Follow by e-mail

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

@THEAGENTAPSLEY's Tweet review of a cinematic event (without actually watching it...)

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


30 April







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

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

He’s bad at taking off clothes; she wants it fast and for her to be passive

This is a review of Exhibition (2013)

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


30 April (updated 4 May)

* Contains some spoilers - major ones are marked in advance *

This is a review of Exhibition (2013)

Exhibition (2013) is centred on Liam Gillick and Viv Albertine, and, respectively, they are called H and D (for some reason). Only once, when she calls out to him from the other side of a locked door, do we seem to hear her say ‘Aitch’, and when she is later addressed by others, as she passes by the wine merchants or bar outside which they are standing, one could swear that they call her Lynn…

No matter (even if their label is maybe intended to tell us as much as if one were M, the other S). Albertine has no real history of appearing on film – and it shows. That said, it may partly be an encouragement from director / writer Joanna Hogg that is responsible for the fact that she is rarely convincing except when we are concentrating on her physicality : it is fictionalizing again, but maybe it is Hogg’s attempt to make raw and real a life together that, in this place*, has gone on for eighteen years.

We first see Albertine lying on a shelf (the pane frosted by her breath, maybe pretending to be a cat), then, at the end, around the corner of the room, and under the table, as a child might hide behind what overhangs. In between, there is acting, there is the certain kind of incoherence that comes with a ultra-realistic depiction and / or with shooting improvised scenes, and there is being a plausible artist : taking these in reverse order, it is fair enough that, as we are observing D, we should observe her doing a sketch of herself in the mirror, where the mirror becomes more and more central to the frame, and we never see the sketch. Yet, just as On the Road (2012) largely failed to establish Sal (Sam Riley) as a writer just by his saying that he was one, there has to be some basis for believing that D could have some sort of creativity to be an artist (whereas it is not almost until the end that we learn what sort of artist, and can feed that back into what has been shown).

As to improvisation, the scene, for example, where she does not want H to go out conveys only through elements of the dialogue why she is saying in a repeated, but largely ineffectual way, that it is too late** for him to go. One may be intended to infer more about her passivity from that (a passivity that has her, humorously fake a faint as a way of getting away from visiting friends – H and she almost seem to have no other friends, and she seems, from what he says, to have no other way of getting out of stifling situations – and which is the stuff of late nineteenth-century Russian literature, rather than twenty-first century Knightsbridge and Chelsea), but that is rather working, once the closing titles have rolled, to do the film’s job for it, when one could just as easily put it down to someone’s lack of experience (or ability).

In any case, the broadest difference between D and H, other than that she is all stripes (with a change of them, albeit limited) to his wearing black, is essentially that they have arrived in a none-too-unfamiliar rut of not being able to initiate sexual contact, and which they nevertheless try to do by buzzing each other on the intercom feature of the phone : at one point, she is seeking reassurance of his love, another time he is, unasked, offering it, but they seem to be out of sequence with each other.

Similar enough that they can have lived so long in this place (and both almost always wearing black sandals, even to go to their friends’ place), in this way, but at what cost ? Made similar to fit in, but it is his true nature to be excessively angry that someone has parked in his ‘private’ space, to the extent that he becomes Basil Fawlty and says that he should erect railings with a big sign on them saying ‘FUCK OFF’ – hers, whilst all this is happening, is to stay, but not really meaningfully interpose another viewpoint, and leave us with the impression of not much. (After all, if someone could cope with taking leave of friends early, he or she would not resort to pretending to have been unconscious.)

The crux of it all is where they live. Forgetting the little yellow vehicle, where he goes to, why, and for how long, and just concentrating on H’s words to D to ‘Enjoy it whilst you still can’, one interpretation might be that he has gone off for good to do whatever it is that he previously said that they should sell the house to do now that they can. He scarcely seems to have been anywhere more than overnight, and her almost petrified patrol around the place, making sure that all is locked, maybe leave us in doubt whether she is more afraid of him coming back in some state late at night than any other intruder : maybe she is like this at all such times, but it seems as though she does not know this experience (over-acting ?).



It is the closely observed feeling herself through the slot in the stool, inverting it, finding a way to rub her crotch on it that Albertine’s contribution has life – in its own way, and given that Nymphomaniac (2013) was meant to tease with its sterile sex (except really when Stacy Martin meets Jamie Bell), Exhibition is far more erotic. We may have to invent an explanation for how elements of D’s sexual apparatus are handily by the bed (unless H knows, and watches, if awake), and what they evoke if not pornographic imagery where the women, whatever else they wear, always wear heels, but there is no doubting the power of that scene.

The ultimate interpretation is that, for all that D tells a friend on a video-link that the couple who lived in the property before (the designers ?) lived there till they were eighty, she is not going to do anything to oppose H directing them to a sale (and just saying that she could not be there – obviously, the estate agents can – when people are talking about making changes is a last-ditch piece of passive resistance).

We will never know what the sale is for, just that the only things that she preserves are sex on her terms (even if it means physically offering herself to him when he desires it, but with the turn-off of not being mentally or spiritually present), and likewise talking to him about her work. The scene, real or dreamt, at The National Gallery nicely imitates Woody Allen, in such films as Stardust Memories (1980), with H trying to interview her on a stage, but she will only allow him to be a companion, my companion. At the same time, she watches them both from the audience, where the film, all too rarely, breaks out of the mould of depicting trivial action and inert interaction, showing them together in symbolic form.


* Interpretative spoiler *

As to an under-text, perhaps D has never wanted children (and has just been unable to conceive anyway), and sees herself in relation to fetishism, embodying a role in performance, and being observed. H certainly alludes to the fact that they have no children, not without some emphasis.

Perhaps pushing the sale through, as Lopakhin ‘saves’ the cherry orchard by having it cut down, is a bittersweet way of revenging himself on whichever it is of her involuntary childlessness, or choosing her career in art***. Certainly, an element of seeing the outside from the inside, complete with a manufactured soundscape that has some troubling elements (alongside bells that suggest a Sunday morning), stresses the presence of the property, and inevitably, as with the Chekhov, makes one wonder what life will / can be like without it - even if D has been offered an exhibition (about which H both tries to reassure and say that he knows best)...


End-notes

* It may not exist, but just be an amalgam of an exterior view (also seemingly seen from inside out), various interiors, and other looks out of windows. It suffices that it exists for and to us.

