18/19 Film Schedule
Le Mépris (Contempt) – 8th July 2019
Monday 8th July, ODEON Cinema. Start time: 8:00 p.m.
Cert. 15, 103 mins. In French with English subtitles, 1963.
Directed by: Jean-Luc Godard
Written by: Jean-Luc Godard
Starring: Brigitte Bardot, Jack Palance, Michel Piccoli
Released in 1963, Le Mépris – English title, Contempt – is directed by French New Wave director, Jean-Luc Godard and produced by Italian producer Carlo Ponti, both heavy-guns of post-war European cinema.
Based on a novel by Italian writer Alberto Moravia, Le Mépris is the story of the unravelling of a marriage in the present by setting it against the story of a marriage that held true despite a 20 year separation; that is, the marriage of Greek hero, Ulysses from the Trojan War, and of his wife Penelope. The device used to express this conflict is to have the Ulysses myth being the subject of a film that is being made by the central characters in Le Mépris.
However, the Ulysses film being made has run into difficulty and film fixer, Paul, has been brought in by Director Fitz Lang (playing himself) to fix it. With Paul is his wife Camille, played by Brigitte Bardot. As Paul works on the Ulysses film, Camille is drawn to Producer Jeremy (played by Jack Palance). There are creative differences on the Ulysses set. Fritz Lang wants an artistic film and Jeremy wants it more commercial. It’s not really likely to end well.
Strangely enough, or perhaps to be expected, this was art imitating life. Attempting to cast Le Mépris, Godard and Ponti considered several well-known actresses for the lead role of Camille. When Brigitte Bardot became available and wanted to work on the film, it all became suddenly easy with American money coming in to oil the wheels. Yet, of course, that wasn’t the end of the story.
When the Americans saw the rough cut of Le Mépris, they decided that what they were getting was artistic but not sufficiently commercial. They wanted extra scenes including one in which the audience would see the central leads Paul and Camille without any clothes. Not for nothing had US Time magazine described Bardot as, “France’s most ogled export”. Long story short, things stalled until Godard agreed to incorporate a love scene into the film. The Americans were then happy and the film got completed.
Perhaps the final word should go to Brigitte Bardot. For without her presence on screen this film would not have been made. After retiring from the cinema in the 1970s, she commented,
“For twenty years I was cornered and hounded like an animal. I didn’t throw myself off my balcony because I knew people would photograph me lying dead”.
She was certainly right but that does miss the point. Brigitte Bardot was not a great actress but she was a decent one, and one who worked as hard at her craft as she was fully able to do. That’s personal integrity and that’s more important than just talent.
Tonight you each have the opportunity to form your own opinion.
Thank you for listening so kindly.
Let’s all watch the film.
With a submitted Feedback form return rate of 60% out of the total audience that watched this film, this was a film that split the audience into 3 distinct areas of response.
In the lowest echelon of response, 2 respondents had written in a zero and the rest had given it a 1 score. Comments in this area ranged from, “Dull, slow and boring”, “Very wooden. Poor acting” to “The only thing worse than that film was the film they were making…”
The largest segment of responses was in the 2 and 3 scorings. These scores made up just over half of the total submitted feedback. Several respondents described the film as “dated” and even accepting the film was of its time a number of individuals found the film, “boring”.
However, moving towards the top of this 2 and 3 scoring segment, there were comments from those that felt more positive about the film. These tended to pick up on the wider cinematic aspects of the film. There were comments such as, “Not the most watchable but the symbolism was interesting”, “Not sure what I make of this – truly a film maker’s film” and “Clever idea to compare [a] filmmaking story to [a] real life story”.
The lead actress, Brigitte Bardot (BB) was specifically referenced by a number of respondents. Regarding her, comments were mainly positive. These comments varied from, “felt BB was merely acting herself” to “Bridget [sic] Bardot was sensational” and “Bardot fabulous face and figure”. None of the other cast were cited in the written feedback.
The top rankings of 4 and 5 made up about the remaining quarter of all feedback submitted. The 4 scorers gravitated to a positive open feeling of the film as a whole, despite many struggling with it. This came out in the following typical comments, “Very arty but not fully sure of what was going on. Not sure what I think, but I think I enjoyed it” and “slow pace but needed to be seen to the end even to see the expected ending” to “what the movie did best was to show the complexity of human relationships”.
The top scorers, those giving it a 5 ranking, were mainly focused on the film in terms of its cinematic art whilst also accepting it was a creature of its time. Their comments reflected these sentiments, such as, “A fine example of New Wave cinema, with exotic locations”, “A very emotionally charged film which was sometimes a bit slow but evocative and insightful. I loved it” and “A perfect example of a French film and glad to have a chance to see it”.
All in all, this was a Film Club film that whilst it didn’t please the entire audience, it certainly engaged everybody that saw it to the end.
The White Crow – 10th June 2019
Monday 10th June, ODEON Cinema. Start time: 8:00 p.m.
Cert. 12A, 127 mins. 2018.
Directed by: Ralph Fiennes
Starring: Oleg Ivenko, Adèle Exarchopoulos, Ralph Fiennes
‘The White Crow is as striking and stirring as its subject’ – The Times
‘Ivenko is an outstanding performer’ **** – The Upcoming
Ralph Fiennes’ first film as director was an adaptation of Coriolanus in 2011, he followed that the Charles Dickens biopic The Invisible Woman in 2013, about Dickens meeting the younger woman who was his secret lover until his death.
