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Sunday, 31 August 2014

Two Days Plus Xanax

This is a spoilery follow-up to a review of Two Days, One Night (2014)

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2014 (28 August to 7 September)
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)


31 August

This is a spoilery follow-up to a review of Two Days, One Night (2014)
(Deux Jours, Une Nuit) (2014)

* Contains spoilers *

L'enfer, c'est les autres
Huis Clos ~ Jean-Paul Sartre

This quotation was chosen, because, in the film (if not in the play), it is Sandra’s thoughts about herself and about what others, including her husband, may be thinking about her that are now at the root of being off work.

That and the inhuman approach that Sandra’s boss, Dumont, has cooked up with the connivance of the foreman, Jean-Marc, of requiring her fellow employees to say whether they would rather receive a bonus of 10,000 Euros than for her to return to work (when sixteen have done the work of seventeen during her absence, albeit by doing three hours’ overtime, and when Jean-Marc prejudges the issue, by saying that Sandra is no longer up to the job).

‘Bonus’ has been used to translate the French word prime, which, in practice, can serve to mean, when qualified, terms as diverse as ‘severance pay’ (prime de liceniciement) and ‘productivity bonus’ (prime de rendement), so Il a eu une prime en récompense de son travail (‘He received a bonus for his work’). Despite how some of the colleagues talk of spending ma prime, it does seem to be in the nature of a one-off payment, of which there is no future guarantee, and not a pay-rise (for which there is the separate word une augmentation - as, at least, the term is used in France).

As Sandra is forced to approach each of her colleagues, she hears their reasons why they have already spent what, for all that we know, they only recently knew that they would be getting, and have not yet received. It is almost un fait accompli. The deviltry is in making it seem as if they decide, when Dumont (with Jean-Marc) has (as emerges late on) arbitrarily set one against the other (sc. the bonus against her returning to work), and two main questions arise in consequence :
(1) The overdose that Sandra takes in despair – is it so unrealistic, as two matriarchs were tutting after the screening, that she could be out and approaching the last few employees that night ?

(2) If Sandra wanted recourse in employment law, what claim is open to her (in the UK, as against Belgium, this would be unfair dismissal) - though, when so many of her colleagues have to work au noir, could they risk being involved ? 


(1) Well, Xanax, which is used to treat anxiety, is one of the few medications that states (in the patient information leaflet) :

'If you forget to take a dose, take it as soon as you remember unless it is time for your next dose.
Do not take a double dose to make up for a missed dose.'

The article linked here talks about the risks of overdose, including having to take 975 times the maximum human dose to reproduce the cardiopulmonary collapse that is found in rats at this level : it lists, as manifestations of overdose, ones that include somnolence, confusion, impaired coordination, diminished reflexes, and coma.

Although death has been reported as an outcome of overdose, since Sandra said as soon as she had taken the tablets what she has done, and Manú starts by trying to induce vomiting when the ambulance is being called, it does not seem improbable that Sandra could escape severe symptoms, and be able to discharge herself quite quickly.

(2) As to employers' practices in the field of mental health, they may be harder on our attempts to make a recovery : we see Sandra buoyed by how many support her, but understandably does not wish to betray colleagues on fixed-term contracts by accepting the offer, as it is put to her, of reinstatement in her post.

Dumont’s folly, if he actually values Sandra after all (rather than is trying to manipulate her to do as she does), is to think that she sees things as casually as he does, and to say that he will instead not renew the contract of someone working on a fixed term : although he is technically right that this is not a dismissal, she has been represented as having had no protection from being dismissed anyway herself, in a world where employees can vote against someone ready to return from illness…

Whether that is possible in employment law in Belgium does not much matter, for the film – without being over-specific that it is set in one country rather than another – asks us to accept that it is so (or effectively so*).


End-notes

* In fact, a briefing on employment law in Belgium from Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer suggests that, for dismissals made before 1 April 2014, it was open for blue-collar workers to ‘claim that their dismissal was not based on their performance or attitude, or on economic reasons and, if the employer could not prove otherwise, they were entitled to an extra six months’ indemnity’.

In the law operative for service since 1 January 2014, there now appears to be no (or less) distinction between white- and blue-collar workers, and for it to be open to all to require written reasons for dismissal within two months (as well as to receive a specified minimum notice).

In conclusion, it does not appear, in Belgium of recent date, that an employer could succeed (except for the reasons stated) in lawfully seeking to dismiss Sandra in this way in these circumstances.



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

Thursday, 28 August 2014

News and views from Cambridge Film Festival / #CamFF 2014

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2014 (28 August to 7 September)
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)


15 September (updated 17 November)

Following the elaborate planning, this posting records what actually happened, and when, with links to reviews (two still lagging behind)...


