Films around Cheltenham from 18/9/2021

Another dreary week for film in and around Cheltenham. Has everybody given up the ghost, I ask? Or have the muses of cinema deserted us? Last time I looked, they were on the outside wall of The Brewery, covered in vandal-proof perspex, having escaped the destruction of their home, The Odeon. I hope they are still safely wrapped. Perspex was like gold-dust for a while (Covid). 

There is a revival of A Clockwork Orange (see below) but the only film event I am much concerned with this week is Tony Palmer’s Holst – In the Bleak Midwinter at the Playhouse. Tickets are still available, and Tony is raring to ruffle the feathers of Cheltenham once again. Arrive for 6.30 if you want a special treat: Isao Tomita’s mad synthesiser version of The Planets in jaw-dropping vintage surround-sound. It’s wonderful. Tony will speak at 7.00 and his film will start as soon as he stops yakking. All over by 9.30, so you’ll be back home for your Horlicks. Or you can come for a drink with the beautiful people of the Sixties, moi included.  

The film society has a screening at the same time, at Dean Close school. Corpus Christi is a Polish Catholic tragi-comedy, and very good of its type. If you’re a member, you’ll already know about it. If you’re Polish, you probably won’t. Anyway, I believe non-members can go as guests, but you’ll need to jump through the hoops detailed on their website:

And now here are the details. Let’s start with:

The Roses 

Patrick is putting on Limbo and The Last Bus. You’ve heard about them. Limbo, excellent, British, relevant. The Last Bus, Timothy Spall, nostalgic, a bit sad. There is also a ‘CineMinis’ show of Limbo at 11.00 on Wednesday. That’s where licensed parents and carers can bring their small children. It used to called Nappy Mondays, but he’s rebranded it, possibly to avoid offending Mancunians, environmental zealots or adults who like dressing up as toddlers for gratification. (See for details, or just ask a member of the Cabinet.) 

Meanwhile, a solution to last week’s mystery. Pamela Weaver has cracked the arcane codes on The Roses’ website: 

  • S – Subtitled screening
  • P – Prompt start: ie, no adverts, trailers, etc, and film actually starts at published time
  • N – Nappy-wearing babies and toddlers accompanied by suitably attired adults
  • E – Elevenses (maybe includes a free beverage? or buy your own)
  • R – Relaxed screening for neurodiverse film fans. 

So now you know. A special warning to tell you when something starts at the agreed time. And this in a nation of dedicated clock-watchers. 

The Guildhall

The Guildhall in Gloucester this week seems to have Our Ladies and From the Vine, so nothing new. Their website is baffling, and the printed information they hand out doesn’t agree with it, so I can’t really be sure. Call them and ask, or drop in, if you can find a human being on the premises.

The Sherborne

Nothing new here. Spirit Untamed, Paw Patrol and The Courier. If you haven’t seen The Courier, you might want to give it a look. Stephen Ilott tells me it is one of the better films he has seen in this miserable year, even if it is a bit of a retread of Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies (2015). I didn’t much like that, despite the presence of mad Mark Rylance and a little-known typewriter-collector called Tom Hanks. 

So that’s the big three. Moving on to: 

The Multiplexes

I’m struggling here, because the Cineworlds have redesigned their website, making it even more incomprehensible, intrusive and incompetent than it was before. Anybody would think Cineworld weren’t interested in attracting customers to their well-upholstered snack outlets.

However, using my KGB-honed forensic data skills, I can report that the ‘event’ of the week is a Saturday-Friday run for A Clockwork Orange (1971) in something called 4K. Why anyone would care about a tweaked digital format escapes me. If you haven’t seen it, you probably should. It was a key film of my youth, but I couldn’t face watching it until a few years ago. It’s a stylish, balletic film about ultra-violence and behavioural modification by the state, so perennially topical. Walter (he wasn’t yet Wendy) Carlos did the synthed-up soundtrack (I prefer Tomita), and the dialogue is in Anthony Burgess’s nadsat, a kind of Russian. I liked the book very much, and nadsat came in very handy when I was in Moscow in 1989, watching Comrade Gorbachev laying down the law in the televised proceedings of the Supreme Soviet. (They televised their version of democracy before we did.) Gorby didn’t like his regional apparatchiks wasting the moloko that was meant for the cities. The second most powerful man in the world giving regional officials a scary lecture about the necessity to put their milk in better boxes, watched live by just about everyone: you couldn’t make it up. 

