Wednesday, 31 October 2012

another terrific film

I've been travelling and writing quite a bit recently, hence no blog since June. We've been to Berlin and Lübeck, fascinating places, the latter a rather pleasant surprise, especially as regards art and marzipan…(Incidentally our city Exeter was bombed in WW2 in retaliation for the devastation of Lübeck, Hitler's so-called Baedeker raids of 1942.) Then the new book Getting On (Poems 2000-12) was launched here in Exeter, with a further launch and reading scheduled at Bookmarks in London next week (Nov 6th).

At present our main library is undergoing major alterations and refurbishment, moving to a site next door: all these changes and (let's hope) improvements will take about 14 months apparently. Alongside the staff shake-ups and redundancies, all too many books and dvds are being sold off at bargain prices: in terms of film, this has meant we've watched a variety of interesting foreign classics, award winners and recent indie stuff (because that's what The Powers That Be are generally keen to get rid of!) None of them easily classifiable, let alone qualifying as mainstream movies.

Among some unexpected treasures not so far listed to be sold off, is Leap Year, a terrific Mexican film directed by an Australian director in his mid-thirties, Michael Rowe. Leap Year dates from 2010, when it won the Golden Camera award at Cannes for best debut film. It's quite gruelling and explicit – one-room, low-budget filming, while the acting of Monica del Carmen is courageous and extraordinary. Here's the supreme antidote to all the sick-making Hollywood shlock pumped out about dating and human relationships: in its pared-down (89 mins) style – a quasi-Bressonian eroticism? – and its extreme and unrelenting sincerity, Leap Year is strong stuff. Its frankness might well offend, provoking shock and defensive emotional reactions from many quarters – especially among the narrower sorts of feminists, the censorious prudes and lovers of sentimental cliché, and all those unthinking consumers of standard porn – none of whom would properly engage with the brutal and moving realities of the film's sexual politics. And it's not simply about gender attitudes, big city isolation and loneliness, but also very much concerned with class, race and economics in Mexico, where Michael Rowe has lived for many years. Rowe's stubborn persistence in getting his uncompromising script accepted and, after years of difficulties encountered, managing to direct it so effectively, bodes well for the future of someone who seems like a genuine auteur. Good luck to him, the award for his Año Bisiesto was no more than he deserved.

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