Not, but really, the two movies I saw yesterday were certainly compelling.
Orestes: directed by Rodrigo Siqueira: a Brazilian movie that is fiendishly difficult to categorize. The quick summary in the film festival catalogue made it sound like a modern day adaption of the Greek myth of the title, but then the lady introducing the movie called it a documentary. So which was it, I wondered, as the movie started, and as it turned out, it was both. How so?
Rodrigo Siqueira uses as a modern day adaption of the story of Orestes, specifically, the trial that concludes the Oresteia by Aischylos, as a framing device to interview and act out psychodrama/therapy with real victims of violence - violence by the state in the past (a lot of the movie deals with the still unacknowledged murders and torture during the military dictatorship of the 1970s, and n the present (police shooting down people despite having the option not to, otoh school children getting shot by criminal). The modern Orestes does never appear in the movie; he and the trial which is conducted by a real state and a real defense attorney are the only parts that are fictional. (So the director said in the Q & A later.)
Quite how the story of Orestes got adapted tells you immediately something about the focus: modern present day Orestes no longer kiled his mother to avenge his father, he killed his father to avenge his mother. (The gender reversal, of course, immediately also eliminates one of the biggest things to stick in the throat if you're reading or watching The Kindly Ones, i.e. the concluding drama of the Oresteia, to wit, Athena's argument that fathers should count more than mothers in terms of child loyalty.) The context in which his father killed his mother is specifically political and tied to recent Brazilian history: he was a goverment spy, she was an activist/militant in the group he infiltrated. The arguments in the trial are very political, too: for example, the state attorney says there's no way Orestes killling his father was spontanous because Orestes had to dwell on this for 37 years while the state refused to do anything but grant amnesty to all murderers and torturers of the military dictatorship.
But like I said, this is only the framing narration, or if you like the skeleton, and the meant of the movie are the true stories.The one with the most obvious parallel to the adapted myth is that of Nasaindy, whose mother, Soledad, was killed (pregnant) by a government spy in her movement she had an affair with. Because the guy in question already knew her when they were trained in Cuba, when Soledad was with Nasaindy's father, another fellow militant who died, and because no photos of the father exist (at least no complete ones, Nasaindy has one where you can see male hands holding her which she thinks were his), she did/does wonder the inevitable: whether her mother's murderer (currently alive and well, there's a YouTube clip played with him in his blithe "ah well, saved democracy from the domino effect, didn't I?" smugness that's chilling) wasn't also her father.
Then there's Eliana, whose son, a drug addict, was gunned down, despite not having carried a weapon. Eliana is black, and in one of the movie's most uncomfortable, disturbing scenes, she's paired up with another member of the group, Sandra (white), who advocates the return of the death penalty to Brazil and represents the parents of children gunned down by criminals. Sandra going from "I respect your grief as a mother" to "but could your son have had a weapon? And between a criminal and the police, who is supposed to die? What's a cop supposed to do, get shot?" to openly admitting she wants cops to shoot suspected criminals is hair-raising. Another member of the therapy/interview/psychodrama group, btw, is an ex-cop who says that you are trained with alternate, non-lethal methods of dealing with criminals, but because using guns and shooting people is an option not going to have negative repercussions for you afterwards, in 90%, you go for the gun.
And then there's the victim of 1970s police torture, going to the actual cells where he was given electroshocks; he's also the one to find the YouTube clip of the same guy who is responsible with the death of Naisandy's mother. He's almost unbelievable zen when talking about all of this, except in the end, when after discussing the Orestes case, Naisandy, the group therapist and the director enact how they think a confrontation between Naisandy and her mother's killer would go, which is when José Roberto (the torture victim) loses it.
At the start of the movie, the introduction lettering quickly sums up the Oresteia and ends with telling the audience that the end of the Oresteia was possibly the first time in Western Culture when the "eye for an eye" principle was abandoned in favor of mercy, that this was a major step of civilisation. Which the movie also believes, but it also questions the cost if there are no repercussions at all for murder. And of course you don't have to go to Brazil to find a society where victims have to live with the perpetrators thereafter, so this hit home in so many ways for the audience. In the Q & A later, there was repeated praise from audience members for the fact the movie also includes present day violence, instead of exclusively 1970s cases, and the director pessimistically said: "We're going backwards right now. Backwards."
Brazil and so many other states, alas, which brings me to the next movie, the festival's sole Turkish contribution.
Frenzy (original title Abluka), directed by Emin Alper: has nothing to do with the late Hitchcock movie of the same name, though I think he might have liked this one. Here, too, the director was available for a Q & A afterwards, during which he observed that while he got the funding for this movie a few years ago partly from the Turkish cultural ministery back when he applied, he doubts he'd get it now, and concluded after the last question with an appeal: "We are sliding into a horrible dictatorship day by day. Tell Merkel to stop negotiating with Erdogan."
