Kino Keeno

"Film is not the art of scholars, but of illiterates…"

Tag: by our selves

Top 10 films of 2015

by Ben Diamond

 

It’s the anal-retentive’s most cherished of Christmas presents – The End-of-Year List.  In reverse chronological order of viewing…

10. Taxi Tehran (review)

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I loved all the formal and meta-tricks going on in this one.  Very philosophical, very political, very accessible, funny and charming.  The idea of driving around in a taxi lent this film a mixture of claustrophobic confinement and a nervous energy, a very literal momentum.

9. By Our Selves (review)

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Admittedly, not as good as Kötting and Sinclair’s last adventure, Swandown, but I commend these two for going on a psychogeographical jaunt around Albion, retracing the steps of our forgotten national treasure, the poet John Clare.  These images are what Stewart Lee sees when he closes his eyes after he’s drunk his last ale of the evening.

8. 45 Years

45years

Perhaps, perhaps, a film for older people, older couples.  But the idea that things you do in the early days of a relationship come back to haunt you decades later stayed with me.  As a person in their mid twenties, I took this film as a challenge to look at my life and try to spot the seeds of destruction I’m already sowing…

7. The Falling

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I remember sitting through this and thinking halfway through that it had descended into silliness, but The Falling stayed with me for months after, especially the orchestrated faintings, en masse.  Grand choreography.  So much strangeness.  The possibilities for drawing parallels between the central mass-hysteria metaphor and all the other incidences of mass-hysteria in our daily lives are endless.

6. Wild Tales

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Six unrelated Argentinian shorts, all directed by Damián Szifron, stitched together into one anthology film.  Not entirely consistent in quality, but there’s enough humour, invention and savagery to see you through to the end.  My favourite was ‘El más fuerte‘, one of the funniest and most violent things I have ever seen.  The spirit of Bottom and Rik Mayall was looming large over that one.

5. Appropriate Behavior

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Featuring the most awkward threesome scene you’re ever likely to see.  Desiree Akhavan – just as funny and talented as Lena Dunham.  Perhaps less annoying, too.

4. It Follows

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I don’t go for horror films – but I went for this, massively.  The creepiness factor here was absolutely nuts.  Fantastic soundtrack, too.  A sudden noise can scare you, but a threatening person walking towards you in a long take from a distance will scar you for weeks.  Also love this one because it reminded me of the power of the multiplex after midnight on a Friday when you’re the only one watching in the cinema.  On the walk back to the car after, I kept looking from left to right.

3. The Duke of Burgundy

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Even writing this annoys me, as it reminds me that I’ll probably have to wait another few years until Peter Strickland’s next film.  Both this and Berberian Sound Studio are amazing and unique.  Stan Brakhage and Belle de Jour are just some of the influences on display.  Deeply sexual, deeply unsettling, hats off too to Cat’s Eyes for lovely weird music to accompany the whole thing.

2. Leviathan

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If you want to try and understand modern Russia, you need to do two things.  The first is to read Emmanuel Carrère’s book Limonov, and the second is to watch this.

1. Whiplash

Whiplash

J. K. Simmons.  Terrifying.  It’s not really about the music.  Exhausting to watch.  Won’t be taking up the drums any time soon.  Will probably stick to the stylophone for now.  Anyone want to form a skiffle band?

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By Our Selves

by Ben Diamond

By Our Selves (Kötting 2015, 83m)

By Our Selves combines the considerable intellectual and creative talents of director Andrew Kötting and writer-psychogeographer Iain Sinclair as they attempt to recreate John Clare’s 80-mile, 4-day walk, from the lunatic asylum in Epping Forest where he was being interned, to Northamptonshire, looking for a lost love who had actually died some years ago.  Sinclair wrote a book about this in 2005 called Edge of the Orison, but this time they have enlisted the help of actor Toby Jones to embody the spirit of Clare, as well as his dad, Freddie Jones, who reads some of Clare’s poetry (as he did for a BBC dramatisation of Clare’s work many decades ago) to enhance and enchant the sonic backdrop.  Toby Jones is accompanied on his walk by a man dressed as a straw bear, for reasons that are explained in an illuminating conversation with a Clare expert towards the end of the film.  I would say the film is roughly one third documentary, one third re-enactment, and one third is simply left to random chance, edited together to make a moody, unique blend.

I was very impressed with Kötting and Sinclair’s last film, Swandown, where they climbed into a swan pedalo at Margate and made their way to the main site in east London for the 2012 Olympics.  The stylistic hallmarks of Swandown are present here, but somewhat exaggerated, perhaps to reflect the state of Clare’s troubled mind.  This time they have chosen to film in stark black and white photography, but continue to expose the underwiring of the filmmaking process – quite an important aspect of the film is the sound, which is often shown being captured by the boom-mic operator onscreen.  Confusingly, the sound that is being captured onscreen often does not correspond to what we are hearing simultaneously.

Sound and vision are set free here.  In a beautiful single take, a handheld camera is left to simply float upwards, high up into the trees, slowly arc 180 degrees, and then descend, upside-down, back to the forest floor.  Repeated sonic snatches recombine and gain new meanings with repeated takes.  The horrendous audio snippet of someone saying “John Clare was a minor nature poet, who went mad” is repeated over and over again, taking various tragic and comedic turns, until it simply becomes mental wallpaper.

Why John Clare?  Because he fits with Sinclair’s agenda and interests.  A working-class poet.  A ‘mad’ poet.  A poet working at what Professor Kövesi in the film implied was ‘the end of the poetry era’ (Sinclair, a poet himself, operating well after the era of the poet).  A poet who took refuge in the flora and fauna.  And a poet who appeared to be operating on some other psychic plane, embodying the spirit of others, notably Lord Byron.  A brilliant conversation with author and wizard Alan Moore turns to his native Northamptonshire, a psychic black hole in Albion, where the dead come to rest, and people never leave.  Sinclair has an interest in ley lines and is no doubt fascinated by the pull Northamptonshire had on Clare and others.

But perhaps the most beautiful moment in the film is simply Freddie Jones trying to remember Clare’s most famous poem, ‘I Am’.  He starts confidently, stumbles, and then triumphantly picks up again at the final stanza.  An amazing poem, and just for a second, you can see Clare glinting in Jones’s eye.