- David Parkinson
Parky At the Pictures (10/7/2020)
(Reviews of Buñuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles; Litigante; Saint Frances; Lab Rat; The Dead and the Others; One Day in the Life of Noah Piugattuk; Spaceship Earth; The Fight; and Just Don't Think I'll Scream)
Cinemas may be closed during these dismal days. But there are still ways to connect with some of the films on general release over the next few weeks and months. In addition to Curzon Home Cinema. MUBI and the BFI Player, it should also be possible to access the titles under discussion via iTunes, Apple TV, Amazon, Sky Store, Virgin, Microsoft, Vimeo, Google Play, Rakuten, BT and Playstation.
BUÑUEL IN THE LABYRINTH OF THE TURTLES.
Throughout his remarkable career, Luis Buñuel sought to rouse audiences from their lethargy. Whether working in France, Spain or Mexico, his principal target was the bourgeoisie, whose complicit complacency he found as intolerable as the hypocrisy of the Catholic Church and the tyranny of the oppressive regimes it bolstered.
Most cineastes will be familiar with the scathing denunciations contained in such features as Viridiana (1961), The Exterminating Angel (1962) and The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972). Yet, as Salvador Simó demonstrates in his animated adaptation of Fermin Solis's graphic novel, Buñuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles, few films caused more furore on their release than Las Hurdes (1932), a documentary short that not only dared to criticise the Spanish government's neglect of remote rural villages, but also chose to do so in a manner that shattered the conventions of factual film-making.
In a busy opening segment, we see Luis Buñuel (Jorge Usón) dressed in a nun's habit while his Parisian cronies discuss art's duty to change the world before flashing back to Calanda in 1909, when the young Luis secured his strict father's begrudged permission to play his drum in a street procession. He had fallen in his haste to make the parade and blood from his scraped palms has speckled the drumhead. The same sense of pained frustration returns during the hostile reception accorded L'Age d'or at Studio 28. He is further irritated when an admirer of the film insists on discussing the contribution of the painter Salvador Dalí (Salvador Simó). But photographer Eli Lotar (Cyril Corral) recognises Buñuel's genius and hands him a book by Maurice Legendre that he hopes will inspire his next project.
Denied further funding from the Comte de Noailles after his mother pleads for him to be spared excommunication by the pope and with Dalí having been advised against lending to friends by a Gypsy fortune-teller, Buñuel heads to Zaragoza in Huesca to see anarchist Ramón Acín (Fernando Ramos). He is married with children and committed to helping the local school. But he promises to fund Las Hurdes if he wins the Christmas lottery and Buñuel has to endure nightmares back in Paris about elephants with giraffe legs before Acín calls with the good news that they are bound for Extremadura.
A monochrome map shows the route, as Acín takes the bus to La Alberca and is dismayed to find that Buñuel has blown a quarter of the budget on a Fiat to ferry them around the parched locale. He is even more aghast when Lotar and Pierre Unik (Luis Enrique de Tomás) arrive from Paris in a taxi in time to film a wedding custom of ripping the heads of live roosters dangling from their feet from a rope suspended over the street. For a close up, Buñuel asks Acín to kill the bird, but they wind up having to pay a poultry keeper to do the deed.
Having paused on the winding road to take establishing shots of a mountainous region that houses 8000 people in 52 alquerías, the film-makers bunk in the monastery at Las Batuecas before visiting the poorest area of Las Hurdes Altas. A flashback takes Buñuel back to the magic lantern show he had given his childhood friends in the hope of earning his father's approval. But he had remained stony-faced and the need to prove himself had become ingrained.
Rising before dawn the next day, the four friends leave their breakfast for the starving locals to eat, as they make their way into Martilandrán, a hamlet with labyrinthine streets and rooftops that resemble turtle shells. The stench in one house is overpowering and the sense of shame that a place like this could exist in a supposedly civilised country makes Buñuel dream of his father turning his back on his efforts to impress him by making a film that will change things for the better.
Having noticed some goats on the narrow ledges of the hills outside the village, Buñuel orders Lotar to keep filming while he gives reality a nudge by shooting two of the creatures to that they plummet into La Cañada Seca. Acín is appalled by Buñuel's indifference to authenticity, but he is happy to provide the residents with a hearty supper. He also gives some stragglers a ride in the Fiat so that they will pose for the camera and he can capture the wizened faces that testify to decades of inbreeding and malnourishment. That night, he has a dream in which his own mother (Pepa Gracia) appears as the Virgin Mary and forces him to confront his fear of chickens by having them chase him from inside a giraffe standing passively amidst a sea of staring eyes.
The next day, they film at the school in Aceitunilla, which is filled with children from the orphanage at Cuidad Rodrigo, as the villagers are paid a fostering fee. Buñuel is overcome when the kids reach out to him and he stops Lotar from filming a young girl who seems to have curled up on the street to die. Buñuel covers her with his jacket and feels helpless, as they have no medicine that could help her. His mood remains foul when it rains over the next few days and Acín urges Unik to cut scenes from the screenplay, as they are running out of time and money. He also tells Buñuel to stop faking incidents and dismisses his claim that he is fashioning dramatic recreations of reality.
Following another bad dream, in which his father (Gabriel Latorre) appeared in the guise of Dalí and accused him of toiling in his shadow, Buñuel decides to wear a nun's habit for the day's shooting. Acín is furious when the mayor of the village considers the attire to be blasphemous and refuses to give permission for the crew to film. Even Lotat thinks that Buñuel has gone too far, but he cranks the camera when ordered to film a swarm of bees attacking a donkey on the road. Once again, Buñuel has intervened by buying the beast from its owners, agitating the hive on its back and then putting it out of its misery with his pistol. But this proves a stunt too far for Acín, who confiscates the camera and accuses Buñuel of being a spoilt brat indulging his whims with other people's money.
Wandering alone, Buñuel discovers that the young girl he saw lying in the road has died. He also catches sight of the high-hatted Hurdano he had first met in a lighthouse dream in Paris and questions whether he is Death in disguise. The peasant merely claims to be doing his job and a panicked Buñuel ages visibly in pleading for his life because he still has so much to achieve.
Rising early, he leaves Acín sleeping and returns to the village to fake a shot of a baby lying on its back covered in flies, which initiates a mourning and funeral sequence, complete with images of the infant corpse being floated downstream to the cemetery on a wooden cradle. Acín arrives in time to see the shoot end and is so surprised by Buñuel's seemingly heartfelt apology that he accepts that he had the right to do whatever was necessary to seize his big chance and help the people trapped in this godforsaken backwater.
