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Best of the half-year, 2018

For the past several years, probably longer than I think and much longer than I’d care to know, I’ve been putting together a best of the year six months in. Partly it’s to document the good stuff I’ve read or watched or listened to during the first half of the year, but also I find it interesting to see how it changes over the following six months.

2018 has been an odd year so far. While the big project at work moved up a gear, my part in it sort of moved into cruise mode. So I started reviewing again for Interzone – three books so far, and the first book I reviewed made the top spot on my list below – and I also started up SF Mistressworks, although perhaps it’s not quite as regular as I’d like yet. On the film front, I continued to watch far too many movies, but at least it’s proven a pretty wide selection – including a number of films from the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die list, plus movies from all over the world… and some surprising new favourites.

books
1 The Smoke, Simon Ings (2018, UK). I picked this to review for Interzone having very much liked Ings’s previous sf novel, Wolves. But The Smoke, I discovered, was considerably better. It’s sort of steampunk, sort of alt history, sort of high concept sf. It’s beautifully written, and does a lot of really interesting things really well. It is probably Ings’s best book to date. I would not be at all surprised if it appears on several award shortlists next year. On the other hand, I will not be at all surprised if it’s completely ignored, as UK sf awards don’t seem to be doing so well at the moment, as popular awards are pulled one way then another by in-groups on social media and juried awards try to make sense of a genre that is now so pervasive across all modes of writing that no one has any idea what is what anymore.

2 Pack My Bag, Henry Green (1940, UK). Green wrote this autobiography at the age of 35 convinced he would not survive WWII. He did (he spent the war as an ambulance driver). But this is an amazing piece of work, a warts and all depiction of upper class education in the 1920s, and a beautifully stated meditation on writing. I’ve been a fan of Green since the first book of his I read, but Pack My Bag intensified my love for his prose. Read all of his books. If only he weren’t so difficult to collect in first edition…

3 The Rift, Nina Allan (2017, UK). This won the BSFA Award a month or so ago, and while it was not my first choice I’m happy that it won as I think it’s a worthy winner. It is, to my mind, the most successful of Allan’s disconnected novel-length fictions. It not only occupies that area between science fiction and mainstream I find interesting, but also between narrative and… whimsy? I’m not sure what the correct term is. The Rift is a story that feels like it should add up but resolutely fails to do so – and makes a virtue of its failure. It’s easily one of the best genre books I’ve read so far this year.

4 The Essex Serpent, Sarah Perry (2016, UK). I read this over Christmas so technically it was a 2017 read, but it didn’t feature in any of my posts for that year so I’m counting it as a 2018 read. It’s an odd book, almost impossible to summarise, chiefly because there’s so much going on in it. It’s set in late Victorian times. A recently-widowed young woman decide to indulge her interest in palaeontology and visits a family who are friends of her friends and who live in the Essex marshes. She finds herself drawn to the man of the family, the local vicar, while her autistic son is drawn to his consumptive wife. The titular serpent makes only a brief appearance, and even then its reality is doubtful, but the way in which its legend shapes the lives of those in the books is very real. Fascinating and beautifully written.

5 Four Freedoms, John Crowley (2009, USA). I’ve been a fan of Crowley’s fiction for a couple of decades or so, but it usually takes me a while to get around to reading his latest work… nine years in this case. I should have read it sooner because it’s bloody excellent. End it worked especially well for me because the story was based around the construction of an invented WWII bomber which to me was obviously the Convair B-36 (but, bizarrely, it was mostly coincidence as Crowley did not actually base it on the B-36). Essentially, it’s the story of the workforce building the aforementioned WWII bomber, focusing on several members, and telling their stories. It’s beautifully-written, of course; and the characterisation is top-notch.

