Sunday, 28 October 2012

He's a Fake!

The Ecstasy of Angels was made in the midst of the radical Sixties.  Its last scene, a classic, is of a blind man walking through the streets of Tokyo with a bomb in his bag.  He is going to commit a meaningless, literally directionless, act of terrorism that has no purpose beyond itself.  Even now, months after watching it, I am unsure if that last scene is the director’s judgement on his characters, or if it arose naturally out of the action; this final craziness an organic growth, arising from the obsessions and intense group interplay that dominate just about every moment in the film.  A film that is about a particular kind of power: one that operates inside tiny fissiparous sects, with their constant struggle to maintain loyalty under the ever-present threat of factional splits and ideological condemnation.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Perfect Day

The culture of Victorian Britain didn’t collapse on the death of its queen.  Although under strain before she died, its spirit creaking under the accumulated weight of its years, most of its mores and social structures continued long after the funeral; like the Matriarch herself they lived well into their dotage.  Many remained at least until the 1960s, when “The Establishment”, as it was then called, was fatally undermined; the defeat of Sir Douglas-Home in the ’64 election the symbolic if not actual end of the old order.  As a symbol the Queen’s death carries enormous force, but Victorian Britain was not the Soviet Union; it didn’t collapse in a day, or even a decade; it took much much longer to fall to pieces.  Even in the 1980s nostalgia for that great century still lingered in the political atmosphere, like musty perfume in a country house abandoned by its owners.  Indeed, if you looked hard enough you could still find the odd aristocrat left behind in the attic bedrooms...

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Mad Fools

Those who love and those who hate the powerful are often blind to their absurdity.  It is only later, when they are in embalmed inside history, that we appreciate just how silly some of these characters really are: Hitler, Reagan, Thatcher and Blair recent examples of the pathological idiocy of which leaders are capable.i  Each one delusional, and yet all had their worshippers and disciples, and haters too, their oddity part of the attraction; for it requires a leap of faith to overcome our common sense suspicions about the eccentric and strange so as to believe in their extreme even bizarre messages.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Which Way To Go...

My friend had his doubts, his seat could hardly hold him, so desperate was he to leave at times, uncomfortable with a film he no longer wanted to see, reluctant to even watch; the force of his dislike infecting the neighbouring seats, spreading a ripple of unease through the audience; unsure now of their response they try to remember the reviews, looking for guidance in a landscape suddenly awkward and strange…

Mine started as we entered the cinema.  The film had won prizes, including one at the Sundance Festival.  A sign, I thought, of a particular kind of movie; of a genre almost in its own right: the “independent” film.  The genre is a fusion of the art movie (that is, a serious exploration of a subject) with entertainment; and is a return to the Hollywood of the 1950s with its literate and well-produced films, though these works often have oddball characters and weird scenarios, which are nevertheless similarly compromised by the need to be popular – they are usually professionally and expensively made, which requires a large audience to pay for it (this film in places was very beautifully shot, and its overall feel is much more finished than for example the Nouvelle Vague of the 1960s).  This compromise can result in the complex and ambiguous being made too simple and clear-cut, while the action can be forced into a too obvious narrative, or a crudely upbeat ending, which resolves the piece much too comfortably; thus allowing the audience to leave the movie house with a relatively straightforward idea, and a general sense of contentment (they are not left feeling confused or ignorant, a guarantee of commercial failure).i   

I know, this is a prejudice of mine, based on limited evidence.  However, this is what I thought as I walked down the steps and negotiated my way between the cinema’s seats.  Was I wrong?

Friday, 5 October 2012

A Lion Caged in the Alhambra

Nature traps the genius into a prison,
and piques to the utmost
his desire to free himself
(Friedrich Nietzsche)

His world a prison,
A fine old piece
Built just for him
By a great craftsman
With a key only he could use.

But something went wrong,
With his upbringing?
We surmise, we amateurs,
And he never found the lock
This key would fit.

So he sits now alone
A sage in a palace of fools
With no way out
To create new worlds
With forms that have yet to exist.