Jawbone : A Film Review


Jawbone

Produced by Michael Elliott, Johnny Harris. Written by Johnny Harris.  Cast. Johnny Harris as Jimmy McCabe, Ray Winstone as William Carney, Ian McShane as Joe Padgett, Michael Smiley as Eddie, Luke J.I. Smith as Damian, Anna Wilson-Hall as Mary. Director : Thomas Q. Napper. Duration: 1 hr 31 mins. Cert. 15. 

Seconds out

There is no place to go for anyone whose hope has gone.  The future is a place of roadkill.  It will swallow you up.  The mind sees things it cannot control and the future is best left alone so horrendous it seems looking forward.  So what is there to do except go backwards.  Unwind the past beyond the turmoil which formed the bridge between then and now.   Jimmy McCabe (Johnny Harris) has hope but fear also and his upbringing has been in a closed world of boxing.  A neutral corner in his life. A year ago his mother died and he is about to lose through this own disconnection with the world the tower block flat he grew up in.  His family as young boxer were his trainer Eddie (Michael Smiley), promoter Joe (Ian McShane), and club owner Bill (Ray Winstone). He is in control only when he is in the ring as a fighter. As a boxer he became at 22 an ABA (Amateur Boxing Association) champion which is the biggest step on the ladder to becoming a professional. 


Boxing bored of control

In boxing you are either a boxer or a fighter.  Unless you are gifted and are both you will not succeed unless you are so beyond being a fighter you become a warrior or like Evander Holyfield lightening quick and as balanced as a dancer at the height of their powers.  Some boxers are so gifted as to become a capable of outwitting your opponent in every move as it’s seen in advance and a matter of choosing the right time to unleash their demons.  Seldom do boxers come through on the scale needed to sustain a living.  Joe Calzaghe was a Welsh boxer who trained in himself with his father to be hard as nails and in a club without any distractions or manipulative promoters after a quick return and fall guys.  Another was Ricky Hatton who grew a Manchester and bigger following to become a super light middleweight and his craft was speed and accuracy.  A dynamite boxer fearless, fit and fast.  Joe Calzaghe was able to handle his rise through the ranks and another Carl Froch came up with him to be British World Champion boxers. 


Jimmy McCabe is a fictional boxer and this a cut at the boxing life not seen that often in film, never mind a British film.  The boxing clubs that thrive in the working class areas and inner cities from Manilla to Manchester.  This is not at the turbulent Rocky out on your feet kamikaze ruthless blood letting film which has arches of blood swooshing around and miracles off the canvas. Yet it has as a climax a fight choreographed by Barry and Shane McGuigan.  Those two also ‘advise’ ‘train’ the boxers/actors in their ring craft in the club.  Just as well it’s not true, they couldn’t train white mice. So much than you’ll not get a sequence here, how many Rocky’s?  Taking boxing by the throats is what the promoter does.  

Joe (Ian McShane), is a character smart from his Deadwood part, here as the chief fixer and fight maker.  He appears only a few times and is played as a cross between Ronnie O’Sullivan and Barry Hearn.  One a joker maverick skilled player and the other super spiv Svengali deal maker. It doesn’t amount to much here though and it’s only a passing element. He is close to fight arrangements and sets up something for Jimmy.  It is off the usual boxing radar and highly dangerous. His skill is publicity and hype as marketing need appeal to the lower end of the market, promising this is only the beginning.  It’s usually the beginning of the end as a fighters roster needs to contain a win to loss ratio of 10 to zero.  Amateur ranks are full of talent but their ring craft is for three rounds although in tournaments they find themselves boxing every three days sometimes.


The setting

The film has a straight forward arc and is from the very beginning establishing the despair and near collapse in Jimmy’s life where things pile up and haunt him.  He is fighting addiction and is near loosing his bearings which went after his mum died.  He now is in a fixed loop with nowhere to turn and the boxing is the only thing in his mind with any real pleasure or self of self.  He is not able to fix himself without some help so goes back to the Union Street Boxing Club.  In the club the old faces of Bill (Ray Winston) who is the overseer in the under the railway arches of South East London, Lambeth and beyond, is a reconstructed hardman type as age catches up with the character and the actor.  He portrays it as always with supremely brilliant timing and facial tone.  The rough and readiness is not a put on but an everyday projection of life in the lower reaches of boxing.  He is also the deliverer of some very well crafted lines and the delivery is as I say supremely well gauged as usual for Winstone.  Eddie (Michael Smiley) has apart of a dog eyed trainer.  His long bearded face, the hound of the training ring, delivered in nasal bass Belfast notes by a flaccid poor one dimensional character which Smiley occupies as a reciter of the McGuigan training words and gestures.  Then his other acting skill was to use his hands holding Jimmy’s head in place while he delivered a heated bit of encouragement.  One thing I noticed was he barely ‘smiled,’ no pun intended nor moved a great deal.  No animation whatsoever and someone said it was ‘brilliant’ – some mistake! – and we never got to see his impressive new gnashers.  Good boxers have a good set of teeth if they come out the other end and can afford the replacements the gum shield and constant battering have loosened.  Jimmy McCabe (Johnny Harris) has an impressive set.  Eddie occupies an awful lot of the film as it is shot mainly in the club with a lot of outdoor work and nighttime embankment solid very well filmed and a continuation of the work Jimmy puts in – and it’s far from fake – you get a strong sense of the depths of fitness needed for a fight and it is increased and increased with every frame.  In the club there are the newest recruits to boxing.  A failure of the story was its lack of engagement with any of the junior ranks.  Not one said a word.  Not even conversational asides.  Still this was a minor problem though the same could be said about the plainness of the storylines given.  Not too many sub plots.  So Eddie was ‘boring?’ but not Bill who you got some change from watching his mastery of the part.  Jimmy AKA Johnny Harris has put his heart and soul into this film and it is this ‘tunnel’ perhaps that separate it from being a great British film of the times, Tales of the Long distance Runner, Saturday Night, Sunday Morning genre.  

 

Redemption

Salvaging something out of a life of addiction and getting beyond the harmful effects, which can be lasting and take the edge of everything including pain, is a redemptive cause.  Celebration can come if a success is made of it.  Lately Antony Joshua became a world champion at 26 having been through a few of life’s knockdowns which involved petty crime and misuse of his strength involving also electronic tagging.  His tale is a reality. A very timely one as far as this film is concerned.  There is an unobtrusive soundtrack and it is by Paul Weller showing mixing skills hitherto unheard by myself with it used very smartly (in the way Raw and Jim Williams didn’t – see last review!) with it enhancing the impact of thumping sound mixed punches and scene crowd hysteria with an energy which has you move you chin out of the way of the latest punch.  It is a good cal to have it scored so well and with a light touch. 

Conclusion ###3

For a film to get you gripped by the main character it requires a bit of screenwriter craft to draw you into the essence of the person.  I never got that until it was too late with this.  It was actually in the last third with very little drama involving pathos or sympathy in the arc and I suppose it is because the character Jimmy is an enigma.  He was less enigma towards the end.  As a boxer it is a lonely place to be.  Every boxer is on the way to proving his worth and is out to give up little of his emotional underlying self.  Ricky Hatton, even Muhammad Ali were underneath a construct of multiple persons.  The violent man was suppressed most of the time while they were bodily mentally tuned to be destroyers and to reach the top they had to be just that.  Hence the incomparable Ali performing as a spokesman contender for the whole of the sportsmen of his and any era.  The affable side we also know and love. A master.  This is where the minutiae of live comes into crystal clear focus.  If we were able to see inside a bit more and discover the obvious and real demons – in the minds of al kinds Oscar sportsmen then this would have been a flyer.  That’s not to say it’s a dud.  Far from it.  It’s just that it got the canvas too many times.

John Graham

10 May 2017

Belfast
On at Queens Film Theatre from this Friday 12 May through to and including Thursday 18 May.  For Boxing fans a must.

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Jackie : A Film Review


Directed by Pablo Larraín. Produced by Juan de Dios Larraín, Darren Aronofsky, Mickey Liddell, Scott Franklin, Ari Handel. Written by Noah Oppenheim. Cast. Natalie Portman, Peter Sarsgaard, Greta Gerwig, Billy Crudup, John Hurt. Music by Mica Levi, Cinematography Stéphane Fontaine, Edited by Sebastián Sepúlveda, Production companies, LD Entertainment, Wild Bunch, Fabula, Why Not Productions, Bliss Media, Endemol Shine Studios, Protozoa. Duration. 1hr 35mins. Cert. 15.


A moment changes the World

You are in for an engrossing watch through the dramatic performances and palpable tensions over an event which will last long in the memory of the Political and Social history of America. The 1963 assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy.  He was artly responsible for setting the foundation stones of modern America which were laid by a unity of purpose naively set up on the false hopes of the ‘All American dream‘ and even proposing – in a space race with the then USSR – landing a man on the moon. Most of America was fed through the very new media of TV and infinity of lifestyle magazines from Life to Playboy.  GQ would come later and in the Trump towers supermo’s office he has framed covers of Playboy and GQ featuring DT and with this film opening in the U.K. on Friday 20 January on the inauguration of the New President of the United States it is Donald Trumps turn to shape the USA dream or sign its death nail.

