Fraught : A photographic interlude


Fraught worlds subside

SARC and the hearing experience

Few places free your mind like SARC.  Open today for a lunchtime performance by Frances-Marie Uitti for a blistering bewildering controlled journey in Cello polyphonics we were treated to this composers playing of a new works, one with accompaniment of Franziska Schroeder of SARC came a wonderful excursion through the places they have explored in experimental music.  On Cello the first piece was a setting of a work by Jonathan Harvey (1982) Curve with Plateau.  It at first sounded delivered straight from the Cello without monitors.  Then it became clear it opened up in binary speakers.  Taking in high straining notes symbolic of a curve it dropped and interweaves as a duet of sound like it was lineage of controlled nature in balance and fraught with counterpoint.  It challenges and transports then coheres as a watery path of sound in this auditorium a special rarely found and simply absorbed warm and breathy work.

Next came what is a piece by FM Uitti, an excerpt from Utopia (2015).  Built on classical lines it is a twisting resurgence of fine percussive beats and primitive rhythms played as Cello in counter sometimes double bowed mellow bass like Cello as another contest of vibes.  This time it’s considered, notes inform, as East : West with no complacency or stopping.  Machine sounds from F M U’s library of sound embrace the stifling proximity of intransigence with overtures to power held and thrust as dictates or trampled on as put down.  It too became a piece of remarkable playing in this auditorium.  I compared it to Drum and Bass with effects at a level taking in primitive basic sounds and echo was only in use as a spatial quality transporting listeners to a desolate and machine dominant sphere.  Samples prove to be a good tool with them in use not as stand alone found audio but as here used in overlayers and undershaping sounds.  The tomes of City etc. as literal devices have little use as these sounds cmbinecas unique and unheard sounds oblivious to our connection with those words.  The simple thing it projects is to a Utopia which we cannot see but might hear.

The final piece was the collaborative piece was reminiscent of when I heard Jan Garberek and The Hilliard Ensemble perform in close proximity.  JB was about a meter away when he began the concert and this time no tenor, counter tenor, or contralto but a fusion of ‘bird’ talk’ between two instruments.  The Cello and Saxaphone.

If more info is wanted follow improvasionalresearch.com and the SARC site where the binary headphone experience is to be mixed and put up for a representation of the above through Sonic Performance spaces 34 speakers.  That will be entirely different form the performance but a huge almost surreal transmission of it.  sarc.qub.ac.uk events will find you in the place.

Next Art from corners

Line and Litho 1

Improper Knot 2

RUA Time-Out (Children’s ante-room is a relief)


Metal object 1


RUA Fun Item 1


Binary World (after RUA work)


RUA 2 Fun is discernable?


Metal object 2


Portrait (after BP neck stretching exercise)


Metal alchemy 1

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Food corners

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Interior folds out

 

John Graham

12 October 2017

Belfast

 

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September Ends : A Photo Blog

Blogging Diversion

As I have not seen a film to review in the past few weeks I offer an alternative.
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Great Patrick Street
Here are some of the photographs I’ve taken in and around September.  Not necessarily in this year and also revisited and manipulated at times to draw out the hidden art.
The end game as UUsee it.
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The end game as UU see it.       Here is what Rankin said about his photography lately.

My versions of reaching into those places you see as touching you


Culture Night : Step into the dark. Part 1


Culture Night : Step into the dark. Part 2.

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Vanishing                                                     In the afternoon

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A smile from Poland

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Shouting or silence?  Great Patrick Street.  Paddy McCann installation.

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Tamar Walk wrapped.  C.S. Lewis.

Julie                                                      Anon

 

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Clonard

Eileen in disguise

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Friar’s Graveyard Belfast

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All Souls Belfast

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Riddel’s Warehouse Belfast

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Please check all rooms are unoccupied and switch off all appliances and lights removing plugs from sockets and ensuring all doors are closed and locked where appropriate.  Thank you for your attention.

 

John Graham

28 September 2017

Belfast

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Final Portrait : A Film Review

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Final Portrait
Written and directed by Stanley Tucci, Cast : Geoffrey Rush, Armie Hammer, Clémence Poésy, Tony Shalhoub and Sylvie Testud and is produced by Gail Egan, Nik Bower and Ilann Girard and executive produced by Deepak Nayar, Fred Hogge and Ted Blumberg.

Portrait of the artist by the sitter

The contemporary art world has its many critics and the American art critic James Lord is one who is here shown investigating the ambiguities and parallax views of abstraction and reality, through his invitation by Giacometti in 1964, into his studio to sit for a portrait. It follows James Lord interviewing Alberto Giacometti whose Swiss/Italian is a volatile mix of capitalist and socialist dogmatism. Giacometti sits lachrymose and reflective in the opening scene of their encounter at the Gallery which has as the exhibition title simply – Giacometti. With superb grace and fluid interpretation both Geoffrey Rush and Armie Hammer quickly set forward a relationship based on the repertoire of Giacometti’s work and James Lord as ‘spokesman’ for the outside world accepts the invitation into the world of Giacometti. Lord who is given through his own love of the work and appreciation, an entre nouses to the act of, in this case painting. Rarely will Giacometti have found someone to speak at length about his work while at the same time being the subject of it. The setting is in the Paris studio and its neutrality of colour produces a psychological difference to the other elements of the film which concern the outside life, contrastingly bright and vital with itself providing an unreal Paris of superficial at times Giacometti’s reality.

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Writers and Photographers

While the book on which this is based is itself a work which endures as criticism there were precedents. I have an edition (1996) hardback book by Photographer David Douglas Duncan who in 1957 did a very similar thing. His book is called Picasso paints a Portrait. It to follows the days chronologically as this films tracing out of time passes over. Poetically visual it deftly and precisely charts the process and an empathy emerges as it does with James Lord the inquisitior and the subject art of Alberto Giacometti in the human being. Giacometti seeks to inform how his work evolves yet the contrariness of both artists is evidenced, as well as ego concealed partially – less so in Picasso oeuvre – a gigantic sometimes overwhelming one – one which a note of caution is delivered by Giacometti in a midway mid-day stroll through the sunny graveyard he fondly uses as a basis for remaining ‘grounded!’. At the foot of this piece you will find some illustrations from that book. Two things stand out as key connections to the simple task in hand, their use of the wicker chair as symbol of today’s modernity and the other Egyptian influences. The ancient in tune with this ‘simplicity’ they cannot acquire except in a object of desire.
This film, Final Portrait is based on James Lords book, Giacometti : A Portrait, which many after seeing this will be seeking out to rehearse the insights we have here in a short time witnessed. The film has, like the title, two meanings and hemispheres. Cubism is to Giacometti one success which Cezanne spoke of as geometry speaking in everything. Cubes, Cylinders, Spheres. After all is trivial. This is also a point to collect a thought on Giacometti’s work which is linear and textured could not show the aforementioned but never recognisable instantly as being cubist.

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His early influences

Giacometti was a prolific student of drawing taught by his artist father and academy led with which he acknowledges his work was able to spring from and become the serious insightful presence of interpretation going back through a lineage to Egyptian art, Cycladic art, also work conceived by the African Dan tribe which eschewed literal by making symbolic protrusions, depressions, and which itself had no notion of itself as Artwork, more a record of the interior life’s present and enjoyed. Replicating the partially understood. So far and not beyond. Here in modern society we are blessed and equipped with tools of interpretation and also the comparison of work having gone before because this is the territory opened up by Gaicometti and our brief excursion into understanding it is part of the overwhelming wash of visual mental stimulation 21st century art through instragram, Pinterest, Google has put in front of us. There is no place it seems nowadays for things to be tentative as we know all too well the temporality of everything. Yet we revisit ad memoirium things and objects arrested moments. We love the memoriter.

There is one point in Giacometti’s life, very early on while he was in the tutelage of his teacher, Emile-Antoine Bourdelle, when his first model, and love probably was sitting for him and he realised this – His approach was inspired by one model. In the winter of 1920 he began a sculpture of a friend with whom he was staying and, after six months of her sitting for the work, he suddenly realised a complete fracture between what he saw and what he could make. This crucial turning point became the reference for every artwork he subsequently created; he claimed every portrait after descended from this one piece – the film does place the same into the narrative exactly when James Lord first sits down.

There is an important point of change in his life which is the death of his and Diego’s father in 1933. He altered his work becoming more ‘ruminant’ perhaps is one way of expressing it.

