Follow by e-mail

Showing posts with label psychosis. Show all posts
Showing posts with label psychosis. Show all posts

Saturday, 5 August 2017

Why is mental-health charity SANE promoting a survey that seems incapable of not using 'psychosis' and 'schizophrenia' interchangeably ?

SANE promotes a survey that uses 'psychosis' and 'schizophrenia' interchangeably

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

5 August

Why is mental-health charity SANE promoting a survey that seems incapable of not using 'psychosis' and 'schizophrenia' interchangeably ?

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

Monday, 26 October 2015

Depression - what is it that anyone means by this word ?

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

26 October (Tweets added, 1 December)

Dunno what it - the word 'depression' - might mean to you...

One thing is that you could be unable to sleep, or conversely - which is my experience - sleeping all the time (or wanting to sleep), but the thing that links us is this word (and the use of this word) :

The reason being that the sleeplessness is not positive or sparky or creative in the way that being unable to rest / stay asleep might be with mania or psychosis or paranoia (at the beginning, at least), but just an inability to get away, into sleep (or stay there), from what feels bad or wrong or uneasy at some level, maybe because of recriminatory or accusatory thoughts or guilt or some deep feeling of guilt or doom or despair - or of worthlessness and nothing mattering, even the people or things who did matter before, irrespective of knowing that they should matter.

For those who can - generally - sleep at such times, it is just that the sleeping feels a whole lot better than all of those alarming and frightening thoughts and feelings / absences of feeling, and so the experience of those who cannot sleep / stay asleep are mirrored - if I stay asleep, I might feel safe, and I can pretend to myself that those things are not there (unless they come crashing in, and I cannot sleep).

For some, a word to cane others for being (without, probably, knowing what it is) - the irony being that one can be depressed without being aware that that is what one is experiencing, because it is a highly inapt, non-descriptive word...

For others, something that they - rightly or wrongly - think that they see in others, and offer advice that might be trite, might be the right thing at the wrong time, whereas comfort, kindness and - above all - not 'concern', but the care that the other asks for, are better ways of being a friend or relative to the person whom you say that you like or love.

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

Thursday, 24 September 2015

HAMM : When you inspected my paupers. Always on foot ? / CLOV : Sometimes on horse.*

This is an account of Horse Money (2014) plus Q&A with director Pedro Costa

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

23 September

* May contain spoilers *

This is an account of a special screening of Horse Money (Cavalo Dinheiro) (2014) plus Q&A with director Pedro Costa at The Arts Picturehouse, Cambridge, on Tuesday 22 September 2015

Some people in the Q&A reported that they expected to have to re-watch the film to follow what was happening : they therefore seemed to assume that seeing Horse Money (2014) again would satisfy that ‘need’, not that it is overtly denying such attempts to do so, with its re-enactment of experiences that, because they are deemed not to be ‘normal’ (or even to be dangerous), are usually labelled as psychosis and lead to a diagnosis such as schizophrenia :

When members of Ventura’s family are en masse at the foot of his bed, and one even sits on it, it is likely that they are there for him, but not that they are otherwise present. And, when he is almost naked in subterranean depths of great and striking beauty, it is unlikely that he is literally there, but forever being brought back.

A Beautiful Mind (2001) had us credit John Nash’s world, even if it is perhaps shown to us a little fancifully, and ‒ because it is to make a Hollywood necessity of contrasting it with ‘the truth’ ‒ in such a way that we understand it to have been delusional. Horse Money does not make those concessions to our understanding, but it is implicit in what it does that to ask to follow what happened, on a second viewing, is to expect that Vitalina, in what she says to Ventura (or vice versa), is communicating solely on the ostensible level of her actual words, not that the meaning lies in the interplay, or that the exact interplay ‒ any more than the dialogue in a play by Pinter ‒ may never have happened.

Which is where a connection lies with the work of Jeff Wall, to whom, without disagreement (and with seeming acceptance), Pedro Costa was referred in the Q&A.

For those who had been at Cambridge Film Festival (@camfilmfest), and with Ventura’s experience, Horse Money could have made unpleasant and uncomfortable viewing, as a reminder of sadder days of constraint and forced compliance, and of the perfunctoriness ‒ here reduced to a dull formula ‒ of some psychiatric interviews.