The blurb on the film is After her husband’s assassination, Jackie Kennedy’s (Natalie Portman) world is completely shattered. Traumatized and reeling with grief, over the course of the next week she must confront the unimaginable: consoling their two young children, vacating the home she painstakingly restored, and planning her husband’s funeral.  Jackie quickly realizes that the next seven days will determine how history will define her husband’s legacy – and how she herself will be remembered. Chilean director Pablo Larraín (Tony Manero, No) plunges us into the devastation using a series of finely crafted flashbacks that cover the fateful day in Dallas, Jackie’s return to the White House, arrangements for the President’s funeral, and her time spent accompanying her husband’s coffin to Arlington Cemetery.  

The role came to Portman through Darren Aronofsky, who directed her in Black Swan, for which she won an Oscar in 2011. He shepherded Noah Oppenheim’s script of Jackie for a number of years. Meanwhile, Larrain’s star was rising beyond Chile, in films largely about his home country’s history (No, The Club, Neruda). The Club won a prize at the Berlinale in 2015.  Sydney Morning Herald.


Performances to celebrate

It is a very tightly crafted film, very much keeping its focus on the psyche of Jackie Kennedy in a short period and time of immense change.  With all seeming to be heading sweetly for JFK heading into a second term, this was a joyous time and full of hope but is cruelly shattered in seconds.  The script is chillingly absent of sentiment, ideology, lecture or incidental fill.  It has a welcome electrifying directness giving insight to the persons at the heart of the event.  The conversations and efficiency of words infiltrate the mood swings and juxtapositions, allowing fractious clashes to ignite believably while personalities vie to capture their own space in the story.  The likes of the senior clerical Priest, Father Richard McSorley, played with assurity and gravitas by John Hurt, who is asked by Jackie to conduct the Funeral, is a fatherly figure with a breadth of intuative and needed kind wisdom, which he delivers in a long conversation with Jackie as they survey the landscape prior to the Funeral. The suggestion Jackie has a conversation with Father McSorley is not simply him seeking her approval of the arrangements but to have her unburden the thoughts he is aware she will not release. That in itself is a vivid illumination of the key central characters and the complexity of this world shattering event. Richard E.Grant is also wholly convincing as the ‘Master of Ceremonies’ in the White House, William Walton, anticipating and conflicted by the choices of Jackie in the now decorous White House she has recently restored and transformed into a ‘peoples’ house yet extravagance is not exiled.  The chairs once used by the Lincolns are retrieved from the English aristocrat family who obtained them. Peter Sarsgaard is tremendous as Bobby Kennedy.  He has the unfortunate job of burying a brother and looking after a widow both in grief. He is fragile and has black secrets. Bobby acted a lot of the time to keep the private side of his brother hidden while he also plays someone who deals with a wife who was aware of her husbands infidelity and mixing with the wrong folk.

Jackie asks

Jacqueline (Lee Bouvier Kennedy), (“Jackie”) 1929–94, wife of John F. Kennedy (1953–63) and Aristotle Onassis (1968–75).

What happened? Who done it? the questions on the free worlds mind in 1963 when JFK, Jack Kennedy is assassinated.  It is not often mentioned but the Cold War was in people’s minds so the USSR would not only have eyes on it, they could – though we’re never cited – as possible assassins.  The immediate aftermath is the focus of this story as seen through the eyes of the highly traumatised and troubled Jackie Lee Bouvier, the widow with two small children, Caroline and John.  The world is watching and she is in a state of Post traumatic shock with few medics to help and just the White House entourage to relate to.  No one is close to her except Bobby Kennedy and her aide de camp, the lady in waiting type, Greta Gerwig whose guidance is both practical and humane.  She for instance tells Jackie how to tell the children, in the whirlwind of thought she offers clarity. It is a stellar performance on  Greta Gerwig’s part too.  Towering as she does, over the small grieving woman Jackie/Natalie whose only friend is her. Others to note if only for their presence excepting JFK are  Caspar Phillipson as John F. Kennedy himself, John Carroll Lynch as President Lyndon B. Johnson, Julie Judd as Ethel Kennedy, Brody and Aiden Weinberg as John F. Kennedy Jr., Mathilde Ripley as Jean Kennedy Smith all lurking in the wallpaper of the White House.  When HBO first conceived of the idea along with Darren Aronofsky, around 2010, it was envisaged it would be a four part mini-series, then word got about and grander plans were put together.  While it ‘rested’ at times it eventually gathered the full engagement of LD Entertainment and Wild Bunch with Darren Aronofsky at the helm if not the Directors chair.


The White House

The CBS TV black and White tour fixes us back in the day through contemporary and modern interplay of the actual footage and inserts for the actors which is in grainy b/w and the sound is raw.  Even watching black and white TVs dotted around and particularly one in a g-plan cabinet contrasting with the French decorous style of Jackie contrast and realise the era.  In the Presidens office there are many old maritime portraits of ships with masts contrasting with the decorated heros marine past. Alongside these the massive portrait of Bison and Bison (so singular an animal it retains the name unaltered on plural!) on stampede.  The Oval Office is late in receiving its bold red circular carpet.  The whole replication of the White House interiors was carroed out on the Paris studios. The sound is delicately adjusted from the b/w footage back to a smooth dialogue, say of Billy Crudup and the footage is also integrated extremely well with it having apparently been shot on 35mm film.  I had an issue with the choice of music and while it was not maudlin it was at times irritatingly harsh and unnecessarily present.

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The American Route map to success.

The opening of the film begins on the Presidential plane with the entourage, the full works, preparing to land in Texas to go on that fateful journey into Dallas.  It is visceral expectation of her home state reunion and celebration of JFK having gotten to the White House and this stellar couple being examples of the American dream realised in a form of success matched by smartness and anticipation of a better future.  TV is the elephant in the room.  The intervention and prime inventor of those dreams.  The elephant in the room being the thought – you think you had and you sitting on the back as it’s pilot as it takes you where you think you intended to go – except the elephant is doing all the driving.  As with La La Land all is colour and CinemaScope.  The TV though is still black and white.  The arc of the film is the Life series of interviews and in this immediate period, with use of flashback and CBS footage of a White House tour – a key widening view of the hidden inner workings of the White House – the Life Magazine interview which is carried out by in Massachusetts after the event; only a week actually, with – ‘The journalist’ Billy Crudup  – as end credits have it.  It is of course the Theodore White interview which Jackie Kennedy sought and demanded total control over as she did with the State Funeral which went global in its TV and cinema showing of its extraordinary homage to a leader.


Life (other magazines Time, GQ are available)

Theodore White turns up at her remote lakeside home in Massachusetts at Hygennis Port in a timber colonial style high ceilinged mansion.  The brusque cautious greeting of Jackie is a trigger of thought and disclosure setting the tone and delivering a new way of journalistic intrusion.  Albeit a forthright discussion and serious interview, it is through the personality of Theodore White – whose loose collar and tie belie his penetrative technique – which loosens Jackie tongue and the core innermost telling emotions inside Jackies mind pour out easily.  His technique is simply using a notepad and pen, and his manner is stoic, serious and non judgemental, being notionally slightly deferential although he does not allow Jackie to get away from his inquisitive delving by upsetting her.  He is instead the astute and independent author of her words. Being agreeable is a ploy he will have used many times as a seasoned journalist knowing the thirst for this story and it’s massive trajectory in print. It will be her story, he tells her, as she ruminates over this slackening of the pressures post funeral  and of the historical marker she laid down.  “What I think of history?  Does that make it true?”  Her own struggling with the facts and perceptions. The truth of the assassination is always under the surface. For Natalie Portman  she had the stories to go to as the part was researched by reading the interviews, Her primary source was the seven-part eight-and-a-half-hour Life magazine interview conducted in the early part of 1964 by Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. with Kennedy. One of three interviews she gave following her husband’s assassination, it was kept private throughout her life – so wiki tells me!

More insights to the way it evolved as a film are interestingly revealed on wiki and this is in a four year period which began with Racheal Weisz in the ‘titular’ part it goes on to – May 2015, Portman was confirmed to star in the film.  That same month, Chilean Director Pablo Larraín was hired having been approached by Darren Aronofsky to direct the film with Aronofsky subsequently working as a piloting producer.

    

Conspiracies aside.

The fact is this film does not dwell on the conspiracy theories or the killer(s) Ruby killing, the alleged assassin Oswald and it is intensely about the choices made in the immediate aftermath.  Natalie Portman is extraordinarily convincing in portraying a vulnerable fragile diminutive wife whose world is shattered and all known compasses are lost.  Portman was working on another film – Planetarium, with Lily-Rose Depp – during pre-production of Jackie in Paris. She prepares in depth for any role, but this one did not allow much time. She read everything she could find and studied footage of Jackie, especially her distinctive voice: silky, patrician and breathy, with touches of Long Island, where Portman spent part of her own childhood. That voice is a huge part of the performance.  Sydney Morning Herald. The strength Natalie Portman portrays, definitely Oscar worthy, is as if she is pulling her up, Jackie up and out of this extraordinary maelstrom event and is breathtaking through its simplicity and nuanced magnificently with subtlety and vocally with gesture, inflection and cadence.  From her adjusting her attire, make up, hair, and walking routine, for the outside world to her rehearsal and rehearsal of the tasks ahead with her lady in waiting, it becomes a legendary performance in itself.

