Ophelia, based on a book by Lisa Klein, who is also a screenwriter here (my guess that gave her leverage to adapt her novel for cinema/television) tells the story of Shakespeare’s Hamlet from a woman’s perspective, in much the same way Tom Stoppard put centre stage other peripheral figures in the play, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.
I’m not read Lisa Klein’s novel. And I’m not a great fan of Shakespeare’s plays, or theatre in general, which for some people marks me out as a bit of a thicko. And they may well be right. But I’ve speed read the play. I also watched Franco Zefferelli’s version of Hamlet, filmed largely in Scotland. Mad Max, Mel Gibson in the titular role of the Prince of Denmark. Glen Close playing his glamourous mother, with a hint of incest. Alan Bates played the murdering uncle and brother of the king, Claudius. Homer Simpson played my favourite version of Hamlet. Blue-haired Marge as Queen of Denmark.
If Ophelia was in verse such as iambic pentameter then it would have been curtain after five minutes. It starts rather with a more conventional trope, in medias res. Orphelia (Daisy Ridley) drowns herself, as she does in Hamlet. Time spools backwards to her childhood. A bit of a tomboy, she’s taken under the Queen’s wing (Naomi Watts) and made one of the Queen’s Ladies in Waiting.
She grows into a swan. So far, so conventional. She catches Hamlet’s eye (George MacKay) and they fall in love.
A secondary plot involves the Queen consulting with a witch to keep her beauty and aging at bay. The witch Mechtild (Naomi Watts with straggly hair) is also beautiful. Her backstory involves teenage pregnancy with Claudius (Clive Owen) who let her rot and burn rather than admit his own involvement and parenthood.
She might be in league with the devil with her potions, but she’s not in the league of Morgan Le Fey of Arthurian legend. Morgana Le Fey (Helen Mirren) in Excalibur. Merlin, Lancelot and King Arthur should have just given up and taken the knee in homage to such earthy beauty, as Claudius forces Hamlet, in the name of chivalric honour to bow to the new King of Denmark or commit treason.
I’m probably giving too much away, but if you’ve read Shakespeare or watched The Simpsons, you know Claudius gets his comeuppance. Ophelia? That’s for you to find out.
Described as comedy-drama, a biographical film about former US vice-president Dick Cheney. Christian Bale won a Golden Globe and was nominated for an Academy Award for his portrayal of the most powerful vice-president in modern history. There is a contemporary joke that nobody is ever called Dick, but that’s about it.
There is nothing funny about Vice. At a push, I could probably name most of the President since the first wold war since it mostly involves saying Roosevelt over and over.
Vice President can become Presidents. General Eisenhower and Harry Truman spring to mind. And if you take a circular route, Republican, Vice President Richard Nixon finally got his feet under the desk at the Oval Office. Most were in agreement Vice was no more than a token job. A bit like being the President’s wife. Good for photoshoots and opening fetes.
Kamala Harris’s power, in contrast, lies her ability to cast a tie-breaking vote in a split Senate. But really, she’s waiting for Joe Biden to die so she can step into a real job.
Robert A. Caro shows how Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson (LBJ) spiralled into depression when his attempts to control the Senate were rebuffed and his attempt to manipulate the new American President, and darling of the media, John F. Kennedy were swatted aside with a smile. The man that had once controlled Congress and Senate reduced to a comic figure that was left out of briefings in the new Camelot.
Vice follows the path of an American boy made good. Lynne Cheney (Amy Adams) telling him after a couple of drink driving convictions and barroom fights he was on the road to nowhere. He better ship up or ship out. He did both, while staying out of Vietnam and the armed forces on deferments.
Like LBJ, Cheney had a talent for politics. In one scene, he asks another intern what party guest-speaker Donald Rumsfeld (Steve Carell) belongs to. When told he’s a Republican, he says he’s a Republican too.
When working for Rumsfeld as an intern he asks him Cheney what he believes in. Here’s the joke part of the film. Rumsfeld slaps him on the back and laughs so long and hard, the viewer knows it’s a joke. The purpose of power is power.
Realpolitik. Rumsfeld points to a closed door. He tells Cheney behind it is Nixon and Defense Secretary Henry Kissinger are having an unofficial meeting. When the meeting was finished tens of thousands of Vietnamese would die. Subtext. They are plotting mass murderer.
