Monthly Archives: November 2012

  • Amour (Love) Michael Haneka (Fr; Ger 2012)

    Amour (Love)
    Michael Haneka (Fr Ger
    2012) J P Trentignant; Emmanuelle

    Viewed Tyneside Cinema Newcastle, 16 Nov 2012; Ticket £7.00

    Empty box blues.

    Amour is a film narrative expressed in Michael Haneka’s (MH) own scenario and enfolded in his particular directorial style.. After viewing the film my reaction was that the script for Amour is not in accord with his language as a film maker. Consequently the film is like a Japanese gift: the beautifully wrapped box that contains the gift is more singular than the contents

    Amour shot completely in colour by MH, is presented to the audience wrapped a sepia hued patina that is redolently suggestive of the richness of the earlier life of Anne and Georges. The shooting comprises two types of shots already familiar from Hanika’s previous films: the long steadicam shots that follow characters through the increasingly familiar layout of the living space; and the formal two shot, set up as still life portraits. In Amour these two types of shots are interspersed with close ups, that often cut to reverse shot, to carry dialogue. The dominant theme suggested by the camera is that it represents that unseen presence,, the viewer’s gaze. We gaze from th outside upon the performances of the actors. We watch two actors at work evoking in their performing the processes of acute and chronic illness, understood in the context of what is presented as their long contented relationship.

    Doors open and close, and feature in Amour as they do in other MH films. For instance the film opens with the couple’s apartment door smashed open by firemen. In Amour the function of the door and its frame differs from his previous work. MH in his other movies uses the door motif to suggest something about what it is possible to see. Doors are shot half open, only partially disclosing the space people and events. This framing sets up the viewer to engage with what is only partially revealed, to confront the world as a place where the hidden and the seen are in constant interplay. In MH’s films the audience is always outside, and challenged by MH to understand what is hidden and why. In Amour, the apartment’s huge French panelled doors with their impressive architraves are certainly prominent, but they serve only to seal off the space. As the apartment becomes a world of the dead, the door transposes into a gate, that is either open or closed, Beyond this there is nothing in the portal itself to challenge comprehension of what is happening. A person is dying a world is slipping away the door is closing.

    It seems to me in MH’s films there are no internalities. MH does not work with subjectivity in the grain of his films. We are presented with facts of the matter; the actors play out the scenario which probes about the presented situation.

    In Amour neither the camera work, nor the structure of the shots (what the camera allows us to see) nor editing, work to effect the viewer’s passage into the states of mind of the protagonists. We see the situation. It is a film about a situation. We stay on the outside of the situation; this is a film of exteriorities. As such Amour is a vehicle completely reliant of the expressive affect of its two protagonists, Anne and George, which ultimately defines the movie as an art house soap opera, worthy in its intent, barren in its execution.

    The audience are cast as the watchers of the mechanics of the script. The script itself resembles a medico-sociological paper on status change in acute and chronic illness. The script cranks through the post stroke situations that sufferers and carers face: we see loss of speech and diminution of mental faculties, loss of mobility, the need for help in using the toilet, loss of bowel and bladder control, the bad nurse experience, the need to be fed, the final stages of consciously and emotionally experienced incapacitation. Each stage a little episode on the downward inclining slipway that eventually leads to the logic of mutual death. All of this is no more than a log with parellel emotive commentary. This emotive commentary, provided almost exclusively in the affect images of the actor’s faces, leads to a limited palette of the same expressive gesturing: suffering, stoicism, understanding. The longer the film continues the more evident it becomes that we are watching two actors faking it. This feeling of faking is particularly strong in the scene where Anne is killed by Georges. The camera pans off the close shot of George and Anne (who’s asphyxiating under the pillow that he holds down over her face) to Anne’s body which we see, for some 30 seconds or more, struggle and twitch as she dies. But we know no one is dieing. At this point Amour and MH lose all credibility in the banality of the literalised faked film image. For MH to film the faked twitching of Emmanuelle Rive is counterproductive and pointless, an insult to the audience. Not disturbing or shocking only irrelevant bad film making.

    As it progresses Amour becomes desperate in its expressive devices. Towards the end of the film there is a montage of the watercolour landscapes which han in the apartment. The apartment space is almost overflowing with matter artefacts memorabilia of the past. MH is careful, except for a sketch of a bird in the bookcase at the entrance of le salon, to exclude this material from the imagery of the film. We are aware of it without being able to specify it. We know there are paintings but they are lost in the background. Suddenly as Anne enters the portaql of her last act, there is a montage of at least 6 paintings, all wistful landscapes The effect of this montage is to understand it as a rather heavy handed metaphor. Also intercut into Amour are a dream sequence of Georges and a fantasy sequence where he sees Anne after he had killed her. Both seem to belong to another film that was not made.

