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Tuesday, 31 October 2017

We’ll soon warm it up and get it feeling like a home - Pandora’s box, with a twist or two… (work in progress)

This is a response to Hellraiser (1987), shown on 35mm at The Arts Picturehouse,

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


31 October

This is a response (work in progress) to Hellraiser (1987), shown on 35mm at The Arts Picturehouse, Cambridge (CamPicturehouse), on Tuesday 31 October 2017 at 10.30 p.m.


Hellraiser (1987) was released thirty years ago, so this was a pretty impressive 35mm print from which it was projected at The Arts Picturehouse (CamPicturehouse) – photography, even when it is with moving images (cinematography), not still ones, remains about how light falls on the subject :




Some sundry observations (an accreting list) :

* Ten years before Event Horizon (1997), the same pre-occupations with pleasure mixed with pain, and with oblivion : Julia (Clare Higgins), whose nature we know rather better by the time that she brings the first man (Anthony Allen) back to no. 55, probably does not belie the truth when she explains the room to which she has led him with I’ve always preferred the floor

* As to knowing natures better, it has been suggested, of Shakespeare’s The Rape of Lucrece , that Tarquinus Sextus (the rapist) and Collatine (the husband) are aspects of the same person : never was a truer word spoken of Larry (Andrew Robinson) and Frank (Sean Chapman)

* This is sure some stylish various on Rubik's Cube (first seen in 1974)...


Needless to say, we dare not show a real Lemarchand's box


* Jane Wildgoose, credited as ‘Cenobite Costumer Designer’, is clearly channelling less fetishwear than queer fashion and gender fluidity (before it was so called)



* Are there not also more than little hints, here, of Doctor Who, or Sir Gawayn and The Green Knight... ?

[...]




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

Spank me ! (work in progress)

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


31 October

This a spoilery, post-Freudian, would-be LGBTQ+-informed consideration (work in progress) of what is sub-textual in Etage X (2016) - here is a link to the non-spoilery account ['What happens on the inside of transgressions...']



Some assertions / assumptions (which are probably in inferential order) :

1. As with – in conventional terms – ‘going through’ a man’s pockets (and so his not being pleased, and saying so by questioningly using these words), a hand-bag denotes a private, inner sort of space that one ought not look into (and, although security personnel do, they will ask if one minds their opening it / one’s taking the contents out, etc.)

2. Of a kind, the hand-bag and the [trouser or jacket] pockets are both receptacles (maybe the hand-bag more obviously so* ?) on the level of the personal – do the receptacle and its contents feel inviolate or sacrosanct to the one to whom they belong (more so than one's unlocked desk-drawer ?) by virtue of the nature of the latter... ?

3. Dentists (and doctors) put things in our mouth – with our permission, and then may reassure us that they can and should continue (i.e. do they, formally, act to seek a renewal of the permission ?), even if we react badly to it and / or what they are doing is painful

4. Of all sorts of objects (a tunnel, for example), we talk of their having ‘a mouth’ – so, Pour it carefully into the mouth of the bottle - and this includes a bag : Please open the mouth of the bag more widely




[...]


End-notes

* However, in German, eine Tasche is a pocket, and eine Handtasche a hand-bag (or a purse)… [And it goes on, with ein Taschentuch being Tuch (‘cloth’) + Taschen (‘pockets’, a seeming plural for an item that can only occupy one pocket) - a little as in English, except that we keep with hand, and not pocket).]



inner

An agreed or negotiated transgression of the norms, acceptable because invisible, but still – even if pleasurably – to be punished.




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

Monday, 30 October 2017

At Cambridge Drawing Society : Some that caught the eye - and looked likely to linger on longer looking

Cambridge Drawing Society : What caught the eye* - and would linger much longer

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


28 October


At Cambridge Drawing Society : Some that caught the eye* - and looked likely to linger on longer looking




In (except in one case) order of finding (the names of artists new to #UCFF's active consciousness are underlined - those are not links, whereas CDS, after a name, should take you - where one exists - to that member's entry in the list of members) :


* Valerie Pettifer CDS ~ Heavenly Vision (£350) [archive images at Present show at The Tavern Gallery, Meldreth : Royston Arts Society]

