A girl walks home alone at night. Review.


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Ana Lily Amirpour is conceptually, if not literally, the lovechild of Ingmar Bergman, Jim Jarmusch and Eraserhead-era David Lynch.  It’s lazy of me, I realise, to create a Mr Potato Head type amalgam of offbeat complex directors with metaphors for brains to sum up the debut movie I ‘experienced’ tonight by Iran’s hot new director.  But trust me, the amalgam is a decent one.

Her next project is a dystopian love story set in a Texas wasteland and set in a community of cannibals; a romance featuring Keanu Reeves and Jim Carey.  So clearly this highly idiosyncratic debut has done the trick as far as Hollywood is concerned and bagged her a bunch of A-listers to make what sounds like an “off beat” sophomore movie.  Importantly, perhaps critically, it comes as a package with her cinematographer of A girl Walks Home… Lyle Vincent, because, let’s not kid ourselves, he’s every bit as important in this team as she is.  So too, it should be said, is sound designer Jay Neirenberg.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

What of this?  Amirpour’s debut Iranian black and white cowboy vampire movie.

Well, it’s good.  Very good in fact.

Too slow by far for many I’d speculate (and indeed in parts for me too) but let that take nothing away from the dazzling technical proficiency, the understated acting from leads Sheila Vand as the skateboarding ‘Girl/Vampire'” and Arash Marandi as the male eye candy.

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And then there’s the cat.  Ancient Celtic religions taught that cats were reincarnated souls of humans, and that they were able to see the future and clearly the cat in this movie is a pretty central character and presumably a metaphor for reincarnation.  (After all a fairly significant proportion of the characters would be in need of such hope after they met stylised, but grisly, deaths at the hands (or teeth more precisely) of ‘the Girl’.)

It’s a strongly feminist film with all men, bar the male lead, portrayed as misogynistic and cruel, surely a reflection of Iranian society: the use of ‘the Girl’s’ chador as the vampiric cloak is also very powerful.

The movie has been compared (lazily) to Let The Right One In, largely because it’s written in a foreign language and is about vampires but where Let The Right One In was a tale of love and innocence this is a far grittier beast with revenge and retribution at its core.

Ignore the comparisons.

So, to conclude, a little slow but featuring massive technical ability, great music and two great central performances in a movie unlike any you have seen before.

That adds up to 8/10 for me.  Edging 9.

Gypsy. Steven Sondheim’s masterpiece gives Imelda Staunton the platform of a lifetime.


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It was my great privilege to be in the audience tonight at the delightful Savoy Theatre on London’s Strand (having transferred from Chichester in March) to witness the performance that EVERYONE is talking about.

Whilst the entire 20+ ensemble is excellent (especially Lara Pulver as Louise/Gypsy Rose Lee) it is Staunton that we were all there to see and she did not disappoint with a perfect blend of anger, pathos, humour and demented misguidedness on the path to riches for her “star” daughter June and her overshadowed and overlooked sibling Louise who metamorphoses into the world’s greatest Burlesque star ‘Gypsy Rose Lee.”

The story itself is thoroughly engaging but what Sondheim achieved in his lyrics at the tender age of 24 (I’m guessing here) is nothing short of remarkable.

Jonathan Kent, who directs, has done a great job of making Mama Rose the star of the show without denying the rest of the ensemble their moments.

In particular, in act one the series of vaudeville ‘turns’ that Mama Rose’s various troupes perform are hilarious and highly amusing variation on a theme that was never particularly good in the first place.  It takes real skill to do “bad” well and the audience were eating from Kent’s hands each time.

Peter Davidson puts in a decent shift as the poor beau of mama rose, Herbie.  Ok he’s no singer but he makes the most of his limited vocal range, but when called on to add emotional depth to the storyline he delivers admirably.

But really this is Staunton’s great moment in the sun.  People will be talking about this performance for years.  It even exceeds the brilliance of her slightly more one dimensional turn in Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd where she blew Michael Ball off the stage stealing every scene.  I am privileged to have seen that too.

At the finale after a breathtaking rendition of Rose’s Turn that had the audience gasping the entire auditorium leaped to its feet. I have never, ever seen that at a professional theatre production.

Imelda you area goddess of the stage.

Thank you so much for tonight.

Here she is upstaging Michael Ball.

Why I will be voting SNP on May 7th 2015


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To put things in perspective I work a lot in England, for an English client.

I love that client and I have no intention of undermining them in any way.

Now, that, to me, is a pretty good comparison to how the SNP has to carry itself.

OK, England is not the client, but it IS the paymaster.  And so the SNP has to respect that (as part of this Union).

The Mail/Telegraph axis of madness that paints the SNP as some sort of border rieving marauders intent on bringing down the “English” is simply nonsense.

In Scotland we had our chance at Independence in September 2014 and we categorically voted no in one of the biggest electoral turnouts in recent UK political history.

We argued black and blue on both sides and the SNP lost.

Fair do’s.

We lost.

Fact.

We’ve dried our eyes mate.

