16/17 Season

16/17 Film Schedule

La Belle et la Bête – 10th July 2017

Monday 10th July, ODEON Cinema, Andover. Start time: 8:00 p.m.

Cert. PG, 93 mins. In French with English subtitles, 1946.

Directed by: Jean Cocteau

Screenplay by: Jean Cocteau

Based on Beauty and the Beast by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont

Starring: Jean Marais, Josette Day

‘Cocteau’s Forties fantasy is still a thing of real beauty’ – Independent

‘This Beauty and the Beast is pure joy’ – Time Out

Introduction Given on the Night, Written & Presented by Phil Ray

Born just outside of Paris in 1889 Jean Maurice Eugène Clément Cocteau published his first volume of poems, Aladdin’s Lamp, at nineteen and soon became known in Bohemian artistic circles as ‘The Frivolous Prince’, the title of a volume he published at twenty-two.

His list of friends and acquaintances were a who’s who of the 20th Century, they included writers Marcel Proust, André Gide, and Maurice Barrès, in 1912, he collaborated with on ballet which featured Nijinsky and during World War I he met Apollinaire, Picasso, Modigliani and numerous others with whom he later collaborated. Russian impresario Sergei Diaghilev persuaded him to write a scenario for a ballet which had sets by Picasso and the music by Erik Satie. The piece was later expanded into a full opera, with music by Satie, Poulenc and Ravel. If that wasn’t enough he wrote the libretto for Igor Stravinsky’s opera-oratorio Oedipus rex.

In 1929, at the age of 40, Cocteau moved into the world of film where he always insisted that he was an amateur. In 1943 he wrote the dialogue for a B-movie fantasy, Le Baron fantôme then adapted his own play L’Éternel retour, a modern-day reworking of the Tristan and Isolde story. The film provided Jean Marais with his first starring role in a film. It was a huge hit with its wartime French audience and established Marais as one of France’s leading stars.

It was Marais, Cocteau’s long-time lover, who suggest that he make La Belle et la Bête to divert themselves and the country from the post-war misery where everything was in short supply. On set, old cameras jammed, old lenses developed flaws, no two batches of film were alike and the electricity failed or was cut off by local government. Elsewhere, sheets without patches were sought everywhere for the farmyard laundry scene and the curtains of Beauty’s bed were stolen from the set.

Cocteau suffered himself too, his eczema so disfigured him that for a time he wore a veil made of black paper, fastened to the brim of his hat with clothespins, with holes for his eyes and mouth. He then developed jaundice, and filming was interrupted while he was hospitalized in the Institut Pasteur.  Nonetheless La Belle et la Bête seems to have been a perfect match between Cocteau’s visuals and Madame Leprince de Beaumont’s writing. Her visual vocabulary featuring mirrors, doors, horses and jewellery was very similar to that of Cocteau’s and he skilfully integrated her imagery into his cinematic world. And with his camera and editing tricks combined his heightened visual imagination is seamlessly integrates into De Beaumont’s story.

Feedback Review

This film had a definite “thumbs up” from the audience. All scores were from 3 upwards, with the number of 5s being the total of the 3s and 4s combined. The film’s opening credits noted that this print had been digitally restored from the original. Individual comments picked up (favourably) on this and on the audience-friendly nature of the English subtitles, especially on their being on screen long enough to be read.

In the 3s and 4s, some comments were on the level that the film was “enjoyable” and “fascinating” but also highlighted the “flaws in production” and that it was “of its time” (ie 1946) and thus showed its limitations. Others also recognised the immediate post-war origin of the film but felt that, in those circumstances, a marvellous job had been done with the production, “Costumes and jewels quite amazing for post-war”. There were several comments throughout the score range that it was a fairy tale but not for children and one person found the Beast costume “unsettling”.

Comments in the 5s were typified by words such as “brilliant”, “excellent”, “wonderful” and “beautiful”.  It was described as “atmospheric” and “riveting”. The most telling comment was, “I came expecting to be bored by a dated film. What a surprise. I loved it!”

Moonlight – 12th June 2017

Monday 12th June, ODEON Cinema, Andover. Start time: 8:00 p.m.

Cert. 15, 111 mins. 2016

Directed by: Barry Jenkins

Starring: Alex R. Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, Trevante Rhodes

‘A lyrical triumph that comes straight from the heart’ **** – Independent

Introduction Given on the Night, Written & Presented by John Newland

This is a story in three acts. It follows the life of Chiron, a black child with all of the disadvantages of living in a Miami very much on the wrong side of the tracks. It follows Chiron’s life from that of a child, to a point in his mid-teenage years and finally to him as an adult in his 20s. Each portrayal of Chiron is by an actor of that age group.

As the film starts Chiron is 10. His father is a presence not even to be expected and his mother is a drug addict. By chance, he falls in with Juan, a drug dealer, who provides the father that the child needs. Eventually, Chiron grows wary of Juan’s life as a drug dealer.

This second act takes place when Chiron is 16 and establishing his own identity as a young man. He also faces confrontation by others. The final, third act, shows Chiron not in a good place. He’s been to prison and now, like his erstwhile (and dead) father-figure Juan, he’s become a drug dealer.

Based on the play, In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue, this film takes on the theatrical structure of its origins. Fortunately, for an adaption, it still maintains its focus on its central character throughout. This drives the drama.

Where this film works and why it works, and why it got the Oscar for Best Picture is because it creates 3-Dimensional characters and not stereotypes. From this it accepts that such characters are imperfect (aren’t we all) and sometimes such characters don’t act nicely or live well. But sometimes they do, and so can we.

Thank you for listening so kindly. Let’s all watch the film and form our own opinions.

Feedback Review

This was a film that demanded a reaction from all those that saw it – and got it. Two-thirds of the audience responded with feedback. Scores ranged from 1 to 5. The bulk of responses gave scores of 3 to 5 with 4 being (by 3 responses) the highest single total. Running through all score levels were individual complaints that the dialogue could not be heard or that the American street language used by the actors could not be understood.

In the 1s and 2s, specific comments ranged from “dire” and “not a good choice for film club”.  Moving upwards (3s and 4s), respondents had written, “thought provoking”, “quite challenging”, “gripping and exciting” to “compelling and sad – a reflection on society – well portrayed”. For those giving a 5, several people had categorised the film as “powerful” and “excellent” with one person describing it as “ground breaking innovative film making”.

Jackie – 8th May 2017

Monday 8th May, ODEON Cinema, Andover. Start time: 8:00 p.m.

Cert. 15, 100 mins. 2016

Directed by: Pablo Larrain

Starring: Natalie Portman, Peter Sarsgaard

‘It is in every respect remarkable’ – Standard

Natalie Portman is mesmerising as America’s First Widow – Telegraph

Introduction Given on the Night, Written & Presented by Phil Ray

I haven’t seen tonight’s film but I’m looking forward to it and it seems nicely coincidental that we’re screening Jackie this evening during an election period because amongst many things the film appears to be about control, ambition and narrative as it straddles Jackie Kennedy’s grief and her desire to create the legacy she believes JFK’s presidency should leave behind. Apparently the evidence on show this evening will demonstrate that it was she who had a major part to play in the mythology of JFK’s Camelot that endures today.