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Plasticity of words and work

The words, not coined by his Catalogue writer, Jean-Paul Sartre, ‘The figures were never for me a compact mass, but rather like a transparent construction.’ This was written in 1929 to Pierre Matisse on the pieces, Homme et Femme and more persuasively Femme Couche qui rêve (1929) which goes back to the African Dan tribe depiction of a woman and birth. It is telling that Giacometti relied on others as well as his tutors to remove the clouds around his art. Jean-Paul Sartre was trusted but he, Giacometti did depend on success or recognition at least to see it’s worth in continuing to work as he did. It was as most artists worth their salt dependant on shedding some insights on the world while their here.  He explodes at the point of a mark misplaced with the F word.  There is an ambiguity I saw in the latent homosexuality of Giacometti withstanding his prolific indulgence with the ‘fallen’ women he cherished.
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Hard discovery

He also took on the burden of thinking, as this film’s period shows the mortality and proximity and control one had over ones life. He disavowed while at the same time contemplated suicide but was in his bi-polarity state only briefly. Instead he devoured life around him and unlike Virginia Wolff was unable to attest to the sovereignty of life by ultimately cashing in her mind for, it is beyond us to see what state of mind took VW beyond the trouble she conceived existed around her. No explanation is offered into the needs and further explorations Giacometti needs to make except by the otherwise obtuse virtue of the title of the film. The Final Portrait.
As it is a test Giacometti put to himself which is voiced in the film I bring the Virginia Wolff discovery of herself unable to resist her choice in this final letter to her sister Vanessa Bell, herself a painter. “Sunday – Dearest, You can’t think how I loved your letter. But I feel I have gone too far this time to come back again. I am certain now that I am going mad again. It is just as it was the first time, I am always hearing voices, and I shan’t get over it now. All I want to say is that Leonard has been so astonishingly good, every day, always; I can’t imagine that anyone could have done more for me than he has. We have been perfectly happy until these last few weeks, when this horror began. Will you assure him of this? I feel he has so much to do that he will go on, better without me, and you will help him. I can hardly think clearly anymore. If I could I would tell you what you and the children have meant to me. I think you know. I have fought against it, but I can’t any longer. Virginia.” This was ever a similar but converse reaction to the ‘final portrait’ Giacometti never gave up on achieving.

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Telling direction

The ‘Final Portrait’ is itself decided by the very accomplished writing and Directing of Stanley Tucci. His grasp of the subject is immense. He is able to take away the familiar work as it is of a different time. He knows he is dealing with the later matured Alberto. He therefore cannot use the familiar pieces or work to ‘familiarise’ us with the extent and immense groundbreaking work he had produced. Only one piece I have seen before – there are sketches and variations of small and human scale pieces which are in the studio – one in the courtyard depicts this drawings final realisation in the courtyard entrance at the beginning of the film. The work of the twenties, thirties, forties is virtually uncatalogued but ideas are plentiful as is reminiscent stories for James to absorb while being painted. It is revelatory in the time capsule. It shows the duality of the scheme of life between the existence and non existence.

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Form and structure.

Stanley Tucci is very astute in the delivery of this story. For its structure is easy to follow being based on a narrated daily journal of the sitting for the portrait. Day 1, Day 2 etc., and we are given a Film of two kinds. One is the easy chronological insight into the contemporary art world of the sixties and the emotional drivers of Giacometti through his loves and acquaintance’s. The story has love, familial compromise, conviviality, depression, joy, angst, joie de vivre, criminality, greed, regarde, consciousness, worldliness, humour, with very little disposition for effect.
The world is on the one hand depicted as a portrait of the artist with bourgeois representation and light touch Parisian gallic charm ruthlessly exploited with the musical pathos the serene views and historical significance of Liberté, égalité, fraternité and the Marseille Frenchness lightly painted for a film audience not to become vexed by the characters seen but warming to them in a symbolic way. The confronted, the confronted, the aesthete, the consort, the domicile, the contented. There are better representations but these token characterisations are employed here to imply the construct is made this way to give an audience its clear idea of being able to believe in the art and artist. The other way, the second, is Stanley Tucci delving into the very words Giacometti said about his work which he shows us is the basis of an insightfulness achievable through this two handed piece of portraitist and the sitter. In it is life explored. The arc of Alberto Giacometti is clearer for the method used.
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His studio

The studio is a back street 46 rue Hippolyte Maindron and it is what he tells his wife Annette – played beautifully, constrained and wild in equal measure and a devotee, by Sylvie Testud – as home. It is literally like a void only filled by the work and the presence of people. It has not affectation. A word he delights in using. Then there is the Café life, the Café Adrien which is more a fully developed restaurant. The outdoors comprises a few streets and occasional boulevard but mostly is the graveyard with its Mausoleum’s and Standing Gravestones. As well as this we meet in the studio the visiting lover and consort under no pretence of it being otherwise his favoured muse and adulteress Caroline played with coy affected joyfulness by Clémence Poésy. In one scene it is a place he visits disconsolate and adrift in search of the lost Caroline in which there are sheltered under the hood of deaths doorway heavily metaphorically the mistresses of petit morte.

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So his world is captured in a few locations and this allows the words to be expressed between James and Alberto. Ever watchful is Diego played by a very balanced Tony Shalhoiub his talented brother, talented in measurement, of the presentation and value of work who exercises influence whenever he can to see things do not get out of control. He also produces small pieces and lets them alone to exist as material objects not having apportioned value. Diego had a child which Alberto represented, un-childlike but as metaphor, in a famous sculpture which recognised love. Over the days their conversations become more complex and both become at ease. These illuminate the story as Stanley Tucci uses these periods to delve into the place of the primary issue being scoped out. That perhaps being the artists battle with the void in art which is seen in every sculpture and painting, sketch he produces. This emptiness has the force to be greater than its minimal presence. In the studio there is a collection which he either consoles himself with or as stimuli to create better versions of his works. It is a very sparse but cluttered space.

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James Lord is able to follow the painting process while continually, at his partners unamused confusion, postponing his departure and is able to extend for weeks, his insight observing and getting to know Giacometti. He is able to eventually discern which brush Alberto picks up and which stage of the process he’s at. Infuriatingly he also gets to understand the method of working is just working. That A Final Portrait can never be. He is conscious the work in a split second can be over done and then Alberto lifts another brush to put it to negative effect subtracting what he has worked.
The Working of this film has a duality is as I noted earlier. There are very persuasive actions, mostly achieved through the characters, of Tucci finding opportunities to place empathically the core person behind the career which is famously and at times misconstrued.  The tyranny of his loves, the tyranny of money, his oblique but absorbing view of the small habitué of his studio and district, the machinations of dealers some of whom he is very friendly with and grateful to as they recognise largely the work and they facilitate it reaching a wider audience than either his brother or he could contemplate spending time pursuing.

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Conclusion ####4

This is a fascinating film on a fascinating and visionary, special artist whose work as a Sculptor informed us and many other artists of the extremities and location of limits in the pursuit of a depiction of his reality which overlaps and underscores each and everyone of us capable of sight and observation.  The extent of his drawing is seen in the fact the film comprises in the main act of portraiture advancing.  There are two sides to it also – the futile and ordinary everyday particles comprising life which are oversaturated in light touch direction by this first main feature length film by the appreciative Stanley Tucci – then the intense part – the art and its delivery which is in negative tonal black and white colouration mainly.  It exceeds expectations and is much more than a depiction on film of a book by the highly astute observer, James Lord played brilliantly by Armie Hammer.  To act alongside Geoffrey Rush whose interpretation seems flawless, is itself a task well met.  Geoffrey Rush even gauges the walk, including at this time his limp from a car accident and short practices of working a clay or poster mix (the pieces are complex but textural) and his eye shows the sight and detail the work entails.  Also the framing is Giacometti like in its plainness and directness. Detail is examined and good touches of – what might have been difficult within a studios confined, cluttered space – is done with accomplished smooth ease.  It is a work of loving appreciation and as much accuracy and truthfulness such a journey takes or needs.  Beautifully crafted this will be seen as a highly effective insight to the master at work at leat in the window of the narrow time frame.  The exploration it seems it compels into the other work – Diego sat each day apparently for seven years and was his first and last subject – implies his figure is the everyman.  It is quite a unique piece of work in every sense.

John Graham

16 August 2017

Belfast.

FINAL PORTRAIT will screen at QFT Belfast from 18th August 2017 until 24th August 2017

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Influences

 

Annette and Caroline

 

Picasso

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Maudie: A Film Review

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Director. Aisling Walsh. Produced by Bob Cooper. Mary Young Leckie. Mary Sexton. Susan Mullen. Written by Sherry White.

Cast. Sally Hawkins. as Maud Lewis. Ethan Hawke. as Everett Lewis. Kari Matchett. as Sandra. Gabrielle Rose. as Aunt Ida. Zachary Bennett. as Charles Dowley. Lawrence Barry. as Mr. Davis (Shopkeeper) Greg Malone. as Mr. Hill. Billy MacLellan. as Frank. Music by Michael Timmins. Cinematography Guy Godfree. Edited by Stephen O’Connell. Production companies, Rink Rat Productions, Screen Door, Parallel Films. Distributed by Mongrel Media. Duration. 1hr 46mins. Rated PG. Country , Ireland, Canada

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Maudie

In Canadian/Irish production the biographical story of Maud Lewis, Maudie, is told loosely dramatising what must have been a devilishly difficult life. Maudie became a folk artist heroine of great standing by observing Canada and its nature in simple naive art. Her art was picturesque ethereal and colourful. Working everyday she painted every season creating a world few imagined existed anymore. It was a form of magical realism without the realm of fantasy.

