Posts Tagged ‘Film studies’


Negative Energy, by Richard Livermore.
24 Essays and Blogs. Elefantasia Press, 2016

ISBN: 976-1911357-17-9                  Price £.7.99 (Postage free in the UK)

The book can be purchased from:
Richard Livermore, 6/1 Jamaica Mews, Edinburgh, EH3 6HN, Scotland, UK.


Richard Livermore should be better known.
He founded and edited Chantecleer Magazine, and its later online form Ol Chanty:

He has been active in the literary and poetry worlds for many years. He is a seasoned campaigner for wider dissemination, deeper understanding, for the neglected and the deserving of better readership.
But he never shies away from the difficult questions, the tricky areas.

Aficionados of literature, poetry, film, philosophy, culture will feel very at home in the world of this book.Why? Because

This Is The Book For You!


2016 marks the five-hundredth anniversary of Shakespeare’s death.
I mention this in this context because my favourite essay so far in this collection contains a wham-bang essay on Shakespeare. He opens by questioning Why he was never given a place in Poet’s Corner in Westminster Abbey.

In this mere eight pages he takes us through the pungency of Shakespeare’s response to power as he found it in London under Elizabeth 1, and earlier claimants. He shows how Shakespeare ran the gamut of realisations from Timon of Athens, to the big three of Hamlet, MacBeth and King Lear. This he argues persuasively was a zeroing-in on the subject of the nature of power itself. Timon, he writes was about money as power; no, the real kick came when Shakespeare found a way around censorship via history, other cultures, to look at, pull apart, expose the gaining, use and abuse of political power.
This is why Shakespeare was difficult to domesticate. He had to be ‘bowdlerised’ as one term has it; he had also to be rendered benign through academic study modules.
That is why it takes an essay like this, outside of the academy, to reveal just how much Shakespeare pushed perceptions; how he threw it out into the open, to the populace, to people outside privilege and court circles.

I wrote above that essay was my favourite ‘so far’. Admit it, our likes, our desires, change. They grow develop. Or do they? Is the pack just reshuffled after a time? Time, yes. Time is the problem. What happens to us over time?
Some have attempted road maps (of the soul) for us. Whether they are religions, philosophies, politics or ethical systems, the intent is similar: how do we navigate our combined lives through time, in our shared space?
These essays and blogs take us through these invented landscapes searching all the time for that thing that makes our lives. He has his own particular criteria.

A close second on the Shakespeare essay/blog is EPIC PERSPECTIVES.
Being challenged can be one of our greatest pleasures, as well as spurs to learning, to knowing. In this piece Richard Livermore brings us to that body of writing I have long wanted to dive into and swim, The Mahabharata. In this instance it is Carole Satyamurti’s version. His love for the work is obvious on every page, and it illuminates the text.
The Mahabharata is, of course, another way of navigating time and space. This time it does not follow on the Greek/Classical rationalism method, but uses an older means, that of story. It is an unfolding story, series of stories, though, and this is important: it is not a static, rendered-into-text, finished product. The stories went out into the villages, were added onto, changed, re-valued. What we have here is one-off screen-shot of The Mahabharata’s vast complex of stories.

Think Game of Thrones has twists and turns, and conniving and general skullduggery? Try The Mahabharata. The difference is that The Mahabharata has Dharma, it has a through-line of purpose, intent, that is responsive to current and contemporary situations. G R R Martin certainly knows his predecessors.

On the topic of time, duration, and identity, Richard Livermore takes us through the book  Difference and Repetition, by Giles Deleuze, in his essay DELEUZENARY STATES
It is necessary for any thought-traveller to have some grounding in Deleuze (and Gatari), and this essay is an excellent place to begin. We encounter Kant as a major contributor. Kant occurs throughout the essays and blogs: his contribution to modern thought is given due recognition.

What do you think of democracy? That sacred cow of the enlightened Western world: Do not touch; do not question; just accept it as the best we have to offer.
Well, is it?
Richard Livermore writes: ‘Personally, I would  extend the notion of democracy and limit it at the same time.’ You see, it is possible to think further, think round corners, look at democracy from other sides, angles, and not just the big sell part. In our small worlds of personal interactions, equality and diversity etc, it has proved invaluable. On the big stage it can take on an appearance as lumbering, out-dated.  ‘A means to an end, and not an end in itself.’ he writes. Once an idea, a political ideal, becomes realised it is limited by its success, its existence, even. We sit back: the work is done. It is never done, though, is it. Democracy is just a station on your way, to quote Leonard Cohen.

So what does he mean by Negative Energy? It is part of an equation with positivity. Positivity denotes creating, building up, aspiration and achievement of promise. Negative Energy is not its opposite – that way of thinking, of universals, logical oppositions, contradictories etc is not helpful. Negative Energy is the energy released from the break-down, break-up, of ossified structures and systems. Sound familiar? Sound like someplace you know? The energy can be just as creative, just as vitalizing. The best of our works, our books, plays, symphonies we value as such because they give us the struggle of the breaking out and rebuilding.
It is quite a whoosh when you realise that!

