Sexy beast! Scarlet Johansson as the alien in Under The Skin.
When I read the novel Under The Skin by Michel Faber, I found it disturbing and a little distasteful. It’s the story of a woman who fell to earth who lures hitchhikers in a remote part of Scotland to a sticky end. Forget any tales of cute extraterrestrials – this is one alien who does not come in peace. It was all a little too vivid for my taste although I’m tempted to read it again to see if I feel the same way about it now. The main motivation would be that it has now been made into a film which is currently doing the festival circuit - Telluride , Venice and Toronto. The movie gets a bad review in Variety but the critic’s closing complaint about “the thick Scottish brogues rendering large swathes of dialogue incomprehensible