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Thursday, 28 September 2017

How many tea-towels would you like with your film ?

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


25 September







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

Poem in a Tweet, responding to a Tweet, on (apparently) #NationalPoetryDay

Poem (in a Tweet, responding to a Tweet) on - apparently - #NationalPoetryDay

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


28 September


Poem (in a Tweet, responding to a Tweet) on - apparently - #NationalPoetryDay






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

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

'I do it, because I must. His hand on mine.'

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


This is a place-holder for a review of the world premiere of Sally Beamish and David Harsent's The Judas Passion, as performed at Saffron Hall, Saffron Walden, Essex, on Sunday 24 September (after broadcaster Tom Service had hosted a pre-concert talk with them from 7.30 p.m.)

[...]




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

Thursday, 21 September 2017

You never loved me. (Slight pause) You just loved how much I loved you.

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


21 September

This is less a review than an angry dismissal of mother ! (2017), by Darren Aronofsky, the person responsible for the direness that is Black Swan (2010)



Welcome to Aronofsky World - the Parade of Plaster-Saints !





[Accreting list of] Film-references and other references :

* Alien (1979)

* August : Osage County (2013)

* Biedermann und die Brandstifter [The Fire-Raisers] ~ Max Frisch

* Das Schloß [The Castle] ~ Franz Kafka

* Der Prozeß [The Trial] ~ Kafka

* Don't Be Afraid of the Dark (2010)

* Hysteria ~ Terry Johnson

* Melancholia (2011)

* On the Road (2012)

* Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)

* The Baby of Mâcon (1993)

* ‘The Circular Ruins’ ~ Jorge Luis Borges







One suspects that one would, again, benefit more by watching Hepburn and Tracy in Adam's Rib (1949) rather than doing any more than groan at Aronofsky's levering the topos into his Weltanschauung... (Yes, there was clearly - from the start - more to the relationship between Bardem and Harris than presented : it did not make for dramatic irony, but for the effect of an inept screenwriter, playing with 'big ideas'.)








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

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Fahrelnissa Zeid at Tate Modern ~ 13 June to 8 October 2017

Fahrelnissa Zeid in four key works - and #UCFF comments on three...

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


14 September

Fahrelnissa Zeid in four key works - and #UCFF comments on three...

Tate has chosen to present one of its current exhibitions in this way : Fahrelnissa Zeid in four key works.

Coincidentally, #UCFF had this to comment about the show, which included three of these works :

There is subtle delineation, as if by the use of leading in a stained-glass window, in Abstract Parrot (c. 1948-1949), and the fiery terror of Alice in Wonderland* (1952) and Ubu Bird ('The Phoenix') (1952).

Planes open into planes in Break of the Atom and Vegetal Life (1962), and we see the tensions of the picture-plane in both My Hell (1951) and in 'Untitled' (c. 1950s). All of this was inherent in the (relatively) understated Resolved Problems (1948).

Another interesting room follows, with London ('The Firework') (before 1972) and Puncta Imperator ('Sea Cave') (1963), before the exhibition ends spectacularly** with Someone from the Past (1980).


End-notes :

* Outdoing Tim Burton's visions.



** As if in allusion to Hitchcock's Vertigo (1958) [about whose scenes with James Stewart and Kim Novak, in the art gallery at the Palace of the Legion of Honor, San Francisco, one can read here] ?





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

Friday, 15 September 2017

If I bring to life whatever I can dream¹ ~ [James Dangerfield as] Joseph Frank Keaton

This reviews James Dangerfield in his ‘Buster’ Keaton show, When You Fall Down

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


14 September

This is a review of James Dangerfield in his one-man ‘Buster’ Keaton show, When You Fall Down, at The Hen and Chickens Theatre, Islington, London, on Thursday 14 September at 7.30 p.m.


Run against the wind
But they won’t see the strain


James Dangerfield has written, scored, and performed a one-man show about Joseph Frank ‘Buster’ Keaton that leaves us wanting more : it runs to around fifty minutes, during which - with a consistency of diction - he blends in and out of spoken song (or lightly accented speech). Moreover, in Dangerfield’s original lyrics, there are allusions to the guiding forces in Keaton's life and that to which they have given rise in him as values (or principles).

