Catherine the Great – European Fantasy TV


Catherine the Great
The new subscription series, Catherine the Great delivers a suspect history while illuminating the vestiges of contemporary Political and Sovereignty  in Europe. Starring Helen Mirren it is made for her electric acting skills and lineage appropriate for her own history. Some critics have said of it there is no magic sparkle or gold-dust in the drama for an audience expectations of provocative spellbinding theatrical lustre. It is just not hot enough and Potemkin is as near as it gets to a potboiler.

In ‘The Europeans: Three Lives and the making of a cosmopolitaCulture’ by Orlando Figes has formed a theme in his book around three characters one of which is Turgenev; Focusing on the intertwined biographies of a famous French opera singer of Spanish descent, her French impresario husband and one of Russia’s most beloved novelists, and as a historian remarks on the leaders taking forward Europe in this period.

Pauline Viardot – became Turgenevs supporter in more ways than one and mari complaisant where Figes attempts a continent in constant change – technology not being the least alteration.

He has again written in review, his account of his viewing of this tangential series with some ‘warnings’ he describes thus ‘But there are many small errors, a few large ones, and dramatic licences abound (spoilers ahead).’
By his account and depth of knowledge and no spoiler alert needed as I won’t reveal the ‘allegations’ of discrepancy here, The Times 4 October 2019, Review (2 Arts article) does deliver the needed autopsy on the drama and fulsomely, with if it’s anything to go by, a promise of an excellent twist of the History seen in the Banquet of the Vanities often seen through English historians eyes though this is unintentional but my viewpoint given our recent times.

The world of media is a fanfare of opposing histories and no more so than seen in the deliver of a certain kind of meritorious justice, so it is contended by the Judges of The Supreme Court on the material Considerations they avail of in reaching their decision.

It is looking more and more absurd and demonstrative of a blatant lie being conducted on behalf of the people of these islands, GB and Ireland.

How is that so you may ask. The series Catherine the Great is a fine element to attune yourself to history and the ‘Rule of Kings,’ delightful contexturalised by Lady Hale and her Supreme Court colleagues in filling us in on the remnants othering shared history and by dint their authority to preside and pronounce of difficulties of stewarding a country as it conducts itself among neighbours.
Naked hubris called out

Orlando Figes has created a context which is invaluable to discerning not decreeing the formulation of the record.  The drama series only serves a little recognition of history and its therefore a good question to ask this,  Why is this drama altering in effect – it is also a version but without the spoilers of the above article – undoubtably off piste.  It is due to the consumption of drama and partially though it was hardly a precedent, Downton Abbey conjecture of lives in smart antiquated buildings. Even they are confiscated of truth in these dramas. Stanley Kubricks red coated drama was an exception to the narrative swirl and conflagration in ‘Barry Lyndon’. The dramatic accounts are seen honestly dishonest in such as Shakespearian drama and No Theatre elsewhere displays of a version of the past.  An appetite expects the formula to be as near cognition as the soul allows.

In his writing the review there are facts I wish to consume and add to a following narrative on ‘the rule of kings’ having written immediately previously my analysis of where that history leads us. A new history is upon us. It is no small coincidence Orlando Figes book has the title – ‘The Europeans.’

Catherine the Great he points out was one Sophie of Anhalt-Zerbst, a minor German state. Arranged Marriage would take her to Russia at 17 where in 1762 she became Empress of Russia. That is a pivotal point in any account of Europeans.

The advance of a form of rule by Catherine the Great is hinged on the male protagonists around her and allies or enemies to the throne she occupies. Several lovers and conquests, tested beforehand by a Countess Bruce who noted their willingness or aptitude for her appetite and patronage seemed a sure common means to stabilise and conquer her peoples willingness to be ruled. The imperial bedchamber is a retreat where she obtained as much male sexual comfort as she could and stayed relatively loyal to some of her consorts. Potemkin being highest in her affections and finding in him an alliance equal to her ambitions of statecraft. By her alliances she was in control of the destiny of Russia and she thought Europe.

By 1773 an heir had been conceived though the convention of the hereditary male becoming Emperor was a minor obstacle to Catherine the Great living up to her reputation and her offspring born in 1754. When Prince Paul the son assumed to be heir where normal protocols to hold but when he becomes 19, Potemkin is now embroiled in a relationship which savoured the expansion and nature of the Russian Empire sought by Catherine. With a historians insightful gaze Orlando Figes notices in the acting the chemistry ‘ – and there is a chemistry between him (Jason Clarke as Potemkin) and Mirren’s Catherine who is tough, tyrannical, emotionally closed, but more vulnerable in his presence.’

That sounds as though it has the convincing, authentic power of period detail in the portrayal of relationships. The mores were not a stricture of guidance to be morally bound to the Ten Commandments for example but a position of realism in turbulent times.

Her quest it seems from Orlando’s reading of the historical records is parallel to the religious one I see in the stewardship becoming more akin to the Lutheran doctrine she had left when becoming – it is perhaps legitimate to call it her arraignment in the sense she was completely and inducted – of the Russian Orthodoxy.  It is possibly a century earlier the radical ‘reformation’ in advance of other European Kingdoms including a Great Britain the Bible was no longer an asset confines to elite Religious but now was among the people as an Orthodoxy and template for God and the influence of the Bible.

Emerging Configurations on knowledge.

The Russians had, in this open freedom to consume and debate the virtues of Religious belief systems, been given a tool which subsequently would overthrow the lineage of Sovereign authoriety as practiced by Catherine the Great.

It is a view which would take a lot of persuasion in practice though I put it forward as a possible bridge in the construction of Europe’s state. Were it not for the intervention of Industrialisation and another ‘costume drama’ enters my mind, with Antony Hopkins as an exile torn between the past and his ancestry and the youth testaments of his daughter and friends seeking equality and a positive socialist life ahead. The subsequent fractions and divisions came destructively to a head in the twentieth century. This drama ‘Howard’s End’  fills in, partly in a very apposite way the English dynamism in the abrupt departure of the slave ridden empire; Russia had abolished slavery, substituting it with servitude converting them to serfs in 1725 long before Catherine’s reign.

Unravelling the historical immorality it had perpetuated was in all of Europe a yoke which caused its own internal demise. Catherine the Great sought with Potemkin her long held belief; and it may have been from a uniquely Religious Lutheran Orthodox itinerant perspective been conceived as a role to follow in her sense of herself, the expulsion of the Turkish implantation in Greek and the Volga uprising as establishing an authoritarian based after all is said and done on a Religious philosophy equal and of the same consequence as the Age of Enlightenment. Paradoxes abound and Samuel Rutherford would have been found as not only a dissenter but a deeply flawed reader of The Bible in advocating the intervention, which was already in place in the regime of the Church of England but bound up in ‘rules of the Kings’ a theology requiring the believer to press allegiance to a higher edict and put in place something between them and God.

Orthodoxy did not prevail upon its followers any hidebound sense of Sovereignty but collided instead with the reverse Communism of Catherine the Great. It is an extraordinary complex construct to make but it might bear some examination.

Arraigned Compacts

There is a joining of stories in the work of Orlando Figes writing in both, ‘The Europeans: Three Lives and the making of a cosmopolitan Culture’ and the following review in The Times 4 October 2019, Review (2 Arts article) stresses the account drama and screenplays provide a view that conflicts and obscures understanding of history and narratives assumed then thought about.  I….the above book for instance Turgenev is honoured with the praise for his toiling on subjects he has no reward for, … Turgenev acted as a peerless cultural intermediary, introducing Tolstoy and Tchaikovsky to western capitals and Flaubert to the Russians. Figes writes of him being an advocate of reason, progress and democracy.’  “a Republic of Letters based on the Enlightenment ideals of reason, progress and democracy”.  The plasticity of the literature – not only his but all writers – it can be observed claimed the supremacy of the narrative by its own eloquent reasoning and ease of understanding.  This was therefore the conveyance Kings Queens and Revolutionaries clung to and set there compass by.

Countenance of Religious Affectations 

From the essay looking into the Supreme Court Judgement (the previous blog!) I arrived at the observations made in Niccoló Machiavelli’s ‘The Prince’ and again see so much to relate this to. I struggle to remove the image, the appalling image of a ‘judge’ with the fabric spider cobweb around her neck and telling us of the import of rule by – and this is where religion and the misuse of ‘the rule of Kings’ occurs – as an atrocious suppression of the Word.  The situation in Italy as seen by Machiavelli is in his gift to repair. The notion the Florentine intelligence can be transported beyond its realm is not seen as problematic but possible.

So it is with Catherine the Great and the bold Potemkin who see their task to rid the world at least in Europe consigned to misfortune and bickering among sensitivities drawn down over thousands of years as surmountable. Little did they know and when discarding the preeminence of what appeared at least in part to exist within them, a dislike based on Religious doctrine, their replacement by royal decree and rule they were discarding with it their soul.

In a Puritan way there is reasonable course to disentangle religion from the methods of men. The reason delivered first to us arrives through light. Age of Enlightenment etc. are the runes of spiritual life. Indian culture is similar in its Diwali hinge. Our spectral vision is limited to the range the human can take in while wavelengths outside that human spectrum lie what in the past have accumulated thoughts subconsciously held and unexplained.

Overtures to 1812 

Inspiral spectrums of thought are only realisable by the vast outside influences assembled by the mind. You will a phrase into existence and compose a range of notes to stimulate your life force. It is as though I do my work by sleeping and unconsciously combine possible futures as seen in the eyes of the past. Thought dreaming. Sleep and see the sunsets and act as though your passivity beyond the fact of death as you in that stillness absence of conformity as vers libre, that living octagon of constant revisionism and regularity. When the parameters outside n the daylight side of living exist to produce the combinations of Orchestra, Theatre, Poetry, Organisation of beauty in functionality and use it exceeds our worth and world of ourselves. This accumulation is the stuff of influence and the inspiration is without. Those rays of light and otherness begin to mean things and some cam detect the cosmic influence beyond rejection and elimination.

The modern Culture offered and absorbed seeks to provide an extreme of interest and the literary crime wave is itself a questioning ambiguity and surging by that confusion as artful cold crime analysis.

All contained in the lines of a book and screening of a reality formed of false indicators and misleading trails and analysis. We compose our curation of the world and ourselves by a distortion of self and created illusion. The appetite is growing and the Google super comport can only advance the churn of indigestible form of invisible history.

To join the histories of the ‘Continent’ is by any account a broad sweep using various reference point. For these observational viewpoints I use literature and the arts. The Drama and influences of the body politic often taking its directions from the canvas of Entertainment and visual metaphors sometimes transparently opaque.

The range of European History and its Collisions

Below are a selection of notes from Wiki, Common Eductional websites which are used here as another way to join the dots and see what – if it is at all provable – the actions present a confusion of objections while having some legitimacy and coherence.  It asks why the paths taken were so intensely random and happenstance.  Was it will by our inner selves?

Continued narratives

The French has several Revolutions and the following is an introduction to the French then the connection with Russian and its role on the fervour of Revolution brought about in no small part by the lessons and paradoxes expressed by the literary elite.

Let’s begin with the royals sporting across Europe in aims to modify the world according to their ambition.

* (1494) France and Austria began the Italian wars
* (1515) Reign of Francois I began
* (1519) Leonardo da Vinci died
* (1539) French became the official language
* (1559) Cateau-Cambresis Treaty ended Italian wars
* (1562) Catholics and Protestants religous wars
* (1589) Henry IV was first Bourbon King of France
* (1593) Henry IV turned Catholic; religious wars ended
1600s – 1800s
* (1610-1715) Reign of Louis XIII followed by absolute monarchy of Louis XIV
* (1720) Last outbreak of plague in France
* (1756-63) Seven Years War; France lost all colonial possessions and Canada
* (1778-83) France assisted the 13 colonies in the American War of Independence
* (1789) French Revolution ended rule of monarchy
* (1792) Louis XVI overthrown, First Republic created
* (1804) Napoleon crowned Emperor of France
* (1815) Napoleon was defeated at Waterloo; monarchy reestablished
* (1830) The French Revolution (or July Revolution) middle class revolt, King Charles X forced out.
* (1832) Cholera epidemics
* (1848) Founding of Second Republic
* (1851) Coup d’etat instigated by Louis Napoleon
* (1852) Louis Napoleon III crowned Emperor
* (1870-71) Alsace-Lorraine regions lost to Germany; Napoleon III overthrown
* (1875) Third Republic began
* (1889) Eiffel tower built.

Then the familiar 20c and wars begin a transformative World Picture begins.

Puskhin and his Literary Genius

The future of uncertainty is it’s certain.

It was something Alexander Pushkin might have thought as his departure from a promising life came in a duel at 37 years old and the malevolent Queen of Spades called three days after his being fatally wounded by D’Antes who had spoken pitiably and grossly of his wife’s family. He had in his dying, sought for his wife to be looked after by the Tsar. In facing into a future where his youth had gone he made some gestural indications in his folly to take comfort in killing an enemy or be killed so reckless was his vision of his future. He fell without his talisman ring having also returned, (never turn back) for a sable coat before proceeding to the duel site on the banks of the Black River outside St Petersburg in his coach, passing unawares his wife returning from sledging in the Winter freshness. It was a tad Byronesce maybe, this disastrous act being a supplicant of the romanticists Greece and Rome had entrapped him in affairs as society had witnessed the malevolence attached to circumstances becoming public. Now the history of Catherine the Great and Alexander Puskhin are intertwined as a people’s History told with an irony of Royals and Revolutionary thinking on both their parts. Some things never change.

The story of French Revolution precedes the overthrow of the Tsars. Known to his entourage as ‘The Frenchman’ his Moscow writing found him by 1820 banished by government who decided his poetry was dangerously subversive. They sent Pushkin out of the capital and into exile in the south of Russia, 1700 kilometres from his family and friends in St Petersburg. He was sent first to Ekaterinoslav (now Dnepropetrovsk in Ukraine) and then to Kishinev (now Chisinau in Moldova), moving to Odessa (now Ukraine) in 1823.

By the time he had formed his thoughts on the wider possibilities history informed him of, at the end of 1825 Tsar Alexander 1 died and in the following year his successor Tsar Nicholas 1 freed Pushkin from exile. Pushkin moved back to central Russia, living some of the time in Moscow, some in St Petersburg and travelling a lot. He became interested in the reformer tsar Peter the Great (1682-1725) and dedicated historical work to him. At this time he also became interested in his own family history and wrote a story Peter the Great’s African based on the life of his ancestor Abram Ganibal. His mother having been of African descent. At the time of her death he bought a grave alongside her for him to rest.

The peculiar interest in tyranny and it’s place in society was a duel in itself within Puskhin. His friends included many who were involved in a political group which was later known as the Decembrists. They were a group of officers who disagreed with the very harsh political system at the time. They are called Decembrists because they had an armed revolt in December 1825 to try to stop Tsar Nicholas coming to the throne.  Pushkin wrote Ruslan and Ludmila at this time, a number of beautiful lyrical poems, and also some very political poems like Freedom. This starts with the declaration “I want to praise Freedom, I want to attack the evil of kings” and calls the tsar “Wicked autocrat!”

https://www.findoutaboutrussia.co.uk/pushkins-life.html

That extract comes from the above link, a composite view for children so innocently removed from overbalance or overbearance. His innocence of the worlds harsh realities seemed to be distant when in this removal from the turbulence and complete reversals of fortune Politics and the Reign of the Tsar encountered daily. He ought to have discovered through his African aristocratic legacy when only obtaining minor status as part of the elite. Being amongst aristocrats himself much of his life he was neither elite nor poor hence his probable annoyance at exclusion. The expulsion nullified any part in the big events that were unfolding. The only scope was his literary genius. It was Tsar Nicholas 1 who freed Pushkin from exile.

History has it that Puskhin provides a narrative of change while the powers provide the history. The fascination of history was an occupation brought about by his South Russian exile at his maternal homeland.

