Walk With Me, Curzon Bloomsbury, 7 January 2018

Hmmm.

Janie was very keen to see Walk With Me – she had heard great things about Thich Nhat Hanh, the Zen master who is said to be the father of the modern mindfulness movement. Janie very much enjoyed some of  his lectures on YouTube and thought the film would go deeper.

So much so that Janie was even prepared to schlep to the Curzon Bloomsbury on a Sunday evening, as that was the only slot that worked for us during the film’s opening weekend.

Here is the IMDb resource for the movie.

The film irritated us both for different reasons. In Janie’s case, because the film didn’t go deeper – in fact it didn’t really provide much insight into Thich Nhat Hanh’s ideas at all – it just showed his Plum Village community and a tour beyond…at a snail-like pace.

Mindfulness is one of those concepts I like in theory, but in practice – and I did try a mindfulness course few years ago and did stick it out – I found mindfulness itself a bit irritating.

Add to that general irritation an infeasibly slow movie, the condescending tones of Benedict Cumberbach and a young man sitting next to me who seemed to have brought a lifetime supply of noisy nosh into the cinema with him…

…you get my point.

For me, the only interesting part of the movie was when the monks go on tour to the USA, so you see the slow-moving, mindful monks up against the no holds barred, fast pace of New York City.

Janie missed much of the USA tour part of the movie because she started nodding off at that juncture.

Disgraceful.

I had done my nodding off and missing chunks of the movie during the earlier, unbelievably slow passages.

This link will find you reviews and other information resources.

Below is the trailer:

You might wish to judge for yourselves, but Janie’s advice would be to click through to some of Thich Naht Hanh’s mini lectures on YouTube – e.g. this one – click here – rather than waste your time with the movie.

Human Flow, Curzon Bloomsbury, 26 December 2017

What better way to cheer yourselves up on Boxing Day than to visit Janie’s mum in the morning and then to go and see Human Flow in the afternoon?

Seriously, our adjective of choice for this movie about refugees and the mass migration of people is “troubling”.

Ai Weiwei is a masterful artist, unafraid to combine high art with social and political issues – click here for our thoughts on the Ai Weiwei exhibition a couple of years ago. He shows himself to have a wonderful eye for cinematography too.

Here is a link to the IMDb resource on this movie.

Below is an excellent trailer that will give you a reasonable feel for the film:

It is not a movie for the faint-hearted. Janie wondered immediately after the film whether Ai Weiwei had gone too far when getting refugees to relate and revisit the horrors of their experiences. One woman starts to vomit while recalling her story, while one man, showing the record cards of his decimated family sounds traumatised almost to the point of insanity while retelling their tragedy.

But it is also a movie that looks at the movement of people in the abstract, with statements by political and civil leaders expounding many different views on the causes of and possible solutions for the migration crisis facing the world.

Ai Weiwei takes us to many of the world’s trouble spots. Janie and I have been to many such places ourselves, but have never really witnessed the more extreme causes of human migration first hand.

Janie and I visited a traditional Garo Village in Meghalaya in 2005, only to learn that the village has been razed by the electricity board and the Garo people were now living in a shanty, fearful of the wet season to come.Ai Weiwei is brilliant, in my view, by showing us the many sides to the story, from the deeply human individual cases to some beautifully shot scenes, some of people on the move, others of mundane scenes such as a gigantic pile of life jackets. Janie questioned whether Ai Weiwei’s eye for artistic images was appropriate when depicting scenes related to such suffering – so many migrants are lost at sea for want of, or despite those life jackets.

It is 140 minutes long, this film. I think it is a truly superb piece of documentary cinema. I challenge anyone to watch it and not be moved by it.

It will probably also change some aspect of your opinions on this politically and socially-charged subject. If you think there is a fundamental difference between refugees and economic migrants, for example, this film might make you start to think differently.

This film doesn’t provide answers, but it certainly informs and asks the right sort of challenging questions.

Happy End, Curzon Bloomsbury, 23 December 2017

Reading about this Michael Haneke film in the Curzon brochure, it sounded very interesting and right up our street. Strangely, we have often noticed reviews of Haneke films and thought that they sounded like our cup of tea, but this (I think) is the first we have actually got off our butts and gone to see one.

