Wednesday, 17 August 2016


Here the surreal rubs amiably against the grotesque. Here where Zen Buddhists sit cross-legged deep in meditation as they attempt to levitate. A former Miss World walks naked into a pool occupied by two elderly men. They are retired conductor Fred and long-time friend and film director, screenplay writer, Mick.

This is an extraordinary slice of cinematic art with some superb performances from Michael Caine, Harvey Keitel and notably Jane Fonda. It also contains photography of an outstanding quality that adds not only to the texture of the story being told but the story itself.

Retired composer Fred, as played by Michael Caine, takes a holiday in a Swiss Alpine health resort. His friend of many years, Mick (Harvey Keitel), is the foil by which some dry as talcum humour flies. Fred is being badgered to perform before the Queen. Specifically, he has been requested to conduct his masterpiece - one written for his wife who, as a soprano, also sang on the piece. At this stage, all we know is that she is of ailing health, he refuses the request with a clumsy retort: “You eliminate one person, and all of a sudden the whole world changes. Like in a marriage.”

Fred has given up on life, of ever recapturing the spirit that made his name a force to be acknowledged in the world of music. He is alienated, perhaps self-affected, disenfranchised with modernity but in reality, he misses not only his wife but opportunities missed.

Mick, on the other hand, is Fred's co-opposite. His drive, his passion, is still strong, somehow desperately so. He works closely with actors much younger than himself drinking in their verve, their zest, their energy as though he needs their youth to spark his own creativity.

Though both men appear close, neither one seems able to empathise with the other even though each gives the other cold comfort. It is a relationship unable to provide any true depth or connectivity,no balm to heal a friend's wounds.

We see a fat retired football player (Diego Maradona) plunging in and out of pools, kicking tennis balls high into the brash, brittle Swiss sky, an oxygen cylinder never far from hand. We see a young and talented actor, his talent demeaned, he believes, by his success at playing the part of a superhero whilst his less commercially successful roles go unacclaimed. We see a beautiful Miss Universe swanning around naked, her noble head held high on her elegant neck. All of these characters inhabit worlds of their own with little regard for those who occupy the real world around them.

Jane Fonda's final scene,when her wig comes tumbling off revealing a balding scalp is possibly the film's finest moment.

I found the film engaging. It may lack the propulsion required to hook some viewers into its subtle messages but still, with its fractured, fragmentary scenes of human isolation in a world demanding contemptible similarity, it succeeds.

Then, at the end, as the story has reached its penultimate climax the Zen Buddhist levitates.

Ignore the critics - this is a good film.

Russell Cuts the Corn From The Brewers Whiskers.

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A Utility Fish Shed Blog

A Utility Fish Shed Blog