Hills and Mountains

Hills and Mountains, and ‘The Social Construction of Reality’

Movies in certain categories I avoid on a prejudice beyond argument:

  • Anything with Hugh Grant .
  • Anything set in Wales.
  • Comedies of village life.
  • Edwardian period pieces – actually it’s set in 1917, close enough; and I’ve just realised that no period in the UK after 1911 is characterised by the name of a monarch.

This movie is all of these. And it is just wonderful and brilliant.

The story, on the face of it, is stunningly silly: A couple of English cartographers arrive in a South Wales boarder village, take some measurements and announce that the local ‘mountain’ is actually 16 feet short of the 1,000 feet which is the official definition of a mountain – it is merely a hill. The villagers respond by a series of ruses to detain the cartographers in the village, meanwhile they carry bucketfulls of earth up the hill in order to make it into a mountain. Continue reading “Hills and Mountains”


‘ “Versus”: The Life and Films of Ken Loach ‘

‘Versus: The Life and Films of Ken Loach’ – A Shabby Appropriationist Take on a Revolutionary Artist

Wittgenstion said of his Tractatus that what was important about it was not what it said, but what it showed. This is certainly so of Louise Osmond’s cosy movie. See here@


It’s a very English work in:
Its avoidance of theory as if of something indecent;
Its swamping of the political in streams of familial gossippy chitterchater;
Its sidelining of Loach’s revolutionary message in favor of cosy portrayals of the suffering poor.

A great deal of Versus is taken up with chats with friends and colleagues of the kind you get in the ‘extras’ on DVD edns. of movies. No-one (including Loach) was asked as to just what his politics are or where they came from. There was no mention of books or movies that had influenced him. He lived through a period when anyone concerned with the political aesthetics of moviemaking must have encountered such issues as the criticism of realism, the question of montage, how a movie constructs its own viewers. From this chatty biography no-one would have gathered such. It showed no more concern with film theory than the stereotypical enthusiast showing his holiday movies to friends.

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‘The Salt of the Earth’: Aesthetically Marvellous, Politically Toxic

For a trailer, see
This is an (aesthetically) marvellous movie on one of the world’s great photographic artists. I first knew of Selgado from an expo at The Photographers’ Gallery in the mid 80s of his astonishing photos of the Serra Pelada open-cast goldmine. For a while I’d been feeling that nothing new would happen, photographically …. his images were like nothing I’d ever seen ! Who would have thought that in the late 20th C men would labour, of their own choice, in conditions that Athenian Greeks would have recognised ! I’d never seen those photos at such a high enlargement, and I was astonished that their quality held out – then I realised that I shouldn’t have been surprised, because the negatives were 35mm format, which is, of course, the medium on which movies (until digi) were encoded.

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The Matrix and Illusion

The Matrix and surplus-value


The Matrix is sometimes thought to have philosophical relevance in that it seems to deal with the issue of the reality/illusoryness of the physical world. It’s sometimes used as an illustration of the armchair philosopher’s question ‘is this table real ?’. This is a “question” which a ‘hyper-radical’ will ask to show how really, really radical they are because they are prepared to question everything. But this is a bogus “question”, it is a sham –  in the sense that no-one asks it so as to seriously doubt the existence of the external world (What would they do if they acted on that doubt? How would living that doubt differ from not living with it?).This alleged relevance seems to me to render the movie a disservice.

The nature of the illusion in The Matrix is societal. That illusion is generated for a political purpose: to obscure from view the fact that humans live as energy-generators in a world ruled by non-humans, by aliens – even though these originated from human AI experiments.

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Notes on Speilberg’s War of the Worlds

War of the Worlds – Spielberg version

Notes on Interviews in the Bonus Disc

War of the Worlds reflects our post-9/11 fears but it also reflects another impulse that we really are human beings and we really do come together to help each other survive especially when we have a common enemy [George Pal’s] movies reflect our fear of the Soviet Union … this film has a special significance, this film mostly touches on how this much catastrophe can bring about that much healing. Our worlds gone through a lot of growing pains and we’re in a whole different mind-set, so I made this movie because I thought its time had come … again.

Steven Spielberg

What is remarkable about this is his failure to note that as a plain matter of historical fact the USA was not under the threat from the Sovs which was promoted in its propaganda – of which alien invasion movies were a part. The US state spoke of a ‘missile gap’ between itself and the USSR; there was a gap, but with the US having a massive superiority. In other words, Spielberg’s version is consciously part of the “War on Terror” propaganda – though he was likely disavow that it was such, that the US does not do propaganda in that way.

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