What the movie is about: Kadir is released from prison (what he was in prison for originally, we're never told) upon probation after almost two decades. He's given the task of joining a unit that investigates waste bins in Istanbul for bombs or remains of bomb making. His younger brother Ahmet, whom he last saw when Ahmet was 7, has a job which is just as much a comment on present and future: Ahmet is part of a team that's supposed to shoot wild dogs. Two thirds in, after we've seen lots of dog shooting - not really, btw, we see the guys shoot and we see dead dogs afterwards, we don't see fake dying of dogs) one of the movie's few openly satiric sequences, there is a news clip on tv where a state official goes on about the slander of evil foreign media claiming Turkey deals with its wild dog problem by shooting them, no, they're just tranquilized and then brought to loving animal shelters conforming to EU standards. Cue clip of cheerful animal shelter. (Obvious symbolism is obvious.)
To me, the movie felt a bit Terry Gilliam-esque, but not in a derivative way: it's dark both in the sense that most scenes are set at night and in terms of content, of the dystopia it is set in, but also full of black humor, until it isn't: Ahmet ends up secretly adopting one of the dogs he's supposed to shoot and hinding, hiding it at his house, which is the source of funny scenes but also Ahmet's paranoia spinning out of control (every time Kadir checks on him he thinks it's the police). Same with Kadir's plot: he's earnest in trying to help against the terrorist threat - and there's the occasional bomb explosion heard ever closer to where our heroes live to remind us it's not just the state making this up -, but also check points and soldiers driving throughout the city. Since Kadir is prone to project and imagine, what with having been in prison for years, the couple (friends of Ahmet's) in which house he ends up living quickly go from being objects of fantasy (especially the wife, Meral, whom he suspects of having an affair with Ahmet - she doesn't - mainly because he fancies her himself) to objects of dread (when they disappear and Ahmet, due to the hidden dog plot, never answers the door, Kadir thinks his hosts are really terrorists who have taken Ahmet hostage). And Kadir's paranoia spins out of control, too. In the case of both brothers, the movie makes the cas that it's the direct result of the conditions they live in, the climate of fear. The structur of the film is challenging; it starts linear but then keeps going back and thro as we keep changing perspectives between Kadir and Ahmet, which also means going back and thro in time (first we see what happens with one brother, then we go back and see what happened with the other), and there are increasing fantasy/dream sequences as their fears build up. This contributes to the surreal feeling and the way you're sucked into this world as a watcher, increasingly unable to discern what's real and what isn't as well.
A minor aspect that's different from not just Gilliam or Hitchcock but most "Western" movie storytelling: the way Meral is presented. Because, as I said, Kadir massively projects into her, both desire and fear, I think most movies would dwell on her figure and attractiveness, but while she's played by a pretty actress, this doesn't happen here. The camera doesn't treat her differently than it does her husband. When Kadir has burned his hand and she patches him up because she's nice, this is obviously a major moment for him, but not for Meral, and there's no sense of lingering on the brief physical contact. I suppose the fact that Meral doesn't wear a headscarf and at one point puts her hair in a clip in front of Kadir could be read as erotic if you're from, say, Saudi Arabia, but most Turkish origin women I've met don't wear headscarfs, especially from Istanbul, so.
The movie never specifies an era - could be set in the past (the director said when he first had the idea, around 2005-ish when Turkey was in a relatively peaceful era, he was thinking of the 1990s, but by the time the movie got actually made and finished it looked prophetic/commenting the present), present or future - and it avoids commenting just who the terrorists are. It just shows us a few people who aren't, but by the end of the movie have been classified as such by the state to cover up its collosal blunders, which is a statement by itself.
As with the previous movie: what it depicts is by no means singular to Turkey. Which makes it even more viscerally effective.
It has been commented upon quite extensively that there is among certain sections of the population a nostalgia for the Britain past that never was.
One of the things that is the forefront of my consciousness at the moment because of thing I am writing is a nostalgia for the futures that never happened.
All those utopian visions of various forms of nicer, kinder, fairer, cleaner, safer, all round more pleasant societies.
And, okay, one can see the problems when revisiting them, and sometimes they are not places one would really like to live though might be fine for a visit, but still -
I will take a bland 'paradise of little fat men' (Orwell on Wells: this actually strikes me as something of a mischaracterisation of Wells' utopias) over a dystopia of inequality and fears of the 'other', any day.
freecat15 chooses her favorite Season Two episode .
Giles icons here and Giles banners and icons here by feliciacraft.
