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.

The Milkman : A Review

This is time before.

The Milkman

Things happen in a dislocated way unhinged but always relentlessly moving forward as though it was normal or a normal in need of explanation. Events occur unexplained or unexpectedly such as the punch through at the car spares incident then the disappearance of the maybe boyfriends parents. Who fed them? Were social workers around?

These things of narrative causality happen in waves. They approach and space out time while the core element – the character of the first person is built up with a clinging to books centrally as an escape mechanism. Others have drink terrorism and abuse as their chosen escape.

There are period books making the person appear detached as other novelists frequently do, particularly women writers to detach themselves from the hurtful content within their existence. It is a shameful existence but other people’s shame. Tristam Shandy. Then Ivanhoe as a tumult of adventure and Action is full of consequence so the maybe device is a counterpoint to reality in the readers mind. Why are you not in a fit of rage? why put up with these folk behaving this way? The point is she is acknowledging powerlessness while keeping ownership through her imagination of different results. They do not occur but the device of detachment through books and the maybe non commitment trope becomes even more important.

The descriptions of the other characters fall into the nerve centre of our own recollections of people by the pigeon-holing of divisions. Particularly in memories relevant to those in this place though in a discussion group (local) we discovered the story can transport itself to other world locations in various periods – all continents apply here. It reflects our use of certain devices and influences, religious, familial and political. For external readers it puts a distorted portrait of life through comparison with her analytical forward and the skill is this bombardment and collection of words repetitive, relentlessly conversing, traversing, turned inside and out creating a burden and baggage as relentless narrative and the method used pours out the realism in a literary form untroubled by convention. Is it successful or purposeful? Sometimes it is a strain and not needed for local enlightenment but it ‘maybe’ storytelling of necessity because of the question – how do you explain this idiocy to outsiders.

The waterworks is a good place to start with the runner separating themselves and keeping ahead. We found the author was a prolific runner in her Belfast days and this is a known quantity therefore and useful metaphor and device. The other – the milkman appears – I think of the milkman running with his underling running behind saying in a squeaky voice ‘BillynoBilly slow down tell me what you want me to do’ the hideous violent edifice is held in a pyramid of interlocking pieces – all secterian people need apply – (Anne Burn eschews the – dash – used in previous work and enters into a T.S.Eliot freeform (other non para writers need not apply) ) all feeding of each other’s fears including the milkman’s. It is found his quest is not fulfilled or being according to script or scripture – morality is a sideline.

Tribeca boundaries are disintegration in modern vandalism.
What’s the difference between a Belfast playground and a Belfast Building site? On the building site you have to wear hi- vis vests.

Living on integrity street is a red rag to some. There are some near the knuckle insights into the background of power Demi – Monde figures. Their life being a corrupted one itself. The renouncers are to the forefront neither antagonists nor perpetrators of the nub of the conflicting views but part of its origin. The origin is living in them. They will not let go or relent nor why should they as they carry the converse.

An exercise in not being vigilant and as communal treatise it sends the message, by your insouciance you are as bewildered as the next person only they are loud sometimes and cannot conceal their disgust, like the deflection of nuclear boy seeking a rabbit hole unique to himself. Purely a coping mechanism. Third brother in law was fiendishly caught up rag bag of emotions. Wildness in the park was routinely a road or pathway to keep to those steps and forward, were important in that wilderness.

Then there are the mind games that occupy the novel and the cars, cameras, all dissociative objects put into the flat screen narrative where we look back from into this seventies eighties scenario, in a analogous box in the corner – that huge period tv is now regurgitating the troubles into living rooms while simultaneously existing in the street red or not.

Sunset on Lisburn (referring to the classes and opening new vistas) opens up a whole new horizon. The limitless sky. There is no blue up there all of a sudden only other colours yet the blue is still thee.

This is a whole new meaning in viewing and seeing as observance, only comparison has been the narrative choice so far.

Interestingly the topics of rationality arise and it is as if writer is taking a tough subject and deconstructing it as words and incident – take the ‘feminist issue, France, Joan of Arc’ all interconnected through her sisters and then puts it back on the shelf in a completely reconfigured – on logics basis – neither agreeing or disagreeing but replete with new insights and a polished viewpoint.

When religion is spoken about it is when the gathering of women – “not just from the warring religions here but also a smattering of the lesser known, lesser attended to, indeed completely ignored (dissidents? quakers? evangelicals?) other religions.

Quaker
Dissidents
Evangelist
Jewish
Hindu
Muslim
Buddhist
Baha’i

The centrality of the figure of the Milkman is a contemporary attempt at conquering the male female differences without marking out new territory which feminism and other political tests that are putting out the brutality of a male centric dynamic which is seen tangible through the needs of the women, who try and establish her as one of them, in a flawed reasoning, as writer is gearing in her own mind voices neither of male or female constraints.

The poisoners tale. Laid up and legs do they work today? Then there is the momentous the purse is reached for for in the house when the purse is reached for the clasp opened then something big is happening. It could be something is so fraught a chip dinner is needed there is no time for a dinner to be made. Monumentous.

The death of the milkman after so many state mistakes was followed by an epiphany as the survivors, mostly the edge of proceedings males and the feminists who didn’t know they were feminists, taking a step into the blue yonder and the sky and sunsets were as always thee and always altering in colour and hue. Intensity works only for some for others it’s poisonous and some will over you solutions which are indigestible.

The Snibby McSnib drew backward as the door opened. They went in and we stepped over the trampled hedge and Bolty McBolt laughed.

Precursors – The disused cottage in Wexford (where the English landed) Derek Mahon is cited by some for it’s similar exposition.

Mushrooms looking at the keyhole and the light.

The meaning is squeaky clean and the pages turnable. Necessity is the mother of ruin.

John Graham

Belfast

16 January 2019
 

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More unattended wisdom!
Nietzsche did not accept this
synaesthesia Idea developers enlighten.

