So, it looks as though 2019 might be a productive year, as we have just completed – finally – The Benefit of Doubt.

This follows hot on the heals of the completion of Vladimir and William and La Belle Noise, and surely precedes by a short while the competition of This is Cinema and The New Hope 2, meaning that we should have 5 (five!) new feature films to present within the next few months.

A mood trailer for the film can be seen here:-

And hopefully there will be screenings of the finished film to follow (after some preview screenings over the last 18 months).

About The Benefit of Doubt
Made for a mere £4,000, The Benefit of Doubt tells the story of Ariadne, a young woman who travels to Nice in order to rediscover herself after the end of a 10-year relationship.

In Nice, Ariadne meets first frustrated actor Nick and then hedonist nomad Greg, fellow travellers with whom she explores the city and its surroundings, as she learns once again to smile.

In its tale of a lonely woman who encounters a performer and a bon viveur, The Benefit of Doubt is a reworking of the myth of Ariadne, discovered by Dionysos on the shores of Naxos – as famously painted by Giorgio di Chirico.

The film takes visual inspiration from Jean Vigo’s classic city symphony, A propos de Nice (1930), reworking various of the themes that Vigo explores in his classic text (sport, leisure, overlooked workers, the infrastructure of tourism). What is more, the film sees the characters wander around Nice and its environs in a manner that recalls the French practice of flânerie.

Furthermore, The Benefit of Doubt lies tonally somewhere between Eric Rohmer’s The Green Ray and Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise, while the film also takes in various of the museums in Nice and its surroundings – including the Fondation Maeght in St Paul de Vence.

Ariadne is played by Hannah Croft, one of rising comedienne duo Croft & Pearce, and the star of En Attendant Godard (William Brown, 2009) and The Repairman (Paolo Mitton, 2013). The film also features performances from Nick Marwick, Greg Rowe, Mark Hodge and Lucia Williams.

In addition, the film’s soundtrack includes music composed by David Miller (responsible for the film’s main theme), Amy Holt, Alex Fixsen and Sam Pauli & Reiver.

Regular Beg Steal Borrow cinematographer Tom Maine is responsible for the images of the south coast of France, while the film is written and directed by William Brown, who has made some 15+ no-budget feature films since 2009.



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Last weekend saw both the completion of our crowd funding campaign for This is Cinema and the screening at the East End Film Festival of Circle/Line, our documentary investigation into whether people in London are happy.


A poster for Circle/Line at the East End Film Festival screening.

We would like to offer our thanks to all those who helped to organise and who came to the screening (especially the team at the EEFF!) and to those who pledged money for This is Cinema via our campaign with LiveTree.


Circle/Line screens in Old Spitalfields Market.

But this is not a moment to sit still, but a moment to carry on…

And so since Saturday 3 June, I have been doing some work on an essay-film, #randomaccessmemory, while Tom Maine and I went out on Monday 5 June to shoot more sculptures for our short essay-film, Sculptures of London.

The fourth day of our shot, Tom and I started at the Emirates Stadium, where we took some shots of Arsenal legend Thierry Henry, before then heading to the site of the old Gainsborough Studios in order to capture images of the giant film reel that sits in Shoreditch Park and a curious bust of the Master of Suspense, Alfred Hitchcock himself.


Hitchcock on the site of the former Islington/Gainsborough Studios.

We then travelled down to Liverpool Street and the surrounding area, where we saw Fernando Botero’s Broadgate Venus, Xavier Corberó’s Broad Family, and one of the Kindertransport memorials created by Frank Meisler and Arie Oviada. The last of these commemorates the effort of the British to take in nearly 10,000 Jewish child refugees in the build-up to the Second World War.

Richard Serra’s Fulcrum then followed, a statue that we shot in a style that rhymes with a similar shot of Bernar Venet’s Neuf lignes obliques in The Benefit of Doubt. We shot The Benefit of Doubt in Nice, France, where Venet’s sculpture lives. The film is a retelling of the myth of Ariadne, the daughter of Minos abandoned on the beach by Theseus and who then meets (in our film, two versions of) Bacchus.

Next we viewed Jacques Lipschitz’s Bellerophon Taming Pegasus. As Tom and I discussed creativity, I wondered (cheekily perhaps) that the City location of this sculpture about the mythical slayer of monsters capturing the monstrous chimera seemed somehow to symbolise the way in which the world of work also captures and hinders creativity – with creativity being the creation of monsters, in the sense that creativity brings into the world things and beings that have never before existed (maybe this is why we call children little monsters).


Bellerophon Taming Pegasus

Looking at Antanas Brazdys’ Ritual in front of the Woolgate Exhange, I also wondered how this particular sculpture also seems very meaningful given its location and the material from which it is made.

This stainless steel piece offers distorted reflections of those who walk in and out of the building, thereby making us look again at, and perhaps question, the daily ritual that is the commute into and out of work. Why do we do this? Is there reason to doubt the ritual?



There followed shots of Karin Jonzen’s Gardener, John Birnie Philip’s Peace and Michael Ayrton’s Minotaur by the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in the Barbican.

Given the difficulty that we had in finding the Minotaur, which had moved since when we used it for a shot in En Attendant Godard in 2009, it seemed as though this minotaur really did live in a labyrinth – until a very helpful man called José helped us to locate it by leading us through the Guildhall’s staff-only area.

In En Attendant Godard, the minotaur is used to represent a bull – the form taken by Jupiter in order to rape Europa, in the film represented by Annie, who is played by Hannah Croft.

En Attendant Godard refers repeatedly to the mythical Rape of Europa – with images of François Boucher’s Rape of Europa featuring early on, before we then see Alex Chevasco’s character, Alex, being slain as a bull by a torero (Tristan Olphe-Gaillard), before Alex re-adopts bull horns and poses with Annie (who has now changed her name, although we not sure to what) by Lake Geneva.

At the time, we felt as though these images allowed us to investigate visually a link between the Rape of Europa and the concept of Europe: to be European means to be wide-eyed (from the Greek eurys/wide and ops/face or eye). In other words, it means to be open, to look others in the eye or in the face; it is a sign of respect. But perhaps Europa suffers for her wide-eyed openness as Jupiter descends to abduct her.

Further tying this myth to Beg Steal Borrow’s productions, Europa was the mother of Minos, the father of the minotaur, from which the afore-mentioned Ariadne, daughter of Minos and sister of the minotaur, saved Theseus by giving him the spool of thread that he used to make his way out of the labyrinth.

Ariadne is the name of the character that Hannah Croft again plays in The Benefit of Doubt, which is based on the myth of Ariadne, but here picking up the story from after she is abandoned by Theseus on the beach of Naxos (here, Nice) and then discovered by Bacchus (in The Benefit of Doubt represented by two characters played by Nick Marwick and Greg Rowe).

Ariadne is also a key figure in Letters to Ariadne, a film about which I shall blog shortly, and which is an attempt by me to help my niece Ariadne to make sense of the world.

Often life feels as though it is a labyrinth: a puzzle from which we can find no release, except perhaps through an act of love or kindness (as José gave to us at the Guildhall). I wonder (immodestly) that this is something that I try – in my limited way – to explore in my films (or at least to ask if to doubt, if not to know and yet to be open and wide-eyed – or in an etymological sense to be European – can benefit us).

And as in a labyrinth, where being lost we keep returning to the same places to try to make sense of them, so it is with Sculptures of London that we find ourselves returning to the same myths and themes from our other films, haunted by the same questions about what life is, and what the story is that the sculptures of London can tell us.

Indeed, as mentioned in an earlier blog, various of the sculptures that we shot in Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park also feature in The New Hope, while other sculptures that we have shot and are yet to shoot for Sculptures of London also appear in Circle/Line and Common Ground, about which more later.