** * Contains spoilers * Perhaps not a recollection of a psychotic episode, but certainly reliving the fear of violence and / or the involvement of the emergency services.

Probably not unrelated to H's angry conversation with the man who has left his car in H's parking space - and how D relates to it. In her own difficult moments, she extricates herself by fainting, the exact opposite of his head-on attack. Keeping / selling the house is their time of testing ?


*** Their friends, horrified as they contemplate the house for themselves, say that they are artists, and it is a house for artists, but it is largely unclear what H’s art could even be.




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

Did Hewitt succeed – or did The Art of Fatigue intervene ?

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


29 April

This is a review of a concert performance, given at the Faculty of Music's concert hall in West Road in Cambridge (@WestRoadCH) and in conjunction with CRASSH (The Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities), of Bach's The Art of Fugue by pianist Angela Hewitt

It was clear from what Angela Hewitt said in what was billed as a Symposium yesterday* that she has approached Bach’s The Art of Fugue (Die Kunst der Fuge, BWV 1080) as a problem, which therefore implied that it needed to be solved**.

The nature of the problem being that she thought that, without adjustment in playing (she did not name anyone’s recordings), it can sound (or does sound) boring, a word that she must have used at least half-a-dozen times to describe a straight way of playing a passage as written, as against what she preferred (and which she then demonstrated).

In fact, the problem described may only exist because of attempting a performance, from start to seemingly unintentional finish***, in one go : if one did not try such a thing (as it is no more self-evidently desirable than with Book I or II of The Well-Tempered Clavier (Das Wohltemperierte Klavier, BWV 846–893)), would there be a problem ? A recording is one thing, and one accepts its limitations – unless the quality of the recording itself deteriorates, it is invariably the same. Yet there are not a few who like that feature of a recorded symphony or concerto – and, knowing one recording of a work, are disappointed when a concert sounds different.

That accepted, certain things had emerged from, or been confirmed by, the Symposium (and by clarifying a point with Butt that had arisen in an answer to a question at the end) :

1. We do not even know for sure (because programmes for, for example, the concerts of the Collegium Musicum, in Leipzig, do not survive) whether Bach ever gave wider performances of either Book of the Well-tempered than those reported to have taken place in a teaching context : as Butt agreed, he may have done, but we do not have documentary proof. What we do know is that, after his death, they were not published for another fifty years, around the beginning of the nineteenth century.

2. We do know, however, that the mighty achievement of writing the Mass in B Minor (BWV 232), another two hours or so of glorious music, did not lead to the opportunity for Bach to hear it realized – indeed, we do not seem to know for sure why he wrote it, although scholars have speculated about that question, as well as identifying earlier music that he adapted to the task and revised for the purpose.

3. There is accordingly a pattern of lengthy works, all of which were assembled over the years (as was the case with both Books of the Well-tempered), and part of the answer about why Bach wrote / revised them lies in this : he died at the age of 65 (in 1750), and must have been all too aware, throughout the preceding decade, of that principle of putting his house in order.

Coming back to performance, both knowledge of life-time performances (which we know definitely in some cases, such as the two Passions) and Bach’s expectations about how The Art of Fugue and the Mass in B Minor might be received in the future (and the debt that we seem to owe to Mendelssohn that we still have the latter), we probably know even less in the latter case than in the former, but the obstacles to mounting a concert rendition of one work (whether with a huge choir, or a voice to a part) are different.

With The Art of Fugue, if one sticks to one keyboard instrument, whether clavichord / harpsichord, organ, or piano (or even fortepiano, one supposes), the obstacles are different, and they came to the fore in seeking to proselytize about this work in events either side of the weekend – different from those if one arranges it, as, say, wind quintet Calefax’s saxophinist Raaf Hekkema did with his group, for an ensemble, and different from if one breaks the work with an interval.

In Cambridge, in this same venue, Richard Egarr (director of the Academy of Ancient Music) has certainly played a Book of the Well-tempered (on the harpsichord) in an evening’s performance, and also a selection of three of the six Partitas (BWV 825–830) in a lunchtime concert, but maybe not with much of a pause between the first and second sets of twelve Preludes and Fugues.

Can it be argued that inherently, if one wants, as here, to perform The Art of Fugue on a piano, there must be no break ? If, as Hewitt suggested, one is proselytizing, which one was not solely doing****, the needs of those new to this work – whatever the overview(s) have given to them – do not obviously require a very lengthy period of uninterrupted fugal and canonic writing.

For one is also preaching to the converted, who have come not to be persuaded so much, but to appreciate an interpretation, and not to wish to find fault, with global or specific matters. Having said which, Hewitt used (as she previously had) the word ‘swing’ to describe her approach to Contrapunctus 2, and, in full, the effect was more that of Jacques Loussier than of Johann Sebastian – with which one could cope as an aberrational belief that adding (accentuating ?) syncopation is the only way to play this part of the whole, although it seemed rather unlikely.

This performance at eight o’clock to-night ended at a quarter to ten (it had been preceded by a short version of the overview, for those who missed the Symposium) : by the time that Hewitt came to play the four Canons, which she had placed before the final Contrapunctus (and in her own order), she was, regrettably, very clearly flagging, because there were slips and stumbles in her playing.

That said, Hewitt did not let herself be put off, even by a significantly askew sequence of notes in the right hand that jolted one into full attention. Yet the test of endurance, of ninety minutes of playing, that she was making of herself must put the viability of the endeavour in doubt, for she really seemed to need the support of the front edge of the piano when she took applause :

That objection is not answered by Hewitt building up stamina yet further, but by stopping to question the purpose of playing through without a break. As the ancients said, but for a different reason, Cui bono ?

Here, it is the law of diminishing returns that tends to apply, because, if the audience can tell that the performer is tiring (and Hewitt, understandably not wanting the tensions of a page-turner, nonetheless seemed let down by her technological solution*****), he or she gets their sympathy for the feat attempted, if not their patience and toleration for the faults. Here, they were not just slips, but places where Hewitt sounded lost as she played what she read.

The opening of Contrapunctus 7 seemed wholly undigested (before its resemblance to fugues around 5 to 7 in Book I became apparent), whereas, in Contrapunctus 3 and 12, it felt as though the performance was suddenly on the hoof : in performance, Egarr has given notice, with his very expressive face, that something in Bach’s score has pulled him up, but not that it is any more than a pleasant surprise, rather than conveying musical uncertainty as to where it is going next.