The eternal recurrence of the same. Is not the reparative always seeming a negative as it is past tense. Nietzsche declined to bite that apple. Instead the dilemma takes on a whole greater extension of its thinking as a positing of the notion of parallels which undertake change providing constant revision yet are totally different presences of the same outcomes.

The phenomenon of light is itself not seen to contain everything of the world or universe as was the sought meaning – held to bear – but synaesthesia is a characterisation of existence of a foretold truth lying within the science of elementary life.

The turmoil is unchanging as the spectacle is only moderately altering and its transformation is seen as cast but is itself timeless in the body we are within.

The universe as the body. Music is mere mathematical theory in search of harmony in a fixed range of audibility which we have limited access to. To be faithful to your existence you have to embrace failure and disappointment renewal of ones self. Treating the imposters of those emotional experiences as temporary fate.

Greater fate waits as the discovery of the world reveals new stories, the same told though synaethesia as differences of the same. Religion does not disavow human nature as a temporal state outside of divine spirituality as Nietzsche dismisses religions moral authority as being without any spirit. Existence is devoid of spirit and the driver is mastery by and of the individual.

Collective states of weakness he saw as behaviours themselves a mediocrity of shameful non persuasion. Unintentionally he cast or maybe purposely the majority in conformity of charity or good deeds as playing to the lowest stare while ignoring it most certainly was what made his ideas real.

The masses were the foundation stones for greatness to be built on and were themselves mighty realizations of the strength of character which had them rejoice at oneness and an equality that perpetually remained a moral goal and having religion as its guide to express this hitherto unobtainable virtue, he neglects to understand the meaning of science.

Just as he rejected Wagners themes of mathematical expressions embracing as the did temporarily good and evil those poles were transcended by musical composition of a modulation and harmonic derivation which confounded the masters of good and evil within it. He rejected Wagner while seeing a state of hubris in performance that live on Switzerland had made him unprepared to accommodate.

The great Shakespearian depths of despair and the radical inward thinking had people inventing extensions to language to keep averse with the telling of a playwright. A mere writer not of sound bites and moral treatise but the gambit of conflicting harm and joy set in again a synaesthesia.

The authors of the Age of Enlightenment were far more in philosophies terms, a visionary realm of ideas developers. Their riches poured out through literature beyond the unknown but the realisable. The science of seeking answers to atomic and molecular states of being.

So there is no illusion.

Modigliani Female Nude 1916 : UMNI exhibit

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The Ulster Museum is Home to the Courtauld Institute owned Female Nude 1916 by Modigliani for several months and is currently on display on Level 4. until Oct 28 2018.

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In situ

In 1916 Amedeo Modigliani made his mark on the roll call of innovative painters and artists by discovering for himself a means of reaching beyond the normal day to day portrayal of figures and in observing their forms and persona.  His breakthrough was immense and it presided alongside other expressionist painters as signalling their forging of a method of seeing which hitherto had been associated with the primitive art of African or Tribal representation, themselves suggestions of nation or people in the essence of their existence, in the moment to be taken as informative of them and the way they saw themselves.

 

 

There were several parallel ongoing pursuits of these ‘laws of lawless art.’  The extent to which Modigliani was alone in achieving a breakthrough of this magnitude is a debate matching infinity.  Races singled out the line and drew on walls or on pottery, or paper symbols of the most interesting thing around them, themselves. The human shape and deportment became a goal of self realisation and the life force found was firstly lent in these simple lines as a record alongside animals and adornments while they often were seen sans clothes or with few garments.  It became their projection and mirror.

 

 

Beyond the Western ideal and sanctuary of patronage and mostly hierarchal societal record including the religious there was a necessary alteration by the twentieth century, of placing a fresh editorial gaze on the act of seeing humans and how they inhabit a picture throwing new light literally on the viewers perceived recited notions of self and arts role in life.  Some later exponents went beyond this as indeed did the practioners themselves.  Picasso became an obsessive and many would say a misogynist which is see often in his work.

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F. E. McWilliam’s Gallery Banbridge Co. down. Glass cabinet image.

Level 4

The precious object that is Modigliani Female nude 1916 is in a small room of the Ulster Museum for a short period and the high Victorian windows are draped partially with protective white cloth filtering the streams of daylight found illuminating the pictures within.  The filter works and the natural light is subdued. The daylight lamps of the artificial supplementary light is carefully graded in its presence allowing the vivid colour and individuality of this work to convey its communicative self to the viewer.  Many have been and return to see it time and again because there is no solitary promised answer in reading the painting and it is continually rich in its candid figurative depiction.

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You can see a window reflected in the glass protection of the painting top left.

Other paintings such as the O’Brien do not have glass only canvas and paint between it and the viewer.

What is seen is a figure of a female regards but not regarding by returning a look. She is in a pose which neither is common or contrived.  The purpose of line is a first engagement this painter makes with his model figure. She is neither a form meant to reveal a representative body or shape of a female but is a woman whose occupation or purpose is to lead the painter towards the aim of finding a means of conveying more than the body as a form but to imbibe an essence of a human who happens to have the appealing form of a woman in her full force of life.

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Woman’s Head. Artist:Amedeo Modigliani (Italian, Livorno 1884–1920 Paris)
Date:1912. Medium:Limestone
Dimensions:26 7/8 × 6 1/4 × 9 1/2 in. (68.3 × 15.9 × 24.1 cm)
Weight: 75 lb. (34 kg), Classification:Sculpture
Credit Line:The Mr. and Mrs. Klaus G. Perls Collection, 1997

By the time Modigliani has reached this point in his life he has tried his first love, sculpture but like many artists before him it did not lend him its mystery to enable his thoughts to come out in those three dimensions.

 

In 1909, after meeting Constantin Brancusi, Modigliani began to produce sculptures by carving into stone, completing about twenty-five works throughout his short career. The style of these abstracted, elongated heads is echoed in his subsequent figure and portrait paintings. Fittingly, this particular head, with its strong connection to African sculpture, was originally owned by the American artist and African art collector Frank Burty Haviland. Haviland lived in France and Modigliani became familiar with his collection. In addition to African art, Modigliani’s sculptures reflect his knowledge of ancient Cycladic, Sumerian, Egyptian, and Greek art.  Met Museum text.