Back in Madrid, some time later, a yellow butterfly lands on the strips of celluloid that Buñuel is editing. He shares a glass of wine with Acín and they toast Las Hurdes. Closing captions reveal that the Spanish Civil War broke out on 18 July 1936 and that Acín was shot by the forces of Generalissimo Francisco Franco on 6 August. His wife, Conchita Monras, perished 17 days later. Buñuel also received news of the death of his father before the Republican government allowed him to screen Las Hurdes: The Land Without Bread, albeit with Acín's name being removed because of his anarchist affiliations. In 1960, Buñuel restored the credit for the Parisian premiere and gave the proceeds to Acín's daughters, Katia and Sol.
In an interview towards the end of his life, Buñuel described Las Hurdes as `probably the least gratuitous film I have made', even though it was made entirely in the Surrealist spirit. Given that it was widely known that Robert Flaherty had stage-managed scenes in Nanook of the North (1922) and that John Grierson had defined the documentary films as `the creative treatment of reality', it's hard to see why there was such an outcry about Buñuel doing likewise in Extremadura. Admittedly, the cavalier cruelty he showed towards the mountain goats and the donkey is reprehensible. But the `directed' sequences involving the villagers are markedly more defensible, as Buñuel was seeking to draw attention to their abhorrent living conditions.
In putting his own spin on the shoot, Simó captures something of the tensions that existed between Buñuel and Acín. But, even though this expedition clearly influenced the approach adopted in making Los Olividados (1950) in Mexico, Simó struggles to convince with the sentimental submission that the Aragonese underwent a form of socio-political epiphany during the project or that he was driven by a distressing desire to please an unyielding father. He is more successful in integrating live-action clips from the 27-minute short into the animation, as they drive home the starkness of the scenes witnessed by Buñuel and his companions. But neither Pierre Unik nor Eli Lotar come across as fully fledged characters, while Acín is too often used for comic relief, as he tags behind the impulsive director like an anarchist straight man.
Writing with Eligio R. Montero, Simó leans heavily on André Breton's contention that Surrealism sought `to resolve the previously contradictory conditions of dream and reality into an absolute reality'. But there are moments when the rudimentary graphic style makes the resulting `super-reality' seem stiffly calculated, even when accompanied by Arturo Cardelús's affecting piano and strings score. Similarly, only film buffs will realise that Buñuel was partly seeking to satirise the kind of ethnographic travelogue that had been in vogue since the late silent era, while only students of Spanish history will be able to appreciate the wider significance of the enterprise and why both the Republicans and the Falangists took exception to Buñuel's depiction of the benighted region and its pitiable population. Such qualms shouldn't count against Simó's ambition, however.
Having made a solid first impression with Gente de Bien (2014), Colombian director Franco Lolli shows distinct sophomore promise with Litigante, a study of modern working motherhood that has been co-scripted with Marie Amachoukeli and Virginie Legeay. What sets this apart, however, is the fact that Lolli has cast his cousin as his lead and has paired her with his own mother for a battle of wills that is all the more impressive because neither woman has acted in a feature before.
Despite having just been told that her incurable cancer has reached her lung, Leticia Medina (Leticia Gómez) is determined to take grandson Antonio (Antonio Martinez) trick or treating, much to the dismay of her daughter, Silvia Paz (Carolina Sanin), who schleps after them with her younger sister, María José (Alejandra Sarria). She is worried that her mother will just give up the ghost and wishes she would stop smoking and agree to another course of chemotherapy that might slow the process.
Leaving Antonion with his gay godfather, Sergio (David Roa), Silvia heads for an interview with Abel Morales (Vladimir Durán), a radio journalist who questions her about potential graft in the Department of Public Works after protests were lodged about the awarding of a key contract. As a lawyer, Silvia points out that the official investigation has been launched to ascertain the facts and not apportion blame. But Abel keeps pressing her and Silvia is anything but amused and her mood is not improved by another row with Leticia, who is also a lawyer and has long urged her to set up her own practice rather than work for an institution that is riddled with corruption.
In spite of themselves, mother and daughter argue all the time. When Leticia refuses to keep a chemo appointment, Silvia accuses her of committing suicide and threatens to keep Antonio away from her until she co-operates.
Marina (Jeidys Nuñez) the maid is equally powerless to coax Leticia into getting ready and Silvia blames Maria for not taking enough responsibility when she has fewer things to juggle.
They have more words after a trip to the baths, when Maria says Leticia is having one of her better days. But Silvia had watched her coughing in the pool after playing with Antonio and she tries to impress upon her sister the gravity of the situation and the role she has to play in keeping Leticia healthy for as long as possible. Over lunch, however, they wind up bickering again when Leticia insists that prayer and alternative medicine are just as likely to help her as chemo and Silvia despairs of her when she tells a story about a prosecutor who used to pray for pieces of evidence to disappear during trials to give justice a helping hand.
Sergio drags Silvia to a birthday party and she is dismayed to bump into Abel. He apologises for the abrasive tone of the interview and insists she handled the interrogation well. Shrugging off the sense she is being patronised, Silvia dances with the hirsute presenter and they end the night smooching. They start sleeping together and Abel is curious about Antonio's father and why he is no longer on the scene. When he comes to a kids' birthday party, however, Leticia is furious that Silvia has allowed herself to be seduced by a man who had humiliated her on national radio. They have a blazing row about Silvia's decision to have a child alone and the fact that Leticia stopped loving her husband and made his life a misery in his later years. Silvia accuses Leticia of having played the victim while hating her father and storms out after her mother counters that she has cheapened herself by falling for a man who doesn't respect her.
After being summoned to Antonio's school after he lashes out at the children teasing him about not having a father, Silvia is hauled over the coals by her boss (Gabriel Taboada) for having missed a meeting. She resents the intimation that she lacks professionalism because she has been devoting time to domestic problems, but he situation is made more difficult when Leticia is admitted to hospital with pneumonia. Once again, the oncologist makes it clear that she has to undergo chemotherapy to shrink the tumour, but Silvia knows that her mother has made up her mind.
