When Gravity was coming out, I tried to buy tickets to the few IMAX showings. However, this was an unsatisfactory ‘experience’ – the only showings available were at unfeasible midnight-related hours of the night. Hence, the BFI IMAX remained just a building I saw during frequent trips to the Southbank, when taking a specific route to Waterloo, avoiding travelators for the Jubilee Line. What I hadn’t predicted was that my first visit there would be for a Jean Luc Godard film, in 3D. It’s actually quite a weird place to reach, with its isolation in a sort of roundabout, and a profusion of tunnels, only one of which leads to the entrance (more or less).
Though I love the early films of his I’ve seen, Breathless, Alphaville up to Le Weekend, and quite liked Eloge de l’amour, I’ve generally avoided the more sternly political Godard output of recent years. However, I couldn’t resist the idea of seeing Goodbye to Language on the huge screen, notwithstanding the dreariness of 3D glasses. The people behind me had a similar elitist attitude, describing a previous visit:
“Normally I hate 3D films. We came and walked out.”
Regarding their ticket purchase, they said that they’d joined specially to buy tickets for that film. Before the screening started, there was a brief introduction from Jonathan Romney, including the pleasing revelation that two of the actors would be answering questions afterwards. Romney prepared us by saying that it was like being savaged (or a similar violent simile). As usual, there was a period of acclimatisation to the 3D, but in this case Godard deliberately kept us on our toes, because at points we would use two different images, not to create the appearance of depth but to create a ghostly overlapping of two different versions of a scene at once, which was a disturbing but very effective trick. (For instance, you would see characters in two different positions at once, conveying different social dynamics). It may have been with this in mind that the question of whether the “non-working 3D was deliberate” was raised, to general bemusement.
Because I hadn’t read the blurb properly, I wasn’t aware how prominent a role the dog Roxy would play. In fact, he’s one of the main protagonists. A human says at one point that he “looks depressed”.
“No, he’s dreaming of the islands, like in the Jack London novel”,
responded another. The actors later lamented that they never got to meet Roxy during shooting. Some of the dialogue was textbook Godard:
“He’s just an individual…”
“I hate characters”
Someone asked whether the subtitles had been sub-contracted, explaining the errors he detected. The actors responded that Godard is involved directly in every part of his films and they assumed this applied to the subtitles as well. One of them also revealed that they’d watched it from the top of the IMAX, and the audience effectively appeared in the film for him. “Bravo”, was his verdict. It was another appearance for the now familiar French interpreter for the BFI, leading to the suggestion that soon
“we’ll need an interpreter for our own thoughts”.
As ever with Godard, the amount of female nudity didn’t seem fully justified and it was perhaps difficult to engage with the characters. However, it was highly distinctive and bracing, and thought-provoking. As Jonathan Romney said, it’s the
“most violent use of 3D ever”.
This was one of the two-film evenings, when I had to travel from Waterloo to Mayfair, for The Falling at the Curzon. On the way I bought some form of “super salad”, but forgot to take the free fork. Suffering some moral anguish, I nevertheless took a free fork from another shop, to save unedifying finger-based eating, which wouldn’t go down very well in that area. I’d never seen that Curzon so busy. There was basically no room inside, so people were congregating by the doors, sheltering from the unhelpful rain. A man was desperately trying to impress his lady companion with the tale of his recently-acquired flat, how he had out-foxed Foxton’s. After a false alarm, they came back out and he conceded that there is an “extra buzz” of seeing a film at a festival, being surrounded by journalists who’ve seen two films already. I think there were a lot of industry types there, judging by the comments such as
“the first film I ever art directed”
that I heard in passing.
Of course, I remember Carol Morley from the semi-infamous Tot in Manchester in the 1980s, who appeared on the Debris magazine compilation I bought from Eastern Bloc. The Alcohol Years was an intriguing glimpse into the Manchester of my teenage-hood, a little before I became aware, and Dreams Of A Life was wonderful. The Falling I found a little disappointing. Maxine Peake’s character was very thinly drawn and she was under-used, while the air of over-heated unreality that’s necessary for this sort of story wasn’t earned. It was interesting to see another film in which a tree had a central role (after the Japanese banyan), and I think it might benefit from a second viewing, for the generally good performances at least. It’s quite close to being a great film, but misfires somewhat. One distracting aspect of the Q&A was that as Carol Morley moved around on stage, her face was covered with a projected @ sign and a # mark, from the film festival message.
The next day, I had taken the day off work, trying to fit in as much as I could. Around lunchtime, it was back to Leicester Square (bah), for A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night, one of the three the festival director had recommended on the Film Programme. The film’s director appeared briefly beforehand, exclaiming:
“What’s up, London”,
rather incongruously. Fairly recently I saw a Lebanese vampire film, so I added to my collection with this (American-)Iranian one. Sheila Vand is striking as the protagonist,
“kind of young and old at the same time”,
as Amirpour said. It’s certainly enigmatic, with some unexplained assumptions and gruesome rituals amongst the townspeople, and the cinematography is great. Someone asked how she’d obtained permission to film in Iran, not realising it was in fact shot in America. I can’t remember the name of the town, I’m afraid, but one of the lead actors was also present and his summary of the town was:
“I won’t be going back there again.”
Naturally it’s not available in Iran, but the director said she was confident that it would be, once it’s been released in the West on DVD… She had a surprising sympathy for some of the largely “bad” characters in the film, which perhaps came from what she described as:
“the dark mass of my brain”.