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HIGH RISE directed by Ben Wheatley (UK, 2015)

high_rise_2014_film_posterIf this movie had met with universal critical acclaim or had achieved commercial success it would almost certainly have denoted its failure in artistic terms. Fortunately, therefore, it polarized the press and bombed at the box office.

J.G. Ballard’s novel (published in 1975) was meant as a morbid, provocative slice of entertainment designed to leave readers absorbed but seriously spooked. It begins arrestingly: “Later, as he sat on his balcony eating the dog, Doctor Robert Laing reflected on the unusual events that had taken place within this huge apartment building during the previous three months”.

This big screen adaptation has a similarly jarring impact since, in Ben Wheatley, we have a director whose mindset is every bit as warped as the polite but misanthropic English writer. View full article »

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The heartless horror of Mother!

MOTHER! directed by Darren Aronofsky (USA, 2017)
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Beware of films with exclamation marks in the title!

“Mother! is a movie designed to provoke fury, ecstasy, madness, and catharsis, and more than a little awe”.  This verdict is from a review in Vox that Darren Aronofsky says ‘gets it’.

It culminates in an apocalyptic finale that works on the theory that nothing succeeds like excess. It is shocking in the sense of being shockingly awful.

If Aronofsky’s goal was to get under my skin he succeeded but, while I usually gain a perverse pleasure from mindfuck or body horror movies, this one left me cold and with feelings of distaste and repulsion. View full article »

plantbasedThe UK monthly magazine ‘Cook Vegan’ is from now on to be known as ‘Plant Based’ and carries the subtitle ‘The Food Revolution’ .

In the editorial to the first issue under the new name (October 2017), assistant editor Blake Roberts writes  “Everything in this magazine is still vegan and we only want to expand and improve upon the content that you’re used to. However, we believe that if we are to make veganism more accessible for all, it is important that everybody feels part of it; under our new title we feel we can encourage even more people to embrace a plant-based lifestyle”.

In this way he seeking to reassure readers that this is a magazine that is solely focused on diet, health and recipes. It is still all about cooking, in other words.

But he also raises a more questionable point. Reading between the lines, he is suggesting that the label  ‘vegan’ is problematic in that it is automatically connected to lifestyle choices that go beyond what you keep in your fridge or serve up at mealtimes. View full article »

WALK WITH ME  directed by Max Pugh and Marc J Francis (USA, 2017)

walkwithmeThis movie shows the daily routine and rituals of monks and nuns in the secluded monastery of Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh’s Plum Village in the South West of France.

The key teaching is that, through mindfulness, we can learn to live happily in the present moment. The goal of the cinematic distribution campaign is “about turning movie theaters into meditation halls, and bringing communities together for a common goal”.

This message was lost on the woman sitting in front of me in the cinema who spent most of the time glued to her mobile phone!

The practice of mindfulness may have reached the mainstream but the number of people prepared to give up their daily distractions and possessions is still limited.  My impression is that most want a quick fix rather than a permanent lifestyle change. View full article »

ENGLAND IS MINE directed by Mark Gill (UK, 2017)

England_is_MineIn the British Indie music scene the meeting of Marr and Morrissey is comparable in importance to that of Lennon and McCartney. Nevertheless, this biopic of Steven Patrick Morrissey is not about this alliance or indeed any aspect of the music the two made together with The Smiths.

Instead, the movie seeks to piece together the details of Morrissey’s life before he became famous. It explores the surroundings and events that inspired his amazing songs and made the band so unique. The title comes from the lyrics to the song ‘Still Ill’ : “England is mine, it owes me a living, ask me why and I’ll spit in your eye”.

We see the young Morrissey as a shaggy-haired lost soul sucked into deadend jobs and living in the grey suburbs of Manchester, a city significantly drabber and less dynamic then than it is now. The early 1970s was a grim period and that’s just the way it looks.

The key relationships for Morrissey were with strong women – a platonic girlfriend named Angie, budding artist Linder Sterling and his mother. When he complains that he can’t fit in anywhere his mother wisely advises him to “Create your own world”. View full article »

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