    The one sequence that points to a revealing of internality comprises the scene between George and the pigeon that intrudes for a second time into the apartment through the open window. The scene is allowed to end enigmatically, though it seems likely that George having caught the bird, kills it, as a sort of emotional dry run. The scene opens up possibilities that are enigmatic dark and perhaps contradictory and which are otherwise absent in Amour, and for this reason the scene also feels like it belongs only tangentally to Haneka’s scenario adrin neatrour

  • Robert Bresson Season at Star and Shadow – an overview

    Robert Bresson Season fall 2012, at Star and Shadow – an overview

    Film screened: Les Dames de Bois de Boulogne (1945) , Au Hazard Balthazar (1966), Mouchette (1967), L’Argent (1983)

    In the hand of Bresson mediums are the message

    Viewing retrospectively a series of films by Bresson (RB) in the conditions for which they were intended, in a cinema and on a large screen, is a privileged opportunity to overview and penetrate more deeply into the mainsprings of his filmic demiurge.

    The films exhibited at the Star and Shadow included movies from the beginning and end of his directing career, and two from the mid period of his output.

    The first film shown at the Star and Shadow was RB’s second film, Les Dames de Bois de Boulogne. I think it is a disaster, but seen in light of his subsequent output it was a disaster from which he learnt and which revealed for him the only path that he could take: To thy own self be true.

    ‘Dames…’ is a film that has nothing to do with RB’s primary desire as director. “Dames…’ looks like a hard learnt lesson as to what happens when an artist betrays himself for the sake of the usual mess of la-la potage: image – recognition – flattery = death of self. You get to work with cultural greats like Cocteau, beautiful actresses like Maria Casares you become one of us and presumably get paid but you pay a price: the destruction of spirit. For some that’s a reasonable compact: but not for RB.

    RB determined to live and work FROM THIS POINT on his own terms. ‘Dames…’ is Cocteau’s script; it is Cocteau’s film. It is Cocteau’s transposed revisitation of an old mythic theme, the revenge of the Queen on the Night (death) on the Life impulse. Costumed with sets and acting tuned into high opera this is Cocteau’s world of phantasmic yearnings finding form in film. It bears no relation to the concerns of RB: the earth and its substrate, the human situation and the conditions of life, which RB grounds not in Cocteau’s parallel worlds, but in the everyday, in rural or urban settings, amongst those who struggle to survive and whose daily decisions always have to have an element of primal calculation.

    It is the expressive style of his actors that governs the affects RB educes in his movies. I think that the performances RB elicits from his actors make them into mediums through which the audience are able to see the situations that the films present. BR’s actors are signs pointing the audience to social relations; BR’s actors are not signifiers for the viewers empathic relations. Of course this does not mean that a viewer cannot have an empathy with Mouchette or Balthazar; only that such empathy is not grounded in the image but in the viewer.

    BR’s actors do not mimic or imitate or use gestures and other physical expressive responses that excite the emotions. RB asks his actors to acknowledge and give recognition to the situations in which the scenario locates them. The actors are mediums, channels for the conduction of the implications of situations and ensuing events; they are conductors through whom the audience experiences what is happening. RB believes that responses lie in the viewer’s domain of understanding. In RB’s films, the viewer is not given a ride to vicarious emotional involvement, a shortcut to affective indulgence.

    The stoic and disciplined use of this acting technique, in which the actors do not put out, is characteristic feature of Balthazar Mouchette and L’Argent. In relation to the cognitive and emotional in the films there are only our meanings, the understanding we chose to read. This is exemplified of course in the character of Balthazar the donkey. In the film he is a link between the different orders of human experience, a sort of foil to Marie’s course through life in the same village. Balthazar as a link is a construct through whom we can understand: cruelty, betrayal, sadness, desperation, neglect. But BR also points to perhaps strangely, a certain lyricism in life and in death. In the final scene of Balthazar the donkey finds death in the mountains lieing down to meet die in what we can understand as a sort of bucolic peace. This scene works because by this time, as with Mouchette who also dies a choreographed lyrical death, we understand that both Balthazar and Mouchette are constructs with who in the course of the film we the viewers, have had to form our own particular relation.

    Of course RB’s situational acting, perhaps hard to accept even at the time that the films were made, is even the more so now. Some of the audience coming out of the films immediately commented on the ‘bad acting.’ Which is of course not the point, but also there were viewers who had seen beyond the acting into the layers that RB lays down in his films for the viewer to penetrate through his mediums.

    My feeling on viewing Balthasar Mouchette and L’Argent is that Bresson was not much interested in narratives, so much as with situations and conditions. The conditions he was concerned with were those of human commerce in its broadest sense. Our being in the world which forms our relations.

    His settings revolve about the material interchange which charactises life: shops, bars, smugglers, small time dealers, tenants and landlords all are forced into intercourse with each other. Exchange intercession sex drink work tending buying selling robbing thieving smugglings illness are conditions within which situations arise. Within these situations, events occur which have their own ‘life’ a ‘life’ powerful enough to overtake the characters. And in this commerce between people it is the hand to which the attention of RB is drawn. The hand, that busy dealing appendage, that when ‘events’ take over, has a mind of its own.

