Julieta : A Film Review


Julieta

Pedro Almodóvar. Produced by Agustín Almodóvar, Pedro Almodóvar, Esther García, Written by Pedro Almodóvar. Spanish with subtitles.
Based on “Chance”, “Soon” and “Silence”, three short stories, from the book Runaway (2004) by Alice Munro
Cast. Emma Suárez as Julieta, Adriana Ugarte as younger Julieta, Daniel Grao as Xoan, Inma Cuesta as Ava, Michelle Jenner as Beatriz, Darío Grandinetti as Lorenzo, Rossy de Palma as Marian, Susi Sánchez as Sara (Julieta’s mother), Pilar Castro as Claudia (Beatriz’s mother), Joaquín Notario as Samuel (Julieta’s father), Nathalie Poza as Juana, Mariam Bachir as Sanáa, Blanca Parés as Antía (18 years old), Priscilla Delgado as Antía (adolescent), Sara Jiménez as Beatriz (adolescent).


Chance meeting in Madrid

The cast list gives you an idea of the flashback construct of the story which is Julieta telling us of her life, as Xoan (Daniel Grao) who she meets on a train journey as a young woman, conceive Antiá.  A chance meeting in the present day, in Madrid with Beatriz (Michelle Jenner) who is a friend of her long estranged daughter informs her of Antía’s life, which is now in Switzerland and of her having three children of her own. Instead of following through with plans to move out of Madrid with present partner Lorenzo to Portugal she decides to once again retreat into a past where in Madrid Antía was raised; she acquires an apartment at their old home and sets about addressing the absence once again and how it came about.

Julieta’s letter to Antiá

Pedro Almodóvar’s construct is to write a letter – the film Julieta in which he has two actresses playing the principal constructs new territory for his portrayal of women having developed a character split between the two actresses – Adriana Ugarte as the young (memory) and Emma Suárez as the present, aspects of the same person woven together. Ambiguous as the shift would seem, Pedro Almodóvar has left things, unknowns, uncertainties, to rest in the frame work of the story leaving no easy compromising junction. No juxtaposition of emotional recognition is fashioned for easy access and acceptance. He has left it for Julieta to unravel the story to explain the degrees of separation, the bonds and conflicts which have her driven to seek answers which over time have remained absent.  This driven emotion is a daughter mother narrative in which the words have yet to be found to explain from both, the estrangement.  In the letter we have only one part and it is played by two versions of the same person.  The young beautiful Julieta, finding love, a new existence away from her parents whose own life is very deftly woven into the story.  Important pieces of the jigsaw are explained in transit, in car journeys from arrival to destination, in the train journey, in the void of a lone journey, shaping the links and bonds of location.  Never are you uncertain where the story is, given the finite craft of the storyteller.  In fact it is crucial as each set of circumstances tells its own solid slice of story with some elements being as cutting to the core as a knife.


Taken as a backstory in flashback

Julieta’s backstory is principally acted by Adriana Ugarte in her entry to motherhood and the relationship with an Andalusian fisherman who has his own problems and complex relationships.  He lives in a sea front house which is cared for by an elderly woman, Marian (Rossy de Palma) who is very protective of her role and sees herself as a moral guide to Xoen who has duties elsewhere while she attends to the domestic tasks of cleaning and cooking.  There is also a very good friend of Xoen who is a sculptress and her presence and art create elements of friction, tension.  Julieta is intrigued by this woman and maybe sees some creative world as a part of her.  They never share the experience but converse and talk about the work Ava creates.
There is in this flashback which virtually contains the whole form of Julieta’s life exposing her coruscating challenges as we venture into her own family background, her frail mother and father whose career shift from teacher to small holder informs the tapestry Pedro Almodóvar wishes to present in delivering a full formed portrait of the perplexing narrative as Julieta places her life story to paper.  She jettisons a fledgling robust relationship to reconnect with her daughter.  Antiá has been estranged for twelve years.  The estrangement is itself a twin peaked result neither Julieta and Antiá are fully certain of the truth and origin.


20 visions

In this his 20th film he is less insular and is compellingly thought provoking with once more the psycology of the human, (one film I recall The Skin I live in, involved dissection of a human in a medical room with transference a plot pivot.) taking over in the spaces between the images; image being less manipulative to contrive an absolute. Here he is almost allowing the viewers to make up their own mind. He is less manipulative so gaining maturity in expanding the freedoms stories and cinema telling them the expanse his work beautifully opens up. So far from the stimulus of the object, flower, face, pudenda, the effect is – and his cast give full license to the imagination especially the two halves of the same – Adriana Ugarte and Emma Suárez from opposite positions in the same life, inhabit this letter as neither recollection or reconciliation, rather more a recovery excercise which will reveal for Antía a framework to reassemble her memory of her mother. How the letter will reach her is another mystery. For Julieta her former self is a shocking journey of revelations she has to confront as the letter is formed. Beatriz (Michelle Jenner) is the only link. Their encounters happen in Madrid while Julieta (Emma Suárez) is shaping the letter. Bea is a key figure in Antía’s life and Julieta has spent time with both of them when they meet at summer camp.


Changing skins

Pedro Almodóvar has chosen to avoid melodrama, expressly saying its a no tears zone in the world of Julieta. Remorseless at it may seem, it then gives license for the arc of containing tension, to going on a journey with Julieta. The lightening fast immersion of his films, a shot can transform the outlook, is still a force of his style. The uncomfortable task of location shooting is also something he has chosen to accept on top of recovery from a back operation, as it once was his (during wrapping up The Skin I Live in, )  ambition to shot the film in Alice Munro’s Canada authentically placing it however it was not a place he understood (he called it wide, depressing) so parked it until a suitable idea and reconstruction of the script, now quite detached from the Alice Munro stories thought essentially containing the reberances of the emotional passage. Locations thus became parts in Madrid in real houses, also in Galicia, the Pyrenees, Andalusia. Then the key element he confesses to a cine journalist who interviewed him with the following revealed.

others extractions from the Director

“Film is my whole life. Which in some way condemns me. If I am not involved in a film, my life feels sad.” Pedro Almodóvar.

“There is always something that moves you to make a film, which especially attracts you, and if anything drew me to this film it was the scenes that take place inside the train. All filmmakers adore trains, and I was consumed with the idea of filming in one. But reality was very different, and working inside a real train, small, with seats full of mites, was a real nightmare. We could barely move, we couldn’t stop coughing, our throats were itching… It was not so pleasant.” Pedro Almodóvar (I hope neither mind me sharing it.)


In this age of demanding cinema

He is very much a person who is passionate about every piece of work, as it comes fully formed after many diversions, revisits, examinations and hours upon hours of assembly in his mind.  From its concept within his current perception – we travel with him and like the film, it is itself a viewpoint informed by looking back – of seeing the accumulation, the editorial processes he uses, including as prompts and inspiration wallpaper as opposed to deep pile narcissiccm, filling the walls of his Las Ventas, Madrid office the many portraits of fellow directors and actors from Penelope Cruz, through Billy Wilder to Jeanne Moreau. Or so the interviewer recounts. A natural history of the art of Cinema plotting his tutorial with his contribution now totally in the frame with this again defining the role cinema can enhance our understanding and our lives.
How he has turned this film into a non crying drama is itself an act of bravado.  Behind many of the characters there are tears being formed in molecular detail.  In Julieta herself former and now we see the virtual composition of tears without them flowing.  This is a dramatic push into the viewers reactions, the hurt being lessened (for Julieta if we engage with it) by our acceptance of the emotional necessity of release which is on the threshold always.  It is a very present strain we encounter which Emma Suárez delivers across the film gate staggeringly convincingly.  The constructs of her writing phases are likewise measured and choregraphed with intensity.  Beautifully told as they depict release for Julieta while at the same time not being a resolution without the receipient knowing the content.


Conclusion #####5

This film is an astounding contemporary incisive examination of the release of uncertain truths and how having only your own elements of a story to rely on point to the fragility of even the most intense and close relationships. Emma Suárez is the Cloepatras needle firmly placed in a reality with ever changing reference points.  She seeks stability through reason, rationality and truthfulness.  She is an honest woman whose life has enhanced and fed parts of others life’s while she is often sidelined by actions outside her control or knowledge.  Her coping strategy has been to banish the bad elements, the unanswerable elements of the past by reinventing herself and surroundings. The younger self in flashback, in the letter, is dropped into a love from a great height in a new environment.  All the while the presence of needing answers is present and the events of now bring this into the present and so begins a second journey.  In visual contrast Pedro Almodóvar has used the iconography of modern art to frame opening worlds.  Bea’s mother has a collection of modern art which would satisfy the most voracious magpies of modernity, providing a tableau of conservative sophistication. In the hallway is a thin long black table with a line of Giacometti like (1cm?) tiny black figures lined up like the Easter island states of men guarding the citadel that is her apartment. Bea (Michelle Jenner) herself becomes a part of the style council and her clothes are spectacularly sublte in expressing a conviction to style. Julieta (Emma Suárez) brings some of the sensibility unearthed in her relationship with Ava (Inma Cuesta) into the transference or resettling in avoiding anything Antiá related to her surroundings.  A Lucian Freud self portrait looms large and permissions pepper the credit roll for the ‘loan?’ Use of these images throughout the film, so vivid and vital, are in their presence creating distinctions internalised and externalised.  It’s not just a Spanish thing!
The film has moral tales throughout on the fine lines of communication, of the effect of unwanted interventions and worst of all, the inescapable passage of tragedy as part of life’s course in unchangeable ways.  It is a masterful film.

