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Index: Film, Television, Video & Theatre

Telling it for ourselves.

Simon Collings: ‘The various festivals within the African continent, and across Europe and North America, have always been key to how these films reach an audience, mirroring the experience of independent cinema generally. But the availability of films through online streaming services is expanding access.’

Labyrinth of artifice.

Simon Collings: ‘Some of the invention in Simó’s film perhaps derives from Buñuel himself. Always cagey about his Communist affiliations, the director would for many years deny he’d ever been a party member. In 1939 he wrote a short ‘autobiography’, a curriculum vitae intended to support his search for work in the USA where he had fled at the outbreak of the Second World War.’

A box to go.

Simon Collings: ‘The medieval casket is, like Dilworth’s sculpture, made of whalebone. Its sides and top are carved with scenes from Roman, Jewish, Christian, and Germanic traditions, accompanied by runic inscriptions in Old English and Latin. Scholars differ in their interpretations of the casket’s significance and likely uses. It’s an enigmatic object, the selection of images and texts which adorn it capable of multiple interpretations.’

Atlantics.

Simon Collings: ‘Diop treats the migration story obliquely. It’s the background to the film not its central focus. Corrupt labour practices, unemployment, police bribes, and the tensions between an older, socially conservative, generation and the young, dominate the narrative. It is those who remain, and in particular Ada, who take centre stage.’

George, what is Fluxus?

Simon Collings: ‘In one of the clips Mekas comments: ‘Warhol and George, Warhol and Fluxus, somewhere there, very deep, they were the same. They were both Fluxus, both dealt essentially with nothingness. Both dismissed the current life civilization, everything that is being practised today, everything is the same, didn’t take any of it seriously. Both took life as a game, and laughed at it, each in his own way.’’

The marital subtext.

Michelene Wandor: ‘”State of the Union” is on the opposite, more public, side of the marital spectrum: Tom and Louise meet in a dreary, virtually empty, Kentish Town pub before they visit a therapist to discuss their marriage. I watched first because a friend recommended it, and was gripped by the springy, bantering interplay of the dialogue, the marvellously intimate, subtle, nuanced close-up performances and the careful, unob(and unin)trusive direction. End of story? Well, not quite.’

In Fabric.

Simon Collings: ‘[Peter Strickland’s] new film revolves around a haunted red dress. Sheila works as a bank clerk. She’s a single mum, separated from her husband and raising their teenage son Vince. She’s looking for a new relationship, through the lonely hearts ads in the local paper, and buys a red dress, in a sale at the local department store, to wear on a date. It proves a fatal choice.’

Existence and its discontents.

Simon Collings: ‘Capernaum shares with its predecessor a concern with social crisis, but here Labaki employs the conventions of ‘realism’ as the primary means of rendering her subject, though the film is not entirely ‘real’. This is not a ‘true story’. The suing of the parents is a dramatic device Labaki uses to structure her material, and its fictionality has something of the fairy-tale quality of Where do we go from here? There are also comic moments in the film which have an air of the fantastical. ‘

Two innovative plays in London.

Anthiny Howell: ‘I found the way the play was built utterly engrossing, because of course I was building it also, in my own mind. This seemed a new form of audience participation. Every member of the audience was a playwright, as was every member of the cast, and perhaps our versions of the narrative converged, perhaps they were widely divergent. ‘

Family discounts.

Simon Collings: ‘Some sections of Japanese society were appalled when Kore-eda declined an invitation to meet the Education Minister after “Shoplifters” won the Palme d’Or at Cannes. Others applauded his wish to maintain a distance from government. The film does raise complex questions about what constitutes a “family” and what it is the country’s laws are defending and protecting. ‘

Agnès Varda’s ‘Faces Places’.

Simon Collings: ‘The people who feature in the documentary are mostly the everyday citizens of France, neither superstars nor the extreme poor – though we do meet an elderly man, called Pony, who lives in a shack and makes art from found objects. But some of Varda’s perennial concerns are still there, and are clearly shared by JR. She notices that goats are having their horns burned off to make them more ‘productive’. We meet a woman with a herd of horned goats who believes animals should be respected and left as they are. Varda and JR like this woman.’

‘Love’s Victory’ at Penshurst.

Anthony Howell: ‘Love’s Victory is in effect a poetic oratorio, interspersed with song, wonderfully rendered by the cast, accompanied on viols and arch-lutes by attendant musicians in full costume. For me, it was a delight to hear the arch-lute played in the Baronial Hall at Penshurst, knowing that in the gallery upstairs there’s a wonderful portrait of Mary Wroth, holding an arch-lute as tall as she is herself.’

Roeg elements: innovation and risk.

Anthony Howell: ‘The millennium seems to be wishing upon us the restoration of mawkish and short-sighted values – perhaps not the values of patriotism, fidelity, grace and tradition that preoccupied swathes of nineteenth century verse, but in many ways the appeal is the same. It’s an appeal to the emotions.’

Somewhere else.

Simon Collings: ‘Basildon, or ‘Baz’ as it’s referred to by locals, wasn’t meant to be like this. The vision for Britain’s post-war ‘New Towns’ described prosperous and happy communities – places of architectural and natural beauty which would, it was hoped, create a better type of person. The gap between the political vision, and the reality as recounted by local residents, is huge. This is the focus of New Town Utopia, a new documentary feature by Christopher Ian Smith. ‘

Doing silly on the equinox.

Nigel Wheale: ‘The Faction’s Dream is a dream, because each element is as compelling as another. But there is an angle. Tamarin McGinley’s Hippolyta gives ‘I was with Hercules and Cadmus once’ with a winky glance to audience. ‘