* Andy Dakin CDS ~ Lisa, Unportrait (540) + [hung elsewhere] Emily III (£320)

* Louise Riley-Smith CDS ~ Teacup (£295)

* Yuxin Yang CDS ~ Hills Road, Impression (£90)

* Dan Walmsley CDS ~ Daymer Bay, Cornwall (£450)

* Lyudmila Sikhosana ~ Dusk at the Meadow (£280)

* Francesca Gagni CDS ~ Stardust II (£325)

* Sue Eaton CDS ~ Inky Waters (£290)

* Yvonne Jerrold CDS ~ Zoe (£285)

* Cathy Parker CDS ~ Vineyard II (£290)

* Melanie Collins ~ Earth (£300)

* Surinder Beerh ~ Boat Yard (£150)

* Lee Browne ~ Summer, Waresley Wood (£95)

* Svetlana Baibekova ~ Composition I (£125) [archive images at Svetlana steals the show]



End-notes :

* For once, not a list with thirteen items... However, three or four titles that have a comma ?




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

Saturday, 28 October 2017

Pygmalion : The real creature

‘Pygmalion : The real creature’

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


27 October



‘Pygmalion : The real creature’

(Genesis 1 : 27)


Pygmalion
Took a lovely
Woman (unnamed
By Ovid)
And made,
Of her,
An ivory
Statue :


No, not a woman
Without a name –
As sculptor’s
Naked muse –
But real,
Warm flesh
To ivory
Statue.



© Belston Night Works 2017




Hercules Wrestling with Death for the Body of Alcestes
by Rt Hon. Sir Frederic Leighton, PA








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

Friday, 27 October 2017

What happens on the inside of transgressions...

This is a Festival response to Etage X (#CamFF Tiger Shorts programme)

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


This is a Festival response (work in progress) to Francy Fabritz's Etage X in the Tiger Shorts programme of Cambridge Film Festival 2017, as screened from 10.30 a.m. on Thursday 26 October 2017 (Day 8 of 8)


As was suggested in writing a preview for La propera pell (The Next Skin) (2016), the best of cinema appears to us through our senses, but – with contemplation and time – extends and opens outwards in our head : the preview has yet to be completed (and, throughout #CameraCatalonia, has remained ‘a work in progress’), but this is certainly true also of Incerta glòria (2017), which is not just or only ‘about’ its apparent subject…

The apparent subject here, without (until below – in an overtly ‘spoilery’ section) saying too much about it, is about an apparent encounter between two women, who apparently did not know each other before, in a space that ends up both confining and liberating them. The film, however, is not really about this at all, but about that notion of the liberation of being confined (or, put another way, finding confinement liberating) – what that means and what stems from it in the generality, and in no way rooted to or in this encounter.

One can state this view with assurance, almost dogmatically, because - from the film-making perspective, and, within short-form horizons, given a careful and detailed treatment here - no one invests that energy in what some could see, enjoy and think of just as a shocking quip : if a viewer reduces Etage X to such a quip, which is, at best, to be narrated to someone as a piece of boundary-pushing humour that he or she saw at Cambridge Film Festival, then that understanding almost wholly misses the ambition(s) of the creative crew and cast.


So, the fictive space of a lift – we watch too little film, and not because the space is not well created, if we do not credit it for what it is – has ever been inviting as well to covert lovers as to those who wish, as Emily Kuhnke does in the ambiguous setting and time of Der Aufzug (2012), to juxtapose the tics and personal façades by which, whether that is what we will, we mark ourselves out in the world. Kuhnke’s film, though, has far more of what Beckettt, in Malone Dies, calls the ‘come and go’ of life (he was later to call what he styled ‘a dramaticule’ by this name), whereas Fabritz locates changing positions of power within a cast of barely three : the whole is greater than the sum of the parts, by virtue both of the vertices of what may, without thought, seem a slender conceit, and how Morgana Muses and Eva Medusa Gühne (superb names) have been guided and led to play out the internal logic of its interior.


[...]