Still, the film cannot well be taken literally (even if Pedro Costa wants to call his film a documentary ‒ so he replied to Loreta Gandolfi (@GandolfiLoreta), who was hosting the Q&A, and who had first, to her surprise, seen Horse Money at a documentary film festival), and that aspect, together with what is characterized in the following question (which was put to Costa), has the likely effect of achieving the worst of both worlds :

Is there a danger in having composed so many shots so beautifully that an already oblique set of experiences becomes over-stylized ?

In other words, for those who do not know this world, Horse Money may be impenetrable (and may just make them believe that they ‘missed something’, and will gain more on a second viewing), whereas, for those who do, it might seem at too much of a poetic remove to do more than remind them, in an artistic form, of their past, but without telling them anything that they did not know from their own hospitalization. This is what is suggested by asking whether it may achieve the worst of both worlds.

As to starting to watch the film at Cambridge, and then finding the emotion too painful (even after obtaining ‘a stiff drink’) to watch beyond around thirty-five minutes, obviously one was able to prepare oneself better for Horse Money, and then take it for what it was ‒ moving from [assertions of] the destruction of family life and livelihood** to wider perspectives of post-industrial decline, the earlier part of which theme was referenced in these #CamFF Tweets :

Pedro Costa clearly finds working with Ventura compelling (even seductive, for, in this connection, one is reminded of Calvet (2011)), and he told the audience how he talks to Ventura about his life and thoughts, but uses those conversations to ground his poetic approach to the text and, ultimately, to making the script with a film-crew of just three (of which he is one).

One has to agree that the ‘look’ of his film is, likewise, a clear reaction against so much film-making that is not cinematic ‒ and, of course, Costa is right in this (and in striving for a visual quality in his work), and that such films give scant regard to the history and early achievements of film. Whether, though, we find Ventura (despite all his perspective on life) a persuasive voice remains to be seen :

Some might find that distilling / channelling Ventura through Costa and back into Ventura may have made what we see and hear too rarefied ?***


* Endgame, Samuel Beckettt, p. 15 : Faber & Faber, London, 1964.

** In recognition of the content of the Tweets that follow, Costa was presented with a copy of the Calder edition of Beckettt’s trilogy (Molloy, Malone Dies, The Unnamable).

*** Even if (because ?) Costa says that he prefers Spinoza to Wittgenstein (he also said that he had slept in the latter's bed at Trinity)... ?

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

Saturday, 10 May 2014

From the archive : The Language of Insults

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

11 May

The Language of Insults

Let’s abuse each other !

Waiting for Godot, Act I

If – God forbid ! – I were to wish to express the notion that the Prime Minister is a bad man, motivated by self-interest, how might I say it to Cameron’s face ?

I can’t emphatically say the natural You’re evil !, because the first syllable, with its diphthong, is hard to control at any volume when making sure that the message is abrupt and clear, so I might resort to three sharp, distinct jabs, You are evil !, and then add to it, making You are selfish and evil ! (or vice versa).

But how cowed by this will #Shameron feel, because he can just brush off the adjectives, knowing that he is a pure and noble breed* ?
Think of when you are in the car, or cycling, or on the pavement, and someone else using the road does something stupid. You might serenely and calmly turn your countenance to the fact that you have had – as the case might be – to brake suddenly, softly murmur How stupid…, and resume your assumed walk through life with the Buddha.

More likely, I suggest, is that you will react differently, and not resort to our earlier formulation, You are stupid !, at all, but to the You stupid x !, where – probably depending on the level of your non-Buddha-restrained frustration, indignation or even anger – x might be man, woman, etc.**, sod, bastard, twat, prick, and so on***.

At this point, it is worth noticing that many adjectives that, according to this pattern, occupy the place of our own ‘stupid’ are bisyllabic, such as ruddy, bleeding, bloody, sodding, fucking, useless, hopeless, etc., and can therefore be rattled through and over : they have their weight, but mainly as a qualification to our chosen engine of conveying our message, e.g. You priceless fucker / shite / wanker. (One can, of course, say (probably if relevant) You bald git !, and there is, in great, fat, dumb, proud, crass, etc., a whole battery of monosyllables, but the stronger qualifying words seem, again, to be polysyllabic.)

OK, so what is this exercise – even if some may find it fascinating – of considering condemning Cameron all about ? Well, I want to look at the words of insult that some of the bloggers on mental-health regard as taboo because, they say, they stigmatize those with mental-health issues. For example the terms lunatic, psycho, mad, crazy, loopy, demented, and psychotic.

If someone gets called a ‘fucking psycho’, that is one extreme, and it may constitute any number of things from a drunken mate approving a reckless act of violence to, say, the critical characterization of a risky piece of driving. (For we use words in context, and, in the first example, this may be part of the mythology of the mates’ behaviour, and so not be understood anything other than positively.)

