Sunday 16 March 2014

A Festival Diary - Wednesday 12 March 2014

Wednesday 12 March 2014
Nobody Knows / Dallas Buyers Club / Exhibition

Nobody Knows
Last week I watched a lot of films about doomed people and sudden death but nothing is more terrifying than watching children left to fend for themselves. I was keen to find out why David Sin had programmed a brief Kore-eda Hirokazu season during Borderlines. In Tokyo a mother, flaky in any culture, makes her 12-year old son the head of the household in Nobody Knows. At this point memories emerged of The Cement Garden, Lord of the Flies and an Italian movie about abandoned children I saw during the early 1990s. Thankfully, the director has his own film to make. He maps out their slide extremely well. We know they can look after themselves because we’re shown they can. That’s not the issue. They cannot keep it up without money.

The soundtrack contains sweet tunes by Gontiti, cello and guitars, very similar to the music the Nottingham band Tindersticks supply for Clare Denis films. It heralds the scenes where children can behave like children and the audience are allowed to relax for a few moments. It’s a director’s pact: nothing bad is going to happen whilst they’re playing. The clutter includes the Othello board game, an indigenous game renamed and imported back to Japan. The film was based on a true story. It demonstrates that when we catch a glimpse of children doing the work of their parents it is simple for us to assume that they’re pretending. Following Le Jour se Lève, it was a bad Borderlines week for teddy bears.

Dallas Buyers Club
Since I booked my ticket for Dallas Buyers Club it’s won a brace of Oscars. Sadly, I told everyone that The Act of Killing was a dead cert for Best Documentary, instead. DBC was a very good film at the time I was watching it. Like “Capote it faded the following day. There are elements of Lorenzo’s Oil [finding a cure] and Erin Brockovich [battling bureaucracy], any number of odd couple movies [the relationship between the Best Actors, leading and supporting, provides more laughs than most comedies], any number of movies where the actors’ bodies are a special effect, a few 1970s Jack Nicholson blue-collar classics [Matthew McConaughey plays an electrician, rodeo rider and hustler] and Kiss of the Spider Woman [Jared Leto rocks that look]. Leto, whose acting has been limited to pop videos for his band 30 Seconds to Mars (Goth/rock) for the past 6 years, like everyone else, does great. Thankfully, despite it being set in the late 1980s, theme park set dressing is at a minimum. There’s one huge mobile phone. Ron Woodruff was diagnosed with HIV and it developed into business.

After five consecutive films regarding some form of death sentence I was more than ready for Exhibition, an art film about a North London couple and their lovely house. During a rare excursion the female lead walks past the Richard Young Gallery in Kensington Church Street. This world is as alien to me as all of the others I’ve seen today. Viv Albertine, guitarist in the all-female power-trio The Slits three decades ago, plays a performance artist. As the old joke has it, you will see several new sides to her in this movie. Liam Gillick plays her partner (I doubt they’re married) and the architect who designed their modernist dwelling. The house – the architect was James Melvin; it was built in 1969 – is the third member of the cast. I watched Elena at Borderlines last year: another film starring husband, wife and the fate of their big, expensive apartment.
Viv Albertine in Exhibition
He wants to sell it – it must be worth well over a million pounds – in order to build a new home / fund his next project. She likes it there. They negotiate matters in a manner only long-established couples can: curious dysfunctional sex and gentle bickering. Given that North London, art and wealth provide ample material for several long-running cartoon strips in Private Eye the director Joanna Hogg does well to keep to her own humour. This film expands after viewing. There’s a good piece about it at

Some viewers found the characters’ level of capital impossible to get past. Do they have the same problem with costume dramas? Isn’t it bogus when a film conjures up a nice reason for their characters to be able to afford the nice interiors? We’re asked to accept that they are near the peak of their professions. I can go with that. It’s at the heart of one of their small arguments. Why would a performance artist, or anyone at Dr. or Prof. level in their work, want to bounce ideas off someone with a Sunday supplement grasp of it? Not even when they’ve lived together for a couple of decades.

There’s a sense that the house is a surrogate child. The building is not perfect: it demands regular attention. They work in separate offices (with intercoms) and can hear every sound the other makes. Given her fears about the streets outside their home is a castle too. A lot of these films have a grim ending and this is no exception. A family with three small children move in. They’ve left their shoes on and one of the boys is kicking a football about indoors.

Robin Clarke (Festival volunteer)

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