Elle: Movie Review


Screen Shot 2017-03-23 at 22.53.21.png

Paul Verhoeven has a track record that would not immediately make you think he could make a movie that would empower a strong central female character, particularly one where sexual politics (and sexual violence) are key to the narrative.

He’s the man behind Showgirls and Basic Instinct and, errr, Diary of a Hooker after all – essentially exploitation movies to a greater or lesser degree.

And it’s highly debatable whether Elle succeeds in its goal, if indeed that is it. Because, despite the incredible central performance by Isabelle Huppert (rightfully Oscar nominated) it takes her from rape victim to rape fantasist over the course of its two hours.

Or did I misread it?

The opening brutal rape scene knocks you back on your feet and Huppert, as Elle, a succesful career woman, recovers from the ordeal remarkably sanguinely and continues her active lifestyle whilst setting out on a revenge mission of sorts.

But that mission is deeply twisted and her horrendous experience seems a little ironic perhaps when we discover she is the owner of a games design company that produces games with dubious sexual morality.

What’s more her father has a deeply unpleasant past, also wrapped in violence in which she was implicated as a child.  This only serves to complicate the morality message of the film as a whole.

I found it gratuitous overall.  I didn’t think Huppert (despite an excellent performance) advanced female rights and I think the whole thing turned out to be verging on tawdry and certainly too ambiguous to make its point effectively.

 

Brilliant piece in the Independent (written by an English journalist) about the frankly disgusting arrogance of Theresa May.


Screen Shot 2017-03-15 at 12.53.44.png

Regardless of your position on Scottish Independence, and I am not making a call here – that will come later, the disdain with which Theresa May is conducting Brexit for the entire population is beautifully captured in this piece…

The last time two powerful women were embroiled in an Anglo-Caledonian power struggle, it ended in 1587 with the Scot losing her head.

This time, according to the snap response to Nicola Sturgeon from south of the border, that’s how it started. The First Minister must have taken leave of her senses to demand another referendum now, squeals the shrilly authentic voice of English self-entitlement. She has to be either wildly irresponsible or driven by self-interest, or both, to plunge the UK’s Brexit negotiating position (whatever that might prove to be) into even more comical confusion. Surely.

That’s one way of analysing it (there is another to which we’ll come below). But if Sturgeon detonated her bombshell for maximum impact, hours before Theresa May was expected to activate Article 50, why would she have done it any other way?

This is politics – and while the Prime Minister lapsed into her most aggravatingly schoolmarmish mode to tell Sturgeon that “Politics. Is. Not. A. Game”, she knows that’s cobblers. Politics is absolutely everything, and a chunk of that is a hybrid sport mingling the complexities of grandmaster chess with the raw brutality of heavyweight boxing. This is largely why it fascinates, regardless of the dullness of most players.

Timing is crucial in all games, and in this one Sturgeon’s was gorgeous. Just as May was preparing to advance her Brexit strategy, she walked onto a scything sucker punch that left her bamboozled as she took the standing eight count.

Even making allowances for the wooziness, she then made a hideous tonal mistake. The last thing a British prime minister should do, when a first minister calls for a referendum, is treat them like a mischievous kid. Whatever politics is, that’s terrible politics.

Traditionally, the Scots have never much cared for being patronised by haughty Home Counties types belaboured by a powerful sense of English superiority. They didn’t like it from Thatcher in her post-Falklands reinvention as Brittania, or from David Cameron, Slayer of Unions, when he waited 2.07 seconds after the 2014 referendum result to raise the spectre of “English votes for English laws”. They won’t like it from May if she comes over all Gloriana, blackening her teeth and putting on the neck ruff to treat Sturgeon as a naughty younger cousin with foolish pretensions to being a grownup.

So the advice to the Prime Minister is to dismiss the notion that Sturgeon pulled a stunt to shore up sliding approval ratings, or distract from SNP problems with education, or strengthen her bargaining position over fishing rights in trade talks to come. Obviously these considerations may have played some part. A myriad of factors must have fed into an incendiary decision which Sturgeon must recognise as the gamble that will define her career.

But May should forget all that, and focus on the central reason for Monday’s coup de theatre. Sturgeon has always believed independence offers her country its best future. With Scotland a backseat passenger in a vehicle careering towards the cliff’s edge, she probably believes it more passionately than ever.

Now, you can agree or disagree with her there. For what incalculably little it’s worth, I agree. Were I Scottish, I would be mad for independence. I’d say sod the crude oil price, sod the Barnett formula and sod the pernicious English meme that poor wee Scotland hasn’t a prayer of making it across the road without Nanny May holding her hand.

I’d also say sod the uncertainties. With Brexit, how much more uncertain can it possibly get? And I’d certainly say sod the buffoons of Brexit – Gove, Boris, Fox, and the rest – who argued last summer that liberation from a union which restricted self-determination justified any risks, but will now counsel the Scots to keep a hold of nurse for fear of something even worse. How transparently hypocritical do these people need to get before a residue of self-respect automatically shuts their mouths?

That, sadly, is a purely rhetorical question. Within hours of Sturgeon’s announcement, the tabloids were unleashing the very scaremongering about economic calamity it found so distasteful from Remainers last summer.

Anyway, as I said, we’re free to agree or not about whether Scotland’s best interests are served by independence. What no one has any right to do is condescend Nicola Sturgeon by questioning her sincerity. She is not just an outstandingly bold and smart politician, but one of conviction as well.