To return to Day Four of the Sculptures shoot, though, we then shot the four feminised personifications of CommerceScienceAgriculture and Fine Art that live on Holborn Viaduct, while also taking an image of a lion covered in scaffold tarpaulin. This gave it the appearance of a sculpture modified by an artist like Christo, who is famous for covering monuments with cloth: like Ritual, the tarpaulin that hid the lion oddly also made it suddenly more visible than usual.

Wandering further around the City, we filmed images of Antony Gormley’s Resolution on Shoe Lane, the sculpture of Samuel Johnson’s cat, Hodge, by Jon Bickley (who also made the pig sculptures we shot on our last sortie), and St George and the Dragon by Michael Sandle and Morris Singer.

While we failed to find Stephen Melton’s LIFFE Trader, we did find J Seward Johnson’s Taxi! sculpture, before then shooting various more ‘monumental’ statues of the likes of Queen Victoria (on Blackfriars Bridge), Queen Anne (outside St Paul’s Cathedral) and the Duke of Wellington and James Henry Greathead by Bank.



Outside St Paul’s, we created a shot of Georg Ehrlich’s Young Lovers that echoes a shot of Dennis (Dennis Chua) walking around the cathedral in Common Ground – during a sequence that we filmed during the Occupy London movement in late 2011.

Meanwhile, in front of the Wellington statue by Francis Leggatt Chantry, we came across some pro-EU protestors singing modified versions of protest songs (e.g. Pink Floyd’s ‘Another Brick in the Wall’) in the build-up to the next General Election. They very happily let us film them, and we chatted briefly about their desire for the UK not to leave the European Union (and their desire for Theresa May not to win the election).


Pro-EU protestors before the Duke of Wellington

There followed brief visits to The Barge Master and the Swan Master of the Vintners Company by Vivien Mallock, and The Cordwainer by Alma Boyes on Watling Street. Interestingly enough, Tom and I marvelled at how – as per the latter statue’s inscription – shoemaking only really took off as an industry in the UK as a result of leather imported from Spain, with cordwain being a corruption of Cordovan, or things from the Spanish city of Córdoba.

If this European connection were not enough, it felt apt that the statue would find itself on Watling Street, which Tom told me was both the site of Boudica’s defeat by the Romans in cAD60 and the dividing line of the Danelaw in the late 9th Century. This latter event saw Watling Street become a boundary between Wessex and Guthrum – which in effect were thus two separate countries at the time.

In other words, the shoes that we wear to cross boundaries are themselves the product of materials crossing national borders, and which are made on the site of a place that itself became a national border and which played host to a battle about national sovereignty. It would seem that today’s disputes over national borders and boundaries have long roots in our past – which we can begin to discover by looking at the public art that surrounds us both in London and elsewhere.

After a trip to Aldgate to see Keith McCarter’s Ridirich, Tom and I popped by the Tower of London to shoot the Building Worker Statue by Alan Wilson, which was created to commemorate the lives of those who have died undertaking construction work in the city.


Tom Maine shoots Ridirich

We then visited St Katharine Dock, where we saw Wendy Taylor’s Timepiece and David Wynne’s Girl with a Dolphin, a companion piece to his Boy with a Dolphin on Cheyne Walk and which we shot on our previous day of filming (as mentioned here).

In contrast with his Boy, though, the presence in Wynne’s Girl of a fountain that sprays up on to her body, and which spray darts around in the wind, lends to this particular piece a pornographic dimension.

Crossing the river, we then discovered that Eduardo Paolozzi’s Head of Invention has been moved – although we have not yet discovered where to (but it was not in Butler’s Wharf as we were expecting), while we could not find a bust of Ernest Bevin on Tooley Street, either.

We ended, then, with Jacob the Dray Horse by Shirley Pace in the Circle on Queen Elizabeth Street, and John Keats by Stuart Williamson in the Great Maze Pond by Guy’s Hospital in London Bridge.

It is apt that we ended in a maze – another sign that we are all in a labyrinth through which we struggle to find our way.

‘Sure a poet is a sage; A Humanist, physician to all men.’ In The Fall of Hyperion: A Dream, from which these words are taken, Keats suggests that the poet is on an endless quest for knowledge, which in turn means that the poet is plagued by doubts, never reaching the point of understanding, but always seeking, open-mindedly, to understand further.

Furthermore, in the poem, Keats suggests that humans should suffer and seek the spiritual, rather than follow or create the words of false poets: not those who create (poiesis), but those who destroy.

Filming these final two sculptures of the day in London Bridge, we came across a multitude of people, including many wearing Muslim Aid-branded clothing, taking part in the vigil announced by Mayor of London Sadiq Khan for those who died during the terrorist attack that took place at London Bridge on Saturday 3 June.

It would seem that such horrific incidents haunt Beg Steal Borrow’s films. On 14 July 2016, there was an attack involving a truck on the civilians of Nice, where we filmed The Benefit of Doubt, while this attack took place just hours after the screening of Circle/Line at the East End Film Festival.

Such catastrophes are hard if not impossible to comprehend. London is a city full of paradoxes, just like a circle that is supposed also to be a line.

However, if the vigil can teach us anything, it is that above and beyond the stories that are told by London’s sculptures, London is a city full of loving, open-minded, wide-eyed and welcoming humans – of innumerable races, religions and other types of category that we use to define ourselves. Of the sort who I would like to think are open to taking in refugees, perhaps especially children, and even if the current government recently scrapped the so-called Dubs scheme.

With each other’s help and support, perhaps we can come to learn the benefit of not knowing all the answers and perhaps not knowing at all. If we not only learn the benefit of doubt, but also share our doubts with each other (by writing poetry), then perhaps we can also learn to be Humanists, physicians to all humans, and to give to ourselves and to each other the thread that will help us to find our way out of this labyrinth.

Beg Steal Borrow News, Circle/Line, Common Ground, Crowd funding, En Attendant Godard, Festivals, Friends of Beg Steal Borrow, New projects, Screenings, Sculptures of London, Short Films, The Benefit of Doubt, The New Hope, This is Cinema, Uncategorized

Benefit of Doubt’s Hannah Croft on Radio 4

Beg Steal Borrow News, En Attendant Godard, Friends of Beg Steal Borrow, The Benefit of Doubt, Uncategorized

Beg Steal Borrow reports with great pleasure the launch on Radio 4 of The Croft and Pearce Show.

The show is co-written by and stars Hannah Croft, the leading actress in Beg Steal Borrow’s forthcoming feature film, The Benefit of Doubt. Hannah also starred in Beg Steal Borrow’s debut film, En Attendant Godard.

Hannah is one half of comedy double act Croft and Pearce, who recently embarked on a nationwide tour with their latest material – as well as playing several dates in New York.

Evidently, we are super excited and proud to work with such successful and talented performers. And maybe one day our website will be as good as theirs!

The first episode, which aired on 9 March, is currently available here on BBC’s iPlayer.

Croft and Pearce

Hannah Croft (left) and Fiona Pearce of comedy duo Croft and Pearce.

The Benefit of Doubt tells the story of a young woman, Ariadne (Hannah), who arrives in Nice, France, after the end of a long-term relationship. There she befriends fellow visitors Nick (Nick Marwick) and Greg (Greg Rowe), who embark upon a promenade des anglais (et écossais) around the city so memorably depicted in Jean Vigo’s classic, A propos de Nice, which is a visual inspiration for the film.

Shot in October 2015, The Benefit of Doubt is currently in post-production. Keep your eyes peeled for more on the progress of that film as and when it comes together!