But only 9 months later here we are again at the ballot box with a monumental SNP wave of popular support; only this time that support appears to be polling at over 50%.

Why?

The fact is the SNP campaign has reeled in No voter after No voter.  Not because they have changed their minds about Independence  (they’ll still vote No and I suspect some, maybe many, Yes voters would now vote No too) but because they have bought into the impassioned argument for progressive left wing politics.  Call it socialist if you like.  I call it inclusive as opposed to the Tory exclusive politic which is about me, not we.

There is much global and wise economic theory that suggests austerity has been a bad call and that slightly more expansive public spending grows economies. (And let’s be clear about this; the SNP’s anti austerity policy isn’t about bravado it’s about modest expansionist fiscal policy.  TBH I don’t know if that’s the right word but it’s the right sentiment.)

At the end of the day though, what a vote for SNP is, is a vote for a socialist Britain.  A fairer, more progressive way of tackling policy that Labour need their arse kicked over.

I have despised Labour since Tony Blair took the reigns.  I DO NOT despise Ed Milliband I just feel he is caught up in the Westminster rhetoric and the inability to escape neoliberalism because he is too busty playing chess with Cameron.

The SNP can free him from these horrible shackles.  It will be like therapy.  A wee spa break for the next five years when he , as PM, can get back to what made him proud to be Labour in the first place.

Tomorrow the game changes and I do not believe it changes with a need for a vote for Scottish independence.

It changes with the escape from neo-liberalism.

Scotland will benefit from that, not at the expense of, but to the benefit of, the entire UK.

Unless money is all that matters to you.

If it does?

Sorry.

I am talking shit.

Far From the Madding Crowd. Film Review


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“She has done her duty.  She has produced the hier, and now, after a respectable gap of 21 months, she has produced a spare.  The question now is: will she stop at two?”

These are not the words of a contemporary of Thomas Hardy who set far From The Madding Crowd in 1870’s Dorset.  No, these are the, slightly paraphrased, words of Valentine Low a correspondent of the London Times commentating on the birth of Prince Charlotte in May 2015.

There’s an argument to say that unlike Valentine Low, Thomas Hardy was a man ahead of his time, willing to give female characters in his novels, like Tess, unfashionable strength of character (although some accuse him of misogyny).

In this latest film adaptation it’s clear that Thomas Vinterberg is looking to the modern end of this particular spectrum and in casting Carey Mulligan as the film’s undoubted hero, Bathsheba Everdene (great name), he’s looking to celebrate female characters in a way that quite rarely gets a screen outing.

I personally believe Carey Mulligan is work in progress for one of the all time great female cinema actors and unquestionably this is another CV highlight.  And it’s obvious that Vintenberg and his cinematographer, Charlotte Bruus Christensen, share my view as the camera literally seduces her from start to finish.

But there’s also outstanding male ‘eye candy’ too in the form of Mathias Schoenaerts as the audience’s front runner for the formidable Miss Everdene’s hand in marraige

Dreamy.  That’s the word I’d use to best describe this languid evocation of a time when men were men and women were their compliant concubines – but Miss Everdene is anything but.

By languid, some would say slow and one can’t argue with that, because if you’re looking for action you’ve come to the wrong place for that.  But for this viewer at least it was simply a gentle and rewarding unveiling of a classic tale with a strong cast Jessica Barden has a sweet supporting role as Miss Everedene’s companion, Michael Sheen is brilliant as the bereft suitor Mr Boldwood and Tom Sturridge is suitably creepy as Miss Everdene’s ill fated first husband and caddish Sergeant Francis Troy.

So if you’re looking for accomplished film making in every single department with a great (but slightly unlikely) story, and you’re in no hurry, then this is the movie for you.

 

Purgatory


Definition: A place between Heaven and Hell, where the soul is not bad enough to be sent to an eternity of damnation in Hell, but not good enough to go to Heaven, so it is sent there temporarily where the person suffers, and is purified so that it can be sent to Heaven.

My definition: In my childhood I thought purgatory was actually a kind of Guantanamo Bay where we were all held in a pending area before deciding who went upstairs and who went down.  Of course the good guys (i.e me) knew it was inevitable that the green light was waiting and the bad guys (i.e. Charlie White the wee shite with ginger hair and a childhood phd in sad masochism were destined for red and the fiery furnace.)

Why the laborious and tortuous metaphorical introduction?  Well it’s important that my skewed take on purgatory is understood before I reveal my brilliant analogy in full.

And it is this.

Sturgeon, Miliband, Cameron, Clegg and Farage are sitting in that purgatory RIGHT NOW.  Have been for weeks and I can exclusively reveal the outcome.

Right here.

Right now.

Of one thing there is no doubt.  Quick decision time.  One of them has his name in RED lights.

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The other absolute certainty is a yellow tinted Nirvana for St Nicola of Irvine.

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But what of the three amigos, the erstwhile jokers.  The clowns that may not have MEANT to be bad boys, but just were?

Their outcome is far less clear.

On that front there can only be one way to decide.

Stay where you are boys while we go ask St Nicola of Irvine.

She’ll decide your fate.

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