Category: ageing


FRANCO BATTIATO + JOE PATTI’S EXPERIMENTAL GROUP : LIVE AT NUOVO TEATRO CARISPORT, CESENA 31st OCTOBER 2014

Franco Battiato at Cesena

Franco Battiato is an elder statesman of Italian popular music with a distinguished career spanning more than four decades. His standing and popularity remain high in spite of, or perhaps because of,  remaining slightly aloof from popular trends.

Many of his songs are commercial enough to appeal readily to mainstream tastes yet he always manages to be one step removed from the brash commercialism of pop or rock marketing.

This was the first time I had seen him in concert and while he has an image of being a serious even remote figure, on stage he exudes a warmth and refreshing lack of pretentiousness.

Battiato has the look of a priest although not one of the hellfire breed as he’s more likely to preach on the healing power of love than to lecture us about the sins of the flesh.

Italians call him ‘il Maestro’ (the teacher) reflecting the strong element of didacticism in songs which are steeped in the kind of mystic imagery of the kind you’d expect to find in spiritual texts. Continue reading

GIRL IN TRANSLATION by Jean Kwok (Riverhead Books, 2010)

girl-in-translationAs a compelling, at times shocking, account of a young immigrant’s life in America this book has many merits. As a convincing work of narrative fiction it leaves a lot to be desired.

The episodic nature of the novel is problematic in that the story has a disjointed quality. As the author jumps from one event to the next, the reader is left with more questions than answers.

In the opening chapter we learn that the mother of the first person narrator, Kimberley Chang, had suffered from tuberculosis in China but her state of health is something which is barely mentioned therafter.

Later on, at the age of 18, when it is clear that Kimberley (Kim) needs to obtain U.S. citizenship, she applies and studies hard for naturalization but we are never told how the actual test went. The cumulative effect of these gaps is disorientating and infuriating. Continue reading

linklater

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. Continue reading

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”. Continue reading

BOYHOOD directed by Richard Linklater (USA, 2014)

boyhood changes

"Don't grow up - it's a trap" - T-shirt slogan.
 "So be it when I shall grow old, / or let me die! /  The child is father of the man" - William Wordsworth - My Heart Leaps When I Behold (1802).

What a marvel of a movie this is!

12 years in the making, shooting for a few weeks each year, it follows the growing pains of Mason Jr from the age of 6 to 18. Over the course of 166 minutes, the movie shows this boy becoming a man through selected episodes that function in much the same way as memory does, through a gapped linear narrative.

Some reviewers have criticised Ellar Coltrane’s acting prowess which seems to me to miss the point of the project by a merry mile. To realise his role as Mason Jr, Coltrane is not required to get into character; he just needs to be himself. This means we see him as an ungainly, mumbling teenager and empathize with his discomfort as he reaches puberty. Linklater’s own daughter Lorelei plays his older sister and steals the show in the early scenes but it’s this boy’s life that takes centre stage. Continue reading

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