Meanwhile, Hannah’s first Beg Steal Borrow film, En Attendant Godard, will be screened at the University of Roehampton, London, on 18 March 2016 as part of the Film programme’s Film History & Criticism module.

News about two feature films and a script

Beg Steal Borrow News, Circle/Line, New projects, The Benefit of Doubt

Long time no blog – for which apologies.

But there have been some interesting/exciting Beg Steal Borrow developments over the past few weeks – with even more brewing – so keep a look-out for future events, too – since there hopefully will be screenings of SelfieUr: The End of Civilization in 90 Tableaux and The New Hope to announce in the coming months, both in the UK and further afield.

The script

Let’s start with the script. William Brown’s screenplay, Kiss and Make Up, is in competition for six awards at the Oaxaca FilmFest in Mexico, which takes place 9-17 October 2015.

The script, a comedy that tells the story of a man who disguises himself as different people in order to stalk his ex-girlfriend, is one of the screenplays selected for the Global Script Challenge. And at Oaxaca, William will hopefully be meeting other writers and film people in order to be inspired.

Circle/Line shoot completed

While this blog does not constitute a final diary entry for the film per se, it is to announce that cinematographer Tom Maine and director William Brown finished shooting Circle/Line just before the end of August – and in spite of heavy rain that often made stopping people in the street for an interview next to impossible.

We did a mid-July shoot at Edgware Road, meeting in particular a couple of former students from Kingston University who are engaged in trying to do charitable work in the Middle East, before then filming in late August at Paddington, where we had a fascinating interview with a somewhat distraught and unemployed man, who feels hopeless with regard to being able to turn his life around – particularly in relation to finding a job.

There followed a rain-soaked interview Bayswater with, amongst others, a man from Sicily who talks to people about God, and a very chilled-out/relaxed guy from Australia who seemed to know the formula for happiness.

At Notting Hill Gate, we met some visitors from Germany and a student from Italy, before at High Street Kensington chatting with another German woman and a man on his way to watch the Arsenal play.

At Gloucester Road, we spoke in particular to an Argentine lady who is hoping to find a way to stay in London, a city that she feels that she loves. And at South Kensington, our final location, we chatted to two men, one French and one British, who are working on an app that is designed to help people to maximise happiness.

Given that the topic of the film is, with a hat tip to Edgar Morin and Jean Rouch’s Chronicle of a Summer, about how happy people in London are, this seemed a most appropriate interview with which to finish principle shooting. For, the final interview combined not only people also engaged in happiness, but also an Anglo-French effort to achieve it.

Now, for the edit. More news to follow when the film is ready for preliminary screenings.

The Benefit of Doubt

But, before that, Beg Steal Borrow are also set to shoot a new fiction film, The Benefit of Doubt, which retells the myth of Ariadne after she has been abandoned by Theseus in France’s Nice.

Starring En Attendant Godard lead Hannah Croft in the Ariadne role, the film will also feature performances from Beg Steal regular Nick Marwick, and Greg Rowe, who makes his second film with us after a small, but memorable role as an R2 unit in The New Hope.

Filmed in Nice, The Benefit of Doubt hopefully will also pay homage in part to Jean Vigo’s À propos de Nice, one of the great short films that was shot by Dziga Vertov’s brother, Boris Kaufman.

More news will certainly follow after the shoot, which takes place from 1st to 9th October, with Tom Maine taking up his regular duties as cinematographer, and with Andrew Slater also returning for production duties – with help from Annette Hartwell and Lucia D. Williams.

A filmmaker’s thoughts from Roma, città chiusa

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I step from the aeroplane at Ciampino and find that the bus company from whom I have pre-bought my transfer into town is not running its service that day. After a brief queue for a ticket from a rival company, I find myself smoking outside the airport.

An Italian man and a French woman are discussing where to buy cigarettes and so I offer them my last two. We get to talking. I am in town to show my first film, En Attendant Godard, at the CinemAvvenire, I say. The man replies that Rome is abuzz with anticipation because James Bond is in town as they shoot some sequences for the forthcoming Spectre.

The woman, meanwhile, whose hazel eyes beneath peroxide, cropped hair upon encounter demand thoughts of the potential for union, almost uniquely as a result of the fact that our eyes meet. Looking at someone and being looked at by someone; how simple a thing to make us feel the possibility for love, to fall deliciously in love a wee bit, love being maybe little more than the curiosity to look at and to be seen by the other’s eyes. The woman tells me that she does some film work herself and that she knows the organisers of a festival for independent cinema in her native Bordeaux.

We three continue to discuss various things until the bus comes, at which point we separate, them to the front and me to the back of the bus for the ride into town. And upon arrival at Termini, I hear the Italian man saying to what looks like his mother that that was a French girl he met at the airport, thus undermining my belief that they are a couple, and I see her looking back at the bus as she walks off. Dreaming that it might even be me that she is looking for, I call after her – to tell her where my screening is. And, if I can confess, also with a fantasy of lightning love, of continuing to look at each other in the eye, and of turning our lips into eyes that also gaze into each other.

Perhaps this is the hardest thing that I have ever confessed. My brain, my body often soon following suit, is more or less permanently adrift in thoughts of realising an as-of-yet imagined spiritual communion. It renders me sad, because I know that the fantasy of spiritual communion has such control over me that I cannot exist in the present; the fantasy is a veil of illusion that prevents me from engaging with reality. But this is also a nomadic desire that brings to me joy. For in knowing that this love, which on occasion I believe I have felt, though always in the most impossible and self-destructive of ways, gives to me a future. In the language of society’s majority, I have up until this point in life been afraid of commitment. Or I have not found that which I seek. In another language still, however, we might say that I am committed to prolonging for the length of my existence the belief that there is always more, that it is not finding that is important, but the process of seeking itself, and that learning – the process of seeking – thus never ends, with the experience of joy inherently tied to learning and the experience of the new, that amorphous thing that exists in the land of the as-yet-undiscovered future. In other words, this love is impossible, or if possible it exists as a series of more micro-loves, since one cannot but wonder that there are so many more eyes to look into and to be seen by, and one should fear no eyes and ignore none either. To keep looking, then, drives me always to become other, hopefully to improve myself without end, by learning without rest, and perhaps this also inspires me even to leave behind the minor monuments that are my films, and which will themselves continue to breathe beyond the moment of my last sigh.

I find this confession hard because my fantasies are cheap. Not in the sense that, since I have desires that are as sordid as anyone’s, they feature prosaic sexual encounters with idiotic and pneumatic women – though I can have such fantasies (fantasies that, so far in my life, have not turned into reality). Compared to cheap sexual fantasies, the ones I wish to describe are not cheap, since the feelings they engender are linked as much to the sexuality of my eyes, my mouth, and even my chest, as they are to the supposedly cheap sexuality of my genitalia. No, what is cheap about these fantasies is their heteronormative nature, together with the fact that I have these imagined micro-affairs with more or less any or every woman who pays me any attention and who conforms in some way to the images of women that circulate and which are validated by our male-dominated society from sunrise to sunset. In short, I know in advance the disappointment I could cause to the people who care about me as they see how stereotypical I can be in terms of my tastes in women – even if the main driver for me is women’s curiosity to know more about me (meaning that she is not a self-absorbed idiot) in combination with stereotypical, media-defined ‘good’ looks. Indeed, a woman who looks and who looks good are the combination of things which always set my heart aflutter, with looking being always the source of friendship, and people who do not look – at me, of course, since I am as narcissistic as anyone, but also people who do not look in general, but who walk around with glazed, closed eyes… These are people for whom I tend to have little time.