Drawing a line in the sand, Cheney gave his support to gay marriages since one of his two daughters, Mary (Alison Pill) came out as gay.
There were other shifting lines in the sand. He was a hawkish Secretary of Defense (1989–1993) following the precepts of the Eisenhower Doctrine—any (oil rich) Middle Eastern country could request American economic assistance or aid from U.S. military forces if it was being threatened by armed aggression. 1st August 1990, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein sent Iraqi forces into neighbouring oil-rich Kuwait.
President George W Bush (senior) unleashed coalition (mainly US) forces in Desert Storm under the command of General Norman Schwarzkopf. February 24. Within 100 hours, Iraqi forces had been expelled from Kuwait in the ground war. With aerial dominance, they were sitting ducks.
[Not in the film, but worth quoting Cheney’s perceptive response to the invasion of Baghdad, in the first Gulf War: how many American dead is Saddam worth?]
‘Because if we’d gone to Baghdad we would have been all alone. There wouldn’t have been anybody else with us. There would have been a U.S. occupation of Iraq. None of the Arab forces that were willing to fight with us in Kuwait were willing to invade Iraq. Once you got to Iraq and took it over, took down Saddam Hussein’s government, then what are you going to put in its place? That’s a very volatile part of the world, and if you take down the central government of Iraq, you could very easily end up seeing pieces of Iraq fly off: part of it, the Syrians would like to have to the west, part of it – eastern Iraq – the Iranians would like to claim, they fought over it for eight years. In the north you’ve got the Kurds, and if the Kurds spin loose and join with the Kurds in Turkey, then you threaten the territorial integrity of Turkey. It’s a quagmire if you go that far and try to take over Iraq. The other thing was casualties. Everyone was impressed with the fact we were able to do our job with as few casualties as we had. But for the 146 Americans killed in action, and for their families – it wasn’t a cheap war. And the question for the president, in terms of whether or not we went on to Baghdad, took additional casualties in an effort to get Saddam Hussein, was how many additional dead Americans is Saddam worth? Our judgment was, not very many, and I think we got it right.’
Vice Presidency (2001–2009).
We all know about what’s now called 9/11.
But if you asked me who the Vice President was at the time, I couldn’t have answered. The tone of the film is set early. George W. Bush (junior) (Sam Rockwell) is in the air metaphorically and literally when the planes hit The Twin Towers. Dick Cheney takes charge of the 9/11 fallout.
But Dick Cheney had always been—more of less—in charge. The coup that LBJ had attempted had failed, but Cheney was the real power in American politics. The dithering George W Bush President, but the Vice President pulling the strings. Ironically, the power grab going in the other direction. The American President grabbing more executive power as the Twin Towers fell. Extra-ordinary rendition. Repealing the Geneva Convension. Spying on American citizens.
The invasion of Afghanistan was payback for 9/11.
Payback for his old bosses at Halliburton Corporation by adding billions of dollars to shareholder value. The invasion of Iraq’s oil-rich fields with evidence from a list drawn up before Saddam Hussein was found to have mass weapons of destruction—he didn’t have and links to Osama Bin Laden’s al-Qaida hidden network in the paperwork with the weapons of mass destruction.
Cheney, a hawk abroad, and conservative at home. No surprise with his fortune coming from a fossil fuel, Times 500 Company, he helped in the pushback for the ideas of global warming. He helped reframe the debate, through think-tanks sponsored by Times 500 companies as simply climate change, which sound much more palatable and less threatening. The kind of idea picked up the moron’s moron.
Cheney endorsed Trump in the 2016 Presidential election, but didn’t shut his eyes to how he got elected. Russian interference, or what he moron’s moron would call Russian help from their cyber networks, Cheney classified as ‘an act of war’. But he’d also have to have declared war on that American institution Facebook that cashed the cyber cheques made in Russia and created the images of hate that polluted politics (from a very low base which Cheney’s think-tanks helped fuel) and still does.
The film ends with the viewer finding out the narrator of the film is the man that provided Cheney with a new heart after his failed. I guess they should have saved it and given it to someone more deserving. But money talks loudest. Worth a look, but don’t expect to giggle.
