I have seen the original release of ‘The Handmaiden’ at the Leeds International Film Festival but now the general release offers a choice between that [144 minutes] and the longer ‘Director’s Cut’ [167 minutes]. [Both have featured in the Hyde Park Picture House programme]. I found the original entertaining and at times very funny. It seemed to me that it was a film about pornography rather than being pornographic, though I do think it exploits that genre to a degree.
Basically I found the film full of both irony and with a sardonic treatment. It is beautifully done in all technical departments. The way the film uses voyeurism makes it seem longer than necessary. However, I enjoyed the ending when the two male protagonists have their final confrontation and the two young women their rather different conclusion.
A friend has offered these comments on the Director’s Cut:
“I do not think that the Director’s Cut adds much more than time to the overall story . My bottom was stiff but not sore due to the extra spanking. Also , I think we get a little more explicit sex. Also a few scenes with close ups of symbolic items are more in line with visual story telling.
Question :How old does one have to be to warrant the title ” male voyeur ? ( imagine Harold Steptoe saying it ). Park Chan-Wook is 53 , that is not the answer .A better question might be what does it take to make one feel like a voyeur?
I have viewed the film twice and not felt too worried on that score . I do wonder what couples feel when they watch side by side ( the trailer does not reveal the girls attraction for each other so much ) , a bit like watching a sexually explicit film at home with your parents ? A group of girls at the front laughed once or twice , I could not tell if it was nervous or really because of the obvious mischievous humour involved. I did not attempt a post film discussion to get the female view.
One of the actors in Blue is The Warmest Colour accused the director of exploitation , the other more experienced actress did not .Again it was a male director and the ‘male gaze’ question crops up. The two girls in The Handmaiden seemed to be having a good time , but perhaps the inscrutability of the Orient hides a multitude of sins ?
This is not a pornographic film obviously , especially considering what young boys can see on the internet . The set up of a costumed virgin telling gothic style tales of ladies jade gates etc would certainly not interest a modern audience , not even the puppet sequence . The two main actresses are beautiful and lively with enough physical difference to cause no confusion and they certainly make bells ring . I have not read ‘Fingersmith’ , the source material for the story and do not intend to even to check what elements of sexual play Park has added.
I believe that I am not a ‘mere voyeur’ , but did enjoy watching the girls dressed and not , But confess that I did not go to see the film for the things that the critics focus on : Japan and Korean politics and social aspirations , the playing parts and constantly shifting allegiances , the costumes and elaborate sets , etc
It is a beautiful film to look at and the girls are part of it . Perhaps the Psychologist in ‘The Dirty Dozen’ has the answer . When showing the Rorshac images to Charles Bronson , he gets sex as the answer each time .You seem to have a one track mind , says the Shrink , You’re the one with the dirty pictures , says Charley .Is it all in the mind or just the ‘male gaze’ (I must dig out my De Sade )” DILLIPS “
I did think that Blue is the Warmest Colour did exploit female sexuality whereas I did not feel that about The Handmaiden. Of course the two young actors are performing, but the characters they play are meant to enjoy their sexual activity. Where is the border line between act and performance?
As for the ‘male gaze’ it has so many and varied meanings that it is difficult to pin down. I think, rather like Elle, that this film exploits the borderline between art and exploitation cinemas. A very contemporary sensibility.
“A woman should never be a victim of male violence. Discuss.”
“Male violence is obviously intolerable, no exceptions, the ultimate threat of patriarchy.
Nothing more to say …”
Michèle “Shame isn’t a strong enough emotion to stop us doing anything at all. Believe me.”
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.
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.
This is a short programme about a key First World War documentary film shot mainly during the battle whose centenary occurs this year. The programme was shown on the BBC News Channel and is currently available on the BBC I-Player, [till the end of July]. Apart from the relevance of the topic itself there are some interesting shots of the Hyde Park Picture House. The cinema was the venue for a screening of the original film to an invited audience.