She reaches a decision of her own when she is called to defend her actions in the corruption case and resigns when her boss refuses to take her legal advice. Maria José supports her sister and reassures her that she will find another job. Abel also rallies round, but he is absent when the family gathers at Leticia's bedside to celebrate Christmas. Much to Silvia's relief, she is released shortly afterwards and agrees to take a course of chemotherapy. The side effects are brutal, however, and Silvia has to rely on others to keep an eye on Antonio while she nurses her. When she goes to watch her son race go karts, she confesses to Abel that she isn't the best mother, but he promises her she's doing a fine job.
Dropping in on Leticia, Silvia finds her sorting through property deeds and stock portfolios so that her daughters have nothing to worry about after she dies. She urges Silvia to fetch a box from the wardrobe and they sort through her jewellery together. At lunch with her lawyer, Benjamin, (Jorge Carreño), Silvia admits to being nervous about finding work in the private sector and he jokes that they might find each other on opposing sides one day. Suddenly, she informs him that Antonio has been asking questions about his father and she suggests they meet. Benjamin reminds her that they had agreed that there would be no ties and proposes that they wait until Silvia's domestic situation settles down before making any plans.
Shortly afterwards, Silvia gets jealous when Abel flirts with another woman at a dinner party and she breaks up with him in an underground car park. When he calls round to Leticia's house to talk, she sends him away. But she also winds up arguing with her mother about why it disgusts her to see her daughter happy. Leticia insists that Silvia should have more self-respect than to date a slob who insulted her and they accuse each other of playing the victim. Sergio and Maria José listen on with lowered eyes, but the latter knows all about being in her sibling's bad books, as she had remonstrated with her for being late when collecting Leticia from chemo and had dismissed all excuses about heavy traffic.
They have champagne when Maria José trims her mother's hair and Silvia clinks glasses. It proves to be a last happy moment, however, as the morning after Leticia has a fall and wets herself on the way to the bathroom, she slips away while Silvia is walking Antonio to the school bus. He had insisted on popping up to see her before they left and promised to walk her dog, Otto. But Silvia didn't think the weary `ciao' would be the last word her mother spoke to her. Returning home to find Marina in tears, Silvia hugs Maria José and tries to process the fact they are alone.
At the funeral, the sisters help carry the coffin into the church and Benjamin gets to see his son. Some time later, Silvia and her boss go on trial for the misappropriation of public funds. Both plead not guilty and Benjamin assures her that the witnesses will clear her of any wrongdoing and put the blame squarely on her boss for ignoring her counsel. He gets to meet Antonio, who has come to collect her with Abel. She gives him a smile as they drive home, but asks for some time alone with her child. They play with Otto in her apartment and, as the film ends, Silvia sheds a tear while watching a sad film on TV.
As author Carolina Sanin was supposedly the inspiration for Silvia, it shouldn't come as a surprise that she plays her as though to the manor born. But she is so superb as the careworn fortysomething that one suspects this won't be her last acting assignment. The same goes for Leticia Gómez, whose fury with her body for letting her down carries over into her already tempestuous relationship with Sanín. It would be fascinating to know how they get along in real life, as the speed and severity of their squabbling is decidedly discomfiting. But it's easy to see how Silvia became so argumentative and judgemental to the point of being utterly incapable of conceiving of herself as ever being in the wrong.
In the hands of a lesser performer, such a self-centred character would be highly resistible. But, even though Silvia doesn't appear to have a friend in the world outside Benjamin and Sergio, she is saved in the audience's eye by the strength of the commitment to her family. Every conversation seems to be fractious, but this is clearly their way of expressing their affection and Leticia's testiness is as much rooted in the fact that she will no longer be able to protect her daughters as Silvia's pickiness derives from the fact that she will have to survive without the mother who has challenged every decision she has ever made.
Given the centrality of this rumbling feud, it speaks volumes for Alejandra Sarria that the markedly less irascible Maria José is able to steer a course through the choppy waters. It's a shame we don't get to see anything of her life outside the family, especially as the story might have been more intriguing if she had been the one to find a boyfriend who tempted her away from her refereeing duties. In truth, the Silvia/Abel romance is the picture's weak link, as the she falls for him far too quickly and conveniently, and, despite the best efforts of Sanín and Vladimir Durán, they always feel like a mismatch, hence the happy(ish) ending ringing so anti-climactically hollow.
Moreover, Abel's political allegiances seem to melt away once they have played their part in the meet cute. Indeed, there seems to be no media follow-up to the interview that should have muddied the waters around Silvia's role in the scandal. Given that Leticia was also a lawyer, this might have presented Lolli and his co-writers with an opportunity to discuss the changing role of women in the Colombian workplace and the extent to which the country remains a boys' club.
Otherwise, Lolli directs his first-time leads with considerable skill, as he keeps Luis Armando Arteaga's camera fixed on their faces during moments of petty antagonism, stubborn pride and gnawing regret. He also makes deft use of Marcela Gómez Montoya's interiors to contrast Leticia's gated home, Silvia's high-rise apartment and the various hospital rooms in which Leticia's physical and Silvia's psychological frailties are starkly laid bare.
The sheer fact that so much critical attention has been focused on the ordinariness of the incidents in Alex Thompson's Saint Frances shows how far American movies haven't come since items like Barbara Loden's Wanda (1970) were supposed to have broken the mould. Conversations and experiences that will be common to millions of women have been vaunted as ground-breaking, while earnest efforts have been made to excuse the flaws and foibles that make the character written and played by Kelly O'Sullivan so refreshingly and engagingly real. But, in 2020, we really shouldn't need to be commenting on the depiction of issues like menstruation, female desire and abortion. They should have been an unabashed part of the cinematic landscape decades ago.
Having tumbled into bed with Jace (Max Lipchitz) for some uncomplicated pre-menstrual sex after meeting at a party, 34 year-old restaurant server Bridget (Kelly O'Sullivan) is hired by suburban Chicago lesbian couple Maya (Charin Alvarez) and Annie (Lily Mojekwu) to spend the summer minding their six year-old, Frances (Ramona Edith Williams). After making gauche remarks about her relationship with her brother and her Catholic upbringing, Bridget is hardly the first choice. But a last-minute letdown following the birth of their son, Wally (Ezra Gibson), means that Maya and Annie can't be choosers, although they quickly come to question whether they've made the right decision when Bridget and Frances return from their first trip to the park in the company of a police officer after a maliciously accusatory tantrum.