As in 2012 (and 2011), there is a code, which is :

A Abandoned - Walked out partway through

AA Wished to abandon - But, against better judgement, could not (or did not) leave partway through

B Blog - There is a posting about the film on the blog, to which the link takes one (although it may not be a review)

C Catalan preview - A film from the Camera Catalonia strand, reviewed ahead of and for the Festival

M Missed - Planned - or had tickets - to see, but had to skip

P Partly watched - A clash with an earlier (or later) film prevented seeing it as a whole

O Take One - Published on line as a guest review

S Seen - The opposite of Missed




Tony Jones, Trustee of Cambridge Film Trust and director of Cambridge Film Festival for 30 (?) years - the longest-serving UK festival director


Thursday 28 August

6.00 P Peter Sellers : The Early Shorts (1957) : Emmanuel (90 mins) - The one caught, Dearth of a Salesman, was also short on laughs...

7.00 AA The Kidnapping of Michel Houellebecq (summed up, pretty much, in Andrew Pulver's review for The Guardian) (Opening Film) : Screen 1 (93 mins)

10.00 B S Magic in the Moonlight (2014) (plus a riposte to TAKE ONE's reviewer) (Opening Film) : Screen 1 (97 mins)


Friday 29 August to Sunday 31 August (both inclusive)

Delayed response to the loss of a dearly loved companion subverted any plans for cinema-going on these days, but, by proxy...

Saturday 30 August

7.30 Bx2 S Ida (2013) (plus spoilery critique) : Screen ?? (80 mins)


Monday 1 September

1.30 B S A Most Wanted Man (2014) : Screen 1 (121 mins)

4.00 AA B Four Corners (2014) : Screen 1 (114 mins)

6.30 B S Under Milk Wood plus Q&A (1971) (Dylan Thomas 100) : Screen 1 (88 mins)

9.00 B S Before I Go to Sleep plus Q&A (2014) : Screen 1 (92 mins)


Tuesday 2 September

1.00 M M : Screen 1 (1931) (117 mins)

3.30 S Last Call (2013) : Screen 2 (91 mins)

6.00 S How I Came to Hate Maths (Comment j'ai détesté les maths) (2013) : Emmanuel (110 mins)

8.30 B S Mary is Happy, Mary is Happy (2013) : Emmanuel (127 mins)


Wednesday 3 September

1.30 B S Iranian (2014) : Screen 1 (105 mins)

4.00 AA Eastern Boys (2013) : Screen 1 (128 mins)

6.30 B x 2 S Stations of the Cross (and further thoughts on a second viewing) (Kreuzweg) (2014) (German) : Screen 2 (104 mins)

9.00 C S Tasting Menu (plus a riposte to TAKE ONE's reviewer) (2013) (Camera Catalonia) : Screen 2 (85 mins)

11.00 M Short Fusion : Life Lessons : Screen 2 (79 mins)


Thursday 4 September (a day for not sticking to the plan at all !)

11.00 M Night will Fall (2014) : Screen 1 (75 mins)

1.30 M Le Jour se Lève (Daybreak) (1939) : Screen 1 (93 mins)

As to be on general release, substituted by rewatching :
2.30 B x 2 S Stations of the Cross (and further thoughts on a second viewing) (Kreuzweg) (2014) (German) : Screen 2 (104 mins)


4.00 P German Short Films (German) : Screen 1 (~70 mins) (all 2013) Will have to miss the end to get to Still the Enemy Within (2014)...

6.00 M Still the Enemy Within (2014) : St Philip's Church (112 mins)
Instead rewatched :
6.00 B S Mary is Happy, Mary is Happy (2013) (Festival link) : Emmanuel (127 mins)

8.30 M Under the Lantern (1928) (Lamprecht) : St Philip's Church (129 mins)
Stay for this - or head to Festival Central for...
9.00 M We Are Many (2014) : Screen 1 (104 mins)


Friday 5 September

1.00 B C S We All Want What's Best for Her (Tots volem el millor per a ella) (2013) plus write-up of Q&A (now with photos) (Camera Catalonia) : Screen 1 (105 mins)

Just time to interview Mar Coll (director and co-writer of We All Want What's Best for Her- write-up to come...) before :
4.00 S People on Sunday (Menschen am Sonntag) (Lamprecht) : Emmanuel (73 mins)

5.00 P Energized : Screen 1 (91 mins) Sadly, needing to miss the start of which...

7.50 C S Son of Cain (Fill de Caín) (2013) (plus write-up of Q&A) (Camera Catalonia) : Screen 2 (90 mins)

10.30 M The Mad Magician (Retro 3-D) : Screen 2 (72 mins)


Saturday 6 September

1.00 M Berlin, Symphony of a Great City (Lamprecht) : Screen 3 (74 mins)


Missed to interview - and take punting - Jesús Monllaó, director of Son of Cain (Fill de Caín)


2.30 B S Fiction (Ficció) (Camera Catalonia) : Screen 3 (107 mins)

5.00 AA B Amour Fou : Screen 1 (96 mins)

7.30 B S Tony Benn : Will and Testament : Screen 1 (running-time not advised)

Not likely to finish in time for (as was indeed so)...