At the end of the work, something seemed really awry. It eventually became clear, after the event, that the part had been reached where, in the MS, the music runs out without the Contrapunctus otherwise concluding. Before that, it had been clear enough when Hewitt started the first of the Canons, yet, in between, there somehow seemed to be too much material to account for four Canons and the closing Contrapunctus******.

As Bach’s end that is not an ending was awaited, one Canon or Contrapunctus finished in a way that other members of the audience could be heard saying had sounded like an attempt to improvise a conclusion in Bach’s style – whatever happened, it seemed out of place, and was perhaps the result of the technological aid.

Until we reached the Canons, and passing over the question of Contrapunctus 2, Hewitt seemed on course to manage what she had set herself. Necessarily, one did not always agree with her other choices. However, the whole concert could have been so much better but for the feeling that she was weary (and that two glasses of water had proved insufficient), and that the sense of the weariness (and the mistakes attributable to it) was passing itself over, to disrupt one’s own concentration.

A noble enterprise to perform The Art of Fugue straight through – but can one believe that even Bach required it ?


End-notes

* In fact, an introduction to the work and interview with Hewitt by Bach scholar John Butt, followed by Hewitt’s overview, with examples.

** And even revealed that she had initially been using a swear-word to refer to it, surely The Fart of Fugue, or The Art of Fuck (although she did not actually say what).

*** Then closing with the Chorale Prelude that Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach added to his father’s work when it was published under his direction, Vor deinen Thron tret’ich hiermit (BWV 668).

**** Some of us have known recordings of this work for more than thirty years (even if, in the light of the Symposium, it can be understood that a recording such as that on Deutsche Grammophon's Archiv label, by Kenneth Gilbert, is of the work before Bach’s revision for the press).

***** In the Symposium, it was all too clear from what Hewitt said that she temperamentally could not have tolerated a person turning for her, and she said that the complete score, with her markings, was on her iPad®, with a pedal to change pages.

****** Unless, maybe, Hewitt had actually announced that, in departing from the order given in the programme, the Canons would come after Contrapunctus 12, and thus Contrapunctus 13 and 14 followed them (and with an arithmetical error in thinking that the part before the Canons had been Contrapunctus 13.




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

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Forty-eight, going on fifteen

This is a review of A Story of Children and Film (2013)

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


26 April (updated 28 April)


This is a review of A Story of Children and Film (2013)

Mark Cousins (@markcousinsfilm) came to Cambridge with his film A Story of Children and Film (2013) (@ChildrenandFilm), which he told us that he had not been intending to make after – as he described it – six years making, and two years editing, The Story of Film : An Odyssey (2011).

The film was here both in its own right, and to introduce a series of films – The Cinema of Childhood – that has been curated by Cousins and by Filmhouse (@Filmhouse) (which was sourced with the assistance of Neil McGlone (@NeilMcGFilm)) and which has been showing since at The Arts Picturehouse (@CamPicturehouse) (of which there are reviews here of Palle Alone in the World (Palle Alene i Verden) (1949) and Bag of Rice) (Kiseye Berendj) (1998)).

Cousins had previously been at The Arts for the showing of the last part of Odyssey (which had been screened in full in preceding weeks), and of his new film What is This Thing Called Love ? (2012), and had been an agreeable and interesting guest.

This time, as well as eloquently introducing Children and Film and explaining how it had come about and how personal its genesis had been, Cousins was not making special pleading for the way in which he had constructed the film* : he had simply realized, in looking at the filming that he had done (in his home and with the camera in a static position) of his nephew and niece, that the patterns of behaviour that they showed, as they got used to the camera and, together and singly, played, gave him a way of being reminded of the roles for children in the best films that feature them, rather than those that impose an adulthood on a child before its time :

As he suggests at http://dogwoof.com/childrenandfilm/filmmaker, Cousins contrasted the sweet perfection of Shirley Temple (Curly Top (1935)) with the young girl who puts on a family entertainment with Esther (Judy Garland) in Meet Me in St. Louis (1944), and who is allowed to make mistakes and be out of key, as, of course, many a child would.

At the same time, Cousins is not singling out St. Louis as a film that we would necessarily go to, but wants to introduce us to examples from all around the world from Senegal to Sweden, and also reminds us to look again at others that we may already know, such as Ken Loach’s Kes (1969), Charles Laughton’s The Night of the Hunter (1955), David Lean’s Great Expectations (1946), Chaplin’s The Kid (1921), and even Spielberg’s E.T. : The Extra-Terrestrial (1982).




Punctuated by returning to the Cousins’ flat for more development of what is happening with the relatives on screen, but looking first, by paying a homage to where Vincent Van Gogh lived in Provence at the end of his life, at the world that the painter created in his work as he interpreted his surroundings, Cousins wants to remind us that making a film is projecting a visual and aural view of the world (and the poetic element in what he said to us was patent). Those views, and real life in Cousins’ home, do provide a contrast and a structure – if we can take them on their own terms, and accept, when he tells us, that he did consider other structures to this film, rather than using the original one, but found that nothing worked as well.

Children and Film, though it has a shorter running-time and is a very different type of film, is as demanding of us as Slavoj Žižek is of us in The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology (2012), because Cousins does not slacken his pace or his use of terms to describe the camera’s movement or position, and ideally one needs to see the film several times over to take in all that he is not only saying at any one point, but to absorb the action in the clips, and the information such as the film’s name, translation and where and when made.

An excellent reason to order the DVD from Dogwoof (@dogwoof) (available from 28 April), but, in the meantime, the list of films featured can be found here :


http://dogwoof.com/childrenandfilm/about.


The film was also reviewed here by Amanda Randall (@amandarandall5) for TAKE ONE (@TakeOneCFF) at Cambridge Film Festival in 2013


To correct an omission


Those who know Cousins' camera-work will be well aware that he is a skilled cinematographer, but the quality of the images, their framing and composition, when he had travelled on to the Isle of Skye is beautiful : a real treat where it comes, because what has gone before has been the footage captured in the flat and clips from his chosen films, even if the opening, which seems a while away now, had been in Provence. (Whether he had linearly been contemplating the possible significance as a frame for this film of his niece and nephew at play, and had developed detailed ideas by the time of his time on Skye, really does not matter, for, in a sense, this is a story just as even any memory that we have is, a way of telling to the world what happened.)


