intuitive way that connects us to Júlia as a person, irrespective of her age, but not of her qualities of emotional intelligence, in this role in which Elena Martín directs herself.
principal characters’ personal and emotional qualities :
Paulina García and Sônia Braga are pictured (upper two images and lower, respectively)
Early on, for example, Júlia goes to buy some beer in a shop, and, having picked a couple of bottles out, then seems to play safe by buying ones, instead, with a gold-coloured star on a red cap (the familiar trademark of Catalunya’s own Estrella Damm). (She may not realize it herself, but, when she is asked questions, one of the answers that we will hear her give most often is ‘I don’t know’.) On Júlia’s return to the flat, it is evident that the others with whom she is staying do not share her attitudes or interests, and it then also becomes more so that, from home (via Skype®), there is parental disapproval of her finding somewhere with a friend, with whom she thinks that she will find it more congenial to live.
In terms of Júlia's participation in the group that is devising an entry for a prize-competition, where they debate what dwellings are and the related question how they should be designed, we are probably not much meant to follow the ideas and the discussion about them in literal or specific terms (or just to go to the other extreme, and see that their taking place concerning such themes is a necessary means of structuring the film). Rather, we will almost certainly find - on account of how each scene has been edited, and the cut-together of the film as a whole - a meaningful juxtaposition between how, in ideal and non-personal terms, living with others might be viewed and yet how it relates to Júlia's everyday domestic arrangements and / or as an individual in a social circle.
In the best traditions of Camera Catalonia, Júlia ist (2017) has – as Tots volem does – significant elements of a character-study, although the character may also be a place or city (e.g. L’adopció (Awaiting) (2015)), rather than a person (Tots els camins de Déu (All the Ways of God (2014)). (Or the effect of one on the other, as in La propera pell, or El camí més llarg per tornar a casa (The Long Way Home) (2014), but none of these films absolutely has to be looked at in one way rather than in one of the other two.)
He envied Miss Barrace at any rate her power of not being. She seemed, with little cries and protests and quick recognitions, movements like the darts of some fine high-feathered free-pecking bird, to stand before life as before some full shop-window. You could fairly hear, as she selected and pointed, the tap of her tortoise-shell against the glass.
When the character is a place and its differing mores, sometimes one is reminded of the clash of cultures in Henry James that is experienced by visitors to Europe from the States, such as in The Ambassadors or The Golden Bowl, and of which a vivid example would be of the shock to Marc (Miquel Quer) of Venice, as an innocent abroad, in Jordi Torrent’s La redempció dels peixos (The Redemption of the Fish) (2013) [which screened in Camera Catalonia in 2013].
If we think of Barcelona as A City that does not Sleep, which is what is presented by the opening to what is the tragic unfolding of Stockholm (2013) or the setting, from Camera Catalonia in 2016, of Barcelona nit d’estiu (Barcelona Summer Night) (2013) [images from both of which are shown below], we may forget that whether one is used to night-life may be partly a matter of class (as we can tell from hearing and seeing Júlia's family, and also the fact that she is an Erasmus student), and may also be determined by whether Júlia has attended her university studies from home in Catalunya (Catalonia). (In Stockholm, ‘Ella’ (Aura Garrido) lives with her mother [Javier Pereira plays ‘Él’].)
Earlier, Geni was talked about, as a woman facing a very significant change (in Tots volem), and the film L’adopció (2015) was mentioned, in which the great Nora Navas likewise stars, as an example of where a place acts as a character-study in Catalan cinema : leaving aside how that film riffs on The Christmas Story⁶, Natàlia and her partner Daniel (feelingly played by Francesc Garrido) find themselves called to make all sorts of unenvisaged financial, moral and familial compromises - or else abandon the purpose, i.e. international adoption, that brought them to another country.
Clearly, Júlia does not have the extreme experience of either character played by Navas, but she does need to find her own way of being and of living : done with initially seeking out links from home, it proves to be in a meeting with lifestyles that are Bohemian, not to say 'alternative', that Júlia acclimatizes herself to Berlin, and to its various joys and pains.