The Romanian Brancusi was a favourite and revered friend of Modigliani and the connection is not lost in the application of visual effects as one is now finding the essence of his work accessed through the simple device of line on one plane.

Simple it maybe but it is incalculably intimate in its dynamic.

Painting dynamics

The piece is regarded as having an unorthodoxy in art taking it back to the primordial instinctive throwback beyond the renaissance and challenged th mores of the world of patronage of the arts while taking out the sensuous and sexualised component and objective servile diminished role played elements often seen band depicted previously in the horizontal form that feminine objectivity Picasso had shown ‘the regard as thief of the jewels of womanhood in his Les Demoiselles d’Avignon.

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Les Demoiselles d’Avignon. Painting by Pablo Picasso and a Photo by David Bailey

That regard in Les Demoiselles d’Avignon being sent back with spades to the viewer looking into the collective as a band of protective women creating a homogeneous foil and asking questions of the one who seeks insight of them/selves.

Life

At the age of 35 Amedeo Modigliani became the victim of Tuberculosis and died following his earlier periods of poor health. With his frailty he was occupied in hiding the illnesses he had succumbed to by the apparent act of concealment through drug abuse and alcoholism.  In order to appear as someone whose outward demeanor may have been taken as a consequence of the behaviours of alcohol and drug consumption among his fellow artists he nevertheless was in a worse state of decline than those afflictions might have has on him.  He was know as a poetic and romantic womanizer with his personality and health possibly driving him to those distractions.

The painting

In the models flesh tones are seen the blue faint covering of the ground where his technique has built up, through modifications and layers, a semi transparency as flesh is seen damaged and slightly coarse having it seems been achieved by hard bristles and Amedeo stabbing and stippling of the bodies fleshy tones.  It is not overly done as the blue tinges are apparent beneath. Also the belly is raised by the luminousity of a white globe of her stomach giving another view and state of fecundity.

White is found in the left arm in the elbow crevice and I took that to signify and it probably is not!, vitiligo as the meaning of her vulnerable working body might be found lacking in minerals and vitamins out of a poor diet. A kind of symbolism entering. Then there are other ‘marks’ and these are widely accepted, as the appear in the lower parts of the painting due to studio carelessness.

They add, do not detract from the vitality and energy coming through the painting. This is itself a derivation of a style which an artist displaying his continued and unsettled enjoyment of his own work is temporarily in a state of transition and wondering where on the next canvas abrushes mark should be made.

The production of his ‘muse’ through this nude figure is strikingly provocative in that it undermines the stasis and unsettles by its uncompromising frankness and the perfect non sexual overtones but the strength of the woman’s body as human strongly over arching the whole of the notion of ourselves as species.

How extraordinarily perceptive and resolved this work has become in complete conflict with its dynamic and continual motion and emotional projection. This surely must have been a component in Amedeo‘s sense of himself as an artist despite his longing to be a sculptor he had reached further than his peers and created a new radicalism in acceptance of flawed beauty in painting.

There is undoubtedly life in this painting after its seemingly resolved completion. It disowns tranquility, it abhors looking as a sexualised object, it resents the act of being regarded, it shows its point of belonging in human form. There seems to be an act disassociated of itself from its locality in the composed space by the organisation of the blue ground which in the higher part is more consistent and less disturbed than the lower segment implying a wall and floor where the red couch is protected in a vague white soiled sheet just visible beneath the buttocks of the model and affording some protection in its placement.

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My sketch pastel begins! A2.  The next stage is at the foot.

The Painting & Paint colour

What if it were a drawing and without ‘colour’?  I imagined it as firstly about the act of line drawing which it has a distinctive attribute. Then I posited the thought that ‘colour’ is only an embellishment. The rendering to produce light and share dynamics. This is a very wrong attitude with which to approach it.

The form of light and shadows is fully realised, in black and white by modern photographers such as one who put this above all other considerations, David Bailey.

The conquest is seeing what the light produces but Bailey’s work is akin to drawing, being in black and white.  Here in this painting the evolution from the line element takes many side moves.  The hair in the left is seen having been taken in, maybe a bulk of hair existed formerly and was painted back; it certainly appears that way, to effect the outlines flow rather than truly represent it and the right hand, possibly present and visible at one point, is kept hidden to achieve the flow of the line.

Then there is the mystery or discarding of a primary light point.  There is only the front universal point of light which negates reasoning as to where shadow is found. The paint itself is the shading element and it’s texture the convenience delivered by brush marks and of a sharp gouging effected in the hair for example giving that plural feeling of it having neither a source but being in sculptural form a third dimension advancing with movement. Under a kind of universal light.

Perfectly flawed it is a hard act to follow and this is as I opined earlier a feature I believe which gave impetus and cause for Amedeo to produce further and more challenging work.

The maturity of the return to painting in a further simplified and reduction of marks is seen in his later work as he is vexed by the ‘treatments’ and beautiful wonderous lines of centuries before and the earlier, the more profound, its own examination rewarded him in discovery.

Additions

A year or so ago I wrote this on the predicament of the model whose anonymity is transparent as she is neither the object of the completed work nor a character assumed from the past. The aloneness and emptiness is striking now when I think of the Modigliani pursuit of his art when consumed by this painting.

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Some negative aspects relating to the curation.

If there are some criticisms of the room and it’s interpretation of the lineage and common approaches to be made, it is the use of very tenuous art held by the Gallery in its own collection as a stark contrasting difference.  The delivery is failing in many places. Using the ‘theme’ of the model is the route taken, not the act of the mark and the line.  The servile component of life modeling is a trope and not what the painting is primarily about.  Ratifying it by using a ‘portrait’ by a local artist even a twentieth century one is laying claim to small connections.  So what if the artist in the glass mosaic is featured herself within the work shown?

