November 4th, 2011

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55th BFI London Film Festival: Goodbye

It is about time I finished my write-ups of films that I saw as part of the London Film Festival that I wanted to talk about. The first of these is Goodbye:
When your country starts treating you like you don't belong, then it's time to leave. Follow the link for more details:

Again, this is less of a film review and more of a personal reaction to the film. Goodbye is an Iranian film, which depicts life in modern-day Iran.

I have a romanticised notion of what living in the Arab world is like, based on my extensive travels around the region as a tourist. I love the Arab world and, because I dress respectfully and modestly, and have a brown skin, I have always been treated with courtesy and respect by Arab men. Even as a Christian, I still believe that the most beautiful and lyrical sound in the world is the call to prayer. Waking up to it every morning when I am in the Arab world is something that I treasure.

However, what this film drove home to me is that in today's Iran there is no freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of movement - no freedom full stop. For many people it is a living death. The filmmakers of this film, and other Iranian films, have been imprisoned for significant amounts of time, and banned from making films for decades. This is so sad. I read "Reading Lolita in Tehran" and Iran, prior to Khomeini, was a liberal Muslim state, where women had rights, jobs and freedoms. Women's rights and equality are actually both enshrined and protected in the Koran.

I have always recognised and appreciated that I am very lucky to have been born in England, educated in England, and given all the life chances and opportunities that this country has given me. I am passionate about being both English and British. This film actually made me appreciate and value the many freedoms that I have as a British subject/citizen - principally freedom of speech and expression, freedom of movement, and freedom to protest and also just the basic freedom of living in a Western liberal democracy. As a British subject/citizen I can pretty much think, say, do and go where I want; many people around the world cannot.

I fully appreciate that some people are more able to take advantage of these rights and freedoms than others. I know full well that the poor are disenfranchised in many ways in all societies, including within British society. That does not change the basic fact that we have many rights and freedoms in Britain that we often take for granted. This film and what had befallen its film-makers was a wake-up call.
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BFI TV Preview: Sherlock, Series 2 Episode 1 - A Scandal in Belgravia + Q&A

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TV Preview: Sherlock
Series 2 Episode 1: A Scandal In Belgravia + Q&A

This is now happening on 7 December - Make your mind up BBC!

BFI. NFT1. 18:15pm.

BBC1's much praised, multi-award winning drama Sherlock returns for a second series. This is a preview screening of the first episode of the new series. Followed by a panel discussion and Q&A with cast and crew.

Follow the link for full details:
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James play the Royal Albert Hall tonight (4 November)

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James, with the Orchestra of the Swan & The Manchester Consort Choir, will play the Royal Albert Hall tonight. I cannot make the date, as I am attending Bible readings at the National, so I went to see them in Birmingham last month. To read my write-up of their Birmingham concert follow the link:

James are here:
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55th BFI London Film Festival: Coriolanus

And now, FINALLY, onto the last of the London Film Festival films I want to talk about, Coriolanus, directed by, and starring, Ralph Fiennes.

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A clever, contemporary adaptation of Shakespeare's play of political power and intrigue, directed by and starring Ralph Fiennes in the title role:

I have been promising this review for a long time and it is long overdue. The reason being that I really wanted to do the film justice. The truth is I will never be able to do this film justice. This film is MIND-BLOWING and it is truly exceptional. It comes highly highly highly recommended by me.

Embarassingly, for someone who claims to know a bit about Shakespeare, I have only ever seen two versions of Coriolanus, and that includes this one. Both versions have had Ralph Fiennes in the title role! The last time I saw Coriolanus was when Ralph Fiennes played the title role in the Almeida's "Shakespeare in Shoreditch" Season, way back in 2000.

Of the two versions (one I am clearly recollecting from over a decade ago) I much much much prefer this film version. Having it set in contemporary Serbia, really brought the play alive for me and I connected with the play in a way that I had not done the last time. Bringing Shakespeare up to date and placing it in a contemporary setting can really make it very powerful indeed IF it is done correctly, and you stay true to the text's intentions. You know that when Ralph Fiennes is in charge (this is his Directorial debut) Shakespeare is in very safe hands. Ralph Fiennes, for me, is by far and away the leading Shakespearian actor of his generation. No contest! This film is a masterclass in how to set Shakespeare in the contemporary world, to fully convey its power and meaning, without compromising at all on artistic integrity.

Ralph's verse speaking is, as always, exceptional. You can easily follow the meaning of the text, and the verse is so beautiful when he speaks it, he really brings out the poetry in it to the full. The verse speaking across the whole of the cast is outstanding. A surpise for me was James Nesbitt. I have never seen him do Shakespeare before and he really was excellent - off the back of this, I would now love to see him as the lead in a Shakespeare play, either on stage, on film, or on the telly.

I loved some of the Directorial choices in this. The close-ups on people's faces at key points really worked. The use of handheld cameras in some scenes to convey the chaos of war, or crowds getting out of control, really worked. To set some scenes in a television studio to convey the power and influence of the media in today's political world really worked. To have Jon Snow in the film, on Newsnight, and narrating the changing political events, really worked. The war and combat scenes, both the epic grand scale war scenes, and the one-on-one combat scenes, really worked. Some of the violence of the war and the fight scenes were effectively and powerfully portrayed and captured. In fact, everything about this film really worked - I just loved it!

For me, one of the key learning points, was how easy it can be to manipulate a mob. They may start off believing one thing, but all it takes is a few strategically and tactically placed phrases, and you can turn the mob and make them believe the complete opposite. And then when the mob have turned and are baying for blood, even the most respected and rational person cannot make them change their minds. That is how easy it is to turn the mob against someone, so that they go from being an admired and revered leader to a hated and detested dictator. Yes, Coriolanus is arrogant, but he by no means, and in no way whatsoever, deserves to be humiliated and banished in the way that happens in the play.

To summarise, I loved this, took it straight to my heart, and will be rushing to see it again when it gets its UK cinema release. Anyone with any sense will be doing the same as me! The planned UK cinema release date for Coriolanus is Friday 13 January 2012.

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