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Wednesday, 31 October 2012

A nupe ohm

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31 October - All Hallows' Eve

Call it a poem, rhythmic prose, prose-poem, it saw the light of day - kicking and mewling - on Sunday afternoon, at an event whose report is to follow...




Stopped watch


I am a stop-watch
But I have stopped,
Stopped at a quarter to twelve –
As we used,
When I was made,
To say –
But which is always
Now (when is now?)
Eleven forty-five


In my day,
No one thought
That forty
Contained a double vowel,
And knew where the place
Newgate, boldly declared
Above the pivot (‘London’ below),
Was, and what it meant


I’m old, but not that old,
Though big and what they call chunky,
As my numbered dial proclaims –
Whoever says ‘dial’, in
An age of ‘displays’? –
With its florid seven,
Even eight,
Nine with the grace
Of the six’s curl


As I’m stopped,
I don’t work,
And I have a loose hand,
The brass one that gave me life,
Now – whenever that is –
Forever upside down,
Severed from the shiny
Enamelledness of hour-
And minute-hands
(And even a small, red
Strip, more a marker
Than a hand,
Whose purpose I forget)
And was it just before mid-day,
Nearly to noon,
As they insist on wondering –
Or approaching the witching hour?


As if I care,
As if I remember :
I just hear
The faint click
In my ratchet-domed
Top-piece,
And doze back
To slumber



© Copyright Belston Night Works 2012



Monday, 29 October 2012

Miliband on mental ill-health - 29 October 2012

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30 September


A series of what I see as key messages in Tweets





























Then, in a comment on @MarkOneinFour's (Mark Brown's) piece in The Guardian, I said :


I think that the issues raised in this article need to be related to others that were mentioned in the speech:

What Miliband called 'the artificial divide' between physical health and mental health (as if, to one with experiences of stronger cases of either, it were not obvious that poor physical health can affect mood and morale, and how poor mental health impacts on immunity), because if people (GPs included, whose apparent desire for better training was highlighted) appreciated that they are not separate, more might give in the bullishly unforgiving attitudes of those such as Clarkson (much as he wanted to portray Brunel as a great man and for us to vote for him, when it suited).

Miliband rightly drew attention to the fact that the physical health and the mortality of those with long-standing mental-health conditions are far worse, and, although doctors may ask for better training, there has to be a massive shift in attitude, if the chest-pains of someone with a mental-health diagnosis are not, until it proves to be a heart condition, to be ascribed to panic-attacks or anxiety, whereas any other patient is looked at with open eyes.

It is a complete disgrace how, on mental-health units, even patients with diagnosed, pre-existing physical conditions receive - or do not receive - care, and the opposite case, of such a person being in a physical-health ward and needing their mental-health needs understood and not patronized, can be just as bad.

But, whatever the poor starting-point, Miliband is right to identify these issues, and I have tried to draw the half-dozen or so key messages out of his speech in my blog at [URL for this page censored by
The Guardian]:



Next, I shall make another version of this posting, and interpolate comments between the Tweets of Miliband's speech...


Comparing Bonds

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29 October




Going to http://movieevangelist.wordpress.com/2012/10/29/the-23-best-james-bond-films-of-all-time/#comment-1479, I have added :

From memory, I know that I have seen Goldfinger / Dr No / Thunderball / Diamonds are Forever / The Man with the Golden Gun / Goldeneye / Die another Day / You only live Twice / Live and let Die / Quantum of Solace / Casino Royale, and one other, and I shall seek, before bedtime, to put them in order...



On reflection, can't place Thunderball / The Man with the Golden Gun as I recall them too poorly


Here, in order of my ranking, My ranking / The Evangelist's ranking out of 23 / That ranking translated to these 9

1 / 11 / 5 Live and let Die

2 / 19 / 8 Diamonds are Forever

3 / 8 / 4 You only live Twice

4 / 2 / 1 Casino Royale

5 / 7 / 3 Goldeneye

6 / 14 / 7 Quantum of Solace

7 / 22 / 9 Die another Day

8 / 4 / 2 Goldfinger

9 / 12 / 6 Dr No


On a first glance, biggest disparities (top of one ranking, bottom of another) are Goldfinger and Diamonds are Forever, and closest congruence with Quantum of Solace, You only live Twice, Die another Day, and Goldeneye. So we agree more than we disagree...?






Definately indefinite

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29 October

I cannot claim to have read every word written by William Shakespeare, or even every play acknowledged to be his (or to have his hand in it), but I do not recollect the word definitely.

Easily enough remedied, as I have two nineteenth-century concordances upstairs, but my suspicion is that, although the word definite might just about have been Jacobean, the longer word came later...

But, with editions of Shakespeare that very often harmonize and modernize his spellings, since it is notorious that there is scarcely a pair of his signatures that are the same or where he even spells his name consistently, it is hard to know what - if he ever wrote the word - he would have written.

Would it stand as definate and definately? At the moment, I can definitively say that Shakespeare did / did not use the words...


Bartlett's The Shakespeare Phrase-Book does not list either word, but it - and the other one - is of a non-exhaustive kind, unlike more modern ones.



Sunday, 28 October 2012

Blair and Barnhill

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28 October

Many will know that George Orwell = Eric Blair. Perhaps fewer know that, partly out of fear of personal retribution from Stalin following publishing Animal Farm, Orwell went to live for several long stretches at Barnhill (the estate shown), in the white property in the photograph.