The fascination of the pre-history is him seeking the organic outworking among races and this is tied to ‘The Frenchman.’ His knowledge is accumulating and in the dramas he filed his own life and visions of depraved rule.

Peter the Great (1672-1725)

Peter was Michael Romanov’s grandson and under his rule Russia underwent many changes. It was Peter who made Russia one of Europe’s great powers and who helped it recover from the scars left by Ivan the Terrible.

He did this firstly by opening Russia to the West. He wanted Russia to be as modern and advanced as Europe and poured all the country’s money and resources into making it a kind of European paradise.                     

He asked the best Western engineers, craftsmen, merchants and shipbuilders to come to Russia and help him to modernise it. He also sent thousands of Russians to Europe to learn these trades and receive the best education possible. He even went himself – and worked in the shipyards of Holland and England.

Peter founds St Petersburg in 1703 Credit: http://www.herodote.net

In 1703 Peter declared that a town was to be built on the boggy marshlands of the delta of the Neva River. Over several years of frantic and often difficult construction, a city emerged. It was called St Petersburg, and Peter made it the capital of Russia instead of Moscow. St Petersburg was built to be a work of art, whose beauty would rival that of any European city. In fact, many early European visitors to St Petersburg described it as resembling a theatre set, such was its uniform and somewhat unnatural beauty.

Here are some other reasons why Peter was such a force for change in Russia:
1. He tried to change Russia from what he thought was a deeply archaic, superstitious and closed country into a modern haven of European civilisation.
2. To do this, he took extreme measures to make everything in St Petersburg exactly how he wanted it: he told his nobles how to live, how to build their houses, how to cut their hair, where to stand in church and how to converse politely in society.
3. In one of his most radical reforms, Peter made the Boyars servants of the crown. In this way he laid the foundations of an 18-19 century European-style absolutist state, where the monarch reigns supreme. The new aristocracy was suddenly totally defined by its position in the civil and military service and its rights and privileges were set accordingly.
4. In a surprising twist Peter even banned beards across all classes. This was a particular blow to the Boyars who wore theirs long in the Orthodox style, but all Russian men were subject to the law. To help enforce it, Peter even introduced a Beard Tax, payable if you refused to shave your beard!
5. He also made big changes to improve the economy, education and Russia’s military strength. He built up the army and the navy, making Russia a real military force to be reckoned with. In particular the Russian navy was really created by Peter who had hundreds of ships built by foreign experts.

Lifeline even now

Pascal had written another book for the Church after Pensées he formed another view which liberated him from dogmatic theory. He denounced Christianity by His Vers Libre on mathematics and science reasoning he went towards parthenogenesis and being separate from the need to believe one thing or the other. This magical delusion was Pascals downfall. It lmeant his best thoughts were not received by the populist and staggeringly they are still there even plays we have not seen or heard of all trapped in a bibliographic cemetery. The mocking tones of the authors seen preeminent like Voltaire were very often favoured due to the splendid cloak they gave to Royalty such as Catherine the Great. Delusion is a wonderful thing Pascal thought. His anti-religious thoughts were consistent with the well known maxim, it is better to believe, just in case. Pyrrhonism of living by thought is a paradox sent to sleep and put asunder by scepticism lent by the creator. That creator is the author of all and us.

Seeing the nothingness of belief in it’s unconquerable reason and the formed reality faced of war and dreadful outcomes for the earth’s inhabitants killing to survive among animals and complacency the compact only civilisation can construct to alleviate pain.

Not to question the religious life but know nothing of the other religious life is a nerveless position. The truth is beyond recognition but it’s invisible cloak surrounds and makes us alive.

Although we can see that Peter did much to modernise and empower Russia, we can also see why many did not enjoy Peter’s reforms. After all, by forcibly Europeanising Russian life he was trying to rid Russia of much of her cultural history and heritage. Of course, he was not completely successful and much of the old Russia remained, especially outside of St Petersburg.

The Napoleon part of Russian history is also astonishing in its exultation, it’s compelling act of restructuring, on the part of Napoleon who would not have the same analytical sense of the land he sought to conquer that Puskhin held even greater than the Tsars and this accorded a total clash of cultural values neither religious or colonial but a federal universal purge in the fashion of Alexander the Great and many others before them.

The act of exulting; lively joy at success or victory, or at any advantage gained; rapturous delight; triumph. This is the human failure. The obtaining advantage through warfare. Triumph is a potent word. From sport to self awareness all is in gain or loss while nature dismisses all-comers.

Napoleon invades in 1812
French Emperor Napoleon was becoming annoyed with the Russians and their Tsar, Alexander I. Napoleon had placed a European-wide ban on trading with Britain, mainly because it was almost the last remaining European country that wasn’t answerable to him. But the Russians kept breaking the ban because it was bad for their own trade. So in 1812, to teach the Russians a lesson, Napoleon decided to invade.

It turned out to be a huge mistake. He hadn’t planned for the terrible road network in Russia, making progress slow. The farms didn’t grow nearly enough food to support the gigantic army of 500,000 men and 50,000 horses he had taken with him. Soon they were starving, exhausted, and ridden with disease. As a final blow, the bitter Russian winter came. While Napoleon’s and Alexander’s troops did take part in some fierce fighting, in the end the French army could not cope with the harsh Russian conditions.

Napoleon’s retreat from Moscow Credit: Universal History Archive/Getty Images

Eventually, defeated, Napoleon decided to go home to France. Before he left Moscow he set it on fire. His armies had a terrible journey home and by the time Napoleon returned to France, only a fraction of his men were left alive.

One important consequence of this invasion was that some Russians began to reject the Europeanisation that had become such a large part of Russian life since Peter the Great. They wanted to go back to their roots, and to make Russia Russian once again, rather than an imitation of a culture and history that weren’t even theirs.

Slowly and over a long period of time, Russia began to recover its own culture, heritage and style.

The 1917 Russian Revolution
The Romanov dynasty came to dramatic end in 1917 under the rule of Tsar Nicholas II, through an event commonly known as the Russian Revolution.

L-R: Maria, Tsarina Alexandra, Olga, Tatiana, Tsar Nicholas, Anastasia and Alexei.
Tsar Nicholas II was married to a German Princess called Alexandra. Together they had five children, four girls – Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia – and a much wanted son, Alexei. Nicholas was a devoted family man and he and Alexandra had a very happy marriage.

Unfortunately however, Nicholas was not a very competent Tsar. He was autocratic but lacked authority and confidence. Too often in the years before the Revolution, Nicholas made bad decisions, such as going to war with Japan in 1904 when the country could not afford it and was ill-prepared. Russia’s subsequent defeat led to riots and strikes, and in 1905, on a day now known as Bloody Sunday, demonstrators asking for changes were shot on Nicholas’ order. The Russian people were poor, hungry and dissatisfied and Russia was ripe for revolution.

In response to the growing crisis, Nicholas first reduced some of his own power by forming a government but this was not enough, and he abdicated in February 1917. A provisional government was formed but in October 1917 a man named Vladimir Lenin took advantage of the weakened state and staged a coup d’état: he took control of Russia.

Catherine Puskhin Voltaire Rousseau
Here’s a thing as they pronounce now and again contradictions of their objectives.
In currently historical narratives the personalities of the makers of Revolution – or the ones who recognised change as inevitable – the Religious having exposed evil and given moral guidance through various interpretations of ‘The Word’, as Russians sway to Orthodoxy, The Age of Enlightenment and the following outcomes of Democratic will manifesting. In England the King James Bible was a result of the Europeanise and the new ideology brought by Charles II and the recovery of Royal privilege in 1659 when his Europeanism brought about by compelled exile a bit like Pushkin, his thoughts had accumulated wider visions neither Puritan nor Revolutionary but liberal in universality.
This is the Cosmopolitanism Orlando Fuge refers to presumably but with Turgenev came a worldly sense beyond perhaps European Enlightenment.

Catherine was also ambitious and ruthless. She dramatically expanded Russian territory in the Crimea and Ukraine, and three times invaded and partitioned Poland between neighbouring empires. Her reformism froze when the French Revolution erupted in 1789, inspired by many of the principles she had espoused, and she joined a European coalition to crush it.

Rousseau’s self destructive personal life saw the burden of the impossibility of perfection laying heavily having rejected his own children and consigning them to the Paris Foundling Hospital. This form of self destructiveness manifested in Pushkin as he floundered on the twin towers of hope and virtue. Power and Powerlessness with the ruthless Machiavelli streak The Prince again seen as humans fatal flaw. Flea bag with wings.

The strange demise of Rousseau is mystifying still. On the Public theorising he was proof of the power of ideas in placing into the domain of autocracy

Catherine the Great’s intellectual pursuits extended far beyond her collection of art. Exchanging letters over a fifteen year period with French writer, historian and philosopher Voltaire, she was spurred to bring Russia into the modern era through ideas raised by the Enlightenment and its supporters.

What is perplexing about Catherine’s relations with the Russian writers of her day – Radishchev and Denis Fonvizin in particular – is that she did not tolerate the kind of free thought practiced by her French protégées, Diderot and Voltaire.

Rousseau was a fierce enemy of Voltaire and he is not mentioned here in the history of Catherine the Greats love and embracing of French ideas. They played into her quest to involve in her project. The Greek project all of Europe so the reading of Rousseau would be bound into the philosophy around ‘The Age of French Enlightenment’.

It has been claimed that Diderot’s thought was a corner stone of the French Revolution, and while Catherine would never support such free thought in her own country, she supported Diderot financially.

To illustrate this contradiction even further, in 1790 during the French Revolution Catherine sent Radishchev into Siberian exile for 7 years after he published his travel diary A Journey from St Petersburg to Moscow which documented the problems in Russia that surrounded her reign.
Alexander Pushkin, the 19th century poet, novelist and playwright, was highly critical of Radishchev’s text, claiming that it did not comply with the poetics of narodnost’ – populism.

Catherine seems to be trying to save her image and legacy to force into the Russian psyche thoughts of a broad Europe.

Yet when we look at the content of Rasdishchev’s Journey today we see that Pushkin’s judgment is unfounded. Radishchev’s book is indeed an encyclopaedia of Russian life of the time. Pushkin’s evaluation may have been prompted by the censorship conditions of absolutism which prevailed after Catherine the Great in unmitigated form, demonstrating the impact of Catherine’s rule on not only Russian writers of her own time, but subsequently as well.

John Graham

7 October 2019

Belfast

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Lifeline even now

Pascal had written another book for the Church after Pensées he formed another view which liberated him from dogmatic theory. He denounced Christianity by His Vers Libre on mathematics and science reasoning he went towards parthenogenesis and being separate from the need to believe one thing or the other. This magical delusion was Pascals downfall. It meant his best thoughts were not received by the populist and staggeringly they are still there even plays we have not seen or heard of all trapped in a bibliographic cemetery. The mocking tones of the authors seen preeminent like Voltaire were very often favoured due to the splendid cloak they gave to Royalty such as Catherine the Great. Delusion is a wonderful thing Pascal thought. His anti-religious thoughts were consistent with the well known maxim, it is better to believe, just in case. Pyrrhonism of living by thought is a paradox sent to sleep and put asunder by scepticism lent by the creator. That creator is the author of all and us.

Seeing the nothingness of belief in it’s unconquerable reason and the formed reality faced of war and dreadful outcomes for the earth’s inhabitants killing to survive among animals and complacency the compact only civilisation can construct to alleviate pain.

Not to question the religious life but know nothing of the other religious life is a nerveless position. The truth is beyond recognition but it’s invisible cloak surrounds and makes us alive.

Loyalist Statement : 09/04/18 comment

 

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On 09 April 2018 a Loyalist Statement ahead of 20yr anniversary of The Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland was read out in The Linenhall Library, Belfast.

Linenhall Library Belfast assembled group.

Rev. Harold Good, Jim Wilson, Retired Archbishop Alan Harper, Jackie McDonald, Rev. Norman Hamilton.

Combined Loyalist Military Command, Fernhill House Belfast, Ulster Defence Force, Ulster Volunteer Force, Red Hand Commando.

The delivery of a Statement by the CLMC grouping in conjunction with several Religious enablers on 9 April 2018 took place in the Linenhall Library Belfast.

Below extracts are extracts from the Statement removed for my comment.

The context is unaltered.

1.
‘For too long we have been berated for our past.’

There is always expectation such history need be included in discussion.

No one has a eraser for the past.

No one is impressed by apologists but in factually correct acknowledgement of their past.

The GFA already has provided a get out of jail free card.

It does not dispense with seeking the untold truth or compensate for absence of concluding information.

2.
The words – ‘in the context of republican reliance on divisive identity-politics’ – disregard the very same conditions loyalist and unionist politics chooses to identify itself by.

Having a teapot and calling it a coffe-pot. The point being the tea leaves not coffee are used in it still.
Other metaphors are available.

Democracy enables no-one to be excluded. It is proven.

3.
‘We have made this clear many times and have indeed contributed to previous work on dealing with the past.’

Yet when an informer gives evidence against his former allies he is threatened with violence.
Other opportunities in respecting the need for a truth process have been undermined by the ongoing challenges and threats made to Ed Maloney and for what is contained in the Boston Archive which is in part accessed by the PSNI.

4.
‘We further declare that any engagement in criminal acts by any individuals within our organisations will be regarded as placing those persons outside the memberships.’

This implies the criminal acts will be found through due process of the Law and post conviction.

It fails to go on to say any information concerning criminal activity will be passed on by the ‘loyalist group’ to the PSNI should they become aware of unlawful activity.

5.
‘Loyalists must have ownership and control of their own future.’

There is no removal of ownership to require this statement.

The elected representatives – council – assembly – parliament – are the carriers of the future aims of citizens.  In recent elections even endorsements of the preferred candidate has been underlined in publications, press statements by loyalist groupings so it is who they elect to represent them that responsibility is to be shared.

6.
‘Now is the time for a renewed loyalism, with a new impetus to meet the challenges ahead.’

This statement again is not cognoscent of the available currency of process and outcomes presented within ‘loyalism’ regardless of timeframes supposed or not. Nothing is altered by this set of words. The context is made to seem uplifted by this nebulous meaningless phrase.

It avoids Civil Rights, Human Rights referencing and therefore is unconnected to any direct policy or concept.

7.
‘We want to see a better future for all in Northern Ireland and where the residual effects of conflict are recognised and addressed in a reparative manner.’

It is only reasonable and just to expect nothing less and this should indeed be axiomatic given the broad church of the people in Northern Ireland.

Futures past

It has long been held a conflict resolution process is in need of a resolution path.

The UK Government undermine this and the HET has as the film ‘No stone unturned’ shows provided only partial answers to and are not complete or with intent to complete.

The actions against any actor of violence including security forces persons are not without culpability and require to face Court trial as those who were freed under the GFA were processed through Law.

The difference is the actors not yet facing trial whose cases are live and intact need face justice at the earliest opportunity.

Comparison should not be made and is not made here with the premature release of Prisoners first sanctioned by Secretary of State Mo Mowlem in Agreement with Prisoner Groups outside local process of consultation.

The release of Prisoners under the GFA was a de facto proposition made possible by the Secretary of State after her discussions on the prospect with those in prison.

The proposition was a brokerage point – unjust, unfair and failing in criminal process – under which Law is maintained presently.

To conclude the statement on a note of sectarian exclusivity with no progression to mixed communities sought or acknowledged this merely parks division interminably. It asks it to be aided by others who accept this condition of insulararity politicised and not to undermine gained peace.

Footnote.
The main item taken from this statement by most observers is the element concerning criminality.
The fact other items on truth and justice for victims and parties bereaved by acts of violence by paramilitaries and in some cases in conjunction with Security Forces remains outside this statement as unaddressed.

The remainder of the text is positional marking of the GFA twentieth anniversary and is a choreographed exercise presumably organised by the NIO and British Government with ROI input to ensure the optics of Loyalism has a functional presence at the date of the Anniversary.

