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Once again, I declare my RLTC interests before sharing my views on this really interesting night in the theatre.

Abi Morgan’s new play for National Theatre of Scotland and The Royal Lyceum Theatre is a slow burning thought piece.  Over five Acts it gradually unfolds its subtle pickings as it runs through the theatrical gearbox with ease.

Although Maureen Beattie takes marketing centre-stage it’s by no means all about her (although her performance purrs) and, in fact, it’s Nicholas Le Prevost who overcomes a slowish start to increasingly dominate the proceedings.

I’m not going to dwell on the plot because it would be too easy to spoil it by revealing the action.

In some ways the action is not really that important because this is a polemical, rather than plot-based,  play about two opposing “kirks”: science and religion. But it’s obvious that what drives blind science and blind faith is…err…blind belief.  Read Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion and you will see exactly what I mean.

The need for order, belief, integrity and singlemindedness are every bit as important in a convent as they are in a lab and this play explores deeply the integrity of belief.

It’s thoroughly thought provoking and it is delivered via a totally engaging, and yet, at times, humorous, but at all times riveting script.

The set is astounding.  A brutalist concrete bunker that could at once be a university, the Catholic grotto at Carfin or a business hotel foyer where business has to be done.

And business does have to be done

The cast are great.

I loved Maureen Beattie’s unemotional and consequently hugely sympathetic performance as the convent boss elect.  Her predecessor, the ageing Sister Miriam, played by Colette O’Neil was wonderful: what a part for an actor of a certain age.  And the newbie, the loose cannon that is Audrey, brilliantly builds her character throughout.  I enjoyed Molly Innes’ performance in Wondrous Flitting (for me the stand out performance in that show) and she delivers again as the agent provocateur of the conservative Catholic church.

This play neither belittles nor celebrates religion.  It challenges scientific orthodoxy and as a result weaves a fine line between all camps leaving you, the viewer, to use your brain.

Oh, I nearly forgot.  It’s about Alzheimers disease.

And it’s only on for three weeks.

You, like me, will probably want to go twice, so move it.

The world has lost its technological axis


Steve Jobs died today.

I am gutted. I’m actually in tears.

I love, really love, that man, even if he was hard to work for.

I never worked for him; merely admired him above, pretty much, anyone else on earth.

Three things to remember him by…

This from apple

This from Apple.

And this; one of the greatest ads ever and what he was all about…

This ad makes me cry and you know what Apple need to make a tribute ad to him about him.

 

Drive. Ultra violence with exquisite style.


I’ve managed to miss every single one of director Nicolas Winding Refn’s previous movies (Bronson being perhaps the best known) and typically his scores are mediocre on IMDB, which suggests his perchance for violence (he cites Texas Chainsaw Massacre as an influence) has divided his audiences to date.

Not so in this one.

At the time of writing Drive is recording a whopping 8.4 on the movie bible score meter.

And with justice.

Refn now sports a Cannes Best Director gong on his mantlepiece and it feels justified because this movie has been crafted to within an inch of its life.  This is a real director’s labour of love; from The Michael Mannesque, super saturated, ultra crisp LA at night cinematography to the uber mannered acting, fantastic casting, sparse as Ebeneezer Scrooge’s pantry script (he wrote it) and ASTONISHING soundtrack (surely the Oscar winner already).

It’s languid, propped up by very little dialogue but driven by the aforementioned score that oozes class, from the opening and closing songs to the underscore by Cliff Martinez that builds tension relentlessly.  It’s a tribute to the 80’s with echoes of Moroder, Kraftwerk, Eno, early Human League and more recently My Bloody Valentine and Mogwai.  Astounding.  That gets a straight ten in my book.

But of course that’s not what everyone’s talking about.

They’re talking about Ryan Gosling as the unnamed, unblinking, unflinching eponymous driver.

Ryan Gosling is amazing in this movie and while there are brilliant supporting roles from the touchingly understated Carey Mulligan as the love interest, Albert Brooks (nasty as the lead baddie with a tiny little bit of a heart) and Ron Perlman (neanderthal, wicked, compelling…gorgeous in a way) it’s Gosling all the way.  The performance of his career surely (great as he was in Blue Valentine, and I’ve not seen him in the much lauded Ides of March yet, but I will) he commands the screen with not a blink of his eye from start till end, well actually at the end there is a wee blink.  This is a tour de force performance and I loved it.

The violence is excellent.  Slow to come to the boil but shocking and visceral upon arrival.

The driving is not overdone.  Chase movies (except Ronan) are so tedious.

The love story is well developed but never gets in the way.