Barnhill is located close to the more northerly tip of the wild and remote Isle of Jura, one of The Western Isles.

In the end, probably because he had tuberculosis before he went back there for the last time, he had to be taken off the island, and he died in London, but he had been working on the novel that, by the expedient of reversing the final digits, became Nineteen Eighty-Four.

This is not the first time that I have taken shots of Barnhill from as close as, unless one is renting the property, one can get from the private road, but I will have to look out those earlier images...



Balancing Hitchcock

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28 October

* Contains spoilers *

I will always make time to try to see a Hitchcock - as, broadly, with any film - in the cinema.

Often enough, it is a restoration, and the BFI has done a fair bit of that recently with his early films. There may be one screening (or a limited number), but one can usually hope to make it.

However, when the strand at this year's Cambridge Film Festival put on twelve films in the only eleven days that it ran*, there were inevitably going to have to be compromises, if trying to do all of them did not become an aim in itself, dictating that one could not see nearly as much of others' work. I therefore chose to limit myself to three (although, if domestic arrangements had permitted, I would happily have made an excuse to reacquaint myself with North by Northwest (1959)).

Vertigo (1958), I have already found time to talk about separately here, which leaves Blackmail (1929) and Marnie (1964), very different times, as we needed to be treated to piano accompaniment to the former. (Sadly, the festival web-site does not credit the pianist for his superb work, but I am able to name John Sweeney, because I have spotted his name in the programme (where I least expected it).)

I think that there may be similarities and preoccupations that I can identify, and, straightaway, is the fact that Hitchock is drawn to making the woman the criminal wrongdoer in all three films (whatever others may have done, it is her guilt and whether she can escape from it that is our point of attention): is Hitchcock giving us, deep down, what we want, or what he really wants (they may be the same thing)?

The contrast is with the Cary Grant figure, not just in NBNW, who is often enough a spy or a policeman (although, in the named film, he has to choose his allegiance, once he has worked out what is going on). I am just guessing, when I should really find out, that Hitchcock may have become influenced by, and even have experienced, the world of psychoanalysis that was so prevalent. Whether or not be believed in it, a film such as Marnie typifies the embodiment in Hollywood cinema of Freudian or sub-Freudian thinking and beliefs, for we are shown a young woman both shaped by her past and with recollections, which she cannot understand for herself, of what that past really means.

The scenes where Marnie ('Tippi' Hedren) relates to her mother (Diane Baker) - or, rather, doesn't relate to her mother, except on the most basic, human level - are almost too painful to watch: there is a torn, broken relationship, although the ties are there. The unfolding of the film tells us what really happened, why Marnie experiences what she does, and the forgetting that is usual in these films is here exposed by Sean Connery's dogged detrmination (as Mark Ruland) to find out the truth, because of the woman whom he loves. Revelation, redemption, renewal is almost the pattern.

In her book In Glorious Technicolor, Francine Stock considers, whether or not it was any more than cinematic convention, this prevalent presentation of one startling breakthrough in recollection or insight that will change everything (itself a sort of version of the American dream of anyone 'making it', and going from rags to riches, by suggesting that the transformation could be so strightforward and simple), which dominated this type of psychiatric or psychological film for a long time: the pattern, as she expounds it, is clearly there in Spellbound (1945), with, there, a male suspected of murder (Gregory Peck) and Ingrid Bergman as the psychiatrist who achieves the breakthrough.

Unlike the women in Blackmail, Vertigo, and Marnie, Peck's character is accused of wrongdoing, but is not ultimately guilty of it. Turning to the first of those, Anny Ondra (as Alice White) has left clues of what she did in self-defence, and they dog her for much of the film. When seemingly free of them, what Hitchcock clevely does is pull the rug from under us that there had been a common understanding, with her policeman boyfriend (John Longden), as to what was being covered up. It is too late, but what, maybe we wonder, will become of them, and what did he think that he was hushing up?


End-notes

* Not to be critical, but this was more of a season than a strand, and I do wonder whether there might be scope for bringing some of them back together so that those who, like I, wanted to see films that may never appear can see some new ones, some maybe not so new.


Saturday, 27 October 2012

Your name is what ?

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28 October




By which I mean - if I could find the answer (as there is somehow no Wikipedia® page for her yet) - was the name with which, for example, the new award-holder for jazz (in the Radio 3 New Generation Artists scheme) was registered at birth Trish Clowes - does that name 'Trish' appear on her birth-certificate, or was she given a longer name, which she never uses?

Yes, there's ample, and even Shakespearean, precedent in, say, the name Jack for one's real name not being what one uses - he, just as much Prince Hal is really Henry, should be Sir John Falstaff*, and, on appropriate occasions, is. But, if he had a business card (or a web-site), since when, as a matter of general custom, would his proper name not have appeared formally on it?

So someone whose name might have appeared on what everyone else calls headed paper (and lawyers 'notepaper') as Peter Graham, M. Phil, or P. D. Graham, has - at some point - almost universally become identified as Pete Graham. That undoubtedly is what happens now, but I cannot say when it became the norm - it just is.


End-notes

* Both men, then, which reinforces their matey-ness, have a familiar form of name, by which they call each other. In the famous scene from Henry IV, Part II, when Hal - as he has planned - banishes Falstaff, whose embarrassing interruption Welles catches in direction and playing so well in Chimes at Midnight (1967), severe attention is called to him, what he calls himself, and what he is.


