Monthly Archives: June 2017

  • Der Mude Tod ( Destiny) Fritz Lang (1921; Germany; script by FL and Thea von Harbou)

    Der Mude Tod ( Destiny) Fritz Lang (1921; Germany; script by FL and Thea von
    Harbou) Lil Dagover; Bernhard Goetze

    viewed 11 June 2017 Tyneside Cinema; ticket:

    depth of tread

    There is a shot in der Mude Tod that
    concentrates into one image the psychic forces that Lang’s movie puts into play:
    the shot of the Wall. The devils’s Wall. The
    Wall is shot straight on from 90 degrees.
    It rises above and beyond all who stand beneath it a presence that
    overwhelms those who come within its ambit. The Wall is a cosmic abstraction
    that divides the known from the unknown, a wall found only in the dream.

    The Wall is of course an archetype, one in a movie that is contrived only out of archetypal forms and presences. Der Mude Tod is a visitation from the landscape of myth and fairy tale. The Wall has been built by Death to mark off his world from the world of the living and the man at the crossroads represents the other enduring archetypal image about which the film revolves. Death played by Bernard Goetze, whose extraordinary representation of the grim reaper calls to mind Ben Ekerot’s as Death in Bergman’s Seventh Seal, both dark personifications of the eternal riddle. Both haunting and unforgettable. Seeing Lang’s film was a strong reminder that the silent movie era worked strongly with archetypes to create characters and narratives. Both Hollywood and German silent cinema contrived narratives out of types: the lover, the liar, the warrior, the seeker, the hero, the beloved, the tramp, the lost, the wanderer. Silent movie scripts fashioned their material out of the stuff of dreams and myth. The characters in one dynamic sense were free, they were free from history and individuation. But unfree in another sense in that they were bound the more tightly to their form and constrained by fateful outcomes. In ‘silent movie’ scripts people tended to be found in ‘situations’ and then use their immediate resources to work their way out. Resources might be within them or outside of themselves, like allies that as in fairy tales might come in unexpected guise. Unlike modern scripts archetypal characters are not contrived from personal histories or subjectivities that lay claim to them and to their development. The compliance to archetypal form by fictitious characters, although delimiting in some respects, in a critical manner allows character to develop through lines of flight, intensifications and testings, rather than the playing out and development of the will of individuals. The idea of the primacy of the individual’s will in determining their lives is the ideological key stone of most late 20th century and all 21st century dramatic output, in particular cinema. The scripted imperatives are to realise your dreams, to buy what you need and to discover your individuation to attain your goals. Film today has little time for archetypes whose defining quality is their inability to be anything other than they are. And yet the archetype is a powerful and suggestive idea. Whereas it does not use subjective intention and individuation as a determining agency it brings into play the development of other psychic possibilities endemic to human experience. We are all types. The roles we play as part of the being of a type exert a strong hold over our psyche. Being a mother being a father have fateful consequences for our being in the world. They are in themselves a guide to responding to life. In life and in drama: the seeker, the lover, the warrior, the loser, the orphan as represented by a person can be put to the test to the point of destruction, yet still be shaped and held together by the psychic force of the archetype that they embody. This is evident in the scripting in der Mude Tod, of the female half of the loving couple. This female type calls on exclusively feminine traits to pursue her objective: her re-union with her male half. She is a feminine heroine who calls on the claims of love, faithfulness and steadfastness and the power of love projected to try to win back her male half from Death’s kingdom. The female in her is brave bold and conquers her fear, drawing on feminine qualities. Unlike most of today’s contemporary women leads, Lang’s heroine is not a transposed man, she is a woman and she works towards her goal by an process of intensification of her female qualities, not by denying them or abandoning them for male characteristics.

    Lang’s Der Mude Tod (MT) is a strong visual reminder of what film could look like before the digital hegemony. The film’s images look as if they etched into screen rather than overlaid. Most of todays films have the look of a flat plane. Even where they are shot and exhibited in 3D, the 3D effect simply resembles a series of multiple planes. But Lang’s movie like a Durer woodcut, draws us in beyond the surface into spacial and psychological depth. The faces, the archetypal figures pressed into the celluloid, the extraordinary architecture, like the etchings from fairy tale collections, Mude Tod is visually burnt into tonal layers that create unfathomable depth suggesting immanent but unseen powers.

