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Category Archives: Film

Desolation Row

Years ago I briefly dated a guy we shall call Jay.

Jay was a catch, I guess. He had an incredibly successful career and a beautiful Copenhagen apartment, he was handsome in his expensive suits, and his date nights were always carefully planned with foreign films and meals to match. Relatively quickly I realised that Jay had no friends, just colleagues. He had a family but he had no contact with them (nor any desire to speak about them). Jay was lonely and he had no idea how to transcend this loneliness. We went our separate ways relatively quickly – there was no connection and there never would be.

I watched Steve McQueen’s Shame yesterday and for the first time in years I thought about Jay. The similarities between Shame‘s Brandon (played by Michael Fassbender) and Jay are superficial – the walled-up Self and an absolute inability to connect emotionally whilst seeming succeeding in life – yet I was struck by them. I hope Jay is happier now.

Shame has been marketed as a film about sex addiction and carries an 18 certificate (NC17 in the US) with much hype surrounding Michael Fassbender’s nudity. I thought it was an intellectually engaging film – and very pointedly unerotic – and I don’t buy that it is about sex addiction. The addiction is the symptom, not the cause. This review pokes at some uncomfortable things (spoilers).

Visually it is just stunning as you would expect from a director rooted in visual art: scenes are very deliberately framed, long shots are used to great effect, and the film is drenched in blue-grey hues. McQueen also uses reflective surfaces very effectively hinting at Brandon’s fractured Self. I noted a meta-commentary running throughout the film: Brandon rides the New York subway a great deal and the trains have posters framing Fassbender’s face: Medical EnhancementA Work In Progress etc. Every single detail matters in this film.

Every single detail matters in this film, so I wonder about some  things. Brandon dresses in well-made, yet bland clothes and lives in a stark apartment where you would be hard pressed to find anything expressing personality – except for his records which are all on vinyl. We see him placing a needle on the record (Glenn Gould’s The Goldberg Variations) – in a film so careful about each frame, that tiny detail nags.

My good friend Anne saw Shame yesterday as well and we had a long conversation over the phone about it. She liked it as much as me – although like is a strange word to use in this context. It is a thought-provoking film, it is a beautiful film, but it is not a film for everyone. I think it will stay with me for a long time.

On The Silver Screen

I have seen this link in various places today: Movies From An Alternate Universe. Asking the audience to re-imagine well-known films, the site wonders just who would have starred in a 1950s version of “Drive” or an early 1960s version of “The Hangover”? (The answers are obvious: James Dean is a proto-Gosling; Lemmon/Martin/Lewis are pitch-perfect too).

It is a post-postmodern idea that does away with linear time and coherent history. The time is out of joint. Films we know to draw upon the past suddenly become the past – witness the almost lazy re-configuration of “2001” into a Fritz Lang Art Deco futurist epic – and so we have to ask ourselves the age-old question: what is really new?

Or you could do what I did with friends: continue the re-configuration of film history: imagine a 1980s version of “Brokeback Mountain”? A 1940s version of “Pretty Woman”? What about a 1960s version of “Lost In Translation”? The possibilities are endless – and intriguing.

More fun with film: Stephen Wildish is a UK graphic designer who has done some brilliant film alphabets (among other great work – seriously, check out his site). See if you can identify all of these: 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s.

Finally, I like my pop culture hot & irreverent served with smart snark. I get it from Pajiba most days and I like many of their features such as the Career Assessment and their Guides to everything under the sun. It is not highbrow but it’s funny. For slightly more highbrow pieces, I would recommend  The Hairpin’s look at Classic Hollywood (it is hardly Pauline Kael but it mixes its Classic Hollywood gossip with astute film readings) and also Clothes On Film which delivers sharp sartorial analysis.

PS. Most of these links would quite possibly not be available or would contain illegal material if SOPA & PIPA were made law. Just in case you wonder why you the non-US citizen should care.

Swatch Done; Now Moving On

One crap Johnny Depp film later, and I finished my Rowan Fine Tweed sampler/swatch.

I still need to steek and block it, but I’m very happy with how it turned out. I also learned that I have to watch my tension on the diagonal stripes section as it does pull in a bit. I cannot wait to start knitting the jumper in the DK weight.

The yarn is very soft – softer than I thought it would be, actually. The red shade – Bainbridge – has lovely tiny flecks of orange running through it. I love that about it. However, I’m wondering if the single-row stripes shouldn’t be a third colour? Navy? Apple green? Brown? Brown might just work.

We watched Roman Polanski’s The Ninth Gate which I remember seeing in my favourite Copenhagen art-house cinema back in the late 1990s. I remembered it as a real Euro-trash turkey and I was right. However, I had forgotten its high camp value which went some way towards making it watchable. Look! Depp has grey temples! Now he doesn’t! Oooh, the bad stunt double is flying and you totally cannot see the wire-work!

