Category: gender


YOUTH directed by Paolo Sorrentino (Italy, 2015)

1youth3“Youth is wasted on the young”, quipped Oscar Wilde, or was is George Bernard Shaw?

Whoever made this observation, knew something of the poignancy and sadness of growing old.

All Paolo Sorrentino’s films to date have featured elderly characters struggling to come to terms with the realisation that the best years of their lives are almost certainly behind them. Youth , despite its title, is no exception.Paradoxically, it is more about facing up to the inevitability of dying than the carefree pleasures of our ‘salad days’.

At its heart is the friendship between a retired composer Fred Ballinger (Michael Caine) and Mick Boyle (Harvey Keitel) a film director who believes that he still has at least one great film in him. Continue reading

GIRL IN A BAND – A MEMOIR by Kim Gordon (Day Street Books, 2015)

The somewhat reductive title is surely intended to be ironic since Kim Gordon’s autobiography is most certainly far than that of just another  ‘girl in a band’.

This is evidenced by the fact that the postscript defines her as an “artist, musician, producer, fashion designer, writer and actress”. Not only that but she is even a little dismissive of her musical prowess : “I’ve never thought of myself as a singer with a good voice or even as a musician”, she reveals.

Most of the time her desire to be a name in contemporary art world seems more important than being a rock star.

Despite this, Gordon is best known as founder member of post No Wave , pre-Grunge and super cool experimental rockers, Sonic Youth. This is a band who, she writes,“could only have come out of New York’s bohemian downtown art scene and the people in it”.

But anyone seeking a straight bio of the band will be disappointed by her non linear recollections. What dominates the plot is her relationship and marriage to Thurston Moore, the rise and fall of which parallels that of the band they founded together. The first chapter is entitled ‘The End’ and refers both to Sonic Youth’s final concert and the messy marital breakdown. Continue reading

viv_albertineCLOTHES, CLOTHES, CLOTHES. MUSIC, MUSIC, MUSIC. BOYS, BOYS, BOYS by Viv Albertine (Faber & Faber, 2014)

I started this autobiography expecting a fun but frivolous account of the punk era. It is all that and more.

Viv Albertine was at the heart of the heady period in the late 1970s when the British establishment were running scared. The Slits were one of the many bands that were inspired by the so-called ‘filfth and fury’ of The Sex Pistols; four feisty females who were not about to let a lack of musical expertise hold them back.

Albertine was the guitarist in that band’s early years. I regret to say that I never did see them play live but I treasure the memory of first hearing them on a John Peel session – four tracks recorded in September 1977 that captured their ramshackle brilliance.

The book contains plenty of fascinating insights into the ordinary world that preceded and followed the extraordinary explosion of rebel yells. Continue reading

THE NARROW ROAD TO THE DEEP NORTH by Richard Flanagan (Chatto & Windus, 2014)

Richard Flanagan’s brilliant Booker prize-winning novel is a big book in every sense.

On one level it is an account of the horrors surrounding the construction of the Burma railway line near the end of the second world war. At the same time, it documents an ill-fated romance between a successful surgeon, Dorrigo Evans, and his Uncle’s young wife, Amy. Yet to describe this book as a historical romance would be well wide of the mark.

The Tasmanian author spent 12 years working on a novel he was clearly born to write. It is dedicated to his father who died the day it was completed. Continue reading

PRIDE directed by Matthew Warchus (UK, 2014)

pride-poster Although I was living in London in the 1980s, the time this movie was set, I confess to ignorance about the unlikely coalition between a small mining community in Wales and the left-leaning activists of the Lesbians And Gays Support The Miners (LGSM) operating from the Gay’s The Word bookshop in Bloomsbury.

I take comfort in the fact that Bill Nighy, one of the excellent ensemble cast of this movie, admits he didn’t know about this either until he was sent the script.

Perhaps this is not so strange given that the tabloids were only interested in shock-horror put-downs of “homos and “perverts” while the broadsheets seemed to have all but ignored the story. Continue reading

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