During their next outing, Frances cuts Bridget some slack when she discovers she enjoys being jolted while riding in her stroller. But she gets peevish when they go to the library and Bridget prefers scrolling through her phone to reading Frances a story. Thus, when she bounces out of the stroller and grazes her hands, she makes sure Maya knows about her disapproval, even though she likes the way Bridget cleans her hands and covers her palms in plasters.
Shortly afterwards, Bridget discovers she's pregnant and informs Jace she's going to have an abortion. He's slightly nonplused by her haphazard methods of birth control, while she makes it clear that she isn't in a relationship with a man eight years her junior. But he supports her throughout the ordeal and reads Harry Potter to her, as well as the post-procedure literature. However, Bridget gets a crush on Frances's guitar teacher, Isaac (Jim True-Frost), and rushes off to buy an acoustic so she can join the class alongside the budding Joan Jett, who, having heard that Jett was a rocker who was angry at the patriarchy, declares her guitar lessons to be a prime example of a man telling females what to do.
Annie is unimpressed to find her daughter wearing make-up and bopping around like one of The Runaways and advises Bridget to look up what happened to Jett's bandmates after they split up. She joins parents Carol (Mary Beth Fisher) and Dennis (Francis Guinan) for a country walk and is put out when her mother hints about grandchildren. When Bridget opines that she wouldn't make a good mother, Carol reveals that she used to dream about dashing her head against a wall when she was being stroppy. However, Bridget contents herself with stern words when Frances gets bored at guitar class and stalks off alone while Bridget is asking Isaac about private lessons.
Embarrassed when Frances steals a pair of bloodied panties and shouts about periods, Bridget realises that Maya is suffering from postpartum depression and is worried about the fact that Wally cries whenever she holds him. She is less sympathetic, however, when Jace reads passages from his emotions journal about his sense of loss and storms out after his flatmate has to unblock a toilet clogged up by her tampon. Thus, when Isaac kisses her while showing her how to make a chord, she puts up no resistance and even invites him home.
She oversleeps next morning and arrives just as Maya is leaving for a doctor's appointment. Frances helps settle Wally down and takes a nap while Bridget showers. Watching curled up on the sofa, Bridget feels protective, as she cradles Wally. But her good day goes south when she has sex with Issac and he is dismayed to discover she's still on her period. The following day hardly goes better, as she takes her eye off Frances for a second in the park and she falls into a lake. They both get soaked and Frances feels sheepish after getting a telling off. However, Bridget also gets bawled out by Maya for not behaving like a parent.
It's Maya's turn to feel uncomfortable when Cheryl (Rebekah Ward), the mother of Frances's playmate Courtland (Braden Crothers), turns out to be an old acquaintance of Bridget's from a creative writing class, who proceeds to treat her like a servant by sending her home for some snack carrots for her precious son. Bridget is awed by the affluence of Cheryl's home and the fact she is now a published author (of Resting Rich Face). But she doesn't let on when Frances knocks a bowl over and they get the giggles watching Courtland chomp on carrots that the dog had licked.
A montage shows Bridget and Frances bonding at various places, including a beach and an ice rink. But they work best as a support network to Maya, who is struggling with her sense of self and getting little support from the workaholic Annie. Indeed, after sharing a laugh over their leakage issues, Maya and Bridget take Frances to the 4 July fireworks, where they face down a snooty woman (Rebecca Spence) who objects to public breastfeeding. Bridget leaps to Maya's defence and claims to be her wife, but Frances defuses the situation by shaking the stranger's hand when she learns she has the same name as Joan Jett. On returning home, they find Annie in combative mood and ready to put Bridget in her place. However, she breaks down in conceding her inability to help Maya through her crisis and urges Bridget to see a doctor because of the persistent bleeding since her abortion.
Sobbing that she's an agnostic feminist, Bridget beats a retreat. But she regathers her faculties in time to attend Wally's christening. Wandering into the church, she finds Frances in the confessional and she assumes the role of priest to forgive Bridget's sins, as laments that she is `not an impressive person'. The encounter touches her and she calls Jace to let him know that she resents the fact that he got off lightly over the abortion, as she is still feeling the physical effects and is having to deal with the confusions it has aroused in her. When she exceeds the answerphone space, however, she re-records the message to suggest they meet up soon.
When Bridget calls round to drop off her key, Maya and Annie invite her to stay for supper and agree to let her have a sleepover in Frances's room. She's pleased to see so many pictures of herself on Bridget's phone and curious to know why she has an ultrasound image. They discuss whether they want to have children before agreeing that this has been the best summer ever. The next morning, Bridget walks Frances to her new school and wipes away a tear when she sees her pass through the main door. But she is even more touched when the girl rushes after her to secure a promise that they can stay friends so that she can call her up to chat on the day she gets her first period. Watching her run back to school, Bridget knows Frances will be okay. She's less sure about, herself, however, but has more reasons for optimism than before.
The appearance at telling moments of this landmark dramedy of posters declaring that Black and Unborn Lives Matter reveals precisely where it's coming from and who it is addressing. Echoes of Lena Dunham and Desiree Akhavan can be heard throughout Kelly O'Sullivan's screenplay. But she clearly has a voice of her own and is not afraid to say what's on her mind. Consequently, this reclamation of the `girl next door' character seems destined for the pantheon of feminist features and might even knock Bridget Jones off her pedestal, providing it finds its audience in the cluttered lockdown marketplace.
Good though O'Sullivan is as the disaffected thirtysomething searching for her self, as well as her niche, she allows herself to be upstaged by Ramona Edith Williams, who puts such a decisive revisionist spin on the stereotype of the sassily sagacious moppet that it may prove difficult for film-makers to coast along with wiseacre cutesiness in the future. The earnest manner in which she pipes up during a discussion on sanitary wear with the line, `I have to find something most comfortable for my body, because every woman's body is different,' is all the more priceless because she has a look of Shirley Temple about her and the thought of her saying something like this instead of singing about animal crackers in her soup highlights how and how long Hollywood has been shaping American conceptions of womanhood.
Although they have less to do, Charin Alvarez and Lily Mojekwu make the most of their key scenes, with the former's contretemps with the racist soccer mom at the Independence Day fireworks dovetailing with the latter's revelation that she was mistaken for her wife's black maid when she gave birth to Wally. Max Lipchitz also shows well, as the non-bloodhounding millennial whose readiness to share spooks O'Sullivan on both generational and genderational levels, while Mary Beth Fisher lobs a bag of spanners into the works with her confessions on a quiet country path.