Being in the work as model is neither near or revelatory in the nakedness sense giving a threadbare tribute?  To artists, imagined scoping is outside the context and in fact a distraction of quite harmful presence.  There is in the ‘life model’ comparisons, only one showing the contrast between a vertical nude and horizontal nude; the latter being the previous approach taken all through and since the renaissance.  A wandering connection again is made and it is a mighty problematic one, conflicting and not a complementary distraction.

In the O’Brien Life model with a barely visible child, as with the laundry woman, there is no substantive connection whatsoever in setting it alongside, in the room as a ‘relief’ of emphasis or anything else.  An allusion is taken in respect of ‘women in 1918’ which is quite facile and out of kilter with the main work.  This phenomenon goes back centuries and still exists.  It is wholly utilised in this way I find, because of what the UM has in its collection and is clutching at straw metaphors.

The best thing to do is to ignore the room’s additional works and concentrate on the immensity of the work and avoid this distracting padding.  The abstraction of colour and choices made to effect a flow had gone missing in all other work. I found myself sketching one, the face below for example, merely to find the quality of line. I also looked at the effect of a pastel line drawing on blue paper to see the effect of the colours magic within the painting and it is obvious the line and oil is a combination which is spectacularly successful here because of it’s transparency, luminosity, roughness and eveness in parts as handled and dispersed here.

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It ended up as this.  I believe the reason it became so different and colour, which is such an incredible thing to realise in seeing the actual painting with the blue and flesh tones coming out at you from the canvas means it needed something entirly different in approach when using something other than oil paint.  This is pastel on an A3 size pastel textured blue sheet.

John Graham

3 July 2018

Belfast

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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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True Colours : An Exhibition Review CCEA Ulster Museum

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Current exhibition on at Ulster Museum

The work of some of Northern Ireland’s most exceptional young artists will be on display at the Ulster Museum during January and February. CCEA’s True Colours is a showcase of the outstanding artwork produced for the summer 2017 GCE & GCSE examinations. The event will be visited by almost 50,000 people over the coming months, with many schools making trips to show other young artists the standard and quality of work produced in Northern Ireland.

Congratulating the students on their work, Justin Edwards, CCEA’s Chief Executive, said:

“This is now our seventh annual True-Colours exhibition at the Ulster Museum. The venue offers a fitting setting for such outstanding work. It is also a pleasure to be able to give the public an opportunity to view the diversity and quality of work being produced by young artists and designers.”

My take on seeing the works

It would be absurd to be over critical of the work produced by students embarking on their art expression given the constraints education put them under. The variations of work attest to the dilemma and prodigious talent in the realm. What on earth becomes of it is pure speculation. What is evident is the quality this minute of each object on display in whatever form it takes.

So that is where to begin. Following a narrative seems part of the octagon of the wonders we see.

Those Dark Materilas onboard in lexicons of abrupted life.

The immersion of young artists seeking out their own interpretative, derivative direction is passionately taken as a journey of self discovery embracing work which creates fictions of realities presume innocent and observing laws of insight. Nothing is further from the truth in seeing other work then completely transcending its thought patterns to create a unique observance. Only by seeing something recognizable can it be truly dismissed. The artist is sent off in another trajectory making their own valid statement no matter how they arrived at it. Each artist here has 1. Chosen a persons work to interpret. 2. Has looked to themselves as affected by the act of making art.

The three images above converge in the piece to form the first image and  is sublime in its execution.

The symmetry of the energised triangulated sculpture throwing away precepts of tradition was one piece which would have been evidently secure in its aloneness, singularity so the added function of development stages is more the academics statement than the artists statement.

This is a scholarly path and important to negotiate while picking up techniques and skills of seeing and illuminating their work. ‘Artist as Thief’ is the name given to a parallel exhibition and the meaning of this one is of a similar formula. In seeing the Ulster Museum CCEA Exhibition work

French horn player (untitled) a coiled bell by Tom McVeigh

I was totally drawn in by the art delivered in one persons almost narrative approach. They pay homage to the skills or an artist of music. The quietude of a study room, with natural light augmented by a photographers tripod lamp is a settling peaceful restful prologue to a homage of a fellow artist. The starting point is the room. The ambience and colour it lends to solitary performance in the domestic room or retreat of a college of music is a concert of nuanced environmental choices. While large windows give an air of radiance of the seasonal changes of the everyday, the light is warmed by the barrier of the glass clear boundary separating sound and the external world. Centrally is the French Horn Player sitting on a stool in a natural balancing posture with the body caressing an instrument at rest. Both are in symmetry as one with the other able to convey in union a voice now silent. The studio is a piece and setting. A drama is unfolding of a woman’s comfortable nurturing of a chosen companion. An intrusion is taken in for the sake of art and cadences are many. Unspoken is the collaboration we see as a work of art.

The way Tom McVeigh has produced around this final painting, his progression toward it is very comprehensive as study goes. It is a work produced to ‘convince’ an examiner of the process being understood. This is quite strange given the academic is neither of any import other than the consignment by compliance with theory or method the actual approach which the ‘examiner’ is without. They are not in the process but mere witness. The tools are encouraged and some direction taken but to produce this extent of analysis is perverse. Such are educational norms.

 

 

 

Superb study work can stand alone

Many of the students have taken the instruction to find an artist and explain why they appeal and how they work. The choices are something of a hit or miss formula. Pinterest Instagram, Art Network, or any familiar Art arena seems to have Ben trawled and then a peculiarity sought is explored. The appeal is not in question. The work forms are varied and experimental ways of working are placed into ‘categories’ printing, installation, sculpture and painting, drawing. In a classroom there is lenient persuasion or implied progression. So as not to derail original thinking the ideas go unchallenged. The effect is often tedious and narrowing. Unlike the primary educational functions undertaken centuries before where a talent is nurtured by studio work on real pieces and learning in conjunction with an artist as assistant the ‘school’ precedes the nurturing of particular insight with work conceived is absent here.