    With its Gothic visual style knitted tightly to the other main expressive elements, archetypal characters, its representation of the face and body and its architecture, Lang produces a film that with its force of unity resembles the conviction of any of the Grimm’s’ fairy tales. Indeed Mude Tod in its subtitle references itself as a German folk tale. Lang’s film like the fairy tale, is a film of darkness but in this darkness we come to understand more deeply the defining qualities of the human realm. Adrin Neatrour

  • Wonder Woman Patty Jenkins (USA 2017)

    Wonder Woman Patty
    Jenkins (USA 2017) Gal Gadot, Chris Pine

    viewed Empire Cinema Newcastle 6 June 2017; ticket £4.00

    tweet from Trumpland

    At last a super hero film that is the perfect allegorical representation of our times. In directing Wonder Woman, Patty Jenkins has produced a mythical scenario that is faithful to President Trump’s condition and situation. A situation of isolation from any influences other than his family of Gods and Goddesses; a condition of paranoia to hold the world at bay. In Wonder Woman the tweets lies and blandishments of Mr President underlie the movie’s script endowing it with deep superficiality, with a post truth/ post modernist sentiment and tweets, disguised as dialogue, with new age mantras: believe! love! etc!

    Like most recent Hollywood movies Jenkins and her script writers are beholden to the polemics of fake female empowerment. This is an easy lazy speciously righteous position to take as it means that the only thinking that has to be done is, is a flip, turning the women into men; rather than having to figure out what other defining characteristics might constitute strong female qualities. The Hollywood solution is that the empowerment of women’s natures is best expressed by them emulating and surpassing men in the outer expression of sexual power. This equates neatly with the Trump position as regards women. Looking at the women with whom Trump surrounds himself, Ivanka, Melania, Kellyanne they all have that touch of Wonder woman in their expressive genes. Like the models found in Vogue and Vanity Fair, they comprise a legion of woman defined by images of a warrior sexuality, as they threaten to break forth out of the pages of fashion glossies into the heat of battle. A new era of female soldiery dressed to kill confident of victory against whatever forces they might meet: men, cellulose, other women, unruly hair.

    Mythically Trump of course has Zeus like qualities. From his tower eyrie high he presides over the earthlings, figuring out their comings and goings. Alone at the top of Olympus, he’s a God increasingly isolated and reliant on Wonder Woman, Ivanka to represent him to the world beyond, to fight off the forces of evil by which he imagines himself surrounded. Go forth Wonder Woman and save the world for America, go forth Ivanka and make America great again. And so they go forth into the world.

    Judging by the plot and to some extent the visual look of the film Jenkins has spent some time looking at the work of Tarantino. In particular Inglorious Basterds must have caught her attention. Tarantino’s commercially successful post modernist tryst married film to an assemblage of fake history coined out of second world war material.

    Inglorious Basterds is Tarantino’s affirmation that the world, and all it contains, should be subsumed to the movie. Cinema should no longer respond to the needs of the world; rather the world must respond to the needs of cinema. The needs of Tarantino’s cinema are not moral or ethical, but simply the production of spectacle. In the name of cinema, history is reduced to fashionable tropes of style and attitude, and ideas to the expressive mode of the comic book.

    Inglorious Basters in fact demonstrates how quickly spectacle spills over into parody, and, how quickly parody is divested of meaning. Voided of meaning, Inglorious Basters has no content, it becomes an emptied space located in spectacle. But in an era characterised by the creation of the Trump mythology ( the God of the Deal) the social and political objective is to strip discourse of notions of validity and truth. To use tweets and postings as psychopumps evacuating the oxygen of fact and truth from social exchange. The result is to create a situation of informational entropy in which every piece of information is equal to any other. A sort of law of universal equivalence. The practice of Trump’s White House is to destroy notions of accuracy validity and truth by drowning them in an overload of indifference and hostility.

