I'm sweating spinal fluid, here

Yesterday five of us braved a treble bill of films at the Gulbenkian. No theme between the films or anything, just three films that I fancied seeing and was prepared to see one after the other, and my enthusiasm seemingly infected people around me.

Things kicked off with Les Quatre Cents Coups (The Four Hundred Blows, 1959) directed by François Truffaut. This film is considered to be one of the first examples of Nouvelle Vague cinema, and like so much French cinema of the next couple of decades it focuses on character rather than plot. The film is about Antoine Doinel; a schoolboy who is seemingly taken to be much more trouble than he actually is by his teachers and parents, culminating in a bleak if not absolute destiny for him. The film is full of remarkably poignant one-off moments, perhaps reflecting that this is often what an adventurous young boy's life is about; a single, shocking glimpse of his mother kissing another man, the epiphany Antoine achieves from reading Balzac before completing his creative writing homework assignment, and indeed the beautiful final shot. All these character-forming moments are countered by the flat repetition of the adult world around him; monotonous teachers and daily chores round the cell-like apartment he shares with his folks.

Truffant once said "I still ask myself the question that has tormented me since I was thirty years old; is cinema more important than life?" If he was thirty when he asked himself that, then it would have been during the key years of Nouvelle Vague. It's clear that this was a time of great public and artistic immersion in cinema, and perhaps one of the most prominent periods since cinema was invented. Truffant (along with several French directors at the time) made such an impact on commercial (or Hollywood) cinema as to alter it dramatically. I think any virtuoso of a particular art believing their art to be "more important than life" is a conceit that it almost respectable. However, as a lowly punter and not a 1950s and 60s French film director, I must say that such cinema is important to life, or, as more as an act of endeavour, is important to reflect life.

Speaking of film reflecting life, we next watched In The Loop, Armando Iannucci's big screen episode of The Thick Of It (which is isn't as such, seeing as how it has the same principle cast, yet only Peter Capaldi and Paul Higgins return as their original and ferocious characters from TV). The film races nauseatingly between Whitehall, Washington DC and the UN on the tails of a US-led secret committee on whether or not to consider war in the Middle East. The acting is so good I wanted to shit, and the swearing is so good I felt like never doing it again in my life because there would just be no need to ever.

The thing is, the film actually does reflect real life as well, or at least, no one with any amount of political savvy would watch this and go now that's a bit far, because modern politics has left us nothing but cynical about it. The reason why satire like this is produced is because there is more than a grain of truth in what the satire is; if politics (or should that be politicians) stopped behaving as they did, perhaps they would come across as something less worthy of such cutting criticism (even though it is very funny).

Incidentally, there is no mention of some 'new' American president who has come to save the world, such as is what is being romantically touted in real life. No great man steps forward to make things better in one idealistic swoop. Nothing. And in all honestly, there is no call for mention of a president in a film like In The Loop - which makes you realise how easy it is to change your mind about politics, even just for 100 minutes, but then you can come out of the cinema and wonder which view is the real fantasy.

Final film in the hat trick, The Dark Knight. Having seen it four times now, I have realised there are two ways of watching this film:

1) Sitting very still and concentrating very hard and taking it all in and attempting to see it philosophically and wondering if it is actually better than Batman Begins and attempting to justify Christian Bale's ridiculous growl and accepting that Two Face as a relatively minor character as in amount of time on screen and trying to ignore Maggie Gyllenhaal's saggy golf ball eyes and denying that you'd rather be watching Momento.

..or 2) JOKER stuff happens stuff happens stuff happens JOKER stuff happens stuff happens JOKER stuff happens stuff happens JOKER JOKER JOKER

I listened to Arise Therefore (1996) by Will Oldham (aka Bonny "Prince" Billy) this morning whilst walking to Ayumi's. Such an minimalist record, yet so moody it leaves a taste in the mouth. Stablemate starts things off and has an accusitive narrative like so much of the album, giving the impression that Oldham has been disappointed by people somewhat. It is also one of the bleakest songs. There is also a tangible contrast between Oldham's beautiful lyrics, his fragile vocal and the song titles; "If god could make you cry, I'd run along the water, she won't come, I'll be gone" resides in the middle of Your Have Cum In Your hair and Your Dick is Hanging Out (which, graphic as it is, still carries a certain personal advice rather than comical imagery). The Sunlight Highlights the Lack In Each is probably the best song on the album; a nostalgic blues glance back at previous times and people burnt out and gone, with an unexpected and great wah-wah guitar lick. Yeah, this is good stuff. Obviously everyone's already heard I See A Darkness (1999) which it's hard to believe is actually ten years old. Oh my god. But Arise Therefore is definitely worth having also.

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