The Sunday papers were especially good this week. We made a rare foray into The Sunday Times as well as The Observer, mad, bourgeois devils that we are: A.A.Gill in the Times hits the spot, focusing on how, not what we eat, is what matters. It ticked every box in my sad approach to comfort eating, as reflected in my ghastly waistline. From now on I eat at mealtimes only. With a fork.
But to cinema – and the point which resounds is: always try and see a film before you’ve read the critics. I’m lucky – I can pick my times. The downside of being a hopeless freelancer is that you never work. The joyous upside is that you’re always free to see a movie at midday on a Friday when you’re feeling perky, the cinema’s relatively empty and the tickets are at their cheapest. So, in I went to confront the much hyped phenomenon of the season, 12 YEARS A SLAVE. Immersive cinema. An aspect I admire in director Steve McQueen’s films is his uncompromising gaze (loved HUNGER, hated SHAME). His compositions are often ecstatic in both horror and joy. And they’re not played for laughs/deep irony, etc as with that other great uncompromiser, Quentin T. But in a way, that’s what burdens the film too. We become enslaved to McQueen’s gaze. Does that make a film profound or entertaining? (and by this I mean SERIOUS entertainment). I felt that McQueen departed from his usual stasis at the beginning of the film which was dynamic and inventive. Here it was at its most riveting. But by the end of 134 minutes, I felt the film had become more of a procession of tortures. But hey! I also thought overall it was masterful and wonderful. It made me realize why, more than ever, I’d like to make another movie, to try and improve…. McQueen sets the bar so very high!
And the critics? Mark Kermode in The Observer: “If.. this very powerful film.. achieves a clean sweep in the forthcoming best picture categories, it will be a rare example of awards ceremonies getting it right”. Camilla Long in The Sunday Times: “This isn’t so much a film as a thundering and unremitting sermon, a ranting monologue that teaches us little we didn’t already know about the horrors of slavery”
Be a freelancer like me and make up your own mind.