(Shades look cool, I confess. But people who wear shades tend to me not to be people who look and who hide that look, but people who do not look. People who look should never hide their look behind shades, because it is absolutely vital that you show to the world that you are looking, in search of encounters with other people who look.)

Anyway, as it is, the woman does not hear my call – and after following her for fifteen metres or so, calling twice more without response, I decide to stop, because otherwise she will just take me for a stalker. I go to my hotel, a shitty little dive on the via Principe Amedeo, right around from Rome’s central Termini train station and, after checking in, I drink one and a half beers and go to sleep.

I have come to Rome on a Thursday night rather than on a Friday since it is cheaper for me to travel before the weekend. However, I have not booked a day off work for the Friday, and so I do boring admin shit for my day-job from about 7am until 2pm – driven mainly by a feeling of guilt that I ought to be working, a feeling that invades more or less every moment of my waking existence.

But at about 2pm, I decide that I cannot just work all day when in Rome for the first time, and must instead see some of the city. And so, dressed in a winter overcoat and carrying my laptop bag, off I wander into Rome.

Seeing the Coliseum for the first time evokes a mixture of feelings. Joy is one of them, but where the joy of the exchanged glance is one about the promise of a future, this joy, that of looking at an historical monument, is associated heavily with the past. And yet, as per the love that is born when a person looks back at you as you look at them, this joy is also brought about by the monument looking back at you as you look at it. And it brings with its look – its look being what you can see – an overwhelm of history.

Let me explain. I first see the Coliseum walking up the Via San Giovanni in Laterano. It is a street lined with thirty or forty foot high walls that lower as the road climbs up to a view over the Coliseum from a similar height. The effect of the walls is to channel one’s gaze at the Coliseum as one climbs the Via, the Coliseum carrying out some sort of strip tease as it reveals more and more of its lower reaches.

By the time one has a view of the Coliseum not all the way round, but at least from top to bottom, one is in awe of just how tall it is. And as one walks around its base, this sense of awe is redoubled. The joy comes about, however, from looking up at the Coliseum from below, and imagining how those stones got there, at the top of the building, some 2,000 years ago.

This is not just about the human lives that must have been expended during and likely unwillingly for the creation of this monument. Nor is it about the human lives expended in this monument, to which I shall return shortly. It is simply that 2,000 years ago, someone managed to get a stone from somewhere else to 120 feet up into the air from here.

What do you need to do this? Firstly, exploited human and animal strength, of course. But also to do this one needs a crane of sorts. This I think I could design. But in order to have a crane, one must have wood at the very least. In order to have wood shaped to fit the crane, one must have something with which to chop the wood. In order to have something with which to chop the wood, one likely has to have an axe. In order to have an axe, one has to have metal. In order to have metal, one has to have worked out how to extract it from the ground and how then to melt it down into a mold that likely itself has been carved out of stone. Now that we have our wood, we now need rope. I imagine I can get some rope by cutting tails off horses. But to do this I must find and domesticate horses, then cut their tales, and then bind them in such a way that it stretches 120 unbreakable feet or so when wrapped around a stone that weighs the equivalent of several horses. In other words, I come to realize that I do not have a hope in hell of constructing something like the Coliseum, and yet my human counterparts 2,000 years ago managed this, and without Google.

This is a feeling of joy, because I marvel at the genius of humanity and I realize that I am nothing in comparison to humans who lived in an age without electricity, let alone computers. Nonetheless, this joy is tempered. For as I look at the Coliseum, especially walking around its western side, I somehow can hear the roar of the crowd inside the Coliseum from 2,000 years ago. And what they are cheering on is the slaughter of man and animal by man and animal. The height of civilization, then, is accompanied by inordinate monstrosity. We can build the Coliseum as humans, and yet in it we revel in the ripping of flesh and the dashing of blood on sand.

The mixture of horror and joy almost brings me to tears, but these feelings, and perhaps to feel more generally, are based upon the necessary fact that as I look at the world, so it looks back at me, and as I shall never be the same again after this exchange of looks, so has it too become a new and different world.

I look up at the balcony that Toni Servillo’s character spends some time on in La Grande Bellezza: what a beautiful view down to the Coliseum that place must have. Hundreds of people are taking selfies before the Coliseum. Surely the selfie is an attempt to throw oneself into history, to show that torture and time can do nothing to the life of the human spirit. And yet, almost by definition the selfie involves no looking, but a turning of one’s back to the monument and the looking not at the monument, but at the screen on which the self appears. And surely one is concerned more with the look of the self than with the look of the Coliseum. This ability not to look, it is the desire not to be part of this, material world, but to be part of the light and shadow world of images, the world of media, the world of putting media between us and the world, including the medium of money, whereby we ask how much a thing is worth rather than what it is.

As I wander from the Coliseum and along the Via dei Fori Imperiali, featuring Trajan and Augustus’ fora, among others, the sense of history continues to haunt me, and yet now it becomes mixed with another sensation. Namely, the feeling that I never understood what a/the circus really was until I came to Rome.

For, along this Via we have the places where centuries ago humans came in search of justice from the praetors and where politicians plotted and played, rubbing shoulders now with Asian vendors hawking selfie sticks, souvenir pushers blasting music from various boomboxes, further Asian street performers pretending to be enlightened Brahmin hovering in their orange robes three feet above the ground as they finger a rosary, barefoot beggars in grime-covered coats asking for money, Italian men dressed as Roman legionaries, and of course the population of the travelling world here as tourists, myself included. The impression is not how the world has changed since the age of the praetors, but more how exactly here, at the centre of the world 2,000 years ago, everything must have been the same. We dream of a past of quiet and contemplation, as senators whispered pre-Machiavellian plots while walking through the forum – and yet this place must have been chaotic then as it is now. The Romans invented the circus, not as a break from their society, but as a reflection of it. The circus is still in town today.

Continuing down the Via dei Fori Imperiali, I notice that the manhole covers that lead down to Rome’s invisible sewers each bear the legend SPQR: senatus populusque romanus. The Senate and the People of Rome. I spend time thinking about the importance of a system that is about the people as much as it is about the rulers, or senators. But that they even have to be identified as separate types of people suggests that they are not really the same, that the senators somehow see themselves not as people, but as something else (senators and people).

And as I arrive at the Vittoriano, the enormous marble monument erected to celebrate the union of Italy, and which, while impressive, has a whiff of the fascist about it, I find that this circus is political in some respects, because there waiting are a hundred or so police officers, in town to make sure that nothing untoward happens, I shall learn later on, during protests that I believe were in favour of the de-unification of Italy – as well as the desire to have foreigners removed. As if even in ancient Rome there were not already praetors in place to listen specifically to the legal requests of foreigners, and who already, 2,000 years ago, were visiting the city on holiday, on business and surely as immigrants of both the cultural and economic variety.

It will become clearer to me that, as I remark the hundreds and hundreds of police officers of various different types who stand around Rome on this Friday afternoon, perhaps they are here more for today’s senators than for today’s people. When later I reach the Piazza di Spagna, I see a guard in front of another building, official-looking, next to a van that proclaims to be about Operazione Strade Sicure – Operation Secure Streets. As I look at his military uniform and his carbine, I wonder that he would leave his post to chase after a pickpocket were one discovered. I suspect, perhaps unfairly, that he would not. He is not here to make the streets secure at all, but to make sure that today’s senators are safe – precisely from the people.

At this point, I am in touch with my old friend Hannah, who played the female lead in precisely the film, En Attendant Godard, that the good people at the Associazione Kilab are screening at the CinemAvvenire on Saturday. She is here because she is promoting another film, The Repairman, in which she also has the lead, and which by total coincidence is having its Rome premiere in a second cinema, the Nuova Aquila, about a twenty minute walk from the CinemAvvenire down in the south-east corner of the city. The film was directed by Hannah’s then-husband-to-be (and now-husband), Paolo Mitton.