9.00 M West (Lagerfeuer) (German) : Screen 2 (102 mins)


Sunday 7 September

1.00 C S Othello (Otel.lo) (Camera Catalonia) : Screen 2 (69 mins)


The next film was missed, because of lunch and then completing an interview with Hammudi Al-Rahmoun Font, director of Otel.lo (with the kind assistance, as translator, of Cristina Roures)

4.00 M A Poem in Exile (Camera Catalonia) : Emmanuel (77 mins)


5.30 M Set Fire to the Stars (Dylan Thomas 100) : Screen 1 (90 mins)



For the sceptical, there is evidence of that punting-trip, with star pupil Hammudi

8.00 A The Grandmaster (which turned out to be Surprise Film 1) : Screen 1 (?? mins)



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

Don’t take my advice – I’m a major eccentric !

This is a review of Magic in the Moonlight (2014)

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2014 (28 August to 7 September)
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)


28 August

This is a review of Magic in the Moonlight (2014)
(one of Cambridge Film Festival 2014's Opening Films)


Woody Allen can never resist giving all the good lines to one character, and this time it is to Colin Firth (as Stanley Crawford), whom others close to him describe as a rationalist and caustic : sounding on Firth’s lips, the egotism of some characters that Allen has written for himself (e.g. Harry Block in Deconstructing Harry (1997)), and their disparaging or grudging excuses or views of others, seem refreshingly new.

The plot is not a complex one, and it would not easily hold off a fan of who-dunnits, but it plays with the familiar Allen type of a man whose (intellectual) opinion of himself gets in the way of his real enjoyment, a theme that goes right back to Love and Death (1975). Here, the tone is light, though calling it whimsical (as some have done) is not perhaps catching the right tone – and better describes To Rome with Love (2012) - but it benefits from the quality of having been caught on film (and cinematographer Darius Khondji has been working with Allen as early as Anything Else (2003)*), as crucially with the effect of day- as of moonlight.

Allen regularly revolves certain themes that mean something to him, such as magic (from Stardust Memories (1980) and earlier (and Radio Days (1987)? ) to The Curse of the Jade Scorpion (2001) and Scoop (2006)) and a disbelief in clairvoyance (You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger (2010)) or anything beyond the rational, and those come together here, with magician Crawford’s distrust of the powers of Sophie Baker (Emma Stone), egged on by his friend Howard Burkan (Simon McBurney).

Crawford is a sort of Benedict to Baker, as Firth was famously as Mr Darcy to Jennifer Ehle’s Elizabeth Bennet, and Firth carries this off perfectly, so much so at times (and with the film maybe a shade too long) that he is a little in danger of putting the others in the dark, even to some extent the redoubtable Eileen Atkins as Aunt Vanessa, let alone Baker : when we hear him discussed by members of the family where he is staying is not only a momentary absence from the screen, but also reinforces his nihilistic attitude (described as depression).

Nonetheless, we sense that he convinces himself more than others that he knows his own mind, and, in this sense, is a true Allen leading man, clinging to rationalism in order not to be adrift in the world – as we hear him, off guard, confessing to Baker his boyhood awe at the night sky. Criticize Allen, if one likes, for where the story is heading, but one would not be watching a film with such a title if not for it, and he gets us there with an ego more or less intact, as well as many a smile and an occasional hearty laugh along the way…


End-notes

* For which Carlo Di Palma, coming out of retirement, failed a medical, and so could not be insured by the studio.



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

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Tu existes, Sandra !

This is a review of Two Days, One Night (Deux Jours, Une Nuit) (2014)

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2014 (28 August to 7 September)
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)


26 August

This is a review of Two Days, One Night (Deux Jours, Une Nuit) (2014)

L'enfer, c'est les autres
Huis Clos ~ Jean-Paul Sartre


This film has all the qualities of 12 Angry Men (1957), i.e. self-interest meeting a desire for justice, but, to paraphrase what people still say, this time the struggle is personal. (It turns out that that reference is one also made by Peter Bradshaw (in his five-star review for The Guardian).)



Cleverly mixed with that personal importance is an element of impersonality, introduced by the documentary style of the blocking and shooting, which naturally makes us incline – much of the time – to sensing ourselves an observer to what Sandra (Marion Cotillard) is doing and reacting to. And so the moment when we have first have a smile from her is very effective – it has built upon the opening shot when she is sleeping, and then on our seeing her tension, feeling her tortured breathing, and witnessing her reliance on Xanax to cope with anxiety.

