Diss Corn Hall

The DCH Blog

8 ½ (15) - a pre-screening review - Saturday 19th April 2014
Fellini, confused and oppressed by the expectations and pretentions of those around him, had no idea what his next film would be about after La Dolce Vita. So he made a film about a film director, confused and oppressed by the expectations and pretentions of those around him, who had no idea what his next film would be about. You probably get the idea.

It’s hard to watch 8 ½, other than through the prism of its reputation, and with its subtitles, monochrome cinematography, fractured dialogue and non-linear narrative it is a pro forma art film, endlessly copied and repeatedly parodied. Cineastes (whether they are directors, actors, critics or simply fans) adore the film - it is, after all, a film for them. To others it can seem maddening, incoherent and self-indulgent. But whatever the immediate experience of actually watching the film, it represents a landmark in cinema, mixing flashback, surreal fantasy, and the remnants of neorealism to dizzying effect. It is beautifully filmed and meticulously constructed. Its set pieces are both audacious and startling. And despite its recent 50th anniversary, it looks resolutely modern - all the more in this newly restored print.

For fans, a rare opportunity to see it on the big screen is not to be missed. For any serious devotee of cinema, it’s a film that you should see, even if you come away shaking your head, more confused, and more uncertain of its merits, that when you went in.
By David Vass

The Selfish Giant (15) - a pre-screening review - Monday 14th April 2014
Very, very loosely based on the Oscar Wilde fairy story, The Selfish Giant is an outstanding example of an almost uniquely British film form – lyrical social realism.

The film owes an obvious debt to the films of Ken Loach, and specifically to Kes. Conner Chapman and Shaun Thomas are spookily reminiscent of David Bradley’s odd mix of naturalistic and intuitive acting. It’s not all about the boys, though. Sean Gilder (a selfish scrap dealer if not giant) is magnificently monstrous to the boys without ever descending into caricature, while Siobhan Finneran (unshackled from the horror of Downton Abbey) gives a painfully touching performance.

There is no doubt, however, that the boys are centre stage, and for first time actors, they are brilliant. This must surely be down to Clio Barnard’s direction, deftly drawing out from the boys just enough of themselves to give a heart breaking truth to their performances. After her documentary The Arbor - an astonishingly original portrait of playwright Andrea Dunbar - this is, in some ways, a surprisingly conventional film. It is beautifully, if bleakly shot, but for the most part this is simple tale of what young boys do faced with difficult times and impossible choices.

There is warmth, humour and compassion here, but ultimately the film is devastatingly uncompromising. The hard times the film illustrate seem barely credible in modern Britain, so it’s worth remembering, and a sobering thought, that for co-star Shawn Thomas, this was the life he was living.
By David Vass

A Touch of Class - a review - Sunday 13th April 2014
The debut performance of A Touch of Class, a delightful new show from trio Something Happened, went down a storm at the Corn Hall last Friday. Playing out like a musical version of the Class sketch from The Frost Report, they used the themes of money, status and society as a device to take the audience through some of their favourite songs of the twentieth century.

Their different skill sets complement each other wonderfully, bringing an enviable range and depth to their performance. Terence Blacker’s speciality is sanguine whimsy, whether it’s the work of Jake Thackray or Noel Coward (who he does a surprisingly good impression of) as well as his own brand of melancholy reflection. Derek Hewitson’s self-depreciating banter belies a great talent on the guitar. His laconic delivery of Marriot Edger’s Magna Carta was great fun, as was a rare outing for Malvina Reynolds’s caustic Little Boxes. Tracey Baldwin has the biggest voice of the three – it was used sparingly but to good effect. After her hilarious duet with Hewitson, performing Victoria Wood’s classic Let's Do It, she was able to turn on a sixpence and deliver a haunting rendition of Cole Porter’s Love for Sale.

If that seems like extraordinary shopping list of songs, I can assure you it only scratches the surface of their eclectic choice of music. The evening was perhaps most reminiscent of the perfect mix tape, compiled, with enthusiasm and expertise, by your smartest best friend.
By David Vass