The Man From London

What I respond to particularly about Bela Tarr’s films, aside from the visual style, which is very close to my own sensibilities (walking around the waterfront after watching it was pretty special), is that I generally find film to be an extremely compromised artform, and his work almost completely artistically uncompromised. Now, that is something I value, which is a result of my conditioning and psychological make-up, so there is no reason anyone else should agree.

The Man From London is Tarr’s take on a straight, taut thriller. Given his penchant for incredibly long, technically astounding camera shots, and epicly slow pacing, this is a pretty strange move. The hazy and bizarre narrative, and the general unreality of the world, in Werckmeister Harmonies suited his expressive visionary style much more.

The Man From London is a less successful movie. The dubbing and foley is weirdly off. The normality of the world and events makes the pacing glacial. However, there is a lot I liked. The extraordinary array of actors – with amazing faces – he populates his worlds with. The way he brings time and space back into the experience of film. They have been removed by conventions and cutting techniques. Tarr brings them back. Long sequences of characters walking from place to place remind us that important stuff happens in their experience – they have time to think about what is happening, and so on.

The first half hour are superb, almost silent, and represent prodigal direction. After that, the narrative ensues, and is slow. Once the pieces are in place, the set up is in fact extremely taut – but the pacing does not allow for the tension to be sustained, and the eventual resolution is so somehow lacking, occurring offscreen, that we are faced with the prospect of a thriller that isn’t really about tension. It becomes a question of the psychological motivations of characters, and their interactions with the people and space around them. In this sense it reminds me of his earlier film Damnation.

The sparse, bleak, black and white worlds Tarr creates give us a sense of timelessness and emotional devastation. We are left with the actions of people, and to wonder why. There are no easy answers. The Man From London also ends somewhat abruptly, without the final scene which would resolve many of the questions we are left with about the main character.We end on a close-up of a woman’s face. She has not uttered more than three lines of dialogue in the movie, yet has been deeply affected by events, in almost incidental fashion her life has been destroyed; and this is the shot Tarr leaves us with before whiting out.

Not an easy film – a bunch of people left during it – but one I am very glad to have seen on the big screen.

yep, that's deranged

No Right Turn has a brief but hilarious in a totally alarming way post about the right wing smear machine in america, and a particular example of its targeting of Obama, which is so clearly insane that you just need to read it.

Possibly the scariest thing is presumably the authors believe their intended audience is so stupid and ill-informed they might believe it.


Mongol: Review.

Big budget epic biopic of the life of Genghis Khan. Very pretty steppes. Actually, cinematographically and locationally it is gratuitously wonderful throughout. Pretty enjoyable in a historical fantasy kind of way. However, I suspect that it bears little resemblance to anything like the life of Genghis Khan; it is the movie-fied into contemporary narrative form version. (Who knows. Maybe his tale is actually primarily a love story, and he a misunderstood family man forced by circumstance to take over the known world.) In any case I would much prefer a big budget recreation of his actual life and examination of his psyche, whatever they were like, rather than the peculiar mythologising it seemed to be. Of course, this probably isn’t possible for any number of reasons.

Worth seeing at the Embassy, in any case. (Also, I think that’s the only damn near sold out daytime session I’ve ever been to at the festival.)

on process

“In a small affair or in a big affair, first consult yourself and find out if there is any conflict in your own being about anything you want to do. And when you find no conflict there, then feel sure that a path is already made for you. You have but to open your eyes and take a step forward, and the other step will be led by God.” – Hazrat Inayat Khan


Went to my first festival film today. Briefly:

Blockade is a documentary constructed entirely from black and white footage shot during the German siege of Leningrad during the Second World War. It is a social document rather than a narrative. What follows is an impressionistic account rather than a summation.

I was struck first by the normalisation of life in a foreign context, the width of the streets, the scale of the columns, the minarets, and the faces of the people.

The daily life of getting on with cleaning up the damage after a night of bombing and destruction; the way everyone, men, women and children, were involved in this process; the commonplaceness of dead bodies lying frozen in the street, people walking by with barely a glance; people pulling sleds with their possessions, refugees in a city under siege in the snow; families sourcing water from streams from broken pipes in shattered streets; at the start, German prisoners being marched through the streets, to a curious, growing, and mostly polite crowd, with some anger shown; contrasted with the mass hanging of (presumably) captured German soldiers before an eager, surging crowd, that the film ends on.

Leningrad was under siege for something life 500 days.

Somehow affecting, despairing, fascinating. The lack of narrative makes it elegiac. All in all, what astonishes is the pointlessness of suffering in wartime.

He ain't heavy, he's a poached egg

All that can accurately be said about a man who thinks he is a poached egg is that he is in the minority.

– James Burke, The Day the Universe Changed

(writing is going well, by the way, though i could use minions to do some of the donkey work processing)

Happy Anniversary

In conversation the other night I realised that it is the 10th anniversary of the goattee.


Presently it is 42cm (clearly, my beard is the meaning of life, the universe, and everything), or 16.53 inches.

In a land of plenty

A quick review: last night the moose watched Alister Barry’s doco In a Land of Plenty: the story of unemployment in New Zealand.

It traces the transformation within New Zealand from full employment to the use of unemployment as a tool to drive down inflation by lowering wages (the more people there are willing to work for less, the less you have to pay) in the space of a few years in the mid 80’s. Inflation was regarded as the primary enemy by the Rogernomics administration, and that program was carried out even more ruthlessly under the Richardson/National leadership in the 90’s, in collaboration with the Don Brash era Reserve Bank. Parts of it were pretty sickening, particularly the calculation of the poverty line, and the suffering it engendered.

All in all, an amazing piece of recent social history that, despite having lived through it, the moose was pretty much unaware of. Recommended.

(My only criticism is in the narrowness of focus of his narrative he skips the extent of fuckery under Muldoon era protectionism, which makes for a more emotive piece.)

got fabric?

Does anyone happen to have a spare piece of fabric approximately 7 ft long and say 3 or 4 inches wide? Heavier better than light, but anything goes.


That was the best test match I’ve been to in ages.


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