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Psychology and the human mind occupy a lot of the work

Of all types of work seen the idea is key.  Transforming thinking is the outcome sought by the artist and viewer. Where I found work which transcended the ‘method’ it had overcome the running commentary of connective narrative, important in degrees though it was in providing an’analysis’ for the pupil to find encouragement and self awareness from. The outcome is what? It is a piece which out to stand on its own. An example is one which needed no backstory but required going through the art gears to establish its own place. The process is the viewer observing it and making a story or conclusion or even lost in challenging considered thought processes to be completed after the experience of seeing.

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Layered installation & other views

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I often find reflection part of the process and it need not have any signposting.

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Less is more. Picasso was a deceptive artist and seeing all manner of ‘objects’ as you do in the Paris Picasso Museum you see the machinations and the way a print is found or painting is brought forward. These study facilities are career products and are only in the after view are they precious in anyway. The single statement of pieces apart are more relevant as a basis of understanding. The understanding is often not the purpose but a communication of a form, a connection however tenuous is primary to arts place in our world.

 

 

Prophetic visions in diverse materials

What annoyed me was the compression of the work in a space into which the curator, teaching professional, felt no hierarchy was an issue. The work suffers by not being seen properly. One pupil had a particular set of skills and had many more dimensions to it than adjoining work. The adjoining work was a complete very profound and distinctly of another ‘camp’ while equally assured in it. So both were lost companions in need of greater exposition. This clash and compression was and is a feature of exhibition when it is sanctioned as a ‘critique’ of sorts. An end of year show will always look like an end of year show if the curator so requires it to be seen widely or in a step up of a kind endorsing education methods. The Art College in Central Belfast often fails to display work appropriately or in any depth of curation. It avoids the exposure or display of ‘see the process as us teaching/learning’ to create. One thing is certain. The work here is to be valued again and again and new work is the probable outcome while this cannot be discarded as ‘juvenilia’.

 

Outsider art

One artist, a Photographer was bold enough to campaign down the road of observation of their own community.  Never staying which side they were aligned to or not at all they provided one of the most illuminating and sanguine pieces of all.  In a Frankie Quinn rather than Paul Seawright kind of way the observations they made were abrupt sharp and visually coherent full of meaning.

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The image in particular stànding out is of a Twelfth Procession and day two persons, an adult and a child, the former of (possibly) Ulster ethnicity and the child different race, they shared a  palm slap provocative and prescient of racial tension.  The tension of unity bound in apparent opposite pathways.  One is going in one direction and the same human nature is belonging whichever road taken.  It could have been staged or image edited and with added colour.

Some other images by the same pupil are equally observant and challenging.  One has a frame cutting off the front part of a band member and is framed on an onward heading through ,arch with a H&W ubiquitous and defining.  Others are of feet and bands passing some members, a boy recognising the photo taken for instance in a capture of memorial probably not differing much in age.

 

 

Special stages in Art

By way of variance of approach and exercising different ways of producing an image the author has gone down the route of using a drawing medium.

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Assertive pieces

The dark and light of materials possibilities is sharply recorded.  Here are a few other examples and by no means is this a full study.

 

 

Material truths

Dendrite’s and neurons place heuristics in a real world or creative truths on a line of culture. So going on and based on fear protection threat assessing the life course in unreal terms is easy for artists abstracting life. Realities are adjusted and systems of obedience are liked by pupils intially but intelligible constructs can win through the conscious of a teaching environment. Compliance is often a risk which is overridden for the sake of outside. On the inside obeying the rules is a given and it constrains perfectly good thought however perverse or irregular it may be. Local exhibitors Gilbert and George will be visited by several of these artists I suggest, others will not make it to ‘the city’ to see the work. They are masters of conformity. In a altered real they implicitly comply. I saw their work decades ago and it was evident then. They are absurdists with a conservative and compliant existence. For the Brit art era it was a comfort to know they were around to play conformity for all its worth like a paid of John Major twins and grayness which they actual added a might of colour to was a tame avenue of cave weeping aspirations and endurance.

Enduring Dissonance 

I saw the problems 21st Century pupils face in their life emerge and by dint their artwork. Trina Hobson, a local artist, often goes back to the neglect and dropping of identity. It has long been around as a trait. Here the pupils decline identity pigeonholing purposely and suppress the invasion of image. Especially self image. See the photoshop and scratched identities in differing work. It speaks of an age which is harming. The adult lesson prevailing is of the wrongful placing of image as being of importance in the spontaneous exchange of their continued Facebook, Instagram and the media driven wrap is intense and unwanted as here, is seen as being declined as a value system. Scars occur in art to express this emotion purposely and I feel it is not thoroughly enough tasked because it is under the aegis of an educational process. The Course Curriculum. It is as circus performance not educational but seen isolated and apart from other subjects. This is proof of a talent and voice which the adult will not accept for its obvious lesson but will simplify and sell it back to the youth producing it in its sundry forms. The paying of the cost is pupil borne.

Dry material is evident. Not liquid or translucence altering body of altering substance is present. The intention is to allude to permanence. Therefore where is the place of performance and dissolution of spirit observed? Incremental transformation is not allowed or suggested in the work because it’s intangibles are unclassifiable. The closet to this obtuse element was a display of cement like material. It is interesting the future of materials will change apparent limitations of art as digitisation has. The phosphite and graphene tomes of solid state technological choices unseen here are a future conduit of arts material change.

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It goes way beyond many art professional work seen elsewhere and deserves seeing often and in a clearer context.

 

 

On at The Ulster Museum Belfast Rooms Ground floor.

John Graham

30 January 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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Raw : A Film Review


Raw 

Director Julia Ducournau Writer Julia Ducournau Stars Garance Marillier, Ella Rumpf, Rabah Nait Oufella, Laurent Lucas, Joana Preiss, Bouli Lanners, Marion Vernoux.
Jean-Louis Sbille as the professor  Rating 18. Duration 1h 39m Genres Drama, Horror.


