Cold War: Movie Review.


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The first thing to state about this beautiful movie is that it’s monochrome.  So stunningly so that at times you feel you are in a photographic gallery rather than a cinema.  The quality of the cinematography is quite extraordinary thanks to Lucas Zal.

It’s also in 4:3 format.  Not the square format of Instagram, but close.

We don’t see 4:3 very often these days but Wes Anderson used it to immense effect in Grand Budapest Hotel and so did Lazslo Melis in Son of Saul.

It’s an engaging format that draws you in.  It suggests a time before cinemascope (16:9 etc) and only really works in period cinema of a time.

This time.

But it also lends itself to incredible framing, such as when our female protagonist floats down a river gradually disappearing out of shot, and later in the movie when the chief protagonists leave a bus and walk out of frame in a composition that Henri Cartier Breson would be proud of.

It’s one of the most beautiful movies I’ve seen in many years.

In truth that’s probably its biggest strength.

It is, but it isn’t really, narrative driven.  More episodic than story, but it does tell a tale about director Pawel Pawlikowski’s parents’ love affair set against the Cold War backdrop in his native Poland.

It’s fairly sordid in a way (his mother was abused by her father as a child) but without anything shocking to see.

Imagine, yes.

The two leads ( Joanna Kulig and Tomasz Kot) are magnificent.  Brooding, beautiful (although unconventionally so) and real.

Lucas Zal has a great time dwelling on three particular things.  Crowd shots.  Amazing, Dance sequences. Amazing.  Joanna Kulig (the lead).  Amazing.

In particular, Joanna Kulig has a stand out performance.  She’s not one to show her enjoyment in life.  Sullen most would say.  But it is an immense performance.

It’s a love story, set against the challenges that Cold War Poland put in front of people of artistic belief where communist doctrine made creativity very difficult.

What Pawel Pawlikowski achieves is a mood piece of exemplary, peerless really, detail.

And it’s a musical.

I was constantly drawn to comparing it to La La Land, yet it is so NOT La La Land.  Partly it’s down to Kulig who shares the unorthodox looks (beauty) of Emma Stone.  Partly it’s the framing of scenes by Zal.

And the music fuses from Polish country folk to French basement jazz (which La La Land would have been so comfortable with).

This is an Oscar nomination shoe in.  It’s absolutely brilliant.

And, at 88 minutes, certainly does not outstay its welcome.

Bravo!

A Straight 10 from me.

 

 

 

Possibly the worst Mercury Prize Shortlist ever…


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Unbelievably mainstream.  Some genuinely rubbish records on it (Florence and the Machine).  Entirely lacking in class.

My vote is for Arctic Monkeys but the best act on the list is Nadine Shah.

  • Arctic Monkeys
  • Everything Everything
  • Richard Russell
  • Florence and the Machine
  • Jorja Smith
  • King Krule
  • Lily Allen
  • Nadine Shah
  • Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds
  • Novelist
  • Sons of Kemet
  • Wolf Alice

No Young Fathers?  Fuck off.

No Jon Hopkins?  Fuck off.

No Gogo Penguin?  Fuck off.

Anna Meredith Opens the Proms tonight.


I first fell in love with Anna Meredith when she supported Anna Calvi at the, now defunct, The Caves in Glasgow.  It was a bonkers performance and I adored it.  I bought her SAY award winning Varmints soon after and saw her live at Leith Theatre last year opening Hidden Doors Festival.  The best gig I saw in 2017.

My appreciation of her was actually behind the curve because she had already established herself as a highly regarded composer in modern classical circles and that is one of the reasons she will open The Proms tonight and the Edinburgh Festival in August with a commissioned piece about WWI called 5 Telegrams.

Even though I consider myself a big fan nothing, NOTHING, could prepare me for this.  This awesome, really nothing short of awesome, performance in the Tiny Desk Concerts series.  I thought Penguin Cafe had kicked it out of the park a couple of years ago in this series but this kicks it out of the park next door too.

Sit back, relax and enjoy Nautilus (surely the greatest piece of music ever written for the tuba), Ribbons (she even sings, who knew?) and The Vapours.

19 minutes and 4 seconds of utter bliss.  Thank you Anna.

Three. Is the magic number. Calling all you Intelligent Finance [sic] customers out there.


Is Intelligent Finance the dumbest bank in the world?
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0845 xxx xxxx. Intelligent Finance’s Home Page and Security Page contact number.