The book is in no ‘particular order – chronological or otherwise’ Richard Livermore writes in his Preface. I see that as a strength, it gives the book a jewel box quality, full of surprises and sparkles, some dark, some glittering, some challenging our icons, some valuing them.
That is not to say there are no through-threads, themes, obsessions, even. There certainly are, and it provides us with a pleasure to find topics occurring in unexpected places.

We glimpse a very human heart and mind at work here behind the essays and blogs on film, opera, novels, plays, poetry, philosophy, science.
Here are our cultural nodes and political moods, explored and unraveled for us. For us to carry on the work.

from my kindle book, Parameters:

Canadian film maker Guy Maddin won the Tellutide Medal for Life Time Achievement in 1995.

He was 39.


In 2000 his 6 minute short THE HEART OF THE WORLD was best film, short and feature classes, at the Toronto International Film Festival, and Special Award winner with the National School of Film Critics; it also won Golden Gate Award from San Francisco Film Festival.


Many film makers concentrate on narrative, storyline, character-sketching; setting and atmosphere often seem an afterthought.

Most films are basically illustrated novels, they have the structure of a novel(…)” : Isabella Rosellini, interviewed by Andrea Meyer.

Guy Maddin reverses this structure; with him we smell time, the mustiness of age. It started by accident. His first short THE DEAD FATHER (1986) would not come right until he set it in the past; then everything became possible. From dabbling cine-man, to film maker.

Although his concerns are very contemporary it seems he can best address them through an offsetting filter. Emotion, for Guy Madden, is a Canadian thing, that is, it is suppressed, yet apparent in everything.

He has a long fascination with 1920’s Silent Cinema, magic shows, fables, above all, with melodrama. His keyword is, yes, Atmosphere, and that deconstructs into, above all else mystery, drama, high play.

I always see myself going back along the road of film history and picking up all these great and abandoned technologies and film vocabularies (…).”

High play allows flexibility: boom shadows, film equipment in back shots, all signs of the out-and-out amateur, he incorporates, makes use of. This could become all so very postmodern, but his work has charm, a fascination, an earnestness that takes the chill off. And the finished product is always polished and professional.

He first became known through the misted and pastel colours, and ‘mountain fever,’ of his 1992 classic CAREFUL. His 3rd feature, CAREFULis “a moral tale”, “a tragedy told as if it was an absurdist comedy.” (Roberto Curti).

For Derek Hill it is “an operatic satire of characters so tightly wound by their repressed desires that even the thought of stepping outside (…) will set off (an) avalanche.

This is the main conceit of the film: CAREFUL is set high in avalanche country, where even a sneeze, we are told, could be disastrous;


we glimpse cattle with voice-boxes removed, tied as if for cartoon toothache with neckerchiefs around their necks,

Some see strong autobiographical elements in his work. He plays openly with Freudian symbols: the recurring image of the one-eyed father (whether blinded by a brooch pin in childhood, like his own father), who could easily become on one level an emasculated Odin figure. The key phrase is Play: he plays with his past, fictionalised images, as much as our present-day images: one-eyed cameraman, eye glued to viewfinder; the half-seen world we only allow ourselves to see ….

His Icelandic mother ran a hairdressing salon; he was ensconced there often as a child: how we fictionalise our lives.

He also has the enviable ability to attract the most stunning women actors, not only Isabella Rosellini as Lady Port-Huntly in SADDEST MUSIC IN THE WORLD, but also the lovely Gosnia Dobrowolska, as Zenaida, in CAREFUL.

He throws this away as “accent”, that is, inbuilt atmosphere, bringing an intriguing visual element to the mix. It works wonderfully.

The film that really broke his name was 2003’s SADDEST MUSIC IN THE WORLD.

Chatting to film goers who “just didn’t get it”, he asked:

Did you understand there was a music contest?


… two brothers competing with each other?


… a wife sleeping with one who should be with the other?


Then you got it!

Disingenuous. Pure chance of course that one brother (Chester) was representing America, the other (Roderick), by adoption, Serbia. Both Canadian by birth. Already we have a satire on Canada’s inability to keep its talent at home. But also in the rapacious Chester, America’s economic and political foreign policies; on one level we have Europe (old world values and cultural legacies) pitted against brash young America. To complicate matters Canadian Lady Port-Huntly, brewery magnate, is just as rapacious and corrupting as Chester.

Set in Prohibition times, alcohol-dry American TVs show the Canadian competition, funded by a wealthy brewery to increase sales: all losers slide into a huge vat of beer.

Visually lapidary; legless Lady Port-Huntly is wooed and won by the brothers’ glassmaker father, with a gift of glass legs.

They are shapely, and filled with the light amber beer from her own brewery, complete with light fizz.


She wears them in triumph; the effect is stunning.

Repost from 2011