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It is also noted most local newspapers have been advised and given notice of the ‘theatre’ of Political underpinning in order to converge on a unity of purpose – that of analysis fed by prompt avoiding ‘fake news’ diversity.

The orchestration included the ‘adoration’ of the City of Belfast by conferring the Freedom of Belfast on two American participants and enablers of the GFA.

The currency of the GFA is hugely undermined by the timeline underpinning the main lack of progress in eradicating sectarianism and failure to meet levels of social equality.

The excluded are further undermined by Political stalemate and economic (Euro/Sterling) argument predicated in withdrawal from the EU.

A footnote exhibition opened one week before the GFA anniversary at the Ulster Museum on a redesign of ‘The Troubles’ curation. Within it are numerous very poor exhibits and very badly written text which give a wrong historical narrative to coincide with the false political optics presented by the statement and events surrounding it.

It is an indictment of generations of naysayers and lying to the public remains the States priority.

Press

The words of Suzanne Breen in the Belfast Telegraph on the day the great and the good came to remember the Good Friday Agreement of twenty years previously to the day, put this work in context.

“It appeared yesterday that loyalist leaders were just trying to join the Good Friday Agreement anniversary circus. The public want real change on the ground. Not much chance of that.”

Like all of us we will believe it when we see it.

There is a pressing need for both loyalists and unionists to see beyond their own horizons and to connect with others to build external networks and courses of action. A more open and confident sense of Britishness would help facilitate this evolution.’  Graham Spencer/Rev. Chris Hudson.  Belfast Telegraph 10.04.18

During ‘The Troubles’ is was Britishness, confident and open that drove the sectarianism led defence of community of their identity into violence.  The invasion and burning out of Catholic families were loyalist protection of their community.  Later ‘Spokespersons’ came to the fore in Loyalism justifying tit for tat murders and the Glenanne gang were aided by security forces. Army bases were used for training under the umbrella of TA and UDR tags. Membership was based around an assured identity under threat.  Those such as David Ervine, later to renounce his violent past; he took the road of violence following the Bloody Friday Bombings, were cheer leaders for hatred and ensured recruitment and loyalist districts became terrorised just as they are now by opportunists and criminals in the name of their cause. Alongside was intimidation and internecine warfare where a loyalist would shot and kill a disobedient loyalist.  Others who disagreed in a provocative way by speaking out were executed.

The words ring hollow as they did back then when Ministers and Priests saved lives by giving shelter and guidance to those who chose not to become involved in violence and by acting as mediators but those actions were few and far between though it would have been a whole lot worse had they not. Families were split and divided on fundamentalist lines. Like Religion differences the Clergy made their trademark distinction exactly that. A distinction without conformed unity. The Rev. Roy Davey, a man ahead of his time set up before the conflict called ‘The Troubles’ began the Corrymela foundation for peaceful reconciliation and love among races.

Prominent compacts have come and gone. The Women’s Coalition is no longer around. The Civil Rights Movement no longer exists. The Nationalist Party, Northern Ireland Labour Party all have left the stage of Socialist politics and silo politics rules the province and without a representative  Government.

This is the context in which the statement and the past theatre of resolution politics is to be seen.

 

John Graham

13 April 2018

Belfast

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The Final Year : A Film Review

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The Final Year

Cast : Barack Obhama, John Kerry, Samantha Power, Ben Rhodes. Producers : John Battsek … producer, Diane Becker … co-producer, Alice Bristow … associate producer, Christopher Buchanan … co-producer, George Chignell .. Production Executive : Passion Pictures, Christopher Clements … Production, Executive: Motto Pictures, Ann Rogers,  associate producer, Kerstin Emhoff … co-executive producer, Julie Goldman … producer, Tyler Gurd … associate producer, Carolyn Hepburn … Production Executive Ann Rogers … associate producer, Andrew Ruhemann … co-executive producer, Nicole Stott … Production Executive: Passion Pictures, Erikka  Music by Philip Sheppard Cinematograph  by Martina Radwan, Erich Roland, Film editing by Joshua Altman, Langdon Page. Duration 1hr 29mins. Cert. 12a.

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The Final President

Home Box Office have created a documentary of the final year in office of the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama’s tenure of service from 2009 to 2017 an inevitable expectancy reaching a form of closure.

THE FINAL YEAR is a unique insiders’ account of President Barack Obama’s foreign policy team during their last year in office. Featuring unprecedented access inside the White House and State Department, THE FINAL YEAR offers an uncompromising view of the inner workings of the Obama Administration as they prepare to leave power after eight years.  It is an ‘fly on the wall’ without the depth of the intimacy of private wrestling with the pervasive conflicting day to day manifestations of outfall not just of past history but managing the present.  It is inside and insightful yet is disappointing and troubling to watch.

News Management has soared to the top of everyone’s truth seeking senses.  It seems we are all on a course of becoming a component in an agenda of mismanaged futures through the choices made in elections everyone is on someone’s line of trajectory.  People as commodities.  Holding firm to truth and where it emanates from is as ever a pathos, as stories crush and compel arguments across Governmental desks.  Challenges are of unique carefully drafted message enveloped in media forms confronted by the reveal of history none were anticipating. Paradise papers and whistleblowers.  Julian Assange just recently became a citizen of Ecuador while the GB Government has him under house arrest.  Democrat disjunction, disfunction, is here to be seen also writ large ahead of the triumphalism of the anti-Athenian D. Trump.  Dialogue is free and interpreted instantly.  This film takes us up to that threshold and we are in the arc following when the choke was taken off the master tapes of the White House and Twitter accounts tell of internal wrangling.

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Term of Office

No longer is there a President of the United States but a franchise which is part an incumbent of enemies trading powers privilege staying off legislation. A News managed for the mass consumption in return for a route to launder currency is all it took to dismantle the final office frontier. Nations and boundaries no longer matter and instead a block chain of political dimensions untaught in manuals or educational establishments, for that is what they were, are grounded on blocks of power. High yield is a derivative played by arms provisions.

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Adjust the War

Barack Obama was the last President concerned with solving the long trail of a Rothschild type Imperialist agenda which saw the Gaza Strip as a battleground. He could not avoid it but it was not an analysis of sufficient gravity but a long held (dis)belief it was not a religious warp. So religion and it’s many dimensions never became part of the guidance on either side. Read the scholarly Saeb Shaath on the legacy.  Syria and The Middle East have held a long sword of unremitting horror over its own people extracting themselves from a century or more of exploitation through its  own tyranny.  http://saebpress.com/2013/08/saudi-arabia-funding-unrest-in-middle-east/. 20c Oil has been the catalyst for the resurgence of the Arab world to again become valid citizens in a fallible relationship with its surrounding neighbours and fellow followers of peaceful unity but it has harboured the hurt and damage caused by invasion and exploitation of corporate thieves. Now the calamity is in a frame of technicolour news as daily reports of intolerance, genocide and divisiveness saturate continents and infiltrate the outskirts of formerly untroubled Nations. Migration by displacement is a shared world problem.

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Calmness is a convoy of aid and here in the film of the round up of conventions and diplomatic dancing comes another narrative. Blaming and shaming. The aid literally is blown up by an actor for the world to react to, showing the failure diplomacy is. UN outrage is blunt and name calling. Putin is intent on alarming the world by showing here it is a crime to want peace if you do not accord with a rule of one Federation. The former Soviet Union is revengeful and Ukraine which barely gets a mention in this documentary is as near as we can place a truth of division outside of the Middle East used as a bargaining chip by both sides. The Hillary Clinton input is put aside also.

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Global Diplomacy

Heavily featured here is the Vietnam veteran John Kerry. He justifiable carries the burden of spokesperson for the nothing war which claimed and still does the lives of many of his fellow combatants and by mines left unexploded awaiting a victim. The Vietnam War follows through from Kennedy whose armaments fed the Vietnamese regimes fighting Communism to the Johnson and Nixon destruction both of their own troops and many civilians in Laos and thereafter came an legacy where there is still a long unbroken chain leading into Presidency after Presidency. Obama is intent on doing his peacemaking tour around the world and finds it gratifying and just in going back to the past and looking to repair the broken shattered peace and being a fitting memorial for drawing a line. Japan and Hiroshima will also feature.

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John Kerry is on the alternative narrative of dealing with today’s catastrophe while ignoring the elephant in the room of USA defence weaponry manufacture and industrial warmongering industries. Safe to say he is not a pacifist as late on he declares and at the same time purports to be seeking peace. On USA terms. The other handgliding drone in the room is a UN Ambassador whose job is to make the obstinate squirm and show up the fallacy of their ways. Samantha Power has the unusual insight of an Irish Immigrant background; disqualified from running for office by that origin but equipped by having been recruited on the basis of a journalists approach and her book on origins of war and where they are taking us, at least that was my original take on its premise. The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University (sic) was the institution Samantha Power established a Human Rights Foundation in. From writing about how 20th century genocide was ignored (wide generalisation given the WWII and continuation of The Great War) is lost in narrative with the title The Problem from Hell. Women’s issues are highlighted and it is neither seen as a fashion thing about wearing hijabs or subjection but a basic lack of equality. Religious dogma is not writ large. Kidnapping and slavery and terrible abuses are documented while the daylight of a USA where a form of women’s subjection is to open on news fronts across industries in a #me too narrative is in the shade here. Truth will out eventually. One of the guides they fail to recount is John Stuart Mill, not only on divinity recalling the individual broadly used not as freedoms footnote but as a economic distribution ethos.

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Unintelligible is the strength and power of religious idealism and internally humanity overdoing any ‘value’ hierarchy brought about by trade. JSM relies on ‘constructive empiricism’ while seeing or rather not seeing ‘nature’ – the storms of civilisation alongside the natural phenomena of our daily bread – constantly putting us in our rightful place demanding reconciliation with it and ourselves. For JSM his wisdom also produced solutions peculiar to himsel& and in his relationship with Harriet Taylor evidenced an equality of existence even the Church could not form. Itself a ‘periclesian’ mode which was denying no one their individual freedom. The suffragettes at the same time conducted wicked and detestable bombing and created a scourge still not acknowledged as a means to an end. Democracy. Enemies were many and often with good cause. So this is a backdrop History is failing to include in the breath of those forces confronting the so called ‘leaders’ this film seems intent on eulogising in a passing river of consciousness as it reaches down rebranched tributaries and flows continually caring the waters which it will always carry.

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Dressing wounds

Narratives are forms of life and no history of the world can be written without the diaspora having a say. From the Anglicised retention’s of rule in a Fedralised America to the Religious strength consumed and abused in the USA and nations from the tip of South America up to Alaska, Canada, across Europe and spread dishonestly as a rhetoric of truth comes another will. The will of America to prevail and be prevalent as values which we are overhearing in the everyday talk of the rooms of power.  No mention of the G20 or Peter Sutherland, Goldman Sachs or any taint of monied America getting its hands dirty?  Just another HBO narrative with displacing counterpoint in soundbites hurled with intended anonymity into the whirlpool of chaos two steps behind the developing story.  At the beginning of the film comes a follow me routine. The feet fast and well shod on prepared ground. The diplomats timetable run out as prescribed in advance but always a beat behind. It’s as though they are insistent on not being their on time so as to disown the past.

Imperialist allies

Britain invented Israel as a removal of a family of languages and people. the afroasiatic form called Hamito-Semitic, a family of languages including as subfamilies Semitic, Egyptian, Berber, Cushitic, and Chadic.  Syria is Palestine and holds a bitter division in opposition to the Imperialist Israel Project with Lebanon as a hideout. An interesting novel character is found in a speech writer whose compass matches Barack Obama’s.  Ben Rhodes is an under forty master of spin and incisive vective. This is a part of Obama’s person he (Obhama) can’t devote time to so has allowed a surrogate to unfold his theories and unlock his wisdom. Unwittingly or is it intent, he is cast in the mound of a Jewish intern general with a false past which is possibly denuded of the Religious might he is from.

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Religion is swerved here. His Episcopal Father and Jewish Mother are tongues he listened to and listens internally to now it would seem safe to assume. No faith is to undo the legacy of an infant Israel heresy. Muslim or Christian. Judaism in a bold type of monotheistic reason is adhered to in American eyes.  Both these travellers, Obhama, Rhodes, are Religious in degrees privately it has to be assumed from other media but often as not it is left outside the Oval Office. Neither seems to realize their part is based in Religious heirachy and they are beholden by virtue of their cloth. That sets them apart and mitigates against their understanding of others values not matching theirs. Fundamentally in the Middle East.  Winston Churchill is apparently their mentor or past leader of choice for guidance. He was beholden to America also and Blenheim Palace became the gift of the British Crown for his persuasion in getting the USA to enter WWII and send supplies into a Europe which was under siege from that genocide The Problem from Hell. More like the problem of Hell. How not to see it. How to not recognize its advance.

Hell is in the clouds and earth.

Speeches set the tone and every new room entered has a pathos to be delivered. For Barak Obama it is the American Declaration of Independence and is foremost in lectures to the gathered. It was what a Congress was derived for. July 4, 1776, and the words were set in Washington’s Presidency. Those words were conscripted from Ulster’s Francis Hutchensons philosophy brought forth by Thomas Paine as exiles of the yoke of imperialism they so detested.  Unitarian in thought and principle their ideas were nevertheless based on individuals allowance of free thought. Less words would carry such might as those distilled here. Yet where are the notions of the Declaration in assignment against the tours of combat since embarked on. Only the hideous genocide of future generations in Africa and Asia would equal the waste of WWII and its legacy borne world wide. Now the countries are being stripped of their assets by new entrants from China and the G20.

Conclusion ###3

Rich as this film is equipped with the sensory media behemoth of the United States of America in history mode it fails to direct the camera in any decisive illuminating way while illustrating a West Wing narrative which is high on ideal and lacking in scuprles or any game changer dynamic.  The anticipation of office has been swamped by time advancing with greater perils opened up through truth emerging in histories recall.  As a mission to complete the 44th Presidency many repairs were sought to be made by Barack Obhama while his steadfast troops both suited and fatigued were deployed on present day flanks with much of the common talk broken into slow burning flames of hope.  It is a film worth seeing as a reminder of the removal from the political sphere a genuine worthy experience of mankind reckoning with their own failures and beholden by powers immensely conflated and misunderstood.  Philosophy is in its a bit but it is a failure to define politics as a motor of governance for the common good which is all too clearly absent given the extremes of the states and actors involved at the heart of our world order.

John Graham

18 January 2018

Belfast

Opening at Queens Film Theatre Belfast 19 January 2018 until 25 January 2018.

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Howard’s End : A Film Review

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Howard’s End

Directed by James Ivory, Produced by Ismail Merchant, Screenplay by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, Based on Howards End by E. M. Forster

Cast, Anthony Hopkins, Vanessa Redgrave, Helena Bonham Carter, Emma Thompson, James Wilby, Samuel West, Jemma Redgrave, Prunella Scales, Music by Richard Robbins, Percy Grainger (opening and end title), Cinematography Tony Pierce-Roberts, Edited by Andrew Marcus, Production company, Merchant Ivory Productions

 

 

 

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Edwardian period piece.

This remastered release of the classic Merchant and Ivory Howard’s End depiction of the E.M. Forster’ 1910 novel is a favourite and is seen as one worthy of revived rerelease.  It has not worn that well and is a reminder that when it was made in 1991 it gave of a wiff of sentimentality which Tory Britain resided under and still does.  It reflects on handed down residue of imperial warfare when things are not entirely explained.  The question of how we arrived at this state.  Forster is essentially playful and creates characters with complexities of a backstory and the Anglo-German was to be a prescient but fateful insert with how alike the nations of wealth were like.  It was an age of industrial growth and come hell or high water money was to be made and flights to be taken ships to despatch people to far ends of the earth and Henry Wilcox a true British capitalist is one to take interest in all things colonial.  The import export world of trade and stealing wealth in the form of their minerals of helplessly under developed nations such as in Africa and the Middle East where oil wealth was a bottomless pit.  The wars stay outside the nation.