There were a number of occasions that led Fiennes into making the leap into directing. Working with Steven Spielberg on Schindler’s List was, “thrilling,” he said. “I’ll never forget the focus and energy coming off Steven,” he continued and working with Anthony Minghella on The English Patient was equally inspiring, “A different person, much quieter, with a nurturing way, [and] very collaborative.’
“When you start out acting,” he said in an interview in 2014, “You just think about the role, but later I began to worry about things being missed because the camera wasn’t in the right place or worrying about how a scene was going to be cut. Over time, I became curious about what it would be like to direct.”
It was the producer of The Constant Gardener, Simon Channing Williams, who appeared to push Fiennes over the line: “He took me on the location scouting and included me as a friend and colleague in the whole process of putting the film together. I think he must have intuited that I was probing the idea of directing—I don’t recall saying that to him directly, although maybe one drunken night I did. But toward the end of the shoot, he said, I’d like to produce your first film as a director.” That never happened because Channing Williams sadly died but the work they did do on potential projects gave Fiennes the confidence to make the move behind the camera.
The new role as actor/director forced Fiennes to watch himself closely, analysing his acting in a way that he never had done before. After Coriolanus he admitted, “You are confronted with all kinds of facial takes, vocal mannerism, things that make you embarrassed, recoil. That was painful and I still feel slightly awkward when I see myself up there, but I felt I learned a lot about acting.”
“When you take on acting and directing,” he said, “There’s a point where you can’t analyse too much, you’ve ‘just gotta’ make decisions and you’ve got to just go. The worst thing on a film set is that you stop to ponder.” A major concern for him has been that he might neglect his own performance and has found that the dual role creates an internal conflict, after The Invisible Woman he admitted, “When you’re acting, you don’t have any qualms about saying: “This doesn’t feel right. Can I do it again?” [And part of the role of the director is] “A parent who reassures the child. “It’s great, don’t worry.” Being parent and child at the same time wasn’t easy.”
Fiennes has said that he would like to work in Hollywood rather than just on the independent end of the spectrum, “I think it would have to be the right thing, I would have to feel strongly about whatever it was.” He has been offered scripts which believe it or not were high-impact male action thrillers probably inspired by the look and feel of Coriolanus, but for all the money and resources he might be offered I don’t think we’re going to see The Fast and the Furious 15 directed by Ralph Fiennes soon!
Just under half the audience filled in and returned a Feedback form. There were no responses in the 1 and 2 rankings. There were 3 scores of 3 and the rest were 4 and 5 scores. Of the total of 4 and 5 scores, one-quarter was for a 4 score and the remaining three-quarters were for 5 ranking.
Of the 3 scores, all three respondents felt the film was “too disjointed” or “slow and confusing in places swapping between time periods”. However, the two that further commented did also feel that the film was, “well worth watching” and was “introspective with excellent music and composition.”
For those giving it a 4 score there was also some uncertainty as to where (and when) an actual scene was taking place. Respondents commented, “got a bit confused in Paris or Russia [?]” and “The only thing that slightly spoilt it was the switching between time and place – found it a bit confusing”. Other than that and overall, individuals found it very good. The film was described as “excellent” by several respondents. Other comments were, “So moving, so thought-provoking”, “Well directed and brilliantly acted” and “Thoroughly good. Fiennes [the Director] made you feel you were right there with the characters”.
“Mesmerising”, “Superb”, “Amazing”, “Beautiful! Absorbing – Brilliant!”, “Fantastic Film” and “Great film, really loved it” are typical of the comments written by those giving this film a 5 score. Note was made (as 3 and 4 scorers had done) of the switching of time but this was as part of the very positive wider appreciation of the film. Indeed, many respondents were most enthusiastic about the film and commented as, “… best selection yet. Totally engrossed throughout,” “A film that is hard to fault on any aspect – brilliant!” And the ultimate accolade, “Amazing film, so glad I braved the weather!”
Can You Ever Forgive Me? – 13th May 2019
Monday 13th May, ODEON Cinema. Start time: 8:00 p.m.
Cert. 15, 107 mins. 2018.
Directed by: Marielle Heller
Starring: Melissa McCarthy, Richard E. Grant
‘Melissa McCarthy and Richard E. Grant’s tragicomic fraudsters are genuinely fantastic’ – Telegraph
‘I cannot imagine anyone else inhabiting the roles so perfectly.’ – Observer
And now Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Set in New York in the early 1990s, this film is essentially a biopic of a period in the life of 51 year-old female biographer Lee Israel. Played by Melissa McCarthy, it starts when Lee Israel is not doing too well in her life. She won’t suffer fools gladly – or really suffer them at all. This is not helping her. As someone says to her, “You can be an asshole when you’re famous. But as an unknown, you can’t be such a bitch.” Oh yes, she can. This is a woman that would always define a spade as an agricultural implement. She would also advise you on how it might best be used.
Lee Israel’s abrasive personality isn’t a put-on armour to be slowly chipped away. It’s an intrinsic part of who she is. Her inability to get on with others, to fall in with accepted norms of social etiquette is the source of a great deal of her personal unhappiness and professional failings. But she is aware of her own shortcomings, has no intention of addressing them and does not.
Her “salvation”, at least in terms of making ends meet, comes in the use of her creative writing talents. Falling into it, slightly by chance, she forges letters from dead writers such as Noel Coward and others – and sells them. By this point she has met Jack played by Richard E. Grant. He’s a kindred spirit and is drawn into the business relationship. And the business, it doth prosper. But we’re not at the end of the film yet.
