Saturday 12 December 2009

"Me Too" Cinema

Why is a cinema dark? Is it because we must be blinded from our world in order to see another? Or is it that we do not want to be seen by the people on the screen? Perhaps we want to remain passive or on the outside looking in.

Reviews often talk of a film that "puts you there", but this is something apart. The implication of this phrase is merely that we are watching from within their world.

It suggests that we are watching from closer but still passive, constrained to stand where the camera stands.

It is a different matter when a film makes you feel, in brief bursts, as if it is just as tangible and just as changeable as the one in which you are sitting. It is then that we become participants and not witnesses.

This is an illusion of course but an illuminating one.

On a crisp morning in Le Pont du Nord, Marie (Bulle Ogier) and her companion Baptiste (Pascale Ogier) pass through a market. Marie asks Pascale if she would like some fruit. At that moment, somewhere in Paris, part of me thought 'none for me thank you, but do you know of a patisserie near here?'.

They are rare films that are welcoming and free, that have space in them for you too.

Satantango tangoThe titular tango in Satantango, in which drunken villagers stagger around each other until they are overtaken by peaceful exhaustion, creates a similar feeling. The feeling that you are part of the proceedings, and that you can explore the village that the camera isn't showing, leave them to their own devices and come back later.

Jafar Panahi's Offside, a tale of six Iranian girls trying to see an all-important football match, culminates in a long bus trip through raucous city streets. They are being escorted to the "Vice Squad" headquarters by a couple of officers while listening to the game on the radio. The camaraderie and complex bonds that have built between all of them throughout the film drew me in. I may have ended up in court, with a record, chastened and embarrassed in front of my Mother but I wanted to be on that bus, and for a couple of short moments I felt like I was.

Offside - Jafar Panahi

For a review that really captures the spirit of the excellent Offside I recommend Sheila O'Malley's joyful piece here:


  1. My name is Chazz Lyons and I'm the editor of a multi-writer film review and essay blog, soon to be professional web site called Gone Cinema Poaching. Currently, we're looking for more film critics and essayists, if you have any interest, shoot me an email: or hit me up on AIM: editorGCP and we can talk details.

    -Chazz Lyons

    Twitter: @CinemaPoaching
    The Auteurs: Chazz Lyons

  2. I like what you've written here and appreciate your insight.

    Thanks for the "paranoia agent" especially since we've never heard of it.


  3. Thank you. It's my pleasure.

    I feel I should warn you that Paranoia Agent is a bit more disturbing than his films (but well worth watching).

  4. If it's disturbing like David Lynch, we're OK! ; )

  5. Stephen,

    This is such an evocateive piece. Completely agree, This the kind of films I like too.

    And yes, Satantango, I wanted to cover myself with a quilt when Irimias and his minion walk the windy streets...

  6. Ah yes, the howling wind and the rubbish flying past.

  7. Chazz, I sent you an email but I have received no reply.

    I might be interested in contributing but I would need to know the full details.

    Thanks for the invite. I'm glad you like my stuff.