Probing the flesh

Raw is War in tooth and claw.  Red is cinemas greatest asset in showing in glorious technicolor our raw emotions that inhabit our conscious.  From the premise that within us is a primordial guilt and we seek revenge for the ills of our ancient past back to the dawn of existence we have been fascinated with the bloodlust of others and sometimes ourselves.  The driven kind features heavily and their appetite is satiated in a campus of post-revolutionary Europe.  In a University campus that of L’Universite de Liege, filmed over one summer, writer, Director, Julia Ducournau, in her debut feature film sees humans in a structure of hierarchy.  Garance Marillier playing Justine is dropped of by her affluent parents in a sprawling University campus.  They are past students of the same place and are perhaps aware of what lies ahead in more senses than we are initially lead to believe.   I couldn’t help thinking if they were in part authors or this rite of passage, being from the output from ’68, for their virginal daughter.  In a horrific incestuousness leading all back to the beginning.  Already at the University is sister Alexia (Ella Rumpf) a year ahead.


Journey to self

At the opening frames which we go back to later there is a similar opening to many films.  A open large perspective of a rural connection of a tree lined road seen anywhere in Europe.  There occurs an unexplained event. Cut to the car wth the dog lapping the cheeks of the open eyed Justine whose move from childhood to adulthood is officially stamped.  No longer at home she is on an adventure called life.  This is an enclosed tale of rule making and conformity layered with the very present hormonal discharges of Justines sexuality.  Into this is added the self image and her beliefs which are more or less intact.  As a vegetarian she is setting herself out as having a love of animals which is taken to the point of her enrollment and the family belonging to an ethic of helping all creatures on this earth.

In this environment it is easy to see the disgust of meat eating and it is but not questioned here, a method of exploring whether we are indeed carnivores or as the ancient history will tell us after the ‘original’ sin we became sinful in killing and eating animals.  The proteins of other sources being accommodated only by locational advantage.  The China Study is a book which shows us how to remove meat as a protein source and also shows us how location, China can support a food structure in balance while others hunt and fish plainly because they have an abundance of wild animals, rivers, forests in which flight is not sufficient to save birds, nor speed a reason to escape an arrow.  The Masai will eat from nomadic cattle by slicing off a piece of hind while they walk, covering the wound with mud and eating it raw.  Their choice is confined to an existence without much plant growth.  So how is it God our creator has it in mind meat is a legitimate source of our diet.


Outside life

Justine is confronted by the meat eating fraternity without the family protection.  As a set up we see the family enroute at a roadside cafeteria and out of her ‘veggie’ choice – her parents have moved onto meat eating – probably by obliging the instincts to masticate on flesh cooked into unchained protein as a demonstration of the common predication for eating meat.  In the school of Veterinary Studies there is a ritual and it is a basic condensing of human rules and conformity writ large.  In it the Upper year students in the Dead of Night ambush the entire intake and involve them in a series of initiation subjections which are both a release and an imprisonment.  Mindsare pliable and Alex, Justines sister is already into the camp of the meat eater.  This is despite her own beliefs and she suppresses what Justine still holds as a basic right to decide what she puts inside her body.  

The initiation I won’t describe as too many writers on this film have drawn out all the little details which make it a full on exploration of human instincts.  First time Director at 33 when she made it (at some critics take a youthful age apparently though it is not an age thing, directing chops!) is giving this story an arch violently expressive with some tremendous scenes setting out with accomplished subtlety at times – in the Student clinic for instance there is a great piece of observational writing, then there is the location itself with its optimistic, bunker like, confrontational raw materials of architecture, stubborn forms plain and as the film afore mentioned – ‘What you see is what you get’.  Julia Ducournau has this locked down into Form follows function in excruciating bodily functional detail.  In Train to Busan which is a brilliant zombie movie from a South Korea from last year I took it on to seek more references to the human condition which explored along very similar lines what were its driving forces.  I found it to be the backward launch of the human, back through their mothers, birth a journey to ancient loss.  That read is found by putting into the top right –  search box – Train to Busan. http://wp.me/p2R05n-Hh


Sexual appetite

There are scenes which see Justines sexuality spawn a million seeds.  The male leads in the film are similarly stuck by the new circumstances they find themselves in and their preconceptions are not so much challenged as replaced by alternatives.  Love stories, strange as it may seem develop.  Within this – it is not – mash up – there are several failed relationships and new ones. All concerned with orgasm lust which draws into the equation love and ritualized belongin, hurt and betrayal.  This is another strand not obvious at first but it’s very much there.  From what I’ve so far implied and set out strands of story direction I’ve gotten onboard with the liking community for this film.  At times it will irritate the chops off you, make you cringe at the banality of some use of others tried and rested cinema scoping – the entry frames are so often followed it is tedious to see them range into view again.  I won’t name them but I do have favorites of this intro and they are totally memorable putting this so far below in the lower deck it’s below the plimsol line. Annoying.  There are other beautiful scenes held flowingly with one or two faults, camera hungry playacting, like in the first dance/techno sequence.  The music is by Williams, (son of John?) and it once becomes too much as it is used to ratchet up a particular moment.  It could have blurred out sound or disfunctional sound but it chose the conformity.


Progression towards …. 

The story develops over one year at University and takes on a form utilizing the group without elder supervision other than a few Professorial types who are strangely not equipped or bothered to set anything other than experiments and pick up on grammatical error while also giving Justine further concerns about her outstanding alacrity, skills, understanding of veterinary techniques.  Unlike her  fellow rookies who begin to detest her or at least some of them.  Alex and Justine become strongly connected and share similar demons.  They get into extreme bother and trouble, inviting the entire college to come down on them in their interactions with them.  It keeps ramping up in its violence and portray of the communal internalization while setting out no answers or analysis of the behavior.  Critics so far have placed it in boxes to suit their view and none inclauding myself were able to fix it in a frame of mutual understanding.

 Doctors daughter Julia Ducournau!

