Thursday 21 March 2013

Festival showers and a bicycle competition

Somewhere towards the middle of Borderlines 2013 I couldn't help noticing that all three films I'd seen in a row featured a significant shower. As I'm sure, I've remarked before, for me, the way coincidence (sometimes deliberate programming, but more often sheer coincidence ) throws movies together in the most unexpected, often trivial ways is one of the deepest pleasures of film festivals.

First of all there was the potential Italian father-in-law in Woody Allen's To Rome With Love. Given the glorious free rein of his shower room, Giancarlo, played by real life tenor Fabio Armiliato, has a operatic voice to die for.
Outside that comfort zone, nerves get the better of him so the character played by Allen, an outré opera impresario, carries through the delightfully silly 'avant-garde' notion of casting him in Pagliacci, boxed in the armour of a built-in shower cubicle.

Quite a contrast in tone the next day, as I watched the grim Post Mortem and noted that the key event, a brutal government raid on the home of his girlfriend Nancy, takes place as mortuary assistant Mario showers. It's an attack that leaves the house wrecked and charred but Mario seems as clueless and cut-off from the political mayhem surrounding him in Pinochet's Chile as he is oblivious in his shower cubicle to the noisy and violent upheaval taking place just across the street.

Day three and the shower scene to end all shower scenes, Psycho of course. Hitchcock catches us and his main character unawares, unwinding after a day of flight, deep anxiety and moral tension under the soothing rays of a penetrating warm shower.

After that, I couldn't help seeing showers everywhere from the spectacular blood waterfalls that accompanied every initiation of a new vampire in Neil Jordan's Byzantium to Philip Seymour Hoffman as second violinist Robert in A Late Quartet attempting to hose off a raunchy infidelity and weeping in the shower at the enormity of the marital and professional betrayal he has just committed.

It got to the stage that I could count on the fingers of one hand the films that didn't feature a significant shower scene. Or any shower scene at all.

In the spirit of a different coincidence - bicycles - you might like to have a go at our Bicycle Thieves competition. Identify the titles of the four films we showed at Borderlines 2013 that prominently featured bicycles.

Email your answers by midnight, tomorrow Friday 22 March for a chance to win a copy of the Bicycle Thieves DVD, courtesy of our long-term sponsor, MovieMail.

Wednesday 13 March 2013

More on The Hunt

‘The Audience Recommend[ed] . . .’ The Hunt this year, though not many of them came to see it shown again on Tuesday evening at the Courtyard. Maybe they’d already seen it. A shame, because it was one of the most powerful and thought provoking films I’ve seen in the festival or for a long while for that matter, and it dealt in a very economical, finely paced but strongly affecting way with a hugely relevant and important issue – the rush to judgment on highly charged issues such as child abuse. It was set in a small community, but the urgency with which lifelong friends embrace an almost chance suggestion is eerily familiar to some current media reporting. Strong stuff, beautifully made – unfortunately marred by the effect of a digital disc that defaulted to the ‘long thin format with no subtitles’ beloved of everyone’s home DVD player at a critical moment as the hostility erupted into open violence. Not what you want, but a great film nonetheless.
Richard Heatly

Tuesday 12 March 2013

Tony Manero provokes strong reactions

On Sunday night I saw Tony Manero. There are ‘feel-good’ movies and . . . this is not one of them. It’s powerful, gritty and gripping but undeniably sleazy, dank and even clammy in its effect. I felt quite soiled by watching it even while being held with a kind of fascinated distaste. I have seen it described as a comedy, but there weren’t many laughs from me or the – admittedly sparse – audience at the Courtyard. The main character is played with a haggard intensity by Alfredo Castro, whose reptilian attempts to win a talent show impersonating John Travolta’s character in Saturday Night Fever are only marginally more repellent than the rest of a cast of characters drawn into the world of deceit, betrayal and violence that was Pinochet’s Chile. As a commentary on the tawdriness and corruption of a totalitarian regime, and the cheap dreams of a post-imperialist America which are shown as deeply implicated in the hollowing out of the culture and identity of the place, the film is strong stuff. As entertainment though, it wasn’t a great deal of fun!    

