Week 40 – Una Knox – October 5-11

Let me guess this is simply imperious.

fig-2 loyalty card

fig-2_40_50_12

fig-2_40_50_2When you enter the room the first thing you see is that all of the walls have been drawn into the centre of the space and bound together. The Fig-2 mobile wall structures and book shelves that usually delineate a space within the room have been wrapped up together, and there is nowhere to hide.

fig-2_40_50_4Whether deliberately or intuitively Sylvain Deleu’s photos don’t zoom in on the the central structure but show it surrounded by the exposed space of the studio — balancing the tight compression at the centre with the openness around it. This arrangement has an unsettling effect. Artist Una Knox notes that in drawing things together you illustrate the potential for, or the inevitability of, the opposite: all things will break apart.

unaknoxpvThis is the context of coming to Fig-2: these shows are brought together for seven days and then blown apart. For Week 40 of…

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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.