There is a stage further, though, such as in the arena of taunting, or of threatening – or even administering – violence to a person who is known (or believed****) to have a mental-health condition. That reinforces a message that, if beautified, goes along the lines We don’t like you – or want you around – because of who you are, what you do, and what it means for you to be here, where you are not welcome.

However, I believe that some words have been denuded of any real malice, unless they are deliberately used offensively : I would suggest that, with enough energy, being called a pretty table-leg could, if anyone wanted to say it, be invested with and convey disregard, disdain, and disgust .
Or take this, from Soda Pictures’ booklet for New British Cinema Quarterly (where Eryl Phillips talks about making – planning to make – Gospel of Us, a three-day theatrical event to tell Christ’s Passion in and around Port Talbot) :

The ambition of the piece was bordering on madness – to attempt a film of it all was either a mid-life crisis or just lunatic

At least two of the words or phrases ‘mid-life crisis’, ‘madness’ and ‘lunatic’ explicitly suggest poor judgement through mental ill-health, but does that, in itself, make it insulting as such to those with that experience ? I’d draw the line in favour of those things being OK, whereas to have written this would be different, I suggest :

The ambition of the piece was bordering on demented – to attempt a film of it all was either a psychotic episode or sectionable

The insult, there, is to belittle psychosis (by likening it to feelings of alienation from one’s life, which usually fall far short of needing even medication), to draw the vague word ‘demented’ (usually meant to signify dangerous violence, and attributed in the popular imagination and vocabulary to mental-health conditions) into the mĂȘlĂ©e of meaning, and to cheapen the real and highly threatening and frightening matter of being sectioned by mentioning it in the context of a film that would be hard to make...


* In Paul Weller’s words ('David Watts').

** Or, as my father was wont to say, ‘individual’.

*** Enterprising individuals** might learn a whole string of them, or play a sort of melody, on a scale of them, in increasing and receding severity, such as :
man shit jerk sod cunt drip bum twat .

**** A sort of guilt by association or mistake, as in Max Frisch’s Andorra.

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

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Call me Ishmael…

This is a review of Blackfish (2013)

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

7 August (update in 2017, on the death of Tilikum)

This is a review of Blackfish (2013)

* Contains a wealth of spoilers - and is immensely long at 2,200 words !*


We were told that onshore fishermen call orcas (otherwise known as killer whales) blackfish*, and this term gives this 2013 Dogwoof film its title.

In fact, orcas, although largely black, are also white, and this film has a mixture of light and shadow, although, as far as the construction is concerned, it does steer us to put the SeaWorld organization (one which declined to contribute to the film, despite ‘repeated requests’) in the Tenth Circle of Dante’s Inferno : Blackfish (2013) could scarcely close with footage of four of the main former SeaWorld trainers putting out from land to see orcas in the wild without endorsing their message that that is where they belong and, accordingly, where they behave non-aggressively.

However, these are the same people who, by and large, say how a visit to a show at one of the organization’s sites (or that of some similar operator) inspired them to do what they did, become trainers. Bewilderingly, one of them queries to camera, as if it were strange, why the organization did not tell them of the 70 or so incidents involving trainers being wounded or even killed with the involvement of orcas, as if it were likely to have done so and successfully recruited her.

The organization is then pitted against the former employees, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (unhelpfully referred to by pronouncing the initials OHSA with American accents, but without saying what they stand for), a neuroscientist (who tells us that orcas’ brains have parts that even human ones lack, which indicate a capacity for highly emotive responses), and others who have studied orca behaviour at sea.

It would seem to be a question of whom we believe, but it is more loaded than that, because Kelly Clark, the organization’s head trainer (represented by outline in a stylized court-room, since OHSA had sued SeaWorld), is reported as having likened orcas as being as capable of attacking humans as all men are of committing rape, and similar selected infelicities (the judge had this one struck from the record, so clearly someone had been in court).

Two questions arise : does the US justice system have a notion of sub judice that makes a matter not fair game for comment until all appeals have been exhausted – and what does it mean to strike something from the record, if a documentary can then include it ? In essence, whatever the answers are, the film-makers are clearly not unbiased, to my mind.

Those who haunt the cinema may also recall Rust and Bone (2012), and might, with me, wonder whether the phoniness of what one of the former trainers called an ‘industry’ might not have been patent from it : the false confidence that the orcas like doing – or want to do – what they are trained to do, the assumption that a bond has been built between creature and trainer that mitigates the risk of attack, and the staged, circus-ring nature of the show.