 

Legacy for who?

The Life magazine and TV background of the aftermath is the question Jackie places centrally, concerning the public spectacle and projection of the legacy of her husband. The legacy is prime. She does all she can to make the cavalcade match the Lincoln funereal despite their legacies being poles apart.  With the help of Bobby Kennedy and Nancy Tuckerman, the lady in waiting, in a whirl wind she commands strength and the understandable flaky persona we have insight to, mainly due to the PTSD (as is our probable likely post-overview) which conceals an inner trauma with a sense of self she is continually framing the world view of both herself and Jack John Kennedy.  She and the Life magazine interviews which she retrieves partially – it is the widows prerogative exercised – as she is prepared to deny the journalists writing of it if need be.  This is clear to Theodore White in the journalists role and one he is prepared for.  It is too revealing so soon after the assassination she takes steps to reframe things.  In any event or so it is believed the truth may be revealed in time, however it never has been.


Conclusion ####4

In terms of reality, Jackie herself proclaims it very well, as she knows having been a Presidents wife, Public perception is often far from the truth, the managed truth.  She is at ease declaring the story is servant to the legacy.  The truth is another matter entirely.  The interview which works extremely well as the central plank of the film, is as though the legacy is assured as the fulfilment of what she wished for in terms of the funeral statelike removal of JFK was in itself testimony to the woman’s will and strength. This interview is a tail piece of extraordinary insight and it’s legacy is also hers.  Nancy Tuckerman, the splendidly relaxed and grounded Greta Gerwig is seen remaining and apart, left alone at the White House when Jackie leaves.  Don’t let it be forgot.  The words of Camelot. The invincibibility of the Camelot musical beloved of JFK who played the song, Victrola, as a refreshment after a hard day’s grind, is recalled by Jackie but she’s conscious there will be new presidents but there will never be another Camelot. On the page and of it darkness has its many shades.  The day today is just the first. A remarkable and very touching biographical memoir in a historically vexing film. While many will not be interested in the historical perspective it is a very touching story of how grief of any kind sends new priorities and shapes things so differently going forward.  It as a film asks more questions and is very contrasting for the current inauguration of a world leader going ahead right now.

       
John Graham

19 January 2017

Belfast
On at Queens Film Theatre Belfast from 20 January through to 2 February 2017.  And on wide General release.

What’s not on General release is the ‘road movie’ a political thriller of 104mins. 2016. by Pablo Larrain

Neruda


It’s 1948 and the Cold War has reached Chile. In congress, Senator Pablo Neruda (Luis Gnecco) accuses the government of betraying the Communist Party and is swiftly impeached by President Gonzalez Videla (Alfredo Castro). Police Prefect Oscar Peluchonneau (Gael Garcia Bernal) is assigned to arrest the poet. Neruda tries to flee the country with his wife, the painter Delia del Carril (Mercedes Morán), but they are forced into hiding. Inspired by the dramatic events of his new life as a fugitive, Neruda writes his epic collection of poems, Canto General. Meanwhile, in Europe, the legend of the poet hounded by the policeman grows, and artists led by Pablo Picasso clamor for Neruda’s freedom. Neruda, however, sees this struggle with his nemesis Peluchonneau as an opportunity to reinvent himself. In this story of a persecuted poet and his implacable adversary, Neruda recognizes his own heroic possibilities: a chance to become both a symbol for liberty and a literary legend.

From the fibula.cl website where you can also see trailers of other films by Pablo Larrain like Fugue.
La Casa Films logo is so good I have to show it! 

The range of Cinema in Chile is astoundingly captivating.

American Honey : A Film Review


Director: Andrea Arnold. Cast: Sasha Lane, Shia LaBeouf, Riley Keough, Arielle Holmes, McCaul Lombardi, Will Patton, Bruce Gregory, Crystal Ice, Dakota Powers, Shawna Rae Moseley, Chris Wright. Duration : 162 min. Cert. 15.

Directed, written by Andrea Arnold. Camera (colour), Robbie Ryan; editor, Joe Bini.

Cast. Sasha Lane, Riley Keough, Shia LaBeouf, McCaul Lombardi, Arielle Holmes, Crystal B. Ice, Verronikah Ezell, Chad McKenzie Cox, Garry Howell, Kenneth Kory Tucker, Raymond Coalson, Isaiah Stone, Dakota Powers, Shawna Rae Mosely, Christopher David Wright.

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Walmart Art piece.

From an eyes connect moment the song – dance throb Calvin Harris and Rihanna’s 2011 track “We Found Love (in a hopeless place)” sounding out in a cavernous Mid-West American Walmart places you in a love story evolutionary curve.  At the risk of immediately setting off cliche ridden, conceptual freefall idiotic drama, Director Andrea Arnold nonchalantly wraps up this splendid no holds barred uplifting music as the gateway to the oncoming love story.  It is a very adept intro heralding, as those into Electronic dance music (as I am) a fair helping of more dynamism and makes us hopeful of a soundtrack not likely to overwhelm the main body the story and movie.  This is a road movie of colourful concepts and motivations.  Colour dynamic is quite possibly down to Irish cinematographer Robbie Ryan’s loose and sharp eyed connection with the Director Andrea’s targets she focused in on.

The set up

Director Andrea Arnold has formulated a storyboard belonging in the long tradition of road movies set in North America. She combines an analytical view of the pressures, context of choices available – or not – to children entering the outside world with a group fixed upon adventure in a crowd.  Taking inspiration from an article on door to door sales of magazine subscriptions, notionally attached to University education the gang (of mainly non-actors) here are lead by a the uncompromising Krystal played by Riley Keough. She seems to be pitched as a savvy young attractive slim symbolic cheerleader of this generations American Dream.  She is fond of wearing USA regalia pitching up in a Stars and Stripes bikini as an identikit.  Alongside her is of on boyfriend Jake played by Shia LaBoeuf whose mall recruitment brings our principle Star played by a thoroughly immersive, knowing and alert Sasha Lane to the roster of workers.  Star brings an abusive childhood where we first meet her in the mall in charge of very young siblings who she eventually leaves behind with her dysfunctional, self obsessed guardians.


Star is the everywoman

She also brings to this film a normalcy which might be lacking in the remainder of the ad-hoc crew.  In a new A5 pound land notebook (essential gear) I’ve scribbled down, Missouri, West Virginia, New Jersey, Florida, Nashville among the origins of the crew. Star is form Texas and now in middle America.  This is a film about the road trip as life. The discovery on the journey of – 1. Current state America. 2. Potential for dreams.  The soundtrack aforementioned kicks of the continued vibe, is part of the script in that it speaks much better at times than any interaction between the players might.  It conveys like many movies before it from … to music films on Kurt Cobain, Brian Wilson, Oasis, Amy Winehouse, the troubadour content of generations attaching themselves to various professors of Hamelin, spokespersons and pied pipers for their generation.  The dub and rap features alongside the Rhianna, Calvin Harris collaborative dance music pop with this generation also pursuing via. Lady Gaga, the Andy Warhol, Madonna trick artifice born into performance art after the fifties.  A Dadaesque sequencing of expressive youth.

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Krystal’s US of A Methods (she is strikingly confident in her s/s bikini, her uniform and guard – a bit needy of identity?)

Here it happens in white mini bus with a attached low box closed trailer for their suitcases.  Krystal and Jake travel everywhere in their white open topped convertible. Krystal high fives and roll calls and sets strict rules – frequently broken – sex between crew happens often and the relationship between Jake and Krystal is open and this sets up a problem for Krystal.  Admonishment or keep the crew working and bringing in the money.  Advance to the goal – make money by lying connivance, shades of sexual favours in entrapment of punters? noises off, and a variety of areas are targeted. Very wealthy and authentic mid-America which is seldom depicted in this way.  The movement, road takes them into the huge heavily populated city of Kansas where a few Superman jokes are thrown in – a dog is in on the act.  Spot spotty.  Also the Motelsa re better stop overs.  Their is an arrangement of rooms booked by Kyrstal – “you’ve got to pay for all this shit.” – are usually three. Boy, Girl, Gender LGBT? and Krystals.  They keep to themselves except one encounter, with some black guys, musicians possibly, which had a nice vibe going is seldom repeated.  Krystal gets more tetchy and control freaky as the film dynamics appear as a team and the inherent sacrifices, places in the hierarchy evolve.  Some are along for the ride and adventure and do a days work and enjoy the side stuff such as a plentitude of weed.  How a certain companion doesn’t become an addict is anyone’s guess.

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Love love, hate hate.

This is every generations hopes and dreams in a short dose.  It is also one of the songs of this generation and will be around for others as well I would think being a cultural staple.  Others including one chosen by a Christian beef trucker is a target song respected far and wide.  Talking of which the group splits up at each location in pairs and they go about their business and into this is felt some jeopardy creeps in because behind some doors lunatics live.  The first encounter the freshman team of Sky and Jake whose relationship is up close and central to the film is with a wealthy woman in charge of a no holds barred birthday sleepover at which the contrasts of American live’s infiltrate the statement projected by Director Andrea Arnold and it is a gloriously multi-faceted scene portraying greed avarice sexual tension polarity niavity and political bankruptcy.  It augers well for the forthcoming elections (not) with this diversity.

