Posted on January 16, 2016 by nicklacey
Saga’s character tells a tale
Unsurprisingly this would have been in my top ten of last year if I’d seen it then; it will be in this year’s. The brilliance of the series is in the protagonists, though the elaborate plotting – this one is built around parenting – is also impressive. Sofia Helen’s autistic Saga is extraordinary in both the former’s performance and the latter’s personality as she strives to empathise but is ‘imprisoned’ by her difference.
After the demise of Martin as her partner, in series two, the producers had to be careful with who became Saga’s foil; he (or she) couldn’t be like Martin. The team’s sure-footedness was apparent by initially having an older woman and then introducing the unsympathetic, at first, Henrik (Thure Lindhardt) who works both as a foil and a man with his own traumatic past.
Apparently the ratings, on BBC4, reached 1.4m showing an appetite, albeit a minority one, for subtitled brilliance. Long may Nordic Noir continue.
Filed under: TV | Tagged: detective | Leave a comment »
Posted on January 14, 2016 by nicklacey
They ARE all around us
I really enjoyed this film when it came out and have used it in the classroom. I wondered how it stood up given the Edward Snowden revelations about how our online and telephonic presences are surveilled and the answer is ‘very well’. That’s because it’s a superbly scripted (David Marconi), shot (Daniel Mindel), directed (Tony Scott) and performed thriller. The cast is stellar and Will Smith’s malleable charm works well against Gene Hackman’s flinty cynic. I was gripped and it’s telling that the spooks could penetrate our lives fully at the end of the 20th century and appalling to know what they are doing now see Citizenfour.
Filed under: Hollywood | Tagged: thriller | Leave a comment »
Posted on January 1, 2016 by nicklacey
- The Imitation Game
- Inside Out
- Mad Max: Fury Road
- The Falling
- A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night
- A Syrian Love Story
- London Spy
- Spiral series 5
- The Game
- The Fall series 2
- Homeland series 4
- The Eichmann Show
- Jonathan Norrel and Mr. Strange
- Wolf Hall
Films seen last year
- The Searchers
- Good Night, and Good Luck
- Crash (2004)
- The Matrix
- The Imitation Game
- Blue is the Warmest Colour
- Kunsthalle Museum, Vienna
- The Unthanks, Trades Club – Hebden Bridge
- Brodsky Quartet – Howard Assembly Rooms, Leeds
- The Unthanks – Irish Centre, Leeds
- Josienne Clarke and Ben Walker – The Live Room, Saltaire
- Richard Hawley, Scarborough Spa
- A View from the Bridge, Arthur Miller – Wyndham’s Theatre
- Leopold Museum, Vienna
- Jackson Pollock, Blind Spots – Tate, Liverpool
- Richter/Part, Whitworth Gallery – Manchester
- The Narrow Road to the Deep North, Richard Flanagan
- The Bone Clocks, David Mitchell
- Guantanamo Diary, Mohamedou Ould Slahi
- Fallen Land, Patrick Flanery
- Buffalo Soldier, Tanya Landman
- Nothing is True, Everything is Possible, Peter Pomerantsev
- How Music Got Free, Stephen Will
- The Whites, Harry Brandt
- The Quest for a Moral Compass, Kenan Malik
- Digital Media and Society, Andrew White
- Josienne Clarke and Ben Walker, Nothing Can Bring Back the Hour
- The Decembrists, What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World
- Jenny Hval, Apocalypse Girl
- Samantha Crain, Kid Face
- Smetana: String quartets, Pavel Haas Qt
- Wire, Wire
- Public Image Limited, What the World Needs Now
- Sexwitch, Sexwitch
- We Are Shining, Kara
- Emily Hall, Folie a Deux
Filed under: Uncategorized | Leave a comment »
Posted on December 21, 2015 by nicklacey
They needed guns
The Matrix was a landmark special effects film; I still remember my awe when Trinity (above left) leapt in the air and froze as the camera tracked around her. Bullet time had arrived just before the turn of the century and CGI started its rule of Hollywood. The Matrix was more than a special effects extravaganza though, its subversive plot was seamlessly integrated with the digital wizardry and the knowingness of the action sequences justified their hyperbole.
I hadn’t seen the film for a number of years but it has stood up well. It was the Wachowski Brother’s second feature (after the superb Bound, US, 1998) and they integrated their cinephilia superbly into the mise en scene. The noir narrative is fully complimented by the set design. They haven’t managed much since unfortunately.