Stéphanie (played by Marion Cotillard) loses the lower part of her legs, and that film does not dwell on the how so much as the what, and on how her life develops : a major feature that has the same theme, and not so much as a mention. However, the makers of Blackfish also do not seem to have considered how much showing a catalogue of incident after incident from contemporaneous footage could harrow the audience :

Therefore, in a sense, this approach seemed as inhumane to those viewers who might not have wanted to see all this as the claimed training methods of SeaWorld were to the captive orcas, not to speak of domestic arrangements at times when the sites are closed. This documentary proof of what happened might be far more relevant to OHSA’s legal action (and one trusts that it was available to OHSA) than to our appreciation of the issues – after the point had been established, by waving a list and showing some real examples, I certainly did not need to see more people being maimed or killed, and rather resented seeing it.

I resented it, because (as is evident) the orcas had a right to their freedom before they were netted and transported, and the people in these clips had a right to respect for what happened to them in the moment of their wounding (or worse). Screening the clips was no doubt done with the consent of relatives, keen to publicize what had happened, but the line between showing enough and too much is not really that fine, and I am sure that Blackfish was on the wrong side of it.

Couple the fact that the narrative of the film left relatively opaque why we were making a call to The Canaries regarding another orca set-up, Loro Parque, and the seemingly avoidable death of another trainer, and I struggled to see why, beyond piling up the viewing misery*, we needed to know that orcas had been transported there from the States**. The effect was really to question the integrity of Clark, because the court-reporting format had her disowning in her evidence that SeaWorld had links with Loro Parque.

Overall, I found the messages that the documentary gave were sometimes confused. These, however, were clear :

1. That the wisdom that visitors to Orlando and like places receive is to the tune that orcas live longer in captivity (we were given three or more sound-bites of staff saying this), whereas the film advanced evidence that they have a human lifespan at sea, double the number of years being said on video.

2. Likewise, they (and some of the staff) are told that the orcas that they see are related to each other, and it is stressed how positive everything is in terms of orcas’ relations between each other and with the trainers, but the documentary challenged this. With both of these points, there was no doubt that it seemed to have been established that SeaWorld misrepresented the facts, because trainers stated that orcas were moved from one SeaWorld centre to another, and that it had acquired orcas (including Tilikum, the large male (or bull orca) who had brought about the death of Dawn Brancheau at SeaWorld in 2011 and which led to court action) from a park run by Sealand when it closed.

3. As to training methods, the trainers (though, of course, SeaWorld might well claim that they had an axe to grind) told us that food deprivation was used, not just in the sense that there would only be a reward if a task were performed right (and, hence, not if not), but by way of making the orcas docile enough to go to their overnight tanks by only feeding them afterwards.

We were told about, and shown shots, of the tanks at the Sealand venue from which Tilikum came, which were grim in themselves, and not just for how long the orcas were kept with no space or stimulation overnight : the whole venue, as given to us in image and word, was cramped. Loro Parque and the SeaWorld park at Orlando were better, but (from that starting-point) it would not have been difficult for them to be better.

Where the confusion set in arises from these presented facts :

1. There had been a fatal incident at the Sealand park that involved Tilikum and a man whose naked body was found (please see below).

2. Relatively little was known to the trainers and other staff who would be working with Tilikum at SeaWorld. (As I have already said, one trainer thought that a place such as SeaWorld would actually tell her about difficulties, incidents, injuries or deaths at the outset.)

3. One of the experts whom we saw said that the conditions at Sealand, let alone the fact that Tilikum was being bullied and lacerated by two females (apparently, orcas have matriarchal communities), could have made him, as he put it, ‘psychotic’. What has to be borne in mind is that the usage of the word in the States means, not delusional (as used by psychiatry and its patients in the UK), but psychopathic – for a film shown around the globe, that should have been clarified somehow, as there is a world of difference between someone being in a delusional state and being a psychopath.

In essence, someone is almost (at some point) by definition dangerous if he or she is a psychopath, whereas a person experiencing psychosis by no means need not be, and might not be having any more than a temporary episode (because medication and / or the natural course of the psychosis brings it to an end).

4. The film then – with no obvious linkage, or recognition of the contradiction – showed how many orcas Tilikum had fathered (by artificial insemination). Obviously, as he is a very big orca (accordingly impressive and likely to pull the crowds), SeaWorld would want to try to pass on genes that had led to his size (nothing told us whether it had succeeded in this aspect of its breeding programme).