Click here [when the link is activated] only if you seek a spoilery, post-Freudian, LGBTQ+ consideration of the sub-textual in Etage X




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

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Subtle resonances with Guillermo del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth (2006) (work in progress)

This is a Festival preview of Incerta glòria (Uncertain Glory) (2017) (for CamFF 2017)

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


16 October

This is a Festival preview (work in progress) of Incerta glòria (Uncertain Glory) (2017) (for Cambridge Film Festival 2017)



It is truly sad that, with a budget estimated (by IMDb (@IMDb)) at €12,000,000, Tale of Tales (Il racconto dei racconti) (2015) gave us – in Toby Jones – a man in love with a flea... (And content, so it goes, to marry his daughter to whomsoever might identify, for what it is, the flea's skin.)



Though IMDb does not estimate the budget for Incerta glòria (Uncertain Glory) (2017), it gives the revenues for the opening weekend (in Spain – 81 screens) as €153,159 : it does not exactly spell out what total return there was on that €12,000,000, but one film had a seven-week shoot, whereas one shot for rather longer, from 15 May to 2 August 2014.



It would be very poor scripting, if it were not obvious that this preview values Incerta glòria much more highly than any figures from box office (or budget) – let alone any notion that Tale of Tales ‘must be’ better, because it has the said Toby Jones, and even Salma Hayek, on its cast. What it did have is a relevant portrayal of monstrosity and / or evil, and what Incerta glòria has is a much more nuanced one – one that even blurs the lines between parable, prophecy and the past (as was conceivably even implied by the very title Tale of Tales).

By contrast (whatever turns Tale of Tales may take to seek to surprise), the attitude that Incerta glòria (2017) adopts is not a binary one, of knowing / choosing good from evil, and with that being that – even though that dichotomy, if not simply on its own, is at the root of Guillermo del Toro's excellent Pan's Labyrinth (2006) : if Ofelia (in Pan's Labyrinth, set in the Spain of 1944) knew for sure how to do it (which is the point of the story), the film locates itself - through her - in opposition to her step-father Captain Vidal and his hunts for the anti-Francoist Maquis. (As with C.S. Lewis and his seven Narnia novels, it is on its supernatural - allegorical – level(s) that is made powerful.)


Not for the first time, Lewis’ all-embracing world of Narnia [in childhood, his brother Warren (‘Warnie’) and he co-created such a world (Boxen)] shows us a character, in Jadis (The White Witch - the name is French for 'formerly' ?), with sociopathic behaviour : Edmund is seduced, by the warmth of her sleigh / furs (all highly sexually suggestive, just as Meret Oppenheim’s famous fur-covered saucer, cup and spoon), but seduced into what ? Into betraying his brother Peter and sisters Susan and Lucy to Jadis… (A connection here to Camera Catalonia from three (?) years ago, with Fill de caín (Son of Cain) (2013) – on (and on the way to) the river afterwards, #UCFF chatted to its director, Jesús Monllaó, about traits of ‘being successful’.)


[...]


It is not just because we have a longer treatment, in Incerta glòria, than in the other films of this year’s Camera Catalonia that it is likely to be the most affecting film in the strand, but because it very poignantly treats of the subject of The Spanish Civil War*, which is often near to Catalan hearts.


Left to right : Oriol Pla (as Juli), and Marcel Borràs (Lluís)


Initially, we may be reminded of Pa negre (Black Bread) (2010) for historical re-creation and verisimilitude : a film from the very first time that #CamFF programmer Ramon Lamarca brought Catalan cinema to Cambridge Film Festival, in 2012, and – as one recollects – so popular that a third screening was put on.


[...]


A very careful (i.e. non-obvious) use of colour-grading, and the textural quality of the set-design and / or chosen, built location, are just some other reasons to love the look of and enter into the world of this film (and watch it multiple times, to see it unfold differently, with a knowledge of the beginning from the end) ; as with Pa negre, one retains the underlying sense of a filmic presentation, but a very subdued one, which allows one to couple with that of falling more and more deeply into its Weltanschauung : except for films that desire to alienate, this just is a feature that tends to unite the best of cinema.


End-notes:

* So called, at any rate, as we heard from Professor Paul Preston, when he accompanied co-director Jordi Torrent (@nycjordi) for the Q&A after Héroes Invisibles (Invisible Heroes) (2015) (subtitled Afroamericanos en la Guerra de España, which #UCFF interpretatively rendered as ‘The part played by Afro-Americans in The Spanish Civil War’, and so not decribed as a ‘civil’ war).