All of these scenes are directed with matter-of-fact finesse by the debuting Alex Thompson (who is O'Sullivan's off-screen partner), who keeps Nate Hurtsellers's camera hovering around the action without drawing attention to itself. Maggie O'Brien's production design is also deceptively astute, as it contrasts Bridget's single girl space, Jace's two-man apartment, Maya and Annie's cosy home and Cheryl's status residence. But style is very much subordinate to substance in this warm, witty and (hopefully) incalculably important rite of adult passage, which consigns a number of long-outdated taboos to the cine-historical dustbin.
A couple of weeks ago, we covered Nour Wazzi's enterprising short, Baby Mine, which forced the audience to rethink its preconceptions in assessing the plight of an ailing child. She returns with another premise that runs along similar lines in Lab Rat, which was co-scripted by Matt Brothers and is available for streaming on the Dust platform.
In a standard issue scientific facility, Alika (Kirsty Sturgess) is sharing a stolen moment with Johnny (Matt Harris), when she is summoned to the office of Edwards (Abeo Jackson). As Johnny hears news reports on the television about violent reactions against the humanoid robots that have been integrated into society and taken 40% of the country's jobs, Ellie (Sian Hill) and Marvin (Max Williams) view him with distaste.
When Edwards announces over the tannoy that no one will be allowed to leave until an Artificial Intelligence unit has been identified, Marvin and Ellie presume it has to be Johnny and Alika is powerless to intervene as he is attacked. Demanding to be allowed to help, Alika grabs the swipe card from her mother and rushes to Johnny's side. They retreat to a quiet corridor and kiss after Alika assures Johnny that he is much more to her than a piece of meat. But they are taken aback when a familiar figure emerges from the shadows.
As with Baby Mine, we shall keep the twist under wraps, although, on this occasion, it's markedly less unexpected. Indeed, it's rather anti-climactic, as is the little speech that Edwards gives, as she gloats about having disposed of rejection and heartache by creating a machine that is capable of giving the buyer unconditional love or their money back.
It's a neat enough concept, but the film is too short for the audience to form sufficient attachment to any of the principals to make the denouement seem suitably devastating. The performances are solid enough, while Mark Nutkins's lighting of Isabella Bruno's interiors is effectively atmospheric. But the evocative score by Nainita Desai (the prolific composer whose credits include Waad Al-Kateab and Edward Watts's Oscar-nominated documentary, For Sama, 2019) threatens to overwhelm what is an intimate and somewhat slight treatise on identity, love and humanity that was inspired by what Wazzi calls her `tenuous relationship' with her own mother.
THE DEAD AND THE OTHERS.
MUBI has had an excellent lockdown and the New Brazilian Cinema season typifies the platform's strengths. Reflecting the concerns that have arisen under the leadership of Jair Bolsonaro, the six-film strand starts with João Salaviza and Renée Nader Messora's The Dead and the Others, a 16mm fictionalised account of life among the Krahô people of north-central state of Tocantins, as they seek to preserve their ancient customs in the face of intrusive influences from the outside world.
Fifteen-year-old Ihjãc (Henrique Ihjãc Krahô) lives in the village of Pedra Branca in the Cerrado tropical savannah. He is summoned to a pool beneath a waterfall at midnight to commune with the spirit of his late father, who urges him to host the funerary feast that will allow him to pass into the afterlife. However, having been visited by a macaw in a dream, Ihjãc is nervous that the ceremony will lead to calls for him to become a shaman and he leaves wife Kôtô (Raene Kôtô Krahô) to look after their young son while he heads to the nearby town of Itacajá to weigh up his options.
Lodging at a Krahô hostel, Ihjãc seeks medical assistance for his anguish, only to be told that his psychological strain is psychosomatic. He resists Kôtô's pleas to return home, but he realises that he is an outsider in the town and that the customs and heritage of his people mean nothing to its residents. Returning home, he is reminded of the massacre that his grandfather survived and he returns to the waterfall pool to embrace his destiny.
Since winning a Palme d'Or at Cannes for his 2009 short, Arena, Portuguese director Joao Salaviza has flitted between factual and fictional projects either side of his feature bow, Montanha (2015), another rite of passage that focused on a 14 year-old boy facing up to the responsibility of becoming the head of the household while his grandfather is in hospital. Echoes of that scenario reverberate throughout this sophomore outing, which was fashioned during the nine months that Salaviza and Brazilian co-director Renée Nader Messora spent embedded in Krahô country.
As neither spoke the indigenous language, they were forced to let the wholly non-professional cast improvise the dialogue and, as a result, it errs on the expository side. The cultural clashes that Ihjãc experiences feel authentic, however, although this is always more intriguing as a work of ethnography than as a drama. as the magic realist interludes are used sparingly. Keeping Messora's camera still in order to convey the pace of village life, Salaviza makes adroit use of Pablo Lamar's immersive sound design, which potently reinforces the town-and-country contrasts. Yet, for all the care and commitment, this never quite lives up to the lyricism suggested by the Portuguese title, which translates as Rain Is Singing in the Village of the Dead.
ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF NOAH PIUGATTUK/
Forming part of the Canada Now slate streaming on Curzon Home, Zacharias Kunuk's One Day in the Life of Noah Piugattuk will be a must-see for those with fond memories of Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner (2001). Was it really that long ago? Blimey! Kunuk has mostly since worked in documentary, although he has also produced two further features, The Journals of Knud Rasmussen (2006) and Maliglutit (2016), which he co-directed with Natar Ungalaaq. As these had little, if any, exposure in the UK, this return to Inuit country is all the more welcome.
One day in 1961, Noah Piugattuk (Apayata Kotierk) partakes of his simple breakfast before gathering his neighbours in the community of Kapuivik in the northern part of Baffin Island for a seal hunt. As they set out by dog sled, they are approached by Evaluarjuk (Benjamin Kunuk), who has come to act as a translator for Isumataq (Kim Bodnia), a government agent whose named means both `Boss' and `He Who Speaks For Us'. Although he has a gun, Isumataq also comes bearing sugary treats, as he seeks to mollify the locals into going along with his plan to relocate them to purpose-built huts in the settlement of Igloolik.