The film is structured around the LIFE Magazine interview Jackie Kennedy gave to Theodore White which was published on December 3, 1963, less than a fortnight after the assassination. Unbeknownst to a country in shock this was all meticulously stage-managed, White was chosen because he’d gone to Harvard with JFK’s older brother and had written a book about her husband’s 1960 election which portrayed him favourably. She believed he would provide nothing but a sympathetic account.

If you saw the announcement email last month you might have seen the youtube clip which had an excerpt from the White House Tour programme she made for American television in 1961 and the film’s director Pablo Larrain saw this as key in his understanding of her. He admitted that beforehand, like most of us probably, “I had a very silly idea about her. It was very superficial, and I thought she was a person only worried about style. But, when I got in closer, I realized how incredibly smart and sophisticated she was.”

When the family moved into the White House Jackie Kennedy managed a restoration project for which she was heavily criticised, the accusation being she had used public money which wasn’t actually correct. She brought back furniture that had originally been in the White House, wanting to protect the history and legacy of the building. In the face of the criticism JFK suggested she put together a programme to show the country what she did and why. “I couldn’t believe what I was watching,” Larrain said, “I found the woman who captured my imagination. I found out that she wrote the script, that everything she said was her own words.” Consequently, Kennedy won a special award for it at the Emmy Awards in 1962.

Although LIFE magazine takes centre-stage here, her contribution to another magazine appears to signal her ambitions though of course she would never have predicted how they would come to fruition.

In spring of 1951, a Jacqueline Bouvier competed in the Prix de Paris contest held by Vogue magazine. Contestants each submitted a personal profile, four papers on fashion-related questions, an outline for a full issue of Vogue and an essay on three people the applicant wished she had known. Vogue at this time was a bastion of high culture, regularly publishing essays by and about the great artists of the time so not just a fashion journal. The winner’s prize was a yearlong junior editorship at the magazine: six months in the Paris office, followed by six months in the New York hq. Having just lived a year in France, the experience had cultivated an interest in fashion, culture and writing and out of 1300 applications, she won, but her family forced her to turn the offer down.

Interestingly in amongst the 30 pages of her submission there’s a line in which she describes herself as wanting to be “a sort of overall art director of the 20th century” and I think we take this on board to understanding tonight’s film.

Feedback Review

It appears that there were a few viewers not expecting much from Jackie though a smattering of applause at the end and the vast majority of the reactions: ‘Moving’, ‘Absorbing’ and ‘Compelling’ told a different story. ‘I found it deep and not quite what I expected’ wrote one commentator, a sentiment shared by others who also found it ‘Thought provoking’. ‘The close-up filming made it feel very intimate’ forcing another member to admit ‘Jackie, I feel your pain!’ as elsewhere the point was made it was ‘Enjoyable + beautiful despite subject matter’.

Natalie Portman was ‘Excellent’ and ‘John Hurt was brilliant as usual’ but there were a minority of comments thinking the film ‘Empty’ and ‘Overdone’, there was a feeling the music was ‘Too loud’ for some which contrasted with those who thought it was ‘A fabulous score.’ It was thought to be a film that would ‘likely to lead to further discussion’ and like the events of that time for one member this ‘Great film.. ..will haunt me for a long time’ as they awarded it 5/5.

The Eagle Huntress – 10th April 2017

Monday 10th April, ODEON Cinema, Andover. Start time: 8:00 p.m.

Cert. U, 97 mins. In Kazakh with English subtitles and narration, 2016.

Directed by: Otto Bell

Starring: Aisholpan Nurgaiv

Narrated by: Daisy Ridley

‘Tense, visually splendiferous and laugh-out-loud funny’ – Standard

Introduction Given on the Night, Written & Presented by Phil Ray

The Eagle Huntress originates from a photo essay that appeared on the BBC website in April 2014 after Israeli photographer, Asher Svidensky went exploring the Altai Mountains after finishing his military service. On his travels he took pictures of teenage boys training to eagle-hunt but he wasn’t impressed enough to pursue the subject any further. It was only when he found the protagonist of tonight’s presentation, Aisholpan, training with her father he became interested in exploring the relationship between human and animal. He was especially taken by the way that Aisholpan handled, almost cuddled, the eagle.

The director of the film, Otto Bell, saw the published photo essay and fell in love with the pictures. “I was in my cube at work,” he said, “And I thought there’s gotta be a film behind this photograph. So I contacted Asher through Facebook, and we had a Skype [conversation] and very quickly we got on a plane to meet Aisholpan and her family.”

Bell didn’t know whether the project was going to be a 10-minute film or a 40-minute festival feature but things kept on happening.

Over the next year or so he, and his crew of no more than three or four people, went back and forth filming from Aisholpan starting out to competing to beyond. “It took up my entire life savings of $80,000”, Bell has said and he actually went into debt with his bank for a further $12,000.  Unexpectedly one of his biggest expenses was excess luggage. The majority of his life savings went on getting equipment from Ulaanbaatar up to their region not knowing if it would work in conditions of -50.

Besides constantly sinking in snow or slipping on ice the harsh environment meant that one sequence took 22 days to film and though the film has received much praise some have questioned the veracity of some of the elements of this documentary. In places it’s been thought too slick and was planned and scripted in places. Bell, whose day job was being a creative director of branded content for an advertising firm might have helped to raise these suspicions but he denies the criticisms saying that they were just fortunate in their timing.

Despite these accusations Aisholpan has become something of a celebrity back home but has stated her desire to study medicine and become a doctor. Firstly though she intends to teach her younger sister eagle hunting.

Feedback Review

Firstly, for those of you interested the link to the original photo essay is here.

A large audience were enchanted by the ‘true courage’ on show in The Eagle Huntress on Monday. ‘Stunning!’, ‘Amazing and ‘Fab!’ filled many of the comment forms, the ‘Beautiful scenery’ and ‘Fantastic photography’ garnered much praise also. Aisholpan’s ‘Beautiful face and personality’ demonstrated both ‘Gentleness and toughness’ and the capturing of the ‘Intimate details such as the nail polishing moment’ helped to form an ‘Inspiring’ and ‘Moving’ tale.

The dedication in the making of the film was deemed ‘Overwhelming’ and one member was ‘Glad we couldn’t feel the cold’ as we were given ‘A wonderful insight into their nomadic way of life’ which was also thought ‘Challenging to watch in some places – which is refreshing in this sanitised world!’ One viewer ‘Did feel [it was] staged/scripted in places’ though they enjoyed it nonetheless as another felt it ‘A bit predictable’ but it was subtitles that came in for the most criticism as they ‘Went off-screen too quickly.’