There is a conceit or play on names with the Schlegel family of an Anglo German bourgeoisie class, with whom the Wilcox’s become entangled and unexpectedly so.  The conceit being maybe a realisation of the already modern Europeans.  The brittleness of the comedic almost farcical leanings of both families, across each other’s lives in a time when place and position were unable to recovery from slight and mishap is something Forster and the duo of that pairing of Ismail Merchant and director James Ivory, who were not just creative partners but life partners, savour.

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At least the upper crust were not ridiculing themselves but a colonial pairing who got the absurdity of the characters extremely observantly.  It set out a past which Britain could reflect on.  The suffragette period and optimism of nations trading withoutvwarring but the warring and colonialism of French, Spanish, English were kept of their respective shores.  The wealth of Henry Wilcox is burgeoning throughout and property after property, become acquired – Mayfair, Shropshire, Somerset – so as to present the period as one where the acquisition of money was enabled by compliance to the golden rule of buy cheap sell high.  In whatever commodity regardless of its origin could facilitate it.

This makes Howard’s End, the family home where the Wilcox family all grew up all the more portent yet a simple piece off rural England.  Possibly Hildenborough in Kent which is renamed Hilton.  

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Literal Strength

Random House provide an excellent readers guide.  The following is taken from it.

It was as a university student at King’s College that Forster was first inspired by the liberal humanism of philosopher George Moore, who advocated the contemplation of beauty and the cultivation of personal relations as a spiritual antidote to the rootless, mechanistic ethos of his age. Forster, together with the young men who would later form the Bloomsbury group of writers (Lytton Strachey, John Maynard Keynes, and Leonard Woolf, among others), embraced this challenge to traditional religious morality and to the growing commercial spirit of the time. Forster spent some of his happiest days in this company, a lifestyle mirrored in the Schlegels’ passion for art, friendship, and the life of the mind.

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Society

Comparisons are then clearly explored between the two families.  One rooted in intellectual (Cambridge is never evoked) the artistic, cultural explorers, pioneering, liberal family the Schlegel’s and the industrial rampant Wilcox family immersed in ideas of commerciality and gain.

Implicit is Forsters unease with the limitations of the Schlegel families oeuvre so he nails each character into a dilemma and we see we’re their true values reside.  Margaret played immaculately by a extremely well observed, nuanced performance of Emma Thompson, is the most apparently pragmatically incisive one of the Schlegel family, whose about turn is all too conceited and carried of with superb, carefully careworn empathetic playing.  I always have an affinity with a fellow left-hander.  Albeit a the fictional one is not within our more worthy characters and I believe it’s realised by Emma Thompson.  That about turn is huge.

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Away with nature

Frailty is not a trait of Henry Wilcox but we are given insight after insight as to his loose arrangements with human nature.  They betray his weaknesses and all come around again.  Margaret has visions of uniting town and country, man and woman, commerce and culture while she hold also to the wisdom of ancient voices.

The ancient voices she hear through herself and the troubled vexed and impoverished Leonard who has the misfortune to recieve a bit of advice which turns his life upside down.  Their meeting is another happenstance which is a necessity of the story.  The advice given completely breaks him and his loving wife Jackie, who was left as an orphan at 16 in Cyprus through the death of her trader father. On  returning to England found Leonard.  Leonard is the ancient voice of another time.

His scholarly endeavors at home confuse and make for strange relations with his fiancé,  she is a homemaker but they are in poor housing next to a railway.  The sky and the country are a dreamland which he is unable to share with Jackie, intellectually or spiritually and this side of him finds him behaving erratically, very out of normality for what it is.  Nature v Human nature as Margaret Schlegel would have it.  Her rationalit’s scopes out acceptance of peculiar actions while being unable to fully accept them.  On the other hand Helen is a wild rover on the landscape of the new world arriving.

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Forster challenges through his juxtaposition of the symbolic Howard’s End as an idyll and enchanted garden, the comparison of  modernities progress in London where insurers prosper, gather the risk, where Leonard works diligently and effectively as a clerk (the Porphyrion Fire and Life Insurance Company) against his own anxiety of knowing there is something other than this to life. His character development pitches the redoubtable Mrs Ruth Wilcox into the fray.

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As the eldest and Henry’s wife she is totally in love with Howard’s End which is hers and it came to her through an old yeomanry stock route. When he casts Howard’s End as a fulcrum of the story he does so having regretted leaving his own ideal childhood home just north of London, Rooksnest, and through the industrialisation moving at a quick pace found himself living in Tonbridge, or Tunbridge Wells, where the business class congregated. This was very significant to Forster. He seen it, in his own childhood, as a loss of connection to place, a respect for individuality, and a commitment to the contemplative life which he regarded as in essence England.   It shows how strong place means to the young.  Imbedded in the psyche as a function of survival perhaps as essential knowledge of belonging.

As a King’s College student at Cambridge Forster would be influenced by the Liberal humanism of George Moore, who sought beauty as spiritual solace setting his philosophy out of religious and capitalistic values. In later years he would be stimulated by fellow students later to belong to the Bloomsbury Group, Lytton Strachey, John Maynard Keynes, and Leonard Woolf, among others. It previous times it would have been Wollstonecraft, Godwin, Stewart, Blake, Paine radicalising the form of governance with ideals of liberal enlightenment. One separated from religion.

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Samuel West as Leonard Bast

When Forster sets the two families across the street from one another; the Wilcox family move into Wickham Place, the inevitable meeting of the two ladies Mrs Wilcox, Ruth, and Meg, Margaret of the Schlegel family whose aunt is the busy body of their family, Aunt Juley (Prunella Scales) is imminent.   Once formalities are over and they meet regularly Ruth forms a bond with Margaret who is she sees, a younger version of herself. Though Sufferage is not the thing for Ruth who is content for men to be the ones to vote, Margaret is a habitué of the former quietly or thunderously disappearing Howard’s End life epoch. Recognising this Ruth introduces unknown to Margaret another plot device which has the rest of the Wilcox family turn to treat her with distrust and distaste. This is a very re-siting of the Howard’s End ‘character’ as a metaphor for the English throwing the baby out with the bath water and ruining the jewel in the crown, its garden of Eden.

The presence of Henry becomes more evident and the Schlegels seek his advice concerning a person of their acquaintance, the young clerk a Leonard whose tenuous introduction into the Schlegel fold has Helen at least a member of the cause celebre class.  She sees in him a worthiness chrysalis wanting to search for light.  Henry is also seen as a possible real estate advisor which he reluctantly becomes involved in.  Very quickly he is established as having enough wealth to himself plan his next move from Wickam Place and a small flat to a salubrious house in Mayfair.  So Howard’s End, Wickham Place, Mayfair.  To that list he later adds stately houses and farmholdings.  It is never clear how different he regards the lives of the classes but certainly Ruth despairs at this less than Human regard for servants and his lackies.

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The events conspire to create a problem Margaret and particularly Helen feel is partly of their making with their assistance for Leonard having not worked out at all as intended.  The two stories overlap and intrigue in the way they unfold.  There are family asides concerning Howard’s End with Henry’s Ruth obedient sons, Paul and particularly Charles played by the magical James Wilby.  Susie Lindeman as Dolly Wilcox his wife is a funny and doting, simpleton for want of a better word.  Charles is covetous of Howard’s End and is the dogsbody in his fathers commercial trading company.  He makes no decisions, is presumably not allowed to and calls father Sir.  He is a for want of a better word, gormless, earlobe tugging, narrow visioned, unambitious man who goes with the tide.  He creates a future for himself based on Howard’s End and maybe this is a simple everyman though limited scope Englishman Forster sees most men’s ambitions.  It’s hard to draw real hard and fixed forms around most of the characters and cast them in either an intentional negative or positive role.  The basic reasoning I make therefore of Forster’s intention is to have us, the reader, (viewer as Ruth/Ismail/James imagined) place our own vision of society on.

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Margaret and Tibby

The Schlegel set were limited towards recognition of social conventions, economic trend, efficiency, with no realisation of their own position afforded them. Forster presumably was more extensive and global in his view while seeing the English garden of Eden as a parody of the Liberty he felt absent.

The Wilcox’s are more ambitious as far as weddings are concerned and Margaret Schlegel oddly is an independent not seeing any need to marry or it appears any capacity for sexual desire.  When you see how luminous and intelligent she becomes in company it’s not confidence she lacks, she is ambitious for others and watchful of her siblings. Tibby played by Adrian Ross Magenty, is I think the youngest and he is academic without having a need to turn his knowledge into money.  He sets of to Magdalen College, Oxford with a certainty of obtaining greater wisdom having committed himself to being as clever as Margaret imagines him to be.  Just how Margaret advances you will have to go on recall dial or wait to see again or maybe for the first time have this complexity revealed to you by going to see the film.  It is worth it and Emma Thompson plays it so well and with a light hand.

Bluebells

In encountering Leonard the other side of life in London is brought from the shadows. With the use of the countryside Ruth/Ismail/James see the nature as constant and seasonal and the touches of colour and it’s abundance are from the opening shot which has Ruth in Evening dress stroll through woodland and grassland, lavender and pansies edging the lawns we are hopelessly drawn into a rhapsody on cultivated splendour.  Leonard is conspiratol in this as he takes in the outdoors at twilight going through Bluebell wood.  Bluebell wood is in Surrey a staple of natures wonder.

“The more people one knows, the easier it is to replace them. It is one of the curses of London. I quite expect to end my life caring most for a place.”

Surrey has these famous bluebell woods where people visit annually as spring moves into summer.  Winkworth Arboretum (near Godalming)
Abinger Roughs and Netley Park (between Dorking and Guildford off the A25)
Harewoods (Outwood, Redhill) but the most famous which is where we are disposed to call to mind (given the Kent connections)  of I think is Emmetts Garden, Sevenoaks, Ightham Mote, (Scathes Wood) Sevenoaks.  Others and well known through asccess being very simple are in grander places. Sissinghurst Castle Garden, Cranbrook, where there are a mere 126 million bluebell flowers in these woods virtue of the maintenance of those gardens, habitat by Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicholson. Then there is Knole, Sevenoaks.  Knole is the perfect place from which to set off to One Tree Hill, where the heady scent of English Bluebells fills the woodland. One Tree Hill consists of a varied mosaic of habitats, with woodland and open glades, providing homes for some rare wildlife species too.  Most of which lies within an SSSI, and motorways, large Tesco apart is in an area of outstanding beauty.

The situation of nature is not a small one and it is very intentional in my view.  As in Forster’s awakening along the lines of George Moore there is much to be drawn here.  In Ruth’s walk for example.  It is a transition and a walk before twilight.  Just as the floor of bluebells, daffodils and lavender growing in woods open and show amazingly their vital existence; the plant is now a protected species in England, they carpet the close habitats to us with a wonderment.  They come to flower just before the crown of leaves fill the trees and darkness is present under the shade of the trees.  How metaphorical can you get. It is where Ruth is.  Another piece of glory is Leonard striding through, presumably treading down plants in flush of colour, in has ungainly walk.   He lacks the stand back and admire need that presents but ploughs on through.  It is also in the shadows of twilight as he heads into the unknown future with a lack of knowledge to accompany him.  Behind him he leaves anxieties and simpler practical domiciliary occupations of the mind.  Dickens is recollected as a storyteller of the juxtapositions and socitetal mores.  Forster is more ingenious and while utopian Shaw; he gets a mention, science is evident to E.M. as an importance discovering natures atomic secrets and stars astronomy come into Leonard’s field of vision. The Milky Way being a corridor we are in and can see while seeming apart from it.

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Set pieces and Interludes.  

The film is set in chapters of indeterminate length and within one or two of those the error of a fade to black then reintroduction to the same scene at a later point hangs heavy and when initially encountered this appears to be a film reel failure.  It is shown digitally though and is in upscale 4K projection.  So it jars but is only the choice made in the early nineties.

Places

In Tunbridge Wells this vision itself which the original book evokes things changed dramatically ten years after it was written.  I can’t help adding a reflection on the resurgence needed in this part of England and after again in the later War suffering  very badly, it is worth adding more comment.  In TW’s after the War one of the first problems to be faced was the shortage of dwellings. The old houses occupied as billets were gradually reinstated and sold or turned into flats: new houses of moderate size were being put up here and there: there was a desperate need for working class houses. The Corporation had many years before purchased land for the purpose of building small houses, but the opposition to the scheme was such that the land was sold. In 1920, 30 houses of the Hawkenbury Estate were built by the Corporation, but so very high was the price of materials (mostly Government controlled) at the time that the cost was enormous and nothing like an economic rent could be asked. In 1920 an estate was laid out at Rusthall, and in subsequent years additional groups of dwellings have been built to the number of over three hundred houses.

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The late Joseph Bennett who played Paul Wilcox R.I.P.

Conclusion ####4

This is a vision for those unaware that before Downton Abbey there were much better constructs of period drama with a vice like grip on change and changes inherent in people as circumstances alter.  Place is fundamentally symbolic and at the heart of the drama.  The aforementioned stole this too, and feveriously a clash of European idealism itself portending to a future Forster would have had known little or nothing of kept as contrast with the island a petrel blue carpeted idil framed in Forster’s mind, is challenged and is seen to be changing.  Pragmatism is laid out.  Misfortune is experienced.  Love knots are forged and inescapable truths revealed or misread.  Several interweaving strands are for the sake of the book and latterly film are advanced using pardonable device and carry on the story in a wide view.  The alternations are not great leaps and we leave the story for long periods and revisit it in different places and circumstances to see how events have played out.  The characterisations, the celebration of lace and sense of place are at times chocolate box but they are devices with an underplaying part which I describe above.

When I first saw this film I lived in Surrey, was able to take advantage of yearly visits to Bluebell woods and walks in, on Boxhill and visit Knole and Sissnghurst, the Georgian Tunbridge Wells with its beautiful now properly restored, Pantiles.  There is the headless horse rider in Hurst Wood to the 20 ghosts it is said to haunt The Pantiles.  The words and vision is haunting us from ancient times again.

 

John Graham

28 July 2017

Belfast

From 28 July to 3 August 2017 at Queens Film Theatre Belfast and general release.

cant believe its 25 years since it’s made.

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Risk : A Film Review

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Risk  A Documentary film.  1hr 34mns.

Credits. Julian Assange |Sarah Harrison | Jacob Appelbaum | Joseph Farrell | Renata Avila | Jennifer Robinson | Erinn Clark.

Directed and produced by Laura Poitras. Produced by Brenda Coughlin, Yoni Golijov. Executive Producers. Sam Esmail, Vinnie Malhotra, Charlotte Cook, Aj Schnack, Michael Bloom, Adam Pincus, David Menschel, Jess Search, Josh Braun.

Risk is living.
Watching this film is to reveal the background and recent history of Julian Assange, the Wikileaks founder, as he continues, up to and including this films conclusion, to be confined within the British based Ecuadorian Embassy, Embadapa under continuing detention. It also take us to the USA and the recent Trump/Russian twists since Trump’s appointments were brokered.

For all the challenges making a film of this sort presents problems, of time and with changes arriving thick and fast it through recent revision stands solidly as an extremely informative documentary – regardless of the complex co traditions it presents.  “I thought I could ignore the contradictions. I thought they were not part of the story. I was so wrong. They’re becoming the story.” confides Poitras at some low hanging fruit of Julian Assanges –
firmly blethering (sorry Julian I couldn’t find another word!) views.  His on-camera intimate talk is a very uninteresting insight to his woolly, almost seeking alarm for the sake of alarm on camera in eyebrow raised marks (tumbleweed) and some sympathy is felt, given his imprisonment, when cameras rolls on.  It is after all though, a platform which cannot be turned away given his enforced hibernation.  It consequently shows the talk as uninteresting but the whole idea of a documentary is one at times of it becoming theatre and the actors are without a script.  Some people have been severely critical of the style and filmic indulgence of Laura Poitras whose shots take on the feel of a drama when misty window reflections and artfully caught shape and darkness illuminate the bleakness of a particular dilemma or circumstance.  I believe it entirely legitimate and it implies the truth is not what we are here to see but a construction dealt with a fixed deck.