Honourable mentions – Exit West, Mohsin Hamid (2017, Pakistan) mysterious doors leading to Western nations appear in the war-torn Middle East, a clever look at the refugee issue facing Europe but which sadly turns into an unsatisfactory love story; The Book of Strange New Things, Michel Faber (2014, UK) an Anglican priest is sent to an exoplanet to succour to aliens and becomes obsessed by them, while the UK, and his wife, slowly disintegrates, moving stuff and the sf element is well-handled; October Ferry to Gabriola, Malcolm Lowry (1970, Canada) more semi-autobiographical fiction from Lowry, in which a young lawyer and his wife head to the west coast of Canada to buy a house on an island, I just love Lowry’s prose; A Primer for Cadavers, Ed Atkins (2016, UK) a collection of braindumps and stream-of-consciousness narratives, some of which were written as accompaniment to Atkins’s video installations; Calling Major Tom, David Barnett (2017, UK) polished semi-comic novel about a misanthropic British astronaut en route to Mars who reconnects with humanity via a dysfunctional family in Wigan.

films – narrative
An unexpected top five in this category. One is by a director I normally don’t have that much time for, and the remaining four were by directors more or less unknown to me when I started watching the films.

1 The Lure, Agnieszka Smoczyńska (2015, Poland). I saw a description of this somewhere that said it was about carnivorous mermaids in a Polish nightclub during the 1980s. And it was a musical. That was enough for me to add it to my rental list. And it proved to be exactly as advertised. I loved it so much, I bought my own copy on Blu-ray. And loved it just as much on re-watch. It’s a film that revels in its premise and dedicates its entire mise en scène to it. The music is kitschy, and not really very 1980s – and one of the bands in the film is a punk band… that isn’t really 1980s punk either. But those are minor quibbles.

2 Dunkirk, Christopher Nolan (2017, UK). I find Nolan’s films generally unsatisfying so I didn’t bother going to see this when it was on at the cinema. Plus, the film’s subject was not one that appealed, especially in these days of Brexit and and various attempts in popular culture to spin it as a good thing because history. Not that Dunkirk was an especially proud moment in British history. Although you’d be surprised at the number of people who think, or insist, it was. It was, as this film mentions, “a colossal military blunder”. But I found myself watching Dunkirk one evening… and I loved it. It’s a beautifully shot film and completely plotless. It presents the events of Dunkirk by focusing on several different groups of people. It does not offer commentary; it is in fact almost a fly-on-the-wall documentary. And did I mention that it looks gorgeous? I ended up buying my own Blu-ray copy.

3 Thelma, Joachim Trier (2017, Norway). A young woman from a religious family moves to Oslo to study at university. One day in the library, she suffers an epileptic fit – but subsequent study by doctors cannot find evidence of epilepsy. She also finds herself drawn to a fellow student, but her upbringing makes the relationship difficult. Then odd things began to happen around her… and flashbacks reveal why these occur. Comparisons with Carrie are inevitable, but Thelma is so much better than that film. Elli Harboe is brilliant in the title role, and totally carries the film. I might even buy my own Blu-ray copy.

4 Vampir Cuadecuc, Pere Portabella (1970, Spain). I’ve no idea why I stuck this film on my rental list, but I knew nothing about it when I slid it into my player. It proved to be an experimental film, shot during the filming of Jesse Franco’s Count Dracula, but in stark black and white and with only atonal music for a soundtrack. And, er, that’s it. I loved it. I loved it so much I hunted down a Spanish release of a box set of 22 of Portabella’s films and bought it. The imagery is beautiful in the way only transformed imagery can be, and the fact it piggybacks on an existing production, and steals from its plot, not to mention its casts’ performances, only adds to the film’s appeal. I’ve been slowly working my way through the Portabella box set since I bought it. It was a good purchase..

5 India Song*, Marguerite Duras (1975, France). I watched this because it was on the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die list, but the director’s name was unfamiliar to me, and I didn’t bother looking the film up before watching it. So what I found myself watching came as a surprise… which seems to be a recurrent theme to this year’s Best of the half-year… Duras was a French novelist, playwright and film-maker, who is perhaps best-known outside France for writing the screenplay for Alain Resnais’s Hiroshima, mon amour. But she made almost twenty films herself, and India Song is one of the better known. It is an experimental film, although it tells a relatively straightforward story in a relatively straightforward manner – that of the wife of an ambassador in India in the 1930s who affair with multiple men to alleviate the boredom of her life. But the film has no dialogue – everything is narrated by voiceover. It’s a bit like watching a bunch of people act out a short story as it is read. I found it fascinating, and would love to watch more of Duras’s films. But they are, of course, extremely hard to find in English-language releases. I really should improve my French one of these days.