Maud Lewis is a determined individual as this story shows. With challenges of firstly chronic arthritis and spinal curvature which meant she struggled to move efficiently, also she was very small and accordingly was seen by her family as lacking the ability to look after herself so ended up being looked after by Aunt Ida in Digby, Nova Scotia. Itself a fishing town on the outskirts of a vast continent it was nevertheless a settlement which suited her outdoor nature loving heart I would suggest. The trouble was the arrangement brought about by a financial arrangement with her brother Charles lacked love which she seemed to crave and be absent from. There is one incident which ‘defines’ the notion, she couldn’t look after herself which is where the arrangement presumably came about.
We see Maudie from mid adulthood and nothing is suggested of her life before then or where her artistic skills we nurtured or became mature. The film’s arc is her adult life. Born in 1903 she lived until 1970.  Little is made of her early life and instead of taking a wider arc it puts aside any melodrama, and events which would have affected her enormously.  Nothing of her parents or struggles to survive the severe rheumatoid arthritis but enter the story when she is being cared for by Aunt Ida or early ventures if any into art.

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The town becomes a character as it provides the inspiration for Maud’s painting. In the local general store she overhears Everett Lewis played by Ethan Hawk, whose Hollywood haircut certainly looks out of place.  There are issues to be found throughout with the time passing element hardly depicting the 35 odd years Everett and Maud had time together.  When he puts out a requests for a housekeeper he  barely expects Maud to be the one putting it up to him as a woman who would do his chores when he is away on his wayfarer fish seeking and junk retrieval business.  He lives in a house about 8 metered square with a sleeping room in the apex of the roof.  It is very unkept but it is also a bit of a home.

Maud after an argument with Aunt Ida goes and takes the job and gets into a routine when Everett takes her onboard.  Everett has been brought up at an orphanage which he still calls into from time to time to get any useful junk they are throwing out.  He even sits down at a meal when it’s on offer with the children who are there.  This makes him very flawed when dealing with people an he has a temper which comes out as abuse with Maud.   Maud who has a number of ailments none of which would hardly be clear of pain.  Both characters are therefore set in an internalised world already with little notion or need foe wider ambitions.  So it is disapponting to see these two actors who are a neat fit spoil the exploration of the characters because ther are no scenes of deep recall or of their backstory.  Surely a major failing in gaining leverage.  Sarah Hawkinsat times seems affected which is far from what I would imagine her character to be.  The first instance of this jarring acting was early on when her brother Charlie is ‘negotiating’ the care of Maud.  She swings and swivels and then having caught this as a note twists her hair and this is often parlayed out later on.  Ethan Hawke places his ‘notes’ in picking up a piece f timber or a tool and chucking it behind him.  I got into a game of will he won’t he ‘discard this item’, it may work and maybe I’m over critical but small things matter as do the cars, the scenery and the seemingly implausibly long walks Maud especially takes to get around.

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The compressed into a series of chapters separated or punctuated by the seasons marching on. We see lots of beautiful wide scope sunsets, serenity of snow filled peaks and spreading landscape along with the tableau of wild flowers seasons arrival is announced by. Just this week the story of the flower received a ‘scientific’ attribution. All flowers it seems derive from one of around 130 million years ago. The first one it is believed was a white water-lily.

Artwork

Undoubtedly the film brings a broader perspective to the work produced by Maud.

Out of the small room comprising the living cooking dining and washing duties from the dark green distance of the walls would come shades of light green emerging into the daylight falling on objects.
As Liz (Dame) Smith once remarked about her loosing her mother when she was two, her mother only twenty three – it is an animal trait that if there is no one standing beside you, others can push you around without fear of confrontation.

 

Conclusion ###3

There has been a routinely good response to this film but I found it asking more questions than it answered.  The ‘family’ situation was totally out of the ordinary and the people in what is basically a two handed do not talk about their lives.  They jointly discover intimacy and it is left aside with moments of abuse entering into it.

I have to say it left me totally underwhelmed.

Go see you will most probably learn from it.

John Graham

4 August 2017

Belfast.On at Queens Film Theatre from Friday 4 August through to and including Thursday 17 August 2017

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Frantz : A Film Review

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Dir: François Ozon; Starring: Paula Beer, Pierre Niney, Ernst Stötzner, Marie Gruber, Anton von Lucke, Cyrielle Clair. 12A cert, 114 mins.

Setting of Post World War 1

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The opening passage of François Ozon’s elegant interwar romance invites us to second-guess the story that links Parisian musician Adrien Rivoire (Pierre Niney) to Anna’s late love, Frantz. Frantz is Anton von Lucke.

A melancholic period drama, Frantz, is an elegant reimagining of the story behind Ernst Lubitsch’s undersung 1932 drama Broken Lullaby.  It is Post World War One in a central German hillside town called Quedlinburg which is a UNESCO protected location.  It is the backdrop to the family home of the Hoffmeisters whose son Frantz was killed in action on French soil.  The elderly parents remain,  Doctor Hans and Mrs Magda Hoffmeister (Ernst Stötzner and Marie Gruber) are in the middle of the town and still Hans practices as a Doctor.  They have provided a roof over the head of Franzt’s intended bride whose daily visit to the grave erected in the hilltop cemetery is her place of comfort and the families only memorial.
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Complex emotive story

This is a deeply sad and complex war story told exquisitely by the twin hands of the principles, Anna (Paula Beer) and Adrien Rivoire (Pierre Niney) alongside a strong supporting cast.  The town Quedlinburg is a lost empty place without the middle aged and young men it has given to the war.  In one scene in the Hotel, Tavern, which is the centre of town life in some respects, it is notable when Doctor Hoffmeister goes along to a meeting of the menfolk, how with only one year having passed and pain, grief an anguish are all palpable and hurt is within the very bodies of the survivors.  Those with whom some responsibility lies in sending their young offspring to war.  This hurt regret, remorse, redress, reflection, is not a redemptive theme explored by the very masterful direction of François Ozon but one of conscious.  Retaining your sense of self and direction is troubling for everyone. Ozon’s past films are absorbing emotional spirited in theme as were, the sensuous Swimming Pool and Jeune & Jolie, with soon to be unveiled, Double Lover marking a return to those emotive personal tales after this more constrained and brilliantly balanced story of the melt within Europe over borders you cannot see in the Isra she shoots across the view from Quedlinburg.  At a height of thought also, he takes this story markedly into a melting pot of ideas and that it took place almost 100 years ago it’s a vision and offering for our own times.

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Anna and Adrien.

Centrally Anna and Adrien are brought together in this aftermath.  This is a summary position of dealing which their individual pasts.  The footsteps are first taken as we see Anna, after an opening shot of a hot simmering country wide view in one frame in colour, then into black and white of Anna buying flowers at he market stalls of Quedlinburg.  The streets rise to the cemetery through ancient narrow cobbles, up a steep set of steps to the open plain of the graveyard.  It is drenched in bright sunshine and François Ozon begins painting frames as an artist does with the drooping darkness of heavy topped trees branches shading parts of the graveyard and it’s random pattern of stones laid in rough rows seem to lend a peace and sense of ease as the order is lost and not heightened as was the third Reich.  This has a poignancy exacting of the sense of place, its genus loci being this infringement between the living and the dead in memories.

The compelling question from the outset is – Why is Adrien leaving flowers on the grave of a German soldier, Frantz?  With a sweep of a leafbrush the graveyard attendant imparts his identity as that f aFrenchman who is staying in the aforesaid Hotel.  The connections have to be pursued and it is the object of both to reach a point where they can talk.
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Skip comparative reviews.

There is a school of thought which I deplore, in some reviewers making connections – as they have done with this in respect of Vertigo, –  the displaced person in a love triangle, – of the other, a Hitchcock rumination akin to Rebecca – which in this film are totally useless. That viewpoint actually labours the point to actually attune it more to this misread being the theme of the film in scores.  The film is enfused with hidden truths, conceits, contrivances made to ease the pain and harm of things past. It is even seen by one as being like the work of another director preposterously so. Being unlike Ozon is very Ozon. It is in fact gloriously rendered which makes any pathetic correlation a nonsense.  The film stands alone as an art piece and while the artist, director have long connections through their own process of becoming directors themselves it is not a place to put those connections to the fore as ‘influences’, that is a tedious comparison.  This artwork speaks for itself.  …. One review has discovered it is nothing whatsoever led by the fore said but still posits …    (although his influence on the final film is undeniable).  As if this should or would have any relevance to a viewer allowing the piece to tell its own story.  Superbly.
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Anna’s horrible dilemma.