The central pairing and Krystal.

We only follow the one pairing. Who will win out in the chase for the dream? A conscious choice is made.  Firstly the Star/Jake/Krystal triangle is set up.  How will it unfold or erupt? What sacrifices are justified or made by each of them?  What are each of the three pursuing?  How do they see their future?  How do they relate to others?  How many roads can you travel before you find one that feels like you belong?  It is the question you could put out America and Americans as well as stopping of to discuss the effect on the world.  Director Andrea Arnold has an environmental message also as she explores this vast continent as a living organism.  Star’s name is an allusion to it, the road is a seldom seen view.  It is exploratory.  There is a core element of the crew going into an oil state where every hobo (one whose fortunes been made and didn’t want it after all?)  driver, worker, is possibly a millionaire and fortunes are made in 17 hour days with suburbs and families set up alongside.  Savvy Krystal points out their psychological profile acutely accurately as a piece of training advice of how to act and approach their target.  This happens, Krystals pep talk, advice, tactical nous, and notably a going into battle song which is as in war separates you from the projected enemy you are about to face and he are rip them off for as much as possible.

I spent an age trying to upload Director Andrea Arnold’s photo as a kind of insistence she is beautiful without the zany hair!  Her film on the other hand is zany chaotic beauty and a new testament to youth who need overcome previous generations greed and attempted ruination of this planet we all live on!

Conclusion ####4

It’s easy to say this film is overlong – as it is – at 2hrs 44mins – it is without question entirelybfeasible a condensed draft could have delivered in sharper detail the central themes, characterisations and left as many questions and answers as we needed to appreciate this contemporary take on a slice of American youth.  Director Andrea Arnold has seen it as an outsider and it’s generally been held as an honest and vivid colourful tapestry of choices faced by youth and of mid-American relentless pace and how it defines a country.  Jokes are made about the Kansas skyscrapers for example – whoa look at those huge buildings or something along those lines comes to mind –  because it fits the message, as a kind of alien invader, a time traveller looking out of a window at the cluster of buildings and wondering why and what they are for.  Indeed why does every enterprise have to have its own statement skyscraper and likewise which is your condominium?  How high up and isolated can you be.

The actual themes are for me delivered gently and as a free form of film making which you are asked or invited to take at whatever level and pace you see fit.  Nevertheless after seeing it the themes do weave together into a cohesive mural of realisation what it entailed.  It is as mentioned soundtracked with a more than mood setting environmental steer but a cohesive integrated part of the script.  An enlightened, heightened innovative way to work.  It is despite its scuzzy nests a very attractive beautifully, sensitively, modestly, evocative intelligent film and due to its length concentration may not be up to scratch making it viewable several times opening up new ‘vistas’ – a word lock arrived and that’s the best I can do!  It’s been a longish review! entirely well worth the admission ticket.  As for those kids born in America, some have grounds for asking for their admission money back. The three principals are extremely on their game with Sasha Lane never putting a foot wrong despite the emotionally complex parameters and Shia LaBoeuf becoming a very skilful actor portraying the serious, nerdy, sexual, moody, un-confident, confident niches this film puts him in. It augers well for him and hopefully further surprises are in store. ##News## just in !!! Shia LaBoeuf (30) and his longtime girlfriend and co-star in Nymphomaniac Mia Goth (22) born London, got married in Las Vegas in an Elvis themed wedding at the Viva Las Vegas just last week apparently. What can you say about Krystal, Riley Keough, consummate controlled, sublimely attractive and despite her forceful attitude she depicts the USA icon wannabe, stereotyped person at the head of the road drive.  Antlers, horns, cow bars all to the fore and she does it brilliantly and could easily be overlooked with the Stella performances of the other two which is not deserving.

John Graham

12 October 2016

Belfast

On at QFT Belfast from Friday 14 to Thursday 27 October 2016 inc. and selected Cinemas.

Under the Shadow : A Film Review


Under the Shadow. Directed and written by  Babak Anvari. Cast. Narges Rashidi, Avin Manshadi, Bobby Naderi, Arash Marandi, Aram Ghasemy, Soussan Farrokhnia, Behi Djanati Atai, Ray Haratian, Hamidreza Djavdan, Bijan Daneshmand. (Farsi dialogue) 1hr 24mins.

Stunning boundary pushing Cinema.

You may be like me and only look at the biography of a films genre only to indicate the sort of film you are likely to see and have an attitude which lowers its significance simply because you are after a good or bad review opinion. One you can discount and play with according to the ‘limitations’ the industry tends to categorise any film into. So this is one which I found delivering as a first sign of something special a bit of a Headstretch being – and it was seen at Sundance very much in the Horror category – put into the niche for which filmgoers are (not) seen as being in need of assistance. It might be a reason of categorisation for an award situation – at best.

The Headstretch is because this film is choreographed in a very satisfactory way and is nothing of a horror film from the outset and due to this confronts you somewhere near half-way with a sure stimulus of horror and peril in the traditional sense of fear psychodramatic cinema. Of that much later but first the beginning and first half is very important and necessary as a discourse on a nations fate in modern times. Attitudes to War, sense of political, cultural, sexual, professional, and not least religious oppression. Babak Anvari’s film as a mainstream first language Farsi debut is in the tradition of Iranian cinema up there on a world class level of superb film making and is in addition a ‘Horror’ movie shifting real perception of cinema and story telling.


Beginnings

The film begins over the titles with a caption of the timescale which is the immediate aftermath of the 1979 Iran Cultural Revolution. The Iranian Iraq war of 1980 to 1988 is the context which this setting within Tehran is a location driven synopsis. Scenes of stock news footage of bombing raids, film makers own stock of people fleeing carnage and bombardment at the street level and wasted buildings, injured and the dead in transit to hospital or static compress the entry to the score of context. From that we immediately are introduced to a Tehran University campus and Shideh (Narges Rashdi) in a brilliant feminine role, exploring her life as a woman in this war torn state of multiple oppressions entering the University to see if she can pass an interview for teen try which she is relying on to equip her to become a Doctor – a bitter confrontation later at home domestically with her husband, Iraj (Bobby Naderi) who himself is a practicing Hospital Doctor raises its ugly head as a depiction of male cultural and nonessential analysis of her station and status – they have a daughter, an only child of around eight who nearly in the later stages of the film nearly takes off as the star performer – Dorsa (Avin Manshadi), a startling performance in the end from a child dealing with the range of emotions horror drafts in, magnificently.

Educational restrictions.

The University encounter does not go well and in true place setting style a little (far from it) aside, within the interview room overlooking Tehran on any given groundhog day is deployed skilfully alongside the narrative of the interview. On return to her neighbourhood and past a checkpoint we are signalled into a set of unremitting and in true meaning of horrific circumstances to her relatively modest small rented apartment block within its own carefully culturally coiffured compound, with a screen tiled wall with a soft garden aspect and sturdy architecturally robust pedestrian gates with at the rear an automatic sliding metal gate separating them off from the outside immediate community. The landlord Mr Ebrahimi and self appointed caretaker Mr Bakar has proprietorial needs over locking these ‘aid metaphor’ gates as the tenants themselves form a block to the outside world of very defining content. They are from time to time all under lockdown. Lights go out Electricity of and a siren signals they need get to the ‘basement’ bottom floor garages for protection from bombing raids.

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Home with Iraj

That sets up the environmental conditions so next the family circumstances. Her husband is as they both are in his thirties and their child is very lovingly cared for and integrations for all are limited. He is a decent Iranian with locked in syndrome let’s call it of a normal Iranian male – in the limited context of character development. Maybe an Iranian male will be so bold as to construct a movie from the male perspective of the scenarios found and not an extreme macho homoerotic even machismo male trying to unlock his inner God status! Back to that in hand so to speak, which has them separate for a time and leaving Shideh and Dorsa in their flat alone.  There are tell tale parts particularly a ‘mute’ young boy who’s staying in the house as a refugee nephew and co-habits the space between the domestic and paranormal as he interacts alone with Dorsa and has a disconcerting attitude Towards those around him as he reflects on his short violent past experiences.

The action ramps up from this point onward as the might and fright of a city under continuing seige as well as the urging so from Iraj for them to leave to his parents safer home out of the city is declined by this confronted woman.

I see the textile blanket/shrouds as a metaphor illusory of complex comfort zones which convey the sub-text of religiosity, dependency, in such claustrophobic worlds.  They are an illustration of the immensity of thought control and world view – the Metanoia, METANOIA, of containment and transformation via. a mechanism not on earth, nevertheless in a place which is contingent with belief in a creator. It may even explain for Westen audiences such concepts applied in general illustrative intuitive places such as I believe this film conveys.

