Monthly Archives: July 2013

  • The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Runner Tony Richardson(Uk 1962)

    P { margin-bottom: 0.21cm; }

    Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner
    Tony Richardson(UK 1962) Tom Courtenay

    Saturday Night and Sunday Morning
    Karel Reisz (UK 1960) Albert Finney; Shirley Anne
    Field; Rachel Roberts

    Viewed: 11 July 2013 and 14 July 2013
    Star and Shadow Cinema Newcastle; ticket £5

    Retrocrit: pride and prejudice

    Saturday Night and Sunday Morning and
    Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner were both novels written by
    Alan Silitoe. Silitoe was one of that generation of post war British
    writers who chronicled the lives working class people in the 1950’s
    when they were being told that they had never had it so good.
    Silitoe’s novels were keenly picked up by the new wave of British
    film makers epitomised by directors such as Tony Richardson ( Who
    directed Loneliness)and Carol Reisz ( director of Saturday Night and
    Sunday morning) These film makers, like Silitoe, were driven by
    ideological opposition to the traditional British class system; they
    were committed to listen to rather than to gaze patronisingly at
    Britain and the voices of her workers.

    A contemporary film critic wrote of
    these directors:

    ….when they came together, we
    felt they had an attitude in common. Implicit in this attitude is a
    belief in freedom, in the importance of people and in the
    significance of the everyday.

    Both Loneliness and Saturday night
    which were also scripted as films by Alan Sillitoe, share one
    critical attribute: attitude. They were iconoclastic products and
    were perceived as such at the time. The intention of Alan Silitoe’s
    writing was to give the lie to the contemporary smug propaganda messages that Britain was somehow a fair and pleasant land. As far as
    Sillitoe was concerned Britain wasn’t even one land, he saw two
    lands, governed by two codes. It was a feudal society of controllers
    and the serfs, serfs chained not to the land but to factories shifts
    and poor housing. Reisz and Richardson’s films stay true both to
    this iconoclasm and to the moral vigour of Sillitoe’s writing. It is
    not betrayed.

    These films shocked the usual suspects
    at the time were made. Ealing Comedies they were not. And when we see
    these films today, they’re not only a voyage into another country,
    they also resonate as a cry of pain for something that is about to
    be lost ; even if what was lost was hardly noticed as everyone was
    too busy watching the telly. These films are no cosy up Hovis style
    nostalgia fests of terraced housing, enamel signs and chimney stacks.
    The films capture and express working class life in the early
    sixties. It’s a culture of full employment and extensive family ties
    but it is also a culture of resistance and resilience. What Sillitoe
    foresaw and foretold and is captured in both films, was the loss of
    working class Pride. And that is the source of the pain. Because it
    was a pride that was on the point of being undermined and destroyed
    by the fostered desires of consumerism and the dependancy culture of
    the Welfare State.

    Noises off: Trainspotting and the skag
    boys wait in the wings.

    The protagonists, Colin in Loneliness
    and Arthur in Saturday Night, are complex characters; spontaneous and
    generous, twisted and two faced, but they have an intrinsic pride,
    born of their class, that cannot be bought. Colin burns a one pound
    note in one scene. However destructive their pride, it defines them,
    and this pride, for all its fault lines and even bad faith, lies at
    the core of their being. As Arthur says: You don’t let the bastards
    grind you down.

    So the two films probe not physical
    landscapes but psychic landscapes. Attitudes shaped by social
    conditions class work and graft. In their focus on these relations
    Karel Reisz and Tony Richardson are closer to films made today in
    developing countries that are still characterised by social and
    cultural matrices of the kind we no longer have. The contemporary
    Western movie industry has desire at the root of its narratives,
    rather than struggle of one form or another.