Film Review Risk

Time discloses all.

The film starts of with a view of Julian Assange in the company of the Director mulling over the outline of their collaboration.  For Julian Assange this is a much healthier time as he has relative freedom and is (only!) under curfew in a friends house in deepest Norfolk with access to the beach.  It is 2011 and his trial concerning extradition to Sweden is being contested while sundry other things are about to unfold.  The main tiger in the room is the Wikileaks formation digital encrypted document Bradley Manning has placed on the site which a password protects.  The data document, it is learnt in this early part of the documentary, has been uploaded on the interface of Wikileals without password protection.  All of the USA secret files of operations accessed are unredacted and therefore contain good and bad data.  Essentially the window is open and paper is flying everywhere on natures wind – the global internet servers are available for anyone to see classified USA documents and make of it what they will.

The breach is on Hillary Clintons watch as Secretary of State and hurried anxious phone calls from Norfolk – Sarah Harrison, legal eagle, contacts the Whitehouse and try and alert the Presidential Office, as to the carrier pigeons in flight with her Governments information with the impending prospect of ever inquisitive persons monitors lighting up and printing off, for bedtime reading – prior to good wifi, sufficient storage, small tablets which go to sleep and produce real drama and most probably a rainstorm of dirty tricks and unscrupulous methodology which is without moral bounds.

The relationship between the film maker and Julian Assange is one of pragmatism.  He is in the clasp of legal and national sidetracking issues, and the drama of a documentary on one of the world’s most proflific activists probing the internet as a deconstructionist with exposé, after revelation, – high currency for any documentary maker.  So it has a purpose first of all which we must be well prepared for, is of hubris and confident trailblazing while underneath lies a story of individual imprisonment at the hands of powerful forces with his allies equipped with little more than a large corporations staffing levels – the volunteers are widespread and underground as they piece together support and inform the dialogue – they have unknown funds and heavyweight supporters probably.   The narrative is after all a needed platform.  All platforms are fair game and we get a glimpse of a pop star filming an amateur post type interview in the Ecuadorian embassy for fans and the interview is staged less formally than Assange initially conceived of it.  Then came the cringeworthy questions. Cleverly the talk was directed by Assange at the USA where the main audience of the video existed.

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Visionary in the dark

Laura Poitras is a very clever match of combatant for Assange as she disallows his taking over situations and firmly places the focus on the conditions and surrounding circumstances of the news not brought to the everyday exposure of the information war. Laura Poitras is also a fellow activist with the extraordinary film on Snowdon, Citizenfour, a groundbreaking style of news telling and undercover deliverance on her roster.  Then previously The Oath.  We are still not convinced or editorially equipped with disseminating this form of investigation and revelatory truth seeking and telling.  Every scene is chillingly real with absurdity of the everyday crashing in and out with natural dynamism having the alarming contrast just beside it.  It’s our reality of having without due process contrived to risk (first use of the word) allowing the Courts to remove him from the UK and place him in the unstable hands of a Swedish, see what way the wind blows, democracy. ‘… pretending they are a stickler for process.’ Assange.  Venues for the camerawork are Norfolk, Cairo, London, Fort Meade Maryland, (received footage?), Tunis, America (Democratic election convention), Berlin, all places where the Wikileaks narrative tales us.  Some of it is illustrative, such as conferences for nerdy hackers, or venues where Julian Assange draws crowds by his absence.  Frontline Club host large venue quasi conferences with speakers and networking possibilities.  Usually a tube stop or two away from mine hosts M16 and Foreign Office, Home Office spooks.  Although primary taps and surveillance is of more import.  The spies are everywhere and House of Cards needs a backstory.  A very unsavoury moment of trouble in the ranks is the overview of a parallel organisations leader also being wired for sexual misdealings.  Jacob Appelbaum is portrayed as a villain – (the film indicates no charges yet exist) – he drops a sexist comment in front of Muslim pupils of hacking talk.  It would just be as offensive in any location, private or public and here it is on film.  and he occupies another slot in this film, shot in Cairo, when he exposes the state run Mubarak directed, TE Data at a open symposium of internet providers, of shutting down Twitter traffic and platforms for media exchange.  This is accompanied by an outbreak in the room of rapturous applause.  Every country will have its internet traffic police while the ‘Engines’ of social media are themselves being censored or being controlled for improper conduct which a lot of will be politically slanted.

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Situation comedy

An interesting exchange is filmed in a quiet Countrylife inspired lounge, draped, scatter cushions with Dame Helena Kennedy and the non-speaking Gareth Peirce whose silence is equally – better than that actually – entertaining as the ultras trade axioms and lawyer psychology which is to prepare a Assange for his press a Court Appearance.  So Assange’s referencing of lesbian inspired ‘tag teams’ jumps out from the notoriously crass and febrile Assange speech which his blethering style exposes. The flushed and pyretic Kennedy does not know where to look and Poitras catches this English wordsmithing, with the same silence, the by now, presumably, dejected Gareth who has met real victims and fought tirelessly in the frontline of Human Rights sitting with controlled propriety.  Sublime and an example of ethicality.  No wonder Churchill wished Business to be written and agreement not based on conversation. Recall being everything.  The drink from which Wikileaks depends, so the contrast could not be more sweetly expressed.  Physician heal thy self.

The people who feature alongside Julian Assange were constant foils but most were equal to the Assange modus operandi.  The priority was to understand what was at stake. For this you need lawyers.  Not of the level and elevation of Peirce or Kennedy but the rookie type whose Court experience would be limited.  There is no validation of this but it was like having House of Cards interns at your beck and call.   Some were very much above the hubris and grandiose ‘I’m not a martyr’  but a conflicted human being type of projection Assange fronted up with.  Sarah Harrison is the Lawyer in chief.  Her steadiness and practicality and inmate wisdom was a valuable docking in the stormy waters.  Likewise the very clear headed forthright Renata Avila an articulate devilish driver of the nitty gritty and consequential.

In every sphere of public life corruption and catastrophic decisions amplify and Law is the stalking horse most rely on.  In the regimes and democracies it seldom abates. These islands can attest to the duplicitous role of Governance outflanking and disregarding Law and its victims are many.  Attribution happens on either side with the extensive new or relatively new form of scrutiny enabled by Wikileaks has opened up a whole extraordinary proof of this.  Recent events have presented with regard to dealings of nations intent on influencing anothers course.  Some may well be in relation to the safe storage in unblockchain protected localities of immense wealth, accumulated through regimes borderless dealings which have their nation’s looking vain for the money or restitution.  Imagine a prospective ‘West’ Presidential Candidate advising a sitting ‘East’ President (a perceived foe) where the accumulation can be secretly secreted.

Our information is incomplete
Our present dependence on fast electronic communication which is barely 40 years old, across continents and borders without the impediment of time or locality has made us evaluate the systems we use of governance and the open transmission of information.  Around 1960 TV was upon us as a window into other worlds and media dissemination of news and was authorially controlled by the license providers, there came in 1967-69 a western appetite to know what was going on in Eastern block countries, how civil society worked in China, Indonesia, with a vision exposed of inequalities defined in Human Rights terms.  Inwardly the USA became, with Civil Rights activism, a lantern for freedom fighters to demonstrate and to a lesser extent in Paris and London these voices for freedom exploded into living rooms instead of through newspapers but as barely 12 hour old news.  The crush came with the Eastern Czechoslovakian Dubjek being raised from obscurity as an opposition leader into a virtual figurehead for non violent revolution.

That was 1969 and what materialized was a culture of investigative journalism.  The story of much earlier news manipulator/manipulated ‘reporter, Roger Casement and news management comes to mind.  Alongside it the apartheid staining otherwise seemingly benign places such as South Africa and Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) and nowhere was out of bounds except the totalitarian nations such as China and by dint North Korea a hateful terrorising oligarchy which sat as a de facto attack dog for China and its wider interests.  Our story of Wikileaks contains a terrine of global pottage, c’est-à-dire, a conglomeration of mass ingredients cooking away with sometimes overspill and untasteful results.  The mix is toxic and it’s terrine is Wikileaks and it’s operators, head of which is it’s founder, the Australian Julian Assange.  His name is synonymous nowadays with a frontiersman like truth seeker.  He does not rely on God or mantras but his individual conscious is high toxically for him, developed to speak of the sins of the universe and their authors by revealing not their persona – because participation in the construct Assange wishes to disrupt and reveal its contents is consiratorailly under the control of a minority of the minority who have vast sales of self-identity, perceptions of nationhood and history which has accumulated to a self-representation and nullifying absurdity which is the twin of Julian Assanges own idealism.

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Despair and loathing

Both Assange and the people whose information is secretively held and the indictments of their corporate collusion is in the folder of the vast exchanges with reliance on technology sparing disclosure.  Wikileaks is a data hungry cyber animal and its food is
everywhere protected by insider traders like Chelsea (Bradley) Manning and Edward Snowden whose instincts for change and robust propriety were challenged by the information the American public, in whose name these revealed actions were being disposed, unaccountably, but had reached them – Manning, Snowdon – as persons of conscious whose instinct was to upload the information they had obtained via. protected routes to Wikileaks so they could decide on publication.   This film which must be itself be read as a document with T’s crossed, comas carefully placed, is a reveal of sorts.  It has a news management feel with a climateric cresendo worthy of an opera.  The tailpiece is well known with the election of Donald Trump being sullied by the interventions, presently denied of state sponsored data breaching which firstly created Fake News around Hillary Clinton and saw the infiltration of Fake News of her Democrat candidate runner Bernie Sanders be eclipsed as information became micro managed – now it is contagious with Donald taking to the Twitteriati to spell out in 120 characters his character at others expense.

Allegiances among the Wikileaks foundation are an engine room of Lawyers, high octane interns getting a fix on freedom of information as led by their ringleader Julian.  The film is a world wide documentary of events with certain areas seemingly out of bounds.  GCHQ has occasional moles but it is a minor pest control issue.  The unbearably influential rise of independent disenfranchised terrorists as written toxically in Northern Ireland as a template by the IRA is untroubled by any Wikileaks.  Whether it was the authorship of Protestant, State collusion, Catholic freedom fighters that period was when the nail bomb, coffee jar bomb and car bomb all were sworn in as terrosit devoces.  The car bomb as well as lorry-jacking with a driver virtually chained to a bomb became routine methods of attacking authority, consequences be damned, fellow human beings collateral appalling damage.  Property destroyed was not enough.  Institutions stood unaffected, they simply moved locations as and when.  Offices and civil life was targeted and an unwired network prevailed with murderous results.  A large Northern Ireland, British Establishment shaped hole exists in the Wikileaks story.

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Conclusion ####4

Cannes 2016 saw the release of this film which has been re-edited since the Democratic National Committee email leaks and also picks up on allegations about sexual abuse by another activist Jacob Appelbaum in a neat parallel to Assange difficulties which stem firstly from his own private life.  Where there they are to be believed or not is not part of Laura Poitras’s intention.  She must place testimony on the record where given and it is not avoided.  Primarily she has followed this phenomenon, the Wikileaks impact, since before the Edward Snowden film Citizenfour which went places the fictional one was intensely lacking in.  The balance of the film is caught well by the filmmaker and it is brilliantly effective in revealing the revealer insofar as ‘civility’ and privileges of privacy impose.  Having introduced it at Cannes as one thing required an updated version given the significance of revelatory exposés on the Democratic fight for the Presidency.  The reading of the film als needs adjusted.  It is very unfair to see this film as breaking conventions of documentary.  Every documentary you will have seen has a slant or tableau formed through the vision of its author. The Director here is in possession of a subject which intrudes her and delving into the minutiae behind Embassy doors is fascinating.  Not only for what it reveals but for us to see the double standards lives are made to comply with in any democracy.  Forgetting about the subject – temporarily – it becomes a portrait of human condition and conditioning unparalleled as information is our voice and rhetoric.  The everyday confrontation with falsehood is so theatrical.  Amal Clooney is witnessed from a roving overhead crowd shot of a congratulatory walk from the English Court by his side every step of the way.  The spectacle of the press is amazing to witness as we are not yet ready to screen courtroom proceedings and definitely not for tweeting out proceedings.  The knife edge is the Directors and she comes up with some close shaves.  Apparently some zoos have been doctored at the ‘actors’ request while it resonants later with the theatrical disguise of Julian Assange last public appearance.  The one adopted to go to the Ecuadorian Embassy.  The red post box seen outside is one he cannot use.  If he were to step onto the street to post a letter in the stout transmitter of private correspondence.  They were green before July 1874 when they were painted post box red.

It is an outstanding, at times electrifying piece of work and addresses the duality of providing another platform to hype the task undertaken by Julian Assange and the need for filmic storytelling to be compelling and it borders on a sitcom type of sedentary watch with mother at times as a lot of talking from the principal party is only watchable if some twist of narrative or misplaced meaning or word makes you pay acute attention because here is someone who has brought some riveting knowledge to our times.  Don’t blame the messenger.

A credit arose as it closed  –  In loving memory of Michael Ratner (1943-2016), who devoted his life to justice

John Graham

28 June 2017

Belfast

Screening at Queens Film Theatre     Showing: 30 June 2017 until 06 July 2017

Churchill : A Film Review


Churchill

Director: Jonathan Teplitzky.  Cast: Brian Cox, Miranda Richardson, John Slattery, James Purefoy, Ella Purnell, Richard Durden, Julian Wadham.  Screenwriter: Alex von Tunzelmann.  Producers: Nick Taussig, Paul Van Carter.  Production company: Salon Pictures.  Cinematographer: David Higgs. Production designer: Chris Roope.  Costume designer: Bart Cariss.  Editor: Chris Gill.  Music: Lorne Balfe.  Casting Director: Daniel Hubbard.  Cert. PG, Duration 1 hr 38 minutes


Too important a History to portray wrongly

There are to some unbearable conceits within this film as it twists historical record and contorts speeches and rhetoric making at times a banality of its very gripping subject.  I on reflection, some time after seeing it, do recognise the scoping of the film to place Churchills ‘black dog’ – he practically made this term ubiquitous, handling the tormenting angst of war and its repellant outcome at the heart of a hostorical period.  The twist is that while this film shows it differently, Churchill had come round to the possibilities and the necessities driving the D-Day landings in France.  Here he is depicted at being totally at odds with Eisenhower right up to the daybreak on the final push and landing.

How are errors excused?

The choreography is not too clever as it is diminishing what are very able and extremely well carried performances, not least that of Brian Cox who to my mind comes home in the part.  His inflections, minor facial expressions, language spoken and in his bodily bulk; he put on nearly a stone in weight to get the swaying walk and posture spot on and it convinces immeasurably as a great performance despite the mistakes of script and history.


Light Aircraft etc.

The budget was restricted it seems.  No planes, tanks or ships are shown as this is in some ways a psychological drama in its determination to portray Churchill as a mentally crippled individual full of compassion with a deep dark hole of self doubt and awareness over the magnitude of the role he has.  Firstly as Prime Minister during the war having successfully dealt with the Blitz three years earlier it is now 1944 and D-Day for which years of preparation, a large part of which was the training in places throughout Northern Ireland, Kilkeel , Co. Down being a particularly good example where 8,000 young American airmen went on training missions, trained in dark barns as gunners shooting at projections in the sand and setting up fun attacks on the beach, in the shadow of the Mournes.  The planning was Eisenhower’s own as a Commander of the Allied forces.  Churchill was a politician and strategist.  He tried to hold the moral high ground but was at times considering chemical weapons as a means to defeat the enemy such was his commitment to the UK.


