Cineclub is a friendly and informal group which meets regularly here at Cinema City to discuss films that have been recently shown here. The group is free and usually meets on the first Tuesday of each month. The coordinator is the wonderful Tom. New members always welcome!
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While there was not a large attendance at the Cineclub session of May 2nd we still managed to discuss a good range of films, although without the standout productions of the previous month.
‘Neruda’ has received mixed reviews in the press and did turn out to be an underwhelming effort with a rather false comedic note, so there was some surprise the film had a repeat outing in the ‘Discover Tuesday’ slot.
More notably, Park Chan-wook’s new film ‘The Handmaiden’ screened at the cinema in a standard version and extended cut running at 168 minutes. The film wore its length well and made full use of the luxuriant set design; but in terms of cinematography, editing, and sound design seemed surprisingly conventional and mainstream, with a rather emotionally disconnected narrative and slightly unconvincing characterisation. Those familiar with the director’s other works felt that ‘Oldboy’ was a stronger effort.
‘Lady Macbeth’ – adapted from an 1865 Russian novella by Nikolai Leskov, not the Shakespeare play, dealt with disturbed personalities, domestic violence, bullying, and more, within its short running time. A low budget British film that still maintained a strong visual language sometimes missing in UK cinema. The actress Florence Pugh has previously featured in the distinctive and recommended 2014 mystery ‘The Falling’.
Terrence Davies’ most recent film ‘A Quiet Passion’ had apparently been in development since 2012 but production started only in 2015, filming in Belgium and Massachusetts, staring Cynthia Nixon as Emily Dickinson. Described by one Cineclub goer as the first ’emo’ depressive; afraid of integrating with the outside world and having suffered bullying by nuns at a convent school, Dickinson concentrated on a socratic approach to questions of life, faith, and the workings of the mind, becoming a recluse, and limiting her interpersonal communications to a select few. Although ‘A Quiet Passion’ received mixed reviews in the general press, those Cineclub members who saw the film were positive in their response.
‘I Am Not Your Negro’ – based on an unfinished manuscript by James Baldwin, also a novelist; the film explored equality, discrimination, and famous figures from the civil rights movement such as Malcolm X. In addition to varying arguments explored in terms of institutions, subservience, and access to higher education; there is a concern with ‘ways of looking’ and the utilisation of a broad combination of archive materials and written work. Highly recommended.
‘The Sense of an Ending’ – those who saw this adaptation of the Julian Barnes novel expressed pleasant surprise at the quality of acting and cinematic craft, moving the film beyond the mundanities of some British cinema. Dealing with blame, self-absorbed characters, complex reasoning, and past events, the film drew comparison with ’45 years’.
‘Their Finest’ – Set during the second world war when women suddenly had more professional opportunities, the main character played by Gemma Arterton becomes a script writer for war information films and then finds herself more involved within the department, editing etc., for a propaganda film to encourage the Americans to enter the war. The conclusion was that ‘Their Finest’ was another film that proved better than expected and dealt effectively with the difficulties of creative activity in a challenging environment.
There was a good attendance for the April 4th cineclub and we discussed a large number of films, with unusually positive responses to most offerings, although some were not able to be seen by many, partly due to limited screenings or being featured in the ‘Discover Tuesday’ one-off slot. A summary of the discussion follows:
‘Elle’ received a universally positive response, and Isabel Huppert’s strong and distinctive acting in the lead being of particular note; with her pragmatic approach, and intention to carry on with a normal life not defined by incident, in the face of trauma and a disturbed environment. Although Huppert’s ‘Michèle’ is depicted as brave and successful in her work, she has a difficult personality and is responsible for the creation of some rather problematic artefacts of popular culture which the film deals with in a distinctive and original style.
‘The Love Witch’ directed by Anna Biller was only seen by one but is such a strange and unique film with a wonderful homemade artisanal quality, and a narrative with the capacity to generate a multiplicity of meanings depending on perspective.
‘Personal Shopper’ according to those who saw it may not make sense narratively, but works well as a thriller and ghost story, borrowing from several genre along the way; commenting on technology, communication via text message, and delivering an atmospheric mood with an innovative acting style.
‘Certain Women’ possibly a modern minor classic of a film, a well observed story of unfulfilled potential concerning four women spread throughout Montana, USA. Low key and nuanced, the production is thoughtfully composed in terms of placing the characters within their landscape, both photographically and in terms of personality.