However, without diluting the artistry of story-telling and of much that is cinematic in this presentation, we can easily imagine it extended to a full evening, and bringing others in Keaton’s life on stage with him (and not by the artifice of a candle-stick telephone), such as producer Joe Schenck (who worked alongside Keaton at Buster Keaton Productions), or Keaton’s wife Natalie²...


The show gives us significant moments in the early film-career of Keaton, before he signed to MGM³ (The Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corporation), as if Keaton were introducing himself to the staff of MGM through a précis – each moment chronological, and heralded by its own film-clip (announcing the month and year), from the period when he started making films (March 1917) until he signed to MGM (January 1928).

In the script of the show, and importantly in its songs, James Dangerfield has chosen moments that tell us what matters to Keaton (please see below). In doing so, he employs ways not only to show that Keaton had values of hard work, fidelity in friendship, trust, and pursuing his insight into what could be achieved in film (and where those values came from), but also that evoke Keaton through costume, the grace of movement (and of dance-steps), magical sleight of hand, and, of course, through footage from Keaton’s films, such as Sherlock Jr. (1924), The General (1926), Steamboat Bill, Jr. (1928).


Two images from The General (1926)


As Keaton, James Dangerfield presents himself as being very light footed, and he has composed original music that is very sympathetic to the tone-colours of his voice (and to where it lies). The very opening theme is auspicious, and leads into Keaton - at the time when he has been appearing, in March 1917, in the Shubert Brothers' review, The Passing Show - having been urged, by his friend Roscoe Arbuckle, to take his first steps on film [in The Butcher Boy (1917)].


Performing almost as long as you’ve been alive


All those years as a human mop


Keaton reflects on his life, and, contemplating the camera, considers (in 'What is this ? What are you ?') all that he sees that the camera is capable of depicting for others to see :

And bring to life
Whatever I can dream

The optimistic tone of the opening resumes in this number, to end triumphantly - already, the audience was with Dangerfield as Keaton, just as assuredly it was (in October 1924) in '[I am ]The Navigator', a big and inspiring musical number of self-belief :

I'm ready to employ
The best effects
Ever seen
On celluloid !
¹



Two images from Sherlock Jr. (1924)


Early on, we heard that he married Natalie and moved to LA (at the age of twenty-five), but, within six years, he is ruefully calling out her name, and soon – which Dangerfield did in real time on stage - drawing bigger and bigger images of the houses that he offered to build her...


Even so, in Keaton's 3.5-acre Italian villa, where Harold Lloyd, Louise Brooks, Douglas Fairbanks and Charlie Chaplin visited, we learn that Natalie’s relations look on me like a clowning oddity, in a house with The bedroom where I now sleep separately.

The quality of the writing, and of the song, stop Dangerfield being maudlin, but having Natalie portrayed directly would obviously give the problems of the marriage a rounded impression...


Just one who gets back on his feet,
Whatever has been thrown at me


We also saw Keaton in real pain at others ruining my friend, 'Fatty' Arbuckle – who had got him into film – after the world determined that They want to hang you out and cry ; 'This happened because Hollywood ain’t dry !' :

They tried you three times
And never gave you blame


We hear Keaton say, of his film-making, that you Don’t always need to speak to be heard, and, both in re-creating how Keaton might have gone about meeting himself on screen – in the midst of his off-screen life – and evoking Keaton being chased, and also with Martyn Stringer (who arranged Dangerfield's songs and wrote the instrumental numbers), Dangerfield has worked carefully to be filmic.

In September 1927, the final moment in the show, Stringer gives us the sense of danger in his score before we even hear that Keaton has been being told that it is Not like the old days now [by Chuck Reisner, directing Steamboat Bill, Jr. (1928)], and we see the creative Keaton fearing that he might lose all creative control by signing to MGM…

Even so, he does, of course, sign (and a series of closing-titles tells us what happens to Arbuckle, Keaton, and his marriage), but not before a rousing reprise of ‘The Navigator’ - with Keaton’s eye back to the camera.


A well-written and very confidently performed and convivial one-man show by James Dangerfield, which deserves to be seen more widely, and with which, for now, Keaton and he have a date at The Buster Keaton Convention - all present on the night enjoyed the spectacle, as well as learning more about Keaton’s life, and we wish the show a very bright future !


End-notes :

¹ The songs quoted are (in order of being quoted) : And bring to life [...] from 'Day-dreams' ; I’m ready to employ [...] from 'The Navigator' ; look on me like a clowning oddity from 'My Wife's relations' ; What the press decides [...] and Roscoe, they want to hang you out [...] from 'The Goat / Cops' ; and, from the start of the show's text, You take the knocks [...] .