Proper Games with Film

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27 October




Apologies for the typographical error





Replace one word in a film-title of two or more words with 'goat' to astonishing effect - no, you can't do it in a hashtag of 24 characters, but hey!

Anyway, these are the games, which I shall dedicate to Bruce Lacey as


The Lacey Games

1. Switcheroo 1 Change two letters (not necessarily in the same word), to comic effect, in a film-title.

2. Subversion Invent a short, ironic sub-title that deflates the pomposity of a film's claims for itself.

3. Mornington Crescent 1 Play this game with film-titles. For beginners, any film-title can be used, and play ceases on reaching Lawrence of Arabia.

4. Switcheroo 2 With a group of friends, or of elderly relatives, continue as in 1 above, changing two letters at a time until the thing is wrung out. NB It is not to comic effect merely to reverse a previous player's changed letters.

5. Encapsulation As with 2, but a witty summary of a film, which may make risqué or other improper assertions about it.

6. Mornington Crescent 2 Limit the choice of film-titles to those of one specified director, actor and actress. End on Midnight in Paris.

7. Linking Change one film-title into another by subtituting one word that yields a valid title. Continue playing with the willing until they turn unwilling or are otherwise defeated. NB For those unused to the idea of a game, the original film-title has two or more words.

Probably a few more will follow soon...



A Tweet review II

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27 October

* Contains spoilers *

Welcome to this posting, about the Estonian film of The Idiot (Idioot) (2011), in which I shall seek to fill out my Pratter review

It will be clear early on, when we meet Prince Myshkin* during a journey, that pews in the aisle of what turns out to be a very large church are representing a railway-carriage. However, arrival at the destination and coming face to face with a neon-fuelled icon is enough to show that we are not going to be playing with physical spaces (as in Lars von Trier's Dogville (2003), but transforming them).

Moreover, they are discreet, identifiably different spaces, and, without leaving the building at any point, we will see a flower-garden and the sea. Yet, as Dostoyevsky's novel runs to at least 700 pages, and we have a little over two hours, we must necessarily concentrate on what most centrally concerns Myshkin. Played by Risto Kübar, we learn early on of his medical history, about which - this is his complete and utter nature - he is unnecessarily open, and its manifests itself, as the role is played, as a helplessly shimmering passivity.

All the more contrast, which is at the heart of the book, not just with his distant relative's husband and family, but with the vibrancy, to everyone's cost, of Nastasja Filippovna, which it would have been tempting for Katariina Unt to overdo. The adaptation and direction by Rainer Sarnet have taken risks, but confined them, leaving the abiding feeling that the claustrophic nature of the setting, with all its overtones of the influence of the church on convention and conduct, has strengthened the telling of the central part of Myshkin's story.

My only regret is being so tired during this screening, which, through my fault, detracted from the compelling nature of the production.


End-notes

* His title means next to nothing at this stage, in practical terms, for he is penniless.


My mad cocktail

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27 October




Friday, 26 October 2012

Is Izzard fizzin' ?

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27 October

According to Wikipedia®, and regarding Eddie Izzard :

In 2009, he completed 43 marathons in 51 days for Sport Relief in spite of having no prior history of long distance running


I probably couldn't even bring myself, except in a good cause, to eat what used to be called a Marathon for six out of seven weeks, so I have no notion how Monsieur Izzard managed that : maybe some account of it talks about the nasty effects on his health, or, at least, on his running-shoes...

What I was really serching the sacred annals for, and finding no mention of it, was a point of comparison for a statistic that IMDb gives at 5' 7" (or 1.70m), which led me to conclude:

1. The sort of person who routinely goes to IMDb for information about writers, actors and producers needs to know their height (it's probably sneaked from there onto Amazon somewhere).

2. The person consulting Wikipedia® may have other things on his or her mind, and, in Eddie's case, there is a lot to read - including the snippet included above.


But is it actually this, that Wikipedia® can get a bit fussy about these things with its end-notes and notes where a citation is needed, and so it doesn't want to say 5' 7" in case he's 5' 5" (or 5' 10")?


Last-minute angst

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27 October

My viewing of Lucky Luciano (1973) and Salvatore Giuliano (1962) led to two impressions:

That Francesco Rosi is genuinely ambivalent in the way in which these films are made as to whether they are documenting or glorifying gangsterism, the Mafia and what they got away with - Salvatore, with its meaning of saviour, may not be an unusual name, but, prior to all the photographers and reporters crowding in on the courtyard where he has been killed, there is a sort of respect, and a quasi-judicial process is gone through with a description of the body, how it is positioned and clothed. We start here with the end, whereas we follow Lucky's story back from the States to Italy.

In both cases, all that seemed clear thitherto becomes hopelessly complicated in the last 20 to 30 minutes, and I felt that, although there was something to be understood, there was too much confusion and conflicting detail to do so. Perhaps life is like that, but with the scene of the court at the end of Giuliano, and Lucky's manipulation of the forces that would ensnare him, I felt that the two impressions were coming together: the apparent simplicity and the uncertainty as to whether there was acceptance, or even reverence, bringing about a conclusion where, out of and through the complexity, something had been connived at and a success achieved.


Vagueness possible

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26 October

I have known the phrase Darkness visible back to at least first reading, if not before, Paradise Lost, and the link is usually said to be partly with Milton's blindness, as he totally lost his sight in 1652, when John Aubrey says that he had yet to start the work by dictation (although others see that parts must have been written earlier than Aubrey's approximate date of commencing of 1658).