The Battle of the Somme was a filmed and released in 1916. It was five reels in length and ran for around 70 minutes. The film footage was shot by Geoffrey H. Malins and J. B. McDowell. Both were employed by the Cinematograph Trade Topical Committee, a number of production companies involved in early newsreels, who negotiated with the military authorities for cameramen to film on the front line. The military were initially against letting filmmakers into combat areas, but the needs of wartime propaganda [at which the Germans were especially effective] overrode this. [Effectively these cameramen were official cinematographers and ’embedded’ as the phrase goes].
Malins was to become the most famous wartime cameraman, partly through the success of the Somme film and partly through his book How I Filmed the War (1920). He was already involved in Newsreel filmmaking, having started out in still photography. J. B. McDowell had worked in the film industry in production prior to the war and joined Malins on the Western front. When the film footage was returned to Britain it was edited under the supervision of Charles Urban [an important pioneer producer and filmmaker] with Malins. It seems that it was Urban who proposed that the footage be turned into a feature length film, an unusual event at the time. This feature was released in August 1916, whilst the Battle of the Somme continued. Continue reading
This new biopic comes out at a propitious time. Ken Loach has won his second Palme’ d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival for I, Daniel Blake. He joins an elect group of filmmakers, Bille August, Emir Kusterica and Shohei Imamura, who have also won this prestigious award twice since its inception in the current form in 1975. The award confirms Loach’s status as one of the most important of contemporary European filmmakers: though one who has been honoured more on the continent than in his home territory.
The documentary has been produced by Loach regular Rebecca O’Brien, scripted by his colleague Paul Laverty, and directed by Louise Osmond. It also includes many of the people who have worked with Loach, including Tony Garnett, whose output at the BBC is also seminal. My main reservation is that Osmond’s previous film, Dark Horse (2015), was made like a typical television documentary and utilised archive and found footage of rather low quality. But its focus was ordinary working people who are the recurring centre of Loach’s own films.
It was shot in 2.35:1 and that ratio does allow some striking shots by cinematographer Roger Chapman. But it also means that the extracts from Loach’s own films have been re-framed to fit this format. This does not do them any favours, in some frames heads are cut off. The footage of Loach working on I, Daniel Blake is in the same ratio. Some of this is interesting, but often it feels like a ‘making of ….’ treatment.
Where the films scores are the interviews with Ken Loach and Tony Garnett. Loach is unassuming but rigorous in his comments. And Tony Garnett is both intelligent and stimulating. We also get a brief interveiw with Nell Dunn [Up the Junction] and recordings of Jim Allen. The latter was an important collaborator and influence on Loach. And there is an excellent comment by Gabriel Byrne on the suppression of the production of Perdition. It would have been good to have more from other important collaborators like Rebecca O’Brien and Paul Laverty.
The documentary is also strong on the frequently myopic and predjudiced treatment of Loach’s film among British critics. As Derek Malcom remarks, he is much more honoured on the continent. Whilst he has won many awards at the Cannes Film Festival, The Berlin Film Festival and even a French César. None of his films has ever been awarded a BAFTA!
Certainly Loach’s film and television output has deserved this. From the pioneering work in the 1960s, notably Cathy Come Home, made for the BBC with Tony Garnett, to the recent series of annual film releases, his work has been among the best and most interesting produced in the UK. And this film does pay due attention to his early work for the BBC. Whatever its limitations this documentary is worth seeing as a deserved retrospective of his contribution.
Filipino director, Lav Diaz, once said of his epic, sometime 10+ hr films, is that he likes the idea that audiences could leave the cinema, go to work, then return and carry on watching. That his films just breathe, exist, like we do. Parts of Miguel Gomes’ 6.5 hour Arabian Nights felt like that to me; These ambling, slice of life portraits of modern day Portugal, structured in a style inspired by One Thousand and One Nights, as told by Scheherazade. They show a Portugal in the shadow of austerity, yet plugging on. Breathing, Existing.
For example, the final 90 or so minutes, entitled “The Inebriating Chorus of the Chaffinches”, is about a group of disparate men, some of whom we’ve met already, who engage in the hobby of trapping and training chaffinches for singing competitions. The section, much like the rest of the trilogy, is at once sublime and ridiculous; weaving together their everyday existences, with Scheherazade’s anecdotal, at times bizarre narration, shedding light on their insular world whilst birds tweet and trill constantly in the background.