This film asks two questions of us. The first is what happens in the story and all we have to do is watch the film to find that out. The second question is different. What do we ourselves make of Lee Israel? Do we approve of her or do we disapprove? And whatever our decision is, why are we making it? And those answers are down to each one of us personally.
Thank you for listening so kindly. Let’s all watch the film.
Just under half of the audience filled in and returned a Feedback form. Once again, it was clear from the responses returned that this film had been very well received. Of those responses returned, the lowest score was a 2, with only one person marking it at this level. Of the remaining scores, 6 persons gave it a 3 and the remaining scores were equally divided between a 4 and 5.
The respondent giving it a 2 felt the film had, “Good music” but made no other comment. Those awarding it a 3 score did enjoy it – to an extent. The acting was singled out as worthy of note, “Excellent acting by all the cast”, “Well acted but a bit slow” and “slow start but good eventually.” One respondent was very specific in their assessment, “Richard E. Grant the best thing about it”.
For the rest of those returning a completed Feedback form, whether with a 4 or 5 ranking, their comments were uniformly positive. One respondent noted how the attention of the entire audience had been focused on the film, “Silence rained (sic) thro’out”. For the film itself, specific note was made throughout in the comments about the excellent quality of the acting and the excellence of the film as a whole. The following comments are typical of those written, “Good – very well acted”, “clever, witty and a great soundtrack too”.
Many respondents described the film as, “enjoyable” and one stated, “A brilliant bitter-sweet story with humour & passion. I loved it!”
A film that those watching it had considered to be a worthwhile use of their time.
Shoplifters (万引き家族) – 8th April 2019
Monday 8th April, ODEON Cinema. Start time: 8:00 p.m.
Cert. 15, 121 mins. In Japanese with English subtitles, 2018.
Written and directed by: Hirokazu Kore-eda
Starring: Lily Franky, Sakura Ando, Mayu Matsuoka
‘A spirited, lilting delight.’ – Little White Lies
‘A modern Dickensian masterpiece’ – Mirror
Hirokazu Kore-eda is possibly one of the world’s least heralded filmmakers considering his output over the last 20 years. He won a prize at Venice in 1995 for his debut Maborosi and won the Palme d’Or for tonight’s film at this year’s Cannes festival, his fifth film to be selected for the main competition and his seventh appearance at the festival overall which also included him winning the Jury Prize in 2013 for Like Father, Like Son.
Perhaps it’s down to the scale of his films which largely consist of intimate dramas dealing with memory, loss and the need to survive and move on with life that keep him under the radar. As if to balance this he occasionally wanders into the fantastical almost as a reaction to his domestic dramas with, for example After Life (1998) in which people have to choose one memory to keep for eternity or Air Doll (2009) where a life-size blow-up doll develops a soul.
His intimate style appears to stem from his early documentaries where he covered subjects such as a man with a disability preventing him from forming new memories and in 1994 he followed the first openly gay AIDS sufferer in Japan.
Kore-eda’s growing reputation has, it seems, unofficially made him the reference point for modern Japanese cinema, “I think a lot about the weight of the responsibility of being considered by some to be representative of Japanese filmmaking,” he’s said, lamenting the fact that most distributors are only interested in the films that present the usual Japanese stereotypes.
Kore-eda has always eschewed these traditions and in 2011 there was an event that reframed not only his but Japan’s outlook. “After the earthquake, I didn’t feel comfortable with people saying repeatedly that a family bond is important. So I wanted to explore it by depicting a family linked by crime.”
“The traditional concept of family was already being dismantled or destroyed in Japan, and 3/11 just made it obvious that was happening. I believe you can no longer interpret the true value or purpose of family based on the antiquated traditional tropes of Japanese society. In Shoplifters, I was looking at three generations living together, because that’s typically what you’d find in a Japanese household. But I wanted to play with that, and show that even within those terms the nuclear family is undergoing a permanent change.”
Compare this to 2002 when he auditioned children to play the lead characters in Nobody Knows. “At that time, all the kids we saw were living in close proximity to their grandma or grandpa or both, and you could hear it in their vocabulary,” he said. “But based in my experience over the last 15 years looking at families specifically in the Tokyo area that has ceased to be the case.”
Kore-eda has remarked that he hasn’t set out to define what the model family should be or look like in this day and age, only that he was interested in looking at the issue. “I’m not an expert on this,” he said, but testament to his research, the former documentary director, who would engage deeply in his subjects he continued, “but I can speak in some very specific scenarios.”
Just under a half of the audience filled in and returned a Feedback form. All the responses, with some caveats, were highly positive. All responses were from 3 to 5 in ranking. Of these, 4 responses gave it a 3 and the remainder (the 4s and 5s) were split equally. Those giving it a 3 liked it overall, describing it as, “moderately enjoyable”, “slow film but some interesting elements and insight into Japanese life for a particular family” and “strange ending”. The focus on the family was also picked up many of those giving it a 4 or 5 score, as was the excellence of the acting by younger actors playing the children.
Of both the 4 and 5 groups of scorers, there was very little difference in their extremely favourable reaction to this film. A couple of people felt the film would have been improved by being reduced in length by a few minutes. Central to the common reaction of respondents was that the humanity of the family in their lives took centre stage as they persevered in their never-ending struggle to stay materially afloat and together as a family. Typical comments were, “Family dynamics were superb, felt that the shoplifting took a backseat to the relationships”, “Tender, extraordinary and loving relationships. A compelling watch.” and “Brilliant film, spent most of it with tears welling up. It will stay with me worrying about the girl [Juri – the waif taken in]”.