I remember liking the book, The Dumas Club, on which The Ninth Gate was based. I also remember the book having a great of interesting sub-plots which had been completely exercised from the Polanski film – most notably the The Three Musketeers sub-plot which gave Pérez-Reverte’s novel its title. Oh, when bad films happen to decent books.

Speaking of books, I am current reading Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle. I shall be forever grateful to Lori that she made me pick up a Vonnegut book in the first place. I’m having a slow day, a day off, and I shall now return to my favourite reading space with a cuppa tea, my favourite blanket and Cat’s Cradle. August is off to a good start.

PS. thank you for your comments on swatching/not swatching. You are a bad bunch – just as bad as me! – for not always swatching!

Quarterly

Can you believe the first quarter of 2011 has been and gone? It is an oddly cheerful thought and I have had an excellent first three months of the year.

Selected highlights:

Not bad. I just need to read more books because I only finished one (one! ONE!) book during the first three months of this year. That is abysmal. I blame Zadie Smith’s On Beauty which I really, really did not like.

Kaffe Goes BollywoodNew project on the needles. This is my take on the Unwind wrap from Rowan Magazine 49.

The original has a very muted colour scheme – soft mauves, dusty blues and earthy neutrals – but I have long wanted to combine three bold colours of Kidsilk Haze so I took my inspiration from Bollywood instead. I’m using a very bold fuchsia as my dominant KSH colour together with coral red and deep orange with lime green as contrast and a neutral pink to tie things together. The pattern also uses five different colours of Rowan Summer Tweed and again I have opted for pink-red-orange-green hues.

The wrap isn’t difficult to knit as it’s all stocking stitch. I think the difficulty lies in which colours to choose. These colour schemes spring to mind: ocean blues, greens and greys; spring garden in pretty pinks, greens and yellows; earth and stone in browns, beiges, fawn and soft greys; girly in soft hues of pinks and whites..

.. my Fancy jumper is zipping along really well too. It is weird having two KSH projects on the go at the same time. I think I might try to counterbalance all the airy mohairiness with some sewing later this week. I have some self-imposed deadlines (as always) and I’d also like to wear some self-made things on a trip to Yorkshire I’ll be making next month.

I wonder what my next quarterly review is going to look like?

Attack of the .. WHAT?

Last night I discovered that my wonderful father-in-common-law (aka D’s Dad) will be starring in a low-budget spatter film set in Aberdeenshire.

Ah, The Geekiness It Runneth in The Family.

I uncovered a few videos and found this one to be the most interesting – not because D’s Dad is it (he is not in this video, actually) but rather because it is filmed where I spend most of my holidays. OK, so it is not incredibly interesting but I thought a few of my Danish pals might want to take a look. Please note that normally the village only houses a handful of zombies and that the video features some colourful language.

Unrelated: is this the greatest headline ever? It’s a contender, I reckon.

Some knitting content to follow, I swear. It has been a long time coming, but my knitting mojo has returned.

“Just Call Me Junior”

‘With all the unrest going on in the world, one should not have a yacht that sleeps more than 12’

Tony Curtis passed away today. Rest in peace, Josephine.

Inception

I don’t go to see many films these days (long story) but I have a feeling that I might just have to go see Inception. The trailer looks very Dark City-esque – and that is a compliment.

Kettle Pot Black

I have always been slightly uneasy about my geek tendencies, but there is no denying them. I worked briefly for a computer gaming magazine in my early student years, I have a respectable selection of polygon dice, the shelves boast both Geoffrey Chaucer and William Gibson, and I have seen Star Wars more time than I care to admit. I even saw Revenge of the Sith twice in theatres which is geek dedication, I will have you know. But I won’t stand for just any dross just because it has a spaceship, clever future technologies or a ray-gun. No, I like my genre indulgences to be smart, interesting and ambitious (.. or have Ewan McGregor wielding a light sabre).

We watched Franklyn tonight. A strange little genre film starring Ryan Phillippe and Eva Green – the sort of film B-list actors do between mortgage-paying big studio films and which often end up their best showcases (Gangster No. 1 is still Paul Bettany’s best film, for instance). I liked Franklyn, I really did. It felt like a British cross between Dark City and Donnie Darko with beautiful photography and stunning art direction to boot. I am not sure it would appeal to people with little interest in “geek stuff” but if you like your slightly surreal alternate realities and high concepts, this film might just appeal. As David said to me earlier: “If I had watched this two days ago, it would have been my favourite film of 2009”.

Speaking of “high concepts” I was mildly amused to see Adam Roberts’ review of the new Jasper Fforde opus in The Guardian.