A thoughtful film, which arguably evokes the joie de vivre of youth of Truffaut in Jules et Jim (1962), but much else besides ! :)#CameraCatalonia, in conjunction with @IRLlull, at #CamFF pic.twitter.com/CPMiFJSvKY— THE AGENT APSLEY #ScrapUniversalCredit (@THEAGENTAPSLEY) October 16, 2018
By the time of the brief scene with a friend on the bank of the River Spree, Júlia understands both herself, and also the significance of her time in Berlin, much better : we, similarly, find with her that it is at this moment when we understand the reason for the title of the film.
Gropius retained the mysterious ability to see in the ugliness of the modern environment a still-shining crystal symbol of his faith in the future. It may have jeopardised his reason and his art, but that was the German disease.
[chapter 7 of Behind the Façade⁴]
Amidst the reviews for Pere Portabella’s Pont de Varsòvia (Warsaw Bridge) (1989), on the IMDb web-page, is written what is apt to cite here for Elena Martín's film :
and the camera is put to work, no laziness in this film whatsoever.
and it screens on Sunday 28 October [in Screen 2 at Festival Central] at 5.45 p.m.
¹ We may not consider this matter at all, but, if we know this proposition Une maison est une machine-à-habiter [as sometimes rendered], we think of it as having been made by Le Corbusier :
However, his given name was Charles-Édouard Jeanneret, not Le Corbusier, and – as with many assertions that are so pithy that they seem to declaim themselves as utterances ? – this one of his, both highly celebrated and controversial (please see below), is often quoted on its own, without the context that he gave it in his writings (not even in a full sentence (or paragraph)).
Yet, in searching for la formule si célèbre et si controversée, as Sylvette Denèfle, Sabrina Bresson, Annie Dussuet et al. - the authors of Habiter Le Corbusier - call it, one can curiously find these words cited both as ‘Le Corbusier, Vers une architecture, Arthaud, Paris, 1977, p. 73’ [the text dates to 1923, so this appears to be the edition that they have used], and, in an article by Thibaud Zippinger called ‘Humanisme et urbanisme‘ (on the web-site implications philosophiques), as ‘Le Corbusier, Urbanisme, Paris, Crès, 1925, p. 219’.
² During Camera Catalonia in 2016, one would certainly have missed much of the point and import of Ventura Pons' El virus de la por (The Virus of Fear) (2015) by thinking no more than that it was 'about a leisure centre', but - because it wouldn't happen like that in one - dismissing it (for not plausibly being what it only superficially ever was...).
³ As to 'habitat', the Catalan film Sobre la Marxa (The Creator of the Jungle) (2013) also has some questions to ask.
⁴ Stephen Games ~ Behind the Façade, pp. 134-153. Ariel Books / BBC, London, 1985.
At the beginning of the chapter, before the text that is quoted (p. 136, in edited form), Stephen Games humorously describes (as he does throughout (p. 134)) how, when in New York and when attempting ‘to break through the stubborn resistance of [Wolfe’s] answering service’, he tried to obtain a synopsis of the keynote address that Tom Wolfe was to give to the Royal Institute of British Architects in London [at that year's (1979's) joint RIBA and Society of Industrial Artists and Designers annual conference, entitled Frontiers of Design] :
No, Mr Wolfe was not available. No, he was out of town. No, I could not speak to him direct. Yes, they would leave a message. Yes, they would have him call me.
⁵ Pere Portabella’s Warsaw Bridge (Pont de Varsòvia) (1989), which screened, in 2012, in the first Camera Catalonia at Cambridge Film Festival (@camfilmfest / #CamFF), also mixes the Berlin of its title with Barcelona, and the more reflective part of Futuro Beach (2014) takes place there, after starting in the director's native Brazil.
This list of tracks used is an indication of the importance of its music to the film's ambience :https://t.co/wtewSPJ7Q2— THE AGENT APSLEY #ScrapUniversalCredit (@THEAGENTAPSLEY) October 23, 2018
And there is also an interview with director and co-writer Elena Martín (not in English) :https://t.co/W8FbE9aGdh https://t.co/vdWyVuoaAc
⁶ Which, as the end-notes to the Camera Catalonia preview in these pages make clear, are also apparent in not using a direct translation for the English title, but invoking Advent by calling it Awaiting.
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Unless stated otherwise, all films reviewed were screened at Festival Central (Arts Picturehouse, Cambridge)