Review: Eternity and a Day

Friends member Rob Baker reviews Eternity and a Day which screened recently as part of a small season of films in conjunction with Amnesty International Leeds.

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After Arrival (2016) we have another film playing with concepts of time. Eternity and a Day (1998) is the second of three screenings at the Picture House organised by the local Amnesty group’s Refugee and Asylum Seeker Sub-Group.

Alexander (Bruno Ganz) is an aging Greek poet who believes he is facing his last day on earth. An unnamed medical intervention is planned for the next day, and he does not expect to recover – we almost get an impression of voluntary euthanasia. He starts the day trying to find a home for the dog he knows he must leave behind.

Alexander time-shifts through the day, re-living encounters with his parents (only his ailing mother now survives), his young wife (deceased), and his daughter both as a child and grown up (bringing us to current time).  With the exception of a couple of scenes showing him as a child, playing on the beach with other children, with his Mother off-screen calling him to come in for dinner, Alexander appears in most of these scenes as his current late middle-aged self. We are even taken back to the mid 19th century with the appearance aboard a Thessaloniki night-bus of a long dead poet, whose key unfinished work  Alexander  has set himself the task of finishing, though of course he hasn’t – “Nothing is finished” he laments.

Powerful symbols of “passing on” intrude on the scene, with buses and ships, even a trio of cyclists in yellow oilskins, hoving into view behind the protagonists. The constant leitmotif of the film is the Aegean shoreline where nearly all the family encounters of the past and present play out. The sea, the final frontier for us all to cross, sparkles in the sunshine.

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Fidel Castro, 1926 to 2016

Fidel Castro, Prime Minister of Cuba, smokes a cigar during his meeting with two U.S. senators, the first to visit Castro's Cuba, in Havana, Cuba, Sept. 29, 1974. (AP Photo)

Fidel Castro, Prime Minister of Cuba, smokes a cigar during his meeting with two U.S. senators, the first to visit Castro’s Cuba, in Havana, Cuba, Sept. 29, 1974. (AP Photo)

Apart from reactionaries in the USA most people will mourn the passing of this revolutionary leader. So a good way to celebrate his achievements and contributions would be to screen one of the  outstanding films that were produced by ICAIC. My preferred title would be Memories of Underdevelopment (Memorias del subdesarrollo, 1968) directed by Tomás Gutiérrez Alea which has been restored by the World Cinema Foundation. And Alea’s later The Last Supper (La última cena 1976) is likely to be available on 35mm . Another would be Lucía (1968) directed by Humberto Solás which should also still be available in a 35mm print.

Since either would now be in a 2017 programme this would also provide a harbinger for celebrations of the centenary of the 1917 Revolution as ICAIC were among the important heirs of Soviet Silent Montage.

 

 

Paterson France, Germany, USA 2016

Daily from Friday 25th November

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This new film from Jim Jarmusch was the opening film at the Leeds International Film Festival. Jarmusch also scripted the film and the Festival Catalogue quotes him:

“I love variation and repetition in poetry, in music and in art. Whether it’s in Bach or Andy Warhol. In the film I wanted to make this little structure to be a metaphor for life, that every day is a variation on the day before or the day coming up.”

What we get in the film is the slight variations in the life of Paterson (Adam Driver) who lives and works in the city of Paterson. The city is famous for the Great Falls situated on the Passaic River and as the subject an epic poem by William Carlos Williams, a member of the US modernist poetry movement.

Paterson is an amateur poet who works as a local bus driver. The variations in his life and work take place over seven days. We see him frequently writing poetry in his notebook. and there are occasional encounters including with a much younger would-be poet.

Mornings, evening and night-times are spent at his house which he shares with Laura (Golshifteh Farahani) and her dog Marvin (Nellie, playing in a cross-gender role). Laura seems mainly involved in domestic labour. Marvin, a ‘British Bulldog’, clearly is jealous of Paterson. But Paterson take shim for his regular evening walk when he visits a local bar where we see the more local inhabitants and some of the drama in their lives.

The film offers low-key humour. The observation of Paterson and his environs is absorbing. However, he is a slightly fey character and Laura is even more so. I did think that Farahani’s part was seriously underwritten. I thought that Marvin was more developed in character. It would seem though that this will be Nellie’s only film role as an end title is dedicated to her memory. She won the 2016 Palm Dog posthumously.