² Natalie Talmadge, sister of Norma and Constance Talmadge, and who retired from acting in 1923 : the image shows her on screen with Keaton in Our Hospitality (1923). (When married, she called herself Natalie Talmadge Keaton.)

³ Apparently, against the advice of both Harold Lloyd and Charlie Chaplin.

⁴ It seems that Houdini gave Keaton the nick-name ‘Buster’, after seeing him fall down a flight of stairs as a very young vaudeville artist, and saying to Keaton’s parents ‘That was some buster your son took’. In Buster Keaton : Cut to the Chase (Da Capo Press, 1977), Marion Meade (for one) wants to say, about the physical nature of his father Joe Keaton's stage-act, that it 'pushed slapstick so far that it straddled the line between physical comedy and child abuse'.

You take the knocks
Absorb the shocks
And then you keep on going
¹


There’s nothing left of me
They could tear down




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

Monday, 11 September 2017

Is The Villainess (2017) - despite resemblance to the Kill Bill volumes (2003 / 2004) - closer to Looper (2012) ?

Responses to a Teaser screening of The Villainess (Ak-Nyeo) (2017)

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


11 September

Some first-night responses to a Teaser screening, by London Korean Film Festival (in conjunction with Cambridge Film Festival), of The Villainess (Ak-Nyeo) (2017), screened at The Arts Picturehouse, Cambridge, on Monday 11 September at 9.00 p.m.




In The Villainess (2017), who is the title-character ?
Is it Seo-hyeong Kim ?



Amidst all the sequences where so much happens so quickly (the whirl that is typically in The Matrix (1999), or of the Kill Bill films (2003, 2004)), the opposite pole of The Villainess - aside from the possible elements of melodrama* of which Mark Morris spoke - is that type of moment when one thing reminds of another (which is there, with Motoko, in Ghost in the Shell (1995)) :

Sook-hee (played by Ok-bin Kim) is no longer in the present, because her instant has become the time to which (drawn by remembrance) she has disassociated - and so she is then visibly not 'present' to someone near her. But this is not mere daydream, but traumatic revisiting of episodes (or eras) of abuse [As in As if I am Not There (2010)].

As Motoko arguably is intuitively seeking – without knowing whom, or what, she seeks (but having the capacity ‘to dive into’ the being of others) – so is Sook-hee. Accordingly, we see her, finding in parts of her memory to which she does not have direct access things that events throw up, but unable to give her complete history (and so the film does not show it, not even 'out of order'). To this extent, The Villainess will not fully explain who Sook-hee is, or why, but just alludes to the tortuousness of her life - as its painful and wounded nature becomes clear to us.



In literary terms, one is reminded not only of G. K. Chesterton's The Man Who Was Thursday (and Conrad's The Secret Agent), but also the weirdness of Iain Banks in The Wasp Factory, A Song of Stone, and - of course - The Business !


Film-references :

* Akira (1988)

* As if I am Not There (2010)

* Ghost in the Shell (1995)

* Jupiter Ascending (2015)

* Kill Bill Vol. 1 (2003) / Vol. 2 (2004)

* Looper (2012) [Surprise Film at Cambridge Film Festival]

* Salt (2010)

* The Matrix (1999)



These tattered corridors, do they remind us of where Neo seems to have been gunned down for good... ?






End-notes :

* There are certainly romantic tropes, but how much are they undercut by everything else that we know... ? (Even so it is very important for Sook-hee to know whether she was ever loved, whatever happens Now.)




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

Don't medicalize everything !

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


11 September

Just try getting diagnosed with OCD...



Maybe - at that time in your life - you were obsessively making sure that you could remember the number-plate of every car of which you had been the registered keeper...

But a low-level mental-health worker showed you the diagnostic criteria for OCD, and it was straightaway clear that this 'obsession' about the number-plates did not go on to have almost any of the consequences that were required for a formal diagnosis of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder : we have probably all left the house at some point, and worried about whether we left the oven or coffee-maker on, but this really wasn't OCD.






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

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

What more is Catalan cinema ?¹

What more is Catalan cinema ?¹ :


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


4 September (revised 4 October)

What more is Catalan cinema ?¹ :



It's the inevitable filmic follow-up to What is Catalan cinema ?... !