Conclusion ****4

Julia Ducournau has composed an odyssey through a young woman’s journey from childhood to adult and survival.  She has used a very able crew and set of young actors who fail nowhere in convincing us of the, beyond recognition, behaviors they portray while putting more than many young actors should in order to be faithful to the task.  The experience must itself been ground breaking on the minds of these young people and Julia Ducournau has probably learnt through it of the many potential pitfalls and erroneous steps, some life changing that enter people’s lives.  The ground breaking element nearly stretches it out to become a genre free film though it is not long enough or dig into the medical, psychological straits of the human pathway.  It is gloriously rich in detail, too much in many people’s minds and plays the willfulness and inevitable harm inflicted mentally on the sisters as in faith.  Julia Ducournau holds the characters hands throughout without being exploitative.  It crosses many lines but being Cinema it’s not a dilemma for anyone. Of course there is revulsion and sickening components but that’s Cinema story telling unleashed with a courageously minded group.

John Graham

27 April 2017

Belfast

 

  

On at Queens Film Theatre from Friday 28 April 2017 and on general release.

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

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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Train to Busan


Director: Yeon Sang-ho.  Cast: Gong Yoo, Ma Dong-seok, Jung Yu-mi, Kim Su-an, Kim Eui-sung.  Duration: 118 mins

South Korean Zombie thriller with subtitles.

It’s Summer box office but summers gone!

The summer is over and a cinema filler thriller zombie movie arrives.  Frightening Korean style apoplectic travellers get severely disturbed in this closed carriage apocalyptic journey taking you somewhere you booked for without the hazard warning lights and warnings of a perilous journey ahead.

For a zombie thriller the cast assembled create a family unit, bonded in adversity.  They are the source of humour, ridicule, fantasy, implausible courage and outrageous good fortune.  They inhabit their parts with enormous energy and carry the story along as it develops wildly on guess what – The Train to Busan.  A separated father in the middle of a messy divorce (Gong Yoo) has custody in his luxury apartment, managed by his quiet suffering mother, of his daughter (Kim Su-an) whose birthday is a day after we are introduced.  The father is a workaholic, fund manager in his late twenties say, and oversees many corporate placements.  

 
Story setting

The beginning of the film is set outside in a Korean industrial city outskirts with a de-contamination process going on with vechiles entering or leaving this industrial sprawl. The film shows from early on its intentions to shock and make you jump.  I certainly did from early on.  Back to the flux and flow of characters we encounter. A large Everyman character who I last saw in A Touch of Sin, (Ma Dong-Seok or maybe it was Jaing Wo, both similar) a monstousrously effective and highly charged underated Chinese film of again deploys a brilliant convincing though sometimes superman proportions facility for doing the impossible and guarding those around him, including his young pregnant wife (Ma Dong-seok). There is a homelsss man (Choi Gwi-hwa) who is the archetypal outsider who is a victim of circumstances denied entry to the ‘world’ the rest inhabit.

The star of the film is the quick jump action of zombies doing the following – turning on people unaffected.  Together they become in various multiple aged identities as reformed carnivores of humans. They act instantly and this is the thrill on a split seconds instruction at the interention of a sense.  A sight, sound, (no surround smell) that enters their collective paranormal psychotic self absorbing world.  More on that psychology later. We are confronted every which way, every, minute practically with a fear and jeopardy moment.  From the get go the selfish father, the fund manager, is talked into taking the train journey the next day to let Su-an see her mother and they arrive at a central Korean highly polished and effiecently laid out railway station only to find the train they wan being singularly alone and helpfully manned by an extravagantly efficient train driver whose duty of care is both memorable and funny.  He is brilliant in his attention to detail and hyper real in care of his charge of passengers.  It’s worth it just to see this and its development. Your allegiances are soon called onto sides.  For the action Korea has to go into what is a’virsl’ tailspin which as TV screens reveal early is happening through South Koreaalong the same lines as encountered here on the train.


So obviously enough a Train to Busan is summoned into becoming a character and a journey – with a few hiccups to start with – takes us into the beautiful sunny domain of South Korea on the K-Train.  The super train, TGV type modern train – it doesn’t have upper decks though – it would have made for a more complex snake of a train – its compartments, toilet facilities, intersecting doors, windows and seats all get abused in un Translink fashion.  The Train is the scene of much nastiness and the occasional stop is not enough to derail the fight between good and evil as the evil ramps up.. communications also play a part and all phones work.  The Samsung Galaxy exploding phone – South Korean cultural and apocalyptic failurecof industrial status is no where to be found and there are worse things as it so happens in the Trin to deal with. . Communications are fraught with news inbued from outside,  with downloaded apps coming to their rescue – the good gang trying to remain separate, together apart from the baddies, comes into action.

The Pictorial Experience

Although I could not decipher the end credits, I assume no rail stations, tracks or infrastructure were damaginged in the making of what in all ways seems a big Korean action thriller. This means it has been a tour-de-force in its ingenuity to weave together the extreme pyrotechnic, crowd spilling, stunt driven, dangerous collisions and violent fights that cups the entire film in its 118mins. duration.  There are respites but they are few and the technical delivery, some of the back of trains while actors are in full speed movement, close ups and internal claustrophobic shots inside the tiny box toilets for example are seemlessly thrust at us.  The crowd sciences also deploy an effective jerky jump motionto the zombies making it more surreal.  As it does not pretend to be anything other than a highly polished zombie thriller which it achieves without question, it does not follow some routes and does not rely on tons of gore.  Sliced arms hanging off guts, entrails pulled behind fleeing fiends is not the style – thankfully – it is more measured and finely aesthetically gruesome and energizing to the actors own performances.  It is a fairly conventional take on the zombie trope but I suggest it has underlying themes which are – though not sucessfully enough rendered or prounounced as to shape into the films advancing message –  highly provocative given the times we live in and the scientific growth of the worlds knowledge and the catastrophic consequences we seem to be unable to address.  The over population, the removal and derangement of the planets resources, the spiritual, intellectual, sexual values of the human race and the technological divorce of rationality from reason in the machine age.  The biological destruction of the natural world and animal kingdom while exploration of space and other life forms attract indulgent, misguided indulgence.  Mars is quite enough as small and unambiguous a territory for exploration as you could come up with given the even greater expanse out and beyond for which reasonable verification of other lives are on the blind side of our vision.  In other words it is a conceit to believe these ‘close encounters’ – the moon, mars and elements of our solar system are of significance in the ‘larger’ state.