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

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Camera Catalonia - the Catalan strand - at Cambridge Film Festival 2017

This year's previews of Camera Catalonia at Cambridge Film Festival

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


16 October


This year's previews of Camera Catalonia at Cambridge Film Festival, comprising four films (one preview - of Incerta glòria (Uncertain Glory) (2017) - is still in progress...)


NB The title of each film is a link to the #UCFF preview for that film



El reí borni (The One-Eyed King) (2016) - Love, friendship and politics in contemporary Barcelona


It's dangerous to think too much ~ Lydia


The synopsis, duration and other details for the film can be found here






* * * * *


Incerta glòria (Uncertain Glory) (2017) - Brotherhood and allegiance in the Aragon of the Civil War


Subtle resonances with Guillermo del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth (2006) (work in progress)


The synopsis, duration and other details for the film can be found here




* * * * *


In the Same Boat (2016) - documentary about problems of our global economy


Breaking the ice at a film festival...


The synopsis, duration and other details for the film can be found here





* * * * *


La propera pell (The Next Skin) (2015)


Captured in amber - or Skin, touching skin - The mysteries of the past in the silent Pyrenees

The synopsis, duration and other details for the film can be found here









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

Monday, 16 October 2017

It's dangerous to think too much ~ Lydia

This is a Festival preview of The One-Eyed King (2016) (for CamFF 2017)

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


13 October

This is a Festival preview of El reí borni (The One-Eyed King) (2016)
(for Cambridge Film Festival 2017)



The synopsis, duration and other details for the film can be found here




The opening-titles to El reí borni (The One-Eyed King) (2016) are vivid, inventively deploying shapes and colour to present the credits - in, perhaps, a way that is reminiscent of the title sequence of Bond films (and other films of that era) such as Dr. No. (1962)... (As to the title-music used¹, it is subtly energized, using cushioned percussive beats and fuzzy electronics, which underpin a quickly enlarging full sound - the titles are through in only a minute.)

With its origins in the director Marc Crehuet’s own stage-play, the film both feels like ‘a slice of life’, but at the same time is representative of differing opinions about what lawful government is, and what lawful opposition and demonstration : all highly relevant to present-day Catalunya (Catalonia). The film feels very like chamber music, and Crehuet employs writing for chamber forces in the music that we hear² :


The (apparent) solidity of the interior that has been created (Lydia and David’s flat) contrasts with the intangibility of ideas and of the characters’ beliefs – and what they might wish to change, and why. So it is that incongruous conversations during dinner together (always overlooked by an eye-shaped mirror³), and incongruous expectations of willingness to initiate sex in the face of affront, are just part of Lydia and David's compromised married life - Lydia (Betsy Tùrnez) wants to mask the fact, by considering the soup recipe⁴, that David is talking about his job (Controlling the masses).

Though the time-scale remains - to some extent - indeterminate and only relative, at the dinner-party, which is near the opening of the film, Lydia is insistent that Sandra 'disappeared' (which Sandra keeps denying), and David (Alain Hernández) equally so that he knows Ignacio (as turns out to be the case), and he seems happy to describe himself, to him and to Sandra, in ways that prudence and dramatic irony both suggest that he ought not to pursue...



During and after which, much comedy (albeit of a somewhat uncomfortable kind - as when Fawlty Towers did not make one cringe so much that one could no longer watch ? !), where we – fortunate to be on the outside of the four principals' lives – have the privilege of laughing at their utterances and beliefs. Which is partly mediated by the incredulity with which Ignacio (Miki Esparbé) meets them, and then also we experience his heart-break as drawn into his personal life as the title-character.

Having heard how he has withdrawn from social contact (and being able to infer lowered mood and self-esteem), can we, with him, credit some of the pragmatism that is uttered about what has happened - or some of the ways in which his partner Sandra (Ruth Llopis) behaves, whether telling him that her dreams tell her what he, she, or they should do, or initially 'going along with' what Lydia says about ethnic minorities ?