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Contrary views

Some reviewers of the bat have thought of this – and they are partially correct – as being ‘subversively incisive’ on Feminism. Only partially for reason in my mind of the horror element – and clever use of Iranian cultural referencing of a thing called Djinn, apparently referee ended in the Quran, shows the spiritual overarching of Religious and National identity so strongly and intensely developed and present here in this film as to make me construct a theory of the religion and it’s not alone as a religion in this – Rostecrutian, Judaism, Hindism, come equally to mind alongside less evenly Western forms of Religion, Scandinavian Trolls etc,. come to mind including elf dwelling! – which includes in its Dogma and Creedal construct the recognition of other species of spirits wholly present in this world and Universe and actually alongside and acting in relation to everything we do.

For the current world to be vastly and ‘universally’ troubled by mind states which include very dogmatic and fundamental expression of probity and conformity which is elevated to the place of destruction of opposing human forces and symbols in violent forms – Female oppression, Cinema, Books, Entertainment, Freedom of movement, Nationality, is a major part of the everyday – apart from our bread and circuses escapist counter-cultures (to religious intransigence and formative fixed religious persuasions) heaped upon us daily and sought as by products of identity construction

Paranormality.

What is the paranormal – come back in the after life and advise or settle for hokum pokum definitions aside from deeper cinema derived meanings – this apart. Could it be for instance as this film conveys in part to me, a place for the human to reside and ‘aleviate’fears through hallucinatory mind imaginings which are extremely horrific and displacing in spontaneous mental reaction to an imperfect storm of a collection of events linked by the hemisphere of the brain assigned to formulating reality as seen through our CHEMICAL concepts which we form our senses in and which overlaps occur as basic normal FORMULA which only become startlingly disconcerting and UNREAL once they are deployed and become new visions, quite literally, all because the intensity of the circumstantial which here is so evident – from adjustment to loss – this happens on several levels, Shideh’s Mum some six months earlier, the death of a tenant, the loss of Dorsa’s doll, Kima, exulted exercise to Jane Fonda videos. Such is her need for self and demonstrates the energy to do what her ambitions hold.

Cultural controls

Iran and the family is so important a communal statement but it faces the rigidity of interracial, imposed religious practice, guilt ridden political supremacist formulaic governance, oppression of women in everyday life as norms that this film just build a very high tower of escalating horrific paranormal existence. It actually is seen in the mid to late part of the film as a disintegrating universe with all kinds of VFX assisted shuddering, sometimes close up shock inspiring camera effected shaking reality. I detected for instance when a bomb landed in close proximity the screen shook or was seen to frame shift as part of the film cinematography. Intensity builds and builds as events unfold and portray the paranormal events none of whic are to be revealed here. In sometimes Japanese stylised segments the real is uncompromisingly unreal and it would have been an even better cinema experience had I chosen a seat closer to the screen to remove the outside of the frame as much as possible. Sit as close as you discomfort zone allows!

Parallel worlds of Religious Reality and Thoelogy.

For someone who makes it their business in writing and reviewing, even everyday experience, I examine the way the spiritual aspect of all are placed in modern times with the very many interloping and religious bias politically present/absent with very strange results being thrown up by the many forms of media oriented devices we encounter, principally workings on everyday world we live in. Now this is found to have another niche and piece of art – Under the Shadow – is such a brilliant film of an Iranian background and outlet for a dialogue by new director . It’s inventions and strangeness present a highly provocative display of an intellect looking at – principally the Iranian, Tehran, exposure to War in 1980 to 1988. Feminism’s one cited objective of exploration. War intrinsically another but infinitely more tangible is the presence of fear in all dimensions of humanity. The poltergeist of child Dorsa is pivotal in this visceral miraculous oddity.

Conclusion ####4

Harrowing and a view of a world of the war between Iraq and Iran which became a brutal forerunner for more and Oder conflicts pursued with atrocicious effect by the Blair/Bush finish this warfare by warfare as never seen before on a completely manufactured basis.  The world continues to pay the price and directly affected nations have a mountain to climb to remove the human damage created.  This is a superb but brief home situated drama horror which as the account above explains enters territory of the questions of conflict culture and sense of self and identity it is very very impressive.

The achievement is notable as a multifaceted movie which only strangely and savagely effectively brings to the point of breakdown the situation constructed in the realm of the home and person.  It is worthy of many viewings as its pace accelearaetes in the second half as a spiral of visually affective frame shifting tableaux of what is going on and in fullsome strength of the ‘genre’ it places entry to the Cineworld under a dangerously formulaic genre. Can’t recommend highly enough.

John Graham

28 September 2016

Belfast
On at selected Cinemas and available as a download on Netflix but see in an environment like Queens Film Theatre in a close up audio visually intense experience.  See you you get on with this roller coaster of personal paranormality.

On at QFT Belfast from Friday 30 September 2016 (this Friday) until And including Thursday 6 October 2016.

Containment : A Film Review


Containment

Just this past week the Hinckley Point, Somerset, Nuclear reactor was given the go-ahead on behalf of the United Kingdom population, by Theresa May, Prime Minister, following a false standoff with Chinese and French providers since her elevation internally by a group of her party seeing her fit to govern us, a new found ability to take decisions. This is a decision which should never have been made to be taken. With the daily occurrence advances in battery technology and solar power retention and storage from that huge object we know as the Sun, it is within a very short time very likely we will individually at our homes or collective of homes have our own power stations. Nano transformation of energy which allied to similar advances in motive power shall also have an effect of reducing carbon output. Berlin is now a zero carbon city for example so where are the British in this revolution?

Documentary

Containment A Film made in 2015 by Directors, Peter Galston and Robb Moss. It is film documentary on Nuclear waste production and storage. The USA/Japan co-production brings forward the extent of Nuclear waste currently abroad in what is basically a state of deadly toxic limbo.

Getting to screen it.

Interested in bringing Containment to your community, conference, festival or campus? Share your details here at containmentmovie.com or email us (them!) at containment@filmsprout.org, and we’ll (they’ll!) be in touch right away!


Framework
The first frames show Fukishima and a woman walking alone seen by the cameraman/woman surveying the limbo state this empty city has become. It alone needs a containment scenario this film addresses elsewhere in the Art graphic animation discourse for a place in the USA. New Mexico. When did the first scenario arise?

It begins by pointing to the Cold war period after the second word war, when nuclear warheads were accumulated and agreements placed to disarm these weapons of destruction by putting them into vast radioactive ‘landfill’ sites comprising mainly a site in New Mexico whose irrational acceptance as a location for a nuclear waste dump defies logic. The terrain was chosen primarily because of its geological fingerprint. It was a location with a vast unique strata of salt which millennia had proven stable and a medium in which a frozen ‘time’ capsule could be maintained. It had the hallmarks of having the capacity of being an enevelope for storing the radioactive sludge. However the bunds and lagoons created on top of it were and still are reservoirs of storage for a hundred million gallons of toxic waste. This means of storage is but one part of the cycle which includes other non-associated methods which involve inward shipping of nuclear waste in vessels – carefully checked when transport protection is removed for leaks. Each vessel is thoroughly x-rayed for casing integrity. Watching the magic gieger-counter being waved by an operative circling each container begged the question had they replaced the batteries in it. From this part of the process it then went sub-strata via. a long passage of tunnels by vehicle to hopefully it’s final resting place and presumably back filled at some juncture. Other processes included pouring liquid nuclear waste via. robotic arms manually operated into glass containers. Giant Kindle jars of high tech composition presumably.


The only problem is they remain mostly in their last location since a shut-down after a freak accident when a material failure allowed leakage to occur from a container – it’s past x-Ray and scrutiny failing to identify ahead of time any possible flaws or defects – which in turn jeopardized operatives and future containment activities. The decision was to put the entire site under lockdown and begin a clean up operation estimated at the time to be in the region of $300 million dollars or was that billions? In any event nowhere on earth is capable of storing the material waste China America Middle Eastern and European countermoves have plans to accumulate never mind that already stockpiled and in state of transition limbo.


Deep concerns

The film is concerned with not only the accumulation as well as a key part the Fukushima meltdown catastrophe which we are shown in its raw elemental state as a no-go locality but with the figurative signaling beyond our times into periods frankly inconceivable, ten thousand years hence and multiplications thereof. The means of alerting ‘others’ unaware of the backstory our history are explored in real time exercise a of futurist projections. Cockamamie American pawn brokering is one way of describing it. Put it in as a trade and see if any idiot will buy it.


The film becomes cartoon depictions crudely fascinatingly naive ventures of our humanity expressed as a vent diagram and delineation of rogue versus alien versus well the ordinary Joe or Jane whose curiosity got the better of them. Pictorial semaphore signals as used by pirates might have easily substituted or maritime signals heralded by symmetry as unnatural presence of danger put in place by those previously occupying earth. Ie. Humans.


Other reviews.

How do you plan 10,000 years in advance? Containment asks whether we are adequately caring for future generations with current storage methods for radioactive waste. A visit to the nuclear ghost towns of Fukushima shows what will happen if we fail.

—Karl Mathiesen, The Guardian

Peter Galison and Robb Moss remind us of the lingering threat of radioactive waste. What to do with it? How can we warn people centuries in the future about the danger of waste disposal sites? With inventive animation and incisive reporting, Moss and Galison aren’t going to make it any easier to sleep at night.