Chaptered we move

The film takes its time scale as chapters of the countdown to D-Day, Operation Overlord, D-Day minus 3 and takes us into the minutiae of the dealings between the leading militarists. Navy, Airforce, Artillery and Eisenhower heading the campaign and responsible for the ultimate decision of when to land.  Some details are overlooked, like the French airman, General Maurice Challe, on the day before D-Day handing over the Luftwaffe order of battle to Britain giving a significant indicator of where the firepower was to be directed while the Allies were planning a precise attack.  They were disposed, in other words elsewhere and surprise was a key element.  Encounters between Dwight Eisenhower (John Slattery) are somewhat theatrically driven and the screen widens to show majestic columns or stately rooms, as locations heightening modern versus old.


The Modern World

Modern Eisenhower uses language which sours in historical terms.  He would never I suggest have been so dismissive with slighted barbs of Winstons role and place at the battlefield table.  His input was invaluable.  This is one of the reasons I think the script has taken a hammering in critics eyes.  Eisenhower would in fact go on to forge an open America having seen Democracy in action in the U.K. and two decades later would be working (when he wasn’t spending half the year on the golf course) with Macmillan in forming alliances to gain access to the Suez Canal.  MI6 and Middle Eastern Committee’s arrived to advance a new world order and to enter the Cold War.  So the script was light on the forging of these continents.  It was the real beginning of Western power gripping modernity and Eisenhower knew it and gained from Churchills wider world view.

The Australian director Jonathan Teplitzk has set up scenes which stand apart, are mini bites of action and dialogue; a quasi chamber piece, from the very beginning where we see the ‘black dog’ staring into the black dark ocean and having visions, to the internal arrangement making of the Palace of Westminster War Rooms and the secretarial recruitment of his dogs body secretary, Miss (Helen) Garret (Ella Purnell) who is hounded for mistakes and if not for the occasional interruption of Clemmie (Miranda Richardson) she would fold under the abuse directed at her.  This itself is overly dramatic but Brian Cox still hold you gripped to the intentions and inner conflicts of compassion, a desperation for things not to fail despite under whose authorship they may proceed.  There are good performances from Julian Wadham as Montgomery and also Richard Durden as the Boer War veteran aide to Churchill, Jan Smuts.  Danny Webb convinces also as Brook.


Spoils of acting

There are several key scenes in which the staging is also placed under a rigid formula of order.  Entrance, disembark, manouevre, engage.  One is set in D-Day minus 3 where Churchill and later King Edward are summoned to the lawns of the American HQ to see the plans laid out on trestle tables.  Montgomery, Brooke’s, Eisenhower, all standing behind their plans.  The sunny day of June is kind and peaceful.  When postulating is over Churchill rails against the plan as I’ll conceived as the landing areas are narrow and forces thin.  The King George VI (James Purefoy) witnesses this and says little.  Another scene which I found to be a fulcrum in the film was one between Churchill and the King.  With recall inevitable of the Kings speech here is a piece of pure acting brilliance as Purefoy arrives unannounced to speak directly with Winston.  What follows is a perfectly scripted speech which is paced and as nuanced as ever you can imagine it precisely to be.  Within it little gold nuggets have you placing this in the historical record.  He refers to his own security mindful of getting too involved as Winston has just earlier recruited him into a dangerous situation.  The King speaks on leaving behind, ‘Lily-Beth who is only 18 years old‘ and we envision the same Lily-Beth all these years later for the umpteenth time – today May – putting another PM in charge.  We envision the young Elizabeth in this grown up world of mutilation and ongoing hardship in the U.K.where sacrifices are incalculable.  It is worth watching the film to see this alone.  Winston with the character now inhabited by Brian Cox is an eloquent, dignified and considerate, conscious foil to this measured in every word, Kings speech.


Preparations

The preparedness for war had been long and hard fought.  As a lone voice with part recognition from Harold Macmillan Churchill saw Parliment deluded by Chamberlain into believing Germany to be, contrary to fact, in poor economic condition.  In 1940 Churchill spoke ‘We “muddled through” the last war, and in doing so, we needlessly sacrificed hundreds of thousands of young lives ……  .  We cannot, we dare not, “muddle through” again’.  Once Chamberlain had been ousted for the falsity of the mounting ‘Phoney War’ and Churchill appointed Prime Minister he summoned Macmillan to create the supply chain and amongst the wares exchanged unbeknown to either ‘heavy water’ arrived from France and the atomic bomb was to emerge.  This is the preset war tableau which Dwight Eisenhower must have been totally aware of and along with that a companion at war was made of Churchill.  No enemy, despite strategic differences in their ages an advances in armaments.   So the film drops the ball conceitedly for cheap dialogue and stand-off.  By the time the change at the head of Government had taken place Hitler had deployed ablitzkrieg on the Low Countries and conquering France.  One month after France signed an armistice legions of British troops were to escape via. Dunkirk.  Soon to be screened will be a depiction of this World War 2 miraculous escape.  When it came round to Operation Overlord when Eisenhower had been summoned back to direct that campaign from America,  Macmillan was ill and out of most War work having brought together a good relationship, in previous years, with Dwight and his right hand man, Bob Murphy who admired him so much he was to write he would ‘become a great representative of your country …. – would make this world a far more attractive habitation’.  That indeed he would progress onto and attempt Post war – giving Churchill the job of building a million homes or more.


D-Day

The deployment of troops is seen from the War room and Miss Garret is stoically still engaged in communications as is Winston.  Overlord has happened and now the numbers of casualties and the extent of success of the invasion would be part of the record.


It’s a Smartphone – you can book your cinema tickets directly through to Queens Film Theatre and be assured of your seat.   They have a good selection of Whiskeys.  You like Black Bush with ice don’t you?

Conclusion ###3

Films in my mind have to have or have the possisibilty of having 5 dimensions.  Firstly the 3 dimensions we sit in, at home or in the cinema or drive-in, as witness to the 4th which is the screen.  Within the vision we see our world or another placed before us and the 5th dimension is when that screen alights with a realm never encountered or one around us never put before us in this theatrical guise.  We are transfixed and know when we have seen something of that far reaching view.  This film has almost the wit and guile the wordsmith Winston Churchill gave us but it falls short hugely as it has a weakness at the third dimension when at times we cannot advance with it from the comfort of our seats and begin to contemplate alternative narratives. Unspoken truths and witnessing conflicts in the false notes we see and hear.  It’s a bit like Gin, an acquired taste.

John Graham

15 June 2017

Belfast

On at Queens Film Theatre from Friday 16 June through to and including Thursday 29 June 2017.

The Normandy landings (codenamed Operation Neptune) were the landing operations on Tuesday, 6 June 1944 (termed D-Day) of the Allied invasion of Normandy in Operation Overlord during World War II. … Planning for the operation began in 1943.

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Patton in the Mournes.

The outspoken and larger than life General reached the high point of his career during World War Two, when he led the US 7th Army in its invasion of Sicily and swept across Northern France at the head of the 3rd Army in the summer of 1944. Late that same year, Patton’s forces played a key role in defeating the German counterattack in the Battle of the Bulge, later liberating the country from the Nazi regime. Patton died in Germany in December 1945 of injuries sustained in an automobile accident.
Patton in the Mournes with the 10th Infantry
Patton visited troops to inspect their training in Armagh and Down in March 1944, flying into Greencastle. He was known for his ‘colourful’ speeches, many of which he gave when visiting the troops in Northern Ireland. Women were not allowed in the vicinity when he was giving these talks, as his language was deemed unsuitable!
 

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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The Secret Scripture : A Film Review


The Secret Scripture

Director Jim Sheridan, Producer Noel Pearson, Screenplay by Jim Sheridan, Johnny Ferguson. Cast, Vanessa Redgrave, Rooney Mara, Eric Bana, Theo James, Aidan Turner, Jack Reynor, Susan Lynch, Siobhan Redmond, Adrian Dunbar. Music by Brian Byrne, Cinematography Mikhail Krichman, Edited by Dermot Diskin, Production company, Ingenious Senior Film Fund, Voltage Pictures, Ferndale Films. Cert. 12a. Duration 1hr 48mins.


Beyond Dublin in the Green

Some people have got this film horribly wrong and are unable to cross over into it’s tragedy in a trinity of hope. The Irish Times gives it this ‘tribute’ – What’s that? Who’s he? Where’d that come from? When Barry’s novel was published, several critics argued that the final unlikely twist felt at odds with a hitherto disciplined narrative. It says something about the film that the reversal feels perfectly at home among so many even greater lunacies. It even casts sectarianism into a new vein without making comment of how diffuse these things are to convey – it seems in a blind alley Ireland. The mastery of the Bible both potent and conclusive lends written comfort to Rose, a woman betrayed.  It is within the unspoken reading between the lines we go with this film based on the novel of the same name by Sebastian Barry which makes for more imagining than the act of storytelling in film this is.  Nevertheless it is handled extremely carefully with a melding of eras and in themselves drawing comparisons.  The landscape is more familiar to the Irish and the need to know (Philomenas Story is a close relative) diaspora from Canada, America or Britain whose children are the fathers and mothers of new generations of the ‘departed’.  In complete association too are those left beneath fields, institutions buried so none would reflect on their memory except the mothers and those in the know.  From Priests to Police to Orderlies. Into the equationn come knowing townsfolk contributing to the complicity and getting on with their lives by ignoring it in order to straighten their own existence in the changing world.  For the story to begin we enter the present day at Rose’s Hospital and Residential Care home in the midst of it closing down.  Some lessons are learnt and there is clearly an attempt by Director Jim Sheridan to acknowledge Times have changed and the bullying and treatment of people like animals has been removed.  In this present environment there is real care and a making good with what is at hand.  Even the prospect of Rose being able to go to somewhere other than a mental asylum has reared its head.

With the dramatic stroke of a pen Sebastian Barry conjures up a back story to the aging and institutionalised grande dame Vanessa Redgrave playing Roseanne McNulty whose 50 years committal to this decaying and listed for demolition Roscommon Regional Mental Hospital, is transported on the journey of her earlier life and circumstances.  Doctor Grene (Eric Bana) is sent to determine whether Roseanne is fit to be released.  The younger Rose is played by the affluent and Irish connected, Rooney Mara whose arrival in a small village in 1940s Ireland causes two men, a fighter pilot and a priest, played by Jack Reynor and Theo James.


New horizons revisited

Jim Sheridan has Oscar-winning debut My Left Foot and In the Name of the Father as home based movies and into Irishmans habitual magnetic pull to tales of immigration he went and it did not fail him with the exile story In America, and was an acclaimed award winning film also.  Some subsequent entries to the mainstream movie still didn’t seem to suit his work and this is a return of more recognisable formats and it is an attempt by Sebastian Barry to story tell the periods which define present day Ireland the diaspora and wars intervention.  This of course brings in relationships as the bolstering narrative force.  The auld triangle of a beautiful young woman and two bantam cocks clanging the auld triangle and creating conflicts?

Rose has kept a dairy all these years and we enter its tableau – shortly into the arrival of Rooney Mara from Belfast where it’s unsafe after bombing there.  The arrival of a beautiful independent woman is on this West Ireland landscape in the shadow of Yeats Benbullben outside Sligo, is to an already developed hybrid of gentry, Anglo patrons and a subdued, suppressed by Religion ‘compliant’ malcontented population.  They are not mercifully at war though many across Ireland went and fought alongside the British as it was 1. an option 2. There was little for them at home.  The mainstay of any small community is its perverse sense of hierarchy and those who disobey and act up are likely cast out.  Rose is recruited into her Aunts Hotel Temperance establishment and quickly the honeypot of the scented air takes her into the midst of village taboos.  The first ‘normal’ encounter is with a young man called Conroy a labourer for a hard nosed local family.  They have a built in hatred on the English and when there is another approach not altogether religious and skirting his own anxieties surrounding masculinity and his sacrifice comes Father ..    Rose deflects such straight eyed advances and goes her own path while accepting invitations to the local dance.  The presence of the Church is everywhere and in the dance hall they are required to keep apart while hoAldi get one another while the Priest including the presence of Father …. they leave enough space not to be sinful.

The film is drawn out using a great deal of passage from the present to the past.  It in done with good untroublingbpassage and with the versatile Vanessa Redgrave playing the Lady Rose and the unnerving accurate Rooney Mara as the younger vunerable Rose.

Inconsistencies and alterations. Implausibilities? 

Very strongly held views on this film have come from many who find the story confusing and too contrived in its far fetched coincidences and shaping of characters that feature less in the book than put to purposes dramatic here.  Some even call it a travesty.  Sebastian Barry having sold the rights keeps his counsel and his silence is taken as being far from endorsement. There certainly are large parts of the long history left in the book and a Rooney Mara’s Rose here has a prominent role in a central love story which contains its central themes.  She is an incomer, she is a beautiful sophisticated woman, she is of independent mind, she is entering a part of ‘remnants of occupied’ Ireland beset with unfettered resentment, she enters a village which has ahigh morality  driven by the Church, she is also in proximity to state institutions which remove children and separate single mothers from their babies and lock them up and give their babies away for money.  She also is in proximity to a Medical system crudely operating the appliances of ECT and shock treatment as normal for mental illnesses or difference.  She also notices the formidable rectitude of everyone to hierarchical status including her domineering Aunt (Siobhan Redmond) who’s name along with a few others are not easy to find on press credits oddly.  So is it deplorable to drop large parts of a book and get Shakespearean in this gazette of Ireland observed by the Filmaker Jim Sheridan who wrote the script along with the late Johnny Ferguson.?  There are central characters in this which do not sit comfortably with some people.  The airman flying a Spitfire – they ignore the reconnaissance tasks in the West Coast Atlantic seaboard where U-boats were often found and Lough Foyle famously being the last outpost for plenty of U-boats and also forget the American airbases – the recent BBC My Mother and other Strangers gave you the opposite to this film, delivering a War soap opera – which were in Fermanagh and all across Northern Ireland full of troops and airmen training to be pilots in preparation for the Secret D-day landings.  8,000 in Kilkenny Co.Down alone. While the book may have consorted with the flying mission instead of being a land based soldier, it matters little.  Bonzos are quite capable of shooting down ‘foreign’ planes and planes crash.  Many flights no doubt took place over this very stretch of Ireland’s republic.   Where do you take fault?  Is it the neatness of parts of the linkages.  Is the element of delving into people’s past too trite?  Sheading interesting characters? Is the ludicrously large white collared Priest Father Gaunt too comical and pathetic a figure. His character is volumously turgid and corrupt of a conflicted man. Are the nurses of the old school too clean and Matronly while being intensely underlyingly cruel? All these questions to my mind are nonsense and in the core of the film Rose is telling you how unstable memory is. The record to has advanced writing out that history.  Some of it is fantasy and in parts some of the grim reality turns out to have another side.  I don’t care if half the time the story finds a simple way to the next part as we are closely kept to the woman at is heart trying to imagine what happened to her.  Can you imagine how much she must have struggled to put that behind her.  For her imaginings of what happened to ultimately coincide with a partial reality?  The questions need not be effecting in terms of how they are coming to you as essentially they are in the realm of broken fractured memory.  The script actually places false directions in Rose’s mind only.  The other characters are real and no such bewilderment is visited through them.  Their part is sometimes savage and brutal.  Rose’s is in a state of protection in a fixed world she has inhabited for 50 years?  Can you imagine the damage caused to her and many women like her?

Similarities

I opened the play The Steward of Christendom at random and came across the same times as here. There are common investigations and trials of the past – society in Ireland – undergone by Sebastian Barry of which I rate the play as masterly, profound, haunting, sad forgotten history, much as this film indeed takes us into and it is quite political but Donal McCann made it definitely ‘other’ about the human improsoned in Ireland. Inside the Institution and outside on the Island fighting seeming wrongs. It made the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end in its horrific prescience. Even now it inhabits the same place – even more so given the recent barbaric dreadful disclosures of previous generations guilt and the pain inflicted in those institutions.  Here’s the line I found straight on opening its pages of the powerful orderly Smith – Even in the ward of old dames with their dead brains, have some of them opened their eyes and are weeping to be woken, with your bloody shouting.  Do you want to go in with them, old man? After I beat you! Sebastian Barry on the case even then.