Often talking at cross-purposes, as words are hesitatingly and sometimes inaccurately translated by Evaluarjuk, Isumataq and Piugattuk seek to gain both a negotiational advantage and the moral high ground. The interloper makes grand promises about educating the Inuit children and giving them greater opportunities than their antecedents could ever have dreamed of. But the more he sells the proposition, the more certain Piugattuk becomes that there has to be a catch beyond abandoning ancestral lands and the nomadic lifestyle that has shaped their culture and traditions. However, he also knows that laws have to be obeyed and that resistance is futile.
In his director's statement, Kunuk reflects on the encounter that had effectively condemned his community to colonisation. Born in 1957, he had been a toddler when a certain Mr Whyte had come to Kapuivik. However, another five years were to pass before Kunuk saw his first white man, after his parents had driven him to school in Igloolik on pain of losing the vital family allowance that was paid by the Ottawa government.
Bookended by contemplative codas set in the sod hut that Piugattuk shares with his wife, the core action is staged in lengthy takes that cinematographer Jonathan Frantz mostly frames in medium shots that focus on the conversing figures rather than the landscape whose fate they are discussing. There's a degree of humour in the way that Evaluarjuk opts not to translate some of the Inuktitut insults. But his insistence on baldly restating Isumataq's basic inquiries and demands rather than conveying the reassurances of his good intentions means that he and Piugattuk can never be on the same wavelength and Kunuk implies that little has changed in this regard six decades later.
There's wrenching poignancy about the concluding footage of the one-toothed nonagenarian Noah Piugattuk, which was taken in 1992 by Kunuk and co-writer Norman Cohn, with whom he made the epic 2014 documentary on mining in North Baffin Island, My Father's Land. But it also reminds us that Piugattuk was 22 when Robert Flaherty came to the Canadian Arctic to film the Inuk community for the landmark documentary, Nanook of the North (1922). Much has been made in the intervening century of the fact that the American's record of daily life was stage-managed ethnography. But Kunuk's work of slow cinema suggests that any approach is valid when it comes to preserving an essentially oral culture on film.
Imagine a reality pitched somewhere between Douglas Trumbull's affecting environmentalist parable, Silent Running (1972), and Jason Bloom's Bio-Dome (1996), a slacker comedy in which Pauly Shore and Stephen Baldwin take over responsibility for the eco experiments from Bruce Dern. Those with good memories will immediately hark back to 1992, when the Biosphere 2 project was conducted over two years in a large air-locked vivarium in the Arizona desert under the watchful gaze of a mocking media. But documentarist Matt Wolf seeks to rehabilitate the enterprise in Spaceship Earth, which combines archive footage with the recollections of several surviving Biospherians to create a rumination on the future of our fragile planet that makes for curiously reassuring, if not always cogent lockdown viewing.
Although the story starts with the terrenauts entering their biodome on 26 September 1991, we quickly flashback a quarter of a century to the San Francisco of 1967, where 17 year-old Kathelin Gray (aka `Salty') tells 38 year-old neighbour John Allen (`Johnny Dolphin') about Rene Daumal's allegorical novel. Mount Analogue, and its concept of a community living on an unmapped island. As an Okie from the Great Depression era, the suitably inspired Allen invited Marie Harding (`Flash') to join a performance project that acquired the name, `The Theater of All Possibilities'. But such was the polymathic nature of the enterprise that the core cabal decided to quit the hippie capital in 1969 and purchase a parcel of land in New Mexico.
Among those attracted to the Synergia Ranch commune in Santa Fe County were William Dempster (`Freddy') and Mark Nelson (`Horse Shit'), a Brooklynite who accepted the task of planting a sustainable orchard. Under the auspices of Margaret Augustine (`Firefly'), the group also built a sailing ship named `The Heraclitus' in Oakland, California. Following a maiden voyage under the central span of the Golden Gate Bridge, the friends toured the world, as Harding's 16mm home movies reveal. They returned from this epic undertaking with the conviction that they could do anything to which they set their minds.
Switching from being a commune to a corporation, the band formed the Institute of Ecotechnics to develop a range of business enterprises with the backing of Ed Bass, the son of a Texas oil billionaire. Among the projects was the construction of a hotel in Kathmandu and the opening of the October Gallery in London. In 1981, IE invited the likes of William Burroughs and Thor Heyerdahl to a conference on rising planetary temperatures. But the notions contained in Buckminster Fuller's Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth continued to exert a fascination and, at one event, architect Phil Hawes presented an adobe space station that became the seed from which the Biosphere 2 project grew.
By the mid-1980s, Allen, Bass and Augustine had started to make the dream a reality and desert ecologist Tony Burgess recalls his delight in being asked to design the arid zone that would sit alongside a rainforest, a savannah and even an ocean with a living coral reef. The plan was to show that humans could keep an eco-system going in a sealed environment so that the skills could become transferable if colonies were built on the Moon or Mars. While candidates went through selection processes in red jumpsuits, building began outside Oracle, Arizona and a splendid piece of time lapse footage shows the steel and glass edifice began to tower over the scrub.
Mark Nelson jumped at the chance to enter Bio 2 and he was joined by botanist Linda Leigh, a self-confessed misfit with a yen to saving the planet. They relished the trips around the world to collect the plant and animal species that would occupy the Arizona Ark. But they were also becoming part of the story, as the global press interest became so great that Kathy Dyhr and Larry Winokur were recruited to handle publicity. They couldn't stop negative stories that Allen was a New Age cult leader who wasn't qualified to lead a scientific experiment, but the theatre troupe bit back with the satirical play, The Wrong Stuff, which showed a bunch of eccentrics failing to cope as everything that could possibly go wrong does.
Apart from the door not closing properly after the Bio Eight first entered the $150 million laboratory proclaiming `the future is here', things ran reasonably smoothly, as Nelson (who acted as communications officer), Leigh, calorie-counting medic Roy Walford, animal welfare specialist Jane Poynter, atmosphere and water controller Taber MacCallum, project manager Sally Silverstone, marine biologist Abigail Alling and engineer Mark `Laser' Van Thillo began to learn how to get along. As Poynter and MacCallum and Alling and Van Thillo were couples, this brought a sense of social stability, as did the shared awareness that they needed to collaborate to keep their finely tuned cocoon operating at its optimal levels.
In addition to tending to the flora and fauna in the different zones, the terrenauts also conducted 64 scientific projects that gave them a better understanding of the human impact on the environment. However, they were often working with tourists peering in at them through the glass, as Biosphere 2 had to embrace commercialism in order to keep it functioning and in the headlines. There was also an academic backlash against the glorified game show taking place in the eco-tainment dome. But the trickle of negative publicity became a torrent after Poynter lost the tip of her finger in a threshing machine and had to leave the site for an operation.