That smile is amongst several important moments in the car, where the intimacy of the space, because we have been out and about so much with Sandra (and with her husband Manú (Fabrizio Rongione)), gives us gives far more engagement with Sandra than we ever have with Tom Hardy’s shut-in Locke (2013) (even if that, too, is deliberate) : here, it is not that we are shut out, but that the arc of the film keeps us waiting until Sandra speaks to Timur (Timur Magomedgadzhiev), and we can confront his raw nakedness, guiltily recalling her past kindness to him (which even Sandra cannot quite have expected, or cope with).

Until then, there has been perfect politeness, even in refusals to help, and the spoken French has that polish much of the time, so that, when there is an eruption, it is there, too, in the language. When that moment with Timur – and the smile – comes, the restraint that has been upon us floods us with emotion at the same time, and the film-making has effectively, by its distancing and delay, caused us to have an experience of what the worst of depression can be like : as if removed from one’s own life, and with one’s capacity to relate to one’s family and situation suppressed.

In Rust and Bone (2012) (directors Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardennes numbered amongst its co-producers), Cotillard gave us one sort of rehabilitation, where mental adjustment to a huge change in life is part of the picture : here, the mind (and its vulnerabilities) is at the centre of things, with doubts whether someone can come back and do the same job as before, let alone how others’ words and negativity – however unintended – can undermine one’s feeling of worth and one’s belief in the point of what needs to be done.

When Sandra is woken by the phone and talks to her colleague Juliette, she is, from the start, trying to talk herself into an attitude towards what is happening (which some will recognize in We All Want What’s Best For Her (Tots volem el millor per a ella) (2013) - screening at Cambridge Film Festival 2014 / #CamFF), though the position in which Sandra finds herself only becomes visible to us with time. In the meanwhile, we guess at what she has been through, though her demeanour, gait and posture are indicative…

The film has much to show us : tell people that they can have something, and see how quickly that influences them – just as it does Henry Fonda’s fellow jurors to want to wind up their deliberations quickly, because establishing the truth is costly of their time. Without didacticism in the writing, because there is a wealth of responses to Sandra, we see that there can be this tendency, even when people have not yet got what was promised, and might well ask themselves at what cost (or what it says about them that they so readily make what they did not have before indispensable).

The additional dimension here, revealed fully towards the end, is that of some players who have been keeping their cards close to their chests, and seeking to get what they can. The film helps us to value qualities that have emerged in Sandra and her colleagues learning about each other, and from which she can take comfort. Ultimately, it offers no easy solutions, but it asks us the things that we can countenance for our convenience, an ending that takes us close to Robert Guédiguian's The Snows of Kilimanjaro Les Neiges de Kilimandjaro) (2011)(from Cambridge Film Festival 2012).

If you wish to read more, there is now a new piece about employment rights and Xanax...






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

Sunday, 24 August 2014

From the archive : Review of Cross-Channel + Discrepancy

This is a review of Ron Peck's micro-budget film Cross-Channel (2010)

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2014 (28 August to 7 September)
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)


25 August

At Cambridge Film Festival 2010 (the 30th) (#CamFF), Ron Peck's micro-budget film Cross-Channel (2010) screened, preceded by the short film Discrepancy - this is @THEAGENTASPLEY's review (from the Festival web-site)

* Contains spoilers *

DISCREPANCY, the accompanying short to CROSS-CHANNEL, was an aural onslaught. The source (manifesto?) from the 1950s, if true, which the voiceover acknowledged was not much surprise - hectoring was much more in fashion, just as experimentally yoking it to disparate images and challenging viewers to object would have been at any time from the early twentieth century onwards.

Fair enough, the thesis was duly counterposed (and so modified) by antithesis, etc., but we agree with THE TRIP’s Steve that arthouse films are where it’s at, so does what this film separately said and did really constitute a discrepancy of interest? I doubt it.

CROSS-CHANNEL deliciously and almost provocatively relishes showing us, albeit not in the technically challenging audacity of a single take, the way out to the sea from Portsmouth, and we only cut between views with any greater frequency after this sequence. Maybe this is what the narrator likes looking at, and his commonplace feeling that the ship is all his (and hence that the two men who unwittingly attract his attention are a kind of intruding temptation to him), and so must possess it, is what he proceeds to try to do with them.

He wants to know what he cannot know by eavesdropping, although that seems perfectly successful (contrary to his claim that he could not catch everything over dinner), and so feels free to substitute his imaginings for being actively present to the person with whom he asserts a seven-year relationship and to spending time with whom he is supposed to be looking forward so keenly.

As I observed in the post-screening question session, this film reminded me of the t.v. series called [The] Canterbury Tales, and, because of that, of Chaucer’s own story-telling. With that feeling of reverence for the journey, which almost smacks of pilgrimage and of enjoying it as much as where it takes the traveller, one is led to the parallel feeling that the heart of the film is not so much what is told, as the telling itself.

