Son of Saul: Auschwitz in unrelenting close-up

<em>Son of Saul</em>: Auschwitz in unrelenting close-up

In recent days I’ve made two journeys back into the dark heart of Auschwitz courtesy of a book and a film. But You Did Not Come Back is Marceline Loridan-Ivens’ moving memoir addressed to her father. Aged fifteen, she survived the death camp, but her father did not return. The acclaimed film Son of Saul was my second encounter with the horrors of Auschwitz. Despite the praise heaped upon László Nemes’s film, I have my reservations. Continue reading Son of Saul: Auschwitz in unrelenting close-up”

Patricio Guzman’s The Pearl Button: ‘We are all streams from one water’

Patricio Guzman’s <em>The Pearl Button</em>: ‘We are all streams from one water’

We are all streams from one water.

A block of quartz three thousand years old is the opening image of Patricio Guzman’s The Pearl Button; trapped inside is a drop of water. It was found in Chile’s Atacama desert, the driest place on Earth. Guzman’s last film, Nostalgia for the Light, began there, too.

After aridity, water: whereas that film remained for the most part in that ‘condemned land’ where human remains are mummified and objects are frozen in time, water is the key to everything in The Pearl Button, and Guzman follows the water – ‘Chile’s longest border’ – two and a half thousand miles south to Western Patagonia where the mountains of the Andes sink into the water to re-emerge as thousands of islands. Continue reading “Patricio Guzman’s The Pearl Button: ‘We are all streams from one water’”

Andy Sheppard and Joanna MacGregor: A Song of Two Humans

Andy Sheppard and Joanna MacGregor: A Song of Two Humans

I went to see pianist Joanna MacGregor and saxophonist Andy Sheppard play their new live score for Sunrise, F.W. Murnau’s 1927 silent film, more for the jazz. I thought I might be slightly irritated and distracted by the flickering images above the musicians’ heads.  I could not have been more mistaken: I was totally enthralled by Sunrise, and now understand why it is regarded as a cinematic masterpiece. Images from it have haunted my mind ever since the screening. Continue reading “Andy Sheppard and Joanna MacGregor: A Song of Two Humans”

The Innocence of Memories: a story of love, obsession and a city

<em>The Innocence of Memories</em>: a story of love, obsession and a city

A city, Orhan Pamuk once told me, would be a museum for our memories if we live in it long enough.
Narration, ‘The Innocence of Memories’

Director Grant Gee’s last film was Patience (After Sebald), a film in which passages read from Sebald’s book The Rings of Saturn complemented images of the Suffolk landscape with absolute perfection. Now he has done something similar with Orhan Pamuk’s novel The Museum of Innocence, taking the viewer on atmospheric journeys, drifting through the deserted streets and alleyways of Istanbul at night, accompanied by readings from the novel and extra material also written by Pamuk. It’s a stunning film, perhaps the best invocation of the spirit of a work of literature that I’ve seen.  It also provides a guided tour of the Museum of Innocence itself, established by Pamuk in Istanbul to house real objects that trace the fictional love affair described in the novel. Continue reading The Innocence of Memories: a story of love, obsession and a city”

Janis: Little Girl Blue: break another little bit of my heart

<em>Janis: Little Girl Blue</em>: break another little bit of my heart

Janis: Little Girl Blue is a documentary directed by Amy Berg about Janis Joplin.  It’s a story with which you’re already familiar, and a subject that might too easily appeal to those harbouring a lurid interest in drug-fuelled sexual excesses or a tie-dyed nostalgia for the sixties. Berg, though, avoids sensationalism or pathos (except perhaps in the title), and her film features few of those music biz talking heads, familiar from Friday evening BBC 4 music documentaries, blathering on about how so-and-so was such a wonderful person who single-handedly changed the course of modern music. Continue reading Janis: Little Girl Blue: break another little bit of my heart”

Kumiko, Fargo and what is real and what is not

<em>Kumiko, Fargo</em> and what is real and what is not

All through the autumn I was gripped by the brilliant second season of Fargo as it went out on Channel 4. The body count by the end was colossal, but the strength of the writing never left you in any doubt about the cost of all the killing, while the black humour and post-modern wit constantly brought a smile to my face – only for it to be quickly wiped away by the next murder.

So when I got an email from Curzon Home Cinema, inviting me to take a look at Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter, a film about a young Japanese woman who is obsessed with locating the case of money buried in final scene of the Coen brothers’ original film, I was ready for it. Watching it, I had the curious sensation that I was seeing an epilogue to season two as Kumiko, the main character, forms the disastrously wrong idea that the Coen brothers’ film is real: it does, after all, start out with the words ‘This is a true story’. Continue reading Kumiko, Fargo and what is real and what is not”

Marshland: Spain’s True Detectives

<em>Marshland</em>: Spain’s True Detectives

It’s easy to see why the reviews have likened Marshland, the Spanish noir directed by Alberto Rodríguez to the first season of True Detective. The film opens with a title sequence comprising stunning aerial shots of the marshes that provide the story’s setting before plunging down into the terrain and introducing the two detectives sent to this remote area of southern Spain to investigate the disappearance (soon revealed to be the brutal murder) of two teenage sisters. Continue reading Marshland: Spain’s True Detectives”