At the centre of the film is a shock that reminds of the various tellings of the fate of the 'turbulent priest' Thomas à Becket (or of the turn that the film adaptation (partly by Ariel Dorfman himself) of his stage-play takes in Death and The Maiden (1994), as Sigourney Weaver begins to confront Stuart Wilson's and her guest, Ben Kingsley) : the same effect of misinterpreting the political and emotional situation in an act that otherwise seen can only seem desperate and deeply mistaken. Even so, the similarities here are not even as strong as to Taxi Driver (1976), and the questions that Martin Scorsese poses there in someone whose actions, despite his real motivations, appear exonerated for incidental reasons⁵.


Alain Hernández as David


At the end of it all – when David breaks the so-called fourth wall (or, at any rate, in continuation of his earlier near-hallucinations⁶) – he directs to us, as hitherto complacent viewers, If they can see everything, they must have the answers. For, in watching a film, maybe we do feel that we have the answers - but less so when put on the spot, and asked to identify directly with what we have been watching ?

By the time of the end-credits, our concentration will (more so than at the start) be on 'Some things we do', the closing song - which may sum up the mood at the end of the film, where David's losing his other certainties, even if they were mistaken, feels to have been regretted.





End-notes :

¹ The track is taken from Ben Frost's 'Venter' (not, despite the order of the music-credits, from 'Guardian at the Door' by Valgeir Sigurðsson**).

² Apparently, we hear five in all of Valgeir Sigurðsson's pieces played for the soundtrack. And also, for example, Nico Muhly's Drones & Viola.

³ We may not be aware how it is part of the cast, by showing us things on the table that would not otherwise be visible, and that it is one of the things that David makes sure to smash...



⁴ She also prefers to remember being proud at how good he looks in his uniform, and how to her (when he was speaking after his training) It was just as if you'd been to university.

⁵ As, later, with The Wolf of Wall Street (2013), where it may seem that we are intended to enjoy the misdemeanours and escapades with which Scorsese's version of the real Jordan Belfort is involved...

⁶ Not unlike, as earlier in the film, the internal world of Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro) in Scorsese’s Taxi Driver ?






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

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Breaking the ice at a film festival...

This is a Festival preview of In the Same Boat (2016) (for Cambridge Film Festival 2017)

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


6 October

This is a Festival preview of In the Same Boat (2016) (for Cambridge Film Festival 2017)



The synopsis, duration and other details for the film can be found here




A : Hello, again ! What are you watching next – the Chinese epic, in Screen 1 ?

C : Oh - hi ! Sorry, I was deep in thought. You mean Mountains May Depart… ?

No, I’m not doing that one (or re-watching We Need to Talk About Kevin) – I’m going to see a documentary in the Catalan strand, Camera Catalonia



So we might imagine these two, chatting in the bar for a while at Festival Central on Day 7 of #CamFF2017, and wondering what might draw one (A) to a film that, at 131 minutes, is nearly an hour more than the length of C’s - and bearing in mind that, curbing the time available to converse, C needs to be seated for a start that is fifteen minutes earlier than A's.

As we see, we say a documentary, or we ask what is the film ‘about’, but maybe (perhaps with C’s guiding ?) they might enter into talking about whether there is any one such thing as a documentary - any more, perhaps, than there is a Hitchcock film, or a film about the environment (although this one, as the title In the Same Boat implies, does touch upon such questions) ?



If we are reacting to John Akomfrah's use, in The Nine Muses¹ (2010), of snow and mountain scenes in Alaska (often featuring water, and vessels on it), and with or without one or more brightly-jacketed 'observers' (or 'sentinels') – how, for example, does that ice and the implied cold make us feel, and how do we imagine that the figures feel ? It is this that Akomfrah wants us to relate to.

By contrast, some reviewers might typically might call a film (or a piece of music) 'evocative' - which may well be so, but what do the key scenes (or what does the music) evoke, and why is it not useful and important to try to say it to the reader (and potential viewer / listener) ? (In truth, it may well be several feelings (or past experiences), so it is probably best to try to characterize the principal one(s).)


In Akomfrah's films², it is in the moments between the words - or in words translated, to footage that he shows from the 1950s and 60s, from Homer's The Odyssey, or from Dante - that the deep communication begins, of alienation and feeling awkward.