The perils of Anna whose life is in limbo, a short time after the war, is polemic.  Her past life and proposed future is totally conflicted by the grief she shares with Doctor and Mrs Hoffmeister.  The performance of Paula Beer is a colossal depiction of grief internally residual.  She holds her grief intact and in so doing is asking questions of herself, throughout the first, second and third acts as she deals with new developments and disclosures.  She, in so doing, makes herself vulnerable and inconsolable at times, internally so.  When she meets with Adrien after observing him from a distance at the cemetery, she is both shaken by his perceived closeness to her lost fiancé.  In seeking answers she also is caught in a despairing, unrelenting story of loss with no parties able to reach out to the truth.  Adrien is adroit at making things appear plausible and acceptable.  He is handsome, has an angular tautness, is eloquent, thoughtful, possibly well educated man.  Perhaps too thoughtful and naive in the possibilities that might arise from his actions.  He is brought into the family home and with that deepens his lachrymose impediment, his imbedded grief, disabling him to points of disclosure, as the hurt would be unbearable.  Seeing them is a barrier to telling what he knows in full, with their openness and hospitality having been satiated by Anna in advance making this dramatic encounter when it eventually is arranged profoundly heartfelt.  What lies beneath this surface is not known nor will it be shared for sometime if at all.  This is the magnificence of the story telling, unfolding in aching timbre emoted visually touching through the actors prearadness softly set out in slow framed consciousness.  The cinematography has a slight taint to it in that it uses cascade at times out of synch with the unfolding piece.  For instance the changes from black and white to colour, the cascade, are intended to visualise the positive and warmth in relations iincrementally developing.  Yet it sometimes remains in black and white while that positivity is surging.  There are flashbacks to scenes described between Anna and Adrien of Frantz in the prior period.  That advances War scenes in colour and disharmony on the part of the rhetoric.  It could have been the intention to depict falsehoods in colour but that is neither the case.

Station to station

The belle indifférence with the previous pre-war world is seen in the French sequences of Paris seen as a repairing regrenerating counterpoint to Germany with strolling through the Louvre.  Looking at Manets The Bathers with beneath it, Le Suicide.  The Parisienne fortunes appear secure until late we visit the city and see its invalided body shattered and barely functional.  Losses are in the second half now relater back to the French mirror image with raw torn hearts spilling with their own grief.  The lack of manpower to rebuild also is evident.  The Cafe Belle Époque of the prewar years have vanished as if they never existed.  These times in France are frequently visited as in Therese Discomany, the Francóis Maurice love story or romance and in England it spurred Hillaire Belloc to read into the French and German dilemma such things as were prescient as his boook simply called The Jews reflects.   The era is a classic place of adjustment on the continent.  The borders of the Versailles Treaty escaping the paper constructs of power brokerage and envisioning some relenting peace are to determine so many revisions and the place of starting over.  Such memories of that war were psychologically damaged stubbing for the human beings that survived and were born into it.  This is a point well travelled by François Ozon.  The tributes to people lie everywhere you step.  The consoling and consoled.  The embittered and the vengeful.  The hardened and positive, negative deniers.  The words of the script are beautifully sharp and breathing every btreath allowing the characters to deeply affect you.  There are no persons within it who are trivialised by being seen as perpetrators, or being the enemy.  Far from it the sensitivities are enlarger by the resort to poetry as in the Verlaine poem recited at one point and the rendition in a public place of La Marseillaise. Discomforting in its – subtitled English excentuates the folly of some heroic words – presence there, right in the time.  The immovable shape of the form of war.
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Conclusion ####4

The film of the year so far for me.  Frantz is a lesson for modern living.  The exploration of the psychological depths people go to to either convince themselves of a truth or naively embark on consuming someone else’s apparent truth are startlingly effective. It is a sad and remorselessly engaging heroic film.  Anna is a flawed heroine as indeed despite his misreading of the reasoning he puts to things, is also an essentially flawed person with a ruined perspective of life brought on undoubtedly by war.  The thought is inescapable as the war poetry of many follows in this malaise of mind tyranny in order to cope and construct something at terms with the present.  Writers like Michel Houllebecq make the morose sexual eaae methods deployed in and out of war a frequent tap root of sorrow. The novel in its 20th century incarnations after Stoker, Shelley, Balzac, Dickens have given literature many versions of the nation and the use of borders as an identity rising as a continual denier of the universal truth of equality before God.  

John Graham
17 May 2017
Belfast

On from this Friday 19 May until and including Thursday 25 May 2017

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Personal Shopper : A Film Review


Personal Shopper
Director. Olivier Assayas, Produced by Charles Gillibert, Written by Olivier Assayas, Starring Kristen Stewart, Lars Eidinger, Sigrid Bouaziz, Anders Danielsen Lie, Ty Olwin, Hammou Graia, Nora von Waldstatten, Benjamin Biglay, Audrey Bonnet, Pascal Rambert. Cinematography, Yorick Le Saux, Edited by Marion Monnier, Production company, CG Cinéma, Vortex Sutra, Detailfilm, Sirena Film, Arte France Cinéma, Arte Deutschland/WDR, Cert. 15. Duration 1hr 50mins.


The Outline

A young American in Paris works as a personal shopper for a female mega-rich celebrity. Personal Shopper Maureen played by Kristen Stewart seems to have the ability to communicate with spirits, like her recently deceased twin brother. Soon, she starts to receive ambiguous messages via. text from an unknown source.  Her travels take her to and from London and she is stalked by these messages while she is figuring out her brother Lewis’s ‘presence’ while advising his late partner and friends on the forms medium enquiry takes, as all try tying up loose ends concerning the former home the couple lived in.  While it is on her mind she remains there in Paris addressing the spiritual effects on her.


Acting Sharps

Love or hate central character Kristen Stewart either a cool, ‘calm and self assured way … in the portrayal of Maureen who is an assistant operating as the title says in a shadow role … ‘ as someone very competent, smart and young as others see her (male and female acquaintances come up with the similar infuriating answers) that she acts perilously close to appearing to have let off a sneaky fart.  Her facial expressions in other words conveying this repose. Not exactly the way of conveying criticism but there is a public appetite for simplification and many ways of expression co-exist.  I differ though as though I am not entirely taken by her acting while appreciating here and in the previous collaboration – she seemed better in – Clouds of Sils Maria, with director Olivier Assayas.  This is a sensational chilling, at times disturbing, ghostly twin peaks thriller.  That is more than overkill as a description and instead it could be – some fellow viewers say it this way – as a plodding vision on spiritualism explored using 1900 references, musical, novel and filmic as well as a large presence of abstract art.  Being critical of Kristen Stewarts presence and acting impress is valid due to the high profile she has attained.  She has her smarts choosing parts suiting her and this again is one that she excells in my view as she ‘inhabits’ the part and allows its slow release.  Optimum high drama is not her style and a lot here depends on her not reacting to situations as a witless overacting actress quite legitimately could have portayed it. It will be interesting when another more dynamic dramatic challenging part requiring altered states of acting rather than altered states of mind – laid on her courtesy or constrictingly here by Olivier Assayas.

Trope trailing trowels

We are no longer in the vulnerable trope female genre age (I sincerely hope) and as a personality the bi-sexual individuality of Stewart operates on a higher plain.  So much more is – in her projection – about you seeing a woman thinking on her feet. That is how it should be. Film making advances and KS is up with tat unquestionably.  Choices in fashion shops for someone else, to Kyra (Nora von Waldstatten) who she doesn’t empathise with and while things happen in many ways as she tries to contact her late brother Lewis firstly via. a stopover in the house he and his partner, who has since vacated it, lived in.  This is something she delivers on.  The shallow part is in the drama internalised.  It is impossible to convey – otherwise our Director would not formulate filmic distortions and overlay them. The layering on of some actress throwing up water of liquified gung down screen and walloping us with ‘fright bites’ tells you the actress is apparently aware of a ‘presence.’  So that’s the chops of limitation gone. Terrifyingly the film ‘Under the Shadow‘ did it so much better as did Narges Rashidi’s Shideh acting even allowing for the presence of a child.  It is light years ahead of this film.


Lessons in doubt

Maureen being a twin has been consumed by her late brothers interst in ectoplasmic experiences and his intoxication with spiritualism. If some viewers actually extend the idea she is herself a medium, it is not quite that distinct in the fiilm and purposefully some dialogue indicates that. The co-relation of the twins is used as a deep connective configuration advancing and allowing us to give credibility to her need to go into this means to connect.  Also advanced as a secondary way is the story of prospective purchasers who Lara, brilliant delivery (Sigrid Bouaziz) has arranged a provisional sale with – providing it’s not haunted.  Quite how they got to be aware of this possibility is another unlikelihood.  Hey but this is story telling and poltergeists are everywhere.  Victor Hugo gets an approval rating by way of a filmic diversion explored by the search engine world all inhabit.  It’s not just employed as a screenshot on a phone but is itself put up in 4×3 ratio as a cut into the film itself – placing it as a condescending educational aid primarily as it is counterproductive and another piece of confirmation Maureen is not fully up to speed on large figures of medium history.  Odd?


General Major Von Ruff (Lars Indiger) from BBC’s SS-GB turns up as a companion of the Mega-rich Celebrity Maureen and equips it with a side story but the sensationalist use of both characters is for drama content only absenting itself from the plot.  Into the ingredients come supposed markers in the form of Phone text exchanges as Maureen continues to buy things from Paris and London, furnish the clients wardrobe and only briefly interacts personally with.