Overall the evening was viewed as ‘A triumph!’ and the ‘Best film yet!’ The ‘Lovely relationships’ between this ‘Delightful girl and proud dad’, not forgetting the animals who were ‘Just as much the stars’, was decreed as ‘One film experience to treasure’.

Paterson – 13th March 2017

Monday 13th March, ODEON Cinema, Andover. Start time: 8:00 p.m.

Cert. 15, 118 mins. 2016.

Directed by: Jim Jarmusch

Starring: Adam Driver, Golshifteh Farahani

‘Paterson will be treasured for years *****’ – Telegraph

‘[A] miraculous tale of everyday goodness’ – The Guardian

Introduction Given on the Night, Written & Presented by Mark Grainger

Unless you’ve already read it in our press release in last Friday’s Andover Advertiser I’ll start with a major spoiler by telling you that Paterson – the main character- is among other things a poet. When deciding who was going to do this intro, I was the only one mug enough to admit to writing poetry which is why I’m standing here.

Paterson as a person’s name is derived from “son of Patrick” and thought to be of Celtic origins. Paterson is a real town in New Jersey, about four times the size of Andover, with a rich industrial history based on water power. I don’t think any of these facts have anything to do with tonight’s film, but they may crop up in a pub quiz or crossword anytime soon.

If you read the resume of tonight’s film in IMDb you’ll wonder why we’re showing it. I nearly fell asleep reading the summary it was that unexciting. All I’m going to say about it is that it was directed by Jim Jarmusch who also wrote the script. Paterson is played by Adam Driver who some of you may recall in Inside Llewyn Davies which we showed in May 2014 when he played Al Cody. Golshifteh Farahani is an Iranian born actress who plays his wife. In spite of the seemingly mundane storyline, I think, however, that we’re in for a bit of a treat tonight, albeit in a rather unusual film. The film can definitely be described as ‘Arthouse’ which alone justifies the club including it our programme this season.

When I first wrote this talk, at this stage I was going to give you a learned discourse on the history of Art going back 40,000 years or so finishing with cinema as the “new kid on the block.” Thinking about it, though, I thought that would probably be as exciting as the summary I mentioned just now.

Instead I think I’ll just pose the question of what is “Art”.  Beauty is said to be in the eye of the beholder. Does something have to be created in order to be called “Art”. The Lark Ascending by Vaughan Williams is appreciated by millions but is the birdsong on which it is based any less deserving of our appreciation. Turner’s Scarlet Sunset is visually stunning, but surely the Krakatoa eruption that led to the atmospheric conditions that Turner reacted to must have been even more awe inspiring, for thousands fatally so. My questions are rhetorical and I am sure there are as many correct if differing answers as there are different forms of Art. With every form of artistic expression there are extremes that depending on one’s viewpoint fall into the range of excellent to really awful.

I hope tonight’s film is at the former end of the scale.

OH! I nearly forgot. I said I was a poet and you are a captive audience. In the context of the last line, I’ve called it A Nod to Multivac.

Jason and Hercules were role models for ancient Greeks
Romans admired generals and consuls sometimes for weeks
In Bess’s day the bard of Avon was everyone’s man
With Spenser or maybe Marlowe the also-ran
Then came the romantics like Wordsworth & Shelley
Whose pens wrote classics which put fire in one’s belly
In my grandfather’s day it was scientists of note
Like Einstein and Rutherford who floated their boat
In my youth it was the athlete who stirred up the blood
And writers or painters were just stuck in the mud
At the end of last century came the age of the TV star
Whose mindless inanities got them voted so far
Like Jade Goody; Jordan and that other real chump
The prize idiot of all called Donald John Trump
But now where we’re at, our heroes are not real people
Our aims are so low we’ve lost sight of the steeple.
Our minds are set when we do look aloft.
On our iPad, on twitter, google or even Microsoft.

Enjoy the film.

Feedback Review

Monday’s film received a wide range of opinions and the full gamut of marks from 1 up to 5. Interestingly it received the same number of forms offering 1/5 as 5/5 marks.

‘Lyrical, so refreshing’, ‘Beautiful’ and ‘Poetic’ encompassed some of the remarks on the 5/5 forms whilst ‘Boring’, Dreadful… …worst film I’ve seen at the club’ and ‘Awful’ were some of the comments on the 1/5 forms. Ultimately 4 out of 5 was the most commonly given score whilst a couple of viewers separately invented a new score of 4+. ‘The complexity of apparently ordinary lives’ was appreciated, in fact they became ‘Spectacular’ according to one member. This ‘Quirky’ film provided the ‘Soundtrack to our lives’ continued the 4/5 brigade, ‘The stillness suited my mood today’ recorded another contributor as this ‘Slow burner.. ..really grew as it progressed’. For some though the film was ‘out of.. ..the comfort zone’ and thought ‘Challenging’ and ‘Odd’ in some instances but the ‘Gentle’ nature of the film seemed to win the day for most though it was felt that Marvin the dog was the real star.

Queen of Katwe – 13th February 2017

Monday 13th February, ODEON Cinema, Andover. Start time: 8:00 p.m.

Cert. PG, 124 mins. 2016.

Writers: William Wheeler (screenplay), Tim Crothers (based on the ESPN Magazine article and book by)

Directed by: Mira Nair

Starring: David Oyelowo, Lupita Nyong’o, Madina Nalwanga

‘Uplifting’ **** – Time Out

‘Thoroughly heartwarming’ – Standard

‘A heartfelt tale’ – The Guardian

Introduction Given on the Night, Written & Presented by John Newland

In the Middle Ages, a French Churchman in the 12th Century, the Abbe Sugar, made the comment that “The Dull Mind rises to Truth through Material things.”

Perhaps true enough but this film isn’t about a dull mind. It’s about a VERY smart young girl that also uses material objects to develop their life wonderfully.

In this instance it’s the various pieces that make up the game of chess and having the talent to play and win at an international level.

Set in 2007 in a shanty town in Kampala, Uganda, Phiona Mutesui is a 9 year old girl that is found to have a prodigious talent with the game of chess. Despite setbacks in both her family circumstances and official discouragement she perseveres and succeeds.

Of course, as this is a Disney Enterprises film, it’s going to be formulaic and have a feel-good factor and everything will end OK. And why not? There is enough real doom and gloom displayed on the Big Screen for something else to exist, especially as this – is – something else. Phiona is a real person, it did happen to her and at age 15 she was Ugandan National Chess Champion and a world class player.

And yet, this is more than just a heart-warming tale. The real importance of this story is the confirmation that what really matters is what’s between your ears, how you use it and indeed, the opportunities you have to use it.

These matters speak to each one of us.

Well, that’s enough from me.

Thank you for your kind attention.  Let’s all enjoy the film.