Three years ago, leading up to the third season of Camera Catalonia at Cambridge Film Festival [then in its 34th season], the question was posed What is Catalan cinema ? - in answering which, some of the defining features seemed to be :



Yet, as well as all these things (which, along with the Catalan films from 2012 to that date, are considered in more detail in What is Catalan cinema ?), succeeding seasons of Camera Catalonia have shown that the autonomous region in Spain called Catalunya – which, as with Scotland, some would see have a greater, independent status [highly relevant at the time of revising this piece...] – gives us cinema that :

* Remembers its history, right back to when Spain took control of Catalunya, in Claudio Zulian's (claudiozulian1's) thoughtful Born (2014) (@Bornfilm), reconstructing a few connected lives at the time of the War of the Spanish Succession (1701–1714), with Vicky Luengo a most desirable mistress to Josep Julien and the sister of Marc Martínez (Julien’s wealthy debtor, until Julien proves to back the wrong side in the war…)


* In the Catalan people, presents ones as reserved as the British, who - in two films that star the radiant Nora Navas (Tots volem el millor per a ella (We All Want What’s Best for Her) (2013) and L’adopció (Awaiting) (2015)) – manage to avoid talking to each other, but try to make happen what they assume should happen. In doing so, do they seem to lose sight of who is getting hurt, and for what real reason... ?



* Looks to literature such as Shakespeare, either in the feel - in Barcelona Summer Night (Barcelona, nit d'estiu) (2013) - of A Midsummer Night's Dream...


Or, in Hammudi al-Rahmoun Font's shocking telling of a classic tragedy, in Otel.lo (Othello) (2012) : 'OTHELLO is a cinematographic essay about power, desire, jealousy and deceit ; a thought on the boundaries between fiction and real life' (from IMDb)


Hammudi (with The Agent) at Cambridge Film Festival 2014

* Films as diverse as Ficció (Fiction) (2006), Fill de Caín (Son of Cain) (2013), and Menú degustació (Tasting Menu) (2013) are, in their quite different ways, further evidence² of flexibility in, and of creative thinking about, employing conventional elements of story-telling - and of both the expectations to which their nature gives rise and what writers and / or directors do to subvert them



* Or they do not subvert them - but surprisingly please, in Traces of Sandalwood (Rastres de sàndal) (2014) [this link is to TAKE ONE’s (@ TakeOneCinema's) review], with its Bollywood-infused tale of the (in)credulity of a loved and lost young girl, who is adopted into a Catalan family, and cannot believe that an Indian film-star knew her as a child - because she is her sister !


Aina Clotet, as Paula (Sita) - meeting her sister Mina (Nandita Das), and, later, reflecting on herself, and her identity


* Those living at the extremes of experience, in both Tots els camins de Déu (All The Ways of God) (2014) and El camí més llarg per tornar a casa (The Long Way Home) (2014)


Upper : Marc Garcia Coté in Tots els camins de Déu (2014)
Lower : Borja Espinosa in El camí més llarg per tornar a casa (2014)


* Adapts stage-plays very cinematically, whether Sílvia Munt [interviewed here], making a film of Josep María Sagarra's classic work El Cafè de la Marina (2014), or Ventura Pons of a contemporary writer in El virus de la por (The Virus of Fear) (2015)


Marina Salas in El cafè de la Marina (2014)


(Upper) Rubén de Eguia and (Lower) Albert Ausellé and Diana Gómez in El virus de la por (2015)

* Finally, documentaries by Catalan directors - although now listed in the Festival's main sequence (alphabetically with the others and the feature films) - tend to explore identity and connections to Catalan history, whether telling of the band-leader Xavier Cugat's career in film and music, during which he introduced Latin orchestration and rhythms to dance-music and Hollywood films and t.v. (although, which was probably little known, Cugat had been born in Catalunya, but had been an emigrée to Cuba with his family when young), in Diego Mas Trelles' Sexo, maracas y Chihuahuas (Sex, Maracas & Chihuahuas) (2016)


Or - in another realm of translocation - telling of how much better treated and regarded Americans of Afro-Caribbean descent were during their time in Spain (fighting the fascist forces of General Franco) than in the States - especially after going there. So #CamFF 2015 guest Jordi Torrent (with his co-writer / director Alfonso Domingo) showed in Héroes invisibles : Afroamericanos en la guerra de España (Invisible Heroes) (2015) [for which #UCFF interprets the sub-title as ‘The part played by Afro-Americans in The Spanish Civil War’], to the extent even that records that proved their participation hardly (were meant to) be available / survive