We’ll be looking out for more Haneke films (including some of his earlier ones) after this experience. We thought this was a really superb movie.

Here is the IMDb entry for Happy End.

Talk about dysfunctional families – this high-falutin’ French family really takes the biscuit. They reminded me a bit of families you sometimes find in Francois Mauriac novels – just a more modern version.

Haneke tends to work with an ensemble of favourite actors and actresses, so it won’t surprise Haneke fans to see Isabelle Huppert  and Jean-Louis Trintignant, for example. A nice little cameo role for Toby Jones too.

Janie and I thought the stand-out performance was Fantine Harduin as the little girl, Eve, at the centre of the plot. Remember where you first saw her name!

Bass Viol (Viola Da Gamba) With Seven Strings, By DasBee, source https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AViola_da_gamba_basso_7.jpg

So why the picture of the rare seven-string bass viol and a name check for Hille Perl, one of the leading exponents of that instrument? Well, it is only a sub-plot but a rather full-on one; it is not all that often that you’ll see the terms sexting and viola da gamba in the same sentence…or in the same subplot. That subplot put the gilt on the gingerbread for early music lovers like me and Janie.

Fabulous movie, highly recommended by both of us.

The Handmaiden, Curzon Bloomsbury, 30 April 2017

So many people told us that we should see The Handmaiden, we eventually put our reservations to one side and made a reservation to see it.

We had previously pencilled in Sunday 30 April for Sense of an Ending, but having taken in a showing along with a Julian Barnes Q&A the week before, it made sense to see The Handmaiden that day.

The Handmaiden is explained, trailed and  emblazoned with cool photos on IMDb – well worth a click-through. Then you needn’t bother to sit through nearly 3 hours of film.

The Handmaiden is everything we were told it would be, hence our reservations about it. Beautifully shot with exquisite settings, absolutely no problem with that aspect.

But the film is extremely long for the relatively straightforward thriller plot (just a few twists and turns) and fairly predictable ending.

The female leads are both very beautiful and the soft pornish love scenes between the two of them are all in the best possible taste, as a well-known arbiter of such matters used to put it.

The torture scene towards the end, which we knew to expect, simply had me looking away from the screen for a few minutes.

We both found the whole experience a bit disappointing, but at least we can now tell people that we’ve seen it, which makes them stop lecturing us on how we would definitely love that movie.

On leaving the movie theatre, I checked the cricket score and it looked as though Middlesex had bowled themselves into a position where they were likely to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat against Gloucestershire.

So we diverted to Lord’s on the way home and watched the last 90 minutes of the match from the President’s Box (temporary Middlesex Room), witnessing Middlesex then snatch defeat from the jaws of the victory that had early looked like the jaws of defeat.

Here’s the scorecard.

So that was two cringe-making torture scenes in one afternoon; the second of which panned out far more slowly than the first and it would have been a bit peculiar to have looked away from the field of play for the whole of the last hour.

We ran into Brian and Judy as we were leaving, so at least we had a pleasant chat with friends before departing the day’s second torture scene.

The Eagle Huntress, Curzon Bloomsbury, 1 January 2017

If only I could hold sway over Dumbo-pan (above) and Daisy-pan, the way that Aishol-pan the Eagle Huntress can control her horse and eagle.

Our original plan had been to see this movie on Boxing Day, but the excesses of Christmas Day – click here – encouraged us to defer the visit.

The next convenient slot for us was New Year’s Day itself. I didn’t book the tickets in advance of the day – that would have been tempting fate. But our restful Twixtmas and New Year’s Eve – click here – meant that we were fit as fleas and raring to go to the movies.

So, early morning, before being thrashed on the tennis court by Janie- click here for that Twixtmas link again, I logged on to the Curzon site to grab the best seats. After all, who books for afternoon showings of movies that far ahead? Turns out, quite a lot of people do for New Year’s Day; there were not all that many seats left. I grabbed two good ones in the middle of the penultimate row, having missed out on our favourite double seats at the very back.

We went in my car, Dumbo (above), or Dumbo-pan as I was calling him by the end of the outing. It was bucketing down with rain that afternoon.

