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Back to the cinema…

I already told you how much I love the cinema. It’s a bit like a book I suppose, living other lives. I’ve always found it so impressive though frightening, how filmmakers can manoeuvre us. Probably because it works on emotion. Tolstoy told me that. Do you remember the passage? He related that as a boy he had joined in tormenting an unloved companion “I am quite unable to explain to myself my cruel behaviour. How was it I did not go up to him, did not protect or console him? Where was my tender heart which often caused me to sob wildly at the sight of a young jackdaw pushed out of its nest, or a puppy being thrown over a fence , or a chicken the cook was going to make a soup of?

Can it be that all these good instincts were stifled in me by my affection for Seriozha (the bully) and my desire to appear in his eyes as fine a fellow as he was himself?” And here we have the explanation of why we cannot trust our emotions. This passage has always been a kind of mantra for me because emotions are scary aren’t they? And in the cinema they’re not only scary but false too. The first time I realised this was when I went to see E. T. All of a sudden along a long row, the whisper ” pass the tissues please”! Embarrassing. But how do they do it?

This love for the cinema comes from a long way back so I guess that makes it pretty unsurprising then that some of the films I enjoyed the most at “Cinema sotto le stelle” were not really new, although they were among the classics not only of the Italian cinema but of world cinema..

I was lucky enough to see the rennovated version of Elio Petri’s “Indagine su un cittadino al di sopra di ogni sospetto”. I’m not the only one who sees the film as a masterwork as Petri won the 1971 Oscar for it for best foreign language film, Gran Prix Cannes and numerous others, even though I believe he had certain difficulties getting it shown at first as it was seen as a politically provocative film,

coming as it did in the years of lead and in the aftermath of the Pinelli crime. Noticed by many is the similarity between Gian Maria Volontè and police chief Calabrese.

But I don’t want to go down that road, as quite frankly, I don’t know enough about it and I find the universality of the film unlinked to a specific time or place the more fascinating an approach. The schizophrenia of power is underlined by Enno Morriconi’s soundtrack which was actually the reason they showed the film at “Cinema sotto le stelle”, as a tribute to the recently dead maestro. It is a wonderful study in power: the arrogance of” il dottore” (the Italian love of titles so often sent up by comedians, no one can forget Fantozzi’s “gran mascalzon.lup.man.pezz.di merd.dottor Brambani”) intimidating his victims during police interviews in contraposition to his grovelling obsequiousness when he is in an inferior position in the pecking order. He commits the crime and scatters the crime scene with clues and in an elaborate game, accuses himself making sure however, that no one believes him.

And what to say about Volontè? In an outstanding scene with the press he speaks of “immutable law carved in time”, and infers that repression equals civility or as he says “repression is our vaccine”,and he is totally convincing as this grotesque “child” of power

It is impossible to pick up all the subtleties of the film first time round. I’m thinking of biting the bullet and buying it from Amazon so that I can study it in detail. It was really difficult to stay cool- headed and critical throughout a film of this stature.

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In Praise of Laziness

I appear to have been adopted by a kitten who certainly knows which side his bread’s buttered on. He chose the only person staying at home all August, at a loose end, getting fed up with Netflix, kept out of the garden by the extremely debilitating heat and the sheer amount of things to do. How did he know? But at least he’s quiet. that’s the great thing about cats, they tiptoe. After looking after him for a couple of days I’m more in doubt than ever about getting an animal. They need looking after and I thought I’d finished with that part of my life! My mother, who was a dog lover (a whole succession of golden Retrievers who got the best of everything in our household) told me when the last one died , “Anne, never get anything with a mouth” and how right she was! Mind you she should have added “and never get anything that needs watering”.

Of course I have irrigation in the garden, but long ago I mislaid the plans. It’s far too complicated. Pop-up sprays for the lawn areas, dripfeed for the veggie beds and leaky tubes for everything else. At the moment I’m trying to simplify the upkeep in order to be able to enjoy it, not just work in it. I’ve discovered to MY surprise (but nobody else’s) that my painful back is caused by weeding. Not the gentle ladylike stuff you read about in novels, done by ladies in lovely hats and nice gardening gloves, but the straining fall-over-if-you -let -go, tall grasses type! Rant over! However, it is so lovely to sit outside , especially in the evenings when all you have to do is breathe in the perfume of Wintersweet, or jasmine, or roses or Brugmansia depending on the season. I have been trying to make mine a perfumed garden. I really have to fall in love with a flower to give it ground space if it has no scent. This is causing a running battle between me and my helper Davide. He hates my Edgeworthia, but it perfumes the whole garden in early spring when nothing else is doing anything.

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Cinema under the stars….

I do love the cinema! and especially cinema under the stars. It’s really a case of”force is no choice” because I spend my weekday evenings during the year teaching, so there’s really only the weekend left .I don’t really like those mega-cinemas, though the seats are comfy. I found a small cinema near me with moderately comfortable seats ( not a lot of stuffing) but that’s ok because the price is really reasonable, and I got into the habit of going regularly. It was a bit like the atmosphere I remember when I used to trek across London with my boyfriend to see a Bergman season. Or at the university cineclub where you could see art films that no one else wanted to see, but there were the great Russian filmakers Eisenstein’s “Ivan the terrible” and the wonderful “Alexander Nevsky”, with music by….wait for it…Prokofiev!

Then nearer to now, more trekking to some weird parish cinemas with my ex to see a Shakespeare festival. “Hamlet” (Kozintchev) most of all which had me scurrying home to read my Shakespeare to check out where that idea of claustrophobia came from. But it’s there ,it’s there in the text. Another eye-opening moment was Roman Polanski’s “Macbeth”, Ive always thought the witches were ridiculous but my small daughter (who I had hoped was too young to understand anything-I must have been in one of my depressed moments where I was dying for a bit of culture) anyway she hollered and I had to leave. The extraordinary thing was that it was shown the next week on tv and she sat and watched, much to my chagrin. This convinced me that cinema IS the big screen, the dark, the undivided concentration…