I remember it in Book IV, but that is where Satan gets about things, and it is in Book I that we have the substantive lines (which lead to a recollected Hell in that later Book*)


At once, as far as angels ken, he views
The dismal situation, waste and wild.
A dungeon horrible, on all sides round,
As one great furnace, flamed; yet from those flames
No light, but rather darkness visible.



One Christmas, when there had been a broadcast that year of a reading of the entire work for some Milton multi-centenary (or other anniversary), I had intended to re-read PL on each of the Twelve Days, but it came to nothing. However, maybe finding myself back there now, as the psychology of Satan that the quotation below exemplifies seems very complex, is a good time for a visit...

Plus, also, I was reminded of the phrase, which I knew from Milton, when hearing announced a work yesterday evening of our friend Thomas Adès, in which he has reworked Dowland's song for solo piano (which, I am sure, that it needed), and given it the title Darkness Visible :


In darkness let me dwell; the ground shall sorrow be,
The roof despair, to bar all cheerful light from me;
The walls of marble black, that moist'ned still shall weep;
My music, hellish jarring sounds, to banish friendly sleep.
Thus, wedded to my woes, and bedded in my tomb,
O let me dying live, till death doth come, till death doth come.



Whether giving the piano arrangement that title, and the connotations that it has, is suitable remains for others to decide (but are we to imagine Satan himself as the voice of the submerged song, or the complainant figuring that he is content in damnation?) :


End-notes

* In these lines


Horror and doubt distract
His troubled thoughts; for within him hell
He brings, and round about him, nor from Hell
One step, no more than from himself, can fly
By change of place.



Thursday, 25 October 2012

More from Writer's Rest II

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25 October

Lindsay Edmunds gives some information about where AI is and what people are talking about with links stemming from the 7th Annual Singularity Summit.

Find more at http://writersrest.com/2012/10/24/happy-talk/#comment-1651


Monday, 22 October 2012

So who eats bread?

This is a short review of Black Bread (Pa negre) (2010)

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23 October

This is a short review of Black Bread (Pa negre) (2010), as screened
at Cambridge Film Festival 2012 (@Camfilmfest)

Black Bread (2010) has, even allowing for twists and turns, quite a fragile plot, by which I mean one that is susceptible to being betrayed for someone who has not seen it.

It begins with a cart being sent over a cliff, and with Andreu, who has witnessed what has happened, raising the alarm. It is the pivot, did we but know it, for everything that happens, and for Andreu (quietly, yet intensely played by Francesc Colomer) to try to seek out the right things to hate in these troubled times, from his father's caged birds, to distance himself from him, to his cousin Núria, for trying to seduce him when he was too proud and disgusted by her.

For, in boyhood, Andreu is on the edge of manhood, wanting to make the right allegiances, even though his father's previous counter-revolutionary activity has left the family and its livelihood, and his position in life, compromised. Father and mother (embodied by Roger Casamajor and Nora Navas) keep things from him, but he is determined to find them out.

As I said in opening questions from the floor at the Q&A afterwards (to producer Isona Passola), Does a story such as this find its own authentic voice in children as its witnesses, or do they select themselves by their interest in mystery and secrets?


Saturday, 20 October 2012

Screen or stage

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20 October

BFI :




The Agent Apsley :




Friday, 19 October 2012

Who's Who

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20 October

Now, for some reason, I probably had no notion of who might own IMDb (www.imdb.com), but, when an idle click on a link to jobs brought me to a page about eligibility to work in the States, and with links to Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com, it all became a bit clearer.

We may know about offers of Twitter followers or Arsebook likes (wipes?) in return for a payment - and some people must be so desperate, as for sex, that they will pay for it - and it wouldn't be an impossibility, on that analogy, for such hired hands to vote a film up (or down), or even to make a user review seem more (or less) popular than it is. It would be quite easy to do that, let's say.

But it means that, if you think of buying, say, the DVD of Midnight in Paris (2011) from Amazon and want to look more widely than its own Amazon customer reviews, you're not actually seeing anything that's independent, and not under Amazon control, at IMDb...


Wednesday, 17 October 2012

More from Writer's Rest I

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18 October

Lindsay Edmunds has set off some more thoughts, this time in relation to whether a PIN could, for fraudulent use, be identified by scanning someone's brain-waves, and what the limitations are of our thinking, the technology, and how we relate them.

Read more at Run Away! Mind-Hackers Can Harvest Your Brain!...


Blighter's Rock

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17 October

Russell Hoban wrote a short piece, included in the collection of various bits and pieces The Moment under The Moment, of that name, and elsewhere, in his novels, gave characters that Spooneristic phrase to describe their predicament.

I have always inferred, since first reading the words, that they were, if not dear to Russ' heart, then at least acknowledged as part of his own experience: I find that he is a writer who does not keep you at arm's length, in that way, from what he has known or seen, and I see The Medusa Frequency, in 1987, as having come out of a very particular encounter with Medusa's powers, for ill and good. The previous novel, Pilgermann, had come out in 1983.

The fact that there was another such long gap and then, instead of a novel to follow Medusa, Moment came out in 1992, suggested that something had happened, and that the volume attempted, by bringing various things into one place, to maintain an interest / following. The next novel, Fremder, was not published until 1996*.