This morning I thought “It’s champagne time – Intelligent Finance [sic] have, after 3 years of constantly asking them, updated their customer phone number”.
But no, only on 2 of their 3 customer facing pages.
The one when you are actually looking at your account is STILL WRONG.
They’re still Dullard Finance.
Incompetence beyond comprehension frankly.
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0345 xxx xxxx.  Intelligent Finance’s Accounts Page, where you can see your balance etc and might decide you need to call them to query something – by now you are through security and, of course, failed to write down the correct phone number while you were there on the assumption that the number would be correct throughout the site.  But, you know when happens when you assume.  Yes,  U make and ASS out of ME

 So, as I entitled this elegant thought-piece, Three. Is the magic number.  As I will leave De la Soul to prove.

American Honey: Movie review


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Andrea Arnold’s debut movie, Red Road, is a shocking social documentary style movie that is breathtaking in its boldness and unflinching in its depiction of a Glasgow underclass that most of us do not know.  American Honey does a similar job of depicting an American class that’s seldom caught on screen and was cast mainly from the street.

It too is pretty unflinching in its depiction of drug taking, young sex and the unwinding of an American dream; of sorts.

It’s a road movie that follows the fortunes of 18 year old abused runaway, Star, and her relationship with a group of young magazine salespeople touring the country looking for door to door sales in a variety of American housing schemes (both rich and poor).

It leads to an episodic series of events that range from amusing to totally horrific.

Arnold’s style is uncompromising.  It, like Grand Budapest Hotel, is shot in square (Instagram) format which gives it a certain contemporaneity and the photography, that is mainly cinema verite, occasionally bursts into beautiful, glorious, rich warmth such that it takes your breath away.

It’s a compelling performance by Sasha Lane as Star and Shia LaBeouf also impresses as her mentor and, later, lover.  Riley Keogh is also excellent as the aloof, slightly terrifying team leader who lives a separate life of relative luxury while her band of stoner sales people rough it in hostels.

But it’s an uncomfortable ride that rewards your patience.

Glasto Lite.


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Having  been unable to get tickets for Glastonbury for a few years now I am about to experience the Catalonian equivalent with a cheeky wee trip to Barcelona for Primavera Sound.

Top of my list of, and possible, just about, ‘to see’ are…

  • Solange
  • Bon Iver
  • Kate Tempest
  • Aphex Twin
  • King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard
  • Sinkane
  • Magnetic Fields (Playing the ED Fest in August)
  • Arab Strap
  • the xx
  • Sleaford Mods
  • Jamie XX
  • Songhoy Blues
  • Van Morrison
  • Metronomy
  • Teenage Fanclub
  • Grace Jones
  • Arcade Fire
  • Wild Beasts
  • Japandroids

Of these my number one pick is King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard.  Check out Gamma Knife, their best song.  They have many best songs.

Recent Listening: Penguin Cafe, The Imperfect Sea.


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Not to be confused with The Penguin Cafe Orchestra that disbanded upon the untimely death of its leader Simon Jeffes in 2007, the Penguin Cafe is actually a different band, although it includes some of the previous members and is led by Simon Jeffes’ son, Arthur.

Live, The Penguin Cafe play many of The Penguin Cafe Orchestra’s favourite pieces and it has been my privilege to enjoy them live twice (Usher Hall, Edinburgh and Glastonbury) but they record in their own right and The Imperfect Sea is their third, and best, album.

I read that Arthur was concerned that this latest recording was taking them to new places and ran the risk of disaffecting long term PCO fans.  I can reassure you Arthur that you have done no such thing.

It’s a bobbydazzler.  It really is.

It’s far from imperfect.

The sound, as my good friend and long term PCO aficionado, Jon Stevenson, said to me the other day lacks some of the humour of the PCO and he is right. The Penguin Cafe are a more serious bunch of musicians and their output is perhaps more orchestral than the PCO which was more folky in totality, but this matters not a jot when the quality is so high.

I’ve listened to The Imperfect Sea 5 or 6 times in the last few days and there is nary an off note.  Sure, the first time I listened I was riding my bike and the constant ‘ping’ of cycle bell on Cantorum was a mite discombobulating, but it’s endearing also and hearkens back towards the PCO’s playfulness.  (It has a small debt to pay to the mighty Telephone and Rubber Band).

Ricecar, the opener, is a classic of sequenced music and is certainly of the PCO school.

Overall this is a mighty addition to the PC/PCO canon.