—Peter Keough, The Boston Globe

The film…attempts to articulate the beautiful and complicated problem of how to render the future a part of the present. It offers glimpses of a future beyond our societal imagination…and goes beyond ordinary documentary filmmaking to bring forward this future image into the minds and sensibilities of its viewers. It is in attempting this communication with the audience beyond the here and now that the film has its greatest success.

—Zoe Jones, Spook Magazine

I admire Containment for its zealous questioning of a situation that is ignored, misunderstood, and obviously—thanks in part to this film—urgent. I’ve been thinking about 10,000 years from now ever since.

—Erin Trahan, WBUR’s The ARTery and The Independent Magazine

The way we tell stories about who we are, what we did and how we considered the consequences of our actions is moving and profound in Containment, told with investigative care, sadness, fury and poetry.

—Andrew Lattimer, heyuguys.com


Three titles making their world premieres at Full Frame garnered plenty of buzz…Containment, Peter Galison and Robb Moss’ latest documentary, also taps into another controversy magnet—nuclear power. The directing duo aren’t strangers to hot-button topics. Their 2008 Sundance hit Secrecy chronicled the massive efforts by the U.S. government to classify data from the general population. Containment, about the scientific, moral and philosophical problems that surround the disposition of nuclear waste, is sure to spark a national debate.

—Addie Morfoot, Variety

Alarmingly frank but refreshingly optimistic, Containment tells a great many inconvenient truths but its coda assures us that all is not lost. The future will come, but we will endure.

—Phil W. Bayles, oneroomwithaview.com

Where did I see it? – this list shows its progress.

Pittsburgh Filmmakers and Remembering Hiroshima, Imagining Peace, Pittsburgh, PA — August 5, 2016

Pilgrim Legislative Advisory Coalition, Jones River Landing, Kingston, MA — August 20, 2016

CBK Groningen, Groningen, Netherlands — September 3–November 27, 2016

Virginia Tech Research Center, Arlington, VA — September 8, 2016

Case Western Reserve University, Physics Department Colloquium, Cleveland, OH — September 15, 2016

Queen’s Film Theatre, Belfast, UK — September 17, 2016

Department of History, Brown University, Providence, RI — September 21, 2016

Willard Straight Theatre, Cornell Cinema, Ithaca, NY — September 27, 2016


Conclusion ###3

A loose three is attributed to this as the central theme of Containment is heavily here approached using an Art based form of narrative.  This in itself is a very lame element.  It practically philosophies about different advanced and abstract notions.  It focuses while doing this on the processes involved in capture storage and transportation to a location with interviews, protocols of public meetings and the personalities in ‘local’ politics making huge global impacting decisions.  Maybe the highest rank of Government was County Official.  No Presidential, No Congressman, No State Govenor is addressed.  Why not?  Didn’t want to speak? Unsuprisingly? So instead why not make cartoon versions of supposed dialogue and their answers to the Containment question so artistically examined?  Except the artistic endeavors are in my mind not even at the level of a third year student of Architecture whose grasp would no doubt evaluate the obvious pros-cons of symbolic gestural, linguistic, extra-terrestrial scenarios and much more as established throughout mainstream sci-fi non-fictional examinations and the plethora of commentary overloading the Internet from one campus to the Daily News in Singapore or Daily Comet in New York.

Point Blank Failings

I am afraid it lets the fundamental differences of responsibility being attributed to the decisions made in Nations which ignore this Containment issue.  The commentary is not validated while a ‘Nuclear’ Authority speaking as a Police(woman) whose role oversaw protocols and practices came nowhere close to the target.  A question of where possible ‘dangers’ – the plain direction of the conversation marked out terrorism as a principle if not top concern, – got lamely tossed back as ‘Couldn’t possibly answer/speculate!’ kind of moderation the film should not even allow as any direction of investigative informative journalism.
Take a look at the website for additional and valuable source material as the film is only part of a projected discourse and is a beginning – as far as ‘multiple locations’ arise by example through the stark reality of Fukishima.  Mr Nissan is interesting and in a semi-comatose state as his life is Groundhog Day – this is an insight in itself but only, only a miniscule part of what is required to be examined and dealt with by Governments and activists post UN interventions which are of a Human Disater reactive kind not fundamentally addressing ongoing Nuclear exploitation for Billions of dollars/yen/euros of Business.  It’s about the money stupid.
John Graham

21 September 2016

Belfast.

Captain Fantastic : A Film Review


Directed by Matt Ross.  USA. English. Duration 118mins. Cert. 15.

Produced by Monica Levinson, Jamie Patricof, Shivani Rawat, Lynette Howell Taylor. Written by Matt Ross.

Cast. Viggo Mortensen as Ben Cash, George MacKay as Bodevan, (18 and eldest child) Samantha Isler as Kielyr, Annalise Basso as Vespyr, Nicholas Hamilton as Rellian, Shree Crooks as Zaja, Charlie Shotwell as Nai, Kathryn Hahn as Harper (Aunt), Trin Miller as Leslie (Mom), Steve Zahn as Dave (Uncle) Elijah Stevenson as Justin, Teddy Van Ee as Jackson, Erin Moriarty as Claire, Missi Pyle as Ellen, Frank Langella as Jack (Leslie’s father) Ann Dowd as Abigail (Leslie’s mother.)

Music by Alex Somers, Cinematography Stéphane Fontaine, Edited by Joseph Krings.


Unconventional hero figure
Viggo Mortensen gets first mention as the lead here simply because he dominates in presence and acting terms this canon of an an idealised future being trammeled by ‘our’ present concepts for living.  He has as his ammunition a brood of six young adults he is intent into shaping into extraordinary adults regardless of what is set in front of him.  I last remember Mortensen from the Patricia Highsmith adapted movie The Two Faces of January which took the familiar rogue elements of her stories and created a decent drama thriller.  It also needs mentioning as a veteran his first break was in the Amish thriller Witness, the unique folk-tome film with Harrison Ford, Kelly Maginnis. There is also (The History of Violence, Eastern Promise, Lord of the Rings – [Aragorn] – and The Road).


What a place to live.

Circumstances dictate Ben Cash played by Viggo Mortensen and the 6 kids, who are aged from six to eighteen, are away from Mom who shares the unconventional home-learning, wilderness approach to child rearing. It sets out with an overview of the massive, clear oxygen filling forest followed us dropping into the pin straight vertical pines and finding our protagonists, Swiss family Robinson on steroids, in a hunting mode all silent and unseen unlike their prey. Once mission achieved they perform the tasks of – a tad clichéd to begin – of utilising their prize and then they clean off in a river returning to the look of normal kids.  There are then campfire bonding, books come out, reading and story setting scenes giving us the ideas of hard learning, maintaining discipline and a wandering dialogue, discourse involving their interests of literature, music, science, spirit all openly discussed. Individual charactaturesxof the children are opened up – one of the middle children is a natural history fiend salvaging all kinds of cast off animal skulls and in a personalized tepee has his own museum developing.  They live in what are basically sheds with tepees on top in true rustic environmentally recycling style.  No bears come and visit them so they might have a off putting aroma unless the bears are in on the philosophy.  Viggo Mortensen has said he regards this role as one of the most complex emotionally he has encountered – a clear justifiable assessment – and the story just begins here around this campfire while we are given the circumstances they find themselves in presently which entail them planning to go on a road trip. After the process of democracy has chosen what to do they set out in Bens’s school bus come camper to the freeways to take them cross country to Washington, it would seem. On route they rub up against forms of authority, informative training excercise said not the fallback of most youngsters are implemented, and several comedic episodes enter.


A weapon chosen is Jesus – with the irony present – not a spoiler as we learn fairly soon of their rejection of organsised spiritual adherence – which they employ under strict parental control as a unit to deflect and dismiss interfering eyes.  It is the tactic in use with most American Evangalism hiding behind a contradictory juxtaposed strait jacket form of religion.  Take West Chigago presently where after a decade of gun crime receding but a remaining threat, the problems of social and racial division have once again spiked.  It is a recurring theme.  Even in East London on the day I seen this film a band of Black protesters came up with the idea of passive protest by crossing the Thames and chaining themselves together on Londons second airport runway at City Airport against the proposal to further intensify environmental degradation in the boroughs around the Airport with additional runways.  The premise being it was these areas that suffer most from the transport hubs enlargement as opposed to rural peripheral locations which could be developed except they are in ‘protected’ constiuencies.


So this is another change of direction given it is a family orientated, though 15 rated – possibly due to strong language, the realism of the hunting, his sans clothes in a brief encounter, and the campfire boldness of topics for his six to eighteen year old brood to confront.  Sexual politics and the other politics occupy this Pacific North-West raw isolated left-wing gang of survivors. From a base initially of Boulder, Colorado, they have moved on – (a place Maggie Thatcher – remember her, adored) and which I attribute to those slightly less ambitious migrants who declined to travel into the place known as California and sat it out near the mountains and freshest nature.  Now the hash state of America.  It never features; the family have long since moved on with Mom ditching a Law career to experiment or invest in burgeoning beliefs with Ben up on this coast and massive forest corner of the Americas.  North East was afflicted with tribalism and Pirates as a staple somewhere and George Washington convinced himself the mix was too ‘refined’ there – North East so began a Social contract of sorts with federalism, did it work out – Bush, Regean, Clinton, Obahma, and where is Donald Trump in this?  Ben on his missions I have just realised gets to play his Scottish bagpipes – a trick not yet mastered by the maternally Scottish Donald. Donald MacDonald?