Of general comments about the film as a whole, typical comments were, “very moving”, “excellent” and “loved it”. All-in-all, this film was a hit with everyone in the audience. This is encapsulated with the following response, “Spellbinding. Must learn Japanese to get the finer points!!”
Peterloo – 11th March 2019
Monday 11th March, ODEON Cinema. Start time: 8:00 p.m.
Cert. 12A, 154 mins. 2018.
Directed by: Mike Leigh
Written by: Mike Leigh
Starring: Rory Kinnear, Maxine Peake, Pearce Quigley
‘An impassioned, epic history lesson’ – The Guardian
‘Mike Leigh’s historical epic is rewarding’ – Telegraph
About 40% of the audience filled and returned a Feedback form. From the responses returned, this film had been, with reservations from some, well received by the audience. Of the responses returned, the lowest score was a single 2, with 8 persons marking it at a 3 level. Of the remaining scores, the 4 scores were under a half with the 5 scores a clear majority.
The 2 and 3 score respondents were less than enthused by the entire experience. The 2 respondent called it a “Coronation Street Pastiche” but felt the “Massacre scenes were well done”. For those giving it a 3 score; whilst they could appreciate its value as a cultural document, “conveying an important piece of history” and “a sad watch but lessons to be learned”, for them this was out-balanced by both the length of the film and its wordiness. Comments such as “Too many speeches”, “…1/2 hr too long in the middle” were typical of the criticisms expressed.
Whilst these concerns were picked up, to a limited extent in the 4 and 5 scores, those given giving it a top score were more focused in on the drama of the piece as a whole, especially the emotional core of the story as driven by the family of the young soldier. There were many comments in the top scores about the excellent casting and the look of the film (“The photography was superb”).
To many, the event of the Peterloo Massacre itself and the dire circumstances of post-Waterloo England (1815 – 1819) for ordinary working people were simply not known. The following comments take in these sentiments, “Although I studied this period of history at O Level I had no idea of the magnitude of this event.”, “A film that should be included in A level history” and “Mike Leigh has chosen to successfully succeed in conveying a brutal shameful shrouded part of English History – ON FILM – using his skills to the TOTAL ENTH [degree]”. One respondent put it personally to the Director, “ …a tour de force! Thank you Mike Leigh for reminding us of this horrific event – Let’s pray it never happens again.”
All in all, this film did not leave people indifferent to having watched it.
Cold War (Zimna wojna) – 11th February 2019
Monday 11th February, ODEON Cinema. Start time: 8:00 p.m.
Cert. 15, 85 mins. In Polish with English subtitles, 2018.
Directed by: Paweł Pawlikowski
Written by: Paweł Pawlikowski and Janusz Głowacki
Starring: Joanna Kulig, Tomasz Kot, Agata Ku
‘It left me speechless’ – The Guardian
‘Moving, rich with period detail and startlingly well-acted’ – Empire
The stories that Paweł Pawlikowski’s films tell appear to link the wider conflict surrounding the characters with their lives and relationships to the point where the personal and political become indistinguishable.
After specialising in documentaries about the lives and culture of writers and individuals living in the former Eastern Bloc he made his feature film debut in 1998 tackling an East/West relationship culture clash in Moscow in the film Stringers. He then reversed that tension in 2000 with Last Resort, in which a Russian woman seeks asylum in Britain after her fiancé abandons her and her son. More recently In the award-winning Ida (2013), his first film in his native Polish, an orphaned young woman meets a relative in 1960s Poland whilst taking vows at the convent where she was raised and at the same time uncovering facts about her parents’ deaths during WWII.
His style has come to reflect the isolation and displacement that his characters feel by becoming sparser, concentrating on only what is essential to the story. His scripts underpin this by generally being only about 60 pages long albeit after a lot of drafts, Cold War had 159 of them. ‘Most scripts aren’t very good, and directors that stick to them end up making films that the scripts deserve,’ he says. ‘I know that story is the important thing. I invent my story, and then I spend quite a lot of time fluffing up the story.’
It appears however that behind the scenes the process is much looser or as he puts it: “I leave some space for filmmaking.” He’s stated that he works by keeping everything in flux as he shoots, adding new things during filming, taking things out in the editing, repeating this process until he discovers the film, in fact he treats each film like a documentary. “The film has a life of its own, and I’m not bothered that some lines are dropped or scenes have been dropped.”
Another element of films are the elliptical nature of his stories. Employing this approach is something Pawlikowski has tried to do with each of his films. In telling the two-decade-long story of a complicated relationship Cold War makes jumps in time, skipping major life events without investigating the consequences. It was watching the 7up documentaries that provided him with the inspiration for this. “Sometimes it’s surprising, yet kind of inevitable, and sometimes it’s completely shocking. Sometimes it makes complete sense, but that effect of jumping in time and discovering ‘Where are we now,’ it gives you a real thrill when you watch it.”
“That’s what I like more and more,” he recently explained, “Not having a narrative reduced to cause and effect, where one thing leads to another,” said Pawlikowski. “Surely life is too messy for it to make so much sense.”
“At first I thought it might be a bold experiment, but I can see that it’s actually not a problem at all – if the scenes you show are strong, graphic, rich enough, then people will fill in all the rest,”
The key, he believes, is for the actors to thoroughly know the real story of what happens in the gaps. Apparently, them knowing this leads to the capturing of the essence of what the characters are experiencing when they appear on-screen.