Feedback Review

‘Inspiring’ and ‘Uplifting’ were the two most commonly used words in the feedback forms for last Monday’s film. ‘Excellent’, ‘Outstanding’ and ‘Fantastic’ were also used for the Queen of Katwe which didn’t score less than a 4 out of 5 in the huge amount of forms returned.

It was acknowledged that it was ‘Saddening to see such poverty’ and ‘Culturally eye-opening’ but was at the same time was thought ‘Brilliant in all senses’ with its ‘Great music [and the] vibrant colours of Africa’ on show. One viewer thought it ‘Knocked La La Land into a tin hat!’ whilst its ‘Fabulous cinematography’ captured the film’s ‘Strong characters overcoming poverty and disadvantage’ and the ‘Coach and Phiona were brilliant’. It was declared ‘One of the most delightful films I have seen’ by one member as another admitted that whilst thinking it ‘Excellent… …Still don’t understand chess.’

Hunt for the Wilderpeople – 9th January 2017

Monday 9th January, ODEON Cinema, Andover. Start time: 8:00pm

Cert. 12A, 101 mins. 2016.

Written & directed by: Taika Waititi

Based on Wild Pork and Watercress by: Barry Crump

Starring: Sam Neill, Julian Dennison

‘Hilarious and… genuinely moving’ – Time Out

***** – Empire

Introduction Given on the Night, Written & Presented by Michael Johnson

Upon its release, Director Taika Waititi spoke enthusiastically about making a film that was New Zealand to the core and making it ‘fast’ – He described it [Hunt for the Wilderpeople] as being one of the fastest he’d been involved with from the initial conception to the finished movie.

Speaking to New Zealand’s Entertainment Magazine, Waititi spoke of how the idea to shoot the film was manifested in the October of 2014 – with production starting in the May of 2015 – and then onto final film cinema release come March 2016. All this with only 25 days to shoot the entire film – 95% of which was shot outdoors and on location!

Without saying anything about the plot whatsoever, one certainly can appreciate the sensibilities and feel of the film with the ‘great outdoors’ and all the more rugged and authentic… what with such unforgiving conditions that filming the movie were beholden too.

Production Designer, Neville Stevenson, spoke of hardy resilience and artistic achievement in shooting almost the entire film on a single camera… saying with some glee that in the film The Revenant they were only out on location a couple of hours a day – ‘We were out all day long’ – he gloats!

Stevenson goes onto describe the filming experience as ‘truly amazing’ – amazing to have been in such natural environments and to have captured the stunning vistas. ‘On reflection, we went into production embracing the fact it was going to be hard with the weather and prepared to shoot whatever the conditions.’

There were no luxury trailers on location either, all crew and actors were accommodated in campervans, parked up on an improvised gravel car-park… added with the unnerving situation of having no mobile phone signals – it was said too that ‘sticky notes’ were the order of the day for the ‘runners’ – so as to remember to turn on the campervan heaters of an evening!

It is with this sense of raw adventure that we get to enjoy the various escapades of the protagonists, adorned with costumes put together by Kristin Seth who admits to have used cheese-graters and blowtorches to obtain a raggedy, worn out look – ‘so achieving’ as she puts it ‘the right level of dishevelment’. A further confession tells us that she’d raided the clothes from her unsuspecting boyfriend… saying whilst on location that: ‘I’ve got half his wardrobe in the back of my car – he’ll get to see them again when he watches the movie for the first time’.

….and so it with this, on the opening weekend of the film in New Zealand – breaking, (as it did), all New Zealand Box Office records – hence why – I’m confident in saying… that we’re all in for a great treat as we settle into The Hunt for the Wilderpeople – Enjoy!

Feedback Review

There were roars of laughter during last Monday’s film and the delight was reflected in the feedback forms. ‘Painfully funny’ [a] ‘Wonderful film’, and ‘Truly amazing’ recorded some of the audience. There was plenty of thanks given too, firstly to the ‘Spectacular, refreshing upside down filmmakers’ involved and also to AFC, a viewer and their family ‘Would’ve missed [the film] if not for you’, a mention was given for there being ‘No ads’ [adverts] too.

4s and 5s dominated the returned scores, in one case the film would’ve received 5 (instead of 4.5) ‘If it wasn’t for the gory bits’ but much of the praise came for the way the film was ‘Serious yet escapist’, ‘Lovely [but] without saccharine’ and ‘Funny and poignant’. It seemed that most if not all found this ‘Excellent’, ‘Uplifting’ and ‘Heartwarming’ film majestical.

Julieta – 12th December 2016

Monday 12th December, ODEON Cinema, Andover. Start time: 8:00 p.m.

Cert. 15, 99 mins. In Spanish with English subtitles, 2016.

Written & directed by: Pedro Almodóvar

Starring: Emma Suárez, Adriana Ugarte

‘A slick, stylish melodrama’ – Empire

‘Almodóvar’s best film in a decade’ ***** – Observer

Introduction Given on the Night, Written & Presented by Graham Richardson

After the Committee’s choice of film last month, Cría cuervos from 1976, this month the members have voted for another Spanish production, but a much more recent one, Julieta. Tonight’s movie premiered in Barcelona in April of this year, was presented at the Cannes Film Festival in May, and reached the UK in August.

Those of us who have attended both presentations will therefore have at least a cursory snapshot of how Spanish cinema has moved on since the Franco era.

Director and score

Julieta is the 20th feature film from director Pedro Almodóvar, who also wrote the screenplay. Almodóvar’s previous output has included several well-known works such as Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown and Tie Me Up, Tie Me Down.

Almodóvar came to prominence in the cultural renaissance that followed the death of Franco, in the heady freedom of this new era in Spain. His films, and his earlier productions especially, have exploited this freedom, and pushed against the limits of acceptability in the depiction of sex, drug taking, horror and so on. His movies have often been given an “18” rating the UK as a consequence.

However, Julieta is a far more Hitchcock-esque study of love, guilt and grief, and this is reflected in the sheer level of skill Almodóvar shows in his use of costumes, settings and so on, and in the exceptional camerawork.  Also in the Hitchcock mould is the score. This is by composer Alberto Iglesias, who has previously received three Oscar nominations, including for The Constant Gardener, a familiar movie to UK audiences.

Movie development and storyline

The narrative of Julieta is based on three short stories by Canadian author Alice Munro, from her 2004 collection Runaway. Munro is no ordinary author- she has won many awards including the 2013 Nobel Prize for Literature for her work as a “master of the contemporary short story”. Tonight’s film depicts some characteristic aspects of Munro’s stories, such as the movement back and forth in time and the complexity of the female characters.

Almodóvar bought the film rights to the three stories in 2009. He subsequently said he did so because of the pivotal scene on a train. “There is something incredibly passionate about them”, he said, “a woman, on a train, it’s very cinematographic”.

Originally, Almodóvar envisaged this as his English language film debut, with Meryl Streep in the leading role. He got has far as approaching Streep and agreeing the concept with her. However, he eventually abandoned this idea as he became uncomfortable with his ability to write and film in English, and reverted to a Spanish language film made in Spain.

