Tuesday, 7 November 2017

triple agent (w&d rohmer)

Rohmer’s chamber piece has a curious topicality, in a modern day era of Russian spies and double crosses. A white Russian in exile in pre-war Paris and his Greek wife get caught up in the machinations which eventually lead to the HItler-Stalin pact. It would appear that the film is based on fact, with an addendum that the sympathetic heroine died from TB in prison in 1940, after being tried for her alleged part in her husband’s plot to abduct an exiled Russian general on Stalin’s behalf. (A charge which Rohmer’s film suggests was ridiculous.) There’s a stately feel to the film., which appears to lack the subtlety of Rohmer’s earlier work. The delicate character study of the heroine is swallowed up by the march of history and the film’s epic scope as it covers the years leading up to the second world war. The film’s attempt to show the way in which ordinary people become victims of historical contrivance, though supremely relevant, is never as effective as the story suggests it should be. Having said which, there’s something peculiarly haunting about the way in which the film incorporates black and white archive footage, charting events which retrospectively appear inevitable. Are we in the midst of a similar era today? Are there ordinary or not-so-ordinary couples whose lives are on the point of being torn apart? 

Friday, 3 November 2017

confession of the lioness [mia couto]

Confession of the Lioness is another journey with Couto through the fabular land of rural Mozambique. It’s a story told from two points of view. The mysterious female character, Mariamar, and the weary hunter, Archie Bullseye. The premise is that there have been a succession of lion attacks in Mariamar’s rural village, the latest of which has claimed the life of her sister, Silência. Archie has been hired as a hunter to come and kill the lions. But the more we read, the more we realise that Archie’s not that interested in killing anything anymore. He’s in love with his brother’s wife, his brother who’s in a mental hospital after killing their father. He’d rather hunt with his pen than his rifle, and takes to writing a journal, which the book contains. Meanwhile, Mariamar fell in love with Archie when he visited the village 16 years ago to kill a crocodile and now she pines for him. 

As the book unfolds, it becomes, somewhat wonderfully, far less clear, rather than more clear. Is Mariamar actually a lioness? Is the Mariamar who talks about Archie and lives in her mother’s house the fictional invention of this lioness? None of the presumed threads leads where you expect. Archie and Mariamar never have their moment together. Archie loses all interest in his mission. Things don’t work according to the narrative rules we’ve been taught to expect. We’ve entered a weirder, more complex narrative world. Which at the same time paints a portrayal of a strange rural society, one which the inhabitants of the city will never really understand. Like Archie and his writer companion, we are these visitors, offered a glimpse of another way of life and thought, one which belongs to the lions and their antagonists, the people who co-exist with the lions.