Honourable mentions – Baahubali 1 & 2, SS Rajmouli (2017, India) absolutely bonkers and OTT Telugu-language historical epic, has to be seen to be believed; A Question of Silence*, Marleen Gorris (1982, Netherlands) one of the most feminist films I’ve ever watched: three women are charged with the murder of a male shop assistant; Penda’s Fen, Alan Clarke (1974, UK) there’s an England which exists in art which I do not recognise, and this is one of the best presentations of it in narrative cinema I’ve seen; WR: Mysteries of the Organism*, Dušan Makavejev (1971, Serbia) a paean to the ideas of Wilhelm Reich and his orgone energy, told through interviews and an invented narrative about a woman in Yugoslavia who has an affair with an People’s Artist ice skater; A Silent Voice, Naoko Yamada (2016, Japan) a lovely piece of animation about a teenager who bullies a deaf student at his school and comes to regret his actions; The Red Turtle, Michaël Dudok de Wit (2016, France) dialogue-free animated film about a man stranded on an island, with some beautiful animation; Secret Défense, Jacques Rivette (1998, France) baggy thriller from Rivette which hangs together successfully over its 170-minute length; Still Life, Jia Zhangke (2006, China) a man hunts for his wife and daughter in the Three Gorges, more documentary-style drama from a favourite director, plus gorgeous scenery; Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters*, Paul Schrader (1985, USA) fascinating, sometimes almost hallucinogenic, dramatisation of the life of famous writer.

films – documentary
1 Notfilm, Ross Lipman (2015, USA). A fascinating study of Samuel Beckett’s only foray into cinema, Film, and how it impacted Beckett’s career. The BFI release which includes the documentary also includes a copy of Beckett’s film, plus a 1979 British remake, which sticks closer to the original script. It’s fascinating stuff, not least Notfilm‘s study of Beckett’s career, including interviews with long-time collaborators, such as Billie Whitelaw. I can’t say the documentary persuaded me to search out DVDs of Beckett’s plays – he wrote a lot for television, so some must exist – although I would like to give one of his novels a try.

2 A Man Vanishes, Shohei Imamura (1967, Japan). A salaryman leaves the office for home one night and never arrives. A Man Vanishes sets out to discover what became of him, but turns into a meditation on the role of the documentary maker and the impossibility of really documenting what was going through someone’s mind. Particularly during their last moments. The last scene, in which the crew appear and dismantle the set  around the actors, is especially effective.

3 Waltz with Bashir, Ari Folman (2008, Israel). An animated documentary, partly autobiographical partly fictional, in which Folman tracks down and interviews members of his platoon in the IDF and discovers he was complicit in an atrocity which he had completely blanked. The animation allows Folman to present past events, and it’s an effective technique, even if it doesn’t work quite so well when it’s Folman in deep discussion with friends or platoon-mates in the present day. However, after a while, the animation stops being so obtrusive, and Folman’s unburdening starts to overwhelm the narrative.

4 Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story, Alexandra Dean (2017, USA). I suspect it’s a toss-up these days as to whether Lamarr is better known for her acting or her link to Bluetooth (given that the latter has been heavily publicised for the last few years). She was a remarkable woman, who took up inventing to stave off boredom while pursuing a career in Hollywood, and among her inventions was frequency-hopping, now used in everything from military secure comms to GPS to wi-fi to Bluetooth… After watching this documentary, I really wanted to track down a copy of her self-financed and -produced historical epic, Loves of Three Queens, but good copies are hard to find.

5 Kate Plays Christine, Robert Greene (2014, USA). An actress, Kate, prepares for her role as a real-life person, Christine, who committed suicide on air back in the 1970s. The length of time that has passed since Christine Chubbuck, a news anchor, shot herself while the camera has live has meant there is little evidence remaining about her or her life. Kate interviews those who knew her, but even then she remains very much an enigma – there’s even a hint she might have been trans. Despite the details of Chubbuck’s death, this documentary is very much not salacious or in bad taste. It navigates its way very carefully, and it’s very well put together. The DVD I bought I bought came bundled with Actress, which is also a very good documentary.