And the moral? Heroes come in all shapes and forms because this is surely a hero movie wrapped up in a complex web of antiheroes.

Very strongly recommended. 8.5 out of 10.

Scotland’s Greatest Album on STV


OK, so the series, fronted by the delightful Claire Grogan, kicks off on Tuesday on STV.

Here’s the facebook link.

My feeling is that the decision will be heavily weighted by the viewing demograph which will therefore strongly favour albums of the 70-‘s and 80’s with a shout for those of the early 90’s.

That gives a strong advantage to the following

New Gold Dream by Simple Minds – average pop that was far bettered in their earlier albums, especially Real to Reel Cacophony and the sublime double album release that was Sons and Fascination/Sisters Feeling Call.

This is the Story by the Proclaimers ( a potentially worthy winner)

Rain Town by Deacon Blue (also of note).

Some pish by Travis or fucking Texas.

But the real talent lies elsewhere, but will be pushed out by popularism.

No chance will Belle and Sebastian win but Tiger Milk is extraordinary.

Not a fan but Jesus and Mary Chain should, but won’t feature.

The Blue Nile are OBVIOUSLY one of Scotland’s greatest if not THE greatest.  On that basis I think I’d give it to A Walk Across the Rooftops.

The Fannies.  Too many albums will split their vote.

Aztec Camera.  The wondrous High Land, Hard Rain should but wont.

Orange Juice are too fey and anyway were a better singles than albums band.

Bill Wells trio no-one has heard of.

King Creosote should probably be in there for his body of work but his Mercury nominated opus magnificus of this year has no chance.

The Skids.  Fuck off back to Fife.

Craig Armstrong’s the space between us is beautiful but has no chance.

The Scars.  Author Author.  magic.  No chance.

John Martyn is too folk/Jazz to win.

Eddie Reader likewise.

So, that leaves me with my outside bet.

Screamadelica.  Over -rated but loved and toured to death this year including a lot of high profile gigs.  Could just do it.

So, my prediction?

The Proclaimers.

What do you think.  Please comment.

Melancholia puts the depress into depression.


Ahhh.  Lar Von Trier.

The ex Enfent Terible that was the darling of the critics only to upset Bjork and have them pretty much universally turn against him.

This movie has largely been slated by the critics despite Kirsten Dunst’s best actress award at Cannes.

Me?  I loved it.  His best film in a long time and up there with both Breaking the Waves and Kingdom.

It’s far from Dogme, that’s for sure, with its absolutely thunderous score from Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde being one of the movies main focal points.  It’s a powerfully moving musical theme that picks out the more arresting moments in a film that is bracketed by ‘epic’ whilst the meat of the sandwich is a languidly paced examination of the relationship between two sisters as they deal with one of their depressive tendencies.

Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg both put in excellent shifts as the (highly unlikely it has to be said) sisters.  I’ll be honest, you do have to make quite a leap to see this pair as real life sisters but once you are over that you can just enjoy the film for what it is.

Dunst plays a role that could have taken her into the field of major histrionics and self searching angst, but she carries it off with such a lightness of touch that she really does grab the audience sympathetically, Gainsbourg is a seriously good actress in a fine role well suited to her personality.  She too could have overplayed several moments in the movie, but holds back suitably.

The men, for once in a Von Trier film, have the less sympathetic roles.  Keifer Sutherland as the partner of Gainsbourg and father of their child spends more time acting like a boy scout leader that husband fearing the end of civilisation as he plots fun and games with his young son played sweetly by Cameron Spurr.

Like Mallick’s recent Tree of Life (with which several comparisons can be made) it’s an oddly compartmentalized affair (the aforementioned bookends are high octane sci-fi – initially in the vein of 2001 Space Oddessy and latterly in the style of Danny Boyle’s vastly underrated Sunshine).  It’s in the main meat of the film that styles particularly diverge.

The first Act is Dunst’s story as she endures her deeply dysfunctional wedding day – way too much hand held camera for my liking that contrived the action a little but gave Dunst the chance to develop her story of depression – John Hurt and Charlotte Rampling as her deeply unpleasant parents get really nice cameo roles to play around with.

Act two is her sister’s story, here the cinematography is much more relaxed and often breathtaking.

Dunst continues to draw the plaudits as she emerges from her depressed catatonia as the world heads rapidly towards apocalypse in the shadow of a giant planet headed for collision with earth.

It is the planet, Melanchonia, that gives the movie its name and its theme.

For some the whole movie, at 135 minutes, may be too long.  For me, it was perfectly paced and the slight twist at the end of the tale was deeply satisfying and ultimately enthralling.

Strong recommendation. 8/10 maybe 8.5.