The strange thing is …

Lesson one
Poor fund managers. They get pilloried and blamed for everything yet this one might resurrect himself. He works as a head decision maker and what he unfortunately does in the initial phases is createcfor himself a zombie bank (nation) as prime investment goes wrong. But will he Sell? Nsteadcof folowing the crowd he acts alone. A precept coming up for air as it is finally telling his world tanked, how does he react to what he has created going wrong. He takes the high road. The moral path or what is directed as the correct approach. His pilot is his daughter. The daughter his mother looks after as he fights a bitter divorce. The mother has awordcor two of wisdom in his apartment, like marriage guidance and restorative action.

Lesson two

For full observance of the Korean spell of zombie narrative I take to dispel their constructs of bare tangential visualization by referring to an all time symbolic reservoir – the images from the Eranos Society, Eranos Archive for Symbolic Research, by Olga Froebe- Kapteyn, an early follower of Jung. The mutli complexions of what become dying notes or transformative journals are held intact within these miraculous scriptures. Melancholy and harmony reside within. There is a further carriage of these individual art works within the work of the Henry Moore sculptures, of Mother and Child. He seen the transformation post war, of the modern paternalistic world reckoning with itself in a tangible ‘fatherless’ world. He foresaw the alteration coming through the violence of a maleness which had lost itself to war. A matriarchy had formed inside his world and no less a figure than his wife made this apparent to him. In this film and absurdly the notion of a zombie fate is evident and matriarchal. The earth goddess mother – one character sacrifices herself to make amends for her selfishness by putting herself in harms way. It will occur to you after, not before as it is well hidden – advanced in the theories of a Henry Moore, an artist of intellectual bearing which his female contemporaries saw the reverse side of – Barbara Hepworth and Elizabeth Frank advanced and perhaps domicile the male in their earth mother inhabiting of the goddess through their work – how else would they venerate the essence they held? Not that art historians tend to overcompensate, they just miss through being non-creatives these absurdities across several forms.  

Lesson three

Cinema is full of mixed content and fairly limited scoping out of the themes and this film is particularly unclear or unconcerned with the monumental, merely being statuesque in its zombie mortal world versus spirit world phenomenon. The uncontrolled dead amongst the stereotypes of modern life. Clash of the titans. At a stage of symbolism the uroboros consuming itself. The plucked consciousness of the male visiting the virginal states. The fervent male rationalist tethered to convention then the symbiosis of mutuality – still unreconciled in the extreme mental states of Isis and demigods of nations. Both symbolically thrust to the forefront in the paradoxical form of Clinton and Trump.

The biological determinants are frequently being revised scientifically without any societal impact. Thus the political dynamic is counterintuitive. As an art form it is fairly and conspicuously inherently divisive. It has neither feminine grasp nor male depiction in sight. Nor does it construe the extremities as biological reference points. Most male and female humans act naturally and conventionally holding a straightforward identity comprising of the both but pertaining to the one sex. The form they are in and larger measure undoubtedly within themselves. The perilous outcome is when the natural separates one part and looses its relation to the entirety. Ubiquitous feminism meets rampant facism. Idolised in Hitler. Conspicuously the contemporary is in a massive cathartic revolutionary state. I mean it has found through 20th century history a rejection of violence – we are led to believe there is a distinct decline in overall violence – that it mitigates on a paralysis of rejection of a God or human principle based universe – based on certain inherent underlying unseen truths – that are essentially here among us. The enormous changes brought about in the 20th century are playing out now. Films are a way of showing it. Zombie movies are inherently strong frankly absurd at times extremely funny in their projection of psychokinesis as to become entertainment fodder. Which one actually convinces or reaches core value status?  


Lesson four

Join a feminist movement.

Lesson five 

There will be fewer lessons you are capable of self thought.

Lesson six 

Their is a thing known to all mothers that the baby has to be told the meaning of Mine

Conclusion ####4

The genre usually is a take it or leave one as far as I’m concerned but there is quite a committed and less gory almost folkloric trait to this hugely involving story.  It has been a work of very clear high standards with a deeply convincing cast – even the little old middle class ladies taking the train get to examine their own consciousnesses in the interplay with hobos, destitutes and other society fabric.  It rushes and rushes with a physically demanding vigor and is never giving you sufficient time to sit back and ask ‘technical’ questions, how did that stunt come about, how on earth did they do that without destroying the infrastructure of South Korean Transport?  The characters inhabit familiar types and then the adaptitoions they are required to make are complex challenges removing from them and the audience set standards of objective thought.  It brings out many a fine performance even if it is just one scene.  The horror is only moderately restrained in the scope of movies of this kind and it therefore is setting out a larger sense situation be it the modern world or our singularity, individuality in the community of the sense of belong to a race which need to survive.  It Carey’s you whether you are into the morality scope or the freaky zombie fest and crowd pandemonium, it has a sense of humour though some are not convinced.  I was conciously wishing for the objectives f some to materialize and non pluses at the sufferance of others such was the disposal of any rational.  It was entertainment of a different kind and not overlong – with and ending etc. a tieing up of loose threads as much as possible.  Now if only they had the good sense to look closer at the Samsung Galaxy battery design and its capacity to short circuit.  This is a thriller beginning to end.

John Graham

2 November 2016

Belfast

On at Queens Film Theatre Belfast from Friday 4 November to Thursday 10 November 2016.

A fright filled zombie fest in the safety of your friendly local art house Cinema.