Honourable mentions – Where to Invade Next, Michael Moore (2015, USA) the title’s joke wears thin very quickly, but Moore’s survey of six European nations’ civilised social policies stands in stark contrast to the regressive society of the US, despite Moore’s claims many of the policies are embedded in the Declaration of Independence; Becoming Bond, Josh Greenbaum (2017, USA) a tongue-in-cheek look at the career of George Lazenby, who played the best Bond (yes, he did), but then torpedoed his own film career; The Oath, Laura Poitras (2010, USA) two men were part of al-Qa’eda, one was a non-combatant driver, the other was a member of bin Laden’s bodyguard, the former was captured and held in Gitmo and tried as a terrorist, while the latter gave himself up to the Yemeni authorities, served a brief prison sentence and not lectures against both al-Qa’eda and the US; Dispossession, Paul Sng (2017, UK) a damning indictment of the decades-long Tory policy of neglecting social housing, so that the land can be sold off to developers… resulting in our present-day housing crisis. Fuck the Tories; The Farthest, Emer Reynolds (2017, Ireland) fascinating look at the two Voyager space probes, with interviews of those involved and some excellent CGI footage of the probes themselves; Colobane Express, Khady Sylla (2008, Senegal) set aboard a privately-operated bus in Dakar, using actors to tell the stories of the passenger’s lives, excellent stuff.

albums
1 The Scars of Man on the Once Nameless Wilderness I and II, Panopticon (2018) Panopticon is a one-man band, and plays a mix of bluegrass and black metal. It works surprising well. The two albums here, released together as one as they were intended to be, are according to the artist: “the first half of the album is atmospheric metal, the second half is more americana focused”. The acoustic “americana” sections are actually more atmospheric than the black metal sections, but it all hangs together extremely well.

2 Currents, In Vain (2018). In Vain are from Norway, and also a one-man band. They play a metal that veers from black to death to prog, and sometimes features a few other musical genres, like country. Currents is their fourth full-length album, after 2013’s Ænigma, which I think made my top five albums for that year. I’m not sure Currents is as good as that album, but it’s still bloody good stuff.

3 The Weight of Things, Entransient (2018). Entransient play something halfway between prog rock and prog metal, although one of the tracks on this album features harmony vocals that don’t really belong to either genre. It’s probably the best song on the album, in fact. This is only their second album after their eponymous debut in 205, but it’s a much better album, and I’m looking forward to hearing more from them.

I’ve actually bought more than three albums during the last six months, but not that much more. The last few years I’ve not listened to as much music as I used to, nor seen as many bands perform live. In fact, I’ve only been to one gig so far this year, to see Therion, who were really good (even though I’ve not kept up with them for at least seven or eight years).

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Moving pictures 2018, #3

Moving swiftly on… This year, this blog is not going to turn into a repeat of last year. Honest. There will be content other than film reviews (or rants). But it’s going to take me time to get to that point, as I need to change a few of the bad habitds I’ve picked up over the last two years, so you’ll have to bear with me for a few weeks…

The Red Turtle, Michaël Dudok de Wit (2016, France). Sometimes, Amazon Prime really does throw up pleasant surprises. It would have thrown up more, recently, but it seems when they upgraded it they broke the subtitling thing, and they don’t show now unless they’re burned into the print. Which is fucking annoying. Streaming, eh. And people wonder why I prefer DVDs and Blu-rays… Not that the subtitle bug caused any problems with The Red Turtle, as it is notable for having no dialogue. A man is washed ashore on a deserted island. His attempts to escape on rafts are thwarted by turtles. Especially a large red turtle, which he manages to capture and drag on shore. The following morning, the red turtle has become a woman with red hair. The two live together and have a child. The child grows to a man. Who attempts to leave the island. And, okay, I admit, when the son was an adult, I spent most of the time wondering where his trousers had come from. It’s not like his father had a spare pair. But the animation in The Red Turtle is astonishingly beautiful, although not in a Makoto Shinkai way, more a ligne claire way. It’s not the most dramatic story to make it to the silver screen, true; but there’s some clever foreshadowing, and the lack of dialogue is no handicap to following the narrative. The Red Turtle has been praised by many and won a couple of awards, and Dudok de Wit won a special prize for Un Certain Regard at Cannes. The film was nominated for an Oscar but lost out to Zootopia (which I’ve not seen, but… really?). A definite candidate for my best of the year list.