    Of the two films Loneliness of the Long
    Distance Runner is the more politically radical. In fact it’s not a
    very well made film. It has a clumsy structure based on flashback,
    which fails to deliver tension, and it is over reliant on the use of
    the hymn Jerusalem in the soundtrack. But Richardson’s casting of Tom
    Courtenay is inspired and is enough in itself to carry the film.
    Courtenay’s skewered meat body look, hungry mien, misshapen head and loose
    mouth, in themselves define the film’s theme of defiance and
    resistance. As an actor of working class origins, Tom Courtenay has the authenticity necessary for the film to deliver Colin
    Smith’s punch into the solar plexus of middle England: the refusal of
    the petty thief, Borstal Boy, to play the establishment game.

    Karel Reisz’s Saturday Night and Sunday
    Morning is also superbly acted. Albert Finney, as Arthur and Rachel
    Roberts as Brenda, came from hard backgrounds that made them able to
    work in the grain of their characters. And it shows in their
    performances. Unlike Loneliness, Saturday Night is an exceptional
    film not just because of the acting but because it is suburbly
    crafted. The editing energises the action and always adds a
    dimension to the narrative. With confidence and verve Reisz and his
    editor, Seth Holt manipulate Freddie Francis’ superb cinematography
    to shift the film through its gears, energising the tension between
    images as the film cuts from the close and the intimate to the wide
    and impersonal. The point here is that the dynamics of the editing
    serve to heighten awareness in the viewer to shifts in perspectives:
    from the bed to the factory, the pub to the kitchen. The way the
    film is spliced sensitizes us to the different codes that operate in
    these contexts, deepening and sharpening our understanding of
    relations within the film. The main story is the moral rendering of
    an extramarital affair. But this explicit narrative thread is never
    allowed to dominate the scenario. It has to take its place within
    the context of the images and cameos of working class in Nottingham
    that Sillitoe Richardson and Reisz have woven together to produce the

    The Loneliness of the Long Distance
    Runner and Saturday Night and Sunday Morning both retain the raw
    power of film to shock and make visible things that otherwise we
    would not see.

    Adrin Neatrour

  • The Bling Ring Sofia Coppola (Usa 2013)

    P { margin-bottom: 0.21cm; }

    The Bling Ring Sofia Coppola (USA
    2013) Katie Chang; Israel Broussard; Emma Watson,

    Viewed Tyneside Cinema: 9 July 2013
    Ticket: £8

    The prefatory announcement at the start
    of a film that it is “based on a true story” or “inspired by
    actual events” engenders within me a certain sense of foreboding.
    It’s true there have been some wonderful films so based, such as
    William Wyler’s ‘ Ace in the Hole.’ But often film makers, when
    trying to exploit a true story, are overburdened by too many facts,
    overwhelmed by a need for authenticity, and are often unable to take
    full possession of the narrative develop it as their own story.

    So I wondered what Sofia Coppola would
    make of the 2009 LA celebrity burglaries, planned and carried out by
    teenage girls? What might she offer up to the Gods of film by way of
    a spin on what it means to be young female and American?

    In ‘Spring Breaks’ Harmony Korine
    offered up a voluptuous transgressive take on the American female
    psyche, and with all guns blazing the girls came out on top. In
    Bling Ring likewise, it’s girls on top; but whereas Korine
    understands the significance of his protagonists, Sofia Coppola’s
    plot gets lost in translation, and is unable to come to terms with
    the forces at work in the situation.

    As I watched Bling Ring I found myself
    starting to have ‘Wizard of Oz’ moments. Rebecca, the main
    character, started to insinuate herself as a sort of re-incarnate
    Dorothy. She is swept away not by a Kansas twister, but by the LA
    whirlwind of celebrity worship. Perhaps celebrity fetishism is more
    accurate descriptive label of her condition. All those teenage
    hormones, Rebeca’s sexuality is displaced away from the insecurity of
    the adolescent body and transferred onto comparative safety of
    celebrity designer wear. Rebecca meets up with Marc, a sort of
    composite Tin Man/ Lion/Scarecrow but in fact an honorary girl, and
    she leads him and the other protagonists, the Munchkins, as they
    follow a make over Yellow Brick Road to the Wizard’s castle, in this
    case the Los Angeles A list celebrity homes and a series of fetish
    driven burglaries.