End-notes

* Cousins had the large sheet on which he had worked out the connections between films with him, which those daring enough to approach afterwards were able to see close to.




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

Thursday, 24 April 2014

So great that you're quitting ?

This is a review of Bright Days Ahead (Les Beaux Jours) (2013)

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


24 April

This is a review of Bright Days Ahead (Les Beaux Jours) (2013)

So great that you’re quitting

Bright Days Ahead (an uneven translation of Les Beaux Jours*) (2013) is in French, but, however well made, it has more of the sensibility of Hope Springs (2012) than of the best of French cinema : when the producer of Hope came to Cambridge Film Festival, he said that Meryl Streep had suggested making the footage at the end, and, although it had not been planned, it was then found possible to do it. The ending of this film strongly reminds one of it, though with very little feeling that matters have been resolved.

The reason being that Hope shares with this film the topic of healing the damage caused by one’s partner’s behaviour – though here the damage seemed to have been skin deep**, whereas in Tommy Lee Jones’ (Arnold’s) case (and contrary to the optimism in the title’s fictitious place name) it brooded over Meryl Streep (Kay) for almost the entire film. Hope is not a great film, and one can be cynical about the motives behind making it, but it still moves Days Ahead out of the brightness, and into the shade.

Another point of contact is a coastal location. Places in New England became the title resort in Hope, and, at least when we are outside and in it (when we are inside, it could be anywhere), the Nord-Pas-de-Calais is a vivid backdrop to Days Ahead, right from the title sequence, which is made to appear written onto the black of a bascule bridge. Straightaway, it is apparent that getting around is dependent on avoiding the times when tides make it favourable for vessels to navigate the channels and the bridge swings up. In no way apparent, for all the amenity of the location, is why Caroline (Fanny Ardant) and Philippe (Patrick Chesnais) are there at all.

In any case, despite Le Week-End (2013)’s reliance on the deus ex machina of Morgan (Jeff Goldblum) to get Hanif Kureishi’s lumbering plot to go anywhere, once it has established the characters of Meg (Lindsay Duncan) and Nick (Jim Broadbent) (but with no real prospect of development***), it shows far more about relationships and those near retirement than Days Ahead even thinks to do. For it goes straight for showing an affair, but often half-heartedly, so that one can care too little whether it survives, and too much how toxic its effects might be.

The real moment when there is everything is the illicit possibility of penetrative sex in Caroline’s car, and where, however close we seem to get, the windows are ever interposed between them and us – when that idea is shied away from, we suddenly step back and see where we had got lost from in awareness, the car in plain view and with people about their business.

Ageing the lead actress Ardant backwards is a well-worn trick, and even passionate moments seen in the store-room (to bolster up the notion of romantic rejuvenation) simply do not make for sustaining the conviction of amour fou such as KST’s in Leaving (2009) (or even of her bit-part as Virginie Rousset in Bel Ami (2012), where she, too, glows and visibly unfolds from knowing the favours of Georges Duroy (Robert Pattinson)) : here, the feeling on both sides is too tepid, even to the extent of stating to one’s lover that the preference is for sleep rather than continuing the time together, and Julien (Laurent Lafitte), too, is just beautified over time to suggest his strengthening appeal.

Throw in ‘getting to know’ the members of the Les Beaux Jours club in a way that is managed hardly better than in Ronald Harwood’s adaptation of his superior stage-play as Quartet (2012). In Days Ahead, there are stock follies such as a wine-tasting where someone takes snorters or people unused to potting are let loose on a wheel and produce a deformed piece of clay, and the cheery message that we are invited to share that sniffy Caroline comes to value her new friends might give some a sense of warmth. Yet it is essentially a diversion from the fact that nothing is really going on, except at the level of cliché, and, whilst that may be fine for Fanny Chesnel’s novel, it is too thin for a film that seeks our approval.

Ultimately, the plot throws us back on Philippe and who he really is in relation to Caroline, but sadly the action has concentrated so much on her both that we do not know, and also that we cannot credit what, in the circumstances, would cause him to accommodate her needs. Hope, whatever we may think of its insights, does at least focus on that question, rather than trying to tack it on at the end.


That said, New Empress Magazine's reviewer found more going on here, and more of merit, but making none of these references


End-notes

* Surely not meant to resonate with the title that Beckettt gave to his play Happy Days when he translated it into French… ?

** And, to be susceptible to rapid repair thanks to a few jokes at the expense of a hotel run by a budget brand, and – at the cost of incredulity as to how Philippe got there, and what happened to Caroline’s car – to hitching a lift as the young Dylan or Kerouac might have done.

*** What does happen at the end smacks less of ‘going Godard’ than of the fantasy Paris of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953).





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

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Minimalists - or Rhythmicists ?

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


22 April

The composers on the bill at Cambridge’s Corn Exchange (@CambridgeCornEx) on Sunday 27 April are usually (nay, invariably) referred to as members of the school of Minimalism.

Dennis Russell Davies, interviewed on Tuesday afternoon’s edition of Radio 3’s (@BBCRadio3’s) ‘In Tune’ (@BBCInTune) (available at http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04153wl for seven days from transmission), pointed out that the composers in the series of three approaching concerts at London’s Cadogan Hall, from which the programme in Cambridge has been derived, all know each other – with Arvo Pärt having looked to Michael Nyman as an example before the disssolution of the Soviet Union led to The Baltic States becoming free (Pärt is Estonian).

Nevertheless, although Nyman took the term from art history*, and, it seems, first used the words ‘minimal music’ in a review in The Spectator in 1968**, it seems to have lost its connection both with other movements in the arts, and with evidently fitting the music to which it refers : does a work by Frank Stella, for example, bear any significant resemblance to the way in which a composition by John Adams works ?

If there is any common element in the work of composers that is described as minimalist, it is never as distinct as John Cage’s unavoidable 4’33” or unconventional in the way that his ‘prepared piano’ is. Instead, it tends to treat a theme as an ostinato or a ground bass might be used, for its rhythmic possibility, and the same is as true for Steve Reich, with the fringe effects caused by two or more players (who gradually become more and more out of synch and cause interference), as when a repeated motif in a work by Philip Glass modulates in relation to the parts of the other instrumentalists.