Richard Heatly

Anyone looking for an antidote to the 'cosy and predictable' sentimentality of Quartet (see RinkyDinks blog of 7 March) should have joined us on Sunday afternoon for Tony Manero.  Challenging and uncomfortable to put it mildly, this film led to much discussion in the bar afterwards.  Perhaps the '18' rating and the brochure description of 'a dissection of Chilean society under Pinochet' should have prepared us for the miserable monomania and the series of brutal, sociopathic acts which we glimpsed through our fingers as we covered our faces with our hands.  "Why is such a film necessary?" we asked ourselves as we nursed our hot chocolates afterwards and considered scaling up to gin to aid our recovery from the experience.  "What did it all mean?"  Maybe those of us who joined Amnesty in the 1970s and marched against fascism instead of watching Saturday Night Fever and saving our Saturday job wages to buy white suits or disco dresses have part of an answer.  I won't pretend to understand it all but as the experience haunts me I am glad that I saw this and I am reminded that films like this - and cultural fixtures like Borderlines to show them - are necessary.

Deb Summerfield

Sunday 10 March 2013

The Hunt, Zero Dark Thirty and Chasing Ice

Good to see that The Hunt is the film most critically admired by Borderlines audiences (so far). Couldn’t have happened to a better movie. Mads Mikkelsen’s performance is riveting - most of all in the scene when he comes to church for the Christmas service, into the heart of the community that has judged him hastily and unjustly on a hearsay of paedophilia. The village – and close friends – leap to a conclusion and seem most secure in not changing their minds - perhaps because paedophilia ranks so highly (and deservedly) among our social ills today.

I find myself reflecting on the power of rumour and hasty judgement. Take Lord Rennard, for instance, the Lib Dem boss accused of groping women in his office. At least one of his alleged victims has been on television, soberly relating of his wandering hands. It doesn’t look good for Lord Rennard. However, one has to pull back and say that these are only accusations, that there is no proven evidence of assaults as yet, and Lord Rennard strenuously denies that he has done anything wrong. Surely, before anything else is said or written, people ought to wait for the results of a proper inquiry? Instead, there’s an enormous amount of leaping to judgement. With some exceptions, I myself have found very few among friends prepared to give the noble Lord the benefit of the doubt. The Lib Dems seem to have lost their heads, setting up anti-groping ginger groups everywhere. The Hunt tells of the dangers of this approach.

I will be interested to see how Zero Dark Thirty goes down with festival audiences. Katherine Bigelow’s new movie concerns events before and including the capture of Bin Laden. A few critics, such as Deborah Orr in the Guardian (but very much not Peter Bradshaw), think it an artistic achievement. In America, its implicit assertion that torture helped to capture Bin Laden has made it something of a filmic pariah. In the Oscars, academy voters shunned it, giving it only a half-share of an award for sound-editing. Demonstrators in orange Guantanamo jump-suits protested at openings. Into which voting box will Festival viewers put their tickets?

Went to Chasing Ice on Thursday - the film every climate change sceptic ought to see. Impressive large audience for an afternoon screening. Decided to send a DVD of the movie to Owen Patterson, the climate change sceptic who extraordinarily is secretary of state for the environment. If he watches it, he will change his mind. Surely.

Jeremy Bugler

Friday 8 March 2013

Tune For the Blood director previews Bullhead

When I sat down to watch Bullhead, I was expecting something different. I thought it was going to be a crime thriller about hormone use in cattle in Flanders, a tale of bad men contaminating meat with hormones - quite topical given the recent horsemeat scandals. I thought it might be a film that would play well at a rural film festival. However, I don’t think the local farming community will be flocking to see this one.

Yes, it has a rural setting – it takes place in Belgium where the local Flemish farming community is heavily involved in building up their Belgian Blue cattle with illegal drugs, while the ‘hormone mafia’ carve out their power bases. And one strand of the film involves an undercover police investigation of the Flemish hormone mafia, but by far the most interesting and powerful story is the heartbreaking unravelling of Jacky, a beef farmer - played by Rust and Bone's Matthias Schoenaerts - who cannot escape the man he has become. Like the animals he tends, he injects himself with hormones. The emotional power of the film pulses along a current that runs between the adult Jacky and the child he was when subjected to a random act of violence, which is depicted in a scene of gut churning brutishness.

The brilliance of Bullhead is in the way that almost every frame of the film is tense with the pumped up muscularity of Jacky’s adult being. The flat grey fields, muddy tracks, and lowering skies are troubled, brooding and wary. Even the tonal range of the image is held in check, kept tight, so that when I remember the film, I almost remember it in black and white. The sound track is spare, attenuated.

