Review of Dunkirk

On leaving the cinema, I felt moved and a little seasick after 2 hours in Nolan’s stylishly be-washed version of the Dunkirk evacuation. Looking back, however, I do think he missed quite a few tricks. More sea and sky than man and action. And the dialogue? Sparse, garbled and inaudible. Tom Hardy’s aviator goggles will probably get the Oscar for looking up…Then down…Then up… Perplexed yet calm.

Branagh and Rylance get their teeth stuck in, no question, but the screenplay doesn’t give them so much as a tin of spam to chew on. Lank grey scenes lap the repetitive sinking-ship action, as each new batch of grey extras topple off the decks. One or two figures form a bond and are distinguished from the crowd with a few close ups, but we’re given little to latch on to.

The rich tapestry of Dunkirk stories that could have populated the shores of both France and Britain, are not here – The tales within and behind the queues for boats, the tales of heroism from the civilian seamen from other side, are carried solely in Mark Rylance’s father-son skiff team, splashes of colour in desperate need of background.

The scale of the recovery feat, termed ‘The Miracle of Dunkirk’, the sheer number of men and the relatively small number of tiny boats that ferried them all back, (over 300,000 men in only 700 brave boats, back and forth, in just over a week) did not come across, visually or mentally.

It would be interesting to ask the veteran rescuers if they think Nolan did the scale of their efforts justice. Perhaps they weren’t the focus he was after. But, of all the lenses he could have put over Dunkirk, it seems to me he chose a very obvious one and lost the chance to distinguish Dunkirk from other war films.

What was unique about Dunkirk and why it is now known as ‘The Miracle of Dunkirk’ was that it demonstrated human capacity for hope and fearless altruism, en masse, collectively.  Not the old story, tired and tested in every war film – man saves men.  This one could have been different – hundreds of ordinary people of various ages and both sexes, getting up and going, against all odds, for the greater good, at the last minute, together. Rylance’s civilian voice was good but it could never be broad enough to hold all that water. Nolan needed to scale up the message. It would have been a timely one.

Further reading

That said – Nolan’s Dunkirk has done a good job in whetting my appetite for Dunkirk, or at least what ended up in the editing room floor.

‘Dunkirk, the History behind the motion picture’

‘The Little Ships of Dunkirk’

‘The Little Ships’ (tale for your little ones not lucky enough to be able to sit on great-grand-parents’ knees,  told from a girl’s perspective)

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Endless Poetry is endlessly poetic

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Last Sunday was grey and empty  until I found myself in the cinema, in the strange comfort of octogenarian Chilean directing legend Alejandro Jodorowsky’s latest film, Endless Poetry.

I had bought my ticket on a whim – All I knew was that it was in Spanish, in Chile and might be a little weird and poetic, as the title suggested.  What I got was the most eye-opening, jaw-dropping two hours and 8 minutes of 2017 so far, unless Jodorowsky’s sequel comes out this year…

And I’m so pleased, in these unsavoury times, that there are 4 more delicious courses I’ve yet to eat, that Endless Poetry is the second in a 5 part film cycle, that there’s  The Dance of Reality and soon the other 4 will be ready…

Meantime, instead of giving away the menu of his surreal feast of a film, I’m going to list the thoughts that have fed me (not without a little indigestion) ever since…

…It doesn’t matter if it’s written on a wall or floorboard and no one but the poet will ever read it, everything disappears eventually; prayers are like poems, they are never seen but always needed by the prayer…

…Everything is beautiful, even and especially the mutations of normality…

…Anyone can walk in a straight line to anywhere they want to go; obstacles are illusions we can erase…

…Also, alongside linear there is cyclical, since maths is inexplicable; life is a cycle, returning to where it came from and filled with returns all along a direct way…

…Meantime Death is always there; suicide is blindness…

…Through misguided fear, we hide and make ourselves up like clowns.

… In reality, reality is up for grabs, and so we have nothing to hide and nothing to show…

…The naked soul and body are uplifting and captivating and no less so for being marked and scarred by the passage through life…

…We are all puppeteers and our puppets dance together. When we are holding our  puppet-selves, our own identity is unclear and maybe this is because…

…We are connected to each other…

…That we are each exclusively in charge of ourselves is an illusion…

…In reality we are all in the same puppet show together and share manipulation mutually, all our limbs are up for grabs to the nearest puppeteer…

…And with this power, love  is not in the keeping, it’s in the letting go, the negation of the urge to manipulate, the diffusion of our fixed idea, it’s acceptance – no interference, no orchestration; just the acknowledgement of a God in the other person, the godliness that is beyond perfection….