Writer and Director Celine Sciamma creates a beautiful vision. I struggle to speak English, and growl at anybody that suggests I’m not working class. Yet the channels I watch most are BBC 4 and BBC 2. Academics in the late 1960s tried to cobble together a theory that showed an erosion of working-class values with a more affluent class of car workers in Luton. Embourgeoisement, aye, maybe, I like BBC 4 a tad too much. Just don’t call me a fucking Tory or think I’d voted for Brexit or that Etonian monstrosity, Boris Johnson.
The good thing about French cinema is they value the arts. We may have lost all our translators to the market (we don’t want to pay you the minimum, but if we can get away with paying less—we will) but on the evidence of this film, they have not.
Simple plot and complex characters gives a satisfying complexity.
In late 18th-century, Marianne (Noémie Merlant) remembers with the help of a painting in flashback— Portrait of a Lady on Fire—when she was commissioned by The Countess (Valeria Golino) to paint a portrait of her daughter Héloïse (Adèle Haenel) on a remote Brittany island.
Marianne must resort to subterfuge to finish her work and get paid by the Countess, who can make or break her. Héloïse, is an innocent sprung from a convent after her sister jumped off a cliff, but she’s aware enough to know that a painting of her is a commercial transaction, and her image will be appraised by a prospective suitor in Milan. She refused to pose for a previous male artist. Marianne pretends to be her companion, who accompanies her on walks.
I was around ten, big for my age, but not big enough to sneak into the La Scala and watch The Exorcist. The media warned us—don’t go. Rather than see it, there was talk of church boycotts and a spate of suicides. And those that did see it fainted, spewed up, or went insane. But my sister was made of stronger stuff. Jo even smoked and drank vodka. She wasn’t eighteen, but there was a buzz about the film that made it a rite of passage.
We heard, of course, about the highlights. Regan (Linda Blair) poking herself with a crucifix and her head turning back to front like a piegon while spouting green goo. This was a step up from Christopher Lee as Dracula, who hung about open windows, waiting for the lady of the house to arrange her negligee so her big boobs were showing, before inviting him inside to bit her on the neck and leave two pin-prick marks. It wasn’t safe to go to bed without a crucifix. Being Catholics, of course, we’d more crucifixes that the average American had household personal guns. And if my wee brother was sleeping, I could set him out as a tasty snack, with a big arrow pointing to the room next door, where my two sisters were more than a match for Dracula. Just let him try laying a fang on them.
The Devil, of course, was a different matter. Atheists could poo-poo the existence of ghosts, or use logic to prove that God didn’t exist, but you’d need to be mad not to believe in the devil’s existence. Wherever sex was, he was sure to follow. Ironically, the swinging sixties saw a surge in numbers to religious institutions. The Exorcist was a reminder of the good old days when good was good and evil was truly evil, and nobody abused anybody in their beds.
When, for example, Regan’s mother, Chris MacNeil (Ellen Burstyn) asks Father Karras (Jason Miller) to perform an exorcism on his daughter, he quips, that he could, but he’d have to find a time machine and whisk them both back to the sixteenth century.
Father Karras is having his own Dark Night of the Soul (St. John of The Cross) and doubts if he can continue being a priest. If he believes in God. This is centred on his Italian Mama, who is ill and lives alone. He thinks he should be caring for her in her last days. When she’s taken into hospital, his uncle, her mother’s brother, remonstrates with him there’s nothing they can do. They haven’t got the money for private care. He asks, Who’s going to take care of her? – you?
Father Karras has no answers, but as well as being a priest and psychiatrist, he’s a keen amateur boxer. Lt. Kinderman (Lee J Cobb) buttonholes him on the track. He’s investigating a strange death on a stairway, outside Regan’s window. Chris MacNeil’s boyfriend fell down those stairs, his head turned back to front. Father Karras might know something about that, he hints, some wayward priest with a grudge. After all, there’d also been the desecration of the church.
Father Merrin (Max von Sydow) brings the storylines together. The film begins with his architectural digs and ancient demons. When Father Karras tries to tell him about Regan’s medical history, Merrin tells him none of these things matter. He’s Peter Cushing’s Doctor van Helsing hunting down Dracula to his lair. Instead of a brace of wooden stakes in his hand: a worn Bible. Father Karras follows the formula: Good versus Evil. God versus the Devil.
The Prodigy (2019) a horror film directed by Nicholas McCarthy, and written by Jeff Buhler gives this formula a twist. A child at birth is inhabited by the soul of a Hungarian born mass murderer, who’d relocated to the United States. The battle for the body is the battle for the soul.
