3 May 2015

Two wonderful films

It's been raining here for days.As if the big storm of two weeks ago was not enough we now have had torrential rain for days.The garden is waterlogged and everywhere is damp.I have been suffering from cabin fever.I hate being confined indoors.
However one benefit to this awful weather is that I have seen two superb films in the last few days.The first was a Russian film-Leviathan.It is very dark and sinister but the acting and photography are quite extraordinary.It has been widely acclaimed and I would say that it is one of the best films I have ever seen.It has only just been released here in Australia and it is not being screened widely but if you can find it go and see it.It will make you despondent about Russia and the Russians but you will leave the cinema in awe of the skill of the filmmakers and the actors.

The second film was Testament of Youth -a British film based on the memoirs of Vera Brittain describing her experiences in the First World War.Again this film is exquisitely crafted.The photography is superb and I believe that it was shot on film as it has a filmlike look about it.The director uses many close shots and a wide open wide aperture lens so there is very limited depth of field. The acting is wonderful - particularly the lead role played by a Swedish actress Alicia Vikander.The film is very harrowing and moving.It has received excellent reviews locally and I saw it in a packed cinema.As the credits rolled no one moved.The audience was numb and shaken by an extraordinary film.
It has just been released in Australia.I presume that it has already been released in the UK but I see that it is not due to be released in the US until mid-June.See it on a big screen if you can.

The Testament of Youth features Oxford University with some scenes around the Sheldonian Theatre.Sadly Oxford nowadays has become a sort of Disneyland Academia with streets full of tourists and souvenir shops selling T-shirts with Oxford University emblazoned across the front and all manner of Chinese made tat.
I used to live near Oxford and for a number of years I worked in Cowley-a suburb of Oxford.The city was still charming then but sadly I did not photograph it in that period.
Then when I moved to Australia I used to travel back to the UK on business very regularly.In those days all the flights from Australia used to arrive at Heathrow at daybreak.There's nothing like sitting on a plane for 24 hours and then arriving at a chaotic Heathrow first thing and then getting a rental car and heading off onto the M4.Harrowing best describes it particularly if it was raining and it was a weekday morning. In later years the company used to send a driver to meet me and so I could doze but when I was still driving myself if it was a Sunday I would head across country to Oxford and park in the centre and try and find somewhere selling a strong coffee-an almost impossible task- and I would take a walk and enjoy a wonderful experience.
On one such Sunday morning in 1989 I flew in on a Singapore Airlines 747-it was always Qantas or Singapore in those days -and picked up one of Mr Hertz's finest and was in the centre of Oxford just by the Sheldonian Theatre by 8.30am.It was a beautiful day and I had my Leica M4P loaded with Kodachrome (ISO 25) when I spotted this local cycling past the row of houses.It was a grab shot and I did not have time to adjust the shutter speed but to my mind the slight blurring of the cyclist adds to the photo.

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