Eric Bana takes a high dose of listening to his requirement for enquiry about Rose.
The rich dramatic material at play and the fascinating historical backdrop means there’s plenty here that proves initially appealing. The young Rose is trapped by her sexuality, arousing interest in men without the slightest provocation on her part yet facing the full force of blame from those around her. The film briefly explores the complicated rituals of dating at the time and the dangers of a bruised male ego when a woman dares to turn a man down.
Initially there was a backlash in contemporary Ireland to the book with its closeness to history and claims of abuse ever in the headlines playing out.  It was seen in reviewers eyes as being far fetched and characterisations of romance purile and simplistic. For the film it’s seen likewise by many. The closing of the film is too contrived and unexpected as Vanessa Redgrave holds centre stage with her marbles intact.  The Secret Scripture use devices of story telling which only flow smoothly in books but it is admittedly hard to convey in the time period of a movie.  Demands of twists and turns though have been dealt with very satisfactorily by Jim Sheridan and there is no overplay of the gestures and realisations as they unfold.  With Vanessa Redgrave playing Beethoven’a Moonlight Sonata, (an accusatory critic paled at its repetitiveness) in solitary moments in a room, we see the breathing diaphragm of a living person recollecting her past.  It is not only sweet and convincing it is powerful and moving.

For the time periods to intermingle we have to have contrast and Susan Lynch playing the part of a present day nurse becomes a key vehicle for the sensitivity of history learnt. Her knowing, caring, is in seeing the woman in Lady Rose and reflecting on what she has gone through over forty years.  With the instruction having been given to assess her being taken up by a psychiatrist who is intrigued by the fortitude and forceful will of Lady Rose, is Eric Bana who plays admirable the ‘outside’ caring professional, quick to note discrepancies in the work of his peer, the notable Dr Jello  of Adrian Dunbar who is in charge with emptying the establishment and sees it as in ‘the line of duty’ as a role he plays with predictable solidity.   Dr Grene on the other hand is given slack and time by Sebastian Barry to develop a quick relationship of patient and Doctor which in present times of austerity are unimaginable.  Nevertheless an authors due – the slack given on occasion to movies due to time scale particularly in adapting books – is to make plausible a story’s reach.  Eric Bana and Susan Lynch form a convincing team and share the sandwiches, lunchbox treats and soups etc. or whatever sustenance is at hand in between Rose’s rest and elderly ramblings.  They too remain in the ghost like building emptying around them.  That is when switches occur back to Rooney Maras action packed life take us into a believable village – preposterous to critics of the book – with fabrications of conflicts infighting and japes and foolery unbetoken of Ireland of the time.


Irony lost on viewers

Sebastian Barry has of course given some ribald irony and an edit of preposterous heft to the story as if to say – Ireland, you were present when this was happening around your ears yet all you could do was turn a blind eye and more than that get caught up in rebellion against a country at war and a religiosity which tore the faith in God out of you and created a purgatory here on earth. It is tangible to see this cussedness in Irish people of that time but it causes more pain it would seem.  The truth always too has its victims. That is the line, the horrific line this film wishes to take us over and into a powerful emotionally troubling period for the characters who represent in fiction real people’s lives unimaginable at this distance horribly corrupted and ruined.  So there is a backlash of morality fighting for concealment as due reflection turns over too many stones close to the perpetrators unable to come to terms with their own families part in these vexing times.  Why drag up the past?  The reason is it uncoils itself in many ways not least in being held in so, it becomes repeated as a manifestation of ancient held in guilt in the sub-cncious passed on.  The doplar effect of the mind.  Séan Hillen in his Irelantis fictional world creates a counter narrative in art with the juxtaposed John Hinde visions of Ireland and as richly as film and novel forms.  More is essential for understanding ourselves the better.

There are scenes in the film which many will find arguable and condonable however I see those particularly disturbing pieces of work as entirely plausible credible entries to the hidden stories Ireland has masked for decades.  It may not be the truth but it bears an uncanny resemblance to the unfurling detail.  It is why it must be examined for what it contains, not for what you would like it to appear.


No chemistry? It’s not totally about their relationship but what hovers around it.

On parallel works

Hence the auld triangle goes jingle jangle. From Galway to Dingle, from Derry to West Cork it’s been happening for decades. Both the internment of the young and vunerable and the institutional abuses therein. The Steward of Christendom by Sebastian Barry was an intensely brilliant play I’ve seen several times and had on it acting – the unforgettable The Dead film character of Gabriel Conroy played by Donal McCann whose performance in John Huston’s 1987 film of the Joyce short is itself a piece of Irish history and also a masterful core part of Irish Cultural excellence in all its various themes.

The themes of the play are not equivalent in this film but provide another shape to the times within this film. For a synopsis of The Steward of Christendom – I’ve extracted the following from a ubiquitous source. The play opens in a county home (an inpatient psychiatric facility) in Baltinglass, Ireland in 1932, some years after Irish independence. In the opening scene, Dunne (Donal McCann) appears to be raving incoherently, reliving an episode of his childhood. As the play continues, Dunne slips from moments of lucidity to reliving parts of his career as a senior officer in the Dublin Metropolitan Police (DMP), especially the handover of Dublin Castle to Michael Collins in 1922 after the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty. He also relives memories of his family, particularly his daughters, Annie, Maud, and Dolly. Dunne is also visited by the ghost of his son Willie, killed in WWI; Willie’s ghost appears to him in the form a 13-year-old child but dressed in the soldier’s uniform of his 18-year-old self.

Here the date focussed on by Barry is the early 1940’s. The institutions had been around and become part of the identity of Ireland. In Belfast the 1932 move to Stormont from what was and had been the Northern Ireland Parliament one hundred yards from QFT in the now Theological College since partition in 1925. Sebastian Barry covers this ground in much of his work, of institutional Ireland of State and Health the life on the streets and rural world grippingly as he loosely affirms family connections with the Thomas Dunne the Dublin Metropolitan Police Commander in the play. So too this film for its depiction of a former period of important movement in Ireland. These histories are intertwined and Michael Collins, Eamon de Valera both had ‘seats’ at the Belfast Union College but never once collected from the fifty boxes of the MPs the Order papers of the day for that emerging Parliament. One could play the card Eamon de Valera was a double agent to the British hegemony as future republicans were to similarly trade their countries status. Not in a film though as truth is mainly stranger than fiction.

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Conclusion ####4

I began with a mindset carrying ideas of the lukewarm critical reception of the book and film, both inhabiting that doubt common to adaption of part historical narratives.  I need not have concerned myself too much because this film opens up a layer of life which is seldom considered in its continued influence and in the magnitude of its shaping usand the identity formed as a Nation on its multiple layers of relationships across continents, across short sea journeys and across hedges and parishes.  It harbours a fiction I see to contain many probable realities. I never read the book.  In the depiction of Lady Rose played brilliantly on both parts. Rooney Mara as the young independent free spirited, intelligent incomer beauty full of warmth and expectation and the kaleidoscopic thespian skills not wasted or lost of Vanessa Redgrave, herself no stranger to loss or to Ireland’s perplexing past, is not only endearingly charming but purposely disjointedly harmonious and comforting in its plainness.  There is nothing plain under the surface no matter what the Irish take or spin on it happens to be or where the deniers – and they are the ‘plain’ folk of Ireland themselves, mostly due to present many frstations of suffering across the world would prefer to banish and put away in a state of complacent bewilderment.  If only that were our only path.  The Secret Scripture is written – a form of blasphemy- in black on the Bible – as in the Temperance Hotel (you could say it was a depiction of Ulster which has many many connections with Sligo) – here is a Lilliputian Jonathan Swift world of male believe.  Now and then.  The Bible being the only book – in this puritan hotel – is the only marginila Rose has to take into her incarceration as a hidden diary.  For its uncovering, not matter it’s Preposterous retrieval there are unsettling truths like the words of the Bible itself.  As it is not a Book which is safe in the Clergies hands nor taken with pillars of salt in communion amongst the suppressed and mal treated citizens, already infiltrated by a siege power of a monarchist force.  Since the 1166 occupation the persistent and systematic entrapment is in plain sight from the pulpit and before the pulpit.  Both the Catholic Church and the Church of Ireland contrite and corrupt in unity of suppression against Gods will.  This film will be seen initially as a passing anecdotal fable worthy of a watch but light on appeal.  It will upset and conflict with perceptions narrow and broad but I would say it will after several viewings reveal itself in time to be full of its own contested narrative slowly bringing a reckoning to bear as its bold and more extreme view is received as history continues to recite its clarion vision.  It is there for us to see in a wider sense and while novels, films can only open some fictional presentation of a past long gone it is always a sudden shock to see its proximity to truth and realisation is slow but within reach.  On a question alone of the mix up of plot and some too fanciful occurrences I knock it back from being a 5 as it is to my mind of a very determined voice setting out to familiarise the world and those closer with the inexcusable period in the past in this country – worse if most probably being effected unknown to us in other parts of the world – and it is a piece of the pyramid of truth being built in memory of those children and women.

It is like a whisky chaser hitting your throats but this is why the fondness for diversion is like dashing your head on the rocks.  So much is ventured there is no small comfort to be had except through thinking along the lines I think Jim Sheridan, Sebastian Barry and the fine strong cast found themselves nurturing.  While it is discomforting it is due plenty of deliberation.

John Graham

22 March 2017

Belfast

On at Queens Film Theatre from Friday 24 March through to and including  30th March and on General release.

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Post Behan Brectian Proustian stories

In Ireland the confinement of Women and Men distinguished little in Mental Institutions from the Prisons like the Mountjoy that inspired the Dominic Behan The auld triangle goes jingle jangle. The lyrics still are chilling and how the Bi-sexual Brendan Behan came to them is anyone’s guess but the waking traingle of the Prison warder still makes people sit up and listen to these lyrics – the last verse.

In the female prison there are seventy women 

And I wish it was with them that I did dwell 

And that auld triangle, went jingle jangle 

All along the banks of the Royal Canal

Was the mind of Ireland imprisoned during these times?

From The Quare Fellow of 1956

ACT 1:
A hungry feeling came o’er me stealing

And the mice were squealing in my prison cell,

And that old triangle

Went jingle jangle,

Along the banks of the Royal Canal.

To begin the morning

The warder bawling

Get out of bed and clean up your cell,

And that old triangle

Went jingle jangle,

Along the banks of the Royal Canal.
The screw was peeping

And the lag was weeping…

(SONG BREAKS OFF HERE)

ACT 2:

A hungry feeling came o’er me stealing

And the mice were squealing in my prison cell,

And the old triangle

Went jingle jangle,

Along the banks of the Royal Canal.

On a fine spring evening,

The lag lay dreaming

The seagulls wheeling high above the wall,

And the old triangle

Went jingle jangle,

Along the banks of the Royal Canal.
The screw was peeping

The lag was sleeping

While he lay weeping for the girl Sal…

(SONG BREAKS OFF HERE)
The wind was rising

And the day declining

As I lay pining in my prison cell

And that old triangle

Went jingle jangle,

Along the banks of the Royal Canal.
In the female prison

There are seventy women…

(SONG BREAKS OFF HERE)
The day was dying and the wind was sighing,

As I lay crying in my prison cell,

And the old triangle

Went jingle jangle,

Along the banks of the Royal Canal.

ACT III, Scene II (end of play):

In the female prison

There are seventy women

I wish it was with them that I did dwell,

Then that old triangle

Could jingle jangle

Along the banks of the Royal Canal.

To this song provided for The Quare Fellow by brother Dominic we can add along the themes of imprisonment is this universal song. 

I shall be released

By Bob Dylan

They say ev’rything can be replaced

Yet ev’ry distance is not near

So I remember ev’ry face

Of ev’ry man who put me here

I see my light come shining

From the west unto the east

Any day now, any day now

I shall be released

They say ev’ry man needs protection

They say ev’ry man must fall

Yet I swear I see my reflection

Some place so high above this wall

I see my light come shining

From the west unto the east

Any day now, any day now

I shall be released

Standing next to me in this lonely crowd

Is a man who swears he’s not to blame

All day long I hear him shout so loud

Crying out that he was framed

I see my light come shining

From the west unto the east

Any day now, any day now

I shall be released

 

End

Fences : A Film Review

Fences


Directed by Denzel Washington, Produced by Todd Black, Scott Rudin, Denzel Washington, Screenplay by August Wilson, Based on Fences by August Wilson.  Cast: Denzel Washington, Viola Davis, Stephen Henderson, Jovan Adepo, Russell Hornsby, Mykelti Williamson, Saniyya Sidney. Music by Marcelo Zarvos. Cinematography Charlotte Bruus Christensen. Edited by Hughes Winborne. Production company Bron Creative, Macro Media, Scott Rudin Productions, Duration 139 minutes. (2hr 19mins.) Country:  United States. Language: English. Rating: 12a.

Play on Today
Venturing into film directing for the first time Denzel Washington has chosen a play to adapt for the screen.  Fences written by August Wilson is shaped as a family drama set in Pittsburgh in the age of the cities growth and expansion.  The couple at is heart are Rose played by Viola Davis giving an Oscar worthy performance as a middle aged woman married to Troy in his mid fifties played by Denzel Washington.  As the two leads they do not place any cultural struggled as the drama but the relationships they have with their close family.  In fact the only outsider is an old colleague of Troy whose acts as a folk for story telling in the backyard.   Discrimination does come into it as an aside but it avoids political messages.  Where can you go wrong with such a good cast?

Primarily it is about the contest of father and son in a rivalry born out of disappointment and poor choices.  It begins with a dialogue between Troy and Bono at work on hanging on dumpster and emptying very lightweight bins. Trash being small beer in those days apparently. They walk home and discuss the complaint Troy has made about not being allowed to become a dumpster driver.  The move is implied as being blocked because of his race.  They exchange sexist and workplace banter, using the n word (which is a 12a classification as it is outdated racist language) as braggadocios they act out the past  in a contrived male language bordering on sexist as well as racial offensive except they have the licence to use it as it solidifies their masculinity in their minds.  It crosses over in a reduced way when Troy talks to Rose with in their case impish comic marital prenuptial negotiations.  Rose is a homemaker totally at ease and comfortable with her home and the possibility of it improving bit by bit without holding big expectations.  Troy is on the other hand in dreamland where he is searching for something other than the inevitable route to the grave which gives the notional premise to the play.


Premise

Sam Cooke wrote Jesus be a fence round me.  He had no fear of death therefore but wished to be protected by the Lord Jesus.  The faith which Troy doesn’t have isolates him and makes him sole defender of his place.  Fences to him are to be constructed here on earth.  Platitudes, clichces are trotted out in the script as reflection and in the language are akin to Church preaching on sinning.  Troy has a gift for sinning.  Sinning against himself in his early life by not concentrating on his baseball skills but getting immersed in crime which put away any chance for sporting advance.  Instead he spent 15 years in jail and it is the period after this when he has brought up two sons with Viola, one who is a man on a mission to be a musician, Lyon played by the mature looking Russell Hornsby, whose attitude of creative and loose come what may approach to things contrasts with the fixed ideas of Troy whose own creativity was lost back in time.  There is an undercurrent of jealousy in this but never fully explored.  There is also a more directly presented parable of their younger son, the 14 year old athletic Cory played with immense sensitivity and strength by Johan Adepo, who is but a mirror of the past Troy has had.  Troys caring side is expressed through his disabled brother.  A war veteran whose cranial damage required a steel plate which contributes to his polarised, asbergers type state, Gabe (Mykelti Williamson), has just moved from the house to display, alongside Lyon’s moving out, a blunt display of his independence which further challenges Troy.  Troy manages to deal with these moves but cannot face the last one.  Two strikes is used often and I see these as the two strikes.  Troy in August Wilson’s mind avoids being menacing though scouts the boundaries the further discontent and disconnection with Gods purpose manifests.