Ramon Lamarca (left), with Festival guest Jesús Monllaó (before the poster for Monllaó's
Fill de Caín (2013)) - by and courtesy of David Riley


Catalan cinema - to judge by the films that Camera Catalonia programmer Ramon Lamarca (pictured above) brings to Cambridge (and also the ICA (@ICALondon)) - is high-quality work that values its audiences enough to respect them :

Join us for the sixth year of a Catalan strand at Cambridge Film Festival, Camera Catalonia, to see why he and #UCFF give it due regard


End-notes :

¹ A deliberate nod to the inelegance of following up Analyze This (1999) with Analyze That (2002) (fairly criminally unwatchable, unless being very kind - for their other, better work - to Crystal and De Niro ?)... [Cristina Roures, pictured, is the Festival's Operations and Hospitality Manager (and, of course, is Catalan).]

² Camera Catalonia in 2012 (its first appearance at #CamFF) had included V.O.S. (2009), which is also – along with Ficció (2006) - the work of director Cesc Gay.




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

A response to Logan Lucky (2017)

This is a response to Logan Lucky (2017)

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


4 September


This is a response to Logan Lucky (2017)



Channing Tatum and Adam Driver, although funny (as are, despite themselves, the characters played by Jack Quaid (Fish Bang) and Brian Gleeson (Sam Bang)), are not, whatever they may hope, the best thing about the film :

One of the best things about the film is that it can use its pace to tell a tale that makes scant little sense, and then, because that is so¹, has the chutzpah to put two fingers up to us at the end ! (As if that mattered, except that - after a slow start of great excruciation (extrusion ?) - one has been buffeted by Team Logan for more than a quite lively eighty or ninety minutes².)




A man (Joe Bang) chalks an equation, which we can't quite see or follow, for why some sweets and a couple of other domestic ingredients is what his team should trust him with - not only the accent, but Craig also has the presence to carry this scene off...

Though, with the real wall of where they are trying to penetrate replaced by a transparent one, can we understand what they are trying to achieve - or how and why do we believe in it... ?



Wherever we are, and whatever Craig (right) is saying to Driver and Tatum (left) - how can a vessel such as the one that he is holding (even using a differential in aerodynamic pressure) negotiate curved piping such as is shown behind them ?


That is meant not so much as a spoiler, but rather as an invitation to be alive to the fictive power and nature of film in Logan Lucky... (If you're being done over, why not at least know it, or even how it's done ?)






End-notes :

¹ As pictured below, and Tweeted about here... :




² Cell 211 (Celda 211) (2009) [the link is to IMDb (@IMDb)], which screened at Cambridge Film Festival (@camfilmfest) [in 2010 ?] does this to great effect, and not to blind (and deafen / deaden - the score is usually intense, and floods one's sense-data) to a creaky plot. (However, there is just one flaw that one can spot that the film-makers did not address.]


Alberto Ammann and Luis Tosar in Celda 211 (2009)


By contrast, American Hustle (2013) uses razzle-dazzle attrition, so that one is napping by the time that '"the clever bit"' happens (not-on-my-watch stuff).




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

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Some Tweets after a preview screening (plus Q&A) of The Limehouse Golem (2016)

Some Tweets after a preview screening (plus Q&A) of The Limehouse Golem (2016)

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


30 August


Some Tweets after a preview screening (plus Q&A) of The Limehouse Golem (2016) at The Arts Picturehouse, Cambridge, on Wednesday 30 August 2017 at 6.20 p.m.






María Valverde, Sam Reid, Douglas Booth, Olivia Cooke, and Eddie Marsan







Douglas Booth and Mila Kunis in Jupiter Ascending (2015)

Douglas Booth is tremendous in the film – but he was tremendous (and very unpleasant) in Jupiter Ascending (2015), so it is hardly surprising, whereas Bill Nighy, although dependable, is rather unexciting, not least considering that screenwriter Jane Goldman, by promoting a minor part in the original novel Dan Leno and The Limehouse Golem (by Victorian specialist Peter Ackroyd), created the role – as a Golem – from raw materials : what he does in the film, the book does not need from him at all...








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