Filed under: Hollywood | Tagged: noir, SF | Leave a comment »
Posted on December 17, 2015 by nicklacey
Apparently the AQA exam board in the UK claimed that their selection of 19th century novels (which students have to study for GCSE) all had good film versions. Teachers know that for many youngsters (and oldsters) 19th century lit teaching needs the extra help provided by visuals that bring to life the often torpid prose. Like the insistence that pupils be assessed on Shakespeare, this is class-based elitism that intends to ensure ‘culture’ remains the provence of the upper middle classes. There’s no reason why youngsters shouldn’t be introduced to the 19th century literature, or Shakespeare, but to insist they are assessed upon for their final grade is farcical. So how does this Dr. Jekyll stack up? Risibly I’m afraid though there is much to like in the film.
The performance style of early 1930s Hollywood; the pronunciation of Jekyll as Je-kill; the slightly ridiculous incarnation of Hyde; the aristocratic milieux so loved by Hollywood at the time… I could go on… are all off-putting. There’s nothing in the film that will help lower ability kids get their heads around Stevenson’s great novella.
However, as a pre-Code movie, starring the excellent Frederic March, with some adventurous camerawork from director Rouben Mamoulian, there’s enough to keep the cinephile interested. The transformation scenes are an absolute triumph; apparently March’s face was heavily made up in blue and then a blue filter was removed as March gurned into the monster. It still looks great. In order to set this up, so the character is looking directly into the camera, the opening shot is an ambitious, and rare, subjective shot including seeng March in a mirror. Technically brilliant at the time and now.
There are virtually no women in Stevenson’s novella (homosexuality repressed?) but Hollywood needs the ‘love interest’ and its provided by the ‘tinsel town’ trope of virgin (Rose Hobart) and whore (Miriam Hopkins). The pre-Code nature is evident when Hopkins’ Ivy tries to seduce Jekyll; she’s clearly naked and it’s so obvious what she’s after even my Year 10 knew. Despite its inauthenticity, this works to enhance Stevenson’s themes as the protagonist’s need for sex, his father-in-law won’t let him marry for eight months, serves as his motivation to become Hyde. Less successful is the moment when Hyde seems to be a black man; typical of the racism of the time (and now in ‘Trump’s America’).
However, as a film it will only confirm to youngsters that black and white movies have nothing for them and it will serve only to further alienate them from the text they are struggling to study. But then that’s the Establishment’s purpose isn’t it.
Filed under: Hollywood | Tagged: horror | Leave a comment »
Posted on December 12, 2015 by nicklacey
Love at first sight?
Fifties (set) melodrama; what’s not to like? Haynes’ Far From Heaven (US, 2002) sumptuously recreated Sirkian melodrama. Here his mise en scene is more restrained though the passion of the characters, perfectly played by Blanchett and Mara, sears the eyeballs. If anything, visually Carol is a little disappointing given the graininess of the super 16mm film; Haynes’ explanation, in December’s Sight & Sound, seems to be that he doesn’t like the sheen of digital film. I had assumed he was after a retro look however I just found it distracting. Enough cavilling!
Haynes’ framing reminded me of Fassbinder; characters are placed at the edges of unbalanced frames. This reflected the ‘forbidden’ love of the protagonists in the homophobic 1950s. The stupidity of those times might be laughable but when Trump is the Republican front runner it’s not funny as many people’s mentality obviously remains backward (to be polite).
I particularly liked Mara’s character; although she is a young woman finding herself in the world she refuses to be browbeaten. Blanchett’s Carol, too, decides not to be a victim of patriarchy and the final scene, with men almost swirling through the mise en scene, is extremely powerful. Undoubtedly one of the films of the year.
PS there’s an excellent Screen International article on the production of the film here.
Filed under: Independent cinema | Tagged: melodrama, romance | 2 Comments »
Posted on November 17, 2015 by nicklacey
Classy Ventura and Belmondo
Released just before Belmondo was unleashed upon the cinematic world in Godard’s Breathless, Classe Tous Risques is a fascinating glimpse of mainstream French film but not in the form of Truffaut’s ‘old man cinema’. In 1954 Francois Truffaut’s polemic, that heralded auteurism, was published in Cahiers du cinema. Here he railed against the ‘cinema du papa’; in other words it was a young man’s moan against the boring mainstream. He called for the auteur to give a personal vision that was cinematic, rather than script bound. It wasn’t until Truffaut, and the other directors of the nouvelle vague, began making movies at the end of the decade that his vision was fulfilled.
Claude Sautet, who became commercially successful in the 1970s, was picked to direct by the star Lino Ventura who plays a gangster having a ‘last hurrah’ as he makes his way back to Paris with his young children. The direction is good, the scene when Belmondo is arrested is great, but what struck me about the film was the use of location filming. Clearly they were shooting on the street with lightweight equipment, so important to the ‘new wave’, and the passerbys are ‘working’ as free extras.
The hardboiled narrative, based on a José Giovanni novel (he also co-scripted), is engaging enough and the performances are excellent.
Filed under: French cinema | Tagged: gangster, thriller | 1 Comment »