Films and Books of the Year.
Film of the Year.
A “2014 Russian drama film directed by Andrey Zvyagintsev, co-written by Zvyagintsev and Oleg Negin, and starring Aleksei Serebryakov, Elena Lyadova, and Vladimir Vdovichenkov. A modern reworking of the Book of Job, the film is set on a peninsula by the Barents Sea and tells the story of a man who struggles against a corrupt mayor who wants his piece of land.”
It is profound, shot with enormous clarity, disturbing, deeply moral and political. Vladmir Putin and the Russian Orthodox Church must loathe it from the bottom of their hearts.
Deux Jours, une nuit.
A social drama by the Dardenne brothers – with great fineness: Ken Loach without the didactic miserablism.
“In Seraing, an industrial town of Liège in Belgium, Sandra (Marion Cotillard) is a young wife and mother, who works in a small solar-panel factory. She suffers a nervous breakdown and is forced to take time off from her job. During her absence, her colleagues realize they are able to cover her shifts by working slightly longer hours and the management proposes a €1,000 bonus to all staff if they agree to make Sandra redundant. Sandra later returns to work and discovers that her fate rests in the hands of her 16 co-workers, and she must visit each of them over the course of a weekend to persuade them to reject the monetary bonus. However, most of the co-workers need the proposed bonus for their own families and Sandra faces an uphill battle to keep her job before the crucial vote on Monday morning.”
Grand Budapest Hotel.
“Located in the fictional Republic of Zubrowka,[ a European alpine state[ravaged by war and poverty, the Young Writer (Jude Law) discovers that the remote mountainside hotel has fallen on hard times. Many of its lustrous facilities are now in a poor state of repair, and its guests are few. The Writer encounters the hotel’s elderly owner, Zero Moustafa (F. Murray Abraham), one afternoon, and they agree to meet later that evening. Over dinner in the hotel’s enormous dining room, Mr. Moustafa tells him the tale of how he took ownership of the hotel and why he is unwilling to close it down.”
The colours and decor alone are worth the viewing.
“In 1960s Poland,Anna, a young novice nun, is told by her prioress that before her vows can be taken, she must visit her family. Anna travels to her aunt Wanda, a heavy-drinking judge and former prosecutor associated with the Stalinist regime, who dispassionately reveals that Anna’s actual name is Ida Lebenstein, and that her parents were Jewish and were murdered during the war. Ida decides she wants to find their resting place. She and Wanda embark on a journey that both sheds light on their past and decides their futures.”
Agata Trzebuchowska as the Nun, Ida, is luminous.
“Based on a true story, the film depicts a group of lesbian and gay activists who raised money to help families affected by the British miners’ strike in 1984, at the outset of what would become the Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners campaign.The National Union of Mineworkers was reluctant to accept the group’s support due to the union’s public relations’ worries about being openly associated with a gay group, so the activists instead decided to take their donations directly to Onllwyn, a small mining village in Wales — resulting in an alliance between the two communities. The alliance was unlike any seen before but was successful.“
Succeeds in showing everything that is good about this country and our labour movement. Memorable.
Out of Time. The Pleasures and Perils of Ageing. Lynne Segal. Verso.
“Perhaps one of the most affecting portrayals of love ever filmed is that of an elderly couple in the film L’amour (2012). The scenario of the aftermath of a beloved’s stroke unfolds with unbearable tenderness. Lynne Segal also sings of the wonder and warmth of friendship, touching, of sexual intimacy, and of sadness. Out of Time pleads for communication between generations. Its pages transmit a wealth of feeling, knowledge and reflection…”
(From, Tendance Coatesy.)
Fatherland. Nina Bunjevrc. Jonathan Cape.
A ‘graphic novel’, though since I first came across the form in France I will always think of them as ‘bandes desinées.” It is a tale of a Croatian nationalist father, the former Yugoslavia, Canada, family strife, and terrorism. It is personal, thought-provoking and sharply illustrated.
Jean Jaurès, Gilles Candar & Vincent Duclert. Fayard.
On the 100th anniversary of assassination of the founder of modern French socialism, Jean Jaurès, this is a welcome biography. Candar and Duclert have due reverence for the ‘legend of Jaurès’ – he showed great courage and political inspiration, the research that clarifies the historical and intellectual background (French republicanism and the splintered socialist left) of his life and political career, as a journalist, an activist, a leading member of the Second (Socialist) International and a Parliamentarian.
The authors are not afraid to look into Jaurès’ hesitations at the beginning of the Dreyfus Affair, his highly traditional cultural approach (including towards his wife and family), his “patriotic internationalism”, and his belief (bizarre for a democratic socialist, in modern eyes), that in the French Revolutionary Assembly he would have say “au côté” of Robespierre.
There is a chronology and bibliographical list and guide.
The founder of the (still published) daily l’Humanité and the first united French Socialist Party (1906 – section Française de l’Internationale Ouvrière, SFIO) cannot, naturally, be resumed in one single study. I am still working through literature by and related to Jaurès.
The Establishment. And how they get away with it. Owen Jones. Allen Lane
“As its mostly favourable reviewers have described it, The Establishment is a thoughtful and through exploration of the world of “powerful”, who “manage democracy”. This “oligarchy”, a self-selecting elite, as Ferdinand Mount has described it, it is one profoundly changed since the 1980s (The New Few or a Very British Oligarchy. 2012) To Jones it’s “politicians who make laws, media barons who set the terms of debate; business and financers who run the economy; police forces that enforce a law which is rigged in favour of the powerful.” What ties them together is a belief in their own rightness that they are “worth” their positions.”
Boyhood Island. Karl Ove Knausgaard. Harvill and Seeker.
The third instalment of Knausgaard’s autobiographical panorama it marks a change of scene. Growing up on an Island off the coast of Norway, it is, as readers of the previous novels would expect, not an always joyful romp. It is very far from the experience of Holden Caulfied (or at least what I hear about Catcher in the Rye – I’ve not read it), and certainly François Sorel (le Grand Meaulnes – which I did read as a teen). If the novel is to be believed Norwegian young people seem to have an awkward adolescence close to the British one (and no doubt many of us in modern Europe).
A bonus is that Boyhood Island is translated into colloquial British English – which is appropriate given the previous sentence.
Worst book of the Year:
Revolution. Russell Brand. Century.
Everyone that matters has already torn this to shreds. I would add that not only does he refer to the Situationist Guy Debord as a “clever clogs”, to the wisdom of Swamis and God’s fairy chains in the stars, but that Brand employs (once, but it’s enough) the abomination of abominations – the verb got in the present perfect with the American participle “gotten”.
You can read more about Tendance Coatesy, Coates and all of his works on this,