    In RB films it is his hand at work and it is always the hand we see. The hand that grasps grabs caresses soothes holds pushes beats laments. The hand takes on its own imperative. The connection made by hand action repeats as a key motif through RB’s work. The hands at the ATM, the teacher’s hands on the keys of the piano, the hands that set lures, the hands that whip. When the hand leads ‘life’ becomes strangely connected. Through the hand the situations engender events that defy the logic of normal relations. The logic is not narrative in a psychological sense, it is the connective movement of the hand which shapes destiny. The burglar who on entering a house sees an axe and decides on impulse to wait for the householders to return and kill them. Just a connection. That is the dynamic RB engages.

    What stops RB’s films being without hope, and generally if you look qt the sequence of situations and events there is a feeling that the characters are sliding into helpless and hopelessness, is simply the acting style. Balthazar, Marie, Mouchette, Yvon are connective devices through whom the audience is linked to their being in the world. Without emotional expression (OK Mouchette does cry, but why does she cry?) it is we who are confronted with the condition of the world and the hope if we look for it is only to be found within us, the viewer as a seer. adrin neatrour

  • Kafka’s A Report to the Academy

    A Report to the AcademyPlayed at Star and Shadow Cinema 8th Nov 2012

    Adrin Neatrour – Actor, Half man, half ape?, High_key-smaller Adrin Neatrour – Actor

    Adrin Neatrour’s one-man show is a remarkable piece of theatre. He turns from an ape into a man and back again with various stages in between. He moves like an ape and (if this doesn’t sound confusing) sometimes talks like an ape. When he fixes the audience with a simian stare, we are convinced we are truly watching some strange hybrid, or an evolutionary hiccup.

    The setting for the story and the play is a lecture hall, as the creature delivers a address to a learned audience on how, after being captured in the jungle, he gradually changed from ape into man, slowly assimilating human behaviour and patterns. This gives Kafka an unusual stance from which to view the human condition / predicament, and along the way he offers various thoughts and observations, sometimes a mite dense, elsewhere illuminating. At times we laugh out loud, other times we shift uncomfortably in our seats.

    I’d say it is based on Franz Kafka’s little-known story of the same name, except the performance is more than that—Kafka’s every word is delivered verbatim over 55 minutes. That’s a lot of words, but the piece is always on the move as the actor drags his way round the stage, pulls human clothes on top of his fur, simulates being trapped in a small cage and via the ape’s mimicking of human actions allows the audience insights into his gradual metamorphosis. Getting used to alcohol is especially difficult.

    What does it all mean? Is the new creature superior or inferior to a human? Or to an ape? Is it a parable about European Jews early in the 20th century trying to assimilate into hostile societies? Or a satire on human stupidity and addiction? A send-up of Darwin’s theory of evolution?

    Take your pick. This is theatre to stir up the intellect, yet combined with a strong physicality and sense of the visual. Neatrour is a veteran actor, though athletic of build, an athleticism he puts to great advantage, never allowing the piece to become static or merely talking heads. His voice is human, yet somehow both curious and distanced from us, as if our own species were indeed being observed by some detached hybrid. Every movement is meticulous and telling.

    At one moment Neatrour pulls off his ape’s hairy hands to reveal pristine white dinner suit gloves beneath—a startling effect. The coat and trousers (and startling red braces) sit on the hirsute body with both comic and disturbing result.

    Naz Kourgli directs this unique piece of theatre with an assured hand that means we are unable to look away for even a second, and Bill Ormond magics up some effective lighting from Star & Shadow’s limited resources.

    It plays tomorrow (Saturday) at The Miners’ Institute, Newcastle, 7:30PM and elsewhere soon if there is any justice.S

  • Kafka’s Report to the Academy

    Kafka’s, A Report To An Academy Performer: Adrin NeatrourDirector: Nazim Kourgli.Lighting: Bill OrmondDuration :60minsVenue Star & Shadow, Byker, Newcastle upon TyneThursday 8th November *****Kafka
    wrote this short towards the end of his life, it’s an enigmatic piece
    reversing his usual direction of travel from man to animal, the
    metamorphosis in this instant is from beast to man. Adrin Neatrour
    delivers a spell binding performance, grace, beauty and word perfect.
    Every grunt is choreographed, it’s a ballet in which even the props are
    animated. Nazim Kourgli and Adrin Neatrour are to be congratulated in
    taking what is at best a dull read and moulding it into a piece
    demonstrating the power of theatre. The transformation is seamless
    man-ape-man in front of our eyes. The journey uncovers the depths to
    Kafka’s work which are simply unimaginable otherwise. How can an ape
    become a man? That thought needs no answer, its obvious. Why should he
    want to? We feel weknow by the time the lights fade.
    Catch this if you can. Abdul Hamed