Archive for October, 2006|Monthly archive page

Black Book

Black Book

Went to a screening of ‘Zwartboek’ (Black Book) attended by the director Paul Verhoeven (Robocop, Totall Recall, Basic Instinct). It is his first film made in Holland for two decades, since he took up residence in LA.

So it is an engaging blend of European film and American movie. It combines the strong narrative drive of the former, complete with car chases and tense thriller moments, with the complex characterisation of the latter and precise sense of historical moment.

Verhoeven has that easy Dutch charm and (to my ears) irresistable accent (I think of my old friend Mirjam saying “lecker”) and speaks interestingly about gradually losing the passion in his projects, hence this return to Europe for a passion project, seemingly some 20 years in the gestation. He has applied the storytelling backbone and action forms of Hollywood to a complex political and historical subject with many shades of grey.

The lead actress, Carice van Houten, a theatre performer well known in the Netherlands, is very charismatic and accomplished. Verhoeven said he knew she had the lead role, Ellis, which demands being on screen for most scenes of a long movie, within 20 minutes of the casting session, the kind of casting he could never have done with a Hollywood name (they deem any such thing an insupportable insult). He carried on casting for a couple of days but knew he had his woman.

The emotional core of the film is subtly contained in the bedroom scenes, indeed in the bed, of Ellis, the undercover Jewish resistance member, and Muntze, the Nazi commander. A strange love develops between them which is entirely convincing. It is here that the emotional experience is focused – more than the slaughter of betrayed Jews and even the unwarranted humiliation of an innocent ‘collaborator’.

It would be good to see more European fiilms with the high entertainment values of this thoroughly enjoyable and thought-provoking work.

What’s Music for?

The Clash

 In the Observer music mag last week Jarvis Cocker of Pulp poses the question: What is music for? Before I read his answer, here’s mine:
Community and connection
Getting in touch with Nature
Energising ouselves
Communicating a vision of the world
Linking to the past
Passing on the human musical spark (which circles the world)
Capturing a feeling
Capturing an idea
Binding two people through dancing
Raising us to our higher nature
Smashing the mundane
Bringing tranquility

[Author READS article in old MAG he found at his mum's here]

Jarvis adds:
Mood
Instruction
Dancing
Communication
Atmosphere
Revolution
Comfort
Soundtrack
Advertising
His list is of what music can be for. Mine is what it is for.

So it looks like we basically agree on:
Dancing
Communication
Revolution
Comfort

Exiles

Exiles

 Went to see James Joyce’s one and only play ‘Exiles’ last night at the National Theatre (Cottosloe). Although I was not in the mood for theatre and feeling quite resistant at the outset, it proved to be very engaging. It’s also very illuminating if you’re interested in ‘Ulysses’. Now, I’m a ‘Ulysses’ lover rather than a Joyce fan, it’s my favourite book in the world. The themes of betrayal in marriage, freedom in love, writer’s complex relationships with their lovers, even Ireland’s future in Europe, are all common to both works. And the closing lines from the mouth of the key female protagonist reflecting on the blooming of love in youth link the two works.

The role of Robert Hand, the journalist counter-part to the literary writer, was played really well by our old friend Adie Dunbar. We hooked up with him after the performance in the green room. Crossed an actor from Theatre de Complicite going in. Had a chat with Peter McDonald who played Richard Rowan and a brief brush with Dervla Kirwan (of Ballykissangel) who was Bertha, the Molly Bloom-related character.

Adie was shagged from two performances in the day so drove him home, listening to his first LP (with his band the Jonahs) entitled ‘Two Brothers’ – he’s also a fine singer, having performed, for example, with Brian Kennedy, and memorably at Sherry Scott and John Keegan’s wedding (Wild Mountain Thyme). The soft, swirling celtic country vibe provided a fine soundtrack to nocturnal London on a lively Saturday.

Death of a President

Death of a President (More4)

 

Went to a screening a few days before its premiere on More4 of ‘Death of a President’, the new FilmFour/More4 production which has caused so much fuss in the good ol’ US of A. Peter Dale, head of More 4, attended along with the commissioner, Liza Marshall.

It’s an original and imaginative way to explore current affairs and the political landscape in the US and beyond. Set just into the future, President Bush gets assasinated on 17th October 2006, it charts the build up a la JFK with a pretty sympathetic portrait of George W highlighting his affability and charm. Then in the wake of a grassy knoll-type shooting outside a hotel in Chicago, it shows the US domestic fall-out of the assasination, drama-doc style with excellent performances by US theatrical actors as forensic scientists, suspects, presidential aids, etc.

It has the genuine emotion in it essential to engaging drama – you don’t feel good watching Bush’s wife going in to the hospital or seeing him on the operating table, and you believe the welling eyes of his speech-writer. Less believable is the botched FBI investigation where a prime suspect is overlooked in the hysterical pressure of having to tie-up the case quickly. The interweaving of news footage, security footage, familiar TV documentary forms and recreations of all of the above is masterful, from the team who brought The Day Britain Stopped to BBC TV.

The film highlights the dangers of the Patriot Act route and the seething resentment growing around Iraq. What’s best about it is that it represents a bold new way of exploring politics, history and current affairs using imagination, speculation and entertainment. I said to Peter at the end that we should be proud that the questions have been asked from this side of the water by a daring, creative Public Service broadcaster. It would never come out of the good ol’ US of A.

Dance like a Monkey

johnny cash 2

Just watched the New York Dolls performing live on Jonathan Ross’s show – David Johansen has become an Elder Statesman of punk, got that white shoe cool about him. They were a huge influence via Malcolm McLaren but I came straight into the English mainstream of punk with The Buzzcocks and The Clash, only circling back to NYC through Patti Smith and a brush with Richard Hell and the Voidoids.

Now I’m sitting here watching a documentary about Mose Allison with Van, Georgie Fame, Pete Townsend and Elvis Costello. Never saw the roots of My Generation in the blues til Pete demonstrated the Mose influence.

And earlier I was watching Walk the Line with U and, after the delight of Folsom Prison Blues, revelled in the conjunction of Johnny Cash, Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis and that whole Memphis holy rock’n’roll vibe.

There’s a physics thing about music I really love, the transmission of energy from generation to generation, place to place, Groove’s Law, a biology thing, the evolution of the beat, dance like a monkey, soar like an angel.

 

***********************************************************************

When I was just a baby

My Mama told me: “Son,

Always be a good boy,

Don’t ever play with guns.”

But I shot a man in Reno

Just to watch him die.

When I hear that whistle blowin’

I hang my head and cry.

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