Mortensens choice

The script deeply warmed to him and he has described it as one of the best he has read.  Civilisation is not his perception nor the writer Matt Ross’s but is that word people ascribe to our vulture, dog eat dog also trammeled world, especially present in America were people in some quarters find little time for their real life’s and down time while spinning someone else’s wheels.  Radical in concept it is immediately in the first few frames showing us the human is still master and the animal kingdom has its place.  Usually in front of a weapon, usually a knife (it avoids the controversy of the right to bear arms question by ignoring guns or possibly making the point through their absent of other means to kill – still only for the animal kingdom.)  Or on a campfire roasting spit envincing wild terrain living. Very Unscandinavian or is it?  As a New Yorker despite his ‘mis-placed’ Scandinavian image and name, he at fifty seven, has been able to make choices in a place were movies can accompany his creative other interests, art, poems, music.  He owns Perceval Press Publishing.  Celina Murphy of the Irish Daily Star Chic weekend magazine got to meet him in Dublins Westbury Hotel and not only did she turn out a great article she saw much depth and elements singular to Vitto as he ‘fits the story’ instead of the usual ‘not because I do something that’s on its own remarkable’ a nuance which includes the possibility of all elements coming together to create a wonder oust blend as they do here.  It is ‘family’ grow your own kids, keep fit, work with your environment. This is also accessible Comedy/Drama and finding it alongside Little Miss Sunshine in its vibe it brings the importance of the realm of ‘education’ to the fore.

Is the dreamer right?

Not only does the question lie with Captain Fantastic, it traverses the parameters, limits, preordained alliances within that most difficult of all jobs, raising children. This film is very taut and focused on this subject on account of the Director/Actor Matt Ross constructing – and all the ‘kidults’ are superb – alongside the stellar in performance if not widely accepted elsewhere – from Frank Langella, Kathryn Hahn, and British actor George McKay.  In other words they haven’t the profile deserved time after time.  Utterly a confrontational set of circumstances exist by way of the absence of mechanisms others; most of the western and increasingly eastern world, rely on to avoid them. It is thoroughly challenging and suggesting the education of children (which it is) being fundamental to they way the earth and people sustain existence as far into the future as realisable.  Curriculum, Curriculums are the nastiest things adults inflict on children and despite the advanced Scandinavian models, Norway, Finland, Sweden, Denmark; Viggo Mortensen, though not in the role play as this is distinctly feral, and others may suggest as being excellent even excelling – the future itself needs more than simply this ‘social contract’ to manage things towards the future the earth spells out in reaction daily.

Pursuit of joy.

Happiness has a cause and a reaction. It is inevitably a political question. See the late, often LSE quoted, political theorist Ghiri Ionescu – my go to modern philosopher on The Pursuit of Happiness. I don’t quite know the implications by any stretch, but it is within the frame of the film and most people’s minds always.  Harmony is digression if learning is conflicting thoughts, projections.  This arc disapates hang ups on the familiar filmic route but nevertheless has itself tied to actions and consequences resulting in, as we share the journey which is a mission here, an ending or payoff which is full of contradictory expectations.  Skillfully crafted it indeed calls on the viewers own collective experiences growing up – after 15 (Cert.) your grown up yes? – as you may empathise with either one of the 6 exuberant, thoughtful, dynamic intellects of these ‘kidults’ who wipe the floor with their age group in practical, physical and mindfulness unwanted time.  So which one were you – slightly?  Which would you have liked to be or even befriend to help?  Comedy introduces plot comparisons with encounters of kids of their age, even a rite of passage nearly if flawed as its rushed preposterously in character but rushed. There is also an introduction to Metropolis (Washington) life.  The way other people live and they make acerbic comment, on overweight over indulgent – Ben describes them as involved in ‘frenzied shopping’.

On an Awayday; on the central mission, I would only spoil the plot by revealing to you, they have a kind of ‘Labor Day holiday’ dedicated to the writers Matt Ross’s hero who will be nameless although Esperanto was an interest of theirs along with related things.  Indeed words are essentiall y a device cleverly utilised in the story.  So interesting is given the low rating of being a non-word.  The hero likewise was and is of a similar stance.  Platos republic is a bit too far distant – along with Marxism and Moaist theory to be of permanent import, important reference points but ‘bad cheese’ new cultures arise, evolve – my view – as Ben is forever trying to penetrate the cerebral cortex of these juveniles ŵith his and absent Moms philosophy rather introspectively and self developmentally.  Both Ben and Lesley have the same ideals.  If only someone told them the Bill of Rights came from a malcontented genius called Thomas Paine, from Lewes, Sussex, whose own conflicts were crippling as these might sometimes seem availing towards.

Conclusion #### 4 1/2

This is an immensely challenging emotionally sharp film about that most difficult job in the world – many parents would say the most difficult they’ve tackled – the raising of their children. Unparalleled and individual as each child is they are at the mercy of their family beliefs and parental guidance however gathered. Cultural, imposed, with or without proper context or grounding.   This then is a complex conflict undertaken by the parents of the 6 siblings evenly gender divided, evenly age divided, and under the shared values system a capable set of ‘kidults’ as their consciousness is opened to the true nature of reality insofar as they are exposed to it by their guardians.  Viggo Mortensen for reasons that evolve from the introduction to the story takes the primary share of the tutelage but shared with their mother Trin Miller as Leslie Cash.  The entourage whose names are listed at the top could easily have individual essays eerie ten about given the fine form of the writing while the eldest, George MacKay as Bodevan has a blistering performance to match the intensity of Viggo Mortensens charismatic, fully charged characterisation of the ‘best father’ construct.  Also entitled to another these net is the other father, Frank Langella as Jack (Leslie’s father) Ann Dowd as Abigail (Leslie’s mother.) Their existence within a New Mexico gated community sets up the other extreme of experience for the children and their input is intensely convincing also in the rounding of the narrative.  This is a very rewarding watch and gives plenty of room to evaluate the times and fragilities of education, upbringing and faces challenges which arose in many people’s lives regardless of plans.  As John Lennon put it ‘Life is what happens when your making plans.’
John Graham

7 September 2016

Belfast.

On at QFT BELFAST from 9 September to 22 September 2016 and selected cinemas elsewhere.

Well worth a viewing.

Julieta : A Film Review


Julieta

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


Chance meeting in Madrid

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

Julieta’s letter to Antiá

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


Taken as a backstory in flashback

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


20 visions

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


Changing skins

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

others extractions from the Director

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

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


In this age of demanding cinema

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


Conclusion #####5

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

 

John Graham

24 August 2016

Belfast

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

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The Childhood of a Leader

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

The films basis

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

 What’s in the picture

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

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


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

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

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


Childhood Satre reminiscences. The Psycology.

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

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

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


Jean-Paul Sarte film influences.

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

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

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

Germany’s largesse and power lust.

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion. ###3

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

John Graham

17 August 2016

Belfast

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

Born to be blue

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Born to be blue

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

‘Everything happens to me’ happens to be…

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

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Kings of Jazz in combat.

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

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

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Popular culture crossover.

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

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

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Examines his recovery.

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

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Jane of all parts. The love story shines through.

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

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

Comebacks and catalogue.

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

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

Conclusion ####4

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

 

John Graham

3 August 2016

Belfast

 

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

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

Footnotes

An album review.

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

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Cinema and bold expression.

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

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

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

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

Love & Friendship : A Film Review

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Directed by Whit Stillman, Cast, Kate Beckinsale, Xavier Samuel, Emma Greenwell, Morfydd Clark, Jemma Redgrave, Tom Bennett, James Fleet, Justin Edwards, Jenn Murray, Stephen Fry, Chloë Sevigny.

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Funny Sexy Witty

Love & Friendship based on a short Jane Austen novella she wrote before “Pride and Prejudice” is witty, funny and entertaining, just like its heroine Lady Susan Vernon, played with fiendish electrifying linqiustic precision and pace by Kate Beckinsale. She plays a young widow, seemingly for appearance sake in mourning but is requiring to cast her fortunes to others to furnish both a home, her in-laws, and a position to encourage a future which serves both her and her daughter who is at boarding school.cinitially for appearances she is accompanied by a young lady in waiting who is made welcome and uncomfortable in equal measure.  The daughter Frederica, played with authentic youthful coquettish innocence by Morfyyd Clark and has a large part to play in the chess game Lady Susan has to set before us and enact.  The deployment of coy attractive bewitching ‘genius’ is virtually unstoppable and suitably preposterous given her skills.  Her aim is a lover of high marriage and untouchable impeachablility, less her aims become known.  Some things have a strangeway of turning out and Jane Austen was never shy in geometric manouvres to manifest the Mansfield Parks and Pride and Predjudices of this world reliant on the relations of the genders.

