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SLACKER directed by Richard Linklater (USA, 1991)

Two definitions from Urban Dictionary :
SLACKER – Someone who puts off doing things to the last minute, and when the last minutes comes, decides it wasn’t all that important anyways and forgets about it.

SLACKERS – a group of guys who like to hang out and do nothing.

Two typical conversations from ‘Slacker’, the movie:
Q – What’s up man?  A – Not much OR
Q – Hey, what’s going on? A – Nothing

‘Slacker’  follows the day in the life of a cast of youths in Austin, Texas who share the ability to turn idleness into an art form and who are content to spend their days “lolligagging around” or just vaguely hanging out.

One prefers to stay home rather than go out to the lake because he hates the idea of “premeditated fun”. Another can’t decide if he is remembering something that happened to him or whether he saw it on TV. View full article »

BIRTH directed by Jonathan Glazer (USA, 2004)

€3.99 in a bargain bin at Comet suggests this is either a tragically overlooked masterpiece or a bona fide turkey.

Jonathna Glazer is a director who likes to alienate audiences. He takes a mixed reception (including boos) at its Venice Film Festival premiere as a positive sign.

Universal acclaim = mainstream cop-out. Who needs the endorsement from Metacritic or Rotten Tomatoes. Roger Ebert liked it so it must have something going for it.

Either side of this, Glazer made Sexy beast and Under The Skin. If you’ve seen either of these great movies you’ll know why I grabbed the DVD. He is someone who understands that cinema works by the power of suggestion and strong imagery. Great dialogue is optional.

Birth is all plot, it’s a ‘what if’ story in which a 10-year-old boy claims to be the reincarnated husband of Anna (Nicole Kidman). The dead spouse and the boy are both called Sean. Coincidence? If so, how does this kid know so much about this woman. We’re talking intimate secrets here. View full article »

The third in a series of 13 book reviews I wrote in my pre-blogging years.

 KIPPS – The Story of a Simple Soul by H.G. Wells (1905)

kippsThe excellence of this novel is not sustained to the end. Book III (Kippses) comes as quite a disappointment with its excursion into the domestic problems of the newlyweds (Anne & Kipps). Other events like the birth of their son are merely sketched in as the story drifts towards an anti-climatic conclusion.

Books I and II are, however, quite wonderful. Firstly, the plight of Kipps as he is forced into a dead-end job and sent out into the world in a state of complete innocence are superbly described.

Wells’ touches of irony are almost always effective, for example he describes the pitifully short amount of leisure time Kipps has at the end of the day as follows: “the rest of the day was entirely at his disposal for reading, recreation and the improvement of his mind”.

The confused dreams of Kipps are very believable. He, for instance, longs to be more learned but knows nothing about books, It is another irony that at the end of the novel he acquires a bookshop.

If confusion without money is bad enough, confusion with a windfall of £1200 a year proves to be just as bad. One feels for Kipps as he struggles to learn the “manners and rules of good society” and is taken advantage of by the so-called respectable classes. View full article »

THE BOOK I READ : MOLLOY

The second in a series of 13 book reviews written in my pre-blogging years.

MOLLOY by Samuel Beckett (First published in English – translated from French – in 1955)

molloyMolloy is far from being a conventional novel. In fact, Beckett seems to mock traditional plot devices and characterisation.

He gives impressions of people and places through images rather than details. He pointedly avoids using descriptions, apparently regarding them as superfluous. Of a bicycle he writes : “I would gladly write four thousand words on it alone” but does not do so!

The novel is divided into two sections, both written in the first person singular. The first is by Molloy, the second is by Moran. Through these two characters Beckett explores the central themes of freedom, doubt and human frailty.

At first the two elderly men seem dissimilar aside from the fact that they are both world-weary. Gradually they become to seem like one of the same person with Moran as the public face of Molloy.

Moran’s comment that “As soon as two things are nearly identical, I am lost”, is therefore highly significant.

Each slowly becomes aware of their failings. They have tried trusting in others but now feel disillusioned. Molloy says “All the things you would do gladly, oh, without enthusiasm but gladly, all the things there seems to be no reason for your not doing and that you do not do! Can it be that we are not free? It might be worth looking into”. View full article »

I find writing notes on what I read can clarify my thoughts and it also helps to jog the memory on plots and characters that would otherwise be all too quickly forgotten.

I’ve just stumbled upon a notebook of short handwritten reviews written between 1983-1993 which goes to show that I was blogging even before I had the internet! Rather than simply let them gather dust again, I am turning into a short series of blog posts so this is the first of a baker’s dozen (that’s 13 for all you non-bakers out there!).

DYING, IN OTHER WORDS by Maggie Gee (Harvester Press, 1991)

This is an ambitious novel with death as the obsessive theme.

Characters are introduced and, almost without exception, killed off. Some deaths are violent, some are tragic and many are farcical. The black humour makes the point that the most savage joke of all is death itself.

Because our demise is a certainty and may come at any time Maggie Gee makes the valid observation that there is nothing at all to gain from putting off our ambitions; as she puts it: “saving life is the quickest way to die”.

The characters in the novel include dreamers, murderers and millionaires. Most have dark secrets or fears which are kept hidden so each seems remote from the other.

The biggest fear of all is that after death the person will be forgotten:“And over this death looms another; the death which might come voicelessly, senselessly [..] dying with no words”.

The author’s main influences are undoubtedly Samuel Beckett and Franz Kafka. The final section is made up of poems based on the characters in the novel and a series pf excellent short essays denouncing the 9 to 5 routine and bureaucracy with Kafkaesque accuracy.

There the first novel’s classic error of writing for effect when a simpler statement would be more forceful.

Gee has admitted that many details of the girl Moira’s life are autobiographical and said that the fragmented and, at times, incoherent structure of the novel was deliberate. As a self-consciously experimental work, it is not always successful but the author’s honesty shines through.

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