 

John Graham

24 August 2016

Belfast

On at QFT BELFAST from 26 August through to and including 8 September 2016.

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The Childhood of a Leader

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The Childhood of a Leader  Director. Brady Corbet . Writers. Brady Corbet, Mona Fastvold Based on The Childhood of a Leauder by Jean-Paul Sartre
Cast. Bérénice Bejo, Liam Cunningham, Stacy Martin, Robert Pattinson, Tom Sweet.
Music by Scott Walker. Cinematography Lol Crawley. Edited by Dávid Jancsó. Rated PG. Duration. 1hr 56mins. English with some subtitles. Filmed in Hungary.

The films basis

From a novice director, Brady Corbet comes a fully formed insular chamber piece.  It presents a story originated by Jean Paul Sarte which itself searched the psycology of childhood.  His book Words – an introduction I grew up on which itself declared Sarte was not the over complicated author people thought – his quote from it is famous – I loathe my childhood and all that remains of it … So he plays out this troubled time in his stories.  The Childhood of a Leader is the summation of a look into the past and where the hatred and turmoil emerges in this small internalised boy taking on his elders.

 What’s in the picture

This film is overwrought trying too hard on a budget of £5M to reclaim some kudos for first time director and actor Brady Corbet ably assisted by fine performances.  The heavy ostentation given in exclamation marks of the score – the sixties deep voiced balladeer Scott Walker took a avant garde turn late in his career dumping the work which made him famous and tried composing and rearranging songs – whether it is suitable here is up to you to decide but it was just more mish mash for me and rendered the work insipid. The film begins with stock b/w footage of the World War 1  and is called by way of what? – insightful connective tissue? – Overture. Indeed. Not.
It moves into the grainy introspection of a Church Choir in rural France away from the neighbouring Versailles talks in which the father of the central character of the boy Prescott played by Tom Sweet is absently involved as a mediator.  I at once thought the father played brilliantly with very serious and convincing effect as an absentee Dad, by Liam Cunnigham with resolute American accent, is in a quandary if he cannot control his son.  No affection is seen between them.  His mother equally is not versed in raising children and doubts arise if she ever intended to marry, so although mastering four languages cannot communicate with her son either.  He has no schooling to worry about, no siblings or pay ate foils to vent his anger and it is into a series of (3) chapters of tantrums we are lead.

First tantrum concerns the very Church first mentioned.  A French Catholic box like chapel on a town land where Prescott engages in hissy fit no.1.  Violent in kind.  Here enters the only – Mona excepted, the aging housemaid and sometimes broker in difficult situations – is the Father Leydu. The only nice rational person seen! No affinity can be found with anyone.  In negotiations an aside is thrown of a stock Irishman concluding religious differences should be resolved in any agreements – maybe it was on a Good Friday. Trials and torments ensue and caught in the middle are the housemaid, Mona and an English teacher of French, the gentle youthful vital girl Adelaide played by Stacy Martin.  She is conformist to begin with but baulks as Prescotts manipulations gather pace.  She is an angel of sorts, Brady makes no bones about showing us her credible persona.  A credit to Ade in the final roll call needs further research.  The titles are shown practically full length at the beginning and repeated after the ultimate point of closure.  It has many faults – the inevitable black horses and Breton dress of mid – France is overplayed. The film is shot in a very dilapidated Hungarian lodge of rambling unhouse like appearance.  More resembles aHunting lodge and inn.  It is full of drapery.  Father Leydu has a verynice muslin drape and some elements of interior are well achieved.  Setting tables is quite a standard thing in period pieces for authenticity and here is no exception.


Friend of the Director, Robert Pattison plays leadenly an English journalist with a sad backstory and he is very fond in most senses of Madame – Bérénice Bejo. She is concious of the closeness of the environment and the darkness overshadowing the place with her own lack of purpose other than running a house which is nothing to engage her intellect with.  Brady Corbet in fact presents no context except the wrongful idiom of idleness for her and Bérénice Bejo does her damnedest to extract some characterisations to grasp hold of.  Perhaps it is this projection of failing he wishes upon her with affectations leading you to think she has leaning towards Ade who she in part envies.

The black horses and pictorial grainy setting is very attractive to look at and the still painterly pace of scenes with long walking shots towards a fixed position and repaetative location of camera positions – ie. Prescotts bedroom.  The lounge and library are fixed allowing some pondering over the detail.  Exterior shots are expansive contrasts to the heaviness of the lodge interiors and we see a pivotal element when the talks are adjourned to this location for ‘secret’ unconstrained talks. The glass empty of politics is given a full texturalisation here for a pungent flavour of the almighty flawed carve-up brought about to allow Germany – in the main to repair itself from a path taken.  It fits a narrative style of Capitalism being first in line to receive the bonefides of each.

A coruscating element – is that contender for that Northern Ireland extracted Woodrow Wilson overlord –  over stretching his high most to create a freedom contemptuous of the Native American stock and the Racial conspiracies of his homeland which were along time, (are they yet still unresolved) being prepared for their own reparations.  Ask most races on the planet who have been under the cosh of imposters and they will advise you the Irish North and South have been instrumental through their impeachment of the Lord in various guises one of which are appropriate to the oneness of the creator, for numerous continued injustices. Aboriginals are aghast just now at a facial cartoon to hit the Antipodean cultural fermament.


Childhood Satre reminiscences. The Psycology.

I found Words very disconcerting in my teenage years, in the sharpness of thought and given the life Satre had it was of significance.  The film concerns a sociopathic child, the young son of an American diplomat living in France as he learns to manipulate the adults around him teaching him fascistic tendencies. The tendency as a kid growing up at least at Prescotts age is to believe all childhood life’s are the same but then the truth sharply roses up and throttles you.

These times are the post war leading up to the signing of the 1919 Treaty of Versailles, and even though the film does not refer to the fact – Scott Berg, Pulitzer Prize winning author wrote in his Woodrow Wilson autobiography that the USA President spent nearly nine moths in Versailles in attendance unbeknownst to his electorate. Scott Berg also claims him to be the most important man of the 20th century.  The case he makes in his book. – without this hanging over the film and the peculiar manipulations of Prescott, played by British child actor Tom Sweet, is of isolation within his family setting without a father  – the father here Liam Cunningham as I said is on top of his game, is he would appear lack negotiation skills one would have thought appropriate for a diplomat as he is so easily manipulated.

The construct is to my mind – that of the Jean-Paul Sarte mould of not beholding to anyone – here it begets the  state of violence (in the child ruthlessly exploiting the non-existence of boundaries) and indicates the shallow threshold breached to succumb to the ungodliness of the act in the adult as preparation for war.  The idea is one of the striking prophetic (Words is a summation written in 1964) analytical examinations within the works of Jean-Paul Sarte when compared even with contemporary scientific, root and branch knowledge gathering attained by the human race in the intervening years.


Jean-Paul Sarte film influences.

Jean-Paul Sarte was brought up in a world eighty years behind the present, by his grandfather, after the early loss of his father.  He also was a war prisoner.  Far from it being a restless uncertain childhood, he had a fortuitous learned upbringing.  His father who was of Alsace (?) background was a man who took on the physical appearance of the Holy father to many people – big dominant full beard – and was quite authoritarian.  The fact Jean-Baptiste, the father died while Jean-Paul was quite young proved something of a blessing.  J-P wrote – and this plays directly into the film – Even the most authoritarian gives orders in someone else’s name, some holy parasite – his father – and passes on abstract violence since he himself accepts.  J-P avoided this acceptance of obedience and in his mother Anne-Marie, who was compelled to return to her parents to raise her child, found herself again imprisoned.  J-P discovered he had no Super-ego  – he reflects on this later, (the child presumably not into those words, sociopath included) with his father not being there, piggy backing his codes. His father had shirked his responsibilities and left this world aged thirty. Instead for parental guidance as well as the wealth of books his grandfather spent days over,  J-P’s giantess of a passive mother was his sister almost, with her becoming a child again in widowhood like a virgin tarnished in her childhood home. Her name was Schweitzer.  Anne-Marie would share her troubles with ease, and engendering a democratic spirit I thought, and he promised devoted protection.