Work of Hilma-af-Kline. (Other images seen in film)

Abstraction

This film takes us through the territory’s of well documented followers of spiritualism from the abstract artists to the novelists though not going as far back as Shelley, Wolsencroft, Yeats etc. and Hugo is highest in exploration while Steiner and Germanic themes dismissing spiritualism are advanced along with an atmosphere borrowed from Cabaret and musical underpinning which adds up to a concoction mash up rather than a rather good recipe which on other occasions may have expanded the thesis or directors aims, understanding for us to be satiated in this complex ‘other’ world.  Presumably Aleister Crowley was a no go area and too unfashionable.  Swedish pioneer Hilma -aft-Klint is the most clearly ‘startling’ face of examination on the subject while Hugo is very obviously the exponent of the written conquest of the forms and ideas.  Conquistador, never thought I’d use that, but the film has Victorian and lots of diverse angles, unfortunately in a mash up.
Maureen is a supremely assured young person in Paris who clings to the memory of her twin brother Lewis who has recently died.  His widow .. is coming to terms with the loss and is almost separate in grieving.  The effect on her of loss is never explored properly which sits badly. Her character is strongly projected and lifts and contrasts with the central dynamic.  The lack of awareness is ascript problem with presence taken with other choices themselves pedestrian and in danger of seeking out artfulness.  Is it attempting to convey the everyday?  Contemporising the vision of ordinariness/complexity each apparent, in our existence with unexplained spiritual questions a fixed part of life explored variously but where is the hook and ponderable intensity of the question?  It’s virtually lost as will become clear by anyone seeing it through to the end.

Subtraction of anxiety

Because there is an appetite for skilful drama on subjects of family loss and the strangeness of further and further examples of concealment – not in plain sight issues and ideas or science based constructs – we are hopeful of it being satiated.  That is where Cinema a sets itself apart from other ‘media’.  Film has delivered the technical age of impersonal interchange.  Scream. Nightmare on Elm Street.  Under the Shadow subverts this completely and intelligently using a blank TV to put the self into and see things there.  Text requires your imagination – it’s no secret – has to put in absent words became se of the truncation. Cinema has past history unparalleled in taking us into challenging peaks and troughs of life.  Life itself defined here crudely in death.  The only part of our awareness of life is experienced by death. Time shaped life is present in the moment collated through memory which itself is plastic.  For a true picture of the phenomenon unstarstruck this is not the place to look for answers and ‘arthouse’ is a looser bond here in the speel given in other reports as to its veracity or filmic depth visually or storywise attributing as it does too many ‘representative’ tokenist tropes and planks of assumed knowledgeability of the topic to have it drop the ball somwhere over the Seine.

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Other psychics are available – Aleister Crowley                         Victor Marie Hugo also wrote his original thoughts on mediums

Conclusion ###3

I was initially interested in where this film might take the ectopsmic hinterlands of spirituality in the authorship of Olivier Assayas but was quickly disappointed in its seemingly directionless plot building.  Fashion houses only are of passing interest – after Comme Garçon all pails.  The bling of glitterati in hot house shops conveyed the Personal Shopper role without intimating any lack of form or shape to the body of the human placed in the centre being at odds with that occupation.  It is and was a mere occupation apyingbthe bills and any opportunity to convey materialist notions of contemporary value systems were non existent.  So what then?  Maureen clearly was using the job to pay the rent and apart from some passing exploration of the sexual content of the choices she was making for her clients identity which were at times matching her own it too was trivial in its effectiveness.  There is not a lot an actress could do with the clothes except cosset nourish herself with their temporary escape and then move on.  The void was so apparent and uninteresting.  As for the spiritual enlightenment none came to pass. Quite a few reactions were of the ‘presence’ of absence which is stretching the task of using language to fit the void in extremis.  It may have worked with emphasis in different places but it didn’t shape up at all.  As for its tendency to factorilise the brief of the ‘medium’ it was tediously condescending it is attempt at gravitas.  While many will like it because they like the look it is hardly going to be held as a new thought provoking exemplary piece of film making.

Kristen Stewart needs better work and can outlast this temporary indulgent blip.  I certainly hope and expect her to excel somewhere along the line.  I was said in a ‘proper’ review! nameless that  She possesses an uncanny ability to turn her natural charisma into diffidence. You can’t take your eyes off her, even as she ..  That view has a different outcome for me as plain blandness.  The view related also paying film fans. Still in a parallel world – the world of Russian Vogue I believe KS turns up recently as a fashion model and all the clothes are radiant and colourful.  See the web for the blonde new look attire.  Strikingly photographed.  No hint of irony but clothes listed in Russian!

John Graham
16 March 2017

Belfast
On at Queens Film Theatre Belfast from 17 March through to and including 23 March 2017.  Also on General release at selected Cinemas.

Life, Animated : A Film Review

Life,Animated


Director. Roger Ross Williams. Cast/’Featured’. ‘Owen Siskind, Walt Suskind, Cordelia Suskind, Ron Suskind’, Jonathan Freeman, Gilbert Gottfried, Ron Suskind. Genre: Documentary. English. Running Time: 1hr 29min. 

Documentary

This film is an extraordinary example of human willpower overcoming deficits within the human form. Deficits which cause it not to work in the way most of us anticipate and hope to carry forward.  Autism is a complex neurological disorder which has a very wide variance across the diagnostic spectrum.  Some elements of motor malfunctioning takes place with limbs and head being given to spasmodic movements.  At the age of three the portents showed in Owen Suskind was not like other children of his age. Parents Ron and Cordelia Suskind notice the change advancing swiftly taking their son prisoner.  They describe the onset with frank accuracy giving us account which the Oscar®-winning director Roger Ross Williams uses home movie footage to outline the passage of Owens disorder.  From then onward Williams uses illustration alongside conventional conversational interview and observation, inspired by the illustrated Ron Suskind book together with the beginnings of Disney Movie referencing.


Family hope.

Ron Suskind reveals a moment of discovery for him into Owens mind and how it worked. Previously playing and acting out characters from Disney movies they had watched had made no connection with him.  In a scene which also reveals Owens fathers determination and willpower on learning what they all confronted Ron breaks down a wall of the prison when an enlighted moment works out the Disney characters have a great deal more meaning than mere entertainment.  Astonishingly Ron becomes a transformed parent with some hope.  The downside is that the evaluation is circumspect in the conservative diagnosis of the specialist they work with.  It signals language understanding but no expression of connected meaning and linkage. The discovery of the language key that unlocks speech and the ability to converse is itself a wonderful moment and well explained in the film by Ron while it is illustrated by the flood of beautiful rolling animation.  I will leave you to discover how the journey begins. 


Owens world

Owen is in a world he knows by means other than ours. This awareness is a core issue. Nosce te ipsum, temet nosce (“thine own self know”) appears in The Matrix translated as “know thyself”.  Dad and son ignore the strictures of Medical niceties and begin a dialogue henceforth based on the most part by relating everything to Disney movies and more particularly the characters.  The reveal for us is how it works.  Owen is introduced to us early on at his ‘present’ age of 23.  We then meet elder brother Walt who is a grounded individual full of empathy and common sense and a great friend and foil for Owen to relate to literally.


Owens story

From the beginning of this film we enter the agonising world of evaluation confronting the family. Conceptual thinking is confined to Owen describing bad times as glop.  He taught himself to read through the films.  Films do not have subtitles so how!  Every encounter in his early years is fraught with strangeness and after two phases of schooling one of which rejects him because they do not have the skills to cope and his piers in learning difficulties themselves are leaving Owen behind.  Even so this is devastating and these episodes because the belong to the past are where director Roger Ross Williams works with the book illustrations animating them with full frame pictures of Owen as a young boy bewildered and looking over his shoulder.  Developmentally though Owen is using his own imaginary tools – films – observing his family and their emotional drivers to produce a world of absolutes.  Certainty is found in The Lion King, Peter Pan, The Jungle Book, Bambi, Aladdin, Dumbo, Beauty and the Beast with brilliant accurate reading of each characters roll.  Ron and Owen could run masterclasses on Disney movies and this in fact is what – at the age of 23 – Owen does at the learning facility by starting a Disney Club and becoming not only a Disney lecturer but to teach his fellow students how to read the stories or rather bring out of them the meanings they are aware of to recognize their connection with the real world. Pitfalls and all.  The journey is not easy and darkly intimidating for the mixed ability classroom.


The Disney Emotional lexicon.

While he has become an expert, acquiring a collection of VHS of hundreds of Disney films and recorders and remote controls manipulated like Darth Vader, rewinding after rewind over parts of films he notes as stimulating. Captain Hook is a favourite, he is in all other ways a normal guy.  When it came to reading expressions and mannerisms he finds it hard and likewise it requires a lot of attention to see how Owens behaviour has its nuances.  In lots of autostic folk there is a tendency to stoop forward and look at the ground while walking – Owen and his therapist note this and also discuss Awareness while being outside.  Of where to cross a road and paying attention.  I found watching Owens expressions when he was in a ‘autistic’ moment, one in which he was calculating or trying to work out a thing his right eye would be partially closed while his left eye would be open wider than would be ‘normal’.  When Owen was firing on all cylinders and telling a story – a lecture features – his eyes are as would be expected normally.  Alert and evenly open.  