Ron Peck made clear that he had felt, in this unseen narrator, a person whom he did not much like because of his ascriptions of bad motives to the two men, but there is also his total self-obsessed certainty that we want to know what he has to say. Here, the parallel with Chaucer is so relevant, because the more grotesque of his pilgrims are highly self-revelatory (through some sense of needing to tell the truth about themselves?), even though that ultimately condemns them out of their own mouths when they seek to charm us.

Where this film also wins is not so much in what we are shown the men pictured doing or talking about (because, perhaps, we do not quite share his fascination), but in its sure pacing. The narrator neatly delivers us back to dock in such exquisite detail that we need never wonder how what he keeps calling ‘vessels’ are brought alongside the quay with such grace and beauty.




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

Planning Cambridge Film Festival 2014 : #CamFF - Work in Progress

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2014 (28 August to 7 September)
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)


24 August




Thursday 28 August

6.00 Peter Sellers : The Early Shorts (1957) : Emmanuel (90 mins) - Catch one film before...

7.00 The Kidnapping of Michel Houellebecq (Opening Film) : Screen 1 (93 mins)

10.00 Magic in the Moonlight (Opening Film) : Screen 1 (97 mins)


Friday 29 August

12.30 Night Moves : Screen 1 (90 mins)

4.00 The White City (2014) : Screen 2 (running time not advised) If not on Sunday at 1.30...

6.00 Children of No Importance (Lamprecht) : Emmanuel (95 mins)

9.15 Cherry Tobacco : Screen 3 (97 mins)

11.00 House of Wax (Retro 3-D) : Screen 2 (86 mins)
or - when announced
11.00 TBC : Screen 3 (?? mins)


Saturday 30 August

11.00 Peter Sellers : The Early Shorts (1957) : Screen 3 (90 mins) - To catch the others...

1.30 Life of Crime (2013) : Screen 3 (94 mins)

4.00 I Believe in Unicorns (2014) : Screen 3 (80 mins)

6.45 Free Range / Ballad on Approving of the World (2013) : Screen 2 (104 mins) But if it drags...

7.30 Ida (2013) : Screen 1 (80 mins)

10.00 In Order of Disappearance : Screen 1 (116 mins)
or - decide on the night
10.30 Inferno (Retro 3-D) : Screen 2 (83 mins)
or - decide on the night
10.15 TBC: SCreen 3 (?? mins)


Sunday 31 August

1.30 The White City (2014) : Screen 1 (running time not advised)

4.00 Oh Boy (2013) (German) : Emmanuel (88 mins)

6.30 Home from Home (2013) (German) : Screen 1 (225 mins) But if it falters...

8.45 War Story (2013) : Screen 2 (90 mins)


Monday 1 September

1.30 A Most Wanted Man (2014) : Screen 1 (121 mins)

4.00 Four Corners (2014) : Screen 1 (114 mins)
or - decide on the day
4.00 In Order of Disappearance (2014) : Screen 2 (116 mins)

6.30 Under Milk Wood (1971) (Dylan Thomas 100) : Screen 1 (88 mins) If not on Tuesday at 1.00...

8.30 Finding Fela (2014) : St Philip's Church (119 mins)
or - decide on the day
9.00 Before I go to Sleep (2014) : Screen 1 (92 mins)
or - decide on the day
10.00 Love is All : 100 Years of Love and Courtship (2014) : Screen 3 (70 mins)


Tuesday 2 September

11.00 Under Milk Wood (1971) (Dylan Thomas 100) : Screen 1 (88 mins) If not on Monday at 6.30...

1.00 M : Screen 1 (1931) (117 mins)

3.30 Last Call (2013) : Screen 2 (91 mins)

6.00 How I Came to Hate Maths (2013) : Emmanuel (110 mins)

8.30 Mary is Happy, Mary is Happy (2013) : Emmanuel (127 mins)


Wednesday 3 September

1.30 Iranian (2014) : Screen 1 (105 mins)

4.00 Eastern Boys (2013) : Screen 1 (128 mins)

6.30 Stations of the Cross (2014) (German) : Screen 2 (104 mins)

9.00 Tasting Menu (2013) : Screen 2 (85 mins)

11.00 Short Fusion : Life Lessons : Screen 2 (79 mins)


Thursday 4 September

11.00 Night will Fall (2014) : Screen 1 (75 mins)

1.30 Le Jour se Lève (Daybreak) (1939) : Screen 1 (93 mins)

4.00 German Short Films (German) : Screen 1 (~70 mins) (all 2013) Will have to miss the end to get to...

6.00 Still the Enemy Within (2014) : St Philip's Church (112 mins)

8.30 Under the Lantern (1928) (Lamprecht) : St Philip's Church (129 mins)
Stay for this - or head to Festival Central for...
9.00 We Are Many (2014) : Screen 1 (104 mins)


