Slow Deaths in the Sun

The situation for movie theaters in my hometown is dire. The inner city places are closing up one after the other because the rent is said to be too expensive for the two chains, Kitag and Quinnie. The Capitol, where I saw Return of the King, is boarded up. So is the Gotthard, where I once took a girl who was way out of my league on a date. The Jura triplex is closed, the City triplex is a provisory pub, the Royal has reopened as a vegan burger restaurant. The Splendid, the only inner city theater still showing undubbed blockbusters in 2D, is said to close soon. Instead, soulless multiplexes have sprung up at the edge of town where it is cumbersome to get to by public transport. Their viewing rooms are bigger, so the small number of viewers seems even more lost. They are run by companies that have profit as their priority, not fine movie-making programmed along a common theme or name for an appreciative or even regular audience. Granted, Pathé is a movie production and distribution company, but their multiplex is just as anonymous as that by Swisscom, the national number one telecommunications company. I only go to either of them when I have to, for instance when I want to see Jordan Peele’s Us in its original language.

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Exit, pursued by a spy

It is strange that while there are various great John Le Carré films – such as The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1965), A Most Wanted Man (2014, one of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s final films) and of course Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011) – the author’s novels may be better suited to the longer format of the TV miniseries. Their stories benefit from being given the space to breathe, and their characters, especially those in the spy trade, could usually not be more different from the more cinematic likes of James Bond or Ethan Hunt. They are more likely to sit over a set of letters, recordings, photos or other documents for hours than to kill the villain, foil their plans and bed the lady.

They are also more likely to end up betraying those they care about most.

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Dark candle in a dark room

Reader, we are not in Jane Austen country anymore. Any Austen adaptation must end in a marriage, whereas Lady Macbeth starts with one, not a happy affair, and it gets worse from here on out. The source of this story is, of course, that famous Scottish play, and then there is Nikolai Leskov’s novella Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District from 1865, which is said to be loosely based on a real crime. William Oldroyd’s movie, from a screenplay by Alice Birch, could have approached the character of Lady Macbeth from one of those angles. Instead, the movie shows us a young bride called Katherine who initially does not object to be married to a wealthy nobleman who resides in a bleak, solitary country estate. The troubles start during their wedding night: the husband is a gruff alcoholic and under his father’s thumb. He orders her to undress and face the wall, and then he puts out the light and goes to sleep. She discovers that he is impotent and wants to keep her indoors. The mood of the movie has more in common with Wuthering Heights than any Merchant-Ivory movie. Continue reading