The simple but precisely how it works as a film, approach by Roger Ross Williams is the brainwave, excusing all those parallel aspects, is to use the very thing which Owen and perhaps other children, teenagers, adults, can utilise – it is seen in the film as having similar effect on other pupils – the Animation in the film of his own construction including a very highly Disney inspired story, from the beginning, narrating the growth and life perils Owen encounters and how it moves on.  Itfeatures in the middle of the film and has the makings of something much bigger.  Get to it Disney!

Autism is so complex

This I think relates to the cerebral cortex which has the left side of the brain working with communication skills, words, speaking, memory and vocabulary, developing complex thought to communicate (it also controls the opposite hemispheres eyes, facial features – the right eye for example) while the right side of the brain deals with spatial awareness, three dimensions and creative things which are worked on internally before being shifted into models of use – i.e. Writing, drawing, expressing through hands, sculpting, manouevering trough the outside space.  The left eye in Owen is showing this I believe.  When a thing is seen clearly in space and tangible.  He also expresses this with his hands, his left eye opens wider controlled by the right side of the brain. When at the same time the way to vocalise this is problematic he shuts his right eye slightly while processing the thing in question.  This obviously is a feature crudely observed but along with other things such as hearing and loud noises other senses are involved. I recall a young mother recently whose daughter suffers along these lines, in a shop when the fire alarm went of the young girl became intensely worried and after a few minutes was clinging to her mother.  Once the alarm stopped her mother had to calm her and introduced a diversion for her daughter.  She said “We need 6 large eggs, now where shall we find the eggs?” Another, “Which cereal shall we get this week, I don’t know which, would you like to choose one for us?”  After twenty minutes or so this ‘work’ was over and the daughter copied her Mum by putting the items on the conveyor at the checkout and joining the queue.  It was a clear and very direct example of how autism affects so many children whose learning is different to the rest.  


Left handed folk. (Owen is right handed so spoils my argument to follow straight away, but bear with me!)

From a little knowledge of (being a left hander) how left and right basis works, I have been told during the pre-birth period if a trauma happens the developmental process is adjusted while the right side functions that are developing cannot continue for a time, the left side of the infant brain processes these ‘right’ side normality in the left hemisphere until normal service is resumed!  It sounds logical enough and I wonder how it occurs and whether it would be amplified in step with the presenting life problems.  A death in the family, an emotional trauma for the mother, a change of circumstances health or otherwise, an accident – falling, breaking something?  There is bound to be a pivotal point where this is manifested.  In recent readings I have become aware of the discoveries in psychology on how malignant aggression may be disposed through a trauma enteringthe world at the point of childbirth, difficulties at the time of birth.  There is also discoveries prenatally in Basic Perinatal Matrices (BPMs) where indications of traumatic ‘histories’ inform life itself and behavioural tendencies.  We are only at the edges of discovery presently.

Where to now

As a family the Suskinds are aware of their own life span and of Walt who is a huge part of the film though Cordelia and Ron are in the frontline daily, has his own life prospects to consider alongside his love and caring for Owen however things may move on.  In the film we have met his Disney Masterclass mates, even a few ‘stars’ of the films and we see the emotional, juvenile rite of passage which Walt has some dilemmas in drawing out, with one of Owens classmates becoming his girlfriend over three years.  Emily is in the same school and plans are progressed for Owen to move out as a matter of course from the family home to a Life assisted living residential home where he will have his own apartment, his own condo and Emily can move along with him to an adjacent condo of her own. 

There is a website set up by Ron Suskind called Welcome to Life, Animated. As follows – lifeanimated.net

Our son Owen, like so many with autism, has an ‘affinity’ — in his case, a deep connection to the Disney movies he’s watched countless times to make sense of an often-bewildering world.

When we first shared Owen’s story, we thought he was one in a million. But the wave of responses we received showed us that Owen was really one among millions. We learned about autistic men, women, boys, and girls all over the world with affinities from movies to maps.

Conclusion ####4

While recent trends in documentary making are used, integrating forms of drama and illustration in ‘sequence’ played out as if the ‘action’ is unrehearsed and legitimate observation – here there are several incidents of ‘happenstance’ when Owen is observed as a link looking at the very same ‘pointer/reveal’ in the Disney contenr and it flows on.  This is moderately irritating but in fairness to deliver in a short time frame – this is a movie after all – the storytelling has to move swiftly to get to the next important thing.  The important thing being to inform us and empathise with the whole situation.  The system of healthcare, the specialists at times floundering on the edge of experience- after all Owen is himself a pioneer and brings plenty by his energy and perseverance – to the need to be in a calm place and his parents moving out to Cape Cod and a beach existence which would soothe anyone – from New York work commitments foe Ron who is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist.  It reveals our own perspectives are lax and the learning is here so well delivered we become advocates or perhaps shall share the knowledge going forward.  As a documentary it is of the highest quality given the ‘disclaimer’ I make immediately above and it is also a work which all involved – Disney published the book on which it is based but did not get involved in any editing, selection of the Disney catalogue and their sister company Pixar films. Owen has possibly memorized the entire catalogue and could make it as an advocate for more animation which is a Law onto itself in many respects.  It is the diet of so many young folk and expands.  I flag up the industrious and talented British creator of an entire series, Mr Moon, Kate Veale whose success for Disney Playtime is huge.  Mr Moon, created by Kate Veale, from Anglesey, will debut on the Disney channel this summer. The series is a collaboration between art director Ms Veale and animators in Singapore, London and Canada. She was inspired to create Mr Moon one evening in her back garden but it took 10 years for her to realise her screen dream. The series centres around Mr Moon, who looks after the night time sky with his best friend Silva Star, while Sunny takes care of the daytime. That was in 2000 and it is a cult children’s series now!

Get to it Owen – give us a seminar on the world of Mr Moon and outer space.  There is no Dark side of the Moon, matter of fact it’s all dark.
John Graham

8 December 2016

Belfast

Wonderful inspiring Documentary insightful vision of Autism on at Queens Film Theatre from this Friday 9 December up to and including Thursday 15 December 2016 and on VOD and general release.

The Innocents : A Film Review


The Innocents

Directed by Anne Fontaine, Produced by Éric Altmayer, Nicolas Altmayer, Philippe Carcassonne.  Written by Sabrina B. Karine, Pascal Bonitzer, Anne Fontaine, Alice Vial. Based on an original concept by Philippe Maynial.  Cast.  Lou de Laâge, Agata Kulesza, Agata Buzek, Vincent Macaigne.  Music by Grégoire Hetzel.  Cinematography Caroline Champetier. Edited by Annette Dutertre. Production company, Aeroplan Film, France 2 Cinéma, Mandarin Cinéma, Mars Films, Scope Pictures.   In French, Polish and Russian with English subtitles. Cert. 15. Duration: 1 hour, 55 minutes. 

 Polish Immediate Post-War Recovery

From the same era and almost same territory as the highly rated, superb Ida comes another overwhelmingly harrowing war story. This is a Franco-Polish tale of founding of new live’s, of Mother and child which is based on a true story set in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War.  The principals include the French Red Cross Nurse, Mathilde Beaulieu, (Lou De Laâge) tending soldiers injured at the local hospital who is asked by a Nun, who has found her after trekking through a forest from her Convent to the Village nearby.  The Nun seeks her help and her task is to tend to a Nun at the Convent and in secrecy. Having persuaded her, in a visionary way they set off in her Red Cross Twnsporter back to the Convent were the actual scenario quickly becomes established.  The Nun has been a victim of retreating Russians who left their calling cards.  As told to the Nurse she is first inclined to report it to the authorities – Polish and Russians still in joint occupancy – but the Mother Superior (Ida actor Agata Kulesza, the Judge and Aunt who drove Ida back to her roots) of the Benedictine Convent has to relent as here could be more suffering. Through the French speaking Nun named Maria (Agata Buzek) acting as translator and the closed order has a newcomer and this is where the story starts to unfold.  It is a case of dealing with new life in each and putting away thoughts, however ludicrous to outsiders, of shame.  So the the characters set before us initially; more or the order become involved, are three Nuns.  The Abbess who rules with a fierce discipline, Novice Nun Maria who is a focal interpreter of both language and emotions, then the Novice Nun Zofia who has been victimized by the Russians.  To see this trio as the holy trinity is an elastic take but one is the fundamentalist, one is the mediator, one is the innocent victim.  Mathilde is the fulcrum of the outside unknown world the order are enclosed from.  They have also to pass through to the next phase when the novices adopt the order in its fullest sense.  So we are on the cusp of desparate problems and challenges for all.

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Mirrored worlds old and present.

The layers are twin emotional opposites but mirrors.  The Order of Nuns obviously regard themselves wedded to Christ and there has been a violation of the most personal kind with as a consequence, the horror of confronting the thought God has permitted this to happen.  Novice Nun Zofia is he first to be traumatised in the act of childbirth.  Her rape has been supressed within her and now this revisiting is the symbol and token of shame and is now present in a new form of life.  This is potentially the destruction of all their concepts of God other than Mathilde who is intent on saving life.