This is the basis of the ‘incestuous’ (it was merely I thought a writers trope for discovery through writing itself) narrative Jean-Paul Satre has used on several occasions and indeed this is evident in this film.  He imagined in fact that he and his mother who shared a bedroom were the ‘children’, both minors and both maintained.  He maintained; and it is completely plausible, given his acute ability to analyse human constructs, that – In fact, my fathers hasty retreat had conferred on me a very incomplete Oedipus complex; no super-ego, I agree but no aggression, either.  My mother was mine and no-one challenged my quite possession.  He – and it is crucial to his personality – was not exposed to jealousy directly nor was he subjected to other people’s violence’s and hatred’s.  No one else’s whim claimed to be my law.

I think you basically have the scope of this film right here in the Words of Jean-Paul Satre.  On top of which is…

Germany’s largesse and power lust.

Evident in political history is the emergence – aside from his own childhood – the effect the grander scheme of things, here it is The Versailles Treaty, – is Hitlers continuing presence in Austrias Parliment in Vienna as a young boy, a teenager fascinated by the whole Central European amalgam that had this Parliment represent so many regions and languages. Incidentally it was languages which provided a living, the early upbringing of Jean-Paul Satre when they moved to Paris. Hitler while he grew into it, did not then set adult upon adult, he was witnessing their own account of differences; he compiled a version of required leadership which had him at the head and formed the volitile and violent mind to enact it.

It is the lebensraum effected by the ruthless – the additional territory considered by a nation, especially Nazi Germany, to be necessary for national survival or for the expansion of trade.  Britain may, most probably, also have been enactors of this ruthless expansion.  It operates in the child to man as discovery of the inner self is made from making new space, where we can move around inside ourselves.  A secret personal representation – from thinking.

Being in a position of power leaders have often is unable to defer from his own presence in the public realm and so – as Hitler was inclined, falls to art and architecture for a prop of the psyche of higher things and these present ideals.  Music is here employed to effect as well. There are similarities to the Swedish rulers he may have learnt from.  Here are some extracts of writings by the art historian noted below on Cal-Gustf sending out some very clear messages to those running here.

He left his dog in the freezing cold of some luxurious ski resort and had erotic parties with teenage girls from the suburbs. Sibylla might have been able to help him with his separate- ness, letting him have his oilcloth while learning to separate the “me” from the “not-me”.  I know all about your secret life,/your feminine mystique,/your falsity./Your innocent promiscuity,/ and you hypocritical cruelty/hold no mystery/to me.  Felicia von Zweigbergk. 2011.    

Hippolytus slave puts it another way: “Gods ought to be wiser than men” – the tragedy is that they are not.They are amoral, impersonal, unfeeling, as Hippolytus in the end finds out for himself. In other words, man, in the full range of his capacity for goodness, for suffering and sympathy, is a creature on a higher spiritual level than the universe in which he is set to live. Felicia von Zweigbergk. 2011.  
Mediation is the goal of his father and Woodrow Wilson turned up at the signing
As well as the traditional themes of the aphorist: the hypokrisis of society, the vanity of human wishes, the sham of love, the ironies of death, the pleasure and necessity of solitude. Sontag Susan: Under the sign of Saturn.

Conclusion. ###3

An audacious, senses-shattering feature debut. A powerhouse international cast. This is some of the hype attributed to this film which I thought – and there will undoubtedly be disagreements (lately following Saul, having only last week seen The Prodger, an Irish play, the commemorations and memorial services, seen the exhibitions locally on the Somme, the miluea of articles can only affect more critical senses) – I found this film overwrought.  It is very well achieved in many parts and tries to be innovative without a rein or bridle.  It is aDirector breaking in his world of entertainment adventures and choosing a large subject which is tenuously and intermittently realised in its discovery and telling.  It is a very commendable film on the machinations of the art form being practice but some will find it two hours of over tedious and Tom Browns Schooldays sort of out of control child – we see Tanya, call the nanny nowadays as a guide or mumsnet.  Bérénice Bejo love pick up the phone or the mouse and Google tantrum child ADHD. On the other hand see the film read the Sarte book canon.

John Graham

17 August 2016

Belfast

On at Queens Film Theatre from 19 August to the 25 August 2016.

The Idol : A Film Review


The Idol

Director. Hany Abu-Assad.  Writers. Hany Abu-Assad, Sameh Zoabi. Cast. Tawfeek Barhom, Ahmed Al Rokh, Hiba Attalah, Kais Attalah, Abdel Kareem Barakeh Running Time 1h 40m Genres Biography, Comedy, Drama, Music.


From left, Ahmad Qassim, Qais Atallah and Hiba Atallah in Hany Abu-Assad’s “The Idol.” Credit Adopt Films.

It has a beginning, a middle and an end.

We’re introduced to Assaf (Qais Attallah) as a kid in Gaza, alongside sister Nour (Hiba Attallah) and their friends, Ahmad and Omar (Ahmad Qassim; Abdalkarim Abubaraka). My film ‘poster’ (I make them up from the publicity photos) still is the same Assaf but in 2012 driving a self – enterprising cab to make a living.  He has now reached a level where the harsh realities and day to day existence is for everyone, save one or two including a cameo character played by the Director, showing even war zones have demigods those who prey on their own citizens to live engrandised life’s – very basic.  The early years are full of vitalality and the story begins with a young quartet. Above. They try to form a group around Assaf and have plans to obtain proper instruments and use that scarce commodity, electricity, to perform everywhere. 

These kids act extraordinarily well.  Initially there aren’t some stilted moments but quickly the foot races, the cheeky episodes and funny lines come thick and fast as they negotiate live among their peers.  The picture of the families is built, their ordinary lives of going to school and other kids playing.  There is a lot of running and jumping. Minor scrapes end up as foot races.  Other kids run through frames, building, gap, drop jumping in a running line.  The expanse of the environment thus explored as a source of freedom and expression of self.

1. Assaf (Qais Attallah) teenage years of forming a band full of hope and charged with disappointment and despair escape one way or another. Help from musicians. 

2. Assaf (Tawfeek Barhom – a big presence and talent) as a University student and artist.  The stagnation of a middle period where bombing has yet again intensified (2012) and the attempts to reach a goal is stop/start with the first step being to get to the Palestine Idol auditions. 

3. Assaf (still Tawfeek with intersected at the apogee of the star making TV footage of the real Assaf.)


Film achievements

Early Hany Abu-Assad films Academy nominated were Paradise Now (2005), about two would-be suicide bombers and Omar (2013), love story thriller drama about Palestinian collaborators and Israeli intelligence handlers. This also – while entirely different from his earlier films and PG rated to achieve a global viewing, is similar in ways to Stand by Me, 1986, Rob Reiner.


Politics

Gaza is under seige and there is a strip of sea bordered by a fence between towns along the beautiful coast. The blockade from ’07 and the heavy bombardment from the 2008-09 Israeli assault on Gaza are clear.  The towns standing at the end of theses fences, stand as signatures of the living but also of post conflict survival and precedes more wanton destruction by the Israelis.  The countryside which itself is drained of water by the Israelis for their own use and to create monopolies in agricultural markets (figs) each season, is a rare source of food but it is in a strip of imprisonment and suppression which is enforced so the Israelis can wipe out an entire race.  There are currently just over 50% of the population under 18 and the older generation have paid an enormous price for their faith to Islam and Mohammed  – and the Jewish faith have effectively signed the declaration of intent for Isis and other factions who do not agree with peace as the means to survive according to the Koran but subvert – as the Jewish faith do through imposition, force and suppression of democracy – they laud their own standards of democracy while denying it and their own obligations to their neighbours – through these lands. They allow freedom of expression within sects but denegrate differences between those sects.


Do not forget this film is based very much on fact. Ask why it is made.  Ask what the people of Gaza feel and how these small elements stand up for equality and freedom in such horrendous circumstances and this juxtaposition is political and a voice.  It only altered for the sake of moral proprietary some scenes for dramatic flow.  The same is a continuous process within the UN with non-enforcement of mandates, and USA in cohort with western capatilist nihilism.  All produce the raw component of war here with a vast array and arsenal of weapons.  This film creates a backdrop which puts aside nations leaders and global manipulations making wealth and enormous gains through continued warfare, for the same ‘bread and circuses’ sideline distractions as the only means of expelling the despair.  The west makes an entirely falsified world out of it with sports, non-religious worship, ownership, greed and avarice games, extremes of entertainment for the masses.  The infiltration is The Idol – the TV antenna as well as showing atrocities from other parts of the world – along with environmental ruin – shifts inside the meagre domestic lives of the Gazians. 