Following her return, Ron Pepe announced that he had helped pack two duffel bags that Poynter took back in with her, Nelson insists that they contained computer parts rather than anything contentious, but the press accused Augustine and Allen of conducting a sham experiment and their refusal to make full disclosure only reinforced the growing opinion that the entire project was a stunt. Poynter's temporary indisposition also had a negative impact on the group, as they had to take on her chores in the farmyard and Walford (who also acted as the project cameraman) was quick to voice his frustration.
Silverstone admits that a combination of hunger and a spike in carbon dioxide levels caused tensions, as winter began to close around Biosphere 2. There was also a good deal of resentment towards Allen, with Leigh feeling he was too controlling. His reputation took a further scuffing when former employee David Stump revealed that an undisclosed CO2 scrubber had been smuggled into the dome to keep levels down and this sparked a fresh waves of accusations that the project was a con and that Allen was using `weird science' to promote himself.
In fact, important discoveries were being made about the human footprint on the Earth's fragile eco-system and Allen was angered by the imposition of a Scientific Advisory Committee to assess his management of the enterprise. The Biospherians were equally outraged when they discovered that Burgess had registered a concern that Allen was manifesting signs of paranoid delusion and was treating them like abused children. Fortunately, this stand-off blew over with a hug. But another crisis arose when the press learned that 10% of the oxygen supply was being pumped in from outside and Stump is seen taking particular delight in dismissing the entire experiment as a failure.
Dhyr regrets that Allen and Augustine decided to stonewall it out rather than take the press into their confidence. But the Bionauts felt exhilarated by the rush of fresh air and a montage follows of them having fun. Suddenly, however, we leap forward to September 1998 and the media starts preparing for the occupants to leave the dome at the end of their stint. Jane Goodall spoke at the unveiling ceremony, as the Bio 8 donned their Star Trekky uniforms to meet their public. Leigh and Silverstone admit that they still feel connected to the site and Burgess is discussing the data research project that was being undertaken at the dome until Steve Bannon turned up with some marshals on 1 April 1994.
Following a fall out over the future of the project, Bass obtained an order to lock Allen and Augustine out of their offices and Bannon was made CEO on the strength of his achievements at Goldman Sachs. He claimed to be redirecting the efforts away from Biosphere 2's potential usage in outer space to the contribution it could make to the more immediate issue of climate change. But Grey and Dempster have no doubt that this was a cynical business decision taken by Wall Street types seeking quick profit. Indeed, the former is so disgusted that a clever man like Bannon could be such a negative force that she terminates her interview.
In a closing coda, she reveals she still lives at Synergia Ranch and we see her Nelson, Allen, Harding and Dempster sharing a glass of wine at sundown. They still run IE's projects in the Australian Outback, as well as the October Gallery. Moreover, they are rebuilding The Hereclitus and have no intention of giving up the fight to make the world a better place. Captions explain that the University of Arizona took over the running of Biosphere 2, which has been open to the public since 1996. Bass recently donated $30 to its ongoing research projects. The surviving Biospherians remain engaged on projects ranging from sustainability to space travel, with the exception of Dr Walford, whose ambition to life to 120 was dashed at the age of 79 by Lou Gehrig's Disease in 2004.
It would take a three-part series to do justice to the issues raised by Matt Wolf in this fascinating, but flawed documentary. The backstory and the Biosphere project would merit an episode each, while a third would be needed to examine the data amassed between those two Septembers a quarter of a century ago and assess whether the controversies of what many persist in dismissing as a countercultural eco-happening have finally been offset by the value of its discoveries.
Despite having almost two hours at his disposal, Wolf sometimes struggles to know where to focus. He also seems to lose track of time inside the terrarium, a problem he might have rectified with a few labels stating when each crisis took place. More frustratingly, having devoted considerable time to the personalities involved in Allen's Synergist schemes, Wolf proceeds to marginalise them while chronicling the exploits of terrenauts who pretty much remain strangers, as all but Leigh and Silverstone have joined Bass and Augustine in refusing to speak on camera. It's also disappointing that Allen should remain so silent on the misfortunes and miscalculations of the Biosphere mission after he has been so voluble about his earlier endeavours.
Considering the access he has to so many key players, Wolf never makes it clear what they were trying to achieve or what day-to-day life was actually like inside the most ambitious and well-publicised greenhouse since the Crystal Palace. More might have been made of the motives of the scientists who sought to trash the project at every turn, while the loss of faith that prompted Bass to inflict Steve Bannon as a grotesque April Fool seems to come out of a clearish blue sky. But it's the reluctance to place Biosphere 2 in the wider context of current thinking on climate change that proves most exasperating, as a few testimonials from leading activists would do much to dispel the myths that the entire enterprise was little more than a gleaming white elephant in the Sonoran Desert.
On the technical side, editor David Teague makes a neat job of seguing between the various home movies produced by Allen's associates, the talking heads and Sam Wootton's sleek images of Biosphere 2 as it is today. Slipping between Aaron Copland, Philip Glass and Michael Nyman, composer Owen Pallett enables Wolf to switch between sci-fi monumentalism and the more intimate human interest aspects of a film that would make a fine companion piece to The Raft (2018), Marcus Lindeen's excellent account of Mexican anthropologist Santiago Genovés's 1973 experiment aboard `The Acali', which offered far more insight into the inter-personal dynamic between the participants.
The activities of the American Civil Liberties Union come under scrutiny in The Fight, a wholly supportive documentary by Elyse Steinberg, Josh Kriegman and Eli Despress that celebrates the centenary of an organisation that insists that even the most unpalatable views must be heard. Focusing on four legal suits from among the 140+ that the ACLU has brought against Donald J. Trump and his administration, this is a canny insight into the state of the nation to release during an election year. As always happens when a film attempts a multiple focus, certain aspects wind up being favoured over others. But the directors do a decent job of exposing the intolerance, injustice and iniquity that have come to characterise the presidency of the current incumbent of the Oval Office.
Opening with Trump taking the Oath of Allegiance on 27 January 2017, the film reminds us that he tried to impose a travel ban on the citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. The so-called `Muslim ban' prompted the ACLU to lock horns with the administration for the first time and Deputy Director Lee Gelernt has continued to battle for the rights of those seeking to enter the United States. In particular, he has been involved in challenging the legislation that separates immigrants from their children. He's not helped in his cause by recurring struggles with technology, but Gelernt is a committed lawyer and a cogent communicator, whose ability to turn on a sixpence and conduct a TV interview on an unbriefed topic is hugely impressive.