Hannah has a meeting near Flaminio Metro station at 4pm, and so I suggest that we meet shortly afterwards at the Piazza del Popolo. As mentioned, I wander through the Piazza di Spagna, before meandering about, refusing to look at my map more than sparingly so as not to reveal myself too clearly as a tourist. Among other things, I pass the Pantheon, again marveling at the age of this building, the Palazzo Monteciforio, which like the Vittoriano is also heavily guarded, and the Piazza Colonna, where there is the Column of Marcus Aurelius.

Rome is a city full of obelisks, many adopting a kind of Egyptian hieroglyphic style. The Column of Marcus Aurelius has a similar hieroglyph on it, winding from bottom to top, depicting scenes from ancient Roman life. It strikes me that this is an early form of cinema, with the constant human figures in the mural being the equivalent of figures repeated frame after frame in a strip of film. I dream of a film camera which records on a sideways strip, such that it could be wound around an obelisk such as this one.

I undertake a cursory but obligatory pass of the Fontana di Trevi. It seems somewhat sorrowful at the moment, its water empty, its façade behind transparent but scarred plastic walls. One can walk along a pier to get closer to it, but I hang back and watch from afar. Tourists are taking photos and I try to refrain from reaching for my phone. But I do note that the horses that emerge from the marble seem like desperate beasts scrambling into life from the lifeless rock that previously held them prisoner. It is a powerful sculpture, and while we remember it for La Dolce Vita (what always impressed me more was the smallness of the square as Mastroianni looks on), it speaks more desperately of life’s refusal to bow to death, its teeth-bared determination to whinny its name into the night of lifelessness.

I pass the Spanish Steps without realizing what I am looking at, trying to find the Keats-Shelley House at least to contemplate its exterior, but it seems somewhat unimpressive to me – another house that I feel the need to look at because Coogan and Brydon do so in The Trip to Italy, and if these people (Coogan and Brydon) are cultured enough to take an interest, then I must force myself to, too.

And then to the Piazza del Popolo, where I am refused entry by another cohort of policemen. My Italian is not good enough to know if he explains to me why, but the square is closed until the next day. And so I text Hannah and move round the Piazza via the river and to the Piazzale Flaminio.

The Piazzale Flaminio is just outside Rome’s old city walls – and immediately it feels like a different city. For while there are elements of the people in the circus of the centre, the Piazzale Flaminio is characterized by different races and poorer clothes, a down-market selling granny shopping trolleys and the like, and the obligatory fast food outlets. The cops stand across the street protecting the Piazza del Popolo, and I notice some nettles growing up around the stone of a street-side bollard. Nature has a habit of creeping into the smallest cracks – and no one seems to care too much here to trim it back.

I enter a supermarket and buy the toothpaste that I had forgotten to bring with me the day before, as well as two tangerines that I conscientiously buy instead of a Bounty in order to better myself and in order not to succumb to the same lazy buying that I do in the UK. Fruit must surely taste better here.

And I wait under a lowering sun, bringing my laptop bag close to me at times, generally as people begin to stand too close to me, and I see if I can join a wifi network with my phone. I cannot, but I notice that there are two networks that are local if password-protected: one says Art Department and the other says Publicity Department, or some such. This must be Spectre, and at this point I wonder that it is for the filming of Bond that the Piazza del Popolo is closed, because cinema’s senators, too, take precedence over the populace.

Hannah arrives in a layer of telly make-up: a remnant from an interview she did earlier that day under bright studio lights (‘your skin is too fair for our lights,’ she tells me the make-up artist said to her), and which will be broadcast at 1.45am that night. Apparently the show is the best for reviews and information about cinema in Italy. We discuss her life: this morning’s was the latest in a long-ish and ongoing series of press interviews for The Repairman and she has just met an agent who, we discover later on, is about as big an agent as there is in Rome. ‘Just say you are about 30,’ he has advised her. ‘And don’t say that you are 5’8”. Take two inches off. Italians are small and don’t like tall women.’

Hannah and I wander into the Galoppatoio, a parkland space that is full of stone pines, the canopy roofs of which stand surreally out against the blue sky as a result of the magic hour lighting of the setting sun. The moon hovers half-nail in the sky.

We spot a sign for the Casa del Cinema, and so walk towards it, passing a band of 30 or 40-something Segway angels as we wander. Many are wearing helmets, and, in an Italian accent that often verges on the Russian, we joke about how they probably all live at home with their parents and that they promised their mammas that they would be careful going out on the Segway, never surpassing 10 miles per hour.

We have tea in the Caffè del Cinema, a kino that is about as unglamorous as any cinémathèque that I have visited, a ripped screen in an outdoor projection area typifying the slight disrepair into which the place seems to have fallen. Still, they are showing some interesting films from the posters that are on display – some stuff from Cannes 2014 that I definitely want to watch when I get the chance. (I checked all Rome cinema listings prior to coming and only found one kino that shows films not dubbed into Italian; I decided that there would be no kino visits this weekend.)

And we discuss the importance of continuing our work, Hannah as an actor, writer and comedienne, and me as whatever it is that I want to be and not the academic that I have become. Continuing in spite of small audiences; we are, I say, door-to-door salesmen picking up one customer at a time – and that is fine. We just need to keep going. Indeed, some people seem to think that making independent films somehow gets you closer to the film industry ‘proper’ where people can make money and not work teaching jobs around their filmmaking, as Hannah, her husband Paolo and myself all do. And I explain that making independent films gets you no closer to the film industry proper. The only difference is that you have made a film, rather than just sitting around talking about one. My films have never opened any doors to opportunities that might yield me economic reward, and I suspect that they never will. But then, as my friend Rhodri pointed out the weekend before Rome in Oxford, James Joyce was just doing the 1930s TEFL equivalent when he was writing in Trieste. And I wonder, of course, that this is what I should do with my life.

We joke that Italians cannot pronounce Hannah’s name and that they refer to her as Anna Kroff as we walk past the cool-looking Harry’s Bar at the city gates, and I set off on foot to San Lorenzo, where I am going to meet the Kilab organisers of my film screening to give them a digital copy for the projection. By the time I get there, I can feel that I have blisters on my soles; my suit shoes were not the things that I should have brought for so much walking.

The Kilab and CinemAvvenire meeting goes smoothly and my hosts make generous banter about getting me back for screenings of more films at a later point in time. I join Jole and Paola, who are the Kilab organisers, for a drink at a nearby restaurant, where briefly we discuss Michelangelo Antonioni’s L’éclisse. Jole, who has bohemian short hair and a left-leaning look that I’d not associate with the civil service, used to work in Eritrea and I ask after the relationship between Eritrea and Italy in the light of Italy’s colonization of Ethiopia in the past and Eritrea’s subsequent independence from Ethiopia. It is, of course, complex, but Eritreans are nicer toward Italians than are Ethiopians, she says. And à propos of Africa, I mention the scene in L’éclisse where Monica Vitti blacks up and dances along to the African music that her English friend has brought back from Kenya.

Jole and Paola will spend the evening hanging out with friends who also work for, among other places, the foreign office. And included among them is a guy who worked on the promotion of/for La Grande Bellezza. I tell him about the balcony that I spotted above the Coliseum. He smiles like I am a stupid tourist.