Burgess received £500 in total for his work, and then had to defend the film when it ran into a storm of controversy for its attack on the use of ‘operant conditioning’ for social purposes, something advocated by the disturbed American psychologist B.F. Skinner in his horrible Beyond Freedom and Dignity (1971). As a cradle Catholic, Burgess defended free will, but people missed his point, or were distracted by Kubrick’s mingling of the erotic and the violent. After a while, when the film had been raised in criminal defences and newspaper reports, the director realised he didn’t much like what he’d done either, and withdrew it. He then successfully stopped it being shown legally for the rest of his life.

An unauthorised screening at the Scala in London in 1993 led to that important film institution going into receivership. Kubrick died in 1999. Sky TV put out the uncut version in 2001. No doubt Rupert Murdoch, made a Knight Commander of St Gregory The Great by Pope John Paul II in 1998, was motivated by an enthusiasm for metaphysical speculation rather than the necessity to drive traffic to his movie channel. It ran for three months.

Despite its historical significance, however, I don’t like it. It is, in the modern jargon, ‘rapey’. Rape is central to its plot, and Kubrick appears to enjoy serving it up as entertainment. Pauline Kael, the great New Yorker critic, said it was not only pornography, but bad pornography. I don’t think it is pornography, which literally means ‘writing about prostitutes’. The women who are threatened and violated are neither paid nor willing.

But you, my droogs, are all grown-ups, so you can make your own minds up. 

The film’s externals were shot in Thamesmead (see picture), an unforgiving example of municipal brutalisme of the type favoured by totalitarian regimes and penny-pinching housing authorities. Ivan Illich used to say that tower blocks were places where they stored people between visits to the supermarket. Now they are where they store people between visits to the betting shop, the off-licence, the doctor’s surgery and the magistrates court. No, scratch that: most petty offenders don’t actually appear in the dock.

A word of warning. It’s £12.99 in Cheltenham for what is called 2D. It’s only £9.99 in Gloucester. Be carefully you don’t accidentally click the VIP 2D button or you will find you have paid £33.99 for a softer seat, some gruesome ‘snacks’, table service from someone who doesn’t want to be there and the opportunity to enjoy Cineworld’s delightful ambiance for 45 minutes before the film starts. On another note, I have the telephone number of some excellent psychiatrists. 

There’s also a film called 12 Mighty Orphans. The picture on the site shows a lot of Americans in the ludicrous armour our heroic allies wear when they play their childish knock-off of Rugby Union. I can’t tell you much more than that, because Cineworld hasn’t bothered to put even a sentence about the film on its site. Here’s what IMDB says: ‘Haunted by his mysterious past, a devoted high school football coach leads a scrawny team of orphans to the state championship during the Great Depression and inspires a broken nation along the way.’ Why would anybody east of Rhode Island want to see that?

In Gloucester, there is Small World (2021). This is a Polish film about child trafficking. ‘Every year 1.5 million children are sold for sexual exploitation, begging, organ trafficking or rituals,’ declares Cineworld. Yeah, right. Where? The source of this fact? And how do those figures break down? Because it’s the organ trafficking and the rituals that got this film green-lit, I would imagine. Children are sold for those other things every day, right here in This Great Nation of Ours, and nobody much cares. The director is Patryk Vega. I believe CIFF director Leslie Sheldon knows him. If Leslie ever returns from Poland – and who would bother? – I will ask. 

Ah, here’s another possibility. Herself (2020). That’s Irish for Her. Phyllida Lloyd made Mamma Mia a few years ago. It was both unbearable and a smash hit. Now she’s done a film about a struggling single mum in Dublin who decides to build herself a house because the council won’t give her one. I’ve seen the trailer. Newcomer Clare Dunne looks very appealing, but otherwise I’m not sure. ‘A timely empowering story,’ says Variety, which doesn’t attract me. I’d rather see real stories.


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