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Friday, 29 December 2017

Two Tweets about Oklahoma ! (1955)

This started with two Tweets about Oklahoma ! (1955)

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


29 December

This started with two Tweets about Oklahoma ! (1955)

























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

Wednesday, 27 December 2017

Don't forget you have a board meeting at the museum at three¹

A reaction to Nocturnal Animals (2016)

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


St Stephen's Day


A reaction to Nocturnal Animals (2016)


From Jeff Koons and Damien Hirst downwards (including Aaron Curry (courtesy of LA’s David Kordansky gallery), Beatrice Caracciolo (courtesy of Paula Cooper gallery, NY), and Robert Polidori (courtesy of Edwynn Houk gallery in NYC)), the closing titles of course give credit for the original artwork that Tom Ford chooses to show us, but not for the provocative images with which the film starts² (which, maybe, should not provoke ?). However, they might embody a sentiment to which Ford seems to have attached his name :




Since they are clearly pastiche, but Ford clearly also wanted them in Nocturnal Animals, the thing that asking us to credit them as works of art does is to deny Susan Morrow (pictured above) plausibility from the start even in the capacity of gallerist¹, and to undermine whatever is meaningful in including views of actual artworks in the film : after the opening, it might as well all be invented, for all that it matters.


Likewise, this canvas was made for the film by Ford and his art department



Here, the film within a film would possibly be of no real interest³, were it not for being contained in this film - which makes it of marginally more interest for being, through her imaginings of a novel in proof form, some insight into [the character of] Susan Morrow (Amy Adams).


Except that she has no real character⁴, except as a repository for Proustian recollection that leads to much-delayed guilt (and regret ?) : she is a void whom we see Edward Sheffield, her former husband, filling up (with text that we do not, however, directly experience), and from whom reactions are elicited.

(Abel Korzeniowski's principal theme for the film is of quality, and has all the fineness of one of Bernard Herrmann's most lusciously orchestrated themes, but - as if to emphasize the conceptual sterility of Morrow's interior world ? - two important moments, at the conclusion of the film within a film, are accompanied, respectively, by the unsubtlety of an absurdly-held tremolo, and the mimicry of a pulse.)


To be sure of the true mark of Symbolism, though, director Tom Ford gives us this curious detail on the night when the typescript is delivered : On seeing Morrow driving up, first, to the automatic gate that lets her car into her property - and as if it has never happened before - the head-lights reflect on the gate, blinding her, and she has to shield her eyes !


It is therefore not surprising that it appears, from ‘Communicating through Fiction : Tom Ford on Nocturnal Animals’⁵, that what appealed to the writer / director in Tony and Susan, Austin Wright’s original novel, was the idea of this device of communicating to someone through a work of fiction. Through a written work of fiction. And thereby communicating something that they had not been able to really communicate clearly.

That novel is, in case we miss it, Tony and Susan, i.e. the character in the book, Nocturnal Animals, and the person who compellingly reads that book (by the man from whom she divorced nineteen years ago).



Anne Brontë might have written in a way that endangered the structure of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, with around one hundred and fifty pages that we are to conceive of as read overnight. Even so, though Brontë risks breaking not so much the flow of the book as our attention by such a prolonged leap back in time, the fine impulse on her part here is to have us read – just at the same time when Gilbert Markham reads it – what informs his (and so our) understanding of where Helen Graham has come from, and so of who she is.

Whereas, with Susan Morrow and what her rememberings and her intense engagement with her ex-husband's fiction tell us, one is more reminded of James Joyce, dismissed by Virginia Woolf for Ulysses as a bell-boy at Claridge’s, scratching his pimples⁶. [Woolf also wrote, of Ulysses, Never did any book so bore me.] As with Belle toujours (2006), the entire conceit here is to have the film consume itself, as if a dragon ate its own tail : it begins, after an opening at a gallery, with the delivery of the typescript, and ends - with precious little in between - just after Morrow has finished a weekend of reading it.