I head to the Cinema Nuova Aquila in order to watch Hannah and Paolo’s Repairman premiere. I hope that these dear friends will forgive me for saying that the film is something of an anachronism, in that it is in praise of slow and has a Tati-esque quality of not quite being of its time. As per seeing Tati’s Playtime today, it is easy to see some 45 years after its making that it shows a man out of sync with his world – because the world with which he is out of sync itself now seems so dated. Maybe it will take a similar amount of time for us to realize that the world with which The Repairman’s male lead, Scanio, played by Daniele Savoca, is also out of sync. I worry, however, that audiences today will not understand Scanio, because they do not feel out of sync with today’s world and therefore won’t get his sense of dislocation. More people will have to be dislocated from the present time to share his feelings.

My worries appear to be ill-founded, though. For after watching Hannah, director Paolo and Daniele pose for numerous photographs with journalists, they go up to a welcoming audience, which includes Giovanni Anzaldo, whom I recognize from Paolo Virzì’s last film, Il Capitale Umano/Human Capital, and then conduct a Q&A that suggests a vibrant and enthusiastic response. The film seems to be tapping into zeitgeist themes of recycling, since Scanio repairs seemingly obsolete objects, and slowness, since he wants a quieter life and not the bustle of the modern day. And the screening is a full house that engenders a second, late-night screening afterwards.

We go for a drink and read over Paolo’s shoulder a review of his film that has come in. It quotes Edmond de Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac, Paolo thinks, but none of us know the quotation and Hannah’s internet cannot place it. Either way, it is positive, and Paolo is happy because it is in what he describes as the best and only truly independent newspaper in Italy. Paolo mentions the name of one of the founding journalists behind the publication, and then in an off-hand manner, says that he’ll surely be killed some time for saying what he believes in. The casual nature of this imagined death makes me feel that Italy is indeed a foreign country.

I begin to flag at about 2am as Hannah and Paolo realize that they forgot to plug my film during their Q&A, which does not bother me, except for the fact that for Hannah it is a good coincidence to have two films premiering in Rome on the same weekend, and a plug might thus have helped to raise her profile here. Their distributor drives me to a long road that apparently leads up to my hotel. And after another 40 minutes of walking, I go to bed.

Saturday morning passes quickly, because I sleep until about 10am, and then mark essays until noon. I get angry with the Roman Metro system when they do not sell tickets in the underground station itself, but force travellers to head up to the main Termini train station itself to buy tickets from newsagents. And I head to Ottaviano on the Red line, where I emerge to go in search of the Vatican.

Needless to say, I am too late in the day to queue and get into the Vatican Museums; the Sistine Chapel and the inside of St Peter’s Basilica will have to wait for another time. But after sitting in the courtyard of the Basilica for about ten minutes, imagining how as many non-believers must come to see the Pope speak as do believers, simply because it’s a great spectacle like any other major sporting event, I decide to walk down to San Lorenzo once again. I pass the Castel Sant’ Angelo, and dip down to walk along the west Tiber-side pathway between the Ponte Sant’ Angelo and the Ponte Principe Amedeo di Savoia. I continue along the river to the Ponte Mazzini, at which point I cut across from west to east and into town. I get angry again because in the Campo dè Fiori, I eat at a restaurant where I get talked into buying a bottle of still water and some focaccia that I do not really want, unable to resist the exploitative gab of the waitress because I feel that my Italian is not good enough to say no. A meal that I had wanted to cost me less than 20 euros ends up costing 26.

I am glad that I am on my own, because this is the stuff of which holiday couple arguments are made. There is always, when you live life at my level, a budget, and one has to stick to it relatively closely. That is, one wants to be able to say fuck it and just spend without concern during holidays, but my experience tells me that one can get stung. One gets angry because, so this imaginary scenario goes, I wanted to have a really nice 100 euro meal at some point in the vacation, and yet over a week, the extra five euros at lunch and dinner quickly mount up, meaning that one has only another mediocre meal instead of the lovely treat that you wanted to offer to demonstrate your affection for your travelling companion. You’ve probably already booked the expensive place, or at least spoken about it, and so going back on that booking will be next to impossible without losing face, and so your irritation shows through and the argument begins – basically because you are spending too much money and cannot just enjoy yourself and not care. This isn’t about materialistic partners and frugal little me; it is my own obsession with money and a decision not to use credit and to try to operate with no debt that is at stake. Either way, the scene isn’t pretty.

After lunch, I return to the Pantheon, simply to stand inside it because I recently have seen a photo from the inside and felt that I missed out the day before when I walked cursorily past. I marvel at the marble and at the intricacy of the squares within squares that characterize the dome’s interior, and am filled again with something like joy. I walk down to the Isola, where back on the west side of the Tiber I contemplate and then film blue plastic bottles and large tree trunks tumbling in the undertow of a weir. It reminds me of Abbas Kiarostami’s film, Five, with its opening 10+ minute section of a piece of driftwood floating on the sea.

I then walk up into the Parco San Alessio, whence I take a look out over the city, St Peter’s Basilica and the Vittoriano standing out most conspicuously on the Roman skyline. I sit for a few minutes and look at the oranges growing on the trees, and wonder that I cannot take one – while also querying that they are not good, as many oranges are discarded. People seem nonsensically to be queuing not to enter the Knights of Malta institution that stands alongside the Parco San Alessio (if they were queuing to enter, some of them would). Instead, they seem to be waiting to hear some secret whispered in their ear at its otherwise closed front door. I go through Santo Anselmo, pondering how expensive the houses must be, while admiring a beautiful young Labrador that a woman walks. She looks at me uncomfortably, like on a quiet street I might mug her.

And I come out near the Pyramid, where a woman lies, lifeless, next to a bench, one of her gloves and her handbag on the stone bench, as if she had recently fallen off. There is a plastic cup next to her hand, so maybe she has been drinking and has passed out. But the stillness about her, together with the slightness of her body, make me think her dead. The slightness of her body speaks of a soul that has left. And I wonder how it happened, keeled over in broad daylight, a crumpled mass on the spot like that.

Others are looking at her. Surely they will take action if action needs taking, and so I continue to walk – across the street and past a film crew that is shooting something surely comic since it involves a car turned into a dog along the lines of the mutt mobile from Dumb and Dumber. I get lost, wandering long walls of the city, past Rome’s rather remote Casa del Jazz, and along to the Terme di Caracalla, the immense baths also constructed by the Romans. Another film crew is at work there – looks like B roll. I imagine the engineering involved in their baths, as well as the intrigues that must have happened as senators do their real business during pleasure in a back room reserved only for those wearing broad purple stripes on their toga. And I get lost and soon find myself back where the body of the woman is/was. I dare not look to see if she is still there, and turn back up towards the Circo Massimo, from where I get as soon as I can to San Lorenzo and the CinemAvvenire. On the way, in a small park, I remember a group of dogs running around barking, and I think again of L’éclisse, and the moment that Vittoria and her female friends must find the performing poodle out on the streets. I realize that I am disappointed only to have seen one cat in Rome, a cat that I was too afraid to approach since another woman was talking to it, and I did not want to muscle in on her moment.

And about three hundred metres from my destination, and after about five hours of walking, whom should I bump into but the French girl from the day before, together with a French guy, her boyfriend (although at one point he describes her and his girlfriend as lovers, a term I find curious). He is also a filmmaker. They are, coincidentally enough, on their way to see my film, and so we walk together to CinemAvvenire and have a beer before the film.

We discuss work – and he seems to be doing well, making short films that get accepted into film festivals and things for television. They play the card of young penniless lovers, and I imagine that there is truth to it, and so feel a bit jealous in several ways. But mainly I think that he’ll consider En Attendant Godard not to be a real film when he sees it.

He asks me a question after the screening – about the role of quotation in the film – and then goes off to a party with a producer friend. So I do not know his thoughts on the film, but wonder that my hunch stands, not least because we became Facebook friends soon afterwards, never to message each other.