In one scene, where Jacky hastily snatches a fancy, boxed eau de cologne to buy at the end of an exchange at a cosmetics counter, it stands out as moment of achingly awkward tenderness in the hulking rawness of the film, and that tenderness is felt only once again, when Jacky checks on a new born calf that has been lowered into a wheelbarrow. They are the moments that remind us, along with the haunting final images of the 10 year old boy he was, that deep within the sinews that bind his brutish, hormone built world together, is a vulnerable, fragile being, whose loss is what makes this such a painful but powerful film.

Bullhead is not an easy film to watch, and the police story and the Jacky story don’t quite mesh together, but this bruising film is really worth seeing. Just don’t expect Countryfile.

Thursday 7 March 2013

Quartet: Sentimental Tosh?

...but I enjoy a bit of sentimental tosh, and Quartet delivers it in spades. Quartet is sentimental in the way that The Well-digger's Daughter (2012 festival) was romantic. Nobody walking into the cinema could have expected anything else. I find it difficult to see how sentiment could have been avoided - perhaps the odd 'go easy on the poignancy, Dustin' would not have gone amiss. It's easy to criticise the inevitable glamorising. They appeared to be living in a country I recognised but in a climate I didn't; each day a perfect summer / autumnal backdrop.

The inhabitants of the home were also unlike any old peoples' home I've ever visited. Most of them appeared capable of a full shift at Tesco, and Tom Courtney looked as though he could audition for the part of a long distant runner. The only casualty waved happily from his stretcher as he was ambulanced off. But this is nit-picking. Cinema has in the past tended to ignore the greying audience. But now the baby boomers are noisily demanding films which portray the ageing process with sympathy and dignity. Watching the actors who are our contemporaries grow old and wrinkled and yet having lost none of their power is profoundly cheering to an audience struggling with dodgy knees and wonky bladders. Quartet is cosy and predictable. It's not challenging and it's not Amour, but the audience of around three hundred did not emerge blinking into the Courtyard glitter demanding more blood, gore and misery.

Herefordshire's @agaqueen previews Jiro Dreams of Sushi

The thought of watching Jiro Dreams of Sushi made me hungry.  The fact that I was to watch it my kitchen, in front of my Aga made the hunger pangs even worse!  So I decided to create my own homage to sushi!  Oh how wrong was I!  How or why on earth did I think I could even begin to compete!

True sushi is a work of art and Jiro is the master.  I loved the sensual way he stroked the sushi as the fish was formed in the palm of his hand to be placed gently before the diner.  I was surprised at the speed in which the diner took up the sushi with his chop sticks, devouring it in one mouthful.  I was surprised at the size of the mouthful! Then I learned the ever observant Jiro will make his sushi smaller for women and even serves it on the left or right having noticed the diners’ right/left-handedness! Now that is customer care!

Loved the bit where back-pack-man is told in no uncertain words there is no brochure and bookings are mandatory!  This unprepossessing restaurant lies in a basement next to a Tokyo subway station and its clients make pilgrimages from all over the world.  Bookings stretch months in advance.  With three Michelin stars, this is no back-street caff!

The film takes the viewer into the intimate kitchen where apprentice chefs will work for ten years before earning the accolade of “sushi chef” from 85 year old Jiro.  His older son worries he’ll never be worthy of his Father’s total approval in the world of sushi.  A chef can take years just learning to cook rice and oh what special rice is that.  Wait for the funny bit with the rice-dealer who refuses to sell to a local Tokyo hotel the same rice as Jiro uses on the grounds that it wouldn’t be cooked correctly.

The visit to the bustling fish market is noisy and boisterous much as markets are the world over.  Close your eyes during the tuna auction and you could be at Knighton sheep sales!  I mourned with Jiro as he spoke of the disappearance of quality fish. The over-fishing.  It takes 10 years for a tuna to reach 10 kg.  Net fishing and bottom trawling catch everything including the small and the immature.

Do enjoy the music playing in the background throughout the film……….

Conveyor belt sushi will never be the same again and whatever you do, don’t do what I did and try this at home thinking that in some way you could emulate Jiro! My only mitigation is that true to myself, I used local, seasonal, fresh ingredients: steamed cabbage leaves stuffed with organic UK spelt grain, parsnip and carrot with lots of fresh chopped herbs from the garden!

Carolyn Chesshire

Sunday 3 March 2013

Caption Competition Winners

Congratulations to the two winners of our competition.

 Rhowan Alleyne on with "Thumbs on seats"

And Ethel Aardvark @AarvarkEthel with
"If you can't beat the rain, use a coracle"

We'll get your 3 DVD to you as soon as possible!