    The form of Bling Ring resembles a
    fairy tale. But not the darker sort of tale as told by the Brothers
    Grimm or Hans Christian Anderson, but rather a redacted Disney Story.
    A sort amalgam of Oz and Ali Baba that takes place in LA,
    re-imagined as a Never Never land of palaces and princesses. The
    treasure troves that are buried deep in the heart of the fairy
    mountain are replicated in Bling Ring, as being buried within the
    inner crypts of the female celebrities. The houses of these female
    celebrities resemble biomorphic stand-ins for their own bodies,
    replicating in visual detail both the externalities of face and skin,
    and the carnality of the secret vaginal passages that lead to the
    womb. Within the inner womb sanctum’s of the female celebrities the
    girls get the pay off – the stuff. Amidst rows of shoes dresses
    perfume jewellery bags the girls achieve a proxy orgasm, sexual
    energisation cathected onto the designed clothes and possessions of
    the objects of desire. The actual taking and possessing of the stuff
    is of secondary order to the primal connection with the Fetish in the
    form of the possessions of the celebrity goddesses.

    If you visit the British Museum will
    find something similar but more dignified in the cargo cult fetishes
    of the tribes of New Guinea.

    The problem with Bling Ring is that
    although all these powerful forces are set at work, Coppola seems
    barely able to cope with them. The fairy tale, the fetishism the
    biomorphic resonance of the architecture are all present, but under
    her direction remain possibilities rather than realisations. In
    relation to Bling Ring being a dystopian fairy tale, Coppola sketches
    the outlines, but then abandons the idea, retreating to the safety of
    a mechanical playing out of the facts.

    The music in Bling Ring is interesting
    and even suggestive. It is mostly rap and hip hop in style but
    without angst or anger. When you castrate this sort of music, it
    starts to sound like nursery rhythms which is what I heard. This
    made me feel that the Bling Ring would probably have worked better
    imitating the form of the Wizard of Oz and been devised as a musical.
    A dysfunctional musical driven by rap bursary rhythms might have
    provided Bling Ring with a rich suggestive architecture of illicit
    desire intention and motive.

    The structure of the film further
    weakens the impact of its symbolic cues. Coppola’s scenario employs
    the tired old formula of the flashback. It presents the various
    scenes as perspectives from police and psychiatric interviews with
    the protagonists after they have been caught. This device slows the
    film, destroys what little tension there is in Copolla’s script and
    breaks up the psychic integrity of the action.

    Sofia Coppola’s film comes across more
    as more an endorsement of celebrity life style than any sort of
    attempt to probe the strangeness of its distorted realities. She
    prefers to gloss over the soft wiring of her material, treating it as
    a narrative rather than an opportunity to unwind the psychic
    disturbances at the core of the displaced energy of mainstream

    Sofia Coppola had a strong subject
    with great potential but overloaded by a need to be authentic she
    falls victim to the curse of basing her movie on ‘true events’.

    Adrin Neatrour

  • Like someone in love Abbas Kiarostami (Fr Japan 2012)

    Like someone in love Abbas
    Kiarostami (Fr Japan 2012) Tadashi
    Okuno, Rin
    Takanashi, Ryo

    Viewed: BFI London Ticket price £7.50
    Adrin Neatrour writes: Like having an
    idea such as smashing the glass
    Like someone in love is the third film
    that Abbas Kairostami has made outside Iran as a self exiled film
    maker. Kairostami decided to make his films outside Iran because the
    political religious regime had made it almost impossible for him to
    work inside the country. Kairostami’s films have always attracted
    the hostility and censorship of the Iranian authorities who even
    destroyed the master 35mm negative of his 1978 marital drama, the
    Report. Had he persisted in film making there he would certainly
    have found himself under house arrest or even imprisoned, a fate that
    has befallen other Iranian film makers.