Although, for my money, both Medusa and Fremder are flawed by their ending, they are, nonetheless, masterpieces, linked by containing the same piece of text about occulting views and the rate at which the retina refreshes, making films possible, because of the persistence of image. Fremder, especially, though both books are short, is costly on dedication to read. It seems to me that the road to these novels had been a hard one, and likely that there had been prolonged stays on Blighter's Rock, before and after Moment.

What is characteristic of Russ is that he creates something out of the impossibility of creation, converting the self-pitying writer's block (being 'blocked' doesn't sound good) to something that happens to blighters. In other words, not taking himself or it too seriously.


End-notes :

* Data courtesy of http://www.ocelotfactory.com/hoban/, known as The Head of Orpheus.


NHS carrier-bag slogans

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17 October

Inspired by Hobanesque influences such as The Lion of Boaz-Jachin and Jachin-Boaz and Kleinzeit, here are some slogans, for NHS carrier-bags, dreamt up to (try to) amuse @jakkicowley, the starting-point being:




* CONTAINS BAGS

* BAG NOW EMPTY, BUT WILL SOON BE FULL

* AVOID THIS BAG - DIRTY SMALLS!

* THIS BAG CONTAINS 1.257 KILOS OF SMACK

* BAG WILL BREAK AT 2.36PM

* THIS BAG CAN DISGUISE A SEVERED HEAD

* CARRY THIS BAG, AND FEEL LIKE A QUEEN

* THE QUEEN CARRIED THIS BAG PREVIOUSLY

* BAGS LIKE THIS DON'T GROW ON TREES

* SAVE A TREE - DIG IT UP, AND CARRY IT HOME IN THIS BAG

* NOT REMOTELY PATIENT PROPERTY - OUTTA MY WAY !


Tuesday, 16 October 2012

A banana with a twist

This is a Festival review of Hope Springs (2012)

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30 September

This is a Festival review of Hope Springs (2012)

If anyone had seen Woody Allen's film Celebrity (1998), the scene with a self-help sex manual, Meryl Streep and a banana in Hope Springs (2012) would remind them of where a hooker, allegedly demonstrating fellatio, ends up choking on her chosen fruit. (Ironic, as gagging is supposed to be one of Judy Davis' fears (as Robin Simon) that she is allaying by seeking out the hooker's advice.)

The parallel between why Robin and Streep's character, Kay, are seeking perfection, or, rather, the reason for it, is obvious enough, hence Kay on her knees in the cinema. And the intended male beneficiary, in Davis' case (Kenneth Branagh as her husband, Lee), is arguably, if not as cantankerous as Tommy Lee Jones is as Arnold, then scarcely any more appreciative.

Arnold and Kay have gone to Maine, the fictional resort of Great Hope Springs (filming took place in Connecticut*), because, essentially, he is a Reggie Perrin of a man, except that his routine doesn't even include kissing his wife when he leaves in the morning, and she wants him to be interested in her. None of this, although it obviously is a serious matter that couples (or one of them) grow into ignoring each other, is any more than a pretext for a romp:

We will see them in what is played as a therapy session for couples, but it is just the backdrop for Kay to be girlish and want her man back, and for Arnold to be stroppy, admit that he fancies the female neighbours / friends of Kay's, and, when the going gets tough - as it often enough does - take his soldiers away. Of course, we know where it's going to go, and that, for comedic effect, the sailing will not be plain (whatever unplain sailing is), and there will be mishaps, such as the seduction in the cinema, as it turns out.

We know that none of it's for real, because, when the woman with the corgis is revealed as an object of Arnold's suppressed desire, she doesn't react by saying anything, let alone slapping him, whereas she is no swinger, and has not so much as admitted to a fantasy about other men in the shower (or being in the shower with other men). (It turns out to be just a deferred-payback line.) As to how things turn out, when there seems to be a dark night ahead, Scotland takes some credit, because Annie Lennox, whose singing captures all the bad stuff in the words** of 'Why', exorcises it - some such.

In fact, as The Lennox's career is not lacking in interest to me, I asked (as this is a film from the States) how they had come to use the song: David Frankel, who did the Q&A afterwards as the film's producer, told me that it had been there all along as a place-holder, and had ended up, because nothing ever did take its place, being the song at that point.

If 'Why' is the song that I remember being used, lines such as 'I may be viciously unkind' (and so on) actually delivered rather a lot that the film itself maybe, except by using it, had not.


End-notes

* A name that I have never understood.

** I must check this somewhere else, i.e. the album, but four people seem to be credited with writing these lyrics.


Harold at sunrise

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16 October

Well, Siobhan Redmond, Harriet Walter and Juliet Stepphenson* in a sub-Pinteresque radio play for their trio of voices - a dilation on the nature of memory / experience / forgetting ...

Nods in the direction of Beckettt's 'dramaticule' Come and Go, and The Memory of Water by Shelagh Stephenson, but most reminiscent of The Waste Land and Harold's Old Times, and what else isn't derivative doesn't impress.

But most radio plays sound as though, with the same forces to perform them, anyone could write them : this one sounds as though very much written against the grain, because a commission.


End-note

* A third, whom I forgot / couldn't place when I originally made this posting...


My naive little thoughts about the red-carpet treatment...

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16 October



My recent Tweet to this effect, that, when you have bought furniture from MFI and the clothes-rail collapses, that is a wardrobe malfunction, shows how even the words that we use about film and its principals are dominated by the big business behind celebrity and cinema : after all, there is no such thing - to my knowledge - as a wardrobe function*, unless it is the costume department having an end-of-filming pre-bash !