In The Exorcist this is shown graphically with the words ‘help me’ appearing on her abdomen, underneath the skin for her mother to read. Twelve-year-old Regan is innocent, but the devil has taken her.
We all know how it ends in a boxing match. Father Karras knocking the living hell out of twelve-year-old Regan and the devil inside her. ‘Take me,’ his invitation accepted. One for the other. Broken in body (Eucharistic rites: this is my body, broken for you), but time enough for Confession and repentance. The Catholic Church 1—0 Devil nil.
Watching the film, forty years later, you see how run down New York is. This is the Nixon era. There’s rather a corny scene when Chis MacNeil goes up into the attic to investigate what she thinks are rats. She has a torch, which doesn’t work. Instead, she lights a candle. The traps for mice lie empty. The candle flares up and just as suddenly goes out. The real surprise is the caretaker appearing, immediately, with a torch. That’s what you call service. Things were better in those days. Servants could anticipate your every need. They even knew when the devil was going to flare up and stand ready with battery power.
Roe versus Wade, 1973, the year of The Exorcist. Nostalgic religious porn. The rise of the religious right. The election of the demonic moron’s moron backed by the religious right. 2021, the squashing of Roe versus Wade. Peter Cushing or Father Karras, we need you to put one on the evil ginger quiff and pink-faced one spouting green goo and household cures by injecting common disinfectant? Evil lurks—still.
A drama based on a true story has to be factual—with lots of room for interpretation—for script writer Owen Sheers and Director Pip Broughton.
Man-made climate change brought about by burning fossil fuels is simpler and more complex. We are reliant on experts to interpret the world for us. We are reliant on scientists. But it’s a simple yes or no answer, like does gravity exist?
Let’s try a different question. Do you want your children and grandchildren to live?
COP 26 is in Glasgow this November. The 26th meeting of world leaders to discuss climate change and do nothing about it, but prevaricate and lie. Or as the modern Jeremiah, Greta Thunberg declared at a rally in London on October 2018, ‘Almost everything is Black and White.’ Britain, where the Industrial Revolution begun has one of the largest global debts and burned more fossil fuels than most other countries, but continually lie about how we are meeting our targets by the creative accounting we’ve become familiar with.
The ‘Climategate’ scandal in 2009 was something conspiracy theorists could get their teeth into. Professor Phil Jones (Jason Watkins) suffers from a meltdown when he finds he and his team of climatologists at the University of East Anglia emails have been hacked by climate-change deniers. Their contents cherry-picked. Jones, using a kind of short-hand, asks one colleague in an email exchange to manipulate historical date using ‘the trick’.
Let’s jump ahead to when the data used by climatologists at the University of East Anglia was released and audited by climate-change deniers in California, including a maverick who had targeted Professor Jones and his team, bombarding them with Freedom of Information requests. The University of California published findings where consistent with Jones and his teams. Climate change does exist and is progressing the way described by leading climatologists and NASA scientists in the 1970s. Climate change deniers have slunk away to fight other battles where science is less robust.
Greta Thunberg believes ‘No One is Too Small to Make A Difference’ and if nations work together, we can make the Paris Agreement work and keep global warming below 1.5 degrees centigrade. I see no evidence for her assertion. I believe your children and grandchildren will die in their tens of millions, certainly in numbers exceeding the first and second world wars combined. She remains optimistic. I’m pessimistic. But I’m older, more conservative in these matters, and have less life in front of me.
‘What happens Phil for our children and their children?’
Well, by 2100, dustbowl conditions across North America and Africa, Asia, too. Sooner than that. A massive reduction in agricultural production. Access to drinking water. Migration in huge numbers. Bushfires on a massive scale, in Australia and the West Coast. Melting at the Poles. West Antarctica ice-sheets, because of that a global sea-level rise of meters.
What does that all mean for people? Make me see it, Phil.
In the worst-case scenario, 70 percent of the habitable world will no longer be able to sustain life anymore. Coastal and delta cites underwater. If methane on sea bed and polar frost is released—the climate will collapse. And the world as we know it will be gone.