In the downstairs lobby we immediately run into George Littlejohn and his good lady. I have known George since 1994 when we met, for reasons that will only be explained to you if you click here, at the 1994 inaugural Accountancy Awards. Janie and I have bumped into the Littlejohns at cultural events before, not least a grim evening at Pains of Youth in 2009 (grim by virtue of the show, absolutely not grim because we met the Littlejohns) – click here.

Anyway, it turns out that George is precisely the sort of person who books his cinema tickets earlier than sparrowfart on the day of the viewing – he’d booked their seats the evening before. Naturally, George had booked “our” favourite double seats. This sorry tale disproves the adage that the early bird always catches the worm. The early bird only catches the worm if the late bird hadn’t caught that worm the night before.

Which brings me neatly back to the subject of birds hunting for live prey. i.e. the film, The Eagle Huntress; that’s why we were all at the cinema.

The Eagle Huntress is about an ethnic Kazakh girl in Mongolia, Aishol-pan, who has an extraordinary aptitude for and love of eagle hunting, the traditional (male) sporting/lifestyle/survival activity of her tribe.

There is a good IMDb entry for this movie explaining it all, so why should I replicate or  try to improve on it? – click here.

It turns out that George has been in Kazakhstan recently, helping to get a new financial centre properly established there. He showed me a picture of himself trying on a Kazakh hat; a spectacular-looking piece that apparently comprises several dead animals, which George  (wisely) declined to purchase. I showed George a selfie (shown below) sporting my comparatively modest-looking but animal free Vermont from Locke & Co.

Despite appearances to the contrary, no animal suffered in the taking of this selfie.

Anyway, we all enjoyed the film very much. Some of the sequences seem a little set up, such as the snippets of old eagle hunters complaining that eagle hunting is not suitable activity for a girl. The music was more blockbuster than art-house movie style.

But you’ll probably forgive this film its attempts to commercialise the story, because it is a true story and it does show a truly remarkable talent in a young girl and the setting is simply stunning. At times it seemed anathema to be hearing Daisy Ridley’s dulcet tones narrating, because those types of wildlife and landscape scenes have to be narrated by David Attenborough. Isn’t there a law about that?…there should be.

I don’t often implore people to “go see a movie”, but this one really is 90 minutes or so well spent. This is not the sort of film that I would choose to see on reading what it is about, so I’m really glad that Janie (Daisy-pan) nagged me into seeing this wonderful, life-affirming movie.

Mercifully the rain was relenting when we left the cinema and waved goodbye to the Littlejohns. I tried calling “Dumbo-pan” and “Daisy-pan”, but I have no sway over the untameable. Probably just as well.

Through The Wall, Curzon Bloomsbury, 23 December 2016

We really liked this movie. Here’s a link to its IMDb resource. Janie and I both heard a Radio 4 interview with the director, Rama Burshtein and thought we liked the sound of it. 

When we learnt that it was on at the Curzon Bloomsbury at a suitable time on the Friday evening before Christmas…no brainer!

Basically, it is a simple rom com story, set in an Haredi Jewish community in Israel.

An unconventional yet ultra orthodox young woman who runs a travelling petting zoo for children, after being jilted by her fiancée, decides to set up a wedding day and hope for a groom to appear by the deadline. Given her track record of matchmaker-arranged dates with Haredim, the new strategy seems no less likely to work than the more conventional approach.

It’s quite a long film given its slight plot, but it is utterly charming, quirky, laugh-out-loud funny in parts and very watchable throughout. Janie was mesmerised by it, not least the “beautiful looking people/eye candy in the movie”.

We were blessed with a delightful Muslim family, three generations at least, taking up the whole row in front of us. (Well, we weren’t going to get Orthodox Jews on a Friday evening).

This family seemed to be enjoying the film enormously – one lady from the group shouted out at the screen a couple of times to very amusing effect. We chatted with the whole family afterwards, agreeing that we had all enjoyed the film; youngsters and oldsters of various creeds alike.

Janie had pre-set a wonderful spread of rillettes and cheeses at the house to round off our week/evening in excellent style.

Hitchcock/Truffaut, Curzon Bloomsbury, 11 March 2016

We hadn’t been to the movies since our “Christmas break Curzon film fest”, unless you count watching movies on the plane crossing the Atlantic on the way to Nicaragua as “going to the movies.