More here (the long version - easy-read one to follow soonish) as a review of Sunday’s concert…


End-notes

* Whereas it had initially been applied to Black Square (1915), a famous painting (of the infamous kind) by Kazimir Malevich.

** In relation to various compositions that had been performed at the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA – @ICALondon).



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

Monday, 21 April 2014

I want to go to the park

This is a review of Bag of Rice (Kiseye Berendj) (1998)

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


Easter Monday

* Contains spoilers *

This is a review of Bag of Rice (Kiseye Berendj) (1998)



It was shown as part of the series The Cinema of Childhood (please visit the web-site at cinemaofchildhood.com for more information), which is presented by Mark Cousins (@markcousinsfilm) and Filmhouse (@Filmhouse), and is introduced by Mark Cousins' film A Story of Children and Film (2013) (with Neil McGlone (@NeilMcGFilm)). At a special screening at The Arts Picturehouse in Cambridge (@CamPicturehouse), its director, Mohammad-Ali Talebi, was present to introduce the film and answer questions in a session hosted by Toby Miller (@tobytram) from FM 105’s Bums on Seats (@Bums_on_Seats)

In A Story of Children and Film (2013), Mark Cousins has held up director Mohammad-Ali Talebi’s film Bag of Rice (Kiseye Berendj) (1998) as an example of a child actor being allowed to be like a child, and, in Tweeting about the film, Cousins has called it ‘a tonic’ and ‘one of the best things that you could do with 80 mins’.



Rice establishes a mood that does not seem prone to abate, so we are genuinely uplifted when it does : a world of cynicism, complaint and grumbling, not just within the home, seems left behind. We had heard, in the words that Talebi (through his interpreter) gave by way of introduction, that the film was set just after the end of Iran’s war with Iraq (which ended in August 1988, after nearly eight years). Maybe, however, since Iran had become an Islamic Republic following the revolution (in 1979), and the deposition of the Shah, we expected that people might be less materialistic and not so quick to find fault.

Then again, these are people who have had to cope with years of war, and, apart from having the fact of continued rationing at its centre, the film has scenes that show us how fearful people are of losing a job or spending too much money. There is, to an extent, a sense of neighbourliness in queuing together for bread fresh from the oven, but tensions and frustrations quickly become apparent. However, criticizing or even obviously commenting on the extent to which the revolution had had an impact on everyday people’s lives does not seem to be part of Talebi’s purpose.

In the question-and-answer session, Talebi was asked whether, in a film that takes a good look at human nature, and seems to incorporate spiritual wisdom (such as sharing each other’s load), there had been a deliberate reference to Louis Malle’s Zazie. In fact, although Talebi says that he likes Malle’s films, he has not seen Zazie dans le métro (1960), and will seek it out when he gets home. Others, too, had said to him that they find a spiritual message in his films, and, although he is not saying that it is not there, it had not been his intention to put one there.

That said, he told us that one of the first things that he did on arriving in Cambridge had been to go into a Catholic church, and that watching people waiting to receive the sacrament had moved him to tears. Nonetheless, in a long and revealing answer to this question, he said that he relates more to the notion of humanity without a religious dimension. Once the observational part of the film gives way to adventure, a summary of what happens would not seem capable of filling the remaining minutes.

For the strength of the film is not in an elaborate plot, but in simplicity, and in the genuineness of the central performances from Jairan Abadzade (Jairan) and Masume Eskandari. We were told that, even so, some devices elicited Abadzade’s performance, such as giving her a toy for much of a day and then denying it to her, and that Eskandari’s polite assurances that she was happy with how the shooting was going were belied by being able to catch her, on a microphone, cursing how things were being handled. (In the screenplay, this insincerity is mirrored by her complaining to herself that Jairan talks so much, and attempting to hurry away to avoid being with her (the latter of which Jairan is aware, and remarks on it to her).)

The principal scene that first moves us is when another’s actions, after all that has been gone through to procure forty-five kilos of rice and get them onto the bus home, threaten to be fatal – until all on the bus play their part to save the day. A description in such broad terms does not permit for feeling either what happens or the scope for the film’s development, but the root lies in the interactions between child and adult, and in the former having the vision and faith for things to happen.

All of which ends in the richness of preparing a meal, and of involving those who live nearby – in a positive sense of community, sharing food with them, which makes the effort of getting the rice back redemptive and worthwhile.


Rice was screened with Palle Alone in the World (Palle Alene I Verden) (1949) (which is reviewed here, and was shown first)




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

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Clash of the trams

This is a review of Palle Alone in the World (Palle Alene i Verden) (1949)

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


Easter Sunday

This is a review of Palle Alone in the World (Palle Alene i Verden) (1949)


It was shown as part of the series The Cinema of Childhood (please visit the web-site at cinemaofchildhood.com for more information), which is presented by Mark Cousins (@markcousinsfilm) and Filmhouse (@Filmhouse) and introduced by Mark Cousins' film A Story of Children and Film (2013) (with Neil McGlone (@NeilMcGFilm))

* Contains spoilers *

Adapted from Jens Sigsgaard’s text* by director Astrid Henning-Jensen (whose young son Lars played Palle), Palle Alone in the World (Palle Alene i Verden) (1949) might have struggled to stretch to a feature, but perhaps it feels cramped in a run-time of twenty minutes. It is not that the conceits and concepts which the film handles are uninteresting, but they feel a little hurried, and therefore undigested : for example, Palle amusingly despises bank-notes as ‘bits of paper’ – which he throws to the wind – and favours the physicality of coins.

We recognize the childish preference for glistering things (although many a child will happily play post office, which is a good grounding in the bureaucracy of paperwork). However, it does not really ring true that, even at his age, Palle is unaware that the right denomination of note is worth many coins. (Perhaps we just excuse that as dream logic, just as it is dream logic that the choice between coins and notes exists at all, because they are conveniently to hand together on the counter.)

In any case, having liberated the coins from a bank that, as everywhere else, is deserted, he still thinks that he needs to pay for what he wants. However, no one comes to the counter to take his coin in the toy-shop – although it is all the same whether he leaves it on the counter or not, he takes the toy and it. It is only later that he realizes that carrying a literal load of heavy coins is pointless, and divests himself of them.

