Monthly Archives: October 2012

  • Beyond The Hills (Dupa Dealuri) Christian Mungiu (Romania 2012)

    Beyond the
    Hills (Dupa
    Dealuri) Christian Mungiu (Romania
    2012) Valeriu Niculescu; Comina
    Stratan; Christina Fluture

    viewed: NYFF Ticket:

    Not dug into the Hills…

    Beyond the Hills (BH) looks like and is written and acted like a TV movie. I didn’t see Christian Mungiu’s (CM) feature Four months three weeks two days, but looking at BH he does not seem to me to count amongst the innovative distinctive group of filmmakers who have emerged out of Romamia in the past decade.

    BH is set in a rural Orthodox community of nuns who are led by an priest. Its driving narrative mechanism invokes Alina’s search for reaching for an old friendship within the parallel world of a religious space. BH presents as a movie that is uncertain of itself, or its theme and this uncertainty is most of all communicated in the way in which it has been produced and shot.

    BH is a laboriously played out drama that attempts to adopt some of the outer signing of filmic signification, but in this signing it simply lacks, significance. For example CM’s deployment of long hand held tracking shots and cinematic ploys such as focusing his camera’s attention onto the details of the set or the setting. As if such gestures could in themselves be enough to substantiate a claim that we are watching a film rather than a TV movie. BH flaunts some of the outer appurtenances of filmic technique, but lacks understanding of how they might actually work as part of the movie.

    There is a problem with the long tracking shots, such as the one in the opening sequence in which the steadicam follows Alina as she walks beside the length of a train at the station, to find Vouhita. All that is indicated here in this long shot, is a laborious durational literalism. It does not invoke a transposable relational structural idea that might inherently link the shot to core theme of the script which which is a certain type of ‘seeking out’. Perhaps the shot would have worked better if Alina had been filmed walking into the steadycam. A recurrent weakness of BH is that a heavy handed sort of literalism characterises most of the long duration shots. A literalism that leads nowhere. The camera that can record everything but reveal nothing. The long shots, devoid of any filmic thesis or inherent tension only add duration to the material, ( the film is 2 ½ hours long) and contribute nothing in substance to the film’s core ideas: neither the quest for unequivocal friendship; nor contribute anything the audience’s understanding of the unfolding of events.

    CM’s directorial handling if BH raises questions as to how the technical and cinematographic structuring elements of a movie relate to its filmic theme or subject.

    For instance in a recent film, Once upon a time in Anatolia by Nuri Ceylan, the theme, and the narrative revolve round the idea of ‘uncovering’, an uncovering at different levels; both physically in the form of a body, and psychically in the musings and fears in the minds of the protagonists. In the long night of the first section of the film, the long takes have the effect drawing the audience into the nature of searching for things in the darkness; of a groping towards and of an uncertainty in the characters, the which mood lies at the heart of the film. The way the film is shot, including the long shot of the girl serving tea to the searchers by oil lamp, is grounded within the film’s core. The setting, the use of illumination as an the idea that little can actually be seen, and the shot duration, are intrinsic to the film’s unfolding, the nature of the manifestation of light let into obscurity..

    Those film makers who are certain of what they are doing, contemporary film makers such as Ceylan, Porumboiu, von Trier, Haneka, the themes and structure of their films are grounded in the way in which they are designed shot and edited. So lighting and sound designs the nature of the originating medium, the way the film is shot are all intrinsic to the theme of their material.

    What seems to happen is that more derivative film makers admire some of the affects arising out of grounded movies, perhaps mistaking them for stylistic gloss, and adapt ideas or borrow these production and filmic affects for their own purposes. In effect they graft onto their material technical and production solutions without understanding exactly how they actually work as grounded signifiers.

    I believe that CM in BH has mistaken simple duration of shot as an affect that can transpose the idea of the search for meaning. In fact other shooting techniques in relation to intensity and quest, might have worked better. In this case the HD origination of the material was also counterproductive; visually also presenting a literalist image rather than the softer more inchoate yearnings for an uncompromised relations.