Friday 5 September

1.00 We All Want What's Best for Her (Tots volem el millor per a ella) (2013) (Camera Catalonia) : Screen 1 (105 mins)

4.00 People on Sunday (Lamprecht) : Emmanuel (73 mins)

5.00 Energized : Screen 1 (91 mins)

8.30 Hosting Q&A for A Curious Life (no date advised) : St Philip's Church (78 mins)

10.30 The Mad Magician (Retro 3-D) : Screen 2 (72) If possibly back in time...


Saturday 6 September

1.00 Berlin, Symphony of a Great City (Lamprecht) : Screen 3 (74 mins)

2.30 Fiction (Ficció) (Camera Catalonia) : Screen 3 (107 mins)

5.00 Amour Fou : Screen 1 (96 mins)

7.30 Tony Benn : Will and Testament : Screen 1 (running-time not advised)
Not likely to finish in time for...
9.00 West (Lagerfeuer) (German) : Screen 2 (102 mins)


Sunday 7 September

1.00 Othello (Otel.lo) (Camera Catalonia) : Screen 2 (69 mins)

4.00 A Poem in Exile (Camera Catalonia) : Emmanuel (77 mins)

5.30 Set Fire to the Stars (Dylan Thomas 100) : Screen 1 (90 mins)

8.00 Surprise Film : Screen 1 (?? mins)


All of the above translates here into what was actually seen / missed and done...




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

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Why complicate things when they can be simple ? ~ Mar Vidal

This is a Festival preview of Tasting Menu (Menú degustació) (2013)

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2014 (28 August to 7 September)
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)


19 August

This is a Festival preview of Tasting Menu (Menú degustació) (2013)

Chances to see during Cambridge Film Festival (#CamFF) 2014:

On Wednesday 3 September only at Festival Central (please see the note on screenings below) and for general admission only at 9.00 p.m. (Screen 2), because the screening at 11.00 a.m. (Screen 3) that day is a Big Scream screening*


Also screening (as are some other Festival films) at Abbeygate Cinema, 4 Hatter Street, Bury St Edmunds IP33 1NZ (abbeygatecinema.co.uk) : Tuesday 2 September at 6.45 p.m.



A night of enchantment, misunderstanding, and phone-calls


Sommelier :
It’s slow in the mouth and offers serenity and peace. (Slight pause.) I hope it helps you to calm your mind, and to remember and enjoy a moment of beauty.


This description of a white wine, from Tasting Menu (Menú degustació) (2013), could – if shorter – almost serve as the tag-line for the film : what is any good film (or painting, play, piece of music), if not giving us the space to experience something ?

And what might Chakula be, a restaurant with just thirty covers, if not a microcosm of – or metaphor for – life ? (Just as, in its own way, the Mumbai of The Lunchbox (Dabba) (2013) also enchantingly showed how food, and how it is delivered, together have the power to forge new connections.)

Imagine the inviting – though sometimes flirtatiously fleeting – appearance of food and how it is keenly appreciated. Mix it with an ensemble cast that plays, say, the variety of characters in luxury accommodation who commit Murder on The Orient Express (1974) (although this is no murder mystery, it has secrets and intrigues), or who meet as Peter’s Friends (1992) (though no one is exactly Peter, telling them sombre news), and you have some of the principal elements of Tasting Menu’s recipe…

What the film’s atmosphere adds to this, not least in some of its incidental music (which complements the more extrovert opening, with The Divine Comedy playing Neil Hannon’s song ‘I Like’, one of two of their tracks used), is the sense that things are happening magically this night.


First Japanese guest :
It’s like a biscuit. A crunchy biscuit. (Pause.) It’s so delicate. Airy. It looks dense, but is light.

Second Japanese guest :
It reminds me of a summer evening. (Slight pause.)When the rain makes way for a little chill in the air.


A far cry, then, from a delicious breakfast simply comprising a plate of baked beans and, separately, some dried-out toast, such as is served to the somewhat enigmatic Countess just before her doctor – by telephone – approves her going to Chakula for the evening. Others will prove to have their own stories, which do not take the overt form of the jar of ashes that she takes with her, but their past is no less symbolically present as each course of the meal is served :

We do not engage with every guest, but each featured person brings his or her own ingredient to tasting the cuisine, in the form of his or her personality and experience. This individuality is reflected in the camera-work, as it revolves around the dining-area, the preparation-area and the kitchen, bringing out orchestral flavours and colours, and as changing perspectives open up on the setting, and the evening.

