Saturday 24 February 2018

The Subliminal Strand

Phantom Thread

One delight of a new Borderlines programme is the search for strands the team may not have known they had. A 'Phantom Thread’ if you like. It is usually a good idea to set a story in a time and place. A background of civil unrest or civil war forces each character’s personal credo into sharp relief; a milieu between the war movies and tales of the defiant dispossessed. Unlike The Death of Stalin (2017) here’s a place where people can represent competing political ideologies with only the occasional threat of sudden violent death. There’s a 'There’s a Riot Going On' season: Milou en Mai (1990; France 1968), I Still Hide to Smoke (2016, Algeria 1995), The Nile Hilton Incident (2017, Egypt’s Arab Spring 2011).

Borderlines 2018 boasts a rich seam for art lovers. Ai Weiwei is best known to occasional browsers of Sunday supplements as the artist behind the 'Sunflower Seeds' sculpture at Tate Modern, London, in 2010: millions of individually hand-crafted, porcelain, sunflower seeds. Weiwei directed Human Flow (2017), a documentary about the 65 million refugees currently displaced around the World. I predict, like Steve McQueen or Anton Corbijn before him, that the framing is impeccable.
Loving Vincent

There are two bio-pics of artists: Loving Vincent (2017, Vincent Van Gogh) is animated in his Post-Impressionist style. His paintings are brought to life. Find out what 'Sorrowing Old Man (At Eternity's Gate)' was really like! Maudie (2016, Maud Lewis) is a big favourite of Toyah Willcox: “I love films! I have an expensive DVD library! One of the joys of where I live is that I'm 50 yards away from an arts centre that shows a film every Monday morning. I was blown away by Maudie with Sally Hawkins. It's about the naive artist Maud Lewis. Sally Hawkins’ performance in this is one of the best technical character journeys I have ever seen.” The Guardian
JR and Agnes Varda in Faces Places

Sally Hawkins’s last four movies are Paddington (2014), Maudie (2016), The Shape of Water (2017), Paddington 2 (2017). That is strong form. They all feature plenty of water. Agnès Varda’s latest documentary Faces Places (2017) was made with the artist JR. They are a good fit. He photographs the people they meet on their travels around France and turns these images into murals. His approach brings to mind Turner Prize winner Gillian Wearing’s 'Signs That Say What You Want Them to Say and Not Signs That Say What Someone Else Wants You to Say' (1993) on the scale of Turner Prize nominee Mark Titchner’s poster campaigns. Having found JR’s website –  – I’m reasonably wrong. His humour is much sillier. This is what JR displayed on a wall in Bethlehem.
The Nile Hilton Incident

Followers of Swedish cinema should note the five Ingmar Bergman films and three other Swedish directors. Look out for the acclaimed thriller The Nile Hilton Incident and the very enjoyable comedy A Man Called Ove (2017). Give the latter a go if you enjoy a swooping character arc but couldn’t stomach Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017). Borderlines 2018 opens with Ruben Östlund’s Palme d’Or winning The Square (2017), a study of ‘the art game’. Östlund’s previous film - Force Majeure (2014), an account of a family holiday at a ski resort that reveals a stark home truth - looked good and was good. The design left no shadows for the disgraced father to hide in.
The Square

The Square
 is a big favourite of Laurie Anderson: “There are not enough comedies now, so I was relieved to see this. It’s hilarious. It skewers the art world, which is long overdue: that whole scene is pompous and ready for satire. The film looks at what happens when people step out of their social structures in Stockholm, and it makes you realise how isolated people are within their scenes. Elisabeth Moss is fantastic in it.” The Guardian

I only pay attention to the film recommendations of female solo artists who had big hit singles during 1981. It has never let me down.

Robin Clarke
Festival Volunteer

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