Brigitte Amiri proves equally eloquent and effective in facing down Scott Lloyd, the staunchly Catholic Director of Refugee Resettlement, whose refusal to allow a 17 year-old Jane Doe to have an abortion after being raped typifies the holier than thou attitude of the Religious Right. Her resort to `train wine' to celebrate a victory while travelling home dovetails with the scenes of Chase Strangio breakfasting with his daughter before heading off to team with Joshua Block in seeking to overturn the transgender military ban. In truth, these two episodes are afforded less air time than Gelernt's case and Dale Ho's preparations to argue before the Supreme Court that voters' rights will be jeopardised by the inclusion of a question about citizenship on the 2020 census.
We also get a hint of his homelife, as his wife and two children wish him luck on the big day. But the directorial triumvirate keep a respectful distance from the key quartet in striving to keep the emphasis on issues rather than personalities. That said, they can't avoid Ho coming to the fore in the finale, as he misreads the judgement online and only gradually comes to realise that he got the verdict that his hours of consigning his opening address to muscle memory before a mirror deserved.
Ending on a note of hope doesn't diguise the fact that the ACLU doesn't always get it right, although the directors might have dwelt longer over the internal tensions revealed by Deputy Legal Director Jeffrey Robinson over the decision to defend the right to free speech of white supremacists, even though the `Unite the Right' rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017 resulted in the car-ramming death of Heather Heyer. Such lapses are rare in this involving and inspiring treatise. Yet, this is never quite as compelling or revelatory as Weiner, Steinberg and Kriegman's 2016 fly-on-the-wall profile of self-destructive disgraced Congressman Anthony Weiner's doomed bid to become Mayor of New York City.
JUST DON'T THINK I'LL SCREAM.
Frank Beauvais wears many hats. Or are they masks? In addition to acting as a musical consultant on French films, he also acts, writes and programmes experimental slates for various festivals. While struggling with a fictional scenario during the first few months of 2016, he started binge watching features to help him come to terms with the break-up of a relationship and the fact that he was stranded in a remote village in Alsace because he couldn't afford to return to Paris. When it eventually became apparent that he could move back to the capital, Beauvais hit upon the idea of a cine-journal to gather his thoughts. But this would be a video diary with a difference, as every single image in Just Don't Think I'll Scream had pre-existed and their juxtaposition was governed by a series of self-imposed rules.
The clips had to come from the 450 or so fictional films that Beauvais had watched since April 2016. This meant that documentaries, animations and experimental works had to be excluded. Moreover, in order to adhere to the tenets of fair usage, he had to keep the snippets short. To this end, he decided against including two shots from a single film that had been edited together. He also opted to exclude sound and the faces of professional performers to prevent viewers from being distracted from the contrepuntal tensions between the visuals and the voiceover by playing `spot the star' games.
Working in conjunction with editor Thomas Marchand, Beauvais produced a movie mosaic that required some 1700 edit points and the occasional cut to black. In some ways, the result feels like a mash-up between Jean-Luc Godard's Histoire(s) du cinéma (1988-98) and Irvine Welsh's short story, `Snuff', in which a character named Ian Smith loses touch with the world around him as he sets about watching every film listed in Halliwell's Film Guide. In fact, Beauvais told Filmmaker Magazine about the various influences on the project, which included such directors as Chantal Akerman, Jonas Mekas, Guy Debord, Alain Cavalier, David Perlov, Joseph Morder and Eric Pauwels, as well as writers like Annie Ernaux, Georges Perec, James Baldwin, Georges Simenon and Hervé Prudon. He also namechecks the artists Matthias Müller, Christoph Girardet, Gustav Deutsch, Thomas Draschan and Arthur Lipsett, along with the French rappers, Zippo, Dooz Kawa and Lucio Bukowski.
Such revelations lay the film open to accusations of pretentiousness and there are florid passages in Beauvais's account of how he came to find himself cut adrift after his boyfriend left and he had to rely on his mother (who lived in the next village) to ferry him to the supermarket because he didn't have a driving licence. With France in a state of emergency following the Bataclan massacre in November 2015, Beauvais decided to make a virtue of his isolation by ploughing through the countless DVDs and downloads (legal and otherwise) that he had amassed since moving to a region on the Franco-German border whose distinctive sense of otherness he found irksome.
While he makes mention of some intriguing East German films, he avoids specifics or critiques. Indeed, only three pictures are named throughout: Heaven's Gate (1980), which crops up in a reference to the passing of Michael Cimino in July; Jean Renoir's Night At the Crossroads (1932), a Maigret whodunit that Beauvais saw at the Cinemateca Portuguesa during a visit to Lisbon; and Jean Grémillon's Le Ciel est à vous (1944), which he had been watching with his estranged father when he had died from a seizure. This segment is brutally honest, as it chronicles the awkward effort to build bridges with a man he barely knew and disliked. But the incident occurred outside the April-October parameters and, consequently, there isn't a clip of Grémillon's atmospheric drama tucked away in the pillaged montage.
There's not a lot of point citing any of the films that Beauvais watched at the rate of four or five a day, as none is recognisable and it would spoil the pleasure of discovering the surprises buried among the B movies and gialli bestrewing a credit crawl that amounts to a handy wishlist for cineastes envious of the access Beauvais had/has to so many rarities and treasures. It would also be a fool's errand to attempt an analysis of the picture's technique or content, as the editing is exemplary and viewers will either appreciate the acuity of the polysemous sound-and-vision connections or they won't. Similarly, they will either warm to Beauvais's unsparing personal and political honesty or be alienated by lucid introspection that can occasionally edge towards self-pity and misanthropy.
What's not at issue, however, is that this will be one of the niche films of lockdown. It could even enjoy an afterlife as an illustrated screenplay, as those who have gorged on boxed sets and downloads over the last four months will have similarly developed `a fatal attraction for films which act as aesthetic bastions against the hideousness of the world'. Moreover, many an `unstable unfinished adult' will recognise their own recent experience in the admission: `I quite literally submerge myself in films about others. I lose all desire to write, to film, or to do anything else. My nest becomes a cage, my refuge a prison. And these films about others are no longer windows, but mirrors.'