Here, in In the Same Boat, the soundtrack that director Rudy Gnutti has written (and including the closing song) is used to attend recurrent imagery, which overall suggests entering new territory, but which, in introducing the five sections (and then being reprised at the end), specifically makes us think of : hesitancy (at an audience left in awe) ; a suspensive quality (as of waves and the wind) ; of being carried away (by fast cello arpeggiation on a soaring string-base) ; and of the impulse of percussive-beats, high strings, and then arpeggios underneath.

The strength of Gnutti's score is not the least of those of this film, which has speakers crystallize thoughts and concepts for us :


We don’t master globalization. Globalization masters us. ~ José Mujica



In the film, sociologist Zygmunt Bauman describes us as all in the same boat - but asks where the oars, or the engines, are...


From the outset, we have a suitably theatrical Master of Ceremonies in Àlex Brendemühl³, sitting behind his stagily-lit desk and microphone as if a radio-host, greeting us :


Good evening, ladies and gentlemen - welcome back, once again ! As always, you and me - here and now.


In a prologue to In the Same Boat (2016), Brendemühl recalls that John Maynard Keynes, in a speech to La Residencia de Estudiantes, Madrid, in June 1930, predicted where we would be in a hundred years with the economy - complete with Gnutti’s clips from Lang’s Metropolis (1927) and from films by Georges Méliès (from 1898 to 1912).

Both unseen (whether giving us quotations from writers from antiquity, such as Martial, Seneca or Boethius) and seen (telling us the truth of the distribution of wealth in the States - as against what people thought ideal, or think is the case), we gather the impression that he is broadcasting to the whole world.

In shots - monochrome, but for a pinky red - of everyday life around the world, and everyday conversations in countries from Russia to Nigeria to Argentina. In all of these, we feel connected and included, as people converse about things that are familiar to us, such as what the value is of teenagers nowadays obtaining university qualifications.



Zygmunt Bauman (sociologist) ; Mariana Mazzucato (economist) ; José Mujica (former President of Uruguay)


The pervasive imagery, again, suggests that what we hear these and various economists and other theorists say⁴ is also for everyone to hear, whether it be to ask how we can continue to live on Earth when there has been a decoupling between the levels of growth and that of employment...

Or how the distribution of wealth looks back to that of The Pharaohs (according to economist Mauro Gallegati), and whether - which is widely discussed in the closing section, about 'a new way', and with the enthusiasm of economist Rutger Bregman - there is a solution.


Rutger Bregman


Gnutti closes his film with a very powerful combination of showing us a disappearance into the unknown, and his strong lyrics, with an African singer accompanying, presumably, his own voice (with all that raw brittleness of Peter Gabriel at his best) :

If you help me, one more time,
I can change this crazy life







End-notes :

¹ Or, in Akomfrah’s The Unfinished Conversation (2012), in the juxtaposition – across three screens at Tate Modern (until January 2018) – of a street-scene in London (with milk being delivered), a fairly static view of colonial Jamaica and, perhaps, shots of clouds and the dawn light, all overlaid with audio of footsteps and clinking bottles, and a reading – timed to early morning – from a text, in this case Virginia Woolf’s The Waves (but also from Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast books, or from Blake, etc.).

² This preview started by mentioning Akomfrah, because it is relevant that there are elements in the two films referred to, particularly The Nine Muses, that lead some who write about film to describe them as essays. (Here is a link to a video of Akomfrah in conversation at Sheffield Documentary Festival 2015 (www.sheffdocfest.com / Sheffield Doc / Fest).) :

This preview started by mentioning Akomfrah, because it is relevant that there are elements in the two films referred to, particularly The Nine Muses, that lead some who write about film to describe them as essays². Irrespective of the exact application of that terminology, though, what these films have in common with other highly meditative and powerfully affecting films such as Leviathan (2012) - one of many films, even in the same year of release, of that title - or Visitors (2013) is that they feel more poetic than many feature films, and also, precisely without spelling it out orally, to have more to say.


³ We may recognize him from Camera Catalonia in 2013 El bosc (The Forest) (2012), where he played Ramon (Dora's husband).