Becoming Bond, Josh Greenbaum (2017, USA). My promised Bondathon blog post is still to come – that’s the one in which I rank all twenty-four official 007 films in order, after watching them over 2 to 3 weeks… It should come as no real surprise that I think the best Bond film is… On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. In fact, I thought the best Bond movies were the stripped-back ones, without the stupid gadgets or supervillains. OHMSS was George Lazenby’s sole outing as Bond and popular wisdom likes to have it the film was bad and he was fired from the role as a result. In fact, Lazenby turned down a seven-film contract and a $1 million signing bonus (this was in 1969, so it was a fuckton of money). True, the film was generally considered one of the lesser movies in the franchise, but it has since been critically re-appraised and many consider it the best. I happen to agree. Becoming Bond is Lazenby’s story. He’s interviewed by the film-makers, but parts of his life are also dramatised, with Josh Lawson playing a young Lazenby. Lazenby’s career path to Bond is pretty well-known: mechanic to car salesman to male model. At the time Connery announced his retirement from 007, Lazenby was best known for a series of adverts for Big Fry chocolate. Broccoli met Lazenby and asked him to audition for the role of Bond. When Peter Hunt, editor on previous Bond films who had been given the director’s chair for OHMSS, met Lazenby, the role was pretty much his. Filming went well, although Lazenby insisted on doing his own stunts – there are conflicting stories about relations on-set, although the one about Rigg despising Lazenby, so much so she chewed garlic before a scene in which they kissed, is apparently untrue. Once OHMSS had been released, Lazenby refused to play ball with the producers. He turned up to the premiere sporting a beard. And he refused to sign a seven-film contract, despite the $1 million signing fee, partly thanks to bad advice from his agent who told him he could probably get $500,000 a role for any film going forward. Unfortunately, his film career pretty much died. He went into real estate, and earned a very comfortable living. Lazenby made a really good Bond. True, he was a bit stiff at first, but as the film progresses he settles into the role, so much so that he’s more convincing when undercover as Pursuivant, Griffin Or Sir Hillary Bray than Connery ever was as Bond himself. And in the action scenes, Lazenby displays real physical presence. The Bond fight scenes were always a bit crap, but Lazenby throws punches like they were real punches (he actually knocked out a stunt man during his audition). The next Bond to come close to Lazenby’s physicality is Timothy Dalton. Daniel Craig may be very physical, but it’s cartoon violence – compare the fight scenes set aboard a train in From Russia with Love and Spectre. Anyway, I should be saving all this for my Bondathon post. Becoming Bond is a fascinating documentary, which cemented my view that OHMSS is the best of the 007 movies.

Pedestrian Subway, Krzysztof Kieślowski (1974, Poland). I bought this box set when it was released a year ago, and it’s sat in its shrinkwrap until now. But Cinema Paradiso and the Royal Mail were conspiring against me in the week before and after Christmas, so I dragged it out and bunged in the first  Blu-ray… And this collection is really well presented. Really well presented. I had Dekalog on DVD, on two DVDs in fact, bought back in 2002 and 2004; but when this box set appeared, I bought it, and passed on the DVDs to a friend. And I’m glad I bought the boxset, and not just because of its additional material. As well as the ten episodes from Dekalog, two per disc, there are also one TV movie per disc and one documentary. I’ve not watched all of the latter, but Pedestrian Subway is the first of the TV movies. It was shot in black and white and takes place in a subway in Warsaw which boasts a dozen or so shops. A teacher is on a school trip to Warsaw, and sneaks away to visit a shop in the subway, in which works a woman, whom he apparently knows. The dialogue reveals that she is his wife and that he threw her out after catching her in flagrante delicto with another man. But now he misses her and regrets his decision. Apparently, Kieślowski threw away all the footage he had originally shot as he wasn’t happy with it, and hurriedly reshot the film from start to finish. It’s a clever piece of work – the relationship between the man and woman is revealed piecemeal, the events in the subway are a subtle criticism of the Polish regime, and some of those who appeared in the film had professional relationships with Kieślowski over a number of years. Dekalog is good drama on its own – which was something I had forgotten until I rewatched them, and I do find Kieślowski’s feature films a bit middle-brow – but these TV movies new to me turned out to be pretty damn good, so this is definitely a collection worth having.