The flaw is : if one wants to say that Tilikum’s alleged psychopathology resulted from treatment at the hands of humans and fellow orcas, how could that possibly be a heritable characteristic ? At best, a heritable disposition, if treated in that way, to develop psychologically in the way ascribed to him – as we really do not know these things (i.e. the genetic role and its significance) very well in humans.

The state of UK mental-health services and how they are funded and run apart, all a bit tenuous as a concern about SeaWorld’s approach to breeding…

5. Trainers said several times that there was a sort of get back in the water attitude to any incident or injury (which is sort of consistent with not being told about fatalities – or their not seeking to find out, if they believed what they were told). They at least implied that they feared for their jobs, if they did not.

Frankly, a bit inconsistent with one trainer saying that he wanted to leave, but that he feared for what would happen to Tilikum, if he did. Either people are queuing up to be trainers (perhaps because they saw a show in their youth, and longed to do it when adult) – or they are not, and who could possibly replace Trainer X, unless Trainer X mistakenly conceives that no one else can do the job.

The main thing that I was left with was not the fact that (self evidently) orcas belong in the wild, and that the level of training takes them far beyond the caged drudgery of most zoos to being money-making big performers / attractions, by drenching a pleased audience with their vigorous tail, but by the pervading feeling of naivety.

If you look at the Loro Parque entry, it reports that there have been 40 million visitors, i.e. more than half of the UK’s population : how much can many of these people have been bothered to think about the orcas or their care or well-being ?

With respect to the former trainers, for some reason both they and the OHSA seemed to believe a story that said that the man had brought about his own death by stripping off to be in the water with the orcas : I cannot now give the story the twist that somehow blamed the man, because it has been lost to me in all the other material. However, nothing seems to suggest that this death, or the catalogue of other near-misses, injuries or deaths, was taken seriously.

Is it really so easy just to claim, as was done, that Dawn Brancheau should not have had her pony-tail down (but up in a bun) and / or that what she was doing with the orca in question led to her being pulled to the bottom – and therefore that all that ensued was her fault ? Seemingly not, given the case that the OHSA has brought (and which SeaWorld is seeking to appeal). However, from what I gather, it appears that whoever is the equivalent of the UK’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE), the RSPCA (the American Humane Association ?), and coroners / district attorneys have not been strikingly assiduous in the past.

For why did it take a fatality as recently as two years ago to bring about the present ruling (being appealed) that trainers in the water are to be separated from, and not in contact with, the orcas ? I have no idea of the OHSA’s remit, but a loss of a limb (as in Rust and Bone) is an unacceptable workplace injury, whereas the film leaves me with no notion of criminal investigations, proceedings and penalties. Maybe the OHSA case has to precede all that, maybe not.

In conclusion, the film has actually left more significant questions open than it has answered – an elephant, a parrot, an orca must be better off where they were brought from, and, even if bred from, they are bred without liberty, so I have no doubt that any creature that will get 40 million visitors through the door is bound to be exploited. Those visitors are possibly too complacent with their holiday memories and their own wish-fulfilment dreams of swimming with orcas (or dolphins – nothing against dolphins !) to notice a film like Blackfish, certainly in the cinema, I would suspect.

As to why nothing seems to have been done before (nothing is reported in the film), again I just do not know. Yet I am actually quite disappointed with employees who were told stories, did not think to question them (even when they could see how these orcas lived, and could imagine their hurt, if they really felt that they had a personal bond with them), and who may not have spoken out at the right time.

I simply cannot tell whether they did, because the featured ones were shown on the media and seemed to be in relation to the OHSA court case. Then again, I have no idea – and they, cannily, did not say – what forces might have been brought to bear if, at any other point, they had put their head above the parapet. That said, having watched another Dogwoof film, Fredrik Gertten’s Big Boys Gone Bananas (2011)***, I can imagine that it might tell those who cannot guess…


* A seaman had earlier on told us how very shocked he was when young orcas had been separated from their mothers, and he and two others had to deal with the remains of three whales that had been killed in the operation, which he said had been illegal.

** The Wikipedia® item for Loro Parque talks about this, and what it says the status of the orcas is. Such transportation, if the trainers and Wikipedia® are right, is also scarcely in accord with the notion that the orcas in shows are an organic community.