I usually check out late-night films to see if there are any worth watching. I wasn’t sure of The Keeper. Advertised as a biopic of Bert Trautmann, my first thoughts were it was something to do with music, and I probably wouldn’t like it. Before I pulled up the preview, I realised it might have something to do with goalkeeper, Bert Trautmann, (yeh, I know, it’s in the title) but I didn’t remember his name. My memories are as fragmentary as the bones in his neck. I couldn’t remember what team, but knew it was a post-war English team.
Celtic’s John Thompson died as a result of an accidental collision with Rangers player Sam English during an Old Firm match at Ibrox on 5th September 1931. But not many English players played in Scotland. Our best players usually went the other way, to play in England, where players were paid two or three times as much as a normal working man, down the pits. Example Jock Stein, Bill Shankly and Matt Busby. The Celtic team that won the European Cup was famously made up of eleven players that lived with twelve miles of Glasgow. Bobby Lennox, being the furthest, living in Saltcoats. Even the quality street Celtic team that destroyed Leeds but lost the European Cup final to Feyenoord in 1970 was also home grown. We’d have probably won that game if instead of Evan Williams in goal we had Billy the Fish, or Rocky and Rambo combined in Sylvester Stallone who famously made the Nazis pay by not only saving everything flung at him in a match against the guards, but also sneaked out of the stadium, incognito, with Pele in Escape to Victory.
I can’t think of any other films about goalkeepers. Bernhard Carl ‘Bert’ Trautmann played for Manchester City from 1949 to 1964. He’s played by a fresh-faced David Kross in the film. Lots to work with here. But, basically, it’s a love story. He falls in love with Margaret Friar (Freya Mavor).
The ‘meet-cute’ is he agrees to a wager. He’ll save penalties taken by other inmates in the prisoner of war camp in Lancashire between St Helens and Wigan, and if the taker scores he will give them a cigarette, if they miss, the inmate pays double. Margaret Friar watches him making save after save. She steps up to take a penalty. I expected him to let her score, but no. We know he’ll score with her later.
A few rudimentary obstacles stand in his way. Firstly, he’s interred and classified as a Nazi. Evidence of this is he won a handful of medals, including the prestigious Iron Cross. His past was later to surface, and crowd protest took place outside the Manchester City ground when he signed.
The war ends, he can go back to his homeland. First, he’s got to win the heart of the number one babe. He’s a bit of help from her dad, Jack Friar (John Henshaw) an Arthur Daly type with ties to the camp and his own shop. He’s also manager of non-league St Helens. A team struggling and in a relegation battle. They have a goalkeeper, but you guessed it, he’s the type of keeper Celtic signed from Greece and couldn’t catch a cold. Of course, Friar brings in Trautmann, ‘Bert’, to his new pals and he plays like Billy the Fish.
Bert, of course, has other fish to fry with Friar’s daughter. But she’s got a boyfriend. And her best pal, Betsy Walters (Chloe Harris) is snuggled up with the current, woeful, goalie. Ho-hum, kick up the park and he moves in with his boss. Only a blind goalie would miss what happened next.
How to deal with collective guilt and the Nazi murder of six million Jews? Bert had previous; he’d spent a few years on the Eastern Front, where a large part of the genocidal killing took place, arguably, more than took place in concentration camps. His argument that he’d just followed orders had the familiar ring of an Eichmann before being hanged by Albert Pierrepoint.
Bert, being a good German, and not a Nazi, suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. He suffers flashbacks of the boy he couldn’t save. Shot dead by a Nazi, who stole his leather football. The same boy turns up later in the film. A cosmic equaliser and forbearer of bad tidings. Hokum.
Bert wins over the Manchester City fans by his performances. He was simply an outstanding goalkeeper, and innovative in his use of flinging the ball out to a wing-half (as they were called in those days) to start attacks. Simple. You’re no longer a Nazi when your team keeps winning. In the same way, the current Manchester City team is sponsored by a Saudi regime that has committed mass murder and sponsored one of their citizens Osman Bin Laden, the leader of al-Qaida, who helped plan bringing down the Twin Towers, the Taliban and most extremist Muslim groups that follow their brand of religion, but nobody seems to care. There’s some archive footage, as football was played then. Not only was it a black-and-white world, but seems in slow motion. Maybe we could send our Greek dud out on loan to 1950s Manchester. He’d fit in just great.
Hagiography (Literary & Literary Critical Terms) any biography that idealizes or idolizes its subject
Around 3000 United States citizens were killed in what has become known as 9/11. This is A Day in the Life of President George W. Bush.