The decision to put this movie shortage right came within minutes of the Curzon Spring brochure coming through the post. First on our list was Hitchcock/Truffault – see IMDb entry here. 

Good movie, this. Probably aimed more at aficionados and media studies types than at us. (Hard for us to tell who it was meant to be attracting, given the super-sparse late afternoon/early evening audience when we attended.)

Truffaut was a fan of Hitchcock and approached the great man in the early 1960s hoping to interview him. The resulting series of interviews became a seminal book on the art of cinematography. The relationship between the two directors also blossomed into genuine friendship for the remainder of Hitchcock’s life. Truffaut’s life was tragically cut short just a few years after Hitchcock died. Both of them died when I was at Keele, which gave the Film Society good excuses (if such were needed) to have mini festivals of their works.

I must confess that I have always been fascinated by Hitchcock’s films, although his movies are not really “my type of films”. I should also confess that I have never really “got” Truffaut. I know that I was supposed to like Jules et Jim, which on paper is my type of film, but I didn’t like it.

Still, what I did like was this Hitchcock/Truffaut movie about Truffaut’s interviews and resulting examination of Hitchcock’s oeuvre. Some fascinating additional notes/appearances by modern directors such as Wes Anderson and Martin Scorsese add somewhat to the “meeja-studdies” feel of the movie, but joking apart also add a great deal of sensible and interesting comment on why Hitchcock’s work and Truffaut’s examination of same were so important to the development of the art of movie making.

If nothing else, if you have never seen the very best shots and clips from Hitchcock’s movies, this is a great way to see most of those in one short sitting. If you have seen them before, you know you’ll relish seeing lots of those clips in one sitting.

Meet the Patels, Curzon Bloomsbury, 2 January 2016

You could be forgiven for assuming that we spend half our lives at the cinema (indeed the Curzon Bloomsbury) if you simply look at the recent posts on this blog.  Four of the last five things we have done being visits to movies at that place.

In reality, we haven’t tended to go to the movies all that much, but over the festive season we usually go at least a couple of times.  Not least, to catch up on the handful of art house films to our taste that come out over the autumn which we don’t get around to seeing until Christmastime.

The difference this year is that the new Curzon Bloomsbury really is specialising in such films and is very convenient for us to visit at holiday time.

This movie, Meet The Patels, is well documented on IMDb (and indeed elsewhere) so really doesn’t need our two-penneth. Suffice it to say that you learn more about ethnic arranged marriages/parental pressures and the like in 90 minutes than most people in the west get to experience in a lifetime. It is a heart-warming and genuinely funny movie.  Just what Janie and I needed towards the end of another traumatic “mother in hospital over the festive season” variety.

Could next year be a hat trick of those for us?  Who knows, but for 90 minutes we could laugh and cry with the young Patel siblings and their parentally-challenged search for love. Highly recommended.

Listen To Me Marlon, Curzon Bloomsbury, 1 January 2016

We’re back at the Curzon Bloomsbury again today, our first cinema visit of the year and I am now a proud member of the Curzon for 2016. I would have saved a bob or two had I joined before we started this season’s film feast.  Never mind.

This documentary is well explained on IMDb, so I won’t repeat the stuff that is so comprehensively reported there.  Suffice it to say that this film is long but fascinating throughout and well worth seeing.

Janie and I both subscribe to the camp that believes Brando to have been a fine actor. We neither of us realised how many lemons he made along with the great performances. We also didn’t realise quite what a mess he made of his life, despite (or perhaps because of) the fame and riches. He did support and work hard for many good causes, however, which is always a redeeming feature in our eyes.

 

 

Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict, Curzon Bloomsbury, 27 December 2015

Straight back to the Curzon Bloomsbury (we’re going to have to join this darned thing) to see Peggy Guggenheim: Art Critic – IMDb will describe it better than I could.

Word seems to have got out that it was easy to navigate London yesterday afternoon – far more traffic this afternoon.  Still, free holiday parking and that Bloomsbury neighbourhood is quiet, quiet, quiet.

Fascinating film, especially as Janie loves those 20th Century art movements and several of her clients move(d) in those circles. So lots to talk about afterwards.

I liked the stuff about Peggy’s eccentricities and her “rich but bonkers” family as much, if not more, than the trail of great artists which she (in her inimitable styles) patronised.