Another change followed, to the film’s title. This was originally Silencio, silence in English of course, which is the title of one of the short stories. However, he changed it to Julieta to avoid confusion with the Scorsese film Silence which premiered last month at the Vatican.

Cast

Almodóvar has said this movie marks “his return to drama and the theatre of women”, and indeed the two leading players are actresses, well-known in Spain if not in the UK.

Emma Suarez, 52, made her movie debut at 15, and has subsequently appeared in very many film and TV productions.

The career of Adriana Ugarte, 31, has centred on her being a leading character in several long-running Spanish TV series. However, she has also developed her interest in film, and this is her 12th feature.

Critical reaction

The subtlety and skill of the film-making caused the film critic of The Guardian to write that

Almodóvar has “turned from an enfant terrible into an elder statesman”. Others have concurred but seen this as a two-edged sword although in general Julieta has been well-received, there have been criticisms that it is just a bit safe and staid, and doesn’t have enough of Almodóvar’s old edge and controversy.

********************

Well, let’s now see the movie and make our own minds up!

Feedback Review

The praise was near total on Monday for this ‘Brilliant!’, ‘Excellent’ and ‘Very Powerful’ film. It was thought an ‘Interesting, atmospheric’ piece with ‘So much feeling but without sentiment’ and was ‘Gripping from the first moment’. ‘Almodóvar did not disappoint’ with this ‘Engaging, beautifully scripted and acted’ film, yet it was ‘Very painful at times’. One viewer ‘Didn’t expect to enjoy the film because of the subtitles but really did’ and it seems safe to say that virtually everyone on the night found it ‘Totally absorbing’.

One member ‘Would’ve preferred a less sad film at Christmas’ but praised it nonetheless. ‘Characters developed slowly and in full’ and the moods and emotions [were] captured at just the right level’ and although a couple of people recorded the ending was ‘disappointing’ there were equally people who were ‘Sorry when it ended’. ‘Estupendo’ indeed.

Merry Christmas from all at AFC.

Cría cuervos – 14th November 2016

Monday 14th November, ODEON Cinema, Andover. Start time: 8:00 p.m.

Cert. 12, 105 mins. In Spanish with English subtitles, 1976.

Written & directed by: Carlos Saura

Starring: Ana Torrent, Geraldine Chaplin, Héctor Alterio

‘A movie of marvellous moments and two superb performances’ – New York Times

‘Gripping, profoundly mysterious’ – Guardian

Introduction Given on the Night, Written & Presented by Phil Ray

Cría cuervos is part of a Spanish saying which translates as, “Raise ravens, and they’ll take out your eyes” and is generally used for someone who has bad luck in raising children, or is raising them badly. It may also imply rebellious behaviour or that every bad act will return to haunt you.

The film’s director Carlos Saura was born in 1932 to a bourgeois family, his father worked for the ministry of interior and had been on the losing side in the civil war. His childhood was marked by the war during which General Franco and his allies rebelled against the republican government and he has vivid recollections of that time. Some of his memories were later evoked in his films – the games he played, and the songs he sang, as well as darker incidents such as bombing, hunger, blood and death which have all featured. At the war’s end Saura was separated from his parents and sent back to live with his maternal grandmother and aunts in Huesca, Aragon. He described these relatives as “right wing and very religious” who imposed in the child the very antithesis of the kind of liberal education he had received in the republican zone.

Acclaimed by Spanish critics as the only filmmaker in their country ever to have achieved a fully-fledged career in a national cinema plagued by exile and unfulfilled promise.

Geraldine Chaplin, Saura’s wife and a collaborator from 1967 to 1979, provided support that was both creative and financial. Economically secure and feted by foreigners he was relatively immune to Francoist censors who feared the negative publicity that would come from banning his high-profile films. Unlike other projects of the time, Cría cuervos, an enigmatic critique of the regime was passed uncut.

Chaplin who appeared in ten of his films, said, “I think Ana is Carlos…lost in a world that she doesn’t understand, that she thinks she has control over.” Saura came of age during the Civil War, which she said internalised his emotions. In the film Ana and in real life Saura’s mother were both training to be concert pianists and abandoned their ambitions when they married.

The film combines with fantasy and light surrealism to create a psychological portrait of a child in a time of upheaval. The house itself is a symbol, in spite of its size and its extensive garden it is still claustrophobic and stands as metaphor for the regime which was still putting up barriers to life beyond its self-imposed wall.

Saura had made ten features and attained a unique position by the time of Cría cuervos was released. He had risen to prominence in the late fifties and sixties and had criticised Franco from within Spain by using metaphors and storylines designed to slip past the censors and all this after being trained in the regime’s official film school.

It should be mentioned that the movie is not all bleak. There is a melancholy tone held throughout, but co-exists with Saura’s dark deadpan humor, attributed by the director to his native Arágon. Chaplin says the humour is that of the silent observer, who tries not to judge, but can’t help but laugh at what he sees.

Also it should be said that Ana Torrent continued her film career with much success and became, and still is, a major star in Spanish film industry and hasn’t apparently suffered from the growing pains that so many other young actors we have read about over the years.

Feedback Review

Monday’s presentation received a wide range of opinion ranging from ‘Excellent film!’ and ‘Wonderful’ to ‘Haunting, harrowing, heartbreaking’ to ‘Strange’, ‘Gloomy’ and ‘Bleak’. It was given 1/5 by one member who ‘Really didn’t enjoy the film’ but the average mark from the forms returned was just under 4/5 as it was proclaimed ‘Amazing’ and ‘Very enjoyable’. Amongst the other plaudits the film was acknowledged as ‘Challenging but good’ as one writer admitted to being ‘Confused’ whilst another picked up on some of the themes within and recognised that ‘The Spanish censors wouldn’t have had a clue what was going on.’

Apart from the ‘Brilliant’ and ‘Outstanding’ cinematography the single point that was agreed upon by all was the ‘Excellent acting’ especially by the ‘Lovely lead’ Ana Torrent who was thought ‘Mesmerising’. Some thought the film ‘A bit slow’ but this ‘snapshot of la vida española’ was appreciated by the majority, in fact there was a call for ‘More foreign films please.’ Time will tell…

Learning to Drive – 10th October 2016

Monday 10th October, ODEON Cinema, Andover. Start time: 8:00 p.m.

Cert. 15, 90 mins. 2014.