The screening otherwise goes well enough. The film runs and the people at Kilab have not only produced a wonderful poster, but have also subtitled the whole film. What generosity, I feel, as they screen a nothing budget nothing film. My personal viewing experience is a good one. Sometimes I watch my films and hate them, and sometimes I feel that I am ‘with’, with them looking back at me as I look at them. This is more or less what happens at this screening.

People are polite afterwards, some a little drunk, since Kilab has the great idea of doing aperitivo – a drink and some food – with the film, and all for 8 euros. They really have a wonderful venue, seating about 30, and with a small library of film studies books and monographs on film theory. In London, it has an equivalent perhaps in Close Up off Sclater Street, by Brick Lane and Shoreditch High Street. Not that Close Up has shown any of my films…

I text Hannah, but my phone dies, and so I walk home and have an early night. When I get to my hotel, I see she has invited me out, but instead I buy a beer from a street vendor and sit in my hotel room. The next morning I grade some more essays and then go for a final walk, even though my feet hurt with almost very step. I check out the Via dei Fori Imperiali again, and am amazed at how the marble floor that lies below the Via for passersby to contemplate has been brought there from Tunisia. Stones carried from Tunisia to Rome. Thousands of years ago. And along cobbled streets, above the Coliseum, I again think about how each stone was hand crafted, and then put down to provide paving in Rome. Looking at the cobbles makes me wonder whether the ideal road imagined by the engineers would have been to hew a massive slab that would act as a smooth road surface, with no need for individual cobbles. Instead of a single, smooth and unbroken road surface, though, the opposite development seems to have happened – and asphalt has emerged from making smaller and smaller cobbles and then sticking them together in much the same way that blood no doubt congealed together the sand inside the Coliseum.

The Via is clogged by dancing Bolivians who follows behind cars loaded with boomboxes. They wear traditional Aymara dress – polleras and the like – and the procession seems odd to me, but typically of the circus. ‘Bloque Chuquiago-Rome, Italy’ says one banner, the only to appear in the slightest political or politicized. Chuquiago – gold river in Aymara – and the place that is now known as La Paz. Of course Chuquiago is also the name of a film, one of the few to have emerged from Bolivia during the 1960s, and a searing critique of social inequality.

An hour before I must leave for the airport and I have a gelato – not the three scoops of vanilla that I always promise myself, but a mix of non-vanilla flavours because even though vanilla is my favourite flavor, I always feel that I should order something else. I walk up again to the Via Veneto, where Harry’s Bar is. I see a placard in honour of Notte di Cabiria, and I think about Giulietta Masina not for the first time this trip and how Fellini’s close ups on her felt like the first close ups that I had seen that really meant something, especially as Cabiria walks back into Rome after discovering how yet another man has let her down, only to be cheered by the boys on the Vespas.

And back I am at the Casa del Cinema, where in a park a photography class is practicing taking photos of subjects jumping up as a group in mid-air. I wonder that the British pop group Busted will one day feel pangs of disappointment that their most enduring legacy was not any of their music but the fact that all three of them, like trained poodles, managed to jump into the air at the same time during their performances and videos.

And the rush comes on. I know that I am going to have to get to my hotel for my bags and then to the bus station and then to the airport. I have had such a rush of thoughts, my writing is supremely disappointing in relation to it. But the weekend has been full of joy. Not because I have been doing joyful things, but because I have been seeing new things, or better put old things for the first time, and I have been enjoying them looking back at me.

And I realize that I never want this to stop. I have enough money, I rationalize, to last me a month in this city. During that time, picking up some teaching work should not be too difficult, and then I could just begin the life that I once promised to myself and did not undertake: a life of travelling and learning, staying in places for good lengths of time, but in effect becoming a nomad, and in becoming nomadic creating for myself hope for a future.

Money is a medium, but capital is about stasis. Not in the sense of a Gold Standard or some such in which its value is forever fixed. Rather, capital is dependent on the verb to have, and to have possessions. To possess is stasis: this thing is mine and it can only go away if it breaks or if it is stolen. (Of course things are made to break before too long, and many things also go obsolescent, thereby revealing that nomadism of a sort – transience, impermanence – is an inherent and inescapable quality even of capital.)

And stasis is about states: achieving the state of happiness by having a home, which is more or less fixed. Our possessions do truly own us, because they weigh us down and keep us fixed to the spot where we are. There is no doubt much to learn in repetition; stasis no doubt has value to many people. But I am not sure that I can cope with stasis.

The world moves me too much, and, being moved, I must myself in turn move, as looking and love are two-way processes as well. In being moved, I feel compelled to create, even to create something as banal as this piece of writing. In creating, I change the world and am myself changed. And in changing, in learning via the movement not just of moving myself but of being moved, then I come to experience joy.

It is as if the brain gets used to certain pathways that they become concrete, and then something new comes along and rips up the concrete and says that you can cross the world both of thought and the world of flesh in whatever direction you like. New mental connections are made, and in learning you find out more of what your brain and your body can do. This is learning, and I never want it to stop, and I know that daring to reject the world of stasis and to embrace the life nomadic more fully even than I have until now is what will enable me to live, to love, to be moved, and also to move people and the world more generally as a human being in turn.

A romantic thought, I confess, but no wonder Roma, those other Roma that receive nothing like the attention of Rome and the Romans, care little for possession as a concept, because leading the life nomadic, possessions and the stasis of capital have little to do with them.

Today I did not stay and Joyce-like pick up the teaching work, but instead I came back and already rue my cowardice. But soon I shall go, and when I go I shall be gone. And while suffering and death, that final stasis, await us all, then I shall prepare my spirit to go soaring beyond the bounds of my body by teaching it to fly while my flesh can still move with the motions of this world.

New Beg Steal Borrow documentary completed

Beg Steal Borrow News, New projects, Selfie

Selfie, the new documentary/essay film from Beg Steal Borrow, has been completed.

The film, which is comprised almost uniquely of selfies, was shot predominantly in February and March 2014. It combines footage of its maker, William Brown, at home and at work during the shooting period, as well as in locations as diverse as Basel, Paris and Seattle.

The film is an investigation into selfie culture from the inside: it attempts to understand the selfie and selfie culture by taking selfies – rather than hypothesising about them from the outside. Or, as the narrator puts it in the film, the way to understand the selfie is to be like Seth Brundle in The Fly and to self-administer the treatment!

William Brown takes a selfie in his film of the same name.

William Brown takes a selfie in his film of the same name.

Selfie features brief glimpses of various Beg Steal Borrow collaborators, including Kristina Gren (En Attendant Godard, Common Ground), Hannah Croft (En Attendant Godard), Grace Ker (The New Hope) and Annette Hartwell (The New Hope).

The film also features sequences involving filmmaker Andrea Luka Zimmerman (Taskafa: Stories from the Street, Estate: A Reverie), Spanish actress Eulalia Ramón (Goya in Bordeaux) and more.

It also involves a voice over that considers the obsession with self-recording to be a virus. Perhaps the biggest epidemic of the contemporary world. Given that the word selfie enjoyed a 17,000 per cent increase in usage in 2013 alone, the film is certainly a timely meditation on a contemporary phenomenon.

The film will be submitted imminently to film festivals – as will Ur: The End of Civilization in 90 Tableaux and The New Hope, the latter of which goes into post-production imminently. Look here for imminent screenings (or contact William Brown if you are interested in showing or seeing the film elsewhere).

The Repairman (Paolo Mitton, Italy/UK, 2013)

Blogpost, European cinema, Film reviews, Italian Cinema, Raindance Film Festival 2013, Uncategorized

Nominated for best debut feature at this year’s other London film festival, Raindance, The Repairman tells the story of Scanio (Daniele Savoca), a man who ekes out a living fixing machines for an absentee boss, and whose fate in life it is to be perennially criticised by his friends.