We shall in a moment whether they convince….
Just over half of the audience filled in and returned a Feedback form. From the responses returned, it was clear that this film had been very well received by the audience. Of the responses returned, the lowest score was a 2, with a single person marking it at this level. Of the remaining scores, 2 persons gave it a 3. Of the remaining scores of 4 and 5 (getting on for 70 in total), one-third gave the film a 4 and the remaining two-thirds gave it a 5.
The respondent giving it a 2 clearly felt it had been a disappointing experience, writing, “Would not have minded if I had not seen film”. The two persons scoring it as a 2 liked it but felt it was flawed, “a love story. Did not really understand it” and “(…) fantastic photography and music BUT no chemistry between 2 main characters. Morbid ending”.
Throughout the responses of those scoring it both 4 and 5 there were number of themes common to both score values. There was marked attention drawn to the fact that the film had been shot in black and white throughout and how this had very much enhanced the enjoyment of watching it on the screen. There were several very positive comments made about the accuracy of the depiction of Cold War Europe of the time, especially from individuals with personal knowledge of that place and era, “Thought atmosphere of Cold War Europe well captured – having lived in Berlin in 1968 could immediately relate.” and “Excellent film! Love B&W, wouldn’t have been the same in colour”.
The story itself, a bitter-sweet love story, was signalled as a central element in the enjoyment of the film from those giving it a 4 or 5. Comments made were as follows, “A beautiful couple. A tragic tale of love with a backdrop of socialist politics, it never once felt like acting, I was so engrossed and convinced by them” and “Beautiful portrayal of love lost and found again & again” to the succinct, “Love conquers all”.
As an overall judgment on the work, especially from the 5 scorers, the film as a whole was described with words such as, “Brilliant”, “Excellent”, “Wonderful” and “Spellbinding”. One respondent (giving it a 5 score score) commented, “It’s about the best film the club has ever put on since I’ve been coming”.
The Wife – 14th January 2019
Monday 14th January, ODEON Cinema. Start time: 8:00 p.m.
Cert. 15, 100 mins. 2017.
Directed by: Björn Runge
Starring: Glenn Close, Jonathan Pryce, Christian Slater
And now The Wife.
Getting to the heart of this film, it’s the 20th Century English dramatist George Bernard Shaw who really hits the nail on the head. Shaw once quipped, “If you can’t get rid of the family skeleton, you might as well make it dance”. And the skeleton in this film looks like its in the final on Strictly Come Dancing and really going for it.
The film is mainly set in 1992, with flashbacks to the 1950s, venerable American writer Joe Castleman (Jonathan Pryce) is told he has won the Nobel Prize for Literature. He and his wife Joan (Glenn Close) travel to Sweden for him to accept the award. Initially and on the surface, Joan seems to be the supportive wife, and as the phrase has it, standing by her man. But the film’s just started and as with all good family-based dramas there are going to be tears, and lots of them, before bedtime.
En route and in Sweden they are pursued by a would-be biographer whom is not above dirty tricks in his attempt to extract information. The information that he believes exists (the family skeleton) is that Joe himself isn’t quite the creative literary genius that one and all hold him to be and which got him the Nobel Prize.
We all get to find out what happens, what the truth is and why, and what people intend to do about it. But one things for sure, it’s going to be a bumpy night. So, strap in everybody.
Thank you for listening so kindly. Let’s all watch the film.
A half of the audience filled in and returned a Feedback form. From the responses returned, it was clear that this film had been very well received by the audience. Of the responses returned, the lowest score was a 3, with 6 persons marking it at this level. Of the remaining 4 and 5 scores (over 50 in total), one-third gave the film a 4 and the remaining two-thirds gave it a 5.
For those giving it a 3 score there was a feeling that the film was too slow-paced – and yet – this was off-set to the positive by other things. The following comment gathers in this sentiment, “I’m not sure, it seemed to be long in getting to the point. The acting was brilliant”.
Whilst a few other respondents in the 4 and 5 scoring felt as well that the pace of the film was a touch too leisurely (“Very slow at first but came to life 3/4 through”) most of those scoring 4 and especially those scoring 5, highlighted the quality of the acting, notably of the two leads and in particular that of Glenn Close in the title role. “A beautiful film, beautifully acted – great script”, “Excellent film, Glenn Close was superb” and “Incredibly powerful & strong plot/story. Superb acting by Glenn Close” are typical of these comments written.
As well as enjoying the actual watching of the film, there were comments made that indicated the experience had touched certain individuals quite deeply. For one person this had been their first time at a club film night and they commented, “It has made me want more”. A Film Student noted, “Thank you for providing some film culture to my hometown” and one person explained, “This film brought tears to my eyes – I needed a hanky. Well done”.
Distant Voices, Still Lives – 10th December 2018
Monday 10th December, ODEON Cinema. Start time: 8:00 p.m.
Cert. 15, 85 mins. 1988.
Directed by: Terence Davies
Starring: Freda Dowie, Pete Postlethwaite, Angela Walsh
‘Autobiographical masterpiece’ – The Guardian
‘Extraordinary’ – BFI
Terence Davies acknowledges that in terms of building of a career he has no idea of how to do so.
“If I am introduced to somebody powerful, I immediately forget their name. No wonder I’ve got no bloody career. I’m hopeless at all that, just hopeless.”