The roll call opens with frames of each Kate Beckinsale as Lady Susan Vernon, Chloë Sevigny as Alicia Johnson, Xavier Samuel as Reginald DeCourcy, Stephen Fry as Mr. Johnson, Emma Greenwell as Catherine Vernon, Morfydd Clark as Frederica Vernon, James Fleet as Sir Reginald DeCourcy, Jemma Redgrave as Lady DeCourcy, Tom Bennett as Sir James Martin, Justin Edwards as Charles Vernon, Jenn Murray as Lady Lucy Manwaring.

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Bomb proof Kate Beckinsale

There are seldom roles made to conquer for women in the Jane Austen repertoire/cannon given the screen adaptations repeated with routine rapidity leaving few remaining but as this involves a novella and lesser performed piece it is mastered or mistresses by Kate Beckinsale to put down a marker for assured brilliance in the body of work achieved by numerous illustrious British actors; I’m reminded of the feminist need to drop the ‘ess’ Doctoress etc.,  and it merits no small mention being the first of many such superb performances by the entire cast.

The story is a typical lesson in the mores of the Middle and Upper echelons of English society at the mercy of the match making requirements of the period.  1760 thereabouts.  Set in England, filmed entirely it appears in Ireland, Powerscourt, Howth Castle and with a ‘London’ giving identity to Edward Street and (Upper) Seymour Street, -.mentioned a few times previously in my reviews as firstly Turners first abode in London, also the swimming pool used in the ‘vomit’ scene in a Monty Python movie – on an indoor – scaffolded out – five aside pitch I used to frequent in West London – it shapes as the location of the abode Lady Susan ‘retires to for plotting liaisons and conflicts of the heart which reach crescendo in London and disapate just as the designs require as acted by Lady Susan Vernon.

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Period gender Portmanteau

It is a portmanteau piece of the highest quality.  A tale of the two sexes in ever alarming relations or misintended liaisons in meaning and practice. Every nuance and detail of speech, setting, period, costumery is superbly realised.  The interiors are so simple understated and unfussybas to distinguish it as exemplary in taste and period refinement.  The smaller furniture designed for the Ladies of the house, and the larger more flamboyant pieces for the Gentlemen of the house are carefully utilised to invoke status. There are hints in a woman to woman relationship with Alicia, Chloe Sevigny, whose husband is the buffoonish Mr Stephen Fry, which is purely a act of conceit and further manipulative guile by Lady Susan. Lady Susan also makes a habit of discarding most decorum regarding furniture and when possible purloins the larger higher status items.

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There are other occasions she is conversely suitably demuring to her hosts and as with the widescreen framing throughout of conversations, of which the film compacts into high density attention grabbing eloquence joyous; for the audience, reams of vocabulary and inferences of high restoration comedy demanding your distillation.  Many still scenes of interaction are employed as the customary vignettes the story relies on. She cups her palm in resting a tea cup in reflection of her host, or holds her hands, withdrawing into a closed finger grasp of meaning no ‘grabbing’ or tokenistic intentions. The acting is not short of finer befitting signals as both guide and convincer. Lady Vernon is in scenes often eye catching beautifully dressed, so when she appears, the allure of the whole essence of her style is captivatingly instantaneous.  Some dresses are costumes Alexander McQueen would have been proud to have tailored. The richness of colour and vibrancy is at times visually stunning.  No doubt this is a fully intended contrasting approach once again delighting the audiences expectations of more intense jaw dropping scurility as another twist and orchestration bounces like a diminuendo round a stately gathering between acts.  Morescandalous intrigue to follow. It’s mere seconds away. Keep paying attention to the outpouring of words and the nuances of facial reticence Kate Beckinsale has to offer.  Many opening of scenes are like miniature plays unfolding in another form of the female skillset outwitting and unexpectedly barely believable.  Still they are thoroughly intact by the close of each scene as being pure genius in completing the tableau, for the time being.

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Nobody’s Fool De Courcy.

Few Irish people will not be aquainted with the origins of the De Courcy family, it’s antecedents lying in our own Carrickfergus Castle circa 1166 (when the first invasion of Ireland by the English – troops and other invasions occured periodically we’re told – Lady Theresa Villiers the latest incumbent) and tradition of folklore has this Hugenouet dynasty come via. Somerset; the films De Courcy’s somehow hail from Kent.  It being where Churchill (Church and hill crop up a lot) after Blenhiem lived.  At Westerham, no Churchill estate per se.  The De Corcy’s of Irish fame and obvious later fortune were indeed quite clever as assets to Ireland, however with the minor oversight of being authors of a policy to monetarise Ireland with its own coinage – the John De Courcy Silver farthings in public view can be seen in a small undistinguished case next to the large photograph of Carrickfergusfergus Castle in the Ulster Museum.  Quite simply the most informative exhibit piece in the Museum informing you of the origins (money) of England’s transgressions into Ireland.  Historical fact unsequestered.

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Father Son and Daughter. Country hosts.

Son. Xavier Samuel plays. Reginald De Corcy to his fathers scrutinous oversight, being the only male descendant, brilliantly.  He is the foil for Lady Susan who establishes a bridgehead on this young mans feelings and desire for intelligent intercourse of the non physical kind though it undoubtedly features in his often troubled mind.  His intelligence is almost a match for Lady Susan.  When he is vexed; it’s a frequently occurring theme, he asks the most direct and simply intelligent questions he can afford.    He asks them often. It is treated nearly everytime by Lady Susan like an in her prime Serena Williams as a second serve slam dunk.  His intelligence and own dignity befitting his junior age to his attendee is never lessened as he knows he is in the throes of a contest of like minded – with one or two key exeptions – compatriates.  Her calumny is greatest and with it constructs the greatest hurt.

Father. The father. James Fleet as Sir Reginald De Courcy is something of a half lit lamp.  In contrast their is a very consumate scholarly husband to the De Courcy daughter whose beauty is for appearances miscmatched with her older husband – a common enough occurrence in these tales – and his speed of thought is often incisive when it comes to the linguistic entanglements that arise.  His wisdom is softly delivered without any pretense of affected impress.  It is another quality performance.  With Catherine De Courcy there is an affectionate wish to please and entire while she also is continually using her under utilised intelligence in deciphering the nuances of relationships and movements of those around her.

Daughter. Emma Greenwell as Catherine is herself an unsung beauty. With a friend of some confidence in Lady Susan she, Catherine, with her blond hair and dazzling good looks as counterpoint to the sophisticat, whose dresses and hair style steal the scene in Lady Susan’s favour always and as directorial intended.  While Lady Susan’s tresses cascade in ordered disorder with black curls dancing, Catherine’s appear to just sit and her stack of hair looks provincial as the designer has taken care to pronounce for us.  It is virtually flawless in the making though one or two scenes are edited to the quick. The shortness of some intros misses a beat as for example, a servant has broken into a walk from a standing start without the start visible or with a walk upstairs also too quick off the mark.  These are trivial matters andcitvonly gets a mention as nothing in film making can ever be perfect nor should it be.

Martindale

Throughout the film crops up a character, Sir James Martin admirably played by Tom Bennett  who is the but of jokes and with directness Reginald De Courcy defines as a blockhead, the non-de-plume of period custom.  His unstoppable nincompoopery is that of a special skill of its own.  He is scarcly believable in overstating, understating, mis remarking and chasing incidents in his head down the stately blind alleys he boldly interjects upon. Such is his reputation the females scatter like the queens corgis when Prince Philip enters a room. His overtures for Frederika are the mainstay of his large fortunes necessary disposal.   His eye for agricultural curation is singularly acute as certain observations he makes testify to.

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Interior Piece of England

Observing England through its Downtown Abbey’s its Jane Austen blockbuster books and the Wolf Hall take down, erroneously of Roman Catholisicm is hard core history gone soft.  Like The a Recent Hollow Crown it’s very Stacey and multi-layered skillfully portrayed craftsmanship but it leaves a hollow soul in the heart of the real dark periods England would try to emerge from and post war is still seen as a time for reflection on those two world wars. It’s the kind of foil to the Recent Peaky Blinders view which has some traction. Sunset Song was a recent historical film which stood out in terms of credibility and though this film is obviously a piece on society and morality at a certain time it is seen by some as real time struggle of the gender differences and often seen as reflecting feminism.  It could not be further from that as it puts women in a place where men often are as manipulating and often self seeking in their desires and wishes.  Feminism is about the right to identity whatever form on the spectrum it happens to take and thankfully certain bigotry is being lost to the fresh approach to the hackneyed views, almost 1700’s in perception and are towards a new enlightenment.

Conclusion ####4

From beginning to end this film transports you to an illogical but presenting universe and the formidable manouvres of male and female in search of or retention of status and the rigour of polite society is challenged by the genders compromises and we are entertained with a very particular core group of British acting talent, added to which Chloe Sevigny holds her head high and it constructs the period piece so well known and sometimes well worn delivery of familiar novels.  This of course being the strident workings of Jane Austen reacting to her times and delivering what were held to be unspoken truths or rather little discussed or considered oppressive elements most severely felt by women and then in the working classes which this work avoids. It is a brilliantly beautifully observed piece and should appeal on many levels.

 

John Graham

25 May 2016

Belfast

On at QFT from 27 May through to and including the 9 June 2016.