Friday, 14 July 2017

A Change In The Weather

A deeply touching portrait of love, marriage and the steady ticking of time

Written by Jason Solomons
The films of Jon Sanders are little-known curios of British cinema. A career sound recordist who turned to feature film-making relatively late in life,jasonsolomons Sanders has found a tiny, self-starting niche, working with a troupe of actors in a naturalistic vernacular devised through improvisations.

Well worth seeking out – and you’ll have to do some detective work, or Googling as it’s called these days – his films, such as Low Tide and Late September, tend to gather his actors together in one spot (which saves on location fees) and let them act and interact around themes that explore the vagaries of later life and the nature of mortality.

A Change in the Weather, his latest production, finds the gang in a country house in southern France, somewhere in the wilds around Carcassonne. They’re workshopping the script for some kind of forthcoming production, actors playing actors, and we join them as they really hone in on the main female character, the rest of the cast interviewing the character as if she were real.

It must be like eavesdropping on a Mike Leigh rehearsal, but very early in the process, although the end result is something softer, gentler than Leigh and represents something very close to life itself.

Bob Goody plays a director, Dan, who is married to Lydia (Anna Mottram) and while they work and probe the characters in their play, the exploration begins to affect them personally, too. Of course, it might be the sunshine and the red wine…

Nevertheless, a midsummer melancholy seems to float in with the breeze, rustling the leaves and ruffling the emotions. There’s not much that actually occurs – a visit from a daughter and her baby, a musical interlude, a few walks in the hills – but a whole lifetime is appraised and re-examined. There’s a strangely moving rehearsal sequence involving a life-size, blank-faced puppet that somehow had me in tears. I can see that Sanders’ films might not be for everyone. They’re so naturalistic one might not even think anyone’s acting and, indeed, some of the conversations are banal, as are most conversations that aren’t movie scripts. But it’s the undertow of subtext that creeps up on you. I think it does it to the performers, too, who appear to find themselves rawly exposed, as if suddenly floored by the emotions they’ve opened themselves up to.

Perhaps it’s quite a French approach. Certainly, few filmmakers have worked this way in Britain. I was reminded, a bit, of Joanna Hogg’s Tuscan-set debut Unrelated, although Sanders doesn’t look at his characters critically. There’s no satire or sarcasm here, just honesty.

I don’t want to make it sound too sincere, or earnest. By the end, all the important things have been questioned and overturned in the film’s unhurried rhythms – the quality of love, the definition of success, the longevity of marriage, the last gasps of freedom and the ticking of time.

It’s a profoundly affecting portrait, and deals with disappointment in a way that’s thoughtful and touching, where hope and happiness are imbued with a gentle wistfulness, warmed by a setting sun.

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