He also cheerfully admits he ‘knows nothing about popular culture’ which makes it difficult when meeting other filmmakers because he has no idea what to say to them. ‘I’ve never been part of the cinema crowd. I don’t feel comfortable. I don’t like big parties. You stand around with a rictus grin and you don’t know anybody.’ All these admissions along with his pithy sense of humour appear to have marked him as an outsider who consequently for many years, and perhaps as a result of his opinions, unfortunately had the door closed on him.
For a director that many claim is ‘Britain’s greatest living auteur’ this is indeed sad as his career has been full of long gaps of filmmaking inactivity denying us the opportunity to see his skill and talent on a more frequent basis. He’s been unfortunate in terms of funding in those intervening years too but his refusal to compromise has likely also prevented him from bringing projects to fruition. He’d been virtually forgotten by the time he returned 8 years after his last project to much acclaim with the documentary Of Time and the City in 2008. His poetic reflections on Liverpool were commissioned as a by-product of the then City of Culture celebrations. Made on a tiny budget using old newsreel footage it brought him back to prominence kick-starting his career.
An overview of his filmography shows however that on the surface at least he’s always moved at a leisurely pace which started soon after he made the leap from being a shipping clerk in Liverpool and moving to Coventry and drama school. During this time he began making a short film which turned into a trilogy and were screened together at film festivals winning a number of awards.
The success of the Terence Davies Trilogy as they came to be known led to the BFI and Channel 4 commissioning tonight’s film. He was incredibly fortunate in finding a pair of organisations that were willing to support him to an extent that directors rarely experience.
The film is two separate stories filmed two years apart. “When we finished Distant Voices,” Davies said, “They wanted to release it, and I said, “No, there is another piece. Will you let me write a companion piece to it?” And they said, “Yes.”
He doesn’t believe it would be possible to the film in the same way today, ‘That would be out of the question. Now there’s always this pressure: get the names. I’ve never understood it, because it doesn’t guarantee anything. But it’s still held to, like some kind of grail that if you’ve got a big name, then people will go. It’s nonsense. It’s just nonsense.’
When the structure of film funding changed in 2000 he was caught out as an intention to make films to rival Hollywood emerged and the industry moved on without him until 2008 especially as he believes whenever we try to mimic Hollywood, ‘We always do it badly.’ Having made three films in the last decade with two projects on the horizon he’s seems to making peace with the deep frustrations that he experienced in that fallow period acknowledging recently, ‘Whatever’s up there – the gods, the fates, Lady Luck – I’m so lucky that I had a second chance because some people don’t get a first chance. I’ve been very blessed.’
Just under a half of the audience filled in and returned a Feedback form. From the responses returned, it was clear that this film had generated a wide range of emotional responses ranging from bafflement as to what was going on, to evoking feelings of personal nostalgia and to delight in the film itself.
One person gave it a 1 score with 6 more assigning it a 2 rating. Of those respondents remaining, well over half of the total feedback response, the responses were reasonably split. Scores of 3 and 5 were equal with 4 scores being the highest single total with one-and-a-half times the score of either the 3 or 5 single totals.
Of the lower 1 and 2 scores the respondent giving it a 1 defined the film as, “Pointless!” The 2 scores had various similar comments such as, “Depressing”, “slow, poor story” and “Story without an ending”. This last respondent did also base their score on the non-linear structure of the film, the way it switched back and forth in time in its showing of the life of the family especially as the father became increasingly mentally unstable and violent. This comment was echoed by a number of other respondents that gave it higher scores.
The 3 scores found both good and not-so-good mixed together in the film. One respondent found the domestic violence off-putting, “too gritty for me” whilst still regarding the film as “very evocative of the period & beautifully filmed”. This capture of the 1950s period as authentic in feeling was picked up on and agreed by other 3 scoring respondents and many giving it a 4 or 5. For one 3 scoring respondent, they felt the film had, “totally un-rushed sequences” which created, “a feeling of French old film technique”.
Of those giving a 4 score, the main thread of response in comments given was that of a film that you had to put in some personal effort to follow and that this was well worth the doing. The following comments capture this conclusion. “Mesmerising. Sometimes difficult to follow but still enjoyable”, “Very powerful – great camera work”, “An insightful representation of a sensitive subject…presentation, storyline and cinematography dealt with…in a sensitive, honest and realistic way…” As one respondent summarised it, “A very important piece of British cinema”.
Those giving it a top score of 5 noted the nostalgia it brought personally back and found watching it a very positive experience. “Excellent” and “Brilliant” were used more than once and one respondent commented, “BEST THIS YEAR! Thank you I loved this one” with another clearly touched by their watching of the film, “Lyrical and elegiac, especially the second Still Lives section. On the point of tears by the end.”
The Heiresses – 12th November 2018
Monday 12th November, ODEON Cinema. Start time: 8:00 p.m.
Cert. 12A, 95 mins. Spanish with English subtitles, 2018.
Written and Directed by Marcelo Martinessi
Starring: Ana Brun, Margarita Irún, Anna Ivanova
‘Brun stuns in a richly textured drama’ **** – Film List
‘A perfectly-crafted gem’ **** – Time Out
There’s an Arab proverb which claims that a person represents the Time in which they live much more than their parent. This is a film that bears this out as the truth.
On one level this is a story about two middle-aged women in a long-term relationship and how their lives change when one of them is sent to prison for fraud. On a deeper level, this film is about the history of the country in which they are living and in which the film is set, that is, the South American state of Paraguay.