⁴ With the exception of José Mujica (President of Uruguay from 2010 to 2015), and Professor of economics Serge Latouche, everyone is identified to us directly, and all (except Mujica) speak from within a conventional indoor interview set-up (where the answers imply the questions asked, which are sometimes points that other speakers have made). Some, such as Zygmunt Bauman, stray from looking at the interviewer to looking directly into the camera...




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

Monday, 9 October 2017

For #WMHD2017 (World Mental Health Day)

On World Mental Health Day, a suggested commonality for all the grievously hurt

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


10 October

On World Mental Health Day (#WMHD2017), yet again, a suggested commonality for all who have been grievously hurt


Amongst those who used to drink, the jocular phrase What's your poison ? had currency - and maybe still has ? (It does not matter whether the term now is getting wasted, lashed, or trashed (or shit-faced or rat-arsed), the explicit recognition is of doing something damaging to cope.)

Whatever may be claimed, we all have that need to cope - even if coping with what life really means consists in avoiding the question, and instead screwing everyone else in business deals so that one can believe in one's worth (in dollars, at any rate...).


In the world of so-called mental-health so-called diagnoses, it can seem as though the differences are thrust in one's face, with some provided for - if provided for at all - in tertiary services, whereas some others are asked to engage with drug and alcohol services, and others still* contend to be seen by secondary services, and not just at the level of their GP (primary mental health).

Yet how illusory is all of this pretend taxonomy, and how much more do we have in common ? :






Chronic Emotional Woundedness* - can we all, labelled with this or that, identify with such words, and see ourselves linked by our experience ?


End-notes :

* If not wanting to run away and never see again the alleged mental-health services that detained and 'treated' them against their will and traumatized them.

** Yes, it does spell ChEW - maybe feeling that we have been chewed up and spat out is a core part of our commonality... ?




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

On the Road - but with Wolf Alice (not Sal Paradise*)

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














[...]







End-notes :

* The reference is to the narrator, in the film adaptation of Kerouac's novel, On the Road (2012)...




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

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Captured in amber - or Skin, touching skin

This is a Cambridge Film Festival preview of The Next Skin¹ (2015)

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


3 October

This is a Festival preview of La propera pell (The Next Skin¹) (2015)
(for Cambridge Film Festival 2017)



The synopsis, duration and other details for the film can be found here





The question that arises with cinema may sometimes be whether to value a stone for itself -
or for its fossil contents ?


Or - as with the best pieces of amber (even if not strictly constituting ‘a stone’) - for both ?

A mosquito in amber
Photographed (and licensed for use) by Didier Desouens



Early on, La propera pell (The Next Skin¹) (2015) sets its scene in the Pyrenees (with a sparing score by Gerard Gil, and a sound-design that echoes the mountainous landscape). It is then located there, save in retrospect, for the duration, as Michel (a French social worker) travels with and accompanies a teenager², along with the family that lost Gabriel eight years earlier, to settle him in.


In this film, the part of that it that is its location is neither over- nor understated : it is not one of those films where it is typically called (for want of anything better to say) ‘another character’ (or brooding), but it is where it is, and even Ana, Gabriel’s mother (who is ‘from the south’), needs to bear with it³.



Nothing is rushed in this film-making - the initial sounds, and then shots, of thawing ice assure us of this. The cinematographic choices that have been made prefer for what we see to be realistic to our visual sense, and so do not show us sharply what cannot be seen so clearly, and, at other times, employ for narratorial purposes uncertain images, or the effects of a shallow depth of field.

Using the word ‘uncertain’ just now (and – impliedly – ‘unclear’) reflects Isaki Lacuesta and Isa Campo’s tacit acknowledgement to us, as directors, that there is much that just will not be explained in La propera pell [or, as is the custom, in this preview]. However, it is not likely to be – as with Michael Haneke’s films, such as Amour (2012) – that the director / writers profess (as Haneke does) no more than we to know what happened : rather (with work on the script from Fran Araújo), they seem to have differently made such uncertainty part of their subject-matter, i.e. how they tell and / or show what we see. (Thus, one need not necessarily conceive of their not knowing what they choose not to show, but more - in order to put us in the position of the characters - of not showing it.)