*** At Cambridge Film Festival 2012, the documentary voted best film by audiences.

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

Sunday, 4 August 2013

The World’s End – or Shiva, The Four Horsemen and The Fates trashing it all

A quasi-mental-health appraisal, rather than a review, of The World’s End (2013)

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

4 August

* Contains more spoilers than a packet of chip-sticks its usual quantity of contents *

This is a quasi-mental-health appraisal, rather than a review, of The World’s End (2013) – though written not by a psychiatrist or psychologist, but by a mental health advocate of around a decade’s standing.

The approach taken will involve a broad brush, but also some fine brushwork, sketching and chiaroscuro, as does the film.

So what does it mean ? What seemed to be an AA (Alcoholics’ Anonymous) meeting at the start was actually whatever your choose to call it out of a community or planning meeting, and thus a deliberate misdirection to put one off the scent of what and who Gary King (Simon Pegg) is. The voiceover that introduces the personnel of five constituting the main gang makes clear that King is The King (though not in that Elvis sort of sense [also Gary King, Steven Prince, Andy Knight[ley] ? ]), and this titling / description only takes its full force in retrospect :

In my view, the whole film is a free fantasy in dream / psychotic form – I use the words as a pair because I am influenced by knowing of psychologist Richard Bentall’s writing and believing that the mechanisms of the mind that are, and are behind, sleep are operative in psychosis. This means that what ‘happens’ has the same status as the closing sequence of Brazil (1985), i.e. it is wholly real to Sam (Jonathan Pryce), whatever constriction and lack of freedom is in our, as audience / witness, doomy realization of where he is and in what condition.

The clue to it all is in King’s bandaged wrists, of course, with the label of a psychiatric unit : yes, that was not the AA meeting that we took it for, but few are privileged enough to have participated in or witnessed the type that it is. At the very end, after an apocalyptic strafing of Earth, King is leading a new band of five – they demand water, he is told that only he, and not what are called blanks, can be served, and the scene and film close with (yet) another fight.

People who will be disappointed by the It was all just a dream interpretation (of this and other films, etc. (though I hope not that of Brazil)) miss what I have just sought to convey : King’s reality is just as real as anyone else’s, and what, after all, is a film other than a large team of people’s contrivance, maybe based on a book or play, maybe not. For, whether it is sitting in the dark with The Truman Show (1998) or The Agamemnon, Plato would probably still say (The Republic) that we are pleasing ourselves with shadows cast on the wall of a cave, ignoring the source of light that projects them.

So questions such as Does Earth really get destroyed ? or Why does The Network* disembark from earth ? only have meaning on the level of interpretation of the semiotics of King’s experience of psychosis / dream. Yet, functionally speaking, there are ostensible drawbacks to this schema :

(1) King would have to be presenting his own history at the opening of the film - whether it is anecdotal or documentary (or mixed) in nature - to himself, to a real (the community, etc., meeting) or imagined other, or to both. However, it is incidental to the by-and-large linear nature of the narration – in terms of a film, it sets the scene, much as the establishing material does, say, in The Magnificent Seven (1960**), or the opening sequence of t.v.’s The Likely Lads.

(2) That said, the self-reflexive nature of the narration then means that King concealing his wounded wrists (real or no, although a second viewing does reveal he does have straps across his wrists, akin to the stirrups of ski-pants), but chancing to expose them to Andy Knightley (Nick Frost), during a dogged attempt by King to drink at the final watering-hole, has to be seen in therapeutic terms (and / or in relation to any alcoholism) – the consequence of revealing what has happened to King effects a reconciliation with Knightley before ‘the bar drops’, a lovely Bond-type touch***. (It matters not whether Knightley ever existed or, if he did, was ever in any close relation to King, because the film / madness / fantasy has its internal logic : see A Beautiful Mind (2001) for one cinematic paradigm of psychotic delusion.)

(3) The delusional nature of the depicted events in and of the fictional Newton Haven****, culminating in a charged fireball that makes the effects of many a film look modest, give way to King’s best schoolfriend, Knightley, narrating times beyond that explosive happening, much as, in a way, old Tom Hanks (Zachry) does around the campfire at the close of Cloud Atlas (2012). Knightley not only fights strenuously with King not to have that final pint, until he sees the bandages, the tags, but - as King does not have that pint - serves as a mechanism for him not completing The Golden Mile, seeing off The Network, the fireball that ensues.