Set in the present day, in Paraguay’s capital city of Asunción, the two women are Chela and Chiquita and they have been together for 30 years. Chela is an artist but introverted and who has always been in the shadow of her much more outgoing partner, Chiquita. However, when Chiquita is sent to prison, Chela is faced with a void in her life and much more pressingly, of how to pay the bills.
Fortunately, well – it is that sort of film – Chela has inherited her father’s old Mercedes. Although she and Chiquita had intended to sell it, it proves Chela’s material salvation. Almost by accident she falls into a role as the taxi driver for a Bridge-playing set of mature ladies. Thus, she literally and metaphorically comes out of the shadows into a new life that gives her both an economic and an emotional independence that’s she never had before.
That raises the question of what happens when Chiquita is released from prison and seeks to re-establish her relationship with Chela. For, not only has Chela now found a measure of financial independence she never has had before; she has also discovered the company of other women. And it is this focus on women as fully 3 dimensional human beings with real independence, real agency and the will to act as individuals in their own right that points to this second and deeper strand contained in this film
By concentrating on the here and now of present-day Paraguay and on the empowerment of women, director Marcelo Martinessi is holding up a mirror as how Paraguay was, during its decades of dictatorship which lasted from 1945 through to 1989. During that era, the only films allowed were propaganda epics depicting brave heroic and male military types. In this sense, this film becomes not only a warning from history but also one for the future. It happened once, it could happen again.
As our two leading screen characters, Chela and Chiquita, they do meet again on Chiquita’s release from prison. As for what happens then we’ll all find out as we watch the film.
Thank you for listening so kindly.
Just over a half of the audience filled in and returned a Feedback form. From the responses returned it was clear that this film had generated a definite reaction in every person that had commented upon it. About a quarter of respondents gave it a 1 or 2 score with just over a quarter giving it a 4 or 5. Of those respondents remaining, almost a half of the total feedback response, they gave it a 3.
For those persons giving it a 1 or 2 score, the common complaints running through their comments were the film was “dull”, “slow” and “dark”. The slow pacing of the film was also commented on by some other respondents that gave it a higher score.
For those giving it a 3 score, there was an overall feeling that it had been appreciated but that it had been difficult to engage with. Typical comments were, “atmospheric”, “rather a beautiful film, very slow and deliberate but rather strange” and “…not easy to comprehend”. What was felt a definite plus was the acting of the two leads, “Great acting”, “Good characterisation, jail scenes excellent”.
This assessment of the acting as a major strength of the film was carried through by many that had given the film a 4 or 5. Such comments often also focused on the story of Chela herself and are summarised by the following responses: “I loved it. Enjoyed the exploration of relationships, a woman finding ‘herself’. The camera angles that followed her on her shoulder”, “A lovely passage of rites film – Chela found her wings!” and “Very thought provoking. A very interesting look at real life situations with real people”.
Loathed it, loved it, or just not sure at all about it, The Heiresses did not leave people indifferent to it.
Leave No Trace – 8th October 2018
Monday 8th October, ODEON Cinema. Start time: 8:00 p.m.
Cert. PG, 108 mins. 2018.
Directed by: Debra Granik
Based on: My Abandonment by Peter Rock
Starring: Ben Foster, Thomasin McKenzie
‘A sympathetic, affecting, beautifully realised portrait’ – Empire
‘Flawless, deeply affecting’ – ***** Observer
Debra Granik has taken a circuitous route into filmmaking and as her career has matured it has tended to concentrate on those living on the margins of American society, those living and dealing with issues such as addiction and poverty.
While at Brandeis University in Massachusetts during the 1980s, Granik took a film and media workshop production class and volunteered with the Boston grassroots filmmaking organization Women’s Video Collective and took film classes at the Massachusetts College of Art. During this time she made educational films for trade unions on subjects like workplace health and safety. Granik then worked in production on educational media projects before eventually working on long form documentaries by filmmakers in the Boston area before deciding to go to graduate school for filmmaking at New York University.
In 1997 Granik directed her first short film, Snake Feed, under the mentorship of NYU film professor Boris Frumin, who was instrumental in sharing his love of post-World War II European neorealist films, the genre of films set amongst the working classes, usually filmed on location and which frequently used non-professional actors. Snake Feed, began its life as a 7-minute documentary and was accepted into Sundance Institute’s Lab Program for screenwriting and directing for further development and in 2004 Granik released her first feature film, Down to the Bone. Snake Feed was a work of narrative fiction, with the main characters, real-life recovering addict Irene and her boyfriend Rick, playing dramatized versions of themselves. Down to the Bone was a fictionalised depiction of their struggles and further expanded on the original story.
She came to real prominence with 2010’s acclaimed Winter’s Bone, set in the Ozark mountains, which starred the then unknown Jennifer Lawrence whose career also took off because of her performance, in which she attempts to track down her missing drug-dealing father. Granik was nominated for the Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay Oscars for her efforts.
During the shooting of Winter’s Bone Granik met Ron Hall, who had a small role in the film and went on to make a documentary about him, Stray Dog, which is Hall’s nickname. The film documents PTSD sufferer and Counsellor Hall’s participation in an annual pilgrimage motorcycle ride called ‘Ride to the Wall’ where he and fellow biker Vietnam vets ride to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Leave No Trace appears to pull many of the themes Granik has previously explored together, touching on environment, dislocation, marginalisation and addiction. In promoting Leave No Trace she highlighted that amongst veterans opioid abuse is rife and statistically they are twice as likely to die from overdoses as non-veterans. “One of the solutions,” Granik said recently, “Was to heavily medicate people [With PTSD] – as if that could make it go away. You can’t just pill away injuries that go deep in someone. They don’t just stop those feelings from existing.”