A ticking clock. The rest is a history of good guys and bad guys, when 9/11 became shorthand for President George W. Bush can-do and holding a poster of Osman Bin Laden with a ‘Wanted: Dead or Alive’. it. BBC and Apple take us back to that day with archive footage and all the Republican big hitters that were talking heads paying lip service to their former boss: Vice-President Dick Cheney, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, Senior Advisor and Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove, Secretary of State Colin Powell.
Ironically, Inside the President’s War Room was bookmarked by BBC 1, News at 10 and the chaotic scenes of US troops evacuating Afghanistan citizens ringing Kabul airport. In the twenty year war over $2 trillion had been spent, around 16 500 members of the US armed forces had been killed (and around 500 members of the British armed forces) with approximately ten times that numbered severally injured. With the average cost of one soldier stationed in Afghanistan estimated at around $1 million a year. Taliban spokesmen on New at 10 said they’d made more territorial gains than twenty years ago.
Civilian casualties are more difficult to estimate. Women and children figuring highly in any estimates of 171 000 to 360 000 dead. Multiply by ten for those injured. Multiply by whatever figure you like to take into account the casualty rate in Iraq.
11th September 2001. 9.03am, President George W. Bush, is in Florida, (he was once Governor). If you’d asked him what 9/11 was, he’d have looked bemused. He has that innate ability. But he was smiling as he listened to a teacher going through a presentation in front of seven-year-old schoolchildren. An aide whispers in the President’s ear.
Anyone that has read Robert A. Caro’s account of the ascent of Lyndon B. Johnston to the Presidency knows what happens after 9/11 was predictable. An algorithmic version of George W. Bush—even with the wonky technology of 2001, with Air Force One, for example frequently losing contact with ground signals and having to swoop over cities to pick up satellite signals and news footage—would have saved time. It would have been difficult for even a charismatic genius of John F. Kennedy standing to do any different, not go to war, even though in the Cuban Missile Crisis with nuclear Armageddon at stake, he cut a deal. But that was with bigger fry. This was just men in robes with boxcutters. Caro argued, ‘power corrupts, but it also reveals.’ In the case of the moron’s moron, Trump, for example, it reveals a malignant evil that has diminished, but not gone away. Trump would have loved a war. Caro’s advice stands good then as it does now. ‘Turn every page and do the maths.’ Going to war in Afghanistan and Iraq was the easy part. No US President could afford not to. We’re still counting the cost.
‘I’m comfortable with the decision I made,’ former President George W. Bush tells the camera.
(Greg Palast documents how Democrat Presidential candidate, Al Gore, won the 2000-1 election, but another unfamiliar word, like ‘9/11’, entered the lexicon – ‘chad’. Let’s not confuse this with the scare tactics of the moron’s moron Trump. An appeal to the Supreme Court called for a recount of the votes in Florida.
Fast forward, just as the US Supreme Court trashed women’s right to abortion in Texas and by extension, Jane Doe is dead. But that’s an aside for women’s rights not in Afghanistan were the bad guys are pictured with bulky robes and marked out as Muslim and, therefore, other, likely to take women’s rights back to the seventh-century.)
Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises: ‘How did you go bankrupt? Two ways. Gradually, then suddenly.’
I watched this last night. The programme started at 10.35pm, and I was almost falling asleep. A poor joke, which also happens to be true. My partner has problems sleeping. The woman across from us said she doesn’t sleep much. My sister goes to bed in the afternoon, and her son isn’t much better. As Henry Marsh writes in Do No Harm, exercise is supposed to help prevent early onset Alzheimer’s. It doesn’t you’re just able to run away better. Margaret Thatcher famously never slept much, and she got Alzheimer’s. There may be a link in the same way there may be a god. It’s complex.
‘According to research by the NHS, hospital admissions due to sleep disorders among young people have almost doubled over the past eight years, and the recent Covid-19 crisis has exacerbated the issue further still. In research conducted by Kings College London on a cross-section of 2,500 people across the UK, almost half of 16- to 24-year-olds stated that they were sleeping significantly fewer hours than they had been prior to lockdown, in comparison to just a third of those aged 35 and over.’