Certainly, whatever proponents Nocturnal Animals has, one could not rightly claim of it (as Time Out did of something no less unworthy⁷) that the film offers a deceptive, philosophical and cautionary meditation, not only on age, appetite, pleasure, betrayal, mendacity, revenge and disillusionment but also in idle curiosity. (Largely, that seems more fitting to describe the films evoked by its empty establishing shots at a distance, Mulholland Drive (2001) and Sunset Blvd. (1950).)


Even if some reviewers / explicators have not imputed this motive [for example, Vulture and The Cinemaholic], is Nocturnal Animals essentially - as Belle toujours and Sleeping Beauty (2011) before it - no more than a wind-up, of the form that (purportedly) engages us with it, and then does something different ?


In the former (the alleged sequel to Belle de jour (1967), although it is hardly like Buñuel), Henri and Severine at the dinner-table is bad enough, but there are a thousand reasons why what is shown at the end of this film (even with a suggestion of a tear ?) could, in its own terms, just signify something other than what it seems to imply. (The writers quoted, who only consider the film in isolation, adopt the familiar tactic of making a virtue of an offence.)

For, as Vivian Mercier says⁸ about the conclusion of Samuel Beckettt's novel Malone Dies (Malone meurt), even the apparent ending is 'not conclusive' because, as happened before, Malone may have dropped his pencil.


And, perhaps, Beckettt seems ever so slightly more relevant to Morrow, because of that tear, and his succeeding novel The Unnamable (L'Innommable), as well as 'Rough for Radio I' (collected by Faber & Faber in Ends and Odds : Plays and Sketches) ?

Animator : Particularly with that tear so hard behind. It is not the first, agreed. But in such a context !




End-notes :

¹ Though the line neatly enough avoids establishing later where we are and why, devices such as it afford Susan the status of being a person of import, but who is just seen wandering around, looking at things, and barely in the film, in real time, except to put herself into the film within a film that she creates.


Maybe, in this professional life, Adams is precisely not meant to possess any conviction, but, whether as Jeanne, a gallerist married to Germain (Fabrice Luchini) in François Ozon’s In the House (Dans la maison) (2012), or the madly art-collecting Iona Aylesbury of Martha Fiennes’ Chromophobia (2005), KST has it in spades.



² We might have suspected that the video projection and sculptures on plinths were designed and created by the film’s art department and Tom Ford - as is confirmed to us Emerson Rosenthal in conversation with Shane Valentino, the film’s production designer, for VICE.

³ There seem to be undigested elements that are familiar from Funny Games (1997) or Wind River (2017).

⁴ Trivially, of course, she is no more real than the characters of Tony Hastings (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Bobby Andes (Michael Shannon), whom we believe that we see her embodying.

⁵ Zacharias, Ramona (10 January 2017). CreativeScreenwriting.com.

⁶ Also quoted in the form The work of a queasy undergraduate scratching his pimples.

⁷ Written of Belle toujours [20–26 November 2008].

Beckettt / Beckettt (Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1979). Mercier writes that it is frequently assumed that death comes to Malone when his hand ceases to write on the last page (p. 175) - quoted in Anthony Davis' No Symbols Where None Intended (Belston Night Works, Bristol, 2nd edn, 1998).




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

Tuesday, 26 December 2017

Cinema-going in 2017, an illustrated round-up

#UCFF's most-esteemed films, as seen during 2017

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


Christmas Eve

#UCFF's most-esteemed films, as seen during 2017 :
or, available here in a plain-text version


Dedicated to Neil White of everyfilm.co.uk (as pictured)




In alphabetical order (with date of viewing), and - unless stated otherwise - seen at The Arts Picturehouse, Cambridge (@CamPicturehouse) :


* A Quiet Passion (2016) ~ 12 March




* Baby Driver (2017) ~ 3 July




* Becoming Cary Grant (2017) ~ 29 July [seen at The Watershed* / @wshed]




* Cameraperson (2016) ~ 8 March




* Citizen Jane : Battle for the City (2016) ~ 8 May




* Elle (2016) ~ 10 March




* Happy End (2017) ~ 1 December




* Jackie (2016) ~ 22 February




* Missing (Sarajin Yeoja) (2016) ~ 24 April




* Prevenge (2016) ~ 31 March [seen at Saffron Screen / @Saffronscreen]




* Silence (2016)





* Souvenir (2016) ~ 28 August [seen at Saffron Screen]




* The Villainess (Ak-Nyeo) (2017) ~ 11 September




So, March turns out to have been a good time to be at the cinema (not just because it is the time of year for bait for BAFTA, or The Academy Awards)...