Just under half the audience filled in and returned a Feedback form. All scores were from 3 to 5. There were 5 responses with a score of 3. All other comments had a 4 and 5 ranking with slightly more 4 scores than 5s. Comments from those giving a 3 score were, “wooden acting with little emotion shown…still pleased to have seen the film though”, “scenery was stunning but found the film a bit gloomy…” and “need a good car chase please”.
Comments from those that had given it a 4 ranking noted the very atmospheric forest scenery that formed much of the backdrop to what was seen as the entirely believable acting, especially by the lead actress playing the Veteran’s teenage daughter. As well, respondents were very much aware of the Father’s underlying mental health problems from the experience of his military service. Three feedback comments encapsulate all of these focuses, “Very watchable, pure and simple on the surface. Very complex and profound underneath”, “Gripping film. Superb filming of the scenery. Mesmerising performance by the girl. So sad to see the mental distress of the man”. “Great photography and insight into the mind of a wounded war veteran”.
These sentiments expressed in the paragraph above were echoed by those giving the film a 5 score. Many comments picked up on the deep emotions that both acting leads had attempted to portray, “Great acting – v[ery] thought provoking”, “…Few words , but not needed…Society at its worst and best”, “gentle/sad/intensive”. One comment summarised the raw emotion that ran like a leaven through the film but also picked upon the way things could change, if only (and perhaps, only), for the girl. “Very tenderly told story of a traumatised and loving father. Sunshine at the end suggested hope for Tom in departing from her father”.
Whitney – 10th September 2018
Monday 10th September, ODEON Cinema. Start time: 8:00 p.m.
Cert. 15, 122 mins. 2018.
Directed by: Kevin Macdonald
Starring: Whitney Houston, Bobby Brown, Bobbi Kristina Brown
‘A deeply sensitive portrait of a troubled singer’ – BFI
‘Deeply moving, truly tragic’ – Flickfilosopher.com
John Macdonald, the director of tonight’s film, already has a number of music-based documentaries under his belt but he’s also made other genre-defying titles such as Touching The Void (2003) which detailed a disastrous climbing expedition in the Andes and four years previous to that, One Day in September, about the terrorist attack at the Munich Olympics. Macdonald is arguably the man, who in this country at least, enabled the documentary to be seen as a viable genre for regular display on the cinema screen in recent times. His thorough research for One Day in September matched with brilliant editing and visual flair won him the Oscar for Best Documentary in 1999.
He also directed the film The Last King of Scotland which starred James McAvoy and Forest Whitaker who won the Best Actor Oscar for his role as Idi Amin.
Macdonald was apparently initially reluctant when approached by one of the producers of Whitney, amongst them a man named Simon Chinn, who was also a producer of Man on Wire, the film club’s first ever presentation 10 years ago. Once persuaded he soon found that Whitney’s family and friends were still very much bewildered by her death and that they believed her talent and life was being remembered for all of the wrong reasons.
He admits that he was never a fan but that’s what partially made it an interesting project for him to pursue. It was when he spoke to her former agent of 30 years, Nicole David, the original voice of Velma in the Scooby-Doo cartoons, who said that Houston had been her favourite client in all that time but she had never understood her that Macdonald’s curiosity was finally piqued.
Macdonald demanded the final cut ie. He would be allowed to edit and present the film as he wished. His first music documentary about Mick Jagger in 2001 ended up with Jagger taking editorial control himself and releasing something Macdonald hated.
In making Whitney, Macdonald ‘didn’t appreciate that a true portrait of such a big star would prove so slippery’. “People were not being fully truthful” he said in an interview, “I’ve never encountered so many people who gave me just a superficial PR [Public Relations] perspective on things.”
“I think a lot of people felt guilty – very few people were honest enough to say that. And actually, I’ve never known a bunch of interviewees more in denial.” His investigative instincts paid off however making discoveries with further, and honest, interviews right up until the film’s premiere in Cannes in May. “They [The family] were sensible enough to realize that was the way to help her,” said Macdonald, “There were a lot of family secrets, and if you don’t talk about them they don’t go away. Bringing it out into the open was restorative to them and her reputation.”
Just over one third of the audience returned and filled in a returned a Feedback form. All the scores were from 3 to 5 with about equal numbers for all rankings. In all the score rankings (predominantly in the 3s) there were comments that the documentary was too long, “A tragic story – bit too long”, “Too long – needs editing” and “I found the film disjointed and too long” are typical criticisms regarding its length.
There was a common thread regarding the depicted circumstances of Whitney Houston’s life, “sad”, “v. sad” “…rather harrowing” and “I am left feeling very sad. So much talent. What a rotten life” are some of the views expressed by these and many other respondents.
As a documentary film the work itself came in for much praise. Comments such as “insightful”, “A well documented film… An honest relay of life in the limelight” and “Fantastic! Excellent film in documentary style – tragic and wonderful in equal measure” illustrate the experience many had watching it. Indeed, the Director’s achievement in what they created and put on screen in this documentary is encapsulated in the feedback from one respondent (who scored it with a 3) and then commented, “Better than I expected + glad you made me see it for I would not have chosen it from a list. A sad tale”.