‘The Salesman’ An Iranian film depicting a crumbling, run down apartment building, previously rented by a ‘woman of the night’ and occupied by the two leads rehearsing for a performance of the Arthur Miller play ‘Death of a Salesman’. Powerfully acted and serious; after an implied rape, the victim is traumatised but shows a deal of strength, while her husband struggles to deal with the situation.
‘Get Out’ described by cineclub attendees as a modern, albeit highly sinister, approach to aspects of themes explored in Stanley Kramer’s ‘Guess who’s coming to dinner’ from 1967; of liberal guilt, ingrained racism, and modern slavery.
‘Viceroy’s House’ while liable to being categorised as a soppy love story, those who saw the film were intrigued by its depiction of history from a British colonial perspective in terms of the partition of India, and the bloodshed in East & West Pakistan, in the context of machinations and political manoeuvrings by Churchill and Gandhi amongst others. The film was considered to be well acted, although it was felt it didn’t fully cover the range of personalities involved.
Attendance was limited to a select group of five, but we were still able to have a very good discussion of a wide variety of films. Of particular note were:
‘Toni Erdmann’, a 162 minute German black comedy, described as hilarious and poignant, often close together. Centred around a practical joking father and rather blinkered corporate-minded daughter, the film explored intergenerational communication and cultural differences between the west and eastern Europe, namely Romania, and how these factors affect our decisions and personality.
‘Hidden Figures’ – portrays the broadly true story of black female human ‘computers’ who performed calculations by hand with limited mechanical assistance, during the space race of the 1960s, at a time of segregation in Virginia.
After Russian success, NASA needs to find a way to better compete and so the women are brought from the back offices out into the wider world, to work in engineering, and also to learn to program the new IBM computer, challenging the culture of the time and going beyond their original roles, which were more akin to a secretary.
This film received rather mixed response from the group. While dealing with an important subject, the film did suffer from more than a touch of sentimentality, alongside extensive use of slushy music drenched liberally over many scenes.
‘Moonlight’ – the film that won Best Picture at the Oscars, a difficult and emotionally complex production that deals in stripped-back sensations. A progression through time, with three actors playing the same character, as a young boy, teenager, and young adult. Consistency of mannerism is impressive as the boy grows into his environment and converges with cultural expectations.
’20th Century Women’ – although not encompassing a great degree of plot, with not much happening according to some who saw it, the film gives insight into the time, place, and quality life in late-1970s California (Santa Barbara), through a household governed by a mother who has a child late, lives in large rambling property, and relies on many others around her to parent the teenage son and do DIY etc; someone who spends more time trying to help others than in addressing her own issues. Recommended.
Eight of us were gathered at the second cineclub session of 2017 on February 7th. ‘La La Land’ was generally praised, particularly the spectacular introduction, although one or two of the group expressed concerns over aspects of the acting and screen-craft of the musical numbers. Highly recommended anyway.
‘Manchester By The Sea’ received a generally very positive response, with reference made to the quality of acting and sense of place, providing an insight into a complex and sometimes gritty group of individuals and community. However, there was a minority view expressed that in one or two scenes the characterisation of the main lead hit a bit of a wrong note.
‘Jackie’ – set during the days after the assassination of John F. Kennedy was highly praised by those who saw it, for the intense, mesmeric acting of Natalie Portman in close-up, with support from host of talent including Greta Gerwig and John Hurt, through to the sense of style and communication of emotional intensity in terms of Jackie Kennedy’s position, and the interest expressed by the press at the time. Additionally, the politics of the time did provide material for some spirited discussion concerning how historical figures are viewed and their reputations managed from varying perspectives.
‘Indignation’, adapted from the Philip Roth novel, gained strong recommendation from those who had managed to see the film, being screened in the ‘Discover Tuesday’ slot; containing a well developed account of personal phycological struggle and general social dysfunction within an American college environment during the Korean War.
‘There were seven in attendance at the first cineclub session of the new year on January 3rd. While many films were under discussion, particular recommendation was given for the Jim Jarmusch directed ’Paterson’, described as calming, subtle, existential and adorable. With a strong sense of vitality and avoiding an overly sentimental approach; operating within a realm familiar to the Japanese director ‘Ozu’, who often dealt with the nuanced observation of everyday life.
Martin Scorsese’s latest ‘Silence’ also gained some recognition, and proved a worthy starting point for a discourse on politics, history, theology, and culture, past and present.’