Written by: Sarah Kernochan

Directed by: Isabel Coixet

Starring: Patricia Clarkson, Ben Kingsley, Sarita Choudhury

‘Clarkson and Kingsley are wonderful to watch’ – Film List

‘Touching, insightful and occasionally unpredictable’ – Guardian

Introduction Given on the Night, Written & Presented by Mark Grainger

So what about tonight’s film? Well the makers shared a common problem with those of such well known films as the original King Kong; On the Waterfront; North by Northwest; Breakfast at Tiffany’s; Midnight Cowboy; and Frances Ha; in that they were all filmed in part on the streets of New York. One thing that the city is famous for is that it never sleeps and so the background noise of a busy city is a constant presence and for the moviemaker that must create problems. Back in the early sound movies those problems were often sufficient to ruin many a take. Audience attitudes and technical advances probably make things much easier for the soundman on today’s sets, but background noise and uncontrolled visual effects of traffic can make things difficult as we saw a couple of seasons back with Francis Ha. I won’t be spoiling the film by telling you that driving lessons feature and for us living in our quiet backwater of Hampshire the concept taking the wheel for the first time in a busy city could be regarded as bit scary. I learnt to drive in central London too long ago to remember, but even back then it was busy, busy and my first few lessons must have been frightening for my instructor. It was even worse when I moved to Hampshire soon after passing my test and had to drive at night. Where had all the street lights gone?

To get back to the film. I won’t spoil the film by describing too much what it is about, although the title may have given you a clue. It is what it says on the label. Who was involved? The main participants in this film have won so many awards that it would be tedious to name them all. The Director has 39 wins & 23 nominations to her credit.  The writer has 2 Oscars – both for making documentaries plus other credits to her name. We all know that Sir Ben Kingsley got an Oscar for Gandhi and has won just about every other award going during his career and Patricia Clarkson has several nominations and 1 credit to her name, in spite of her known preference for avoiding the mainstream in film making.

Isabel Coixet is Spanish and is a writer as well a director and writer, known for Paris, je t’aime (2006), My Life Without Me (2003) and The Secret Life of Words (2005). She operates the camera for all of her films. In 2008 when shooting Elegy – which was set in New York but filmed in Vancouver she said she had a great problem to get the extras to move fast enough as the pace they moved was too slow for New Yorkers. Just as well she didn’t try filming in Andover.

The writer Sarah Kernochan was born a New Yorker and started her career as a film maker winning her first Oscar for Marjoe – a documentary, then moving on to recording with RCA as a singer/songwriter, then publishing a novel and writing a musical, before moving back to film writing and making winning her second Oscar for a 40 minute short film called Thoth.

Ben Kingsley, I am sure, needs no introduction to a British audience.  He has 130+ films he has been in, and as well as his Oscar another 44 awards and 65 nominations on his CV. Having an Indian father must qualify him well for his role as a Sikh in this film, but I am wondering whether he had to take speech therapy to make his cut glass English accent suitably garbled to meet the needs of the role.

Patricia Clarkson has been acting for over 30 years and in films for the last 20 years.  She started her film career as Mrs Elliott Ness in The Untouchables, moving on to work opposite Clint Eastwood in The Dead Pool, and has been busy ever since with over 80 credits to her name as an actress. She is one busy lady as since completing Learning to Drive she has starred in no less than 6 other films or TV productions that have been completed and a further 5 that are still filming or in post-production.

So what did the critics think of the film? Bit of a mixed bag really. Elliott Noble of Sky TV & David Parkinson of Radio Times both thought it lacked sparkle, but Wendy Ide of the Observer & most of the US critics loved it. No doubt you will make your own minds up.

Without spoiling it for you, one thing I liked is that the characters played are all, shall I say mature in age and are out there contemplating significant changes to their lives.  I don’t know what the results are, and whether or not we get a happy ending, but the fact that they are going for it I find really heartening.  It gives me hope for us septuagenarians and octogenarians. I won’t tell you where I fit in.

Enjoy the film.

Feedback Review

Life lessons made up a large part of our film on Monday night. The audience thought it ‘A lovely film!’, ‘Very moving,’ very ‘Enjoyable’ and ‘A pleasure to watch.’ It was ‘beautifully acted and emotionally sharp’ wrote one viewer and was a ‘nice exploration of emotions at times of change’ noted another’, there was ‘No horrible violence or intimidation’ which also pleased many viewers. There was a comment that it was ‘Not as challenging’ as other film club presentations but an evening of ‘Escapism’ was appreciated.

There were a couple of dissenters who thought it had a ‘Totally unconvincing story’ and ‘Over-simply drawn’ characters whilst both questioned the sex scene, (the issue of swearing was mentioned in a couple of other instance) but the vast majority enjoyed the ‘gentle ride through the city’ which was felt to be both ‘touching and uplifting.’

Love & Friendship – 12th September 2016

Monday 12th September, ODEON Cinema, Andover. Start time: 8:00 p.m.

Cert. U, 92 mins. 2016.

Written & Directed by: Whit Stillman

Based on Lady Susan by Jane Austen

Starring: Kate Beckinsale, Xavier Samuel, Stephen Fry, Chloë Sevigny

‘Kate Beckinsale is deliciously acerbic’ – The Guardian
‘It’s flat-out hilarious’ – Telegraph   ***** – Empire
‘An unexpected delight’ – Independent

Introduction Given on the Night, Written & Presented by John Newland

There’s an Arab proverb that states that a person resembles the time in which they live more than their parent. So, too with films and the books on which they are based.  And tonight’s period film is no exception.

This film is based on a short early novel by Jane Austen. Entitled Lady Susan and written in 1794 it was never submitted for publication by the author. It tells its story in a different format from Austen’s other six main novels. In Lady Susan there is no narrative description linked with dialogue and present action as we would recognise it in a normal novel. It’s a story that unfolds in a series of letters where action has taken place previously and off-page. So too, in this film, much action takes place off-screen and sometimes, literally behind a closed door.

Although an early work, it deals with the major concern that Austen was to address throughout her novels, that is, the need for a woman to obtain for herself material security in a society where both social convention and pretty much, the law of the land, especially property law, was stacked against them. If love could be found as well, that was the icing on the cake. But, it wasn’t the cake. Getting your own roof over your own head was.

In Love and Friendship, Lady Susan is recently widowed and looking for a new husband and renewed security. Played by Kate Beckinsale, Lady Susan is highly intelligent and expert in playing  puppet master to everybody around. Problems, she overcomes them. Setbacks, she deals with. Think Joan Collins and you’re on the right track.

But, will she get her man (whoever that might be) and her own home? As the saying goes, “We’ll all find out in the final reel.”

Thank you for listening so kindly.  Let’s all enjoy the film.

Jane Austen and the Big Screen by John Newland

Although MGM released a cinema version of Pride and Prejudice in 1940, it was not until the mid-1990s that cinema versions of Austen’s works began hitting the cinema screen as mainstream product releases. From 1995 to 2005 versions of four of her main works were released. These were Sense and Sensibility (1995), Emma (1996), Mansfield Park (1999) and Pride and Prejudice (2005). Her other two main novels, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, exist in television adaptations. The latest attempt to put Jane Austen onto the big screen has been her early short novel, Love & Friendship (2016).

