Film quotient recovery

January has been a slow one for films, in terms of my attendance. This week, after getting back into the saddle with Alan Bennett last Sunday, I arranged to rectify this. On Monday, I saw 12 Years A Slave. The cinema was nearly full, which is quite unusual. I suppose it was near the peak of publicity and reviews. I think it justifies much of the praise, bar the false note of Brad Pitt’s somewhat jarring intervention. He co-produced it, which may be sufficient explanation.

On Wednesday we saw a preview of Teenage, which is based on Jon Savage’s book, followed by a Q&A with him. Having first noticed him occasionally on The Other Side of Midnight, I bought the tickets as much to see him as the film. He was great, the film much less so. I don’t think the conceit of the four narrators worked, their script being banal and pedestrian at best. The final sequence covering the post-war decades was a triumph, out of step with the rest of the film.

Thursday night was comedy, the mechanics showing rather too obviously, I thought.

Last year I and a friend went to see a preview of A Liar’s Autobiography at the opening night of the LOCO London Comedy Film Festival. This year, I booked four films, two of which were (very nearly) consecutive on Friday. First was a world premiere of Benny and Jolene. My companion had a great time spotting various famous celebrities and their families while waiting. The film was funny and warm, and it was interesting to hear that people are talking of Charlotte Ritchie as the English Diane Keaton. It was perhaps a victory of editing over structure-lessness, more or less admitted as such by the director. Not surprising when they shot it in 5 days, with a lot of improvisation. We just had time to attend to prosaic matters before the preview of We Are The Best!, a more upbeat film than many of Moodysson’s recent ones. This was hilarious and may have given more insight into teenage-hood than the film on Wednesday. I think there were two other people who’d rushed from one film to the next, which could be validation or confirmation. There was an afterparty for Benny and Jolene, which meant we had the chance (at last) to drink in the mysterious library bar at the BFI, where the bill arrives sandwiched in a book.

Saturday afternoon it was Somerset House for the Stanley Spencer chapel paintings. Sadly, very crowded, which is my own fault for not attending until the final weekend, but still very powerful. It was also the final two days of Julian Stair’s Quietus in the Lightwells & Deadhouse. The invigilator had to ask everyone not to touch the ceramics. One group asked if she “couldn’t just touch it a little?”. “Not really”, was the reply. I was interested to learn about the different types of container – cinerary, funerary etc.

Saturday evening we saw the fiftieth anniversary screening of Dr. Strangelove. The first time I saw that was at the school film society, a strong influence on me, so probably around 1984-5. Its impact is undiminished. There was a discussion afterwards with Kubrick’s widow Christiane, Jan Harlan (who worked with Kubrick later on) and Richard Daniels, who works on the Kubrick Archive. New to me was the ‘final pie fight’ scene, which took place in Ken Adam’s wonderful war room set but which (according to Christiane) didn’t rhyme with the funny and serious mood of the rest of the film. I would have preferred more discussion of other things, but I’m afraid questions kept returning to that topic. Christiane Kubrick also pointed out that he decided not to attempt a Holocaust film because it’s an untellable story. It looks like a festival worth supporting.

On Sunday, having been at the ICA for the Bloomberg New Contemporaries, I wondered about seeing Kiss The Water. Of course I disapprove of fishing, but if I only watched films concerning approved subjects, the available choice might be limited… It was quite unusual, with a mixture of interviews, location shots and animation, and I’m glad I did. The couple who went in just in front of me joked that “it will be just the three of us” because there was no-one else around. I replied that there might be a late rush and I think six more people arrived. Sad that more people weren’t there to enjoy it, as I’m sure they would have done.

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