Stark reality  PG rated.

It is particularly crazy to be attempting to depict this film in measures or indices of the film industry market.  Viewers and providers.  The network of access to films is burgeoning.  I have been to Palestinian events recently and seen around ten hours of Gaza related film material.  The last was a late visit to the film Death in Gaza. The death, one of many, that of James Millar a filmaker who was shot by an Israeli soldier in the Gaza Strip. What the Israeli was doing in Gaza with a gun except for powering the cycle of violence, is beyond explanation moral or otherwise.  The journalist is a witness as witnesses exist throughout mankinds presence on earth.  


Stardust

Here we have a film witnessing the Gazians imitating the West in their route of escapism with a jury SMS telecoms driven lavish piece of television theatre where star makers sit – the Simon Cowell formula – buy it up pop music and sell it back to them – and create stardust.  This version of idolatry is Sphinx like. The tombs of Egypt must be rattling with envy of how elevated such trivial things can become hyped.  The bejeweled Nefrititi is twinkling in the heavens looking down.  The borders crossed being the flow of human emotion centered on inner contentment shown brazenly and without irony.  The difference here in this Middle eastern culture, is that from the beginning the essence of the singing is based in distant long carried folk and traditional voice narratives.  In fact the Opera house is mentioned several times as an aside given the level expected of any performer. Ululating, wailing is one form of vocalising, singing used to evoke situation, emotion, will, and Assaf uses his skills by being hired for prayers in Mosques.  The quartet need money and they scour the edges – of the sea for fish to sell, then one keyboards player -see below right! – who obtains through the tunnels to Egypt, hamburgers and buns, starts his own fast food mobile business with apologies to ‘Mockdonalds’.

Initially we see the relatively carefree but street wise children open up to their vision of an alternative future.  Within families girls will sometimes wear or not the Hijab according to their own minds.  The dress is mainly western influenced but it is a’uniform of mutual poverty’.  In – and we visit hospital for a number of related, unrelated things, – the Doctors, we have very determined, driven morally guided, workhorses of survival, balancing with no judgement the fate of strangers and in circumstances where nothing is normal, in basic conditions.  Beds are arranged as all hospitals but with a scarcity of equipment around wards and are shared between the ages and genders.  The nurses wear Hijabs and the hospital is home to some terminally ill and has modern equipment in parts dealing with the worse of cases.

Assaf is not immune to this in his childhood and while nothing is shown by way of the aftermath of bombing or incoming fire these people struggle daily with the everyday things and every family is touched by some unwelcome fate.


They ride their bikes like many kids though this is ordinary Gaza and a prison.

The escape is a task which must overcome the imprisonment and blockade.  I won’t go any further and expand on the tale obviously has global coverage even before the film.  A British newscaster tells the story in the film itself!

So go see and be a witness.

Conclusion. #####5

Since last year when I saw Timbuktu a film of very similar political scope if entirely different in subject matter – it portrays childrens plight in these times though – I have not been so deeply drawn along with the expanse of film making, as it stepping outside the normality, by its constructive insicive informative composition/construction.  The story is not incidental but it carries a very strong message of the fate of a people distraught and also living hopefull of change.  That alone is extraordinary given what has happened.  The film will not disappoint you and reward any reasoning with the issues. You will perhaps not have as strident opinions as myself, have different views and I place this review as only a mere side discussion on the massive problems.  There is much arising however which may not have occured to you as indeed it hadn’t occured to me – the cultural basic retention present within the Palestinian people of their unique place within themselves – the way that Western culture has created ways of enticing people into its ‘snare’.  So it will cause many varied reactions.  It has very sad notes and is emotionally strong with very solid performances.  The film introduces Assafs sister Nour who is a star of the film played by Hiba Atallah.  She is brilliant in the role and faster in her wits and on her feet than some of the boys.  Plenty to recommend.

John Graham 

10 August 2016

Belfast

On at Queens Film Theatre Belfast from Friday 10 August through to and including Thursday 18 August 2016.

Also known as Ya Tayr El Tayer.

Highly recommended.

Born to be blue

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Born to be blue

Director and Writer : Robert Budreau; Starring: Ethan Hawke, Carmen Ejogo, Callum Keith Rennie, Stephen McHattie, Janet-Laine Green, Tony Nappo. 15 cert, 98 mins. Camera (color, black and white), Steve Cosens; editor, David Freeman; music, David Braid, Todor Kobakov, Steve London; music supervisor, David Hayman; production designer, Aidan Leroux; costume designer, Anne Dixon; art director, Joel Richardson; sound, Robert Scherer; re-recording mixer, Martin Jensen; visual effects supervisor, Jason Rayment; visual effects, Black Hangar Studios; assistant director, Dan Murphy; casting, Nancy Klopper.

‘Everything happens to me’ happens to be…

The story of Chet Baker is unique and full of unexplained directions.  Directions indeed is the name of one of his nemisaries  , Miles Davis’s album’s.  So cleverly to the chagrin of some jazz fans, not this one, Robert Budreau puts out a note to accord with the style and perception of a trumpeter whose talent absorbs him and his closest followers. He tampers with the facts to make a non-biographical story to hook viewers instead of focusing on the Jazz disease of what one of the good guys says inflicts so many jazzmen and women for that’s sake, Billie Holliday a prime example of lack of treatment and the opposite – being persecuted for her illness. He uses a fictitious love story to explain the people and the times. The fuse of film to narrative is distant and close, drawing Claxton and Weber influences out.  Also there was a short made by Budreau to suggesting possible endings in the 2009 short The Deaths of Chet Baker, with Stephen McHattie.

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Kings of Jazz in combat.

Canadian Director Robert Budreau begins his story setting it in 1966 Los Angeles on a film set of the events around 1960 when Chet Baker is just out of jail and trying to restablish himself again with the Jazz set.  He is shown being asked to make the film by a Director in jail which never came to fruition, then we are in a film set and within a spit of the stage at Birdland  when he is victim of a set up which is myth and mire making, when his lover, Jane (Carmen Ejogo) bursts in and he is at another troubled time in the relationship.  Whether the spiking – in full sight, Chet was all for it, took place or not is a fairly crass entry for any film, bearing falsehoods as it might, even as part of a film within a film as it is. The point is presumably the ongoing weakness at Birdland of his addictive tendencies but also to highlight and contrast the rivalries among the jazz kings.

There is black/white thing going on and it’s more feasible as a trope having jealousy entering the jazz kingdom – the Kings being Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie.  As random a shot at the probable conflict between musicians this may be, I see it as derisory as a pivot point for a film narrative.  No racial tensions were meant or present, it was the new age of Dylan, electric guitar and it is the subjegation of this jazz – which was a great equalizer among all people, all races, – coming to an end as the main concern of Miles and everyone concerned with Jazz.  It was kind of ‘It’s over guys’ moment, for all concerned. Joe Zawinul progressed and brought along the likes of future derailed tragically Jaco Pastorius, Wayne Shorter was revived, Billy Cobham got a hearing and new forms opened up. Chick Corea, Jazz guitarists aplenty, Miles Davis was back into be-bop and never stopping in the one place finding a new audience, the older ones misguidedly felt betrayed, when, untimely, his  spell was over.  All over in 1991.

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Popular culture crossover.

Chet Baker was onto a unique style of West Coast Jazz which heralded post war uplift and better times.  It was also an unparalleled sound which had a lot of followers overseas that opened boxes even Davis and Gillespie couldn’t.  If you think of French style and the supreme use of music to depict, denote good times and be ever fresh then this is how Baker appealed and also in Italy. It was hot to trot in every way and a very sexy potent catalyst for the things the French and Italy were properly fixated on – themselves, love, sex and their relations to each other.  Davis was a less penetrative artist and this soirée music was not his style but improv was as was his incredible musical gift along with his perseverance as a band leader and composer.  He was a matador, Sketches from Spain, Visigoths, to the Gallic – France, Charlemagne/Constantine /Roman influences Italy – A Love Supreme, inherent in Chet Baker.  His sex drive was heightened by his drug use/abuse and this is not avoided but lifted into a higher more closely observed factor in how his relationships developed.  Creating here a love triangle, the drugs as his prop to play, the music itself and the love of his life Jane, factored in here oddly as representing all the women he relied on.  During one scene (making the film)the actress, Jane, wonders why ‘she’ stays and the story of ‘their’ relationship is set p to explain why.  In fact there is another scene near the end when the emphasis shifts back into what drives his relationship and how his playing is his alter of obedience.

