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Richard Linklater

BEFORE SUNRISE (1995), BEFORE SUNSET (2004)

+ BEFORE MIDNIGHT (2013)  directed by Richard Linklater

There’s a fundamental difference between being older and acting older. This came out strongly in Richard Linklater’s ‘Boyhood’ and is also a strong feature of the characters of Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Céline (Julie Delpy) in the director’s consistently marvelous ‘before’ trilogy.

What makes this such a mighty cinematic achievement is the absence of what I would call Hollywood moments. You know those scenes where couples break up and make up during a freak downpour or in a public place where the emotional (melo)drama is absurdly heightened.

Hawke and Delpy are so completely in their roles that there is never the sense that we are watching stars pretending to be ordinary. There is a genuine lack of artifice which makes their love story both romantic and moving without ever being cloying or sentimental. You don’t feel manipulated into taking sides. View full article »

The sixth in a series of 13 book reviews from my pre-blogging years. 

WORKING-CLASS CHILDHOOD. AN ORAL HISTORY by Jeremy Seabrook (1982)

When I was young, the children ran around barefoot. Now it’s their hearts that are bare”. This quote is that of an old man from Sheffield and establishes the main theme of this book.

Drawn from a wide variety of sources, Jeremy Seabrook explores the changes in society between the 1930s and 1970s mainly from the perspective of children, though mostly taken from the memories of older interviewees..

The hard, often cruel, upbringing in the pre war years prepared kids for the harsh world of adulthood. Discipline was strong and communities close-knit as people faced up to the common threat of poverty.

Seabrook highlights the way the increasing dependence on material wellbeing has brought many benefits but has  fundamental drawbacks; he writes: “All the talk of change turns out to be changing people so that they fit the modified needs of cold economic processes; the only revolution turns out to be the revolution of the fixed wheel”. View full article »

The fifth in a series of 13 book reviews from my pre-blogging years.

STEPPENWOLF by Hermann Hesse (1927)

steppenwolf The Steppenwolf of the title is Henry Holler, a tired intellectual living a solitary life in an attic flat in a cosy bourgeois home. He is 50 years old and weary of life to the point of contemplating suicide. The nephew of his landlady observes that “the root of his pessimism was not world contempt but self contempt”.

Holler thinks of himself as a kind of Jekyll & Hyde figure with the wolf in him representing the pleasures of the flesh. Despite his book learning he finds no enjoyment in the spiritual life and finds himself  “outside all social circles, beloved by none”.

In this desperate state he meets Hermine who is a member of a Magic Theatre advertised as being ‘For Madmen Only’. She teaches Holler to laugh, dance and enjoy sex without guilt.

Above all, she despises his patronizing attitude to those he regards as uneducated:  “You learned people and artists have, no doubt, all sorts of  superior things in your heads, but you’re human beings like the rest of us, and we too have our dreams and fancies”.

Through Pablo, who plays in the theatre company’s band, Holler learns that music is not something to be felt with the heart not something to analyse or philosophise over.

The moral of Hesse’s novel can be summed up by the criticism of what he calls the “never-ceasing machinery” of everyday life which can prevent people from being “the critics of their own lives and from recognizing the stupidity and shallowness, the hopeless tragedy and waste of the lives they lead”.

What he advocates as an alternative is to “learn what is to be taken seriously and laugh at the rest”.  

I second that emotion.

THE BOOK I READ : LOLITA

The fourth in a series of 13 book reviews from my pre-blogging years.

LOLITA by Vladimir Nabokov (1955)
lolita-book-cover

Lolita continues to draw its share of critics because it deals with a sexual relationship between a middle-aged man and a 12-year-old ‘nymphet’ without taking then easy option of moralising or sensationalising the story.

The novel examines the desires of the lonely and slightly pathetic Humbert Humbert but pointedly refuses to present him as a pervert or a monster.

Nabokov’s neutral tone is what exasperates and antagonizes those looking for any excuse to label the novel as depraved and obscene.

The Russian born author also writes so brilliantly that the story is vivid, believable and disturbing. He doesn’t need to write lurid sex scenes to convey the true nature of the man’s fatal attraction to the young girl. View full article »

CRUISING WITH AL PACINO

CRUISING directed by William Friedkin (USA, 1980)

"Take your hand off my breast!"

“Take your hand off my breast!”

Officer Steve Burns (Al Pacino) is selected for a high-risk undercover operation in New York gay clubs where a knife wielding serial killer is on the loose targeting homosexuals.

Burns is chosen because he physically resembles the victims and he accepts the mission as a fast-track route to promotion.

What is never clear is how Officer Burns is meant to ID the killer. There is no indication that he has any cunning plan. This is worrying since most of the leather-clad clubbers give him death stares and any one could be a prime suspect.

William ‘The Exorcist’ Friedkin’s direction is lazy and the plot so full of holes that any semblance of realism is soon compromised. The movie uses the gay bar scene as an exotic backdrop to add a voyeuristic element to an unconvincing drama. There are jock straps and blow/hand jobs aplenty with no signs that safe sex is an issue. A post-AIDS version would have been very different. View full article »

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