Honourable mentions :


* Aquarius (2016) ~ 23 November



* Chi-Raq (2015) ~ 5 February [seen at Saffron Screen]



* Dispossession : The Great Social Housing Swindle (2017)





* Freesia (2017) ~ 26 September



* Half Way (2015)



* Loving Vincent (2017) ~ 10 November [seen at The Watershed]



* On the Road (2016) ~ 9 October



* The Seasons in Quincy : Four Portraits of John Berger (2016) ~ 18 July



* The Journey (2016) ~ 16 July [seen at Saffron Screen]




End-notes :

* In conjunction with Cary Grant comes Home for the Weekend Festival (@carycomeshome).




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

Sunday, 24 December 2017

Cinema-going in 2017, a round-up

#UCFF's most-esteemed films, as seen during 2017

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


Christmas Eve

#UCFF's most-esteemed films, as seen during 2017 :
or, available here in a jazzed-up version






Dedicated to Neil White of everyfilm.co.uk (as pictured)




In alphabetical order (with date of viewing), and - unless stated otherwise - seen at The Arts Picturehouse, Cambridge (@CamPicturehouse) :

* A Quiet Passion (2016) ~ 12 March

* Baby Driver (2017) ~ 3 July

* Becoming Cary Grant (2017) ~ 29 July [seen at The Watershed* / @wshed]

* Cameraperson (2016) ~ 8 March

* Citizen Jane : Battle for the City (2016) ~ 8 May

* Elle (2016) ~ 10 March

* Happy End (2017) ~ 1 December

* Jackie (2016) ~ 22 February

* Missing (Sarajin Yeoja) (2016) ~ 24 April

* Prevenge (2016) ~ 31 March [seen at Saffron Screen / @Saffronscreen]

* Silence (2016)

* Souvenir (2016) ~ 28 August [seen at Saffron Screen]

* The Villainess (Ak-Nyeo) (2017) ~ 11 September


So, March turns out to have been a good time to be at the cinema...



Honourable mentions :

* Aquarius (2016) ~ 23 November

* Chi-Raq (2015) ~ 5 February [seen at Saffron Screen]

* Dispossession : The Great Social Housing Swindle (2017)

* Freesia (2017) ~ 26 September

* Half Way (2015)

* Loving Vincent (2017) ~ 10 November [seen at The Watershed]

* On the Road (2016) ~ 9 October

* The Seasons in Quincy : Four Portraits of John Berger (2016) ~ 18 July

* The Journey (2016) ~ 16 July [seen at Saffron Screen]


End-notes :

* In conjunction with Cary Grant comes Home for the Weekend Festival (@carycomeshome).




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

Monday, 18 December 2017

When Bergman rejoices in opera's absurdities...

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


18 December












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

Friday, 15 December 2017

Courtiers of Grace : Delightful euphony and intimacy from exceptional voices in their own right

A partial response to the ensemble Courtiers of Grace at Trinity College, Cambridge

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


15 December

This is a partial response, at first by Tweet, to the concert-programme 'A rose there is...' as given for Cambridge Early Music by the ensemble Courtiers of Grace (with Stephen Wilkinson as reader) in the chapel of Trinity College, Cambridge, on Friday 15 December at 7.30 p.m.




Somewhat arbitrarily (if it is nonetheless conveniently pat), the Baroque period in music is sometimes considered* to begin, in 1607, with Claudio Monteverdi's L'Orfeo (or La favola d'Orfeo), SV 318, and to end with the death of Johann Sebastian Bach (in 1750). But what about this painting (now housed in The Kröller-Müller Museum, in The Netherlands)... ? :


Stilleven in een kast (Belgium, 1538)


As on the topic of the quirky precision of such still-life paintings, and especially in the case of the instruments (other than the two (principal) human voices, of whose origins and nature we could learn, by implication, from the programme-notes), it would have been nice to have some information about them. However, with a programme that ran very well, in two thankfully uninterrupted sequences (for that, one can rely on an audience at Cambridge Early Music (@CambsEarlyMusic), where would that have been done in person ?

