Saturday, 4 December 2010

In Bruges

I have been In Bruges again, the film experience, and in my mind and vision the place. I have been to Bruges twice, possibly three times in that that I may have driven through or around during the whirl wind tour by car of Europe in 1965. I have the date and other information somewhere having created project work about the holiday and where the most memorable images retained are those of Flanders trenches of World War 1 and standing close to the Menin Gate at Ypres for the daily Remembrance. I cannot remember if the route from the ferry to the Holiday Lodge village went through Bruges or the decision was taken to visit the city and stop for a lunchtime meal, but the impact was such that full day’s visit return became a must for the rest of the week, including the tower and a boat trip on the canal.

Although Bruges thrives on visitors it does not have the impression of being an international city with a heritage centre or attraction, but is what it is, a conservative provincial town city whose heart has become a World Heritage site. I have no doubt their is a night life tucked away and vice life and criminal underworld but the day time atmosphere is provincial. This is mentioned because the film is about what happens when two contract assassins, the young one on his first job which has gone badly wrong. I was tempted to head this writing In F.....g Bruges because in no other film is the swear word used so often, nearly 150 times and on the DVD a short film has been assembled of every time the word is used. I have never like the particular word and therefore could have been expected to have reacted unfavourably to this aspect of the film. I did not do so in theatre and did not do so when experiencing the DVD and the reason for this is that the coarseness of the three main characters becomes poetical, give the city and the storyline and because it is one of the wittiest and honest films for many a day.

I do not laugh, naturally, at stand up comedians and most situational comedies leave me unmoved. Rarely I laugh repeatedly and out loud. I did few times at the cinema when I saw In Bruges, but the afternoon audience was sparse, and silent, perhaps shocked, perhaps paying insufficient attention to the dialogue which has the quality of a Shakespearean comedy and tragedy combined. Watching the film at home meant that I could laugh without inhibition or guilt. Usually I watch the extras, if any after film and then post back in time for the evening collection. This time I decided to view the extras again, possibly the film, and especially the film of the boat trip and of the sights of the city.

A selection of the overwhelmingly positive reviews confirms that I am not alone in the opinion that In Bruges is a great film and should to be regarded as a classic film noir

"In Bruges is funny and flashy, but as it ends you know you've been laughing because it truly hurts, and every flare and flash of the talking and the killing have left something much more subtle burned into your brain." James Rocchi.

"Writer/director Martin McDonagh has created something tonally unique, a film that is hilarious and tragic, irreverent and wistful, peopled with characters learning to love life with death all around them." Laura Clifford

"Writer/director Martin McDonagh has created something tonally unique, a film that is hilarious and tragic, irreverent and wistful, peopled with characters learning to love life with death all around them." Rob Vaux

"Visually stunning photography of the silent byways and crannies of the ancient medieval city of Bruges frames a story of guilt and honor played out by wonderfully demented hit men." Ron Wilkinson

"A near-masterpiece, impossible to pigeonhole or predict. It is the kind of great movie that could only be made by a neophyte." Tim Brayton

The three star characters are Ken played by Brendan Gleeson who has become a hit man for his East end crime boss Harry Waters played amazingly by Ralph Fiennes, because of a debt of honour, and Ray, Colin Farrell, who on his first job unintentionally kills a schoolboy waiting outside the confessional as a bullet goes through the intended victim, a priest. As a consequence the two men are sent to cool their heals for two weeks in Bruges, because the gang boss was taken there as a child and the town made an impression as a place of childhood innocence and happiness, a toy town, He wants Ray to have a happy experience because the killing of the child, however unintentional is unacceptable and Ken is asked to repay the debt owed him by killing Ray.

There are several other characters who make this film into a work of genuine film art. In fact everyone who speaks has something to say and leaves an impression. There is Clemence Posey who plays Chloe a native of Bruges who sells drugs to tourists and as a sideline offers sex, but has a gay friend arrive with a gun loaded with blanks just before the encounter becomes a problem. She and Ray play out the tell truth to prove love and commitment, reject me now or love me for ever regardless test which all lovers play, and some pint but which they play within of their first date. She says what do you do Ray. He says I kill people for money. He says what do you do and she says I sell drugs to tourists. They both understand the reality of what they are saying but because of who and what they are they have bonded for life in an instant. The fifth character is a height challenged person, Jimmy a man who has dwarfism and is played by Gordon Apprentice who is racially obsessed about blacks and is playing the part of a schoolboy in a film being shot in the city.