    Even on its own terms as a plodding narrative I did not find BH convincing. My festival companion at the movie was Ana Marton, who had seen CM’s ‘Four months…’. She felt that the critical relation in BH the friendship or ex friendship Alina and Vouhita had been written and depicted by a writer who knew little about woman’s friendships. The friendship as depicted in BH seemed designed to express conformity with the demands of the script rather than authentic movement of two vulnerable women. The two actresses seemed to have been given personality instructions by CM and then had to keep to that character profile, to do as they were told. The result is two mono dimensional performances that hardly seem to register the one to the other, as if each actress were isolated from the other in a sort of character bubble. I do wonder how the ‘jury’ at Cannes arrived at the decision to give both actresses the Palme d’ Or’ for these perfomrances? I don’t get it. Adrin Neatrour

  • Charlie Is My Darling Peter Whitehead (Uk 1965) Doc – The Rolling Stones

    Charlie is my Darling
    Peter Whitehead (UK 1965) Doc – The Rolling Stones


    The Rolling Stones Charlie is my Darling Peter Whitehead (UK
    1965;) and Mick Gochanour (USA 2012)

    Viewed: New York Film Festival 29 9 2012 Ticket Price:

    Schizo movie

    Complete with an on stage post – movie guest appearance by Andrew Loog Oldham (ALO), Charlie is my Darling (CMD), or as they like to call it, The Rolling Stones Charlie is my Darling, came across as a film with a split personality; a film that had been handed over to a foster carer, and didn’t know who its actual daddy and mummy were.

    The explanations given by ALO after the film left me in no doubt that CMD is schizo film of the first order. It evidences all the symptoms of a subject experiencing the classic double bind situation: a film that simultaneously admits and denies two opposing types of propositions: that Peter Whitehead is the director and editor of the film, but at the same, he is not the editor and director of the film which blazons his name, like a symbolic shield at the head of the opening credits.

    Schizo as it is, CMD is of course an eloquent statement of the convoluted tortured and contradictory claims that the corporate bodies ABKCO, have had resort to, in their anxiety to justify their manipulations and exploitations of the CMD material in question. In their practice of contradiction, they are like the Red Queen in Alice; and almost as funny.

    Every medical condition has a case history and the history of CMD is the key to its schizo development. CMD was made in 1965 by Peter Whitehead (PW) and commissioned and produced by ALO. PW directed the film, shot the original footage on an Éclair, then edited it: his film. According to ALO speaking at the New York screening, he as producer never really meant the film to be seen. ALO suggested that at this time. the mid’60’s when other groups such as the Beetles were experimenting reaching out and extending their audience and income through movies, he ALO only wanted to see what the Stones would look like on film. ALO said he never wanted PW’s film to be released. It was made as a sort of group audition, for appraisal and their eyes only. ALO seemed to suggest that he never seriously considered releasing CMD.

    I found this explanation, though it may be true, less than convincing. It occurred to me there might have been other reasons for shyness. Perhaps PW’s edit of the material had been problematic: in one way or the other.

    In fact the original CMD had a screening at Berlin Film Festival, and caused a stir. It then seems to have had some limited form of exhibition. I say this because on-line there are people who say they have seen it, but this remains a little uncertain to me.

    From his original footage, PW cut a film that I think was originally about an hour, a little less perhaps. This cut and all the outtakes were then withdrawn in an act resembling a sort of distributive coitus interruptus. Perhaps the film and all the rushes were sold on with constraining contractual clauses and eventually in the mid nineties, 30 years after the original shoot and edit, they re=appear in the ownership of Abkco, a large media conglomerate.

    Contacted by Richard Pena in 1995 who wanted to screen CMD at that years NYFF, Abkco say they have acquired the film and the rights and are at work restoring the material.

    Cut to 17 years later, 2012, a film called The Rolling Stones Charlie is my Darling turns up on the NY festival programme. A film by Peter Whitehead, directed shot and edited by Peter Whitehead; but also crediting a new role call of creative and technical personelle: director – Mick Gochanour; Editor – Nathan Punwar; Producor – Robert Klein! A schizo films with two sets of everything. A film that took 17 years to sort out before this potentially desirable and profitable piece of merchandise could be released.

    After the screening I asked the director who was present but not on stage with ALO what percentage of PW’s original cut was now in the film we had just seen and which seemed to be titled: The Rolling Stones Charlie is my Darling. His reply was that it was about 60% recut. Which is fair enough. But is this any longer Peter Whitehead’s film? it is not his cut. And is the claim on the publicity postcard I have in front of me, that the film is directed photographed and edited by PW in any sense meaningful?

    Abkco are desperate for some reason (one wonders what this reason might be – contracts?) for Peter Whitehead’s name to stand emblazoned over and across the film like an endorsement – not that there are many left today except a few old film buffs who even know his name let alone his fame as a film maker.

    What I saw was a schizo film from one of the homes of schizo capitalism, the entertainment industry.

    The film, the one with director Mick Gochanour bears the unmistakable intensity and presence of all the camera work by Peter Whitehead, and I was glad to have seen it for this reason. It lacks the originality and dynamic that PW brought to fashioning and editing his material . The edit on view is OK but is pretty standard treatment. So the original footage is extraordinary and apparently if you buy the whole dvd package the original cut is included in the deal, though at this point I don’t know if you would get all the original cut or whether some scenes or lines, might have got the snip. Adrin Neatrour