I hope plenty of people, like the audience at the Picture House today, get to watch the Arabian Nights films as a whole. I think they benefit from being in close proximity with each other, especially the final volume. I also hope audiences go home and watch Gomes’ previous films; The Face You Deserve (which is on Mubi until the 22nd ), the critically lauded Tabu (2012), and the (in my opinion) masterpiece, Our Beloved Month of August (2008), both of which screened at LIFF 26.
Strictly speaking this is a wry Welsh film comedy. It is uneven but engaging. If you have seen writer and director Jamie Adams’ early films [Benny & Jolene and Christmas Time, 2014) you will know if it is your sort of comedy. The basic story is set on a weekend rural ‘Poet’s Poetry Society’ event. In fact there is only a limited amount of poetry, with two complete poems, one in Welsh. The film is really interested in the characters. At the centre are sisters Lisa (Alice Lowe) and Claire (Dolly Wells). They are excellent, as are the supporting cast which includes another pair of sisters. The event and the attending poets are whimsical and slightly absurdist.
The film has an improvised quality, it was shot over five days. The continuity is not so much full of holes as coming and going as the whim takes the film. The editing has a fragmentary quality, it is as if the audience are listening in to the characters as they wander round. But there is a definite trajectory in the relationships over the four days. Bizarrely the poetry event includes camping on the Welsh hills. This provides innumerable settings for very fine widescreen cinematography by Ryan Owen Eddleston.
The film is unconventional and rarely formulaic. There is quite a lot of music on the soundtrack, sometimes unnecessarily so. But the film provides a warm and quietly humorous 85 minutes.
This is the new film by Patricio Guzman. His most famous work is The Battle of Chile. This epic documentary was made in exile in Cuba in three parts. These are La batalla de Chile: La lucha de un pueblo sin armas – Primera parte: La insurreción de la burguesía 1975: Segunda parte: El golpe de estado 1976: Tercera parte: El poder popular 1979. The last time it was shown locally was five or more years ago in one of the screenings ‘tween’ festivals and then I think only Part 1 and Part 2. There were 35mm prints in the UK [Metro Pictures], if they are still here it would be good to have a fresh opportunity to see what Time Out praised as “among the best documentaries ever made”.
Guzman’s new film is a companion piece to the earlier Nostalgia for Light / Nostalgia de la luz 2010. Both films combine a sort of poetic essay with a documentary treatment. The earlier film was mainly set in Chile’s northern and arid Atacama desert. In part it followed widows and family members of the ‘disappeared’ under the Military Junta looking for traces of their lost ones. The new film is set in the southern Patagonian region and initially addresses the genocidal treatment of the indigenous Indians but then draws parallels with victims of the Junta who perished in the same region. The button of the title is one of the links between these groups.
In both films Guzman uses a physiological and cosmological metaphor to bind the issues together. In this film it is water: bought to earth originally by comets and one of the major features of the Patagonian region: the others are mountains and glaciers. Both films are full of impressive visuals and enjoy distinctive sound designs. I thought the metaphoric aspects worked better in this film. It also has a freer form which allows/demands that the audience think through the interaction.
The film is in standard widescreen and colour with English subtitles. It also uses black and white archival stills and film. My only reservation was that the film follows that increasing and problematic habit of reframing early film: not exactly respectful for the predecessors of today’s’ filmmakers.
The film is showing on Wednesday and Thursday. The Wednesday screening will also offer one of the short films from The Artist Cinema 2016: El Helicóptero, which turns out to have an intriguing link with the feature, [Thursday’s may also screen this short film]. Thursday’s screening is followed by a recording of a Q&A with the film director.
Friends committee member Bill Walton picks out some highlights from the first week of the 29th Leeds International Film Festival.
What I really like about the Leeds International Film Festival is the sheer variety of subjects, styles, genres, formats, and cultures. Thus the Festival gives me a glimpse of the world seen through other eyes.
A few examples of films that were both entertaining and thought-provoking are Tangerine (2015): a lively, low budget film set in Los Angeles, which gives food for thought about sexual identity.