At the time of the credits, and in advance of their long-standing dinner reservation at Chakula, we heard failed communication between Marc (Jan Cornet) and Raquel (Claudia Bassols) – voicemails where the speaker improvises, guessing at the other’s meaning (and what the other is doing), both imagining the other being busy… As a couple, they centre our attention, with Marc doubting that Raquel will come – and stuffing his bow-tie into his pocket as she spots him.


Although predominantly light in spirit, with an opening scene during a chat-show, where chef Mar Vidal (Vicenta Ndongo) is introduced as one of three of the world’s top chefs and interviewed about the allure of the restaurant and its final meal, there are various reasons why one cannot merely equate Tasting Menu with having a ‘feel-good factor’. For there are darker, even threatening, tones sounded – with mounting hysteria about who the eccentric Walter Reilly (Stephen Rea), who is sparing with his words, might be, why Raquel’s editor Daniel (Timothy Gibbs) has come to the restaurant, and what might have become of the desserts. (Just momentarily, with that question, Mar’s response to what she hears evokes gourmet night in Torquay – during the employment of Barcelona’s most famous waiter…)

At this stage, Mar, as well as general manager Max Barney (Andrew Tarbet), is on edge for various reasons (partly do with the two competitive Japanese guests, and whether they (and the waiting-staff) can bear Mina’s (Marta Torné’s) unsoothing chatter). However, everything to do with the meal itself has been running to clockwork (apart from one party arriving late), and everyone has been aiming for the best night ever…

That said, at times it feels as if Oberon has sent Puck amongst the diners (in the form of one of the waiters), causing mischief with misunderstood glances and misdirected messages. The Countess (Fionnula Flanagan), too, mixes up the action, sometimes making overly much, in a would-be worldly way, of what she hears (though, then again, she may be prescient).

In pointed dialogue between Raquel and The Countess, at one point we hear the words Welcome to the human race !, and it is part of the feeling of awkwardness of people trying to feel who they are in relation to each other.

It can still be a splendid night, but not without some contributions from unexpected quarters, and also some upset and some realizations.


This is just one of six Catalan films (Camera Catalonia) that can be seen at Cambridge Film Festival 2014 (@camfilmfest / #CamFF) - Thursday 28 August to Sunday 7 September (both inclusive). Three others are reviewed here, and What is Catalan cinema ? is also about the Catalan strand at the Festivals in 2012 and 2013...



Note on screenings, etc. :

NB The allocation of films between the three screens at Festival Central can always change (as can, if one is coming from a distance for a specific film, the programme as a whole) : if the audience for a film scheduled for Screen 3 (the smallest screen, around half the capacity of the largest, Screen 1) proves greater than expected, it may end up being swapped, so there could be a change in the exact time of the screening, too

In the programme (for which that is a link to the where the PDF file can be downloaded - printed copies are available at Festival Central and all good local outlets), some slots are also marked 'TBC', and popular screenings may be repeated : announcements are on Cambridge Film Festival 2014's (@camfilmfest's) web-site (please see link, above), as they are of alterations to the programme or the allocation between screens



End-notes

* The Arts Picturehouse's club exclusively for parents / carers accompanied by babies under one year old.




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

Inside his mind : Iago in the midst

This is a review of Othello (Otel.lo) (2012)

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2014 (28 August to 7 September)
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)


19 August (corrected 20 August)


This is a review of Othello (Otel.lo) (2012)

Chances to see during Cambridge Film Festival (#CamFF) 2014:

Only one screening presently scheduled (please see the note on screenings below), at 1.00 p.m. on Sunday 7 September (Screen 2)


The Moor is of a free and open nature
That thinks men honest that but seem to be so;
And will as tenderly be led by th’nose
As asses are.



Act I, Scene iii, 390–393


Sometimes the strength of a film lies in the resonance with which it reminds you of your other viewing – and reading.

The Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges, composing a story, in essay form, that touches on the life of the Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes (Pierre Menard, ‘Author of the Quixote’ (‘Pierre Menard, autor del Quijote’)), imagined how someone (in this case, the fictional Pierre Menard) becomes as Cervantes, partly, at first, by living in exactly the same circumstances as Cervantes and then ends up recreating, word for word, parts of his most famous oeuvre (so, maybe, Borges mocking - amongst literary and intellectual fashions and factions - the Laplacean theory of determinism (as well as the writer(s) whom academics consider the model(s) for Menard) ?) :

In a similar way, this film invites us to consider whether Othello is a flawed tragic character, distant from our lives as a character in a play by Shakespeare (whose fictionality is celebratedly emphasized by claims that it relies too heavily on a stolen handkerchief*) – or whether the pressures that cause Othello to believe Desdemona unfaithful (and kill her) can be made to act on a Moroccan amateur actor (Youcef), who has been cast in that role for the film that we see being shot (though nothing explains the manner of the direction).