I’d never heard of Daisy Maskell. She tells us she’s had insomnia since she was a child. Her job as a radio host at 6.30 am seems to me a good fit. But she said she worries about her mental health and the possible longer-term effect on her immune system.
She meets her best friend, and other young and pretty people, to discuss some of these issues. How, for example, Covid lockdowns may have made things worse. Normalised insomnia. She tries cognitive therapy, psychotherapy and has her brain scanned. She admits to rewarding herself with food treats and purging with laxatives (bulimia) when she’s up late and the world is asleep. Yawn.
Schrödinger’s cat, observational effect and superposition, the multiverse, and our place in the universe to the power of…Einstein’s God doesn’t throw dice. Enough quantum physics to fill half a teaspoon. This is the backdrop for a routine murder mystery, with unsolved serial killer cases and socialites Detective Mike Hoolihan (Patricia Clarkson) is called in to investigate as a possible homicide Jennifer Rockwell (Mamie Gummer). Hoolihan has issues and is a reformed alcoholic, but she’s grown old dis-gracefully. She’s the best in the business and has a preternatural talent for linking disparate clues. Almost a one-hundred percent success rate.
Ticking in the film noirish background there are the cases that got away. A serial killer that was never caught and grown silent over the years. It’s personal, Hoolihan’s childish memories trigger clues she picks up in the case, and, vice-versa. In particular a Brenda Lee I’ll Be Seeing You soundtrack that sends her off into past and present. In the foreground, Col Tom Rockwell’s (James Caan) a Vietnam War hero and well-respected family in New Orleans whose astrophysicist daughter’s case she’s investigating.
A closed-box mystery of the Agatha Christie variety. Jennifer Rockwell, with a gunshot to her brain, had been found dead in observatory in which she worked. The door locked. Prof Ian Strammi (Toby Jones) is the main suspect. Being Toby Jones, we know it couldn’t have been that killed her on this or any planet.
The case is solved not by plodding, but great intuitive leaps of faith by the troubled Hoolihan. Cynical colleagues such as Tony Silvero (Aaron Tveit) can only look on in wonder. This is a pleasant enough way to spend an hour-and-a-half of your allotted time, if you’ve nothing better to do. Turn your brain off and enjoy, as I did.
A French film, with English subtitles. Set on the cusp of the swinging sixties, it begins as a coming-of-age drama. We are told in voice-over by Chantal (Estelle Lescure and the older Chantal played by Jehnny Beth) how her mother, beautiful, young Rachel (Virginie Efira) meets Philippe (Niels Schneider) at a local dance. He’s down from Paris to sub-rural hicksville and works as a translator on the American army base. Rachel’s friend teases Phillipe and asks him to translate a phrase into Spanish, into Italian, and even Chinese. Phillipe obliges her, but it’s Rachel he’s after.
She’s an office worker and admits the boss hates her and demoted her after he tried to have an affair with her. Philippe waits for her to finish every night. They make love, or have sex, whenever and wherever they can. Rachel is in love. Philippe doesn’t believe in love. He gets her to read Nietzsche. Dazzles her with notions of the Übermensch, Beyond Man, the philosophy adopted by Nazis apologists. Philippe tells her he doesn’t believe in marriage and will never marry. He’s above such notions. And Rachel, with her lower-class Jewish origins, should be above such things too. As a parting gift, Rachel lets him cum inside her, rather than on her stomach as they agreed.
Inevitably, Rachel gets pregnant and gives birth to a girl, Chantal (our narrator whose story this nominally is). Chantal is registered as a bastard, with father unknown on the birth certificate. Rachel begins a crusade to get Philippe to legally acknowledge Chantal as his daughter. Perhaps even be something of a father to her?
Years pass. Rachel ages and Chantal grows from being a baby to a young girl. Philippe, like Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray looks and sounds much the same. He agrees to be named as father but then changes his mind. They make love or have sex, again and again. It suits him, and he tries to convince her that’s what they agreed to. He’ll never marry. And she’ll going on working in the same old office and living with her mother, waiting for him, hoping to rekindle that great passion in her life.
The lies we tell ourselves are the most difficult to unravel. Her life is on hold, waiting. The older Chantal narrates in voice over the changes that come in their relationship and hers with her father. Blink and you’ll miss it, when Chantal tells the viewer when it started. A smooth transition. Intention and desire unpicked in the movement towards the denouement. Elegantly done.