…The job of poetry is not to have to say it all like this, in a clumsy list, in so many words, but to say it in fewer and to trigger a response that lasts forever in the consciousness, which is universal, and endless.

The job of this film  is to demonstrate poetry, in action, and indeed it accomplishes this almost impossible task, sometimes effortlessly, perhaps endlessly.

Muchas Gracias Mr Jodorowsky!

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Wiki links worth looking up:

Endless Poetry

The Dance of reality

World’s best comic, written by the Alejandro Jodorowsky

 The Holy Mountain, funded by John Lennon

Psychomagic psychotherapy, pioneered by Alejandro Jodorowsky

Interview with Alejandro Jodorowsky about where he thinks things are heading

Interview with the FT and general overview of Alejandro Jodorowsky

Is a home without chess complete?

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I had just moved in. I had made a list. It was a shopping list for the flat. I had already got the essentials. The list was decadent. It came to me like a poem, a mixture of the ephemeral and the sublime. It came to me out of nowhere, a combination of inner and outer brain we use when daydreaming. As far as I can remember – this is it:

Lemon tree, Toaster, Grater, Chess set, Tea strainer, Colander, Cuckoo clock, Hot water bottle, Candle (fig/frankincense) with 3 wicks

I didn’t even know how to play chess, really, beyond knowing that pawns are at the bottom of the food chain and that, confusingly, some call Rooks Castles and others call Castles Rooks…And yet, ‘chess set’ had crept onto my list like a canny knight, sneaking between two smug bishops..

My boyfriend came round the next day. He gave me a package he’d wrapped in brown paper, for surprise. It wasn’t my birthday and  the house-warming box had already been ticked twice with a spice rack and knife block. “What was it?” I asked as I unwrapped it under his calm silence “How did you know a chess set was on my list?”, “I didn’t” He said “Do you play?”

And so we played every Sunday, for 4 or 5 weeks, until he got bored of winning and I of losing. One Sunday we silently agreed to let the pieces rest in their box. It’s now over 2 years they’ve spent in the dark.

Neither of us really wanted a chess set but we both somehow needed it.  During chess, we mapped something outside ourselves and yet part of ourselves and entwined our maps and followed the tracks the other had made, both deliberate and unintended.

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Through these 4 or 5 short games I feel some foundation  was constructed in my mind and his that has acted like a bridge between us ever since.

I think all mates should at some point have tried check mating each other. And I mean mate in both senses: friend and spouse. The board is a microcosm of the universe, the way you behave on it mirrors what you do off it, inside and out.

It’s not a question of who wins or loses, but how and why they won or lost and what they were willing or not willing to risk and do along the way.  And how they felt afterwards, immediately and long after the event.

Off the board, without squares and pieces to orchestrate reality, truths are less visible and opportunities cannot be traced mathematically. In chess, the future is tangible and multiple, perhaps the closest we will ever get to getting reality out of maths and in front of our own eyes.

You cannot be in any other time or place but now and here if you want to stay in the game. To play chess with someone is to share the present moment with them, as you see it, to communicate a truth, in all its danger, safety and  possibility, without speaking. It’s like being an animal again, back in Eden, just the problem of life to be solved, all thoughts shared through actions, not words.

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Watching the film, Queen of Katwe has reminded me that, although my set is likely to gather more dust, the lessons of those first few games will stay with me forever.

I’d recommend the film as the best I’ve seen all year. Chess it seems is a teacher fit for a Queen and the film does it justice, whilst teasing your tear-ducts, right up to the final move. The crowd in the Stratford Picture house didn’t stand up, but we did feel compelled to clap, who cares if no one in Stratford, let alone Katwe, could hear us? We felt good, we felt better and we needed to show our gratitude to something, and it wasn’t the glowing fire exit or the digital projector. Was it the god of Chess we were applauding? Hallelujah!!!

I haven’t said much about the film because I can’t say it better. Everyone should see it. Everyone must. Also everyone should play chess at least once and play it with someone they need to know better, to find and expose yet unfound weaknesses and possibilities, both in their opponents and in themselves.

queenofkatwe.com