She is the other side, the beautiful practical, skilled,French Nurse whose primary aim is to ensure all life she comes across is maintained and taken care of.  The thin line traversed between these seemingly inextricably linked forces is brought out with feminine sisterhood and morality being upheld through the living forms they share.  Hence the initial gesture of the Abbess relenting and allowing her into her world.  She has also secrets throughout and is in quickly failing health a legacy of the past.  Being accepting of medical assistance pushes the limits of her faith.  Here Agata Kulesza portrays the angst as torridly as she dealt with the delusions of War in Ida and he aftermath when she became reduced to a small court circuit judge dealt out tokens of Law when the greater magnitude of injustice had justed been visited upon an entire continent.  Here the stakes are no less explicitly defined.  The magnitude is the depth of depravity that ranges up into the lives of the Innocents,  the sinfulness of the world which is now brought inside their order and is seen as part of the grand design and mechanism of Divine worship.  The merest consolation is as directed by the Abbess, to the devotion to prayer and it is little reconciliation with the outside, now inside world.


Worn characters

Mother Superior has the role of being a defender of the faith and ways of the Lord which she summons up the most fervent chains of belief which have the capacity to devour her devotion in the midst of this conflicting maternal grounding.  Along with this the effect on the Nuns, Maria and as some others reflect on their lives among men, discuss it now with the core central presence of Mathilda, one which facilitated new thought.  Mathilda herself is set some challenges which she submits too comfortably to and with greater ease than you might expect.  The strands of personality are thus shaped into very individual needs and the Mother Superior’s world is the one with the greatest challenges it seems.
Inspired by the journal notes of Madeleine Pauliac, a young French Red Cross doctor who worked in Poland at the end of World War II, “The Innocents” (which was called “Agnus Dei”)  it is set in 1945 Poland occupied by Russian troops with the opening frames are within the Convent of the Benedictine closed order of Nuns at Daily prayers.  From this capsule of peace and tranquility will spill the infiltrations of the Outsiders and those still surrounding them.  It is graphic in its gripping sense of evil and wickedness as visited upon this location and still resonates with seclusion, self denial, faith and feeling interlaced with God and humanity all subjects around today.  The portrayal of beauty is the tangible simplicity of core inner beings and the imperious self reflection done through denial of all objective things and this is how the scenes, drama is thrust forward relying on phrases looks and almost minimal monotonal effects.


Mathilda has to keep the whole presence of this secret inner Convent story away from her colleagues she travels back and forth to, for fear of bringing down the Orders whole presence and she is not least tasked in this, through her male colleague a Jewish French Doctor whose parents went to the Bergen-Belsen Concentration camp.  He is Samuel (Vincent Macaigne) is a self deprecating suitor of this young and beguiling Nurse.

While this film pushes the limits with heartfelt tremors of emotion which will have many coming away sickened, elated, coruscating about the needs of women of all timescales, elements of history, not having the instilled goodness to life according to need, the story does take some fairly plain, consoling overtures and simplifies certain aspects for the sake of film making I guess.  It reaches conclusions rather too radidly and conversations which begin to explain the personal hidden views and they vary immensely, are unfortunately short while centrally illuminating.  Each Nun has a reason or belief drawing her into this Christ union.  A book I’ve read, probably one of the finest, is a short true story of the early life of Through the Narrow Gate: A Memoir of Spiritual Discovery Paperback – January 27, 2005 by Karen Armstrong (Author) telling of her time as a novice and the considerations she had to make.  

 

The look and feel of story telling.

The appearance of the film is vivid and lucid like a representation of renaissance painting having moved on from being as the allegorical Biblical paintings preceding, telling a story from the Bible.  Here the framing and cinematography is a moving interpretive painting elegantly disposing of its interior messages as much through dialogue and expression as in giving a sense of separateness the film has concerning these Nuns in their secluded life and the contrasting confounding outside which has only just set down, temporarily the guns of war.  They have to deal with the violation of a deeper self and abortion is not among their options.  Where this seems to stand up for  Anne Fontaine and the writers is the contrasting of certain worlds.  As of today and victims of rape they are no different circumstances but simply deeper questioning f where morality has taken us.  The sin is first in the war and in the belly of the warring soldier is a desire to shed his guilt through violence upon women as a deliberate defiant act.  An expression of the lost masculinity war invokes.  The experience opposite to its portray and as betrayal of themselves as human beings.   Anne Fontaine has a sharp story with which to explore those aspects however simplified some elements here turn out.


Conclusion ####4

This is perhaps an attempt at a redemptive film but I see the conclusions not informative of the unique experiences then or as they intend to advance.  Too many loose ends are bundled into neat reflective outlets.  It nevertheless stunningly  grasps its raw material as insight and is told without judgement, a surprising word to use as the actors have to convey the differences and complex challenges it makes of their own vocations.  Even the Nurse has to seek out her own values and then separate them from her ability to help everyone. This film covers war, rape, religion and all strands of humanity in trouble and as a quest for understanding how these issues have and are being dealt with will stimulate many more discussions and create better informed views hopefully.  It is thoroughly recommended as one of the Best Foreign Films of the Year in which there are several other excellent contenders including Son of Saul which was itself a Polish depiction of a the Concentration camp at Berger-Belsen and as such fits into a set of unknown or barely conceived brutality which film makers now take on with greater clarity and effectively.

John Graham

17 November 2016

Belfast

THE INNOCENTS will screen at QFT from Fri 18 – Thurs 24 Nov.
Well worth the effort in going to see and the large widescreen does amplify the experience.

Fires were Started : A Film Review

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The complete Humphrey Jennings disc two. Fire were Started. 1943. Documentary. 

35m Director Humphrey Jennings
Production Company Crown Film Unit
Producer Ian Dalrymple
Script Humphrey Jennings
Story Collaboration Maurice Richardson
Photography C.M. Pennington-Richards
Cast: Commanding Officer George Gravett (Sub-Officer Dykes); Leading Fireman Philip Wilson-Dickson (Section Officer Walters); Leading Fireman Fred Griffiths (Johnny Daniels); Leading Fireman Loris Rey (‘Colonel’ J. Rumbold); Fireman Johnny Houghton (S.H. ‘Jacko’ Jackson)

The Blitz depicted

War on Britain some 75 years on from the blitz – the frequent and widespread bombing of cities, ports, towns, strategic infrastructure by German War planes – is catalogued in documentary form by the rereleased BFI film Fires were Started.

7 September 1940 saw the first bombardment in the London docks.  That place before the war the vital trade port for the United Kingdom and now dispersed but still a joyous sight and feature of humanity converting itself to other things in peacetime.  The Olympic Park for example.  This 1943 film was also known as I was a Fireman. Because of the war continuing and various attempts at capturing the times not just in newsreels or cinema propaganda stoic bravado their were people conscious of the individual moments which put the fear of God into people not on the frontline.                             The frontline was brought to them.

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Mass-Observation

As a documentary maker Humphrey Jennings was a very driven man.  As the upper middle class background gave him a sense of entitlement, and took it upon himself to forge allegiance with anthropologist Tom Harrison a group known as Mass-Observation in 1935.  For whatever reason he never went to war andcinstead became an academic and some say dilettante not realising the ‘whatever’ wheels and cogs making Britain tick.  It’s industrial health. An irony surely exists in their organisation. When it came to expression, beyond writing, painting, he got to know the power of film and embarked on experimentation even dabbling in surrealism.

Making the film

Fires were Started is a bizarre title in itself.  A meaning existing, they deliberately in 1943 started fires to represent 1940 scenes. London can take it was a 1940 film of his along with Listen to Britain. 1943. Even after the film considered herechecdeveloped a by now perceptive forward thinking imaginative underrated work called Diary for Timothy 1945 wondering what future lay ahead.  This profound piece and idea is often discovered in Newspapers or novels of the time in prospective articles etc. but applying thoughts on the future on film must be and remain unique. Actors were given scripts to follow in this documentary therefore subverting the form to begin with.  This was not done to sway the argument or construct falsehoods but became necessary because setting up in the midst of war, using people to take part in recently gathered history, finding film stock, finding time and locations etc. would have been a burden to anyone.  What was that film Martin Scorsese did in London docklands ‘recreatively’ and costing a forrtune equal to the war debt? Jennings also employed another dynamic of realism and avoided commentary.  This in itself must have had contemporaries have hairs stand up on the back of their neck and that includes the war time children.  I remember watching war ‘documentary’ as a youngster and have a spine tingling moment or two.  On reflection I was assuming perhaps the clowns with guns and bombs outside in the street dictating what way our lives should be in the sevenitites were no different from these warlords except the men who went to war as well as being conscripted went in the most part willingly.

This film blog is included as a remembrance, not a commemoration or as celebratory homage to the losses in all conflicts around the world.  This 11 November 2016 is again a time to reflect on violence applied in all its forms.

