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”

The Salt of the Earth: Sebastião Salgado’s own way of seeing

<em>The Salt of the Earth</em>: Sebastião Salgado’s own way of seeing

The photography of humanity.
Gabriel García Márquez

There’s a moment two-thirds the way through watching Salt of the Earth, Wim Wenders’ stunning new documentary about the work of Sebastiao Salgado, when you feel crushed by the same existential despair felt by the photographer in 1995 when, after years photographing famine, war and genocide in Africa and Europe, he witnessed atrocious scenes in Rwanda and the Congo that left him shaken to the core, despairing of any hope for humanity. Continue reading The Salt of the Earth: Sebastião Salgado’s own way of seeing”

A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence

A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence

I always struggle when friends ask me what a film by the Swedish director Roy Andersson is like. The conversation has usually started with me saying ‘I’ve seen this great film; you should see it too!’ Then they ask, ‘what’s it like?’, or ‘what’s it about?’ The trouble is, Roy Andersson makes films like no other that you have ever seen. As Robbie Collin wrote in the Telegraph:

The Swedish director’s Living Trilogy, which began 15 years ago and concludes with this sublimely ridiculous piece of film-making, stands apart from the rest of cinema at such a remove that trying to make sense of it in words is beside the point, and perhaps impossible. You just have to watch it, then grab a net and try to coax your soul back down from the ceiling.

I’ve just seen Andersson’s latest, A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence, the third film in what an opening title calls ‘the final part of a trilogy about being a human being’. It is as memorably absurd and disturbing as the previous two, but much bleaker in tone. Like the earlier films, it contains scenes that, days later, I can’t get out of my mind. Continue reading “A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence”

Still the Enemy Within: pessimism of the intellect and optimism of the will

<em>Still the Enemy Within</em>: pessimism of the intellect and optimism of the will

Still the Enemy Within is a documentary about the miners’ strike of 1984-5. It begins in the middle of nowhere, in a desolate spot empty but for wind-blown weeds. A middle-aged man hoves into view, a former miner who once worked at this place. It’s South Yorkshire and this is where Frickley Colliery once stood, its miners the most militant in Yorkshire – only four out of 2,000 of them broke the great coal strike in 1984-85. Continue reading Still the Enemy Within: pessimism of the intellect and optimism of the will”

Timbuktu: a stunning cry for freedom

<em>Timbuktu</em>: a stunning cry for freedom

Timbuktu, from the Malian director Abderrahmane Sissako is a stunning film and likely to be the best I’ll see this year. It’s a portrait of the country of the director’s childhood, and particularly of the city of Timbuktu, whose rich culture and traditional tolerance were trampled and its people terrorised when jihadi forces from outside the country swept in three years ago. Continue reading Timbuktu: a stunning cry for freedom”

Fred Wiseman in the National Gallery

Fred Wiseman in the National Gallery

The other day I caught up with Frederick Wiseman’s epic documentary about the National Gallery, shown recently on BBC 4.  In characteristic fly-on-the-wall style, Wiseman spent much of 2012 prowling the corridors, boardrooms and backrooms of the National Gallery, having been given exclusive access to film anything that took his fancy. Continue reading “Fred Wiseman in the National Gallery”