Perhaps eventually the Home Counties will learn to respect her for that, though I guess she’ll need to win two Wimbledons, two Olympic golds, a US Open and a Davis Cup to even come close.

For now, the auld arrogance prevails to hint that each imperious rebuke from May will nudge Scotland closer to independence. Whether or not that would be a boon for the Scots, it would be a tragedy for those in England and Wales whose appetite for a Tory one-party state has been sated by the hors d’oeuvres they are being force-fed.

Elizabeth I was hyper-cautious in dealing with her cousin, delaying her execution time and again because she saw the risk in inflaming Scottish public opinion against her. It’s a lesson Theresa May might study. If she wants to nullify this threat, a little basic respect for Sturgeon and her cause seems a useful way to start.

Evangelii gaudium bullshit. (Or, life in a land of relativistic subjectivism.)


Scan.jpg

I’m a pretty regular Catholic churchgoer.

It gives me a lot of challenges in my mixed up mind and the list of what’s wrong with the Catholic church would fill this blog from now to kingdom come (thy will be done) were I to put my mind to it.

Most of all (and we’ll not even go into child abuse and the horrors that we read about in that Irish convent last week) is its refusal to wake up to 21st century life, thinking, logic and relevance.

Yet still I go.  And get great community spiritual benefits from it.

However, it’s the sort of guff below that really sets my teeth on edge.

It’s a part of the Catholic Printing Press of Farnsworth’s weekly newsletter that is distributed in churches throughout the UK, to churchgoers of every level of intellect.

I’ve written over 2,000 posts on this blog so I think I’d count myself in, at least, the top 50% of the UK’s most literate/reasonably well read population.

But if anyone can explain to me why this sort of self important pomposity should be published to a church of mixed ability readers then I’d be interested.

(I showed it to a couple of my fellow parishioners last Sunday and they hadn’t a Scooby what it was on about.)

What does inculturating mean?

What does relativistic subjectivism mean?

What percentage of the population is aware what a pluralistic religious landscape means?

And what, to the ordinary Catholic, does Evangelii Gaudium mean anyway?

If it means Joy of the Gospel why not just call it Joy of the Gospel?

Get a bloody grip.

Not quite Dear Green(est) Place.


Screen Shot 2017-02-02 at 16.15.43.png

The literal translation of Glasgow’s name is ‘Dear Green Place’ and the City has traded on this for many years now.

However, an analysis by mapping firm Esri UK ,analysing Landsat 8 satellite images from spring 2016 for the 10 cities with the largest populations in the UK, has found that in fact Edinburgh is far greener and is actually the greenest medium to large sized city in the UK as the image above (from today’s Guardian) reveals.

The top ten was as follows:

10. Liverpool 16.4% green

9. Bradford 18.4% green

8. Manchester 20.4% green

7. Leeds 21.7% green

6. Sheffield 22.1% green

5. Greater London 23% green (good old Royal Parks)

4. Birmingham 24.6% green

3. Bristol 29% green

2. Glasgow 32% green

1. Edinburgh (a whopping) 49.2% green

Sorry Glasgow, but Edinburgh is half again greener than you are.

It’s notable that much of the green in Glasgow is in the East end.

You can read all about it here.

 

Ali Smith: Autumn. Book Review.


ali-smith.jpg

“It was the worst of times.  It was the worst of times.”

So begins the first of Ali Smith’s seasonal quartet, Autumn.

It’s a riff off Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities and she returns to it repeatedly in this extended part prose part, almost, poem.

It’s a study on time and it’s an abstract novel in its form and this can be (at times – no pun) quite tedious as she wordsmiths and wordplays her way through pages and even short chapters at a time, but if you can grimace your way through what I imagine most critics will see as the book’s highlights you find yourself immersed in a rather captivating platonic love story about a dying 100 year old single (gay?) man -a poet and songwriter – and a young, precocious English lecturer who has secretly loved him (her childhood neighbour) since she was 8 years old (and he was 75).

Daniel is dying. Elisabeth (sic) is visiting him in his care home and reflecting on their deeply respectful on-off life together, against a backdrop of a dysfunctional mother and an estranged (or dead) father.

Much has been made of this being the first post-Brexit novel but really it’s really a contextual backdrop give that the timeshiftimg story concludes in Autumn 2016 in the wake of Britain’s extremely divisive and frankly ridiculous decision at the polls.

It’s clear Smith shares my political stance and uses her Scottishness to highlight the differences between our green and pleasant land and the carbuncle that is Englandshire.

A feminist strand that runs through it is Smith’s clear admiration for the World’s only (deceased) female Pop Artist, beauty and actor, Pauline Boty, and, in particular, her painting of Christine Keeler: Scandal 63.  An artist of the time but out of her time.  Ignored but found, forgotten, found, forgotten, found, forgotten in the years after her unheralded heyday.

15447c8031b7d5c5789a4edd891fe27e.jpg

Scandal 63 with the artist, Pauline Boty

At times I found this a challenging read but remarkably it’s also a page turner (it really does race along in very short chapters) and, in that respect that makes it quite an achievement.  I will certainly continue to read the quartet as it emerges.

bum1966.jpg

Does my bum look big in this?  Bum by Pauline Boty.