    But what’s an exiled film maker gonna
    to make films about? Kairostami has always made his films in Iran
    and his subject matter has always been set in an Iranian context. Can
    you take the fish out of water and expect it to breath and to make

    His films may have been set in Iran but
    at the heart of his films lies Kairostami’s intelligence. His films
    are not mechanical products; each is the outcome of a process of
    thinking – thinking about images.

    One of the concepts at the root of his
    thinking is the idea of oppositions, oppositions that you can see in
    people. Oppositions such as in – relationships – man and woman;
    age – old people young people; life and death, knowledge and
    ignorance, individual and family. And of course the context of
    Iranian society with politico religious forces shaping the social
    matrix, provided Kairostami’s films with a wide range of fault lines
    to examine and probe.

    So what’s he doing in Japan? Like
    someone in love…what a strange title for his film. It’s the name of
    a song, an old jazz standard. What does it mean, what does it point

    I think that in this film Kairostami
    has created a new take on the old Japanese idea of the Floating
    World. Famously represented in series of nineteenth wood cuts, the
    Floating World was the name given to the transient world of pleasure
    created by geishas prositutes and clients in nineteenth Tokyo. A
    world of impermanence. In Like someone in love, Kairostami
    revisualises the floating world as a series of multiple planes of
    light that drift across the screen, the reflections and refractions
    of modern Tokyo that float over the images of his characters,
    obscuring them but at the same time placing them in context of night
    and pleasure.

    Tokyo is realised by Kairostami as a
    series of surfaces. The bars the streets and clubs present a dazzling
    beguiling field of vision for the eye. Japan’s culture is overlaid
    with Western technological forms that it has made its own. It looks
    like the West but it isn’t; and Akiko, Kairostami’s girl protagonist,
    always looks like someone who she isn’t.

    Kairostami sees that a whole range of
    social relations have been absorbed into a new floating world of
    impermanence; he also sees that he is an outsider peering into this
    culture, through a glass darkly, trying to distinguish image from
    reflection and reflection from image. And once the reality of the
    glass is admitted then it too becomes part of picture, and also
    there will come moments swhen the glass itself will crack

    This is a mirror crystal world, and
    within it Kairostami projects a love story – of sorts of the sort
    that might reveal some of the critical stresses at work in this

    Kairostami loves cars as settings in
    his films. Many of his films use scenes inside automobiles. He
    revels in the contradiction that amidst the frenzy of life, it is
    often inside a car, the symbol of movement, that his characters find
    the stillness and space.

    In Like someone in love, there is a
    typical Kurostami moment of interaction in which like a brain surgeon
    he penetrates through the hard surface presented the skull into the
    deeper soft tissues of the brain. During the taxi ride taken by Akiko
    to her new client, Kairostami inserts a scene which is brilliantly
    conceived as a series of verbal phone messages picked up by Akiko
    from her grandmother. The grandmother’s unsentimental prosaic words
    project in full relief not only the growing void separating young and
    old but the characteristic emptiness of mobile communications which
    increasingly serve the dysfunction of not communicating.

    It is the economy that Kairostami
    brings to his understanding of Japan that lights up the movie. Using
    only simple settings the interior of a car, the interior of an
    apartment, the interior of a club he coaxes the surfaces of this
    floating world to separate a little and to see the forces at work
    that maintain the tension in the glass images: relations between men
    and women, old and young, the new and the old, between the imported
    culture and the older traditions.

    It might sound complex but it is all
    done very simply almost without us realising it, until we start to
    pay attention. As in the scene where Akiko lies asleep in bed and
    her very elderly client, selects a record from his album collection,
    plays Ella Fitzgerald singing Like someone in love. The camera pans
    off him to the dining table, set for dinner for two, plates knives
    and forks and two long stemmed empty wine glasses, and Ella sings:

    Everytime I look at you I’m as limp as
    a glove, feeling like someone in love…”