So we have this nonsense about Angelina Jolie's bikini body, as if - in some proper wardrobe - her real body keeps Dorian Gray company, or a nip showing, or whether that look is hot or not. All of it just lazy shorthand, used not to be bothered to express something other than through what is tritely ill thought out.

And, back where we started, we pay the ticket-price to see, say, @HelenHunt, as made up in the appropriate chair for the role and the part of the film in which her character appears in the scene to be shot. A lot of time, money and expertise is spent - if people know what they are doing with the film, and her prize acting isn't edited away - to get her looking a certain way.

So why, without those lenses, make-up artistes, costumes, studio lighting - why, in hell, do we expect her to look like that, nice enough as she is, when she gets out of a car outside a big cinema? To use a stupid parallel, why watch Madonna, say, doing some car maintenance from the vantage of a nearby tree and without binoculars, when you could buy a ticket to see her act the part of, say, Lucrezia Borgia on the cinema screen? (Not that I know anything about any such film-project, you understand...?)




End-notes

* And perhaps it was only as a bit of light relief from that tired dysfunction, which every family knows about, that they chose the prefix mal-.


My poem about Tom Hanks

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16 October

Inspiration strikes in strange places! (More often, it doesn't strike at all.)


My poem about Tom Hanks

Tom Hanks
Invariably thanks
Cast and crew,
Getting through
Some-another damn' film (or two)



Monday, 15 October 2012

Crucifying The King

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15 October

* Contains spoilers *

Forget the ludicrously low rating on www.imdb.com, definitely the weak-point with The Night Elvis Died (2010) is the title*, which would not matter, but, when it comes to people choosing whether to watch film X or Y or Z that are on at a convenient time this evening, they do not pay much attention to detail, and this one just sounds like a documentary about burgers, Gracelands and The King of Rock'n'Roll before anyone gets to read something saying otherwise - so film X or Z will fight it out as to which gets viewed.

Now, I don't say that it's right, but, particularly with a foreign-language film and translating its title into English, something judged dead right, like Holy Motors (2012), which - whatever it is - sounds swish and appealing, will get an audience, whereas this much better film didn't close the festival (in Screen 1), but was in Screen 3 one evening.

The comparison with Motors is not just incidental, as this review may go on to make clear, but Motors is on release, and, when I last noticed, showing twice per day locally, whereas those of us that night with Toni Espinosa for a screening and Q&A were the lucky few to be seeing it at all. Forgetting the investment of money, talent and time in making a film, the purpose of any creative act is for it to be seen.

What, then, is Elvis? Well, in a sort of Hitchcockian way, we have a character (Aureli Mercader, hauntingly played by Blai Llopis) with certain experiences, and we know - as the film goes on, but early on that he has issues with anxiety and that something has happened to me - that he had a breakdown. So his credibility is automatically if not written off, then in doubt, because that goes with the territory, which is often a filmic struggle for the person who had ill-health, to amass enough evidence to overcome the weight of the sceptical standard of proof. Classic Hitchcock, too, he has amnesia about what happened on the crucial night, although he knows the outcome and why that night was significant.

Alongside Hitchcock, though, there is also a feeling of Chinatown, because part of seeking for the answer, the breakthrough, is to visit a woman who might be unfairly treated as if she has dementia, when she seems reasonably coherent. Are people pretending to be mentally ill to protect themselves, have others drugged them to make them unwell for their own protection, or was there a real trauma? The film has us play with all three ideas, and when (as in Spellbound) a visual stimulus unlocks Aureli's memory, there is a psychologically convincing remorse that has him put the blame on himself for a death.

Part of the unfolding, where supernatural elements take over, and Aureli can wander into the behind-the-scenes part of a theatre and emerge from vegetation comprising props into a real wild space, is the working out of that assumed guilt. Aureli is in the theatre at all because the historic amateur passion play that has its home there is at risk, and his amnesia and the forces that threaten the play's existence are bound up together. There is a patchiness in the extent to which these hints at dimensions beyond our habitual ones feature, and they seem to go silent at one point when the machinery of a murder and clearing up after it are under way, but, in the final development, although rather mysteriously and highly symbolically at times, the floodgates open of worlds beyond possibility.

The guilt reaches an obvious conclusion with Elvis, so called because he had played Jesus in the passion play (and so was The King), seen on the cross and Aureli at the foot of it. He asks Elvis to forgive him, and so is literally both beseeching the crucified Christ, as one of the thieves does in one gospel account, and his supposed victim.


Maybe not an easy film to follow, especially in the closing scenes, but there was no doubt that something was being worked out, understanding which might be repaid by a second viewing. Producer Tony Espinosa is to be thanked for coming to the festival with his film, and also the programmer of the Catalan strand (Ramon Lamarca) for inviting him to come. (He did answer questions, but my recollection of that session is not clear enough just now to try to record the main points discussed,although I do recall that, when I asked about the Hitchcock parallels, there had not been any deliberate reference.)


End-notes

* As Elvis is Jesus, calling the film The Night Christ Died might be OK.


Holy Motors is another Funny Games

This is a review of Holy Motors (2012)

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16 October


This is a review of Holy Motors (2012)



By which I mean (in the title)... ?

Well, if you've ever looked at the extras on the DVD of the original German version of Funny Games (1997), writer / director Michael Haneke doesn't expect you to go through the unremitting torture right to the end, which, itself, is just the beginning of the next cycle of it, which was set up during the film.