A kind of pleasant implausibility has always been at the heart of Fforde’s appeal. (..) Shades of Grey, while not laugh-out-loud funny, is agreeably and pleasantly eccentric, cleanly written and nicely characterised. (..) The first 250 pages are narratively underpowered and rather diffuse. Fforde’s young protagonist, Edward Russet, putters around his world, and the reader slowly builds up a picture of how things work. The second half is more gripping, and a climactic expedition (..) becomes page-turningly exciting. (..) I finished it with the sense that there’s less to it than meets the eye. The narrowness of the high concept is, finally, too much a sort of meagreness, and too little a scalpel edge.

Compare this with my own recent review of Roberts’ own Yellow Blue Tibia (in which I sadly omit to mention the strained comedic tone to the first 250 pages and the painstakingly eccentric characters which litter the entire novel):

I read Adam Roberts’ Yellow Blue Tibia this holiday season and I wanted to love it. Its premise sounds like something I would like – Soviet Union, science fiction writers and the possibility of multiple realities – but I ended up being disappointed. Roberts’ writing is sloppy (as is the editing), the tone is uneven and the book does not live up to its premise until fifty pages from the end when you get the feeling Roberts is finally writing the book he wants to write. I was very unimpressive with a running gag about a man with Asperger’s Syndrome which was wholly unnecessary to the plot and jarred badly. Still, the last fifty pages or so redeemed the book from being merely a bad read. It was an uneven and occasionally interesting read.

Maybe Roberts should have called his book Kettle Pot Black instead.

In Kansas City With My Favourite Tattoo

norwaylightsOn Tuesday, northern Norway experienced a strange light show. No, the photo you see on your left is not a Photoshopped image. It is the real deal. But what caused this bizarre phenomenon? Bad Astronomy can tell you (incidentally, if you are not following the Bad Astronomy blog, do so! It is great).

All that aside, my first reaction was: “Oh my giddy aunt, northern Norway? Philip Pullman got it right!” This reaction was quickly followed by: “Northern Norway? Wonder if there is a Bad Wolf Bay close by..? Oh no, not Rose again?!” And then I realised that maybe I am a bit of a geek after all..

Speaking of which, we watched Duncan Jones’ Moon the other night. I enjoyed it, although it did not move me (but I do not think the film intended to move me and I appreciate that). A man stuck on a lunar mining base with a three-year contract about to run out, a robot to keep him company and an unreliable video link to Earth. Space is not a brilliant, adventurous place. It is lonely, cold and remote and it forces people to address questions about human identity, the frailty of memory, and the relationships between Man and Machine. Maybe this sounds dry, but Moon is a good film. Recommended.

And the other side of my geekiness: literature. This photoblog of literary tattoos has me wishing I wasn’t so scared of needles, because, seriously, there are some really amazing tats there. One of my favourite songs of this past decade (and just maybe of all-time) is about a literary tattoo: The Lucksmiths’ “Fiction”(youtube link)

Oh, and the new Drops Summer Collection has just been unveiled. Voting decides which ones will be given full translation priority, but I just enjoy looking at the patterns. A few look interesting, but, really I’m not that bowled over. Perhaps it’s because it’s not even Christmas yet and they are talking about summer designs?!

Magic Tricks and Music Halls

Yesterday I found a new favourite place in Glasgow. Walking into Tam Shepard’s Trick Shop is like walking into another world, another era. The shop could have been straight out of the 1930s – except for the Obama masks and the nu-rave-esque wigs. It is a place where the owner will start a Victor Borge routine when he learns you are from Denmark, where a shop assistant will disappear through a hole in the floor, you can choose between twenty different kinds of fake moustaches, and tiny kids stare with much fascination at plastic spiders. Tam Shepard’s Trick Shop is a family-run business and it has been going since the 1880s. You can see faded music hall posters bearing the names of ancestors and old photos of dishy dames performing magic tricks. “That’s my great-grandma,” the woman behind the counter informed me.

Glasgow has a very proud music hall tradition, actually, and tomorrow we are off to The Britannia Panopticon Music Hall for a steam punk craft show. The Panopticon is the oldest surviving music hall in Britain – the place where Stan Laurel of Laurel & Hardy made his stage debut, no less, and where a young Cary Grant performed while he was still Archie Leach – and it is a beautiful, almost derelict building. The Panopticon Trust has been trying to save the building for about a decade now but it is still fragile. For more information (and a bit of singing), this youtube clip from the AyeWrite literary festival features Judith Bowers, local historian and secretary of the Panopticon Trust, talking about the music hall. If you are local and you have never been, you can visit the building during the Glasgow Doors Open days in September.

Finally,  I recently subscribed to My Vintage Vogue which is a tumblr feed featuring glamorous photo shoots from the Vogue archives. And I refuse to believe there has ever been a woman quite as beautiful as Cyd Charisse..