At the very first meeting of the Showroom Film
Discussion Group last November, Andrea Arnold's American Honey set the pace for the sometimes vociferous but always
civilised debates we've had every month since. For most of those at the meeting,
the British director's tale of a travelling band of young magazine subscription
sellers in the American Midwest was a wonderful film, telling a great story. A
small minority disliked it - quite intensely - referring to mumbled dialogue, some
shaky camerawork and one of the film's explicit sex scenes.
Such a striking difference of opinions, never less
than politely voiced, became the norm for the 70 odd films we've talked about over
our first year of meetings. Just last month, Detroit - Kathryn Bigelow's blistering reconstruction of an
incident during the race riots of 1967 in America's motor city - provoked another
particularly wide range of comment. Most of those who had seen the film greatly
admired it, all in fact bar two women of colour at the meeting, who spoke out
against it, with some passion, primarily for its exploitation of black issues
by white film makers.
A mere handful of films have been given unanimous
verdicts. Most of them have been unanimously positive, including two that might
be surprising: Hope Dickson Leach's remorselessly bleak but somehow
beautiful tragedy The Levelling,
about a dairy farming family on the Somerset Levels and the equally bleak but
absolutely riveting, Danish/German post-war drama Land of Mine, about German PoWs forced to clear Denmark's beaches
of mines. Another, not so surprisingly, was the delightful Swedish film A Man Called Ove, which was about all
manner of issues, primarily the transformative power of friendships.
A unanimous thumbs-down was given to Victoria and Abdul at our most recent
meeting. "It was Carry On Victoria and Abdul with every cliché in the
book", was one comment, which some might think was rather hard on the
Carry On films.
In discussing the films we've seen we often digress
into talking about aspects of cinema in general. The ethics of showing explicit
sex scenes cropped up again at a couple of meetings. Is it voyeuristic,
pornographic even, and can it be exploitative of the actors involved, or is quite
acceptable, just showing something that is a part of life? Mumbled dialogue is
another subject we've talked about, rather more clearly than the offending
actors. Is this common problem caused by an exaggerated attempt at naturalism
or is it because the directors working with highly paid, big-ego film stars are
scared to tell them to speak more clearly?
After agreeing that we all liked A Man Called Ove we talked about how such films should be described.
'Comedy, drama', as IMDb calls it, doesn't describe it very well, nor we agreed
does 'feelgood movie' (there's some considerable sadness in the film) or 'dark comedy'
or 'black comedy', all of which have been ascribed to the film. Someone
suggested that films like this simply be called uplifting and that met with
Our meetings are open to Showroom Members and
MyShowroom members and are now held on the first Tuesday of every month,
usually in Showroom 5, from 7.30pm to 9pm. To attend, simply pick up a free
ticket at the box office, or online, preferably in advance. Details of meetings
are emailed to Members at least three weeks in advance and can also be found on
the Showroom website.
Try us out. There's no commitment to come regularly,
and don't feel you have to have seen all the films listed for discussion;
people often come to meetings after seeing only one or two of them, or even
none, to enjoy the always lively debate.