In stylish and distinctly well considered homage Ethan Clarke gets the Chet Baker outward look spot on (unlike in my view Don Cheadle’s Miles in Miles Ahead, reviewed previously) and becomes himself a Mister Cool among actors having reached this higher plain.  A stave or octave or two above his previous work.  Plain Chet was awaiting trial for drug-related offences in Italy in 1960, and is approached by a Hollywood director.  It never came to anything.  But here the premise is they are making a film of his life as the pull back after a return to black and white Birdland – named after my favourite jazzman, Joe Zawinul’s composition, hits the blue notes compellingly sharp and deliciously counter melodic.  The backdraft of the times is gloriously felt cinematically and with many so called ‘minor’ parts heightening the impact.  Like the Dizzy Gillespie promoter Danny Friedman, the parole officer and on set musicians.  The fans and atmosphere are beautifully portrayed and there are a lot of Amy Winehouse beehives working the tables or just hanging out. If Ethan is heading for an Oscar so be it but the part just failed me in largesse for it to be an On the Waterfront mind blower, but then it doesn’t need to e these days for an Oscar.  Mark Rylance, in front of blue screen, ought to get it maybe for BFG.

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Examines his recovery.

These times are now meant to be the late sixties when he is in semi-recovery for heroin addiction and a period of recuperation which features highly in this film, of repair to his jaw and the instrument employed to play, his mouth which was severely messed up by drug dealers he owed money to.  It had a devastating affect. He takes for parole reasons Methadone.  Ethan Hawke commits his voice to rendering in the drawl which is not an effecting of his voice but a placement of his inner feelings of present vanquished creativity.  His palatte is the trumpet and it is only aided by drugs.  The Capitol recordings are perhaps of limits for this film or too expensive and here the trumpet player – noises off or whatever the equivalent mime trope is – is Kevin Turcotte doing an impressive replacement job. Further on I note a few albums not mentioned in the film, of European flavour for reference and a film with a close beatnik type revolution sans drugs, French style. The Cheaters.  The guy must have loved Paris.  Equally he must have loved the sexually liberated undercurrent of the times and in this film it seems the love interests are channeled into one with alongside the emotionally and drug charged Chet -Ethan Hawke gets his sexual psyche into action – is the other main component of this story, this film, Jane (Carmen Ejogo).

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Jane of all parts. The love story shines through.

She is a complete foil as a groupie and lover.  Another review I read introduces brilliantly though not enough play on the word is evoked, —  embouchure – em·bou·chures [ahm-boo-shoo rz, ahm-boo-shoo rz; French ahn-boo-shyr] –  The mouth of a river. The evocative delta of sound eclipsing, evocative of erotic pleasure.  The opening up of a valley into a plain.  The musician adjusting their mouth to the mouthpiece.  The mouthpiece itself. This is the territory of the film where the couple find themselves interlocked and entwined within a harmful, gone wrong narrative which here they are disposed to repeating in a sanitized false version as a biographical film.  This of course is the opposite.  The refrain is the despair which addiction and halted creativity produces in a couple now making adjustments to suit their times.  A comeback is envisaged and the history is vinyl pressings and old feels of film capturing a golden age.  Jane has him living in her VW camper van as they construct a life for themselves.  She as an actress’ and a mean jazz pianist from back in the day when she played musicals and revues, wants acting work badly and faces rejection.  She deals with rejection better than him but perseveres as the relationship bonds them in knowing each other’s faults.  Both sets of parents feature. A seashore encounter with Janes parents sets a marker for love.

A large chunk of the story is given over to the Chet family as he visits his early home in Yale, Oklahoma – Mother Vera and Pa, an ex-musician, whose rendering of the Mel Torme set a path for junior.  Chet recalls it fondly but the early fame and the resulting drugs dependency disclosures hurts his old man Chet Sr.  Jane and Chet make big strides there at the homestead nevertheless and his ‘talent’ makes it into low paying venues where his dues are paid while he knocks on the door, literally of his former chums and believers.  It ends up with good results and drives through the film with lots of tension and energy.  A bit like displaced jazz notes, important to play them out, auto shed or not and settle the meaning and mind on the art performed.  Ethan Hawke is credited with playing the tune Blue Room.  He obviously loves the sounds.  Callus Keith Rennie plays the former producer (into zen, meditation, plants, more than Chet’s comeback initially) Dick Bock.  I heard Chet/Ethan call him Vic, Shady, as memory lost loops once or twice.

Comebacks and catalogue.

He spoke Italian. Fans go to Hotel Universo, Lucca, and ask for Room 15, still today highly requested and it looks onto the piazza of the Teatro del Giglio where Chet held several concerts.
But maybe, for him, the most exciting concert held there was the one organized in his honor on December 15, 1961 by his jazz friends Giovanni Tommaso, Franco Mondini, Antonello Vannucchi and Amedeo Tommasi, on the day he was left the San Giorgio prison in Lucca, following one year of detention.

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On the night of July 31, 1960, Chet, who had a history of drug use, collapsed as a consequence of a heroine overdose in a gas station washroom just outside the city. About twenty days later, he was arrested and indicted. He got away with two years instead of the due seven and during those months, Chet who was a composer, would play and fans would gather to listen to the notes of his trumpet coming from within the prison.
‘Everything happens to me’ happens to be his European directed album for Parisienne’s and jazzphiles alike. The listing goes thus. Release Date 1988 Duration 01:10:04 Genre – Jazz – Styles – Cool, West Coast Jazz, Jazz Instrument,Trumpet, Jazz. Recording Date October 24, 1955 – November 28, 1955. Album Moods Intimate, Refined, Reserved,Restrained, Elegant, Sensual, Somber, Stylish, Autumnal, Sophisticated, Album Themes, Introspection, Relaxation, New Love, Romantic, Evening.

Conclusion ####4

There are holes to be picked in this but I feel it is above all a great story somehow relating to reality given the alterations which initially baulked at – re. the Miles Davis rivalry. Ethan Hawke and Carmen Ejogo are a phenomenal pairing and sexually supercharge the roller coaster of a story which blatantly avoids the – ‘if I was you I’d leave him’ trap which his additions no doubt caught up with him in real time.  Some early flashbacks and interior stories weaved into the making of a film which never happen are a jazz acrobatic manouvre Bourdeau is not able to pull of.  It offers though the instant when the relationship in this essentially a troubled love story began.  The influences and music topics are fully thrown out there and the perils of the monster of having talent and using it are brilliantly excecuted.  It is a real scoping story of an artists rose fall and – we don’t get to the rise again but for sheer will power which Ethan Hawke thin as a rake method actor! puts across superbly though the narrowness of gauge – the fact his good times – the vibe he created in Europe is virtually unexplored – means it limits his acting scope and as noted in review he may fail to get the Oscar it probable deserves.  The era at the 60’s this music associates which even enters cinematic culture as I note with the Jean Paul Belmondo Le Tricheurs a forebode to the French cinema attribute at the time of Breathless breaking new ground.  It is actually a light dose of the delights to follow.

 

John Graham

3 August 2016

Belfast

 

On at QFT Belfast from Friday 5 August to the 11 August 2016.

The music which are not the original recordings is superb in the Cinema setting and as the Universal Pictures logo roves up in front of you you realise the higher sound level denotes the primacy of the sounds to follow and it does not let you down.

Footnotes

An album review.

‘Sentimental walk in Paris’ is another journey through his European influences, with a collection of his Vladimir Cosma covers from the ’80s. Although Baker was past his prime and had descended into heavy drugs, he was still an ace trumpeter. His gorgeous sound overcomes the arrangements (which are not bad, but tend to get cheesy at times), and fit perfectly into Cosma’s mood music. In fact, Cosma produced the album and acted as Baker’s handler during the recording sessions. The pairing is an inspired one, although Cosma’s jazz influences have always been apparent. The orchestration that Cosma used for filling out Baker’s sound was wonderfully appropriate, bringing to mind the amazing soundtracks of Henry Mancini or Elmer Bernstein. Fans of either artist should not be disappointed, and even curious listeners looking for a good orchestrated jazz album should give this a listen. Baker may have been at the end of his career, but his unique style was still quite strong.

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Cinema and bold expression.

There is a film which you may have heard of or seen.  Listening to that?” said the woman, pointing with a smile to the radiogram. “That”, said Bob, “is my favourite Mulligan. Bernie’s tune. It helps you to concentrate, you know…” Bernie’s Tune – Gerry Mulligan Quartet (with Chet Baker)

“What am i doing with them?  What shall I do now with them all?  In future I shall feel old…… No, it’s far better not to go. It hurts too much to see a pair of lovers, people who love each other or are quite ridiculously happy. Happy, as I perhaps might have been.  Rubbish! You never are. You simply think you are, and that comes to the same thing.”
Françoise D’Eaubonne, The Cheat(er)s, 1961

Les tricheurs aka The Cheaters (1958) Director: Marcel Carné Setting the stage for the new wave cinema – Breathless? 1960.

