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Monday 14 January 2013

Welcome into the world of film

Dickson Greeting (1891), directed by William K.L. Dickson

Judging from his body language, Dickson is clearly performing for the camera, aware of the effect this might have over the spectator. It is just then to assume that the greeting into the world of motion pictures was fully intended by the filmmaker.

Thursday 25 October 2012

Media ownership is the wrong target

Shadows of Liberty, directed by Jean Philippe Tremblay (2012)

All the examples provided are cause for concern, but not necessarily always for the reasons given. The film tries to bundle them together as being caused by media ownership concentrated in the hands of a few conglomerates, but it can’t do that neatly.

Monday 9 April 2012

‘They’ll expect everyone to work as hard as they do.’

China: Triumph and Turmoil, Channel 4 television, March 2012

Ferguson’s familiar political agenda of ‘free market, strong state’ dovetails nicely with his rather static view of political culture as the determinant of Chinese society-state relations. And yet a moment’s reflection on the arguments he presents over the course of this series reveals just how unnecessarily confined are the horizons of this historian’s gaze when he looks to the future.

Saturday 4 February 2012

A knowing bow

The Emperor Jones, directed by Dudley Murphy (1933)

The Emperor Jones is not a great film, and its source play is not a great work of drama, but both are important, and both have small moments of greatness - in the film’s case, mainly through the titanic presence of Robeson subverting some of the well-intended, but ultimately destructive, tendencies of O’Neill’s character portrayal.

Friday 20 January 2012

The Master Storyteller

Almodóvar on Almodóvar, by Pedro Almodóvar and Frederic Strauss (Faber and Faber 2006)

Throughout this collection of interviews, which took place of a series of months, Almodóvar exudes a well balanced streak of eccentricity, coupled with a sense of professionalism that is rooted in formality and devotion to his work. He explains in-depth the many disparate influences which inspired his earliest films, from Marlene Dietrich and Marilyn Monroe to the varied iconography of popular culture.

Saturday 14 January 2012

Struggles with abstraction

Symphony, BBC4

If we subscribe to the belief that the symphony is the ultimate symbol of classical music generally, the highest, purest classical form, it follows pretty quickly that the best of classical music is firmly confined to the past. Pushing so hard to expand the cultural reach of mainstream symphonic tradition is ultimately a deeply conservative thing to do.

Paul Kilbey in • FilmMusic
Friday 2 December 2011

Far from decorous

Wuthering Heights, directed by Andrea Arnold (2011)

Instead of a conscience Catherine and Heathcliff have instinct. They are not overthrown by passion, there is nothing so transcendent as that. What they are to each other is a matter of survival, it is hell without the glamour. Their play is mixed with violence and their tenderness touches on savagery. There is no drama to their desire.

David Birch in • Film
Friday 11 November 2011

Politics without condescension

Amen., directed by Costa-Gavras (2005)

The word ‘amen’ is the ending to most prayers, and in its original meaning, in Hebrew, it means ‘as it goes’ or ‘so be it’. The fact that the title also includes the definitive period sets up the tension of the film, which follows the lives of two non-Jewish men in Germany, who try to subvert the Nazi death camp machine. But, as in most little man vs. faceless corporation tales, the two little men are crushed.

Thursday 3 November 2011

Oddly calm and plodding

Contagion, directed by Steven Soderbergh (2011)

Some of the issues Krumwiede raises have real validity. As the Indonesian controversy suggests, the WHO and big pharma really are – as he puts it – like ‘a hand in a glove’; global health governance is big business and that profoundly shapes how it works and how the benefits are distributed. Yet the relevance and import of this point are profoundly discredited by wild conspiracy-theorising.

Lee Jones in • Film
Friday 28 October 2011

For unfussy intelligence

Great Thinkers: In Their Own Words, BBC Four, August 2011

In fact, the overall atmosphere in footage shown throughout the series is noticeably unburdened compared with today. The unfussy intelligence and well-meaning conviction is compelling.

Friday 23 September 2011

Being cross with Trump

You’ve been Trumped, directed by Anthony Baxter (2011), screened at the Frontline Club, London, 12 August 2011

It is this very film that acts as David’s actual slingshot, in giving the pebble missile-like strength that might topple Goliath. It is only now that the authorities are sitting up and questioning their own actions. Only right now, when the film has won many awards, and they have seen this film. It was recently, just a few days ago, shown to Scottish Ministers and Alex Salmond.

Saturday 10 September 2011

Relocating to the Man Cave

A new genre of mainstream film dramatises young men’s retreat from the public spere

The characters and settings of the Man Cave films are grotesque caricatures, and the dudebro is, in reality, a tendency rather than an actual person. But the driving force behind the stories — the retreat from public life, the elevation of the domestic, and the use of a stunted emotional development for the forging of brotherhood — are all genuine features of contemporary society.

Wednesday 31 August 2011

One of a kind

General Idi Amin Dada: Autoportrait, directed by Barbet Schroeder (1974)

When the film premiered, it was actually taken as a comedy, and Amin was furious, and threatened to kill all French citizens living in Uganda unless Schroeder cut requested parts. Schroeder did, but restored the film once Amin went into exile. The whole project was apparently Amin’s idea - a sort of vanity hagiography because he felt he was not respected in the West.

Thursday 30 June 2011

Nature and nurture, then and now

Project Nim, directed by James Marsh (2011) / L’Enfant Sauvage, directed by Francois Truffaut (1970)

Though the film, with 21st century eyes, is critical of confusing chimpanzee nature with human nature because of its adverse effects on Nim’s happiness, it does not entirely reject the basis of the failed experiment. As well as criticising human willingness to treat animals as experimental subjects, Project Nim draws implicit parallels between Nim’s behaviour and that of the humans studying him.

Friday 17 June 2011

A single sensation

A Single Man, directed by Tom Ford (2010)

With Ford being atavistically fashion conscious, it was perhaps inevitable that his ostentatious influence would engulf the design, and so it does to great effect, though not letting it degenerate into a glossy self-aggrandizing vanity film.

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