Yet, as it is King’s psychosis or dream - not our filmed entertainment - why should he not picture a devastated world where he (as before the reunion) is (symbolically ?) lost to Knightley, but where he is still a leader (which, in a Yul-Brynner fashion, brings us back to The Seven and hell-raising) ? On the level of psychological analysis, the controlling force of The Network, the threat posed by the blanks, the separation from the school chums (and imagining their fate) could represent the closure that King seeks (a loaded psychiatric / psychotherapeutic term that might be overlooked, since it has ceased to be jargon and become commonplace).

Does he make a symbolic mental breakthrough to our new buzz-word of ‘recovery’ – or, as in Brazil (or Birdy (1984), Spellbound (1945), etc.) is it an escape from the horror / trauma of the real situation (attempting suicide, being detained, the psychiatric unit ?). At any rate, King, who is ‘never wrong’, seemingly defeats The Network (though potently supported in this by Knightley, who has just learnt the truth about King) by his dogged refusal to comply and maintaining that it is human to err (the quotation from Pope is daubed on the fence behind Knightley), which, on a plot level, is as flimsy as some escapes from certain death of Bond or The Doctor (to name but two), unless…

Having taken the dear reader this far, I have to confess that the only way to know whether this hypothesis hangs together in more than words is to go back to Newton Haven and revisit The Golden Mile !

In the meantime, it is best to invoke a Freudian-type principle that it does not matter what Edgar Wright, the director of the film (and its co-author with Pegg), meant by it, any more than does Terry Nation in his scripts : the meanings are there and open to analysis. (NB If you seek to analyse my own motives in setting this out, be assured that Wormwood dictated this to me, and every word is his, faithfully recorded by me for this very purpose.)

Well, I went back to Newton Haven, have added to the above in the light of it, but not redacted my view - so, Happy Drinking !


* Whose voice I failed to place as that of Bill Nighy.

** IMDb claims that there is a remake fixed for 2015… with Tom Cruise.

*** Not to mention the full evocations of the gallery-space below, ranging from the various tribunals in the Potter films to lecture-theatres and public dissections.

**** Actually, recognizable as an amalgam, more or less, of Letchworth Garden City and Welwyn Garden City.

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

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Psychopaths - or just killers ?

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

21 December

* Contains spoilers *

It might be a cover-all - or a cop-out - to have psychopaths who are just crooks or who have some need to kill, or to have them interchangeably mixed up with 'the mental and deranged', yoking in anyone, indeed, who might have been in hospital, but I think that, as a product, Seven Psychopaths (2012), had no starting point for knowing what one is.

The States muddles up anyway the notion of psychosis and psychopathy, but there was nothing to suggest that this confusion was really responsible. Not that the film fared any better, in its own terms, as my various Tweets have suggested...

And now, at the risk of repeating the above, the review of Seven Sycophants :

There are many films, few as famous as (or even La Dolce Vita), where the film is about making a film (or the like), from Shakespeare-dervied and Cole-Porter-instilled Kiss Me, Kate (1958) to On the Road (2012) or recent Catalan film VOS (2009).

The makers of Seven Psychopaths must have believed – or wanted us to believe – that they were doing something new with the notion of a film that is either within, or which is, the film, but VOS is much more engaging and inventive, and Hit and Run (2012), for all its unevenness, had more laughs - or, rather, had laughs, rather than spaces for them, since I snorted just a dozen times through the course of the film, and six of them were purely in disbelief at the writers’ apparent estimation of my credulity.

The States has its own definition of what the word ‘psychotic’ means, denoting psychopathology (hence Hitchcock’s Psycho, whose Norman Bates kills woman for little reason other than that he can, and had a bad time with his mother), but this film used a very generalized notion of the latter concept, little more than the violent (and / or crazy) bloke in the local who famously ‘is a real psychopath’.

Perhaps for this reason of being confused (which can also be excused on the basis that it is a comedy), the poster had the tag-line ‘They give demented psychotics a bad name’, insulting though that would be to anyone in the UK with an experience of psychosis, and even though this film is funded by Film Four. Now I’m not saying that organized crime might not give opportunities for those who like killing or hurting people, or that it is really of any importance whether Marty (Colin Farrell) or Billy Bickle* (Sam Rockwell, who keeps trying to muscle in on the screenplay), understand what either a screenplay** or a psychopath is, because the clever conceit is meant to be that the film is writing itself or they are writing it as it goes, and so that doesn’t matter.

It then becomes conveniently irrelevant whether what Marty waves around in the desert is a draft of a script, whereas he was previously working on – and not getting very far on – an outline (and, in the only moment where he gives any evidence of writing or being a writer, had not got beyond writing ‘Ext.’ and another couple of defining characteristics of the opening of the scene).