The production of the film is well done. The cinematography by Frederick Elmes is clear, direct and makes good use of settings like the Falls. And the editing, by Alfonso Gonçalves, works well and makes some of the humour in its cuts. The composer Carter Logan, who worked on Jarmusch’s last film Only Lovers Left Alive (2013), adds to the irony with judicious music.

I should note that the Sight & Sound review by Henry K. Miller thought this the best work by Jarmusch since Ghost Dog (1999). If your taste is in Jarmusch movies then you will likely enjoy this.

Our LIFF30 Highlights

The film festival is over for another year and once again has provided Leeds with a fantastic selection of films. Below we share five of our highlights from the festival and would love to see yours in the comments:

Bill

Bill's Top 5There are so many films being made around the world!  The Leeds Film Festival programme is just a small sample, and the thirty or so films I saw are just a small sample of what the Festival had to offer. Here are 5 films that I enjoyed, in no particular order:

  • Sieranevada  – a beautifully directed and acted glimpse of a Romanian
    family’s memorial commemoration, which also says something about wider
    Eastern European society.
  • Chi-raq – Spike Lee’s theatrical exploration of the issues around Black
    Lives Matter, made with the involvement of people living in Chicago’s
    Southside.
  • Lonesome – a love story, with live organ accompaniment, mostly set in
    Coney Island, and made at a time when silent films were giving way to
    the new ‘talkies’
  • The Handmaiden – an exciting and beautiful Korean/Japanese story, with
    different perspectives challenging us to work out what is really going
    on
  • Fukushima, Mon Amour – the aftermath of the earthquake, tsunami, and
    nuclear reactor meltdown, is the setting for this film about the lives
    of people 5 years later, as seen through the eyes of a German woman who
    wants to bring some pleasure to their lives

I could have added another 5 quite easily.

Keith

Keith's Top 5

  • The Art of Negative Thinking – Scandinavian filmmakers excel at combining disability and humour.
  • Certain Women –Three well crafted stories, four excellent performances.
  • Mimosas – Very fine visually but the story requires careful thought and study.
  • Old Stone – A good Samaritan suffers under Chinese capitalism.
  • Woman of the Dunes – A black and white classic in a good 35mm print.

Stephen

Stephen's Top 5

  • Mindhorn – The funniest film since What We Do In The Shadows. I’d forgotten how fantastic it is to see an incredibly funny film in a packed cinema. We laughed so hard we probably missed half the jokes. Followed by a brilliant surreal Q&A.
  • A Man Called Ove – Perfectly combining humour and humanity, everything comes together to remind you there is some good in the world.
  • The Autopsy of Jane Doe – The best horror film I’ve seen in some time. Delivers intelligent thrills and never outstays it’s welcome by becoming too silly.
  • Breakfast at Tiffany’s – Seeing this projected (from 35mm) gave me a new appreciation and managed to completely charm me where I’d previously been underwhelmed.
  • Two Lovers and a Bear – A complete surprise, I knew nothing about this film and found it all completely delightful.

This was the strongest festival I remember and I’d recommend nearly all the films I saw. My next 5 films were Pet, The Birth of A Nation,  The First, The Last, Life Animated and Paterson.

Jake

Jake's Top 5

  • Certain Women – Kelly Reichardt’s most fully realised film to date. Maile Meloy’s short stories perfectly compliment each other, providing a perfect counterpart to Reichardt’s earlier adaptations of Jon Raymond. Great performances from the central cast, especially Laura Dern and relative newcomer, Lily Gladstone.
  • Mister Universo – Tizza Covi and Rainer Frimmel’s simple fiction played out by real life members of the Italian circus community. A beautiful intersection between fact and fiction, that functions as both a road movie and an affectionate family portrait.
  • The Woman of the Dunes – Teshigahara/Abe’s Sisyphusian nightmare. A classic. So glad I got to see this on a big screen on 35mm.
  • Graduation – Doting father, Romeo, walks moral tightropes in this austere drama from Cristian Mungiu. Shades of Haneke’s Hidden in it’s creeping sense of dread.
  • Mimosas – Ecstatic fiction, quasi-western with the Atlas mountains as a backdrop. Shakib Ben Omar is a wild, charismatic lead. A natural heir to Ninetto Davoli.

