THE SYMPATHIZER by Viet Thanh Nguyen (Corsair, 2015)
Vietnam was a war that was technically won by the Viet Cong but which American are reluctant to concede to having lost. The unnamed Vietnamese Army Captain narrating this tale has sympathies with both sides but this only serves to place him between a rock and a hard place.
As a reluctant revolutionary he pleads guilty to the charge of being westernized, admitting: “If longing for riches made me a Occidentalist, I confess to it”. As a uncomitted communist he sees no attraction in the authentic “rustic realities” of village life in Saigon.
While not being blind to the faults of the US, he recognizes that there is more freedom of speech than in his homeland. This, together with air conditioning, an efficient traffic system and the modernist novel are among the other things that he admires. On the down side, he reviles the American knack for putting a positive spin on defeat and for hyping up the benefits of individualism. Continue reading
TRAINSPOTTING 2 directed by Danny Boyle (UK, 2016)
I was a big fan of the 1970s British sit com ‘Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads’ in which two buddies meet up again after drifting apart for five years.
When they reconnect, one, Bob Ferris (Rodney Bewes) is nurturing nouveau riche trappings and getting settled into a cosy, middle-class suburban niche complete with a conventional, status conscious, fiancé. Meanwhile, Terry Collier (James Bolan) remains stubbornly working class. He is back from Germany after a failed marriage and a wound sustained during military service that he prefers not to talk about.
“What became of those people we used to be”, ran the show’s theme tune and this is also the unspoken question that hangs over Danny Boyle’s sequel to the hugely successly 1996 Trainspotting movie. Continue reading
LA LA LAND directed by Damien Chazelle (USA, 2016)
Movies don’t exist in vacuums. La La Land is the ideal antidote to the ongoing carnage of Trump.
It presents a cloud cuckoo land where the American dream is alive and skipping with a populace ready to burst into song at the drop of a hat.
Here, a traffic jam on a Los Angeles freeway is an excuse for a spontaneous party.
Here is a glossy world where the chief concerns are the demise of traditional jazz and the difficulty of breaking into Hollywood.
A world in which romance is not dead, racism doesn’t exist and where gender roles are well-defined. For two hours, we can pretend that all is well with the world and can exit the auditorium gushing that they do, after all, still make ’em like they used to.
It’s a movie that forgets it is a musical half way through and remembers just in time to concoct a grande finale but, just to show its post modernist edge, denies us the satisfaction of seeing our hero and heroine dancing off into the stars hand in hand.
In short, the mega-hyped La La Land is plastic, superficial and dumb. The perfect entertainment package served up as opium for the masses. An escapist yarn with the flimsiest of plots that the critics and audiences, desperate for distraction in these desperate times, are gleefully lapping up in their droves.
Not me! I stand with the party poopers.