Scanio meets and enters into a relationship with Helena (Hannah Croft), but, ultimately, their relationship falters because Scanio cannot show much passion for her – obsessed instead as he is with his job, or at least with trying to maintain his job.

If the above synopsis seems brief, this is because not that much really happens in The Repairman. But instead of being a film about plot, The Repairman is, rather, a film about a certain mood or mode of living.

Put most succinctly, the mood or mode of the film is that shared by the main character, Scanio: a sort of strange, naïve but upbeat melancholy. ‘Upbeat melancholy’ probably sounds like a contradiction in terms. Well, perhaps does not so much sound like one as it actually is one. But this is because the terms are not quite sufficient to convey the mood/mode of the film – and the difficulty that one has with conveying the mood/mode of the film is in fact what makes the film particularly unique and worthy of a brief blog on a Raindance film amid what I hope will be a few posts about films from the ‘bigger’ London Film Festival.

One could potentially characterise The Repairman as bittersweet, but this is a term one might use for a Mike Leigh film or some such – and while there is humour in Mike Leigh, his films are not (often) as overtly comic as is The Repairman. The film features scene after scene of slow charm – wry observations of dinner party conversation, quirks of habit, the refusal to conform – mixed in with very un-Mike Leigh-like quasi-fantasy elements.

Put in terms of cinematic precedents, The Repairman might be defined as a mix of Le fabuleux destin d’Amélie Poulain/Amélie (Jean-Pierre Jeunet, France/Germany, 2001) and the works of cineastes like Nanni Moretti and Jacques Tati.

The Amélie elements are suggested by the interest in technology shown by the film and the way in which these are interspersed with romantic elements. It is a staple of Jeunet’s work, especially his collaborations with Marc Caro (particularly Delicatessen, France, 1991 and La cité des enfants perdus/The City of Lost Children, France/Germany/Spain, 1995) for his characters to be working on machines – and this is of course one of Scanio’s main pastimes, creating/inventing new and better machines from older, neglected and/or broken ones.

The repurposing of older machines means that The Repairman oddly has vague elements of steampunk, though it is far from being a steampunk film; this is because, as per Jeunet’s films, there seems to be a sort of nostalgia for times past. But here Mitton’s film diverges from Jeunet’s work, because while Jeunet incorporates high end digital special effects to (re)create a mythical past, Mitton’s film on the whole eschews high end special effects.

And this is not simply for budgetary reasons. Indeed, Mitton’s career has seen him work as part of the digital visual effects team on a number of big budget productions, including Troy (Wolfgang Petersen, USA/Malta/UK, 2004) and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Tim Burton, USA/UK, 2005).

Indeed, The Repairman features at its outset a significant digital special effect in the form of a duck that is flying over the fields of northern Italy as Scanio and one of his friends drive through the countryside. However, the duck soon hits a overhead electricity wire and falls to the ground, lifeless.

No doubt this image can be read in multiple different ways – including as a metaphor for Scanio’s spiritual development. However, it also seems to encapsulate the film’s nostalgia: unlike Jeunet’s work, here is a film that wants to achieve its effects in an old-fashioned, ‘lo-fi’ fashion – and the choice is a deliberate one because digital special effects are kept to an absolute minimum.

As a result of the divergence, then, between The Repairman and Amélie – in spite of the resemblance between them that is also useful to convey the experience of watching the film – the film moves more into the realm of the likes of Nanni Moretti and Jacques Tati.

Like Jeunet, Moretti and Tati are also well known for their nostalgia – Moretti for a time when films were simple, Tati for a less technologised and impersonal world. The Repairman shows an appreciation of technology – but its appreciation is what we might call ‘holistic’ in the sense that Scanio is all about resuscitating old, broken machines, rather than following the (capitalist) logic of casting out the old through the creation of both the new and the obsolescent. That is, Scanio loves all machines, not just the new ones that contemporary fetishists of technology seem uniquely and exclusively to endorse.

Here the film’s slow pace, together with its unhappy-happy ending (spoilers – but the guy does not get the girl), become important aspects of the film, even if both likely make it a harder film to ‘sell’ to audiences. For, the system that drives technology to be a celebration only of the new at the expense of the old is the same system that demands constant and rapid bursts of excitement, grand spectacles, and the myth that everything is always only ever improving.

By deliberately eschewing spectacle – the CGI duck is removed from the film in the first scene (although it does return) – Mitton seems also to celebrate slowness, to find a loving humour in slowness, which makes the film a sort of ‘slow comedy’ – with comedy not often being linked to other manifestations of what we might term ‘slow cinema’ – which refers to a cinema that explicitly rejects the ethos of the technology-driven and rapid-paced crash bang wallop mainstream (Hollywood and its imitators).

The myth of the happy ending – perhaps even the myth of the heterosexual couple – is also challenged for similar reasons: that technology only gets better and that the old stuff can be discarded suggests that happiness increases as the world is always ending. Mitton, however, rejects this, as Helena ultimately rejects Scanio. Scanio’s ability to see beauty in obsolete machines – and his ability to recycle them in unique and original ways – suggests a different time, a different rhythm of life – one grounded in technology and the contemporary world, but with a different approach to it.

In short, why not be unhappy? Perhaps one can derive greater happiness from being oneself – a fetishist of old machines? – than one can from trying to conform to society’s norms (settling into a heterosexual union).

Here we have shades of Tati and shades of Moretti. In Caro Diario/Dear Diary (Moretti, Italy/France, 1993), Nanni (playing himself) comes across Jennifer Beales (playing herself) in Rome. A discussion arises (as far as I recall – it has been a long time since I saw the film) over the term sciemo – a term applied to Nanni and which is translated as ‘whimsical’. This is perhaps a term for The Repairman as well. For, as per Moretti’s film, The Repairman also has an idiosyncratic slowness, an insistence that life will – can – only be lived at one’s own pace. For life lived to the beat of someone else’s drum is not life at all.

The same is often the case with Tati: in Play Time (France/Italy, 1967), we see clearly how the rhythms of modern life are crazy in comparison to that of the famous Monsieur Hulot (played by Tati himself). And while the same Hulot in fact, like Scanio, is involved in the creation of ingenious vehicles in Trafic (Italy/France, 1971), the film is also a celebration of slowness, learning to love breakdowns, and living with the consequences of that.

For, as Hulot is fired at the end of Trafic (all of Tati’s films have ‘bittersweet’ endings), so, too does Scanio not find happiness as per mainstream movies at the end of The Repairman. Although Hulot may seemingly walk away with the girl in Trafic, and although Scanio does not walk away with the girl in The Repairman, nonetheless, Tati and Mitton seem to share a love for slowness and a celebration of what others might deem to be failure – since this is also a part of life, and if we are to know and to love living, then we must acknowledge, accept and even love this part of life, too.

Tati himself plays Hulot – and Moretti plays a screen version of himself in Dear Diary (among other films). Although Mitton is not in his own film, nonetheless The Repairman declares at its opening that this is a true story – or that this happened to ‘me’, anyway. Who ‘me’ is, is unclear; it could be Scanio already talking, or it could be Mitton from ‘beyond’ the diegesis of the film.

Either way, one gets the impression of a deeply personal film having been made. Quirky, slightly hard to understand, but valuable for those very attributes, for its determination to go at its own rhythm, its determination not necessarily to have a happy resolution, and yet its determination to find warmth, humanity and humour in (spite of) the situations presented to us, makes of The Repairman a unique and precious film.