The full-throttle frenzy of the first week of the festival is over. And, though stasis may be as rewarding for both mind and body after a period of activity as that activity itself, it’s not awfully interesting to write about. You really wanna read about my experience writing reviews for yesterday’s films? Or about writing yesterday’s diary entry? Or about gorging on Krispy Kreme doughnuts while watching the season finale of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 2 (Alaska deserved it, btw, though Tatianna was still totally robbed)? Indeed you do not. So I’ll cut straight to the chase…
The Institute of Contemporary Arts permits its attendees to bring alcohol with them into their cinema screens, though it does not permit them to choose their seats when booking their tickets. Luckily for Thomas and I, despite arriving a little late (the screening didn’t exactly start on time anyway, so we missed nothing), no-one usually wants to sit near the front. Unluckily for myself, Thomas doesn’t like sitting too far near the front of the screen, so I have to make do with placing a few other moviegoers between myself and the object of my attention. Subtitles are needlessly obscured, in this case by the head of a coy, yet still 6-foot tall Michael Fassbender, seated in the front row, in one of the seats that I bloody wanted! But pint in hand, I was more than ready to absorb a bit of Eugène Green, to osmose some part of his inimitable genius into my gaping wide mind.
The Son of Joseph sees Green let loose a little, free up his perspective on his most idiosyncratic style, though retaining the essence of that style itself. It’s like Green decided to clap back at those who criticized La Sapienza with proof of the validity and versatility of said style, and of his own awareness of its supposed self-awareness. Although rather too blunt and predictable for its own good, the riffs Green plays on his signatures are lightly satisfying, and do certainly justify the oddity of his approach, in a manner that’s likelier than most to win around his detractors. Not that Green needs to do anything of the sort – Mathieu Amalric and Maria de Medeiros can pop up all they like, Michael Fassbender can book all the Eugène Green season tickets he wants – these remain films for a very particular audience, and it’s an audience that’s already in attendance.
Green was also in attendance, and what an engaging speaker he is! Prior to the film, he warned first-timers not to worry, and that they’d get used to the peculiarities of what they were about to watch. I think they did – one such viewer posed him a question on the manner of the dialogue delivery in the film, though his response was that it was nothing especially new for him as a filmmaker! Many of the questions in the ensuing Q&A were answered with charming dismissal by Green, such as the notion that The Son of Joseph saw him exploring darker themes than normal (I mean… no), and that of his casting process selecting actors based on their faces, rather than their ability; there was an admission that Green requests his actors not to contribute any psychological inquiry into their roles, instead to allow the film to explore the precise relationship between the performer’s physical appearance and the nature of their character. He commented that “art is a part of our experience,” and upon the significance of art within his narrative, specifically toward character development. He expanded upon his unique mise-en-scène, on how he prefers to concentrate a maximum of emotions in a minimum of words, and how he has no intention on depicting the everyday in his works. Cinema, to Eugène Green at least, opens up the possibility for an expression of the present, and likes to show, in his films, a world lived in that present, rather than in virtual experiences lived on screens. As regards the film’s gentle but pointed satire of the publishing world, he remarked that everything in the film was all based on experience in this respect; as regards a question on whether or not he might be the lovechild of Robert Bresson and Éric Rohmer, he had no comment…
You know what LFF 2016 has been missing for me? Mad dashes! After a most leisurely morning, it was just about time for one of those. With the screening of The Son of Joseph starting late, and a Q&A afterwards, we had just about enough time to move from the ICA to the Curzon Mayfair for Kleber Mendonça Filho’s Aquarius, that is until the one Piccadilly line tube service that might have gotten Thomas and I there in adequate time was too full to board, and we had to wait an inordinate amount of time for the next train. Sweating like a pregnant pig, we clamoured into the cinema just in time to catch the start, and likely stank out the entire room as a result. Aquarius may mark a conceptual and technical step down from the director’s remarkable 2012 Neighbouring Sounds, but it’s equally rich in emotion, and shot through with vibrant directorial flourishes that, along with keen social commentary and a blistering central performance from Sonia Braga (you can tell I’m getting tired here, using terms like ‘a blistering central performance’), keep this film buoyant all the way through its near-150-minute runtime. See Aquarius now, regardless of what George Miller and co. thought (we all know they didn’t do much thinking, lbr). It’s fantastic, and has one of the year’s best endings, and several of the year’s most physically attractive characters.
Thomas and I were meant to go out tonight. That didn’t happen. Alas, we were too tired – there was a bed to be filled and a KFC to be consumed. And that’s just that. We might go out tomorrow night, after Lav Diaz’s The Woman Who Left finishes around 11:30. Worry not, we’re 26 – we can take it… just about. Also tomorrow is Rahmatou Keïta’s The Wedding Ring, that most rare of films: Nigerien, and from a female director. Good stuff.
Now go read my blog. This diary entry is the shortest yet, and you’re obviously desperate for more: screenonscreen.blogspot.co.uk. You’ll love it. And follow me on Twitter @screenonscreen. Ava DuVernay follows me, so why wouldn’t you? You think you’re better than Ava DuVernay now, do you? Do you rly?