Saturday, 14 March 2015


Black Coal, Thin Ice

The Chinese thriller Black Coal, Thin Ice was a huge pleasure, not least for its droll characters and off-key humour.  I did however find the plot hard to follow in places.  I said so to Sue, my wife.   She said “That’s because you nodded off at a couple of key turning points.  The fatal third glass of wine at the Courtyard bar…”

She was right, of course. She set me wondering about the states of mind and body of cinema-goers, and most of all critics.  How many in the audience for Black Coal, Thin Ice had my impediment that night?   A few I’d guess, on over-hearing conversations on the way out: “I kept muddling two of the characters.  One of them had a moustache, that’s the only way I could tell them apart.”  (Sue: “Absurd.”)

I am convinced that many critics especially have their judgements affected by the places they view (small Soho viewing theatres) and their sobriety. Mostly, they watch in the morning or afternoon.  I can only see this as the explanation for the five stars that The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw gave to Inherent Vice.   The same marks were given by The Telegraph critic, perhaps exploiting the free time given him for not-reporting the HSBC scandal.  They have  first-thing-in-the-morning, ice-cold brains, with their mental dials turned to Maximum Concentration.

Inherent Vice
When I saw Inherent Vice, I thought someone must have slipped a Mickey Finn into my drink.  I hadn’t a clue what was going on, what on earth Joaquin Phoenix was doing.   I was relieved to learn that the film has been dubbed “The Walk-Out, Mustn’t See” film of the year and to read that novelist Philip Henscher tweeted in the middle of it: “I think I must have had a stroke.”

But I may be wrong.  Fellow Borderlines board member Richard Heatly told me he rather enjoyed it, though he did intimate his wife Ingrid was of the Mustn’t See persuasion and had legged it from the Courtyard.

A very good old friend, the writer Richard Boston, always made sure he had several drinks on board before going to a film.  I once went with him to see Clint Eastwood’s great Western The Unforgiven.  For the first ten minutes he complained loudly that he couldn’t understand the accents.  “Why can’t they speak the Queen’s English?” he said.  I hissed “Because it is set in 1880s California.”  “Shut up, the pair of you” said a man in the row in front.

Richard then went into a deep slumber for more than an hour and a half, only to be jerked awake by the deafening, climatic shoot-out.  He said as we left the Gate cinema  he said: “I think that was the worst film I have ever seen.”

Richard is now watching his movies in the great multiplex in the sky.  I am sure I have heard him shouting :“St Peter, turn up the sound.  I can’t understand a word they’re saying. What is it  - Yiddish?”

There have been some fine movies in this year’s Borderlines festival.   My best film: Whiplash. Best Actor: Steve Carell in Foxcatcher, though closely pursued by David Oyelowo in Selma.

Still Life
My most deeply felt experience, though came in Uberto Pasolini’s Still Life.  Just mesmerising.   And I had had three glasses of wine.

Jeremy Bugler
Board Member

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