    For Kairostami, it’s time to break the

    Adrin Neatrour

  • Union Stuff Sfx Workers

    P { margin-bottom: 0.21cm; } Have you ever stayed to the butt end of the credits of a 21st century blockbuster? A sad thing to do, perhaps, to keep the cleaners from clearing up the mess left by buckets of pop corn. Geek that I am, I lingered on after Man of Steel and tried to count the number of people credited for the VFX ( the special FX) After counting upto about 1200 I gave up and left the cinema to the cleaners. All those names however gave me pause for thought. In old days of 35mm I used to work as a film editor in Soho. I never edited a feature but did work as an assistant editor on a number of them so I know something about working in the film industry. The work in itself is enjoyable, but when production money is tight, as it often is, you sweate blood to get your job done. The pay was at the high end of remuneration for industrial work but set against that, I was freelance and would often hane long periods of unemployment between jobs. And in the UK film industry overtime was not paid. You worked the hours God or rather the production company sent; and in the last weeks of post production, 16 hour days were the norm, and you might struggle even to take your meal breaks. When I looked at the long lists of credited Visual Special Effects workers at the end of blockbusters, I had an image. In my mind’s eye I saw them as latter day oarsmen chained not to benches but to their computers, and occasionally unshackled and allowed to feed and relieve themselves. As it turns out , this image has a grain of truth. The FX workers are feeling hard put upon according to an article by Janice Turner in Stage Screen and Radio. And the material for the rest of this piece draws on Janice Turner’s article. Please note that Stage Screen and Radio is the journal of BECTU, the Union for media technicians. Janice Turner’ s article may be coming from a Union perspective but it is certainly validated by my own experience in the film industry. FX work has grown from being a small add-on to productions, and developed into complete production lines for making films that can only be made with this computer technology. The work is very labour intensive and involves a large number of teams working on different aspects of the production, at the end of which all the material generated has to be stitched together. As one worker remarked to Janice Turner: “Without special FX the Life of Pi would just have been a guy in a boat with a stuffed tiger.” Even in 3D this would not be big box office. There are 10 big FX facility companies in the world competing for the business of the six large studios who produce the mega blockbusters. The problem is that the six large studios who commission the big contracts have created the tendering conditions where the FX companies have to compete very keenly to get the work. As Janice Turner says it has become a race to the bottom on price,: the margins for the FX companies are very thin and it is the 1000’s of workers at the hard end of the tendering process, who pick up the tab. In effect subsidising the movies they create. As with my own experience, wages for FX workers are good, but their contracts are often short term and periods of unemployment not uncommon. The workers have to put in punishing hours, to get the work done, and in the UK overtime is unpaid and work breaks begrudged. A meeting of 100’s of workers in London brought these issues into the open. Continuous 40 hour long stints in front of the computer, workers bullied into working overtime without pay. In the US there is also anger at the way the FX FX workers feel they are treated. The average working week is 60 hours and whilst overtime is generally paid in the US, health care cover is patchy. And. remembering this is a youngish work force, heart problems, sleep problems and high blood pressure are all significant health issues The problem is compounded by the fact that this is a global industry driven by search for the best tax breaks. With companies moving from country to country, the work shifts from one location to another and many in FX industry have become a global migrant labour force. The FX companies themselves are beginning to feel the heat. Their profit margins are too slim and in the USA, one big FX comnpany Rhythm and Hues – who did XF for Life of PI – recently went bankrupt leaving its workforce high and dry. At the Oscars this year when the award winning Life of Pi FX team tried to draw attention to their plight, the producers of the ceremony cut them off and brought on the band to drown them out. Janice Turner reports BECTU General Secretary, Gerry Morrisey as saying: the situation where the FX companies impose more work with a short time scale and with unlawful working hours cannot continue.” The Union wants the XF companies to form their own trade association to resist being divided and ruled by the studios. And the Union is continuing its work of encouraging FX workers to join the Union and to challenge unlawful working hours and conditions. I suspect it will be a tough long fight, but one that the workers and Unions will have to win if the industry is to have a long term future in UK Europe and USA. Thanks to Janice Turner for an article that opened the lid on the way we should read those long lists of names at the end of the credit rolls. Adrin Neatrour