 

John Graham

11 November 2016

Belfast

Apologies for not providing a blog on the intended review (Gimme danger which is on at QFT Belfast from Friday – also note the epic Napoleon is screening from 12.00am at QFT this Sunday.) It is somewhere in the ether and I’m still trying to track it down as it’s for the most part written on a rock chronicles type film. I will post of and when it turns up as it raised quite a lot of things. Take for instance this weeks Democrat/Republican Election in the USA which you may have heard of. Michigan were Jim Ostenberg (Iggy Pop) hails from which Gimme Danger is all about actually stands aside only one other state in America, New Hampshire in it not having inclusion in the normal electoral form used everywhere else. Being the radical state it once was – I point this out as a distinction worth exploring in the psyche of this American Iggy – it resembles the election format of GB more! A lady who watched the Election on a Portuguese channel to improve her Portuguese told me this oddity.

Sonita : A Film Review



Director
: Rokhsareh Ghaemmaghami. Cast: Sonita Alizadeh, Rokhsareh Ghaemmaghami and further members of the family and the organisations supporting her.  Wasatch Academy. Utah. Genre.  Art House & International, Documentary , Musical & Performing Arts. Written by: Rokhsareh Ghaemmaghami. Duration: 90 minutes. Cert. PG. Subtitled.


A real life story told differently.

This film, set in Tehran, Iran, Herat, Afghanistan, and Utah, America, is creatively astonishing and alarming as well as delivering to a wider audience the issue of the still practiced female subjugation in the form of, mainly child forced marriage in Afghanistan still manifest and unlike Iran un-evolved.  It is the story of Sonita Alizadeh, a young Afghan girl whose overflowing gifts of performance art, drama, singing, songwriting, theatre design for a fifteen year old whose creative world is driven (and you may wonder the magnitude of her gifts outside this) by the politics and plight she finds herself in.  Spanning broadly, 2014 to 2015, filmmaker Rokhsareh Ghaemmaghami turns this story into a crossover of documentary drama having found Sonitas story, presumably via. the social media, SoundCloud, or whatever platform her main song met the world audience in which it is acclaimed as being a breakthrough rap song of immense clarity, succinct hard hitting lyrics.  How Rokhsareh was drawn to it doesn’t really matter but it presents for us the form which is sometimes viewed as staged, rehearsed, eavesdropping in the family situation Sonita is locked into.  

Here is a review sentence from the FT which quite rightly draws attention to the fine line documentary makers – for this is the onlay genre the makers wish to push the film, its in my mind a format which genuinely takes in theatrical performance and sublimely, if that’s not too pejorative – taking care to deal sensitively with the very harsh subject.  The view stated was FTGhaemmaghami’s various, blatant interventions in Alizadeh’s life (shooting and posting a video to one of Sonita’s songs that went viral, negotiating her passports and visas) probably broke every documentary-making code. 

It definitely crosses the line, I’ll agree. Backtrack it with the song Crossing the line Yamasata Winwood and Shrieve.  Long gone tune which expresses lots of things.


Sonita a refugee

Sonitas life is within a Tehran charity called The Society for the Protection of Working … (and nowhere can I find a link – yet OMID is a similar but women not child based charity) run by an Iranian woman, herself an irrepressible honest broker with vision whose wisdom allows access to Sonita who is after all under her guardianship, so no small element.  It is a place where, with due respect and local cultural deference she is, within the building they are housed; a free person, allowed to move around the city as an ordinary citizen, and able to mix with other girls her own age. We see through the vision of this refugee workers insightful management of what is an emotionally damaging situation – separation from her family, no papers to establish her identity formally, no proper education, no role or life management – what in fact is The Society’s purpose is to provide life skills to a girl entering womanhood.  The charity delivers hope to all the children in its care, not alone Sonita.


The cloud she’s moves underneath from.

By telling the story from an initial school based situation the parameters are defined.  Rokhsareh Ghaemmaghami takes the role of an interviewer and asks Sonita as she beds down in a small sparse room on which she has a scattering of posters including one artist whose reception in Manchester this week was such that it’s overwhelming volume near hyseria had —-! leave the stage as it was impossible in their eyes to perform normally.  The next night in Birmingham was more constrained and both concerts showed the pinnacle of musical status her looked into in Tehran as an impossible dream. 

The questions are about her situation and Sonita keeps a private art diary/notebook of ideas, expectations/ambitions/observations full of perceptive irony and fledgling artistic ability.  By probing away, advancing the narrative Rokhsareh Ghaemmaghami is delivering a deep involving complex picture of the background Sonita comes from and the central issue. Sonita has come from a now relatively – and that is only notional – safe environment of Herat after Taliban conflict she has not seen her mother for six or seven years.  Her father has died.  Father was old and mother was young as she shows Rokhsareh a family photo.  She tells of her Dad marrying a young bride, her Mum obviously and this is what is expected of her.  A marriage to be arranged which her mother shall sell her, and to someone of twenty years senior has already been put forward, for around $9,000 which may even be as little as $3,000 given her current exile status.  If she were to leave Tehran she would not be able to return.  To establish her identity properly she would have to return to Herat to authenticate her passport application no longer making her a refugee.  Another twist of passports is that Iran will accept all passports except American ones as valid.  The whole scenario is as complex as it sounds and in the film is shown though the sequencing, directorial clarity brought through the surreal depictions, ‘flashbacks’ cleverly linerally delivered by the astute Director and with I would imagine the input of Sonita and the primary ‘actors’.

 Identity 
Conventions of Female Subjigation

The pressures of being subject to a course of action out of her control and being manipulated from afar – it is the families ‘proposal’ back in Herat – along with a brother who appears not on the very fringes of this film, exherts pressure on Sonita to acquiesce to this child marriage for the sake of the family.  Beyond the immorality of the sale as is tradition in Afghanistan, not Iran, by being sold for so many dollars, – the figures of the film take on a life of their own – $9,000 say – it would allow her brother to then buy a bride in turn.  This trap is only a peculiarity and the number of girls in a family allow the Male dominated society to perpetuate the sale of daughters for such sums of money which amounts to the same as sheep or cows being sold and hence a basis of livelihoods.  It is this Sonita is highly charged about centrally, no surprise there then, and is what is behind Rokhsareh Ghaemmaghami’s diligence in making this risky politically charged exposure of a specific family situation.  It brings plenty of risk which strangely and perhaps inevitably she has been able to convince various members of the family, especially Mother to participate and ‘act’ out their roles under her direction in order to project the story.  Several scenes are clearly rehearsed and not spontaneous as is the prospectus.

  An uncannily similar image appears film and Goya speaks!
Going viral

The songs are put together through a series of encounters which managed or unmanaged bring out the darkly striking rap song Brides for Sale which went viral.  The accompanying video and the interspersed additions of work take this film beyond any perceptions of transgression or willful interference.  It is an act in need of sustenance, established accord, and wide, very wide exposure which Rokhsareh Ghaemmaghami has employed in the past.  She knows exactly what she is doing/has done and far from clouding the boundaries with irrevance of orginisational finger pointing she uses the art of film making to create in itself a poignant emotionally complex drama theatrical performance piece establishing Sonitas art.  Her art happens to explore her hardship and like many who cannot get to express their hardship in any shape or form Sonita charges ito also fully aware of the boundaries and is so imaginatively advancd as to grasp it for those who cannot.  The rappers in Chicago, Hidden China, Remorseless India, Battered Britain, Bombarded Palestine and many other exploited, suppressed regions share the same humanity as all of us but cannot express it.  Even such as Pussy Riot, Malala, The Idol, Deephan along with recent films are centrally political and important.


Conclusion ####4.

As the play’s of Shakespeare, the traditions of No theatre, the Morality plays Film again takes over the wider view of intensely important visulisation of ourselves in our times – since the invention of Film! Cast as a documentary to all platforms, Sonita evolves with magnetic, crushing, compelling engagement.  It is impossible to avert your eyes or shift your mind to blank out the at times surreal, avant garden polemic foisted on you rewardingly by Rokhsareh Ghaemmaghami and Sonita Alizadeh whose life is at the centre.  Oblivious as most of us are to the extraordinary desparate conditions of culture inflicting subjegation on extensively, women.  We are present among our own preoccupations and prejudices and on a much reduced level – though clearly many women at the heart of a crisis rightly would disagree – in the so caled developed world.  The thrust of daily live often places compromises in front of us but we need to be aware of the ramifications of indulged political parameters and speak out against them.  Sonita provides documentary, wide vision and self awareness seldom seen in any other locatity enormously assisting those in the front line of argument to fight these outrages.  By having groups of allies outside who can support their fight is how it can advance change.  This film is a nucleus for change among many.  It is deeply entrenched in the goodness seen portrayed under ridiculous circumstances and delivered to our view by its many contributors including Grandma Alizadeh whose tentative but knowingly astute presence lever’s up an other plank from the rocky road.  

John Graham

27 October 2016

Belfast

On at Queens Film Theatre Belfast from Friday 28 October through to Thursday 3 November 2016.