Bahubali: The Beginning, SS Rajamouli (2015, India). I was recommended this film by Indian colleagues at work, and I’m happy to add Bollywood film to my rental list – classic or modern. In fact, I’ve now got my mother watching Bollywood films. I lent her a couple, and now she looks for them in charity shops and has just given me Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna to watch … But Bahubali. Or Baahubali. This is very definitely modern Indian cinema, despite being set some five hundred years ago. It’s not actually Bollywood but Tollywood – a Telugu-language film rather than Hindi, and the second Bahubali film has been been India’s biggest box office hit ever. The first one also did really well, and clearly had a huge amount of money spent on it. It is, in fact, a total CGI fest. It opens with a woman falling down a massive waterfall. She dies, but her baby survives and is brought up by local villagers. But he is super-strong and repeatedly tries to climb up the waterfall to discover the land above. When he finally does make it, he witnesses a young woman being chased by soldiers. She escapes and he follows her to a cave, and learns she is a member of a group of rebels in the Mahishmati empire, supporters of a queen who is being held by the current emperor. So the young man, called Shivudu, helps her, and discovers that he’s actually the queen’s son. The film then goes into total flashback and explains how Bhallaladeva and Shivudu’s father, Bahubali, went to war for the throne of Mahishmati. The battle scenes are fantastic – a cast of tens of thousands, almost all of which are CGI, but pretty convincing CGI. The waterfall too is CGI – it appears to be several thousand feet high, which is just ridiculous, but all in keeping with the general scale of the film. It’s like Lord of the Rings without the hobbits and elves and orcs. But turned up to eleven. And I’ve yet to watch the second film…

Side/Walk/Shuttle, Ernie Gehr (1991, USA). While hunting for a Benning film to watch on Youtube, I stumbled across this. Gehr also makes experimental films, and his career too began in the 1960s. I do like experimental films, although the most prominent examples appear to be American and I’d like to see more by other nationalities. But I’ve watched Maya Deren and Stan Brakhage and Bill Baillie, and I’d like to see more US ones too. Side/Walk/Shuttle was filmed from an outside elevator at a San Francisco hotel, and consists of footage from the lift and an unrelated soundtrack. It’s hypnotic, in the way real art can be, despite its simplicity. One of the beauties of video art is that anyone can do it, but it has to all fit together for it to be art. If you know what I mean. What differentiates random footage and art is purpose and structure, even if neither are apparent. A person locks off a camera and films ten minutes of a forest. That’s not art. But if the film-maker is trying to prove a point, or has a message, then it is. Even if not all the clues to to that point or message are evident. I’m reminded of a Turner Prize nominee from a decade or so ago which was basically a copy of the cover art of  a science fiction novel – by Tony Roberts, I seem to recall – but the art was more than just a painting. I’ve said before that video installations are my favourite form of art, and one of the beauties of video art is that you can embed the extra-textual knowledge in it. Which some do. Other make it part of the exhibit – ie, the text explaining the installation. You can’t avoid extra-textual knowledge in any artform. The alternative is “As you know, Bob,” conversations and the worst sort of exposition, which we science fiction readers know all about. On the one hand, I think art should be more than just is presented because it needs to be in dialogue with previous art and with culture; on the other, not everyone is sufficiently informed to plug into that dialogue. Catering to the latter only results in bad art.

Personnel, Krzysztof Kieślowski (1975, Poland). One of the ways in which this collection proves its worth is in the included documentaries. In KKTV, critic of Polish cinema Michael Brooke discusses Kieślowski’s career. Brooke doesn’t have much screen presence, and is clearly reading from a prepared script (and I was amused to spot the Mondo Vision editons of Żuławski’s films on the shelves behind him). But what Brooke had to say was very interesting. And when talking about Personnel, he made the film seem far more interesting than it would have initally appeared. A young man joins the staff of a local theatre in the costume department, and witnesses how the company operates on a day to day basis. He becomes involved in a denunciation of a colleague, and has to choose between loyalty to his friend or his own career… It’s a dilemma many, even in the UK or US, can likely identify with, although in communist Poland the consequences were far more severe. Brooke mentions that Personnel is partly autobiographical, that one of Kieślowski’s first job was in a theatre, and that some of the incidents in the film Kieślowski has admitted in interviews were taken from his own experiences. I don’t think the central one is, however, in which one of the performers publicly bollocks and humiliates a member of the wardrobe department on stage (the man who is eventually denounced, in fact). But I think the incident with the exploding cigarettes might have actually happened to Kieślowski.

1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die count: 895