Stars: Pascale Petit, Andréa Parisy, Jacques Charrier, Jean-Paul Belmondo The Cheaters opens with a shot of two beatniks, cigarettes dangling from mouths, bopping in front of a jukebox. A Parisian college student gets involved with the existentialist beatniks of Saint-Germain-des-Prés who defy the rules of society (like stealing records from a record store!), get involved in blackmail, do some heavy drinking and participate in bizarre love triangles.

The Commune : A Film Review

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The Commune

Director, Thomas Vinterberg, Writer, Tobias Lindholm, Cast, Anna, (Trine Dyrholm) father, Erik, (Ulrich Thomsen) and daughter, Freya, (Martha Sofie Wallstrom Hansen) Emma (Helene Reingaard Neumann) Allon (Fares Fares) Ole (Lars Ranthe) Mona (Julie Agnete Vang), Ditte (Anne Gry) Steffen (Magnus Millang). Denmark/Sweden/Netherlands. 2016. 1hr 52 mins. Cert. 15.

The Commune – do they exist!

If you’ve ever been to, known someone who has, or heard tell of the world of Communes this is both for you and them.   It not in the least like, presumably, any you may have had previous experience of though. This is set in the 1970’s on the outskirts of Copenhagen, in a rich heirloom mansion.  Erik the university lecturer, whose father has bequeathed it, has his own wife and child.  These gorgeous pastoral surroundings are to be home of a select combination all agreeing arrangements on sharing costs, having some investment in the venture/adventure and freedom of choice on future living.  They are a bunch of friends and acquaintances who share the rat race abandonment with wishes of new age existence.  It requires a large dose of suspension of reality, verging on adopting fairy tale lives, as the idealism needed in most cases, sects, cults, guru, shaken, kibbutz, types have inherent problems as most alternative societies do.  Take Aldous Huxleys The Island, as utopian living, or any dystopian fiction with a narrative such as Margaret Attwoods of alternative existences and the societal divisions they already by way of isolation, set in train.  This Kollectiv is not entirely a failure as an experiment much depending on and enabled by the mix having knowledge of each other to begin with and external encounters go on at a minimal level, schools, jobs etc. about much further on.

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The main trio are mother, Anna, (Trine Dyrholm) father, Erik, (Ulrich Thomsen) and daughter, Freya, (Martha Sofie Wallstrom Hansen).

Togetherness

The basic configuration or notion of living together is a post-agrarian age of living with an age range from elderly, grandparents, defendants, through the procreating couples and relationships within the group, to the children and their own basis as a focus of a self determined future.  The education part is key but in this that is left not to home schooling as at there is only one child here except a boy, nine year old, who is very ill and does stand slightly to the side in the construct of this commune.  Freya is on the cusp of adulthood 14, and just about able for it except this set of arrangements, fresh as they are to everyone, are a bit of a timebomb going off in her head.  If you take Freya as the key person for you to enter the film you will not be disappointed.  If you chose to empathise with and adopt one character which you may of may not connect with then that too will be rewarding.  Can you picture yourself as part of the group? is one of the foremost questions.  Should you flip or sit back exclusive of the group these choices reflect the choices the Commune are making themselves.  It is a bit of a dog rough type of Commune and in Copenhagen – I hope the gentrification of the city village never took place – the Christainia Garden Village in Copenhagen is a famous large alternative ‘Kollectiv’ autonomous group setting which stood against the commercial and industrial direction with a people based needs based peaceful society infrastructure.  It to had its troubles internally and rubbed against but existed alongside the municipal world on its doorstep.  Even outsiders could come and go with the preset of not disturbing the principles that grew and flourished as a kind of amorphous sense of hope.  That was the engaging part for those not choosing to live this way but to experience it at a non-commital way.

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Aims and needs

Thomas Vinterberg movies The Celebration (1998) and The Hunt (2014) and Festen were far more serious and demanding though this, despite its friendly appearance as some sort of sideline feature film, has a surprising intensity as it develops taking with it the confrontation of choices and meanings of freedoms shared and spaces expanded.  You could have an emotional breakdown just watching it if you empathise too closely – you need your own space dude.   The concept comes from the most dynamic and complex character Anna, whose portrayal by Trine Dyrholm is stunningly visceral and haunting.  She puts forward the suggestion to Freya and Erik then a group comprising first – with the help of Freja, she talks Erik into accepting – Allon (Fares Fares – I know I don’t believe it either!) a tall well set teary one, Ole (Lars Ranthe) drinker, laidback Mona (Julie Agnete Vang), deep thinker Ditte (Anne Gry Henningsen) and soft touch Steffen (Magnus Millang). Anna herself is a TV news anchor and she intends and does carry on with this as Erik carries on with his lectureship in – it’s important you note the nuance, well not really but architectural types like myself do, the Rational Architecture specialism he advances.  Consider if you will, if the subject suits his approach to life.  I made that enquiry.  His personality is not one of a creator but analyser and shaper. Fundamental as it is, he has a tendency to be tangential, cantankerous and overbearing.  With Anna he has found to his credit a woman of remarkably sympathetic,idealist, virtuous, generous and open outlook.  As well as possessing a typical Danish clarity of beauty and softness of touch together with a figure which would make a priest consider again his choices.  The film does not so much compartmentise individual characters but has a deft touch showing their positions as seen within a group.  Of other Commune films of the same era it’s worth noting the Swedish year 2000 model Together which took the comic line.

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The big test.

Anna has a problem which Erik brings.  Both are in need of each other but Erik presses his sexual needs and egotistical needs on one of his Rational Architectural students.  Emma (Helene Reingaard Neumann) is half his age and has the beauty and edge of a Briget Bardot, Julie Ege or blonde fairytale goddess.  She fills his new life as his former life may have been with Anna except Anna is still his partner.  This as how Anna believes it now is.  Therein lies the dilemma or new age element of ‘Kollectiv’.  It is not meant to be a facility where men can have multiple partners and women equal to the same freedoms, but is a shared existenance relying on fidelity of the societal form and without crossover of the physical connections made.  The permissiveness of sexual freedoms were not only the new normal of the times in a commune setting but in the wider context also.  As people lived longer so their need for change happened to alter their psyche.  The complex commitments began to unravel as emotional heights never confronted before in this way manifested.  Take modern life and place it in these situations and you will make the connections so well drawn by the devil net, experience of our Director and Ensemble cast.  The script is handled by Tobias Lindholm director of War and his failure is apparent to me in not placing enough social context or liberating the sexual politics or developing more convincingly one or two of the other characters and their viewpoints.  It seems to stagnate but paradoxically brilliantlily in the trio of the family plus one. All of which points to the proper basis being a ten episode Scandinavian TV noir series. Even more intervention of the prominence of TV in revolution or in our case petty domestic squabbles taken out of all sense of proportion.

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How will it work?

The Commune is an examination of the times and the democratisation of a world connected by television – the media Anna exists in reporting daily on Pol pot – 2.30 – Vietnam – 3.00 – Civil Rights – entering everyone’s lives.  The fact TV advanced these visions and alternative theories of previously held political – meaning wisdom as the definition goes – is Tv = demonstration.  The TV takes to the streets and activism is erupting everywhere including opt out.

The film is emotionally arresting and the concept of ‘commune’ itself is explored through the relationships.  The young boy, a child of one of the couples is terminally ill and it comes as part of the hard unavoidable reality components, inescapable wherever.  Those whose fate is in a larger space find they are the ones offering the other ‘space’, space to have another, additional relationship.  It actual points to the probability it is not the offering of space to another but permission as it happens to invade yours.

It doesn’t take a political theorist to come up with a concept of parallel worlds and how they met as contests in society over the leaders and democratic mechanisms fighting for supremacy.  Whose supremacy?  Whose ideals?  Whose guru, whose religions?  As local philosopher Van the Man said, No Guru, No Religion.  Other titles emerging out of those same times from Van Morrison include, after the sex -Astral Weeks – the commune – Tupelo Honey – Beautiful Vision, Common One, Inarticulate speech of the Heart, Wavelength. Those titles speak of change.  I add the note VM thought the best to be, and presumably still does, Common One.

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Conclusion. ####4

I thoroughly went with this film on its time scale, limited scoping range.  As I said it would have, could develop the other relationship portraits more thoroughly.  In fact just a bit would have helped but the primary focus is Anna whose pivotal location as firstly the idea generator, the mother, lover, betrayed, lost, brings quote a lot of issues  and startling effective delivery.  Thomas Vinterberg uses his story and camera very very skillfully as a depiction of the times.  Filmed apparently with a HD video camera this also is homage in cinema to the filmmakers of that era and experimentation.  The film works on so many levels and will remain a good maker for the depiction of an earlier time seen through commune, idealist mostly, partially times. Totally recommended.

