Category: music


Nico: a faded femme fatale

NICO, 1988 directed by Susanna Nicchiarelli (Italy/Belgium, 2017)

Nico-1988By common consensus, the career high of Nico (Christa Päffgen b. 16th October 1938 d. 18th July 1988) came in the late 1960s as a Warhol superstar in Chelsea Girls and as the singer of three songs on the The Velvet Underground’s groundbreaking debut album.

While a conventional biopic would have centred on this heady, decadent period, Susanna Nicchiarelli chooses instead to focus on the last three years of Nico’s life. At this point, the artist’s striking looks had declined to the point that she openly conceded that she’d become “a fat junky”.

As the film shows, Nico never stopped being feisty and firey but makes no bones about the fact that the looks which brought her fame had suffered through a life of excess. She is no longer the stunning blonde model whose long list of lovers included cult celebrities like Alain Delon, Brian Jones, John Cale and Jim Morrison. Continue reading

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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. Continue reading

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”. Continue reading

‘Twin Peaks Season 3 – The Return’ directed by David Lynch

twinpIt goes without saying that David Lynch divides audiences. His surreal visions of the world and the tall tales he weaves are never going to be to everyone’s taste.

The naysayers continually complain of the absence of linear narrative in his work, or point to the wilful weirdness, the stilted dialogue and the wooden acting. Actually, a lot of the time, all these criticisms are valid but what count as weaknesses in other auteurs turn into strengths in the Lynchian universe. Continue reading

Aldous Harding live at Hana-Bi, Ravenna – August 22nd 2017

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Aldous Harding at Hana-Bi

The striking stage presence and breathtaking vocal dexterity of New Zealand’s Aldous Harding is a thrill to behold.

The assured body language and the way she makes eye contact with members of the audience is in equal measures flirty and defiant. She is warm and genial between songs but then is like a woman possessed while singing. The focus and feeling this generated gave me goosebumps.

Her one hour set,accompanied by Invisible Familiars (Jared Samuel) on keyboards, begins where the new album, Party, ends.

In her song by song guide on NPR, she talks of ‘Swell Does The Skull’ as having the same “archaic fume” that fired the gothic folk songs on her self titled debut album but the baseball cap wearing Indie Girl who graced the cover of that record has evidently grown up and moved on. Continue reading

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