Napoleon France 1927

Sunday November 13th at 11.15 a.m. in The Victoria Hall

napoleon

This silent film epic is screening in The Victoria Hall with a pre-recorded musical accompaniment. The film itself, directed by Abel Gance, is one of the outstanding achievements of European silent cinema. Epic well describes the over five hours which only take in Napoleon’s youth and early career. Gance and his production team, especially the lead cinematographer Cinematography by Léonce-Henri Burel, were in the vanguard of film technique in this period. In an early scene the mobile camera brings out the dynamism of young Bonaparte: and these techniques are paralleled on many occasions especially in a dramatic sequence in the French Assembly. The film makes extensive use of tinting and toning, reproduced in this version. Finally the film ends with a precursor of the Cinerama format, as the entry of Napoleon’s army into Italy is presented on three screens in a magnificent panorama.

The film has been transferred to a digital format. So whether this will be equal to the thrill of 35mm presentations has to be seen. However, Kevin Brownlow, who painstakingly restored the film over many years, made the point that it will look better than on the 9.5 mm gauge in which he first viewed it. And it will certainly look better than on a Blu-Ray or DVD. On the large screen at the Town Hall, 12 metres across, the framing will be about 27 by 20 foot. And the final triptych has been folded into a 2.39:1 frame, stretching across the entire screen. Added to this, the score that Carl Davis composed to accompany  film screenings, based extensively on music contemporary to the time, will be in 7:1 Dolby Surround Sound, and the Town Hall has good acoustics for music.

The film falls into three parts, though this screening has three intervals, so I am unsure where they will fall. Still, if you have never seen Napoleon on the big screen then this is a cinema must.

A Fanomenon Selection

LIFF30 Fanomenon

As LIFF enters its 30th year, here is a selection of some of the Fanomenon strand of weird and wonderful films playing at the Hyde Park Picture House:

Francesca (2015)

Francesca is a beautiful and bloody love letter to the Italian giallos of the 70s. A psychopath in a red coat and leather gloves is stalking the city, clearing it of ‘impure and damned souls’. The crimes seem linked to an unsolved case from many years ago.

A Monster Calls (2016)

Based on the acclaimed novel by Patrick Ness, this dark compelling from J A Bayona (The Orphanage) tells the story of a young boy visited by an enormous, tree-shaped monster – voiced, obviously, by Liam Neeson!

Kids Police (2013)

From one of Japan’s wildest comic film creators Yuichi Fukada comes this delightful spoof of procedural cop dramas. Chief Onuma and his Special Investigative Division are transformed back into their child selves by terrorists. Can Onuma and his mini squad stop the terrorists taking over Japan? A big story about very little heroes!

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Happy #LIFF30 Day

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As you probably know the 30th Leeds International Film Festival starts tonight with a screening of Jim Jarmusch’s Paterson at the Town Hall (it’s also showing at the Picture House on Saturday 5th at 8:30pm).

We were hoping to post more about the festival but it’s going to be busy few weeks so that might be difficult but don’t forget about our Twitter and Facebook pages. You can find all of our #LIFF30 posts here including a fascinating look at how the Friends started the festival 30 years ago. On Friday we’ll be highlighting some of the films in the Fanomenon strand showing at the Picture House. The Leeds Movie Fans Meetup Group also have a number of meetings planned during the festival, check out their webpages for more details.

There are nearly 150 films on offer over the next few weeks so there’s bound to be something for everyone. If you’re still planning what to see you might find this clashfinder useful. There really seems to be a lot of great films this year. I’m planning on seeing 45 films over the next two weeks (you can follow my progress on Letterboxd and Twitter) and I still feel like I’m missing out. Here’s a list of ten films I really wanted to see but couldn’t fit in (and that doesn’t include any of the classic films in the soundtrack retrospective which I’d love to have seen again!)

  1. A Divorce Before Marriage
  2. Dougal And The Blue Cat
  3. As I Open My Eyes
  4. Cameraperson
  5. Greetings From Fukushima
  6. Graduation
  7. Lady Macbeth
  8. November
  9. Napoleon
  10. A Silent Voice

We hope you enjoy the festival and would love to hear your thoughts about any of the films in the comments (or contact us if you’d like to write a longer post for the blog).