 

John Graham

28 July 2016

Belfast

on at QFT Belfast from 29 July to 4 August 2016.

rated 15.

 

Chevalier : A Film Review

Chevalier. Directed by Athina Rachel Tsangari. Greece. English subtitles. Duration. 105 mins. Cert. 18. Written by Athina Rachel Tsangari and Efthymis Filippou.

Makis Papadimitriou, Yiorgos Kendros, Panos Koronis, Vangelis Mourikis, Efthymis Papadimitriou, Yorgos Pirpassopoulos, Sakis Rouvas, Giannis Drakopoulos, Nikos Orphanos, Kostas Filippoglou.

Synopsis of sorts

The short synopsis provided by a film theatre does a fine job.  As follows. During a week-long excursion on a luxury yacht, six men decide to pass th time by engaging in a game to determine which of them is ‘The Best in Genral’. As the competition escalates through a series of increasingly bizarre contests – which range from deck-swabbing to sleep posture to IKEA assembly – God sportsmanship goes out the window as the men jockey for position.  My blog is intended as additional background without divulging much more than the forementioned.  It tells of the psychology at work, the important pre-existing relationships and of course something about how the Director, Writer, Actors, obtain your interest and entertain.  It is also very funny in stretches as the ‘games’ develop.  Another attendee thought it slow, as I also mention further on, but I think maybe the ‘men’ jokes which I imagine Athina Rachel Tsangari, harvesting over a glass or two of wine with her girlfriends what they might imagine men testing each other with – the funnier for outcome sake – the better.

Director of the finest contemporary auteur order

In 2010 with the film Attenburg, (a mispronounce of Dear David Att..) it was apparent a perceptive social commentary of contemporary Greek life had arose in the form of Athina Rachel Tsangari with an assured grip on technique, abstraction, suspension, all propelled by a tight group of young actors themselves unattached to the mores of the uniform diet of cinema within their nations grasp. This was also followed by what I have to say is an amalgam of cinema, art, drama, and with theatrical intimacy in The Capsule, 2012, which separated, as this film does with men, women into a gender extrapolation as they exist in parallel worlds and own values and rules of conduct.  Here comes a totally different construct with several men in a boat owned by an elderly Doctor  (Yorgos Kendros).  The close proximity of a shared holiday and depredations, rebonding together and as an aside or perhaps even their aim, seeking to know the others form as men for whatever it means and obtain the same about themselves.


The pairings or closeness of the men.

The 6 well to do men have connections in pairs you might say.  The Doctor has a colleague, the unsuccessful suitor as in-law Christo – a well known Greek figure as singer, (Sakis Rouvas).  The next pairing being long standing business partners, the bearded pair  Yorgos (Panos Koronis) and Josef (Vangelis Mourikis) whose exchanges already are tests of each other’s strengths and weaknesses succeeding mainly because of a dignity of evenhanded see practices over decades. Each character shows us how they relate – first through these longer relationships – then as they go on solo runs as it were establishing new or imagined hierarchies.

The pairing of the Doctor and Christos is hinged also to the brothers Yannis (Yorgos Pirpassopoulos) the Doctors actual son in-law, and Dimitris (Makis Papadimitriou) a brother whose dependencies are due to a form of unexplained autism which has him living at home with his their mother and who requires to be twinned in the accommodation with his over-confident brother. The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune – some attainment of wealth brings them to a luxury onyx marble walled palatial floating marine hotel.  It is very quickly the case of discovering any issues they, each, have is caught inside, condensed and compressed into a large glass bottle with the lid tightly fixed like a Kinder jar.  An amount of OCD appears. Also  Neurosis, Narcissim, Paranoia, thankfully no psycotic, psychosis I disclose for the overly concerned – ratings must divulge levels of violence anyway. There is a Captain and two crew, cook/chef and gofer, commischef in attendance whose presence is not entirely secondary as they facilitate certain discretionary and have their own outlook on life which they funnily replicate the game which has the 6 transfixed as they reach the end of their otherwise spear fishing, water sports, occupied holiday.  I wanted to use the line – he’s had more issues than the New Yorker but it doesn’t adhere to any of them, as far as me thinks.

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Yorgos asks Christo
Magnificent ancient civilised location.

The Aegean is a majestic place which Athina Rachel Tsangari cleverly conscripts to place the tale as a timeless study; modern refinements of a comfortable well provisioned boat and assortment of toys at their disposal aside, of male machismo and foibles.  Astutely she fashions a set of parameters; the Captain retains separation with tan not announcements modestly humorous unwittingly of weather forecasts, today will be .. 9 reaching high 20’s .. Please notify any of the crew should you propose to dive later.  The exchanges follow a shore bound spear-fishing exercise which has each party except for Dimitris wet-suited approach a deserted stony beach with their floats, fish and spears.  They separately kill, Octopus, Calimari, and the bream etc, caught before returning together triumphantly satiated with hunter zeal  to the yacht.  There they co-operate in removing the suits as a joint ritual, they then do the round table after fishing talk of the recentl thrill sharing their own separate versions and comparing their sense of the sea ad its purpose.  It is a striking entry and with the sometimes out of focus camera tracing their movements in the beginning in this the merging heat filled environment, who begin emerging as distinct characters with a range of issues.  None immense, if you consider they have devices to manage them for their and they’re companies dignity and are relatively tolerated.  The psycologogy of males interests both the writer and she asks us to concede, with ease, the group share the same curiosity for self or other more obtuse reasons.  Certainly the pairings exact tensions even though there is no visible or extension of mental bonds on the surface for anyone to take into account.  It is when they embark on the authors device of challenging each other to obtain their status within the general scheme of things they embark on the strange game of ‘The Best in General’.  It is the trophy sentiment of the title which is a contest to conquest over their fellow compatriots.

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The friendships alliances are set the test of scrutinizing every aspect of their behaviour, from their physical appearance, self management, resistance to temptation, manner of speaking, addressing strangers or companions, sharing of intimate details of their lives to some degree, of erudition and learned skills such as meal preparation and all degrees of civility or culpability in between.  And there is an ongoing fertility exam of the erection kind which has various meas of delivery of proof of content.  Along with the Doctor lead medical exam which Dimitris displays a phobias to and his   is to provide an entertainment interlude which is to be judged as all things are judged under each mans watchful eye. There are genuinely serious singular internalised torments held inside each of the characters heads.  If you think long enough you will grasp a dilemma of some seriousness image within each person.  One fellow watcher said it was very slow to get going, had little to interest the youthful her, and it was damned with faint praise because of its eccentric European vibe.  It is after all of enough substance to attain Best Film at the London Film Festival. 


Alternative over informative views

Reviewers I have now read concerning this film spend too much type on telling you the entire story, not its shape of comparative states of entry to it but one even gives a blow by blow account of the completion of the spoils referencing the hole shebang and frankly it does not even come close do doing any, any part of the film or the Directors sense of the male construct – physical content defrocked, or any sense of place in contemporary life in this part of Europe.  The abandoned resort hotel which is a large part of the central location of the film doesn’t get a mention – (I saved that bit! – it’s not a spoiler in ant event!) but it is as annoying as bejesus to have that seen as a valid review given its overt dependence on – looking at, noting word for word repartee?  Everyone will come away with favourite lines, there are plenty of gems to choose from, and many surprises and individual performances and formidablely questioning scenes ar invested in by actors for our study and interpretation.  It is beautiful in that sense – that you go with it and find out about the characters I have the beginning loosened you into by describing some elements of already existing relations that add value to the concentration required in the minutiae of detail, cinematographer editor and camera person dispose for the Director, Writers on the story.


Conclusion ####4

A excellent entertaining psychological mind twisting drama.  Loving written, tender realisation in a sun splitting post Ancient Greece, neuvo post EU crash austerity almost criminal disregard of a nation by its neighbours despite their all along know tax discrepancies – who in the EU watched on?  Turned a blind eye and left the vultures in.  This is periferally addressed by the use of a once luxurious sea fronting hotel slap bang in the midst of the azure Aegean.  Reflections on self are made and on others via. comical inquisitive games which touch raw nerves as well as expose the realties existing – an iceberg analogy is not misplaced with the visible public multi-faceted self the top while underneath are the – and there are possible connections made in reference to the experiences of each individual to actual diving – vulnerabilities ever present.

