If September’s film viewing was bound together by an overarching theme, it was the idea of integrity. In Annette – Leos Carax’s memorably surreal musical – the main characters grappled with their attempts to remain true to their artistic lives – and their splintering selves – while singing their way through some deceptively banal songs. (Do banalities always achieve profundity if they’re repeated often enough?) Adam Driver was superb here, presenting an image of destructive masculinity that spanned the full range from barely-moving subtlety to limb-flinging ostentatiousness.
Integrity of the ‘self-expression’ variety was the driving force in Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, the adaption of the stage musical about a secondary school pupil who wants nothing more than to be a drag queen. Despite attempts to place the action against the context of a wider, historical struggle for equality, this was never more than serviceable fare, skipping along from one number to the next with very little sparkle. That said, at least it didn’t fall into the usual trap of preaching its lessons to those already converted, making a commendable attempt to be accessible to those who may not usually choose to sit through ‘this sort of thing.’
A slightly older student was the reason I decided to rewatch Robert Reford’s Lions For Lambs. Portrayed with characteristically sound instincts by Andrew Garfield, the lad is grilled by Redford’s university professor about his non-idealistic, non-committal attitude to his course. I had a vague memory that the exchanges between the two characters provided astute insights into the current generation of youngsters’ sense of entitlement and personal rights (a subject close to a fiction project on which I’m working). Sure enough, those elements were in place (perhaps less powerfully than my memory had suggested) but what was most notable about this viewing of a not-entirely-noteworthy piece of work was the spookily prescient plot-strand about Afghanistan.
In Pedro Almodovar’s The Human Voice, a short film loosely based on the play by Jean Cocteau, Tilda Swinton dashes about a hyper-coloured apartment trying to find herself after the breakdown of a relationship. This was a striking, surprising piece of work, partly thanks to Swinton’s edgy performance, but mainly because of Almodovar’s playfulness with set design and decoration. Well worth half an hour of anyone’s time.
Finally, the month’s most potent examinations of integrity came from the past, and from none other than that fearless explorer of human frailty, Stanley Kubrick. In Paths Of Glory he gives us an astonishingly modern-feeling take (can this film really be over 60 years old?) on a brutal incident in France’s WWI trenches. And in A Clockwork Orange (back on the big screen) he presents what remains one of the most thought-provoking cinematic statements ever made on violence, control and free will. Both films were well ahead of their time, and both prove that Kubrick ’s integrity to his art was never anything less than a model of steel-jawed tenacity.