Before that, a message being left for him asks for where what he is working on (as if he had never been required to pitch more of a concept than a numerical group of crazies to interest this unknown caller). Again as if, in a world where a writer writes his friends and himself in a film and they have no independent existence, anything can happen, not the realities of how, in the prominently displayed letters of ‘H O L L Y W O O D’ at the start, its studios work.

This might be for the rationale behind how, in successive shots, it is night and the Buick has just exploded, and then it is abruptly day and it is still on fire, i.e. that in some sort of meta-fictional world anything can happen, but that theme is played far more effectively in VOS, and without the sentimentality allowed here, but with distance : when Hans is with Myra, his dead wife, we have sad music and even a clarinet in its chalumeau register, and, later, plangent solo piano when we are asked to feel something for a dead or injured person.

Farrell’s part is to look shocked and, often enough, to drink to induce reactive amnesia, Rockwell’s to have a suppressed smile always playing rather irritatingly on his face (and be a very unlikely choice of friend), whereas Christopher Walken (as Hans***) is – almost literally – a wraith with a husky voice, with a twisted sort of humanity to match Marty’s.

Against all three, Woody Harrelson as Charlie Brooker is a scarcely mould-breaking combination of the seemingly ruthless and abusive leader, who, although his mouth is the vehicle for much maligning of races and creeds, is soppy about a dog. This is where the comparison with Hit and Run comes in, because Bradley Cooper’s Alex is a far more sinister gang-leader than Charlie, because, even if Charlie shoots Hans’ wife, he is allowed to drop his front far too soon, as if the writing is playing it for (non-existent) humour.

Irrespective of how many psychopaths the film does actually deliver, Billy appears to invoke and encourage danger and killing just for its own sake, or, supposedly, to help the plot along for his friend Marty. Claiming, as Marty does twice, that he is just Billy’s friend may seem an implausible passport to safety, but Farrell’s character has very little to offer, except non-violence and to be an anchor, except in the shade of Billy and to be known as his friend, who is the real originator and creative force, his passing marked by plangent piano…


* Yes, you read that surname aright !

** That said, they are meant to be in film, that alleged industry, so they should, of course, know.

*** To me, not a very Polish name, even if meant to naturalize ‘Jan’.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

The Step-Ladder Model of Mental Ill-Health

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

4 December

No, this is nothing – much – to do with the type of joke (many of them unfunny) How many [type of persons to stereotype*] does it take to change a light-bulb ? ...

But it could be related to answers to the question How many light-bulbs can someone with bi-polar disorder change in an afternoon ? : 0 or 24.

If I am on a step-ladder** (in no particular order) :

* It could feel pretty insecure on the ladder, and my anxiety about feeling unsteady could worsen my balance, thereby heightening my anxiety – How do I even stay here, let alone get down ?

* Even though being on the top step, with maybe only three of the feet in contact with the uneven ground, does not feel safe, as such (because I know what they say about using ladders), it’s perfectly manageable - If I stand on tiptoe and just reach out at full stretch, perhaps putting a foot against the wall…

* I look OK, but motionless, on a step two up from the bottom - I just about register that I’m down at the bottom of the ladder, but don’t ask me whether I’ve stopped on the way up or down, it’s too much to think about, and I’d like to get off and go somewhere else, but figuring out what to do just isn’t coming to me.

* I’m hurrying up the ladder, and then I stop, think, go down a step and stop again, think again, then slowly up two steps, then another pause and a thought, and hesitatingly reaching down for the step below with my foot - Damn, I’m sure that I didn’t post that letter – it’s in my pocket – I’ll go and get… – no, better to finish this first, and remember to look in my jacket – ah, but when did I last have anything to eat…?

If I am not on the ladder :

* I know where the ladder needs to be, where the light-bulbs are, and can check the wattage of the old bulb when it is down - There is so much in front of the ladder that I’ll have to move out of the way, then clear the stairs enough to get it through, manoeuvre it in and upstairs without scraping the walls or knocking anything valuable over, then lean it up again whilst I clear a space to stand it, get on it, climb up, reach – oh, God, can’t I just put batteries in the torch instead, if I need to see where I’m going there ?’


* Not that it is a word that I like to use, but now, having written it, I’m not going to rest until I discover how something that sounds like a hi-fi component means that (and has had such influence).

** The step-ladder does not stand for one, immutable thing, but a set of feelings, mood, etc., and it may signify differently from moment to moment.