Athina Rachel Tsangari is a very gifted all rounder with a mind plundering the male and female psyche and the allegiances, separations, risks and rewards taken and with an insightful magical way of developing the themes around an apparent story of men enjoying each other’s company away from conventional pressures and indulging in sports or explorations which are the stuff possible of younger energetic souls.  It’s complex and emotionally intelligent despite the presence of the ‘make up girls weird games’ possible trawl which my imagined generator for the different weird aspects.   Some culinary tips no doubt correct are snippets of finessing story relationships along with the boat owner – the Doctor – having an outward control while underlying problems emerge.  He and Christos use fitness rowing machines – not like Srs Steve Redgrave and Matthew Pinset – more routine and this is typical as a a means of proposing your insight to character being lead by nuances and otherwise – the use of games makes the viewer adopt it is suggested – the same queries seen.

Very watchable but slightly hard to get into – empathy on my part counts – and a rewarding watch.  Not a massively mind shifting experience but certain to make you rearrange some thoughts, allow some slack or give further thought to otherwise ‘for appearances sake’ propositions.  Excellent.  Music is excel

Net also but early very compelling bass, garage, loose funk as they get on the boat after their beach landing is not followed up unfortunately – nor is there the mercurial Vangelis Papathounoisious music utilised.  I can tell you the ending song is byChessingtons greatest and beautiful.  There is a soxties Karaoke very good insert which you will remember long after i imagine.

John Graham

20 July 2016

Belfast

On at QFT Belfast from Froday 22 July to 28 July 2016.  On general UK release. I wonder if Mark Kermode likes it?  It’s occasionally his excuse he’s forgetting minor things as Mayo quizzes him on his industrial strength film prober mind.

His take on the last film I reviewed The Neon Demon was by his account worthy of its mixed – I like mixed opinions he proposed (a bit of a guide I think between those who ‘watched it’ and those who viewed it) – reception.  It was fairly and plainly not as worthy as many make it out to be.  One was completely off the mark saying it could become a cult classic.  It was unfortunately unrewarding and a waste of the talent on view.

The Neon Demon : A Film Review


The Neon Demon

Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn Produced by Lene Børglum Nicolas Winding Refn Screenplay by Mary Laws Nicolas Winding Refn Polly Stenham Story by Nicolas Winding Refn. Cast. Elle Fanning, Karl Glusman, Jena Malone, Bella Heathcote, Abbey Lee, Christina Hendricks, Keanu Reeves.  Music by Cliff Martinez Cinematography Natasha Braier Edited by Matthew Newman. Cert. 18. Duration 1hr 57mins. USA/France/Denmark co-production.


 Horror is not a good fashion look. (The above is!)

The Neon Demon is a 2016 internationally co-produced psychological horror film directed by Nicolas Winding Refn, co-written by Mary Laws, Polly Stenham, and Refn.  It follows an aspiring model in Los Angeles whose beauty and youth place her jealous conflict with her co-industry aspirants.  Even the players of the behind the camera roles place her as an enemy.
The pages of fashion magazines need new product displayed on the captivating physical presence of beauty such as the Elle Fannig character here Jesse.  Unencumbered by a lack of self belief or confidence she almost automatically tunes into the model world she has embarked on in the opening 16th year of her life, seeming destined by choice to become a supermodel with whatever besides her looks it takes.  The world of modeling according to Director and Production company lead, Nicolas Winding Refn, who is unsurprisingly on a path of female psyche and force of horror employed in a contemporary world removed from the tame The Devil Wears Prada.  They do a nice very comfortable black slip on shoe so the Devil is a conformist these days.  Bella Heathcote as Gigi and Abbey Lee as Sarah are installed as the pair of horror monster models as jealous as hell of the monochrome photographer, bypassing them and selecting her for special treatment, which results in an audition at a fashion designers misoginist casting.  Ignoring each woman as he looks for the perfection he sees in the post Lolita nymph like Jesse he dismisses all others and a calamity befalls the rejected.

 

Bella Heathcote

Born troopers 

Sarah and Gigi have a very thin foliage to match their very thin and tall raw beauty.  They are in anyone’s eyes as beautiful and perfect as the magazines and runways ought to need for this cosmetic circus.  Mostly in ill fitting, clothes and absurd facial makeup with for this film an emphasis on bondage, leather costume, they have little to play with and add were possible a sense of character, especially in Bella Heathcotes part as an Australian who is too vunerable to self reflection – and as Fifty Shades Darker is a role soon filled by her it is a touch sardonic whereas Abbey Lee (Kershaw)  flushed with blond looks and sultry stare employed in Mad Max : The Fury, is only able to play with wit alongside her Australian beauty.  Elle Fanning has a difficult role cast firstly as a malleable youth, with looks almost prepubescent and waves of blond curls and feigned awkwardness along with youthful knowing.  Her parents are non-existent, literally, and her only foil is a male pal of the same sort of age but with a driving license, who has the role of feeding her ambition and allaying some insecurities until he becomes himself more knowledgable of the environment of West Hollywood and the Los Angeles culture.  Jesse is at times, usually off call more of a natural teenager and this is I suppose a purposeful contrast used on instruction or shear wise move acting.  It provides her with a scope to train emotions into what sometimes might be called reality until it goes off tangentially on a peculiar ‘video music centered’ dreamscape or sub-textural plot thickening mush. Her own child like good looks are partly convincing as the ‘perfection status’ is cast as beguiling but it is random and over employed.  To such an extent it is not fashion or photography – the core industry necessity – but this directors moving image contest of poetic filmaking which frankly is a bit of a void which a very good professional photographer would have had more ingenuity with. Stand up Australian Danish French English photographers who are true masters of the unusual.


Abbey Lee (Kershaw)

Plot thinning with Music thickening

This film is very poor on narrative and has only the lonely path of rising to a pinnacle in a short time which causes insane jealousy and in some cases derangement which unhinged the horror element.  Fast and slick this construct is flawed in aping as a segmented piece the music instead of story heralding any change of tack.  It follows from the Dorectorsxown previous history with advertising, music video short filled episodic film making.  It consequently has a very good score with initially heavy industrial house leading us in expectation of something special.  It promises through one entry to a party performance piece that falls flat on its own pretentions.  In Holy Motors a video holographic episode is handled with a narrative edge. The music even dies away as a visual companion entering into gothic electronic somber sobriety fairly quickly as we are invited to afford gravitas and complicit narcissism along with the menagerie of the composite fashion industry.  I also thought the facial paintwork and body paint far off the scale of portraiture offered in aperiodof professional photography have a lot have moved on from.


Horror elements

Fifty shades of derangement are appropriated as the roles of male svengalis strive to obtain and some of the women, what they haven’t got.  The looks or beauty of Jesse.  Or try to debase it while controlling the verve or visual ‘narrative’ cloyingly.  The place for blood is in shiny interiors so .. that’s delivered .. the place for glamour is the hilltop Ruby (played by Jena Malone who has a good time and a role to get her teeth into) house sits with pool Chanel decor and decadent and fashion styling out of its skin.  The vistas are beautifully realised as the moon even puts in a peerless appearance.  Hank (Keanu Reeves) is a Motel manager with a caustic streak and an attitude problem as Dean (Karl Glusman) finds as he chaperones Jesse.  The best shot in my estimation is one where Jesse comes onto the ‘boulevard’ outside the motel and meets Dean whose car is parked under the evening Neon of the street doused in colored light.  Not only descriptive of the Los Angeles Micheal Connoly and legions of writers screen and pulp fiction find so borderline and visceral. It could have been over in half an hour.


Conclusion ###3

This is going to press many buttons for the heady cocktail of superficiality it projects. Some like the ridiculous in film and this sharply spectacularly fits the bill. It is showy but not ironic or plaguristic enough to be a fixed animal.  No real head on its story or for that matter any real idea of insightfulness.  Even Jackie Collins came to mind as the sleazy side was as buttoned down thinly coated realism given its LA look.  Very graphic and uncompromising in its unfolding hate conspiracy it has, as mentioned earlier, an episodic feel with the music signaling a change of plot line or new look to impart a direction of travel.  The house music is intensely invigorating and pretty decent as a vehicle but it cannot hide a rather unchallenging film.  The epitome of good taste is bad taste and this descent blurs the boundaries.  Irony is too obvious a move as is vacuous juxtaposition of beauty – an animal in its magnificence does appear! – in all its forms.  Ruby is excellent as are the other females in the cast but the men play it cliched including KR who is more of a cowboy than a Motel manager.  Christine Hendricks has a very short role and ever her deadpan sardonic wide expansive curvy beauty doesn’t get much to be delivered through its briefity. Her looks alone would make celibate priests question their vocations devotions.    Of limited appeal.

John Graham 
6 July 2016

Belfast
From Friday 15th July to Thursday 28th July 2016 inclusive at Queens Film Theatre BELFAST.