In the toy-shop, a huge Donald Duck had been dwarfing the figure that he takes, which again appeals to the notion that a child’s choice of what to play with may not be obvious (allegedly, often the box that it came in), and so a surprise to us. Not that we see Palle play with the toy, but instead we see him pass a ball to a footballing statue, and then be dismayed that it does not – as we half wonder if it might – take part in the game. Absent from their beds or anywhere else where Palle’s family lives, this is the closest that we come to any representation of mankind, other than Palle himself.

What we know is that, whether he crashes tram no. 8 into no. 2 or re-enacts Voyage dans la Lune (1902), no harm will befall him – as long as he stays away from his curious way of making what is translated as ‘porridge’. When he drives the tram, we of course allow that he somehow knows how to do so straight off (but his technical facility does not immediately translate to handling an aeroplane).

Most of the time, when he is speaking, Palle’s words are heard, but his mouth is not uttering them, which distances us even further from this delightfully deserted depiction of Copenhagen (?), which appears to have been caught that way by filming shortly after sunrise, and that quality of light intensifies our feeling of unreality (if also of the dread of the post-atomic age, with cities, to the extent that they had not been destroyed, rendered uninhabitable). Whether Palle is a real child, or already a stereotypical portrayal of childhood, remains to be considered, but he is the medium of addressing all sorts of issues about what it is to be alive, such as what makes for novelty, and what makes us miss what we know.

Some might want to say that the umbrella that features at the end of the adventure, by still being around**, but broken, shows that it was real. However, it is an element in the adventure that is not intrinsic to the world entered, but just a convenient device to return from it. Nothing precludes it from having been broken early, and brought into play by the guilty rumination of the dream.

Maybe one could see the Home Alone films as one successor to Palle, if not necessarily a worthy one, and with the likelihood that, in comics or other drawn media, the idea of one person exploring a desolate city has been fully explored…


Palle was screened with Bag of Rice (Kiseye Berendj) (1998) (which is reviewed here, and was shown second)


End-notes

* Which, in Estonia, was turned into an animated short, Peetrikese unenägu (1958).

** As with the blossoms in H. G. Wells’ The Time Machine.



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

Monday, 14 April 2014

Bubbling like it’s coming to the boil

This is a review of the Peter Gabriel / Hamish Hamilton gig-film Back to Front (2014)

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


14 April

This is a review of the Peter Gabriel / Hamish Hamilton gig-film Back to Front (2014)

This blog posting revisits the track ‘Steam’, from Peter Gabriel’s album US, on the occasion of the screening of Hamish Hamilton’s documentary Back to Front (2014), which seeks to capture the O2 Arena gig(s) on Gabriel’s tour to celebrate the album So, the seminal fifth studio LP – the film itself was viewed at Cineworld, Stevenage, on 20 March 2014

Gabriel’s lyric for ‘Steam’ (the fourth track on the album US (or, more likely, Us without capitalization), which was released in 1992) is more than the collection of lists that it may at first resemble. For, with its concatenating juxtapositions, Gabriel draws upon sources such as a phrase from The Apostles’ Creed in You know the quick and the dead (which he has rhymed with the polarity of a common form of colour-blindness in You know your green from your red), and they neatly form rhymes that never fail to please, however many times they are heard : a matter both of writing, and of Gabriel’s sure delivery of his own material.

In a way, at least for its upbeat style and tempo, ‘Steam’ looks back to ‘Sledgehammer’ from So (from 1986, on the album So ). Yet, if ‘Sledgehammer’ is a kinky sort of love song (with more than a hint of sexual aggression and suggestion*), the familiarity of knowing another person that is talked of here is not remotely sexual, let alone reverential. Rather, it seems to resemble ‘Big Time’**, but seen from the outside in – its praying to ‘a big god’, kneeling in a big church, and the claim that :
And my heaven will be a big heaven
And I will walk through the front door


So, of this other person, ‘Steam’ says :

When heaven’s doors are shut
You get them open but
I know you



Clearly enough, there is a pattern of shared experience here (a theme that gets revisited in track seven, ‘Digging in the Dirt’), one of having, in all sorts of ways, travelled together, but not – on this side, at least – very happily. Therefore, the relations are uneasy, tense, and the narrating persona finds the other character’s hypocrisy insupportable – or is it resenting the other’s, as it were, ‘lived knowledge’, and using a religious belief as a pretext for discrimination ?

In the preceding track, ‘The Blood of Eden’*** there is a reference to ‘the heated and the holy’, who seem to be in a position of judgement in a song that always suggests that it may, at least in part, concern the AIDS epidemic in Africa. It also, not just by evoking the Biblical Paradise in its title, concerns itself with religiosity :

The heated and the holy
Oh they’re sitting there on high
So secure with everything they’re buying



and :

Is that a dagger or a crucifix I see
You hold so tightly in your hand
And all the while the distance grows between
you and me
I do not understand



If ‘Steam’ does follow on from ‘Blood of Eden’***, then ‘Only Us’ seems to follow after, as a tentative assertion of searching, after finding my way home from / the great escape (a lyric that, with variations, revolves around this lyric), but (to a rhythm like a heartbeat, or a lullaby) :

The further on I go, oh the less I know
I can find only us breathing
Only us sleeping
Only us dreaming
Only us



End-notes

* One is reminded of The Beatles’ track ‘Helter Skelter’, from what (because of Richard Hamilton’s sleeve design) is usually known as The White Album.

** Which speaks from the inside out, and is also from the album So.

*** It may, on the basis of content, actually begin a run of songs on the album, which form a triptych*** (or, maybe, a longer sequence of four songs, starting with ‘Love to be Loved’…)) : each track on US is a response to a piece of art, of which a reproduction is shown in the CD booklet.




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

Saturday, 12 April 2014

There are other kinds of violence

This is a review of Calvary (2014)

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


13 April (the day on which Samuel Beckettt claimed to be born, which was also Good Friday that year...)

This is a review of Calvary (2014)

In two parts, which deliberately balance, these words from Saint Augustine appear on the screen at the beginning of Calvary (2014) (Irish writer Samuel Beckettt clearly refers to these words from St Augustine (from his Confessions*) in Waiting for Godot**) :

Do not despair; one of the thieves was saved.
Do not presume; one of the thieves was damned.