In fact, he suggests that it's a normal reaction to get to a point where you have seen enough. So, too, with Holy Motors (2012), and I have already indicated that, for me, that point would have been not long after the interlude, and thereby cut my losses.

After all, although there is a pretence that the contents of the day that we see are in real time, by the end of the third of M. Oscar's nine appointments, night has already unaccountably fallen, and nine appointments, despite a schedule to keep, do not get kept. But as if one cares, just as, with Haneke, as if one cares to keep willing evil to be defeated, whereas callous, pointless, calculated persecution is not going to be that easy - so why witness it all, just in the hope?

With Motors, arbitrary acts that are, at best, morally neutral have been stipulated for the day, but what is the point of following this diary through to an end? For it to mean something, when it is just a construct in Carax' mind, and, if he chooses not to explain it (or, at the end, to hint at banality), then it is hardly amazing that such withholding will occur or be foreseeable.

The DVD blurb for Haneke's film almost has a strapline of How fare will you go? I believe that Motors implicitly has the same one...


Robin Holloway's Gilded Goldbergs are given a rare live performance (Radio 3)

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15 October

Pretty nauseating if for you have any feeling for The Goldberg Variations BWV 988, but probably meant to be, to hear Huw Watkins and Ashley Wass, who are no doubt engaged in an exercise of stripping away the veneer, playing what Robin Holloway has done to the piece with two pianos, a plastic carp, a buoy and 80m of fishing-line (after all, Cambridge, Faculty of Music, etc., etc.).

From what I judge, the effects, when not simply those of subverting the harmonic structure, are such that any imprecision juts out like a promontory, since these ones sound like performance errors - full marks to Holloway for making himself seem admirably postmodern, but why couldn't he (despite his peeling away layers) have chosen something else to get his treatment?

Why not even get a poor piece of music and arrange for trombone and walking-stick if you like, but get the thing to work, rather than maul Bach in a way that, all the time, makes you wish that you could only hear the original? Or is it like getting an image of the sun on your retina, but it bizarrely makes what you've taken for granted look better...? If I spin Richard Egarr's two-CD Harmonia Mundi set on harpsichord, will it seem dazzlingly more alive, after the ritual slaughter - like Aslan, bigger and better for submitting himself to a night on The Stone Table?

Nearly done, with the aria being mangled as if by Les Dawson, in what are better called Gelded Goldbergs, which make Mahler mucking around with Beethoven symphonies seem almost laudable. Our reward, seemingly, to hear the Aria (after the repeat of the Aria chez Holloway) unbuggered, but it may just be an excuse for a final raspberry..., which it is, in terms of RH now prettifying the texture with adornments from some quite other age, now thankfully over.

Twaddle to close from presenter Tom Redmond, and, thanks to him, I can rest happy that RH, at least, looked absolutely delighted with having heard his own burning, I mean gilding.


STOP PRESS A review, by the fetching entitled Jed Distler (who is surely an anagram), of a recording of this work...


Video: Has Russell Crowe called time on marriage? (according to AOL®)

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15 October

If some actor doesn't want to get married (again), do I care? It's only what he says.

If, though, he is revealing hiself as a Supreme Being, declaring that no one, anywhere, can now get married, then maybe I'm interested - I might even watch the video-clip of this Great Astronaut of the Universe...


Sunday, 14 October 2012

Trash that SLR !

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15 October

Not my entire thoughts about going digital, but nearly :

— THE AGENT APSLEY (@THEAGENTAPSLEY) October 14, 2012

The Russ whom I knew...

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14 October

Some industrious people, since the death of Russell Hoban in December last year, have been putting together a web-site in his memory and in service of the future of the books that he wrote (for adults and for children): I should name them, but the one of whom I am aware is Richard Cooper, who appears to have been at the helm of the Good Ship Russ.

This is all to be found at www.russellhoban.org, but I just wanted to share this link to a page intended to steer (nautical theme) the new reader in some possible directions.


Saturday, 13 October 2012

The Perfection Thing - over at Writer's Rest

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14 October

Lindsay, again, has set off some interesting talk in the realm of AI with a recent case of applying The Turing Test.

To read your correspondent's and other people's comments, go to The Perfection Thing.


What things do I point to in Laing and Szasz's thought?

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13 October

Following on from Ronnie, gae hame!, I have some thoughts to share about Drs Laing and Szasz and their place in the order of things...

1. Dignity and respect - talked about in recent days, as if just invented with applicability to being an in-patient, but the story tells us that Ronnie was alongside, literally, someone who, naked, just rocked and would not engage, so he did the same. But, for all these schemes such as Star Wards, because it's not in the culture of mental-health nursing, nothing much is different, not least at the level of patients feeling that they're in an underclass because of being 'ill': on a crude scale, a sort of pecking order, anything that the relatives have to say (and so they can support, and speak up for, the patient about troubling side-effects, because, unlike the patient him- / herself, those people count) carries far more weight, and the status of anything said by the patient is less important than the family pet's views of his or her care.

2. Coercion - if I compel you to do or suffer something, even for your own good, how is it likely that you will feel about the thing that you did (or suffered), about me for forcing you, and about myself for having been a person who is legally allowed to be treated in that way? Whatever a breakdown is, if it leads to an admission, being dehumanized by hospitalization and institutionalization makes for far more trauma for the in-patient (whereas his or her aberrant behaviour hacked off friends, neighbours, relatives and /or the police, and so, for their sake, he or she gets detained) than the breakdown itself. I think that Thomas questioned why, if someone has to be coerced, there can be therapy, rather than distrust, resentment, fear, pain, on the part of the patient towards the detaining authorities - my analogy, but a bit like trying to carry out dentistry on someone who is not willingly opening his or her mouth.