The scope of the film is largely located in the time that Michel (Bruno Todeschini) safely believes that he can stay away (before feeling obliged to return to his colleagues). In fact, despite his having been much in the midst of the fuss and friction of unexpectedly fraught relationships and reactions [although – believably – just as often not happening to be there, too (with his off-screen actions are not accounted for)], not only is Michel increasingly not our eyes and ears, but we are also not simply or largely left to decide what we make of the tension, and of the past to which it relates.


Instead, we co-puzzle with the principals about what meant what, and why people’s attitudes might be as they are : from the first, we are aware of Sergi López' (Enric’s) generalized scepticism towards Àlex Monner² (or anyone in the position of his long-lost nephew Gabriel). What we come to gather more is in what his suspicion may be thought to reside… but we will wait in vain for La propera pell to spell everything out.


Àlex Monner and Sergi López


As alluded to in the heading of this posting (elaborating on how the preview has been titled), maybe we will feel ourselves invited, in watching the film, to judge what is true : it may be that one expects of films that, when they have ended, they have apparently said their piece. Yet, if one had watched El virus de la por (The Virus of Fear) (2015) in that expectation, during last year’s Camera Catalonia, the truth is that it simply would not even have 'spoken' fully, if the only time available for it do so was before being due at another screening.



Rubén de Eguia (Jordi) in El virus de la por (2015)


At face value, El virus is naturalistic, but its director, Ventura Pons, is arguably not intending it to be realistic per se. Such a reflective and thoughtful film needs time for us to be of a mind with it, and a film that may seem to concern itself with one thing (i.e. the staff of a sports centre and their interactions with those who use the facilities) may prove to have other pre-occupations⁴ :

What it is to be human, and not just frightened - but terrified - in the face of forces that one does not control or understand.



Brian Dennehy (as Krapp) with tape-recorder


As to Samuel Beckettt, his dramatic œuvre is as varied, about memory and the past⁶, as just the fraction of it that is represented by Krapp's Last Tape (or Not I) - but we could tell from them alone that he knows what it is ruminate, recollect and recall. Likewise, in Company (masterly amongst the last of the prose works), whose limpid telling - which begins with A voice comes to one in the dark. Imagine (and then travels via reflection and cogitation such as Deviser of the voice and of its hearer and of himself. Deviser of himself for company) - may most obviously appear to descend, via a closing form of words, to a single word :

[...] And you as you always were.

Alone.


Whether heard or read, this word (although it may literally conclude Company) simply is not summative of the foregoing text, or of the import of having experienced the beauty of the writing, the intricacies of the thoughts and the imaginings...

Similarly, with La propera pell, it is suggested that we ought not to let its closing scenes limit what – given space and time – we would find ourselves thinking further. Sometimes, making an instant judgement at the end of a film may satisfy, but only where one it is in virtue of a revelation at its end that its worth consists :

Can we find ourselves content to feel that - within what the film does tell us - there is no scope to think beyond the terms of a single notion of What really happened ? If we cannot view it as such a film, it is one where to reflect about what has been seen will yield what it most means to us.






End-notes :

¹ It seems likely that, as with the phrase mon propre peau in French, the Catalan title translates as 'My own skin'.

² * If you were at Cambridge Film Festival for Camera Catalonia last year, Àlex Monner may seem familiar to you : he played the footballer Jordi in both Barcelona Summer Night (2013) and Barcelona Christmas Night (2015).

³ Assuming, that is, that Ana is Catalan (not Castilian Spanish), the south may be The Balearics, or within the land-mass of mainland Catalunya, and we do not know why Ana (Emma Suárez) moved. (Presumably to be with her husband (??).)

⁴ Thus, on this level, the process of the film – the presenting plot and whether it seems plausible – is subsidiary : how we get to the final scene is less important than realizing, as Jordi (alongside Anna, Hèctor and Laura) is besieged at the end of the film. (Or near the end of the film, before the camera lifts smoothly back to the omniscient vantage-point that it occupied at the start…)

⁵ Taken from ‘Brian Dennehy Knows His Krapp : A discussion with the star of Krapp’s Last Tape, opening this week at the Long Wharf Theatre’, Christopher Arnott’s posting for New Haven Theater Jerk (on 28 November 2011).

⁶ Not for nothing was Beckettt a devotee of Proust and À la recherche du temps perdu (of which Harold Pinter wrote a screen-play).




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