Manchester Film Festival: Day 2

Today’s features largely chosen because of their timings.

The first screening was Stanley A Man of Variety, starring only Timothy Spall. Spall plays a man suffering from mental illness, in addition to all the people he sees in his head as a result of the illness. These characters are largely variety show characters from last century who may or may not be familiar to the audience depending on their age. While this is an undoubtedly great range of performances from Spall, the film itself was tricky to watch. During the Q&A Spall himself said they were aiming for a cross between Kind Hearts and Coronets and Eraserhead, which is as good a summation as any. 

The short screened prior to this was The Copyist, a Hungarian short in which an office sexual encounter is suggested by images snatched from the photocopier. It’s literally a film of photocopied images.

Second film of the evening was The Black Prince, a story spanning decades about an Indian prince forcibly relocated to England after his father was killed as the British claimed Punjab, and brought up by nobles close to Queen Victoria. There is a huge amount of history to be told in this true story of the suppression of Sikhs and the colonisation of Punjab, and much is made of the part religion plays in the identity of the main characters.

Even with a running time of over two hours, this felt like it was skipping over some moments and skimming past others that were historically important and I found myself desperate to learn more about the man at the centre. Truth be told, this would probably have made a really good six-part Sunday evening drama series, which would have provided sufficient time to flesh out some of the characters and explain events more thoroughly, particularly to people like myself who have no knowledge of the history being covered.


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