DenOfGeek includes Waiting in the Wings and Graduation Day Parts 1 & 2 in their "5 Best TV Episodes Written by Joss Whedon". "More that that, though, it is about the roles these characters play in their own, complex social group. It is a highly romantic episode, with Cordelia and Angel becoming possessed by the spirits of the ballerina and her lover and passionately tearing each other's clothes off. Meanwhile, both Gunn and Wesley explore their romantic interests for Fred. It is an episode about fate and the choices we have in our own stories. It is an episode about the power of performance and narrative. And it is an episode that is just beautifully written, directed, and acted... The episode ends with Buffy's graduating class helping her to take down the mayor. Many of them die, but they fight together, and there is something magical about that choice given that a) Buffy has always been about the thematic importance on relying on a family and community and b) in so many ways, Buffy always felt like an outsider. Some of them die. Some of them are turned into vampires. Most of them graduate. Eventually, Buffy blows up the school. It is the perfect ending to this season and this first arc in the Buffy series".
2) CBS/Paramount has released "guidelines" for fan film makers which, while containing a few reasonable items, goes so far in dictating everything about a production that practically anything could be a violation. And then there are the completely ludicrous bits. ( Read more... )
3) Huh, so apparently this is what Microsoft plans to use LinkedIn for ( Read more... )
4) I couldn't help but be amused by the following because, by not having a customized ringtone capable phone for the longest time and then leapfrogging to a smartphone, this never applied to me. Some interesting musings about the nature of the Internet though ( Read more... )
5) I wouldn't be surprised if this story about the Orlando shooter's motives is true. Self-hatred is usually behind a lot of violence.
I did not quite see
Narnia the Welfare State born, but it looks as though I may see it die.
As a historian I can see that things do sometimes change in unpredictable ways and directions no-one had anticipated; but possibly I have the optimism of someone of that generation of my gender and class, for whom life was pretty much getting better as we grew up.
What I read
Finished Black Narcissus, which rather confirms my feelings about the earlier India/adjacent parts set Goddens, and Nun Melodrama: that these do not really rate as My Favourites from Rumer. Oh, well-written and so forth: but ultimately NQOSD.
The WisCon Chronicles Vol 10: Social Justice (Redux): the format tends to mean the experience is uneven, but this did make me realise I had never read Vols 8 and 9, which I purchased last year, because immediately I got back I was not in the right frame of mind, and when I returned from my next jaunt, there had been all the upheaval of the initial stages towards a new carpet displacing books. Must try and find them.
Vintage Didion (2004): selections from earlier books and essays of hers. Again, somewhat uneven in how much I enjoyed the various pieces.
Finally finished The Givenness of Things: I was really bogging down in the theological parts, however much I admire Robinson's writing.
Jill Schary, Thanks for the rubies, now please pass the moon: a memoir of the First Lady of the World (1972). This is a very very weird book written in the form of an autobiographical memoir with annotations by the person to whom the writer has sent the ms, and I'm not sure how I'd classify it by genre. At first it looks like a satirical take on certain aspects of US life and history, as a sort of distorting mirror AU, but then there is also weird technology and dystopia and fantastical elements - was 'magic realism' even a thing in 1972? Jill Schary published several other works: fiction, memoir, fictional autobiography or autobiographical fiction - and this novel is the one she actually mentions several times she's working on in the auto/fiction/whatever Bed/Time/Story (1974).
On the go
Still rather gradually making my way through Forgotten Suns - I haven't given on up it, it's just it's somehow not compelling, and so it's the thing I read when I'm out and about with my ereader.
I've started Murder and Morality in Victorian Britain: The Story of Madeleine Smith, which is promising.
However, when I got in yesterday after a day conferencing, faffing around getting lost on my way back to the hotel to pick up my case (in my defence, I was talking to the very charming Australian scholar who was also speaking at the conference and walked right past where I should have turned off because the conversation was so engaging), hanging around waiting for the train I was actually booked on, being on the train, etc, I could only manage the latest (?) Simon R Green, From a Drood to a Kill (2015, only just out in paper).
One of the books I have still on the go probably falls into a category of 'friend's book I bought at their book launch, personally inscribed to me with an effusive message, but do I really want to read it?'
No idea. I now have two freebie Patricia Wentworth mysteries and a couple of other things I bought for the ereader awaiting my attention.
If you've never made such a call before, it's really quite easy. The staffer will note the issue you're calling about and ask for your name and address which verifies you're in their office's district. It takes just a few minutes, and if the speed at which my call was picked up, they're pretty ready to take those calls.
2) I've been watching the documentary OJ: Made in America, and even though I lived through the events I'm finding it quite remarkable in how well it revealed his character and placed him within the broader social context of the black community's relations with the police. The one weakness I think is that it didn't do the same with the issue of domestic violence and misogyny. ( Read more... )
3) I finished watching Orphan Black and thought it was a good thing that next season will be its last. ( Read more... )
4) I'm continuing my endless CD digitization process (though the end is in sight). I went through my Bowie CDs the other day and was struck again by what an amazing catalogue he had. What a crap year the last one has been for losing people.
5) We got two new plants last week to add some color to the balcony. The hibiscus was rife with blooms and we were really looking forward to them. ( Read more... )
( Watch the moon rise )