Thursday, 28 April 2016


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Everything is hard, harsh, bright and violent here. I don’t understand vengeance. I was torn out of my quiet existence, just getting through the next moment and then the one after that. I was warm, happy and at peace. But now I am in hell.

That incantation is from Buffy, not The Witch; its Buffy’s famous speech after her ‘friends’ resurrect her.

I love a good witch story. One of these days I’ll do a witch blog covering all my favourite witch tales. In fact if I am completely honest, I like witch stories so much that I am prepared to give them a lot more latitude than I might with say a police procedural or a science fiction story. As is the case here. The Witch has pretty good reviews and critics seem to like it, comparing it favourably with The Babadook, for example which I thought was okay. Saved by an incredible lead performance by Essie Davis. The Witch doesn’t have any incredible performances . . . there isn’t the same space really . . . but the production design, showing New England in the mid 17thC is very well done. Flawless in fact and makes the whole film believable, and the tone is right on the money which is essential if you are to invest yourself in its supernatural artifice.

What’s it about? Almost irrelevant I would say in fact I literally read no reviews before I went so I knew nothing about it but for the sake of the blog it is about an isolated pioneer family forced to move on because of their religious beliefs who find that their new farm is cursed. One by one, they meet their doom let us say. It’s a hard watch actually, quite scary in parts and God is it relentless. You have to admire the Director for his application, he never lets up. 

This is a very highly nuanced film which dwells upon the shaky foundations of a childless marriage. I cannot image that it holds much appeal for a young audience. It is acted by Charlotte Rampling, who is aged 68 and Tom Courtney, age eighty. A geriatric.
It is based apparently on a [very short] short story that the writer/director has picked up and enlarged to make something more meaningful for the cinema or in fact for television, because it is produced and financed by Filmfour. Again, I can’t think that he would have got very far without such starry actors. He shows, not tells which is good. He takes his time, which is good. Don’t have a problem with people endlessly walking dogs in long shot, in the spring. They have no kids but they have no friends either. Although the narrative rotates around the big up-coming event of their 45th wedding anniversary at the weekend, with scores of guests in their finery, food, wine, Kate the Charlotte Rampling character seems to spend almost all her time alone. People with friends meet for lunch; make plans; are hardly off their phones; are endlessly shuffling their diaries. Not Kate. Of course it wouldn’t suit the very short story if she was shown to be an attractive woman that people wanted to spend time with so the author tries to distract us from this by throwing a big party. Does it matter? This is the film he wants to make, the story he wants to tell. Okay but surely she would be on her phone, gossiping, getting advice on how to handle things instead of which all we see is an accumulation of resentment and . . . and worry that she has made a bad marriage and wasted her life on the wrong man.

I’ve known a few people in my life who didn’t have children; our next-door neighbours for one. Ursula and John for two. Brian and Susan. Does it turn them into tinder-dry couples filled with regret? Hard to say. It’s like everything else, I suppose, if life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Or adopt, or if that doesn’t work, get divorced like my bookkeeper, Andrea and start again with someone else. 45 is one version of events; one version of how it might go. It’s not an experience I have had or particularly witnessed in others but if you want to see a well-acted, nicely scripted film about real lives in 21stC England today, give it a try. It earns your time if for no other reason than the fact that it is not awash with sex and violence, like everything else being pushed  these days.

What a film. Best thing I have seen in ages; made me realise what a pleasure the darkened cinema can be, better than television, better than theatre, better than the best book when the film is as good as this. It’s a quietly powerful, charming drama about three sisters sharing a house in contemporary Japan who, at a whim take in their half-sister to lodge with them. There is a gentle humour and warm, human performances and it shows, shows, shows their normal, complex lives and how they naturally adjust to this stranger’s arrival. Just draw-dropping stuff. Its two and a half hours long and the time flew.
If you have ever been to Japan and been mesmerised by the contradictions of that society, then it is a must-see. Flawless.

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