John Michael McDonagh’s careful, challenging film*** is a meditation, which loses us as to time (despite the fact that the days of the week count down), but roots us in space – almost in the way that The American (Tom Berenger) causes ‘Bull’ McCabe (Richard Harris) to fixate upon the piece of land that gives The Field (1990) its title (a film in which Gleeson appears). Brendan Gleeson, as Father James, seems to live more, which is arguably also on a symbolic level, in the week in which we are with him than the running-time suggests is possible, just as The Field painfully evokes an eternal struggle in a small compass.




Subtly, but in every scene (or group of scenes, or the principal scene for the day of the week), there is a base colour – almost as if signifying the Biblical rainbow that the Book of Genesis tells us was established as a covenant between Man and God (9 : 13 (to prevent a further flood and another Noah)), and possibly chiming with Stockhausen’s colour-scaped composition Licht, comprising an opera for each day of the week.

Thus, the tinges in Fr. James’ beard foreshadow his daughter’s hair, and, when she comes into his room and his dog Bruno is lying on the bed and he is reading on a chair next to her, the camera catches her face, the light from the window on her left cheek, and the beauty of her hair. The pattern of coloration, however it turns out to work on a re-viewing, is there, and indicates McDonagh’s underlying thoughts have engaged with the full resonance of his chosen theme, a circumscribed passage of time.




Much else in the film, in other ways, is unspoken (or present in an unvoiced way), and much requires reflection. For example, Fr. James had been married, and his wife, the mother of Fiona (Kelly Reilly), whom he meets from the station, had died what sounds an agonizing death (but there is no more to tell us about her, other than an exchange between Fiona and her father). On Tuesday (maybe Monday) Fiona arrives by train (perhaps by prior arrangement, perhaps because of what has just happened to her), and we gradually infer – confirmed by what is said in the pub to those who do not know who Fiona – who she is in relation to him :

At the moment of his meeting her, the connection is suitably opaque, and we momentarily wonder. We wonder, in part, because of how Gleeson, in the police in The Guard (2011), chooses to spend his day off, and how he balances duty and personal life – a theme that recurs here. As to what is happening to Fr. James in this time that we are with him, the only person who knows that anything is amiss is his Bishop (David McSavage) (from what Fr. James says to him).

The Bishop counsels, but seems greatly to respect Fr. James, and does not intervene, does not require him to do certain things, even when something dramatic happens – their exchange of thoughts and views is full and frank, and Gleeson plays another character who commands respect, as his Sergeant Boyle did from FBI Agent Wendell (Don Cheadle) in The Guard. As James is, Boyle is an educated man, although they wear their knowledge differently and to different effect – Boyle does not accord with the expectations of the local force, and makes a rare link with Wendell, whereas, in Calvary there is a barrage of sophistry and posture, as if to shake James out of his faith, and he uses his intelligence as a resource (much as his character Ken, with his appreciation of art and culture, does in In Bruges (2008), not as the inconvenient piece of integrity that it can be to Boyle.

Though not exhaustively or exclusively, Fr. James takes kinds of escape from reality on both Friday, and Saturday. He well knows what he might have to do or face, but he has had a week of others who say that they do not want things that he can see that they do, and vice versa, and they have begun to take their toll on him. In this and other respects, this film has obvious echoes with Bergman’s famous The Seventh Seal (1957) (and, in this film, we even see the outcome of a gentlemanly game of chess between two men who might have reason to be at odds). As in that classic, too, time is a dimension, and the question of how one best judge what requires one’s attention.




Yet, in a sense (though this earlier film by no means precisely maps onto it), Calvary is also an inverted D.O.A. (1950) (with Edmond O’Brien (as Frank Bigelow), and re-made in a version with Dennis Quaid and Meg Ryan in 1988), but with Gleeson in some sort of driving-seat, though not in full command of where the vehicle will go…




Gleeson is a whirlwind of pastoral roles in this film, and one cannot conceive anyone else bringing off the part, supported admirably by Kelly Reilly, Dylan Moran, Orla O’Rourke, Isaach de Bankolé, M. Emmet Walsh, and Chris O’Dowd, to name but a few, and with highly sympathetic contributions from Patrick Cassidy’s score and Larry Smith’s cinematography.


End-notes


* According to Deirdre Bair, who was Beckettt’s first biographer (Samuel Beckettt : A Biography, Jonathan Cape, London, 1978)), ‘The image first took on meaning for Beckettt as early as 1935, when he read St. Augustine’s Confessions, and began to use the expression to define either / or situations. It appears repeatedly in his correspondence [Bair cites the following correspondents in her note (p. 692) : George Reavey, Arland Ussher, Mary Manning Howe, and Thomas McGreevy] from that time onward […] (p. 386)’.


** Against Estragon’s twice saying ‘No’ when asked if he would like to hear, but justified to him by Vladimir on the basis that ‘It’ll pass the time’, Vladimir tells Estragon about the varying accounts of crucifixion (Waiting for Godot, Faber & Faber, London, 1965, pp. 12 – 13). Just before, when Estragon had been examining his hat and his feet, and not listening to him (p. 11), he said these words, on which he elaborates :

One of the thieves was saved. (Pause.) It’s a reasonable percentage.

There is at least one other Beckettt reference in Calvary, when the woman over whose husband Father James has earlier said the last rites, sees him again at the airport, and she fleetingly employs the closing words of his novel The Unnamable : I can’t go on I’ll go on.


*** McDonagh wrote and directed it, as he did The Guard (2011), in which Gleeson also stars.




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

A Night in Tunisia ?*

This is a review of Half of a Yellow Sun (2013)

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


11 April (updated 30 April)

This is a review of a special preview screening of Half of a Yellow Sun (2013), based upon the novel of that name by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and screened at The Arts Picturehouse (@CamPicturehouse), Cambridge, on 8 March, followed by a Q&A with screenwriter / director Biyi Bandele





When one has heard Biyi Bandele talk about discussing making a film with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie of her novel, and even had him acceptingly answer one’s question about whether we had been right to feel uneasy sometimes that we were laughing (he wanted to see tragedy in comedy, and vice versa, and referred to ‘gallows’ humour’), there is the danger of losing objectivity, and of failing to say what one heard, saw and felt, because one does not wish to offend. However, the film is the thing being reviewed, and the worst that can happen to it – obviously not as a result of this review – is to be re-edited, censored, or even banned.