Yet it is no mere framing device, nor no piece of Brechtian alienation technique (Verfremdungseffekt, in the original German), to have cast and crew alike visible to us, but, rather, something that enables us to feel inside the depths of the Shakespeare story : seeing what happens to Ann (Desdemona) and Youcef, a real-life couple for two years, as they play the lead roles is enhanced by seeing how constructed film is as a medium, where, say, the people who hold the sound-booms must also play their part, and this approach is at the centre of why the film has been made. (Otherwise, it would be a much longer Othello, shot on the black, curtained stage-set, and looking like a filmed play (please see below).)

The direction that we see of Youcef, Ann and Kike (as Michael Cassio) on camera may not exactly be Peter Brook (or the play’s adaptation that of Steven Berkoff, or Charles Marowitz), but it is experimenting with the actors and their performances, seeking the life in the latter, trying to find engagement with the text (a word that we see so often in the sub-titles, signifying Action !) : unlike this dynamic process (which is also at the much lighter heart of another Catalan film shown at Cambridge Film Festival, V.O.S. (2009)), we are also reminded that, when we watch a film, it is a finished, duplicated artefact, which will be the same to-morrow as next week (if we choose to watch it again after this evening’s screening).

Otel.lo is, at times, painful to watch, because it goes beyond the stories that we hear about how directors get the take that they want (such as were circulating about the love-scenes had been shot in Blue is the Warmest Colour (2013)) and into the immoral manipulation and lies of Dangerous Liaisons (1988), yet it is worth doing so because of how immensely it enriches our sense of the operation of jealousy, flirtation, attraction – as real, living feelings and behaviours.

However, as the film develops, and the cast is being put upon, one is in mind of Gloucester, sightless on the heath in King Lear, saying ‘As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods; They kill us for their sport’ (Act IV, Scene i)**. Or of Samuel Beckettt’s ironic mimes Act Without Words I and II, with their characters being prompted from without, as well as tempted, seduced, and disappointed.

Linking with texts such as these, and entering into the world of the film, actually widens our appreciation of what happens on screen : scenes with the actors in character become as real as, or more real than, when Ann and Youcef talk singly to camera, with the director asking them questions. Here, unlike the effect of Polanski’s Venus in Furs (2013) (whose ‘staginess’ seemed to negate one’s interest, and to make one question the purpose of the film over the original play), laying bare the artifice heightens the drama.


It may be, as the title’s rendering suggests, a low-budget production that is depicted (for it is a modest team), but, as those who experiment with their cinema- or theatre-going will know, a big budget is not a guarantee of greater satisfaction. For example, another Catalan film that screened at last year’s Cambridge Film Festival, The Redemption of the Fish (La redempció dels peixos) (2013), was made on almost no budget, but the film is beautiful, using natural light wherever possible, and without no compromise over quality.

Though running at just over an hour, Otel.lo is complete in itself and not (unlike last year’s micro-budget film The Cherry Orchard (2013)) one that shows preparation for a performance that we do not see : performance and the production are integrated, at all levels, and one simply could not desire the intensity of Otel.lo for longer. As has been suggested, it is meta-textual in a way that is highly thoughtful, and it is sure both to arouse interest, and to provoke differences of opinions about what its core-values are.


Othello :
Will you, I pray, demand that demi-devil
Why he hath thus ensnared my soul and body ?



Iago :
Demand me nothing. What you know, you know.
From this time forth I never will speak word.



Act V, Scene ii, 297–300



This is just one of six Catalan films (Camera Catalonia) that can be seen at Cambridge Film Festival 2014 (@camfilmfest / #CamFF) - Thursday 28 August to Sunday 7 September (both inclusive). Three others are reviewed here, and What is Catalan cinema ? is also about the Catalan strand at the Festivals in 2012 and 2013...



Note on screenings, etc. :

NB The allocation of films between the three screens at Festival Central can always change (as can, if one is coming from a distance for a specific film, the programme as a whole) : if the audience for a film scheduled for Screen 3 (the smallest screen, around half the capacity of the largest, Screen 1) proves greater than expected, it may end up being swapped, so there could be a change in the exact time of the screening, too

In the programme (for which that is a link to the where the PDF file can be downloaded - printed copies are available at Festival Central and all good local outlets), some slots are also marked 'TBC', and popular screenings may be repeated : announcements are on Cambridge Film Festival 2014's (@camfilmfest's) web-site (please see link, above), as they are of alterations to the programme or the allocation between screens



End-notes

* E.g. Thomas Rymer, A Short View of Tragedy (1693).

** Yet, later in the play, Edgar (who had providentially met Gloucester) feigns other identities to lead his father to what the other thinks is the edge of the cliffs at Dover – Gloucester is persuaded to believe that he has survived pushing himself off the edge, and that his life thus has a meaning.




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