Translation of Austen’s core texts into films was driven by the belief such films would generate strong box office returns. The use of British and American established and rising actors was an indicator of the intent behind these projects. With a mass audience going to see these films the why of this attraction is explained by an established cinematic background into which Jane Austen’s works fell naturally and receptive to this background, a British society once more open to the social values embedded in her novels.

The background acceptance of this Jane Austen clutch of films comes out of the tradition of historical films made about the British past with the coming of sound. Alexander Korda was doing fictionalised bio-pics in the 1930s and the 1940s saw the Gainsborough costume epics. Whether dealing with an interpretation of a real person (Henry VIII or Nelson) or a stock man of action as depicted by Stewart Granger, the central characters were flawed but immersed in a world of money, class and sex. It was about recognisable characters, individually identifiable. From the 1950s to 1970s these themes of money, class and sex in the cinema were more represented in non-historical films of the period such as Alfie and Accident.

In the late 1970s and 1980s this changed. A visualised historical past but credible and with money, class and sex the key elements, was incorporated into the Merchant Ivory adaptations of Henry James and E M Forster novels.  This was the sort of cinema that the British cinema audience could be expected to understand. It did understand it and it lapped it up.  Fictional historical characters on the cinema screen could now fall into the category of being both human and imperfect.

Moving back a century in terms of period drama, Jane Austen’s body of work could be seen as falling squarely into this category of being populated with imperfect human beings. This was true of her novels as novels. However, to secure an audience for film adaptations of her novels, they would have to both retain and emphasize these key elements of a visually constructed historical past. To make this attractive to a mass audience any such adaptations had to cross-over into mainstream cinema from their natural niche constituency of Jane Austen fans and Art House film cinema goers.

This translation to mass audience recipient for Jane Austen cinema adaptations was massively helped by the making and screening of the BBC’s 1995 television Pride and Prejudice. Andrew Davies’s adaptation sought to escape from the formalism of the BBC’s 1979 serialisation. Shot on film, the 1995 version had an opened out cinema feel to it. Additional scenes were created dramatically on screen for events referred to in the novel by later and indirect intelligence to the book’s reader. An example of this is Darcy’s tracking down of Lydia and Wickham. Other scenes, such as Darcy’s impromptu swim, were just made up. The flashbulb effect of the BBC’s 1995 Pride and Prejudice illuminated the existence of Jane Austen’s fictional world as never before. Opening up her world meant exposing its core values, the ones she had imbued her characters with – and this struck a chord deep within the British psyche.

It had struck this chord because by the mid-1990s mainstream British society had moved to a point where it could tune into, if not be in tune with, Jane Austen’s own values of personal and social responsibility that inform her novels through her characters and their actions.

The emotions, sensibilities and feelings that come over in her novels and have been brought into the various adaptations, television and film, have their origin in the personal and well-known circumstances of her life. She grew up surrounded by the male sex and where money was always a concern. Later on in life, after her father’s death in 1805, Jane, her sister Cassandra and widowed mother, were all directly dependent on the financial support of her older married brothers. In 1809 her brother Edward provided the three of them with what was to be their permanent home, the former bailiff’s house on Chawton estate in Hampshire. The estate had been left to Edward by cousins of the Austen’s. After the family moved to Chawton, the settled environment   provided the stability Jane Austen needed for her work and she lived there until the final months of her life. When she became ill in early 1817 she was moved to Winchester to be closer to her doctor. She died there in July 1817.

For Jane Austen the concerns of Hearth and Home are the very social fabric and glue that hold Society together. For each individual there is a requirement to act responsibly as a member of this wider Society and as a member of the closer circles of society formed by friends, intimates and family. Personal choice and individual action was possible and acceptable within understood and accepted social constraints. Yet, any such action would have consequences both for that person and those around them.  These beliefs can be seen in the intentions and actions of her novels’ central characters and this translates directly into the films.

Though settled and made financially secure at Chawton, Jane Austen was very much a dependent and knew it. Her writing asserted her distinctness as a creative person, notably an independent woman in a man’s world. It also provided a means of earning a living in a socially acceptable form and reducing her reliance on her brother. For these reasons she always wrote for a mass audience. Her mass audience of the day was that minority of the population both sufficiently literate and leisured to be able to enjoy her work.  Furthermore, she only wrote about what she knew by experience, the lower gentry, their lifestyles and where they lived, the non-industrialised country or equally non-industrialised town and city.

Writing in her novels only about the life she knew does not equate to what she knew personally of life and of how the outside world was turning around her.  The Napoleonic wars are never mentioned by name despite having brothers in the Navy and Army. What Jane Austen does focus on is the Army when garrisoned in the locality and that for the rationale of they being marriage fodder for her unmarried females. It is also likely that no specific reference to it was necessary. To her readers in her lifetime, or for years after, the wider context of the war with France would have been understood as a matter of course.

Families at home would have agonised over the safety of their loved ones on active service. All news would have come at second hand, by word of mouth, or through the written word, days after the event. Owing to this, Society as a whole, and especially the rural inland society of the small town and village, was at one remove from the immediacy of reporting of the twenty-first century.  For Jane Austen, and the country society she lived in, there was neither in-built assumption of constant change driving their lives nor the idea of change itself being driven by an unstoppable treadmill of external events.

For Jane Austen, things in life did change but at a human pace and within humanly known parameters. Real change was effected in a person’s life and those around them by mental decisions followed up through appropriate action. Jane Austen living at Chawton in 1809 was evidence enough of that.  Though it was a world framed by men and women were appendages to it a woman could choose to say no – and accept the consequences. The right of the individual person to make their own choices in life is a leaven that permeates all the novels. This is the key to understanding why Jane Austen has become so popular in a mass sense and also recognized as being truly a part of mainstream consciousness and popular culture.

People expect to be able to make their own choices in life, notably in respect to relationships. This is what Jane Austen appears to offer in her novels – but not as an unqualified right. What she offers is the right to make a moral choice based on the socially accepted Christian-derived values of her world. Accepted social convention may be properly denied by act of will but not so accepted social mores. Lizzie Bennet can refuse Darcy’s offer of marriage; her sister Lydia cannot live with Wickham without marrying him.

On first sight, the socially explicit Christian values of Jane Austen’s rural world look very much at odds with the urbanised secular culture of the twenty-first century. For Jane Austen, personal responsibility and social responsibility were both bound up together as one intertwined package; a way of life which was the necessary underpinning of a right-ordered life and right-ordered, and therefore right-working, society. For a secular person two centuries later, personal responsibility meant just that. It did not automatically include any commitment that individual’s wider world. If that person did have such a commitment to a wider social responsibility and did exercise it in action, then this was down to them, and them alone, how they internally formulated this commitment and interpreted it in reality. It is this mindset and behaviour that is captured by Jane Austen and so well that the attractiveness of its emotional resonance draws us to her across the years and through the cultural differences.