There are two neat shots in this film, first where, early on, we move downwards, through the floor / ceiling, and see Olanna (Thandie Newton) at the table, who had just been preening herself upstairs. The other is a similar magic-trick in a way, which is when Odenigbo’s mother is to Olanna’s right (we are facing her), then we move across to look just at her, and, when we move back, Olanna is now sitting next to Odenigbo (Chiwetel Ejiofor), having another – but related – conversation.

These shots seem quite out of place in the rest of the film, where the next nearest thing is a busy tracking-shot, back and forth outside the home that is being evacuated (though they all act as if they are going on holiday, not least with what they think it necessary to take with them, rather than fleeing) – rather than intensifying a moment that is already tense (please excuse the wordplay !), the tracking is just somewhat irritating.

The aesthetic that gives rise to these devices, which seem out of character with the rest of the film, can therefore scarcely be intended to provide some sort of alienating perspective, since they act in isolation. (However, with the one last mentioned, one could probably seek to justify it, after the fact, by maintaining that it heightens our appreciation of how their bourgeois values have not yet been ground down to face the reality of conflict as against, say, preserving candlesticks.)

Likewise, Olanna and her supposed twin sister Kainene (Anika Noni Rose) really just present as spoilt bitches, not out of place on the set of late-1970s t.v. series Dallas. Though they are certainly not virgins, of course no one watching wants them [to have] to sleep with the minister who has come to dinner to win their father the lucrative contract that [Kainene and ?**] he wants, but that does not make their general attitude and behaviour endearing, any more than it does in the story of Cinderella***.

To some extent, though, that trans-generational revolt provides a sort of alienation – except that the film will also have us believe that they will discover what it is to be a mensch through the horrors and deprivations of the war in Biafra (1967–1970). (It has to be said that, in that, it appears little different from the novel****. It is also little different, say, from The Book Thief (2013), where we see similar kindnesses in the time of war, probably more so, but neither film approaches anywhere near the atmospheric and dramatic status of Powell and Pressburger’s The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943).)

According to what it seems Toby Miller (@tobytram) [of Cambridge 105’s ‘Bums on Seats’ radio-show] established in his interview with Biyi Bandele after the screening, the film is actually intended to show a melodrama, whereas, as intimated in the question to Bandele, it appeared that it was perhaps striving to be something else. In any case, if one compares Sun, say, with a dynastic film such as Buddenbrooks (2008) – though any difference is, obviously, largely rooted in the different nature of the original text – the only parent who has any real part is Odenigbo’s Mama (Onyeka Onwenu), and we have a chance to get to know and value her.

Therefore (although this may be a matter of digesting the elements of a novel and making a screenplay from it), we have no further sight of Kainene and Olanna’s father (there is telephone contact*****), and we are never again in Lagos. Tellingly, Bandele had told us that his view is that slavishly trying to capture every strand of story of a novel is best fitted to a t.v. series, not to a film, and that the latter medium best makes a screenplay based on a short story.

Yet what Bandele has nonetheless chosen to make into a film is, of course, a novel, and where he stated that he had had ‘to tone down’ Ejiofor’s character (known between the sisters as ‘The Revolutionary’, seemingly privately) so that he was not overlarge for the screen. When asked if he had relied on his own memories of the civil conflict, Bandele had to point out that he was only aged three when it ended (and, indeed, we can see that the novel’s author Adichie was not born until a decade after him), and we hear that what happened is not talked about now in Nigeria.

Clearly, there are good reasons why we should learn that ‘Biafra’ is more than a name from the 1960s, where it was, why, and why it no longer exists. Thus, in addition to Anika Noni Rose, and Thandie Newton (whom Bandele says he has known since the age of nineteen), let alone the now-celebrated Ejiofor, he also has Joseph Mawle (as Richard) in his cast, plus cinematographer John De Borman, to whom he referred for his work on The Full Monty (1977) (though arguably better known for Made in Dagenham (2010) or An Education (2009) – or even Quartet (2012). However, one cannot help feeling sorry for Ugwu (John Boyega), turned into (compared, one gathers, with the book) someone who is ordered around for much of the time, and only much valued when traumatized.

Sadly, that is too much a paradigm for how the film operates / fails to operate as a whole. It was a valiant effort for Newton, amongst others, to work on through typhoid to complete filming, and for Bandele to wrap with just enough time to let Ejiofor get to the States and straightaway start filming Slave. However, does the film do justice not so much to the novel, but to the history of Biafra and of the Biafran War, in giving proper insights into what was happening then, rather than relying on newsreel (even if that need not have been ineffective - the first clip set the scene wonderfully well) ?


Amanda Randall (@amandarandall5) writes more here about the adaptation...


End-notes

* At the party to which (or the one that we see) Kanine and Olanna escape from their father’s house, we hear the distinctive strains of Dizzy Gillespie’s composition A Night in Tunisia – it is a shame that it has not been contrived that we are unaware that they are miming (to a credited version of the tune).

** Kainene is going, as she says that she will be, to Port Harcourt to head her father’s business operation, not continuing her extensive education (unlike Olanna in her academic post). Maybe their father would not listen to Olanna and her about sexual favours for the minister, but the impression is that it had been assumed, never discussed, and that these women suddenly assert their own rights…

*** A certain literalism seems to go with Bandele's approach to film-making, such that we have an unnecessary caption to tell us that where we see Kainene at one point is the airport (it plainly is), and her entry to get married is cued by, of all things, 'The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba' (from Handel's oratorio Solomon).

**** * Contains spoilers * The film would have you believe that you have watched a true story, by putting up captions afterwards such as ‘Kainene is still missing’ – given that it is 2014, and that part of the film is set in 1970, this seems a strange assertion, because few people probably consider someone ‘missing’ who has not been seen for more than forty years.

***** Despite an apparent desire to attend to period accuracy for props (e.g. chunky handsets for telephones, with those shell-like cupped mouthpieces), when Olanna uses wine as the means (or catalyst ?) of seduction (the film – maybe, also, the book – plays with drunkenness as a licence for illicit sex (reminiscent of Lot’s daughters ?)), the type of corkscrew that she uses did not exist (according to Wikipedia, it was not invented for another twenty-five years - so certainly not the modern method that she employs, piercing the capsule and pulling the cork through it…).




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