    This process of overwhelming truth with alternative facts of course fits with Jenkins’ script which is based on alt truth in relation to the known facts of the first world war. In selecting Ludendorff as one of her main villains, Jenkins had to undertake in clear cognizance, a significant distortion of history. She had to trash the facts. But Jenkins, whether consciously or not, has absorbed the tutelage of Donald Trump, and in sympathy with his ethos of alt facts, Jenkins sabotages fact for the sake of spectacle. Jenkins could have chosen to substitute for Ludendorff a fictional character who resembled him. But she chose to go with the lie. Perhaps not so much for reasons of Box Office, but more perhaps because like Trump, the lie is amongst other things, a mechanism for flaunting her power. The power of the lie over truth represents the truth content of this movie. In that Jenkins takes on the power of the lie as the core to her narrative, in a sense she also becomes the architypal shadow of her eponymous hero, the dark side of the superwoman. adrin neatrour

  • The Other Side of Hope (Toivon tuolla puolen) Aki Kaurismaki (Finland 2016)

    The Other Side of Hope
    tuolla puolen) Aki
    Kaurismaki (Finland 2016) Sherman Haji;
    Sakari Kuosmanen

    viewed Tyneside Cinema 29 May 2017; ticket £9.75

    thin material

    Even though Aki Kaurismaki’s film may by the end be something of a flat line, there is ‘hope’ in the fact that this film has been produced. The Other Side of Hope (OSH) comes as a relief from the corporate money return vehicles that dominate the ‘plexes at the moment. Kaurismaki’s has written a script that starts with a perception and which he has shot without the dominance of image, thereby allowing idea to carry the scenario.

    The problem is that OSH is characterised by a lacking of some inner development and consequently its creative development tapers of, and its spirit dims..

    The other side of hope is exactly what Kaurismaki concerns himself with. A state of existence which has nothing to do with plot and everything to do with seeing of a reality. Kaurismaki focuses on a psychic portrayal of Finnish society and by extension other cultures into which asylum seekers migrate and then have to locate and identify themselves. The distant shore for the seekers of refuge and hope suddenly becomes actual. The seekers of hope find themselves in intimate intercourse with another society and have to confront and understand these forces to which they have exposed themselves. Forces both of inertia and reaction.

    How do societies like Finland engage with the process of recognising the new psychic realities represented by refugees to whom they are suddenly conjoined? Kaurismaki uses his camera to answer. His camera observes, objectively as tool of observation, recording the various responses of the Finish to the appearance of Khalid. There is no point of view, there is no subjectivity, no off-voice interlocutor. The interaction is played straight, using only dialogue and camera. Ultimately it is this rigidity of playing out the forces in the scenario, that traps Kaurismaki’s film in a cycle of diminishing returns.

    As if to provide the audience with some traction on the idea of another perception, Kaurismaki has given OSH a production look of Finland, that is analogous to a setting in the 1960’s /’70’s . The colour tones, most of the sets, the costumes and props, the music, all have that period flavour. The main Finnish characters all look over 50 and present as being comfortable in Kaurismaki’s retro world.

    By contrast the migrants are young and are the products of the world today.

    We see the people of yesterday meet the people of today.

    The film exploits on two intertwined themes that never develop or deviate from type. The representation of Finnish society is scripted as a one trick pony, an invariant joke that runs through the whole film. Fins are seen as pedantic, lugubrious laborious and trapped in the past. Fins come in two basic types: well meaning or reactionary. Kaurismaki’s playing out of these stereotypes is monopaced and repetitive, initially amusing but after an invariant hour, uninteresting. It seemed a shame that within the realm Kaurismaki had created, he was unable to create and release another kind of interpolation that would energise the production from a different perspective. The other dynamic in play in the script is not very original. It comprises Kaurismaki’s take on Ken Loach’s ‘Daniel Blake’. In similar fashion to Daniel Blake, Khalid is put through the grinder of the bureaucratic mill and rejected, and also targeted by a vicious group of reactionary down and outs: the losers of Finnish society. This element of interaction between Khalid and Finland is mechanically portrayed predictable and uninteresting. OSH ‘s formulaic scripting in this respect deprives the movie of any tension. In itself lack of tension would be OK were there other compensating insights or interpolations to energise the material. But there are not By credit roller Kaurismaki seems happy to have dropped the curtain on an ambiguous ending that protects him having to make a commitment.

    Kaurismaki may say he has made the film he intended. With its long musical interludes featuring old Finnish dudes reliving the glory days of their youth, OSH depicts a country locked into the past unable to relate the new realities of the 21st century’s scenario. But as the film with its monolithic structure becomes stuck in modes of repetition, if feels as if Kaurismaki, like his native culture has been unable to make the transition. adrin neatrour