Unless, gracefully, details and / or corrections are forthcoming from the members of Courtiers of Grace (@gracecourtiers), and since this is not intended to be a full review (for which purposes, sufficient notes were not made), here, for the moment, are the remaining observations that were recorded...


Personnel of Courtiers of Grace :

* Gawain Glenton ~ Cornetto (and recorder)

This was adept playing of an instrument that seemed beautifully made from a piece of wood that was light in colour, and which fitted so well into the ensemble, with its well-matched festive sounds of pure tone and significantly engaging affect

* Jacob Heringman ~ Lute

Confident and expressive lutenism (from a performer with a standing tradition as a guest of Cambridge Early Music) – Jake’s delicate instrument seemed to have double-strings (and yet seem nearer the lower part of the range of development of the number of courses in the history of the lute ?)

* Kirsty Whatley ~ Harp

On an instrument that seemed to be a wire-strung harp, with a case made from a darkish wood such as cherry, Kirsty sat next to Jake (on lute), and her playing often blended to suit his, whereas both had very pleasing opportunities to play solo, and with a different manner of attack and delivery to accord with that role

* Clare Wilkinson ~ Soprano

Singing in several languages and modes with assurance, Clare's familiar voice was beautifully warm and resonant in the acoustic, and inflected by the heart's motions, as she exchanged glances and smiles with her fellow musicians

* Stephen Wilkinson ~ Reader

A conversation at the venue earlier had turned to Jonathan Swift, so the satire or ironic assertion that Luther also proved to have employed in some of his writings was very timely – the tension between surface and actual meaning was nicely brought out, in readings that were both well timed after the preceding set of pieces, and (with the aid of very good amplification) compellingly and clearly pronounced




End-notes :

* For example, in the entry for baroque music in the Encyclopædia Britannica. Often enough, a matter of pigeonholing the past by reference to the bits that [we believe that] we know remain from it, even if we may, circularly, assume that we understand why they came into being or survived, because of what they are (or what we assume that they are ?)...

Apart from the fact that, at the level of the sort of composition that is pictured in Stilleven in een kast (compared with that of works in Il palazzo ducale (The Ducal Palace) in Venezia, or, in Roma, The Papal Apartments of Il Vaticano (The Vatican)), the written evidence of the artist being commissioned (or of patronage) is unlikely to exist (when we do not even know who the artist was), is it also improbable that we really know enough why such a work should have been created in 1538 at all ?




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

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

From Ibsen to Kafka to Camus and Sartre to Lynch to Burton to Dogville : community and re-watching Edward Scissorhands (1990)

This is a reappraisal (work in progress) of Edward Scissorhands (1990)

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


11 December


This is a reappraisal (work in progress) of Edward Scissorhands (1990)

We need not fear that, because Edward Scissorhands (1990) is entertaining – with its sub-Lynchian palette of pastel hues for homes and clothes within which those drawn to conformity in their estate* express their minor individualism – it cannot also be an outline argument how such societies and their norms marginalize both disability and any proper understanding of what it means to identify as disabled (or LGBTQ, or as from an ethnic or religious minority, or as needing or having treatment for cancer).


Heinrich Hoffmann's Struwwelpeter (first edition, 1845)




More to come...



End-notes :

* The inhabitants of Tinsmith Circle, Carpenter's Run, Lutz, CA, are credited.




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

Monday, 4 December 2017

A couple of Tweets about Menashe (2017)

This is a couple of Tweets about Menashe (2017)

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


4 December

This is a couple of Tweets about Menashe (2017)

Despite the old, old mistake of being bitten by watching a trailer, one fell for what that of Menashe (2017) had to show one of the named principal character and his relations with his son and views on life and marriage - it just is not representative, and this film is not, as one might imagine, some sort of more genuine response or retort to the world that John Turturro and Woody Allen show us in the former's Fading Gigolo (2013)...








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