  

Father Son.

Building fences is the clumsy metaphor of the play and how it is made drama.  With it originating as a stage play it is very compressed and reliant on the set pieces around the interior of the house, the living room of which reminds you of the cornflour blue of the film Moonlight which has the colour line through it.  The interior is bright and very well kept in shiny chromium sixties style with furniture on hire for 15 years still in use.  They have no TV and they have a refrigerator which is the first thing Troy reaches into for his Jackhammer Dry Gin when he returns from work while he discusses the dinner and local gossip with Rose and how she’s been making out during the day.  The home is a stable place for Cory, Rose and Troy and the job on the rota is building a fence to an empty rundown property next door.  In a back yard type place the raggety overgrown unkept disorder is in a way comforting ascorder means urbanity and the trees, bushes, vegtable garden and others variety of tending makes for a casual mix of what might be a plantation workers yard.  The order and disorder are an important methapor in Denzel Washington’s approach as are other touches.  Troy takes his sons gift and puts it below the work and studying mantra he believes would better equip Cory.  To Cory this runs against plans he has made as adjustments.  His job at a store is to be replaced by a scholarship to a school requiring his baseball skills above academic skills where at the same time he will be able to study outside of the baseball training and paling.  He also has organised work at the store on available weekends. He has Rose’s backing.  Troy on the other hand is fixed and this is regressive for everyone.  Moving on is not in Troys mindset.  He is so selfish and everything around him relates to his own battling with the devil.  He also has cause to be contrite in later events.  As I noted musician Lyon’s has escaped the grip of his father and chosen his own future. There is solidity reflecting this in the paying by Russell Hornsby.

 

Setting

Being a play without the range of a Macbeth or Three Sisters this somewhat restricts staging as so many scenes are in the same set, the backyard or kitchen, living room.  For it to work takes a very clearly crafted order and this film moves from having at times flowing interludes to the jumping around framed set shots pictorially pretty but basically daylight lit nice couplets and monologues.  Thankfully in an important scene involving Viola which will be recognised as a career performance is filmed as a static framed head shot mostly which is right on the emotional visceral painful thrust of the narrative.  Rose brings a major problem of heart over head and examines Troy’s framework in unusual confrontation showing how deep her previous compliant self has gone along.  It shows up how much Troy himself has not addressed his past or confronted his demons.  In another scene a technique which I ‘dissed’ as a poor choice at the beginning of Moonlight, is here used to carry the flow and externalises briefly the carry of the narrative.  It is when a revolt shot is used and each face is ful of expression as they speak and the rotation carries the dialogue effortlessly.  If only the rest of the film had been laid out in a pattern and not patchwork of cinematic choices.  It has the feel of a play too much of the time and even theatre screenings of plays, National Theatre Live for one, have a form and fixed style and structure which does not flit about.  The style is rich on occasions and when time has passed – to the final act presaged by a snowfall – the formula is unbroken and fixed as before.  Some wisecracking critics often come out with directional reposts described as ‘well directed’ an underpinning of a film ‘not being well directed’ as if drawing attention to the cinematic values present at times – I think it’s important to say we’re a breakdown occurs and where a flow and assured passage carries is achieved or an outcome.  It is part of the viewing experience as is sitting in a theatre would be watching Denzel and Viola on stage would be totally different to this film.  Maybe it is Washington’s choice to cool down, to remove the menace and ramp up the garrulous aspects as his own persona is able to carry it more convincingly.  In a review a scene is described thus – “… of claustrophobia … there’s clear evidence that careful thought has been put into the quiet visual architecture of this film; …  example,  where Bono warns Troy of impending ruination, places the actors in the bottom right of the frame (a scene which does not occur in the play and is basically a wise move in choosing a spot to film/replicate impending trouble visually) while rubble and an empty field symbolically take up most of the screen. I disagree on the basis the film has few moments such as this. When they do as I previously noted, they only serve to disrupt a flow so important and not replicating a stage plays approach. They have not choreographed it for screen and several shots are staple stage replicates.  The atmosphere is achieved with the back yard being reminiscent of the rural they would prefer to bring up children in.

  

Film Futures

America is lost in its Entertainment mould with the decades of Crime thrillers, Space age, Sci-Fi, War heroics, Pratfall College, Financial swindle, Corporate greed, Sexual shenanigans, and many more genre flowing towards the expectations of an  unsatiated Public whose expectations follow the hype and out of the mainstream ,assively omportant groundbreaking movies emerge despite the – and this critique is broad given it’s within a review – vast production and sometimes failing box office hit and miss targeting of audiences.  Manhattan, Apocalypse Now, Goodfellas, The God Father and many others of equal stature are not the norm.   They follow incredible journeys in cinema, On the Waterfront, In the Heat of the Night, the influence of Foreign Cinema, in creating a landscape where present day filmmakers struggle to be seen.  The films, especially in ethic rooted film is fresh and full on in examining issues and positions.  Society is reflected.  Also Fences is; and this is no slight on a Denzel Washington, there is a pecking order in the screening and output.  Denzel Washington’s profile is such that this film gets more traction than it might otherwise have had.  It is a very good debut and fairly safe and challenging as Troy’s character is not one you would immediately empathise with.  It opens up performances though which are from the first division.  Viola Davis and Jovian Adepo spectacularly inhabit their parts.  The screenplay for this 29 year old play was penned by the late August Wilson himself.  He carries through on Troy Maxson’s dance with the devil over a fence he is slow in building and likely to be caught out.  The baseball similes or straight references even, take to the park throughout.

The August Mr Wilson  

Conclusion ###3

I really enjoyed the introduction to the work of August Wilson and the stage plays set 29 years before in Pittsburgh must accumulate a large library of varied purposeful interpretation of the ethnic conditions playing out in a big city along similar lines to Eugene O’Neill and Tennessee Williams or as a contrasting backdrop to the more explicit approaches to political hatred and manipulation in Orson Welles Mancunian Candidate. The demons are still around and while this film brings to new audiences including the Cory age, very well conceived drama depicting the important things in life.  The family and direction of travel for equality and a sense of a creator whose work is us.  Where is the life manual except in our genes and these now are being conquered daily as coping mechanisms for ill health and the mind is yet capable of controlling itself without derangement and falsehoods or projections which are baseless and void of fact.  The magic of plays is lost and the era is well documented by now so the primary focus of the father son relationship must be disposed to inform our enquiry.  This it does in part by the confrontational aspects which are repeated in various guises until the more informative exacting deep delving dialogue gives you in very rewarding viewing central reasoning and what the message concerns.  It is certainly an approachable watch and opens alternative viewpoints America and the rest of the world would do well to examine. The central themes may even be Aristolian or Homeric with male, female needs apart. Unresolved masculinity.   The blue don’t strike out.  They consider,  needs and wants and dreams as the film suggests at one point.  You would think music would be an important part but it is kept for Rose’s church going and A song passed down through Troy.  It makes for a well counterpoint to Gabes bashed trumpet and the ‘motif’ of collected and disused brass instruments unplayed, neglected and unloved.  There is a lot of love in this film and the hardship is in the entrapment. The poet said “Good fences make good neighbours” my current read, Prodigal Summer, reminds me and adds from Miss Rawley, “Oh, people just adore fences, but Nature doesn’t give a hoot.” Strange expression that as if suggesting without a hoot comes Road kill?

John Graham

22 February 2017

Belfast

On general release and a 12a rating.  2hr 19mins.

Loving : A Film Review


Loving

Directed by Jeff Nichols, (Mud, Take Shelter, Midnight Special) Produced by Ged Doherty, Colin Firth, Nancy Buirski, Sarah Green, Marc Turtletaub, Peter Saraf. Screenplay by Jeff Nichols, Based on The Loving Story by Nancy Buirski.  Cast.  JOEL EDGERTON -RICHARD LOVING, RUTH NEGGA – MILDRED LOVING, MARTON CSOKAS – SHERIFF BROOKS, NICK KROLL – BERNIE COHEN, TERRI ABNEY – GARNET JETER, ALANO MILLER – RAYMOND GREEN , JON BASS – PHIL HIRSCHKOP – MICHAEL SHANNON – GREY VILLET.  Music by David Wingo, Cinematography Adam Stone, Edited by Julie Monroe, Production companies – Big Beach, Raindog Films. Cert. 12. Duration 2hrs 3mins.


The blurb

The true story of Richard and Mildred Loving, who were arrested in 1950s Virginia for the crime of getting married.  The year is 1958 and the Civil Rights Movement has barely begun. Richard, a white construction worker, decides to propose to Mildred, a black woman. What should be a happy beginning to their life together soon becomes an arduous legal and political battle against the state and society. Driven out of their hometown, Richard and Mildred Loving spend almost ten years fighting for the right to live as a family in the town they consider home. They push their case as far as the Supreme Court, resulting in the landmark annulment of the discriminatory Virginian law banning interracial marriage.

 

Story unfolds

Opening with the face of Ruth Negga, pensive and seeming forlorn the frame extends to include Joel Edgerton as they contemplate an event that will cement and form their relationship.  It is in this context of inter-racial harmony, togetherness and unity we are then shown the integrated social Virginia backdrop.  The backdrop of motor racing or as they have it, drag racing petrol heads and enthusiasts of different races, no pun intended, relax and compete and show their macho skills in basic road souped up cars.  Nothing too fancy.  In the late fifties when this is an automobile high customised era of ‘winged’ chariots with valances, fins, chrome, tailegate motors expressing freedom these racers are mere tools of competition and all the scrutineering follows the rules.  Richard Loving (Joel Edgerton) is a bricklayer/blocklayer working mainly on new houses with a white crew.  It’s noticeable the workplace is segregated and I didn’t see any black workers on the sites where it is a good payer and is regular work.  Mildred Loving nee Jeter (Ruth Negga) is s field worker in a plantation of tobacco and is part of a young coloured community whose work is labourious and achingly demanding.  The mix and split of these Virginias is already an orchestrated unity.  They are joined but separated by class.  The hoe-down after the Drag racing shows them together as free spirits raised and enjoying themselves. The reality is the separation is constructed by the state racial fundementalists to manage and control them.  The sense of order is plain as no revolution is happening and only later when the marches of Martin Luther King emerge via. the TVs screen which is a new medium delivering its dose of engineered mostly white produced programmes, is there a consciousness of the underlying oppressed people.


Breaking the circle

By telling this true story with an impeccable faithfulness to the events and without overdramatising the conflicts Jeff Nichols knows what matters.  The couples relationship is dealt with as an everyday love between neighbours.  Richards family is a farmstead with a few barns and no father.  His father in the past worked with for a black man andtherefore Richard’s heightened awareness of difference has another dimension.  He knows the establishing of a means to make a living is so important and management of the returns, resources, is a separate thing entirely.  Unions and workers rights themselves in their infancy.  Richards home is a 5 step timber house. I call it a 5 step verandah house as it is the Southern style of open porch under a roof edge raised as a stoop common throughout the vastness of the country they live in.  There is room to breathe the night air.  Mildred’s house hasby contrast a 2 step verandaed home.  There’s is a slightly lower less long established home.  The settlers of white stock brought this form as a colonial imprint and the black people who they now lifted with took up the style of living. Jeff Nichols takes this environment as his main template going forward in the story.  The day to day is familiar and working to mutual advantage within the restraints and constrictions.  It would be acceptable for a white and black person to live together, sleep together providing they were not married and they would have to suffer the isolation having offspring would bring and perhaps be forced to move under those circumstances.

Humanitarian rights

In this story the most important thing is the groundbreaking change the Loving’s bring about.  It is told from the very first instance when they decide to get married out of state in Washington D.C. Colombia and in a matter of fact way it happens in a registry office with Mildred’s Dad as a witness.  They all have a journey to D.C. Which underlines the backwardness of where they came from.  In the recent elections the states around Washington D.C. were distinctly democrat hence the poor turn out for the inauguration.  The movement of reconciliation – first of ridding themselves of the colonialist English/British enslavers then the Abraham Lincoln abolition of slavery had its focus here.  The slavery remained in effect through the inequality and suppression of cultural freedom which the right to choose who they married underlined.  

So the first time the legal side of things arises is when they live openly as a married couple and the local police act on instructions to arrest them.  It results in a court case and with local representation they accept their fate and move out of state to avoid incarceration and separation.  Mildred is very much now the focus of the film as she raises a family with the help of relatives they have a home and we notice the children growing in a small enclosed space.  Some direct referencing by Neff Nichols to the urban nature of this existence is played out but now the singularity of their case comes to the notice of the American Civil Liberties organisation and in steps another principal performer. Bernie Cohen (Nick Kroll) who is a rookie human rights lawyer full of optimistic favour but little common sense.  There then is the highlight of the movie for me a meeting in which he sequesters an office of a Law firm and manages to take on the gravitas and bearing to welcome Richard and Mildred to the concept of challenging through the courts the injustice they met in their home state of Virginia.  His niavity is very funny if it were not so devoid of reality.  Nevertheless as things move on they find a way to advance the case.  Into the package comes a Human Rights Lawyer who knows which buttons of legislature to press and the sequence is followed through.  Quite interestingly and it’s an obvious choice made, little ‘Courtroom Drama’ by way of the tension filled portrayal of landmark cases some directors ratchet up, we are treated to a matterfact brief hearing of the issues in succinct facts which is a very, very important factor in this films mastery of a difficult a prolonged process. It is a very wise move not to Labour on the machinations but put the case up front and central.  Cohen. And his cohort spelling it out. Judgements follow.


Pace and time

 The film is slow and changes in the story are therefore anticipated given the known history if not the longevity of the whole sorry apartheid.  Racial conflicts and violence are eschewed and it is a story well told due to the simplicity of the families confined to the story.  The movements between them for certain events and the passing of time is only loosely appreciated by the children.  An awful lot of the time Richard is tinkering at cars and is on the sidelines but fully behind the  battle Ruth takes a great deal of interest in and is the titans holding on to the political and gigantic nature of it.  Possibly it might be true to say the film sags in the middle and is in need of an uplift which comes in the form of the case taking on its seniority.  The state of Virginia need be challenged in the Supreme Court where about one in 400 cases assigned to it are every taken up at this level. As interracial marrying was against the law – a matter of “miscegenation”, that notably science based attribution, has them after the harassment and being locked up, guided through Mildred’s having initially written to Bobby Kennedy,  the ACLU is able to take their case all the way to the Supreme Court and change America’s ugly Jim Crow race laws of the 50s and 60s.


Conclusion ####4

I found this film worked by following in the middle of the story the emotional switches and triggers Mildred Loving nee Jeter (Ruth Negga) produces from the very first frame.  She is intelligent, graceful, dignified and assured of her worth.  Richard is also sure of his love and is unable to express it the same way which shows when he is a backcourt no comment reply outside a courthouse to the TV whereas Mildred is despite the signs to the contrary – hopeful. Jon Bass as Phil Hirschcop is splendidly youthful and fits the pieces of the jigsaw together in terms of the Law.  Both he and Nick Kroll as Bernie Cohen derserve a second mention as they are a unit playing off each other’s belief in the strength of the Law and the ability of the Supreme Court to hear and accept their arguments which in effect they do and it is no small achievement.  Micheal Shannon who appears in several character roles in Jeff Nichols films is cast as the Life photographer reporter who visits the Lovings and creates a US media phenomenon of them as a normal couple in a normal state of marriage growing up raising children.  They are hard working and it’s is as he shows it.  Despite the dip in the middle this is a carefully crafted and very watchable film and has important nuances and insights which are seldom given space.  I thoroughly recommend a viewing.

John Graham

2 February 2016

Belfast
 Screening at QFT from Fri 3 Feb – Thurs 16 Feb

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