Woman of the Dunes/Suna no onna, Japan 1964

Friday November 4th at 4.30 p.m. and Wednesday November 9th at 1.00 p.m.

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This is one of the classic films screening at the Leeds International Film festival and one of the few in the original format of 35mm. It is part of a retrospective ‘Soundtracks’ and the film has a minimalist and modernist electronic score by Japanese composer Takemitsu Toru. He was a regular collaborator with the film director Teshigahara Hiroshi and this is the latter’s most notable film. It won the Special Jury Prize at the Cannes International Film Festival and was nominated for an Academy Award in the Best Foreign-Language Film category.

It is an example of the modernist film-making found in the Japanese New Wave of the 1960s. It is a film of ambiguities but with a fascinating narrative and characters. An etymologist goes to the beach collect specimens for the day but events prevent his return to the city in the evening. The story develops in beautifully unexpected ways.  Visually the film is a tour de force, especially in the black and white deep focus cinematography of Segawa Hiroshi. The imagery at times is abstract and the music of Takemitsu adds to the unconventional feel of the film.

The film also has a strong set of social themes running through it. These receive extra emphasis from the opening and closing credits which offer an added dimension to the allegory. The film runs for just over two hours and exercises at time a hypnotic feel. Not to be missed on the big screen.

A History of Leeds Film Festival

LIFF30

It is the 30th edition of the Leeds International Film Festival this November. From its instigation in 1987 by members of the Friends of Hyde Park Picture House the festival has consistently presented a wide-ranging programme of films and film based events annually, across a shifting landscape of city venues.

Laura Ager, a volunteer at the Hyde Park Picture House who has worked with the film festival in various roles over the last 10 years, recalls how she first became interested in the history of the festival and, in the course of her research, has tracked down some of its former directors and supporters to ask them what the festival meant to them.

Two typed documents, discovered by chance in the office of the Leeds International Film Festival at Leeds Town Hall, announced the coming of The Leeds International Film Festival.

In November 1987, the Leisure Services department at Leeds City Council proclaimed that in 1988:

Leeds, the birthplace of the film industry, will celebrate the centenary of the moving image by holding a major international film festival.[1]

This film festival would celebrate 100 years since Louis le Prince filmed the people and traffic in ‘Leeds Bridge Scene’ at a spot now marked with a Leeds Civic Trust blue plaque.

The Leeds International Film Festival took place from 13th – 29th October 1988. On the first day, the famous traffic scene was reconstructed on Leeds Bridge at 2pm, later on that day a ‘black & white ball’ was held in the Town Hall. The film programme addressed eight themes that year: comedy, horror, war, music in films, images of England, animation, women and film and documentary[2]. Continue reading

I, Daniel Blake UK/France/Belgium 2016

Screening daily from Friday October 21st until Thursday November 3rd               [excepting Sunday October 30th]

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The new film directed by Ken Loach comes garlanded with the Palme d’Or from the Cannes Film Festival. As usual it is scripted by Paul Laverty and has been part-funded by the BBC, the BFI and European companies. The film is set in Newcastle-upon-Tyne among the northern English working class. And the plot revolves round the travails of ordinary working people attempting to cope with an unsympathetic and exploitative state system. Thus it combines situations and themes that have dominated Loach’s films since the seminal Cathy Come Home (1966).

Ken Loach’s long and illustrious career makes him one of the most productive of contemporary British film-makers and the oldest recipient of the Cannes Festival’s premier award. Yet his work has a continuity and repetition that makes all his films easily recognisable. We are told that, as is his wont, the film was shot chronologically. It uses both experienced and non-professional performers. And it relies to a degree on the long shot and the long take, giving it an observational style. Note, despite the clips in the Versus… documentary this film screens in standard widescreen, 1.85:1 and is in colour. It was shot on Kodak film stock but is being distributed on a DCP.

In an interview this week Loach took the BBC and television generally to task for their failings in representing the working class of Britain in any meaningful manner. So his continuing engagement with this world and with the politics of resistance makes the film essential viewing.