Of all the marriages in Pride and Prejudice, that of Charlotte Lucas to Mr Collins provides one of the strongest emotional linkages to our time.  Charlotte Lucas’s marriage to Mr Collins seems as rationally cold-blooded and unemotional as anything can be. This appears emphasized in the 2005 film in the manner Charlotte breaks the news to Lizzie.  Faced with her friend’s disapproval (Mr Collins is “ridiculous”) Charlotte turns on Lizzie and for her and the audience’s benefit summarises why she accepted him. She gets…“a comfortable home and protection”. Otherwise at 27 she is almost too old to be married, has neither money nor prospects and is a burden on her family. All of this the audience might expect from Charlotte. But director Joe Wright has her end with a sudden agonised cry from the heart, “I’m frightened!  So don’t you judge me Lizzie. Don’t you dare judge me!” Clearly a dramatic device, this fully humanises Charlotte Lucas and allows the audience to see her marrying Mr Collins as an act of emotional desperation at heart.

It is not something that her Author-Creator approves of, but is something she does understand. As Mr Collins’s wife, Charlotte Collins has a home and household of her own. This gives her economic autonomy (under her husband’s authority) and with social respectability the social acceptance that goes with it. In a society where the main career choice for women was marriage this was a supremely rational act and thoroughly understandable to anyone. The alternative was to experience what Jane Austen did, except that Charlotte had no rich brothers to come to her aid in future years – and Charlotte knew it.

By her own decisions, Jane Austen shows that Charlotte Collins has accepted personal responsibility for herself in actively securing her own economic security. Miss Lucas, now Mrs Collins, has also and publicly, exercised her sense of social responsibility by achieving this in a socially proper manner.  Charlotte’s behaviour is not moral in the Christian way that Jane Austen would have wished but it is comprehensible and does resonate with the contemporary secular individualism of today.

It is this recognition of such self-centred behaviour by Jane Austen in her characters, of Charlotte Lucas and those who act much worse – and those that act better – that allows the modern reader and cinema patron to find a way into Jane Austen’s world. It allows them to believe it to be a real place because of the characters that inhabit it. All of them are imperfect in character, even if the heroes and heroines redeem themselves through their moral choices by the end. Many of the others fail to redeem themselves and experience the moral fate that Jane Austen has given them. But that is her personal take on the character. Because there is this universe of different and varied personal action within her novels, now taken into films, this provides that arena where a reader or viewer can negotiate on their own terms with both Jane Austen’s view of her characters and with that character’s view of themselves and of the validity of their own actions.

A surface and glossy perception of Jane Austen’s vision of her world is one where polite language and good manners are expressed as the outward signs and visible manifestations of the deeper truth and wider reality of a harmonious social order and personal behaviour that generates them. This is pure myth. The reality of Jane Austen’s world and the one she created in her novels is different. So too, and each in their own way, are the individual cinematic worlds of the four adaptations derived from her novels.

Although derived from Jane Austen’s novels, each cinema film retains sufficient difference to the original that it avoids being a textbook clone. This difference can be seen in how each film alters character and reworks plot elements. In Pride and Prejudice Charles Bingley loses one sister and her husband, whilst Margaret in Sense and Sensibility becomes a fully-fledged secondary character. Most alarmingly to the purists Pride and Prejudice director Joe Wright claimed to be toying early on with the idea of reducing the number of Bennet sisters from five to four. Mary would have been his choice to be removed. But he thought better of it, “…I think the balance of having four rather than five would’ve been wrong.”

An illustration combining the two is Emma Thompson’s screenplay of Sense and Sensibility removing of Willoughby from coming to see Marianne as she lies seriously ill at the Palmers’ house. This emotional vacuum is filled by Col Brandon whose presence and active help to Elinor reinforces his place as an eventual suitor to Marianne and prevents Willoughby from confusing the audience with a show of repentance for his past conduct. Willoughby has been shown to be a villain and so he must stay whilst the film personas of Brandon and Edward are fleshed out as decent and good in a far more stated manner than their written equivalents in the novel.

With characters altered and plot elements reworked in the cinema adaptations the centrality of focus remains on the characters. All the principal characters in the novels are still the principal characters in the films. The Bennet sisters (all five), the Dashwood sisters (now a fully formed trio), Emma Woodhouse and Fanny Price; they are all there and so are their male counterparts.

A character in the novel or film still has to act according to their character and any inaccurate impression they may have simply causes them to come up against (plot) reality rather sharply. It provides a learning experience. At the end of the film Pride and Prejudice (2005) it is Mr Bennet who attempts to dissuade Lizzie from marrying Darcy. It is not Mrs Bennet that utters a peep of dissent. Her role is to get her daughters married. “When you have five daughters Lizzie, tell me what else will occupy your thoughts and then perhaps you’ll understand” is the response she hurls at Lizzie when chided for only thinking of the news of Lydia’s marriage and forgetting what disgrace her wayward teenage daughter had almost brought upon them all.

In fact, director Joe Wright closes off Mrs Bennet as a character. He does this by having Darcy walking back and forth outside whilst being observed through a window by her and Jane. He has the two women agree with other that they got it wrong and, more importantly, they may do again. They have both learned something and know they have. They are morally better than they were before. The cultural theorist Raymond Williams puts it well when he argues that Jane Austen is not concerned with “personal relationships” (impressions) but with “…rather, personal conduct (sic): a testing and discovery of the standards that which govern human behaviour in certain real situations.”

The heart of Jane Austen is about people that have the ability to make mistakes and to learn and grow from them. It is about self-knowledge and gaining self-awareness and using this to change how you live personally and act towards others. In her novels and carried over into the film adaptations it is those that can accept the need to change and make the leap into the dark who get the prize: true love, their heart’s desire. Jane Austen is part of our world to-day because she speaks to us about the human condition and we can recognize what she says. It is the recognition that a person can change and for the better and that this change means being more than you were. It enables you to look beyond where you are to something better.

In simple terms, through her characters, Jane Austen talks to each of us as an equal and she’s asking us to choose what we think and then asking us to account for our choice morally. That is why Jane Austen is central to both our understanding of ourselves as British and as human beings and why her works will continue to draw in the audiences on the screen.

Feedback Review

There was much Love & Friendship in evidence on Monday night. After ‘A great introduction from the two gentlemen at the start’ the vast majority found the film ‘Enchanting and engaging’ and thought it was ‘A great choice to open the new season’ with. This ‘Thoroughly enjoyable romp’ contained ‘Brilliant acting’, ‘Sumptuous’ costumes and settings and was apparently ‘translated from the book [Lady Susan] in a surprising way’, with one writer opining that it was ‘Unusual to see such an articulate and witty film’.

This ‘Wonderfully inconsequential’ film did have a couple of criticisms though, it was felt ‘Disappointing’ by one viewer who wondered if it was ‘An unintended parody?’ as another classed it ‘Standard English costume froth’ but most, including one who ‘Did not expect to find myself laughing out loud’, found it ‘A most rewarding evening’ as one member admitted that Lady Susan was an individual ‘Whom we could all learn a few tricks from!’

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