No film feature had been shot in Bruges before In Bruges so one can understand the enthusiasm of the city and its Mayor to welcome the film, including a walk on and off part in one of the scenes. One critic complained that the travelogue part of the film where almost every church, museum and canal and street view is shown, but this is counterpoint to the reality of the gangsters and their lives, although I wonder what the Mayor and the more conventional and conservative citizens feel about their beloved city being shown in such a film and with such language. In my long experience of film watching I believe there is nothing gratuitous about the language or the violence. There is no glorification of violence while communicating the complexity and normalcy of such individuals and their proneness to react at any suggestion of a slight. I have written before how a an unguarded reaction to “head case” on pills, his words, fellow criminal in prison had resulted in him putting on a neck lock to which I had responded because of self taught non violent training and ideology by relaxing doing and saying nothing which had so surprised him that he had let go without doing harm and later he had apologised and returned for chats admitting that he could not read but got books from the library to save face in front of other prisoners. Unless you have had had or witnessed such an experience it is difficult to appreciate just how dangerous and explosive such people are. It is wise not to look at them or come within their view.

In Bruges is great all round entertainment and helped to cope with the reality of the rest of the day.

I said at New Year that I did not believe the Russian leadership when they said they would do everything possible not let their decision to withdraw Gas supply from the Ukraine until a settlement on money owed was reached. They were not exactly lying but they knew that what happened before would happen again in that the Ukraine would tap into supplies intended for the rest of Europe to meet its direct losses, and the countries most affected would exert pressure on the Ukraine to reach a quick settlement so Russia could argue it has not cut supplies and it had done everything possible to reach a settlement, but knew that the most likely outcome would be that the Ukraine would be force to meet their terms.

However there is a darker option that if the Ukraine does not settle then Russia could use this as an excuse to enter the Ukraine on the pretext of protecting in the interests of all its customers. Fortunately we in Britain only get 3% of our supply from Russia although negotiations are advanced to increase this amount as our other supplies reduce. The British Government should advise the suppliers to look for alternatives unless they wish to put to ransom in this way in the future.

It has been reported that on the international internet sites a list is being drawn up of target British Jews and sympathisers who merit attention as a retaliation for what is happening in Gaza By coincidence I watched the first episode of Spooks last night in which an American anti abortion campaigner arrives in the UK after acquiring some 20 bomb detonators from the IRA to start a campaign of assassination and terrorism with the support of UK militant groups to coincide with the execution of her husband. A feature of the programme is the publication of the names and addresses of targets. Recently several anti vivisectionists were successfully prosecuted for their part in a five year campaign which also involved the publication of personal information. It id an alarming tend reflecting the hatred which takes over some individuals who quickly become worse that those they criticise and attacks and who deserve the full force of the law for their terrorism. Those who publish such information should also be prosecuted and charged as co conspirators if there is violence committed against individuals named on these sites. The alw should be appropriately amended if required to ensure if this is so and if the sites are published abroad there should be cooperation with other countries to close any loop holes.

However I am realistic about the extent to which we shall be able to police the use of international communications. It will take a decade perhaps a little longer before every separate item produced or manufactured from every tomato and egg, every sheet in a ream of paper, each postage stamp and every book and CD can be registered and tracked by a tiny processing chip which presently costs one penny. This was the subject of the second Royal Institution lecture Chips with Everything.

The audience was asked the question how many computer are there in your home and over 75% said 1 to 5 when the answer is closer to 50 to 100. How many credit and other cards do you have in your household which have a computer in the form of a memory chip which has 100 times more memory and 30 times faster processing than the computer which monitored Apollo 1. At present you know the size of these computers, they are coloured gold and part of the card but they have already been reduced to a tine speck and in the lecture he showed a tit container the size of a little finger which contains ten thousand of these chips. When they are added to the new fridges and freezer they will be able to indicate when items must be consumed, The difference between the new technology and the bar code is that each item can be stamped, so to speak with its identity and history and then tracked as well as communicating information. These tend to be signal use computers whether blue tooth wireless transmission to various health monitors. The Desk, top, the Lap top and the mobile phone have all become multiply function computers incorporating communication, research, and entertainment, taking pictures and the reasons they can do this is from the development of software, the programmes, the instructions which enable the computer to perform different activities at the same time. This is the subject of the next programme

The second programme also covered the development of the mobile phone from the heavy limited communicating phones of 25 years ago because of the battery requirements and limited processing capacity; the moving insert of an electronic ear in a three year old girl who was unable to heat her own voice with a film being of her being taught sign language to that girl now in her early teens able to appear in the programme and talk and hear as everyone. The transformation required work on her part which is ongoing to ensure she distinguishes individual voice from background. The surgeon who performed the operation was also present. The programme looked at the development of the screen technology to present touch screens which I use at the post office to weight and stamp letters, and at the progress being made to create a three dimensional process which does not require the interaction between an individual with special lenses or head set but is part of the screen projection.

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