3. Compassion - much more than those basic things at 1, above, - partly involved in doing what Ronnie did in rocking with that patient, and which feeling for and honouring the respect and dignity of patients would not, in itself, lead to. Compassion wholeheartedly and without reservation puts your lot in with the other person's*, often thought of as unconditional love, and is almost at an opposite pole to psychiatric practice of Ronnie's time - you wouldn't have found many endorsing the rocking anecdote as concordant with their views of patients.

4. Criminality - if I lock you up, whether you're drunk and have smashed some things, or in psychosis and have done the same, and you don't appreciate the situation (in the latter case, thought of as lack of insight), you will nonetheless - at some level - know that you are being treated as if you have done something wrong. As I look at what Thomas might have meant at 2, above, and think of mental health in England and Wales, the police can (forcibly) take you to a place of safety, they may be involved in any sectioning process or in taking you to hospital (if you do get sectoned), and they are the people who take you back, if you escape (or try to). In our own system, then, the coercion and the criminal taint are linked, even though, under the Minstry of Justice's control, there is quite separate legal provisions for the foricble detention of people on remand for or convicted of criminal offences: the in-patient not only feels imprisoned, mistreated, misunderstood, misrepresented, but has a perception that some criminal wrong is the reason for all this punishment. And, amidst all this, he or she is supposed to recover, respond to treatment, and - which is itself ambiguous as to health and character - get better.


For what it is worth, those are my thoughts on what Thomas and Ronnie still have to say to us, decades on...


End-notes

* In Ronnie's case, I suggest that he probably took compassion too far, rather than the approach of being empathic, which, for anyone with mental-health issues, is a less costly and, literally, less soul-destroying way of relating to patients. Whatever happened to him in later life, with booze - but he was a Glaswegian - and the effect of efame or whatever, I guess that he may have given too much of himself, and in a way that Adrian, one of his sons, likes to report (he has written a biography) that Ronnie did not do at home, by usually describing home life as a crock of shit.


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Friday, 12 October 2012

Ronnie, gae hame!

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13 October

There's a rather strange review / account of The Turner Prize entries in The Telegraph (at http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/art/turner-prize/9578907/Turner-Prize-2012-Tate-Britain-review.html).

Strange in that, when Luke Fowler has a film 'about' R. D. Laing, the writer (Richard Dorment) takes issue with Laing himself, what he represented and advocated, and how he was discredited for his theories, and one 'wrong-headed belief' (about schizophrenia)in particular.

Dorment says not only that Laing could be 'self-aggrandising' and 'pretentious', but also 'compassionate' and 'articulate', once he has finished talking, perhaps with less knowledge than he believes, about medications such as lithium and Prozac, neither of which would have done much, if anything, for Laing's core patients.

Far be it from me to say whether one should watch Fowler's film, but Dorment leaves himself precious little space in which to make comments that might inform such a view. Such description as there is leaves one not knowing whether this is a film with an arty feel (as another Telegraph critic felt), or a work of art, nor even, whichever it is, whether it is any good. Just as well Ronnie left the stage earlier...

On which more here.


Catalan strand

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13 October (updated 25 October)

By way of an an announcement, I want to write next about four more Catalan films that were kindly brought (along with V.O.S. (2009), already reviewed) to the festival this year, which I am sure was a very good and also well-received initiative, The Body in the Woods (1996), Warsaw Bridge (1990), and The Night Elvis Died (2010). And I nearly forgot to say Black Bread (2010).

What I can say now is that, to write effectively about the middle of these three, I would really need to see it again, whereas the other three are clear in my mind. That said, I have less to say about the first, and would prefer to concentrate on the other two.

Regarding Warsaw Bridge, it came as a surprise to me (although subliminally I recognized the connection, in the festival programme, when making this one of my selections), that the prize-winning book (of the same name) within was one of the landmarks from a stay booked at a hotel in the former East when I visited Berlin seven years ago, meaning that I was so many stops before, probably, the omnipresent Friedrichstraße.

However, rather than self-psychoanalyse why I can retrieve only the ending (which solved a mystery), and, vaguely, a slightly evasive acceptance speech or press questions from the award-holder at a busy reception around a pool at night, it is better to seek out a copy to fill in the gaps, and to talk about Body. We were told that it was a sort of Catalan Twin Peaks, which was something that, for not having followed it, only helped me vaguely.

It turned out to be not quite what it presented itself to be, an investigation into a crime, but rather the manipulation of evidence, gender and even human remains in a self-interested and alarmingly corrupt way. That said, that revelation came after an immensely slow-burn, and after a string of people, who at first denied that they knew anything (or more than what they said), collapsed under the real or imagined threat of violence (or other penalty) made by the woman lieutenant: it felt like too much of a deferral, not to mention a massive misdirection, to merit the hoped-for pay-off.

Not just that, but that the depiction of events, whether in recall or in real time, made no especial use of the resource of film as a medium (as against t.v.), and so seemed rather prosaic, as if not made for cinema. A good piece of work, but not, for my money, in the same inventive league as, say, V.O.S., in being for and of film per se.

As for the films that remain, Elvis now has a review, as does Bread.