Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Carey Mulligan in "An Education"

One of the mysteries of contemporary British cinema is why we don't see more of Carey Mulligan in the big screen, in serious roles that actually require acting. She can act with every cell of her body. "An Education" is one of those films that proves that she has a promising career in front of her, although she may still fall on the side if she tries to be a "star".

Sunday, 1 November 2009


Beautiful and terrifying film; dreamlike and powerful; a mirror to our souls, not a slap on our faces. A flawed masterpiece.

However ghastly the vaginal mutilation and the impaling of the leg of "He" were, and they were, the real horror of "Antichrist" lays in the harrowing descent of the couple into an orgy of self-hatred and destruction, both psychological and physical, mediated by twisted power games and Hieronymus Bosch's imagery, delving at times into medieval myths. I thought that the dedication to Tarkovsky was gratuitous, as I suspect that this is not a film that the Russian would have liked to have dedicated to him. There are faults in this film; there were moments when I nearly fell asleep, on others I was busy picking up holes in the plot.

Was Von Trier suffering from acute depression when he wrote and shot this film? Probably he was, no well balanced mind would have come up with some of the imagery.

Was there a desire from Von Trier to shock us, Western viewers, frolicking into the material comfort of our lives... Perhaps "Antichrist" should have been dedicated to Haneke rather than to Tarkovsky.

The wandering hand held camera was extremely close to faces, bodies, and details of their immediate environment, involving us directly into the action, almost thrown into the midst of it; at times annoyingly so; at other times disturbingly close, when I instinctively recoiled into my seat, like seeking the embrace of its comfort, leaving a deep indent on it, feeling the spike going through "my" leg, feeling the scissors on "my" vagina (although I am not a woman), feeling the hands on "my" neck, feeling the existential horror they were going through.

There was no distance between the action and us, the viewers. The violence of this film has not been commodified; the violence of this film is not there to be consumed as entertainment; the violence of this film is contained in each of us, however deeply it may be buried under layer upon layer of social constraints and culture. This is a powerful film that moves between the reality of a disintegrating social micro-cosmos  and the world of dreams and myths, brutal at moments, but dreamlike. It lingers in the mind long after having watched it. I strongly recommend it (I'll get the DVD when it comes out).

Could this film be a cinematic essay on the inherent emptiness of the capitalist "Utopia"?

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

The state of foreign language films in Britain

"Andi Engel of Artificial eye is particularly critical of contemporary audience taste: 'The problem is not really to do with the actual number of films imported, but that those which are imported don't seem to be reaching audiences. When we started, we could bring in a film like Marguerite Duras' India Song and people would come to see it - not in vast numbers, I admit, but enough to cover our costs. If we showed a Duras film now, I'm convinced that many fewer people would come (...) People seem to have lost their curiosity about foreign films. Unless a film is really hyped by the press, what I call the Jean de Florette syndrome, they just don't want to know.'


Andi Engel is particularly scathing about the effects of what he sees as a critical bias towards Hollywood, perhaps encouraged by the way film studies have developed over the last twenty years. This is obviously most apparent in the popular press, though it also finds its critical and academic echo in other quarters. 'The term"art cinema" has become a dirty word to some people, something to be dismissed as bourgeois rubbish. Anything which is not genre cinema must be automatically bad-either it's entertaining or it's boring, there's nothing in between. It is not so much that people aren't interested in cinema, or prepared to take it seriously; it's that they are only interested in certain kinds of cinema and lack any cinematic curiosity. It's like going into a library and deciding you will only ever look at one part of it. It doesn't mean that you can't read; it means that you are not prepared to consider everything there is on offer, even out of curiosity. I find that attitude frightening.'"

What it is interesting in these quotations, apart from its content, is that they were written in 1989 (Sight & Sound - Autumn 1989).

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Almodóvar's "Broken Embraces"

Is "Broken Embraces" Almodóvar's nod to the cinema of Bergman, Spanish style?

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Is spirituality outside religion possible?

Is spirituality outside religion possible? The question arises after having watched, again after a 20 years interval, Tarkovsky's "The Sacrifice".

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Is there a future for arthouse cinema in Hull?

After the recent transfer of Hull Screen to Reel Cinemas, it looks like that purely commercial considerations will be the defining criteria for the programming of the cinema. Therefore all the gems that we used to enjoy are going to disappear from our city to be replaced basically by "arthouse blockbusters", if that definition were not an oxymoron. In other words, sub-titled blockbusters. yes, they may be very well made, excellent acting and cinematography. However, still blockbusters made to entertain. It is clear to me that the new Hull Screen fails the Tarkovsky test.

This also raises the question of what an arthouse film is?