Tuesday 25 August 2009

Full tilt

Very very late with the newsletter. It is due for publication this time next week: in the urgency to get other things done I forgot about it. No, I didn't forget, I mistakenly thought I had plenty of time. I should be panicking.

I made time - what does that expression mean? Stretch time to suit the needs of the moment...it's as easy as trying to squeeze more water into a bottle. I'll have to work full tilt for the rest of the week.

Having made time as described above, I read Penelope Lively's Spiderweb, (1998, Penguin) short and sharp. A nice psychological consistency to the solution the main character finds to her dilemma at the end of the book. Good pacing in terms of the anxiety we experience on her behalf. I also enjoyed the lack of a 'proper' ending, less predictable. A good novel: the characters interact in credible ways, affect each other, and move accordingly. Very tidy. Not a great novel, but a good one. That sounds snooty: I mean, if I could write like that I'd be very happy.

Having finished a major project - that finishing has played havoc with my sense of urgency for other things to be done - I watched two movies that I'd missed at the Film Festival in the last few days, one of them twice. Both describe death, silence and stillness, and the preparation of the body for burial or cremation. P picked up Silent Light by Carlos Reygadas (Mexico) at Aro Street Video. The other I saw at the Penthouse with a friend: the Japanese Oscar-winner (2008, for foreign film) Departures by Yojiro Takita.

Departures is fascinating to watch, for the depiction of ritual and its Zen-like quality. Its weaknesses are sentimentality and the predictability of the story. The Mexican film is harder to watch, more demanding, with slow shots, a slow rhythm to the story and a mysterious development.

Visually, it is wonderful. This is the one I saw twice - a rewarding exercise. The actors are amateurs playing people like themselves, members of Mexico's Mennonite community. They speak a weird kind of German and live religiously. Contact with Spanish-speakers only happens at a time of crisis. I loved the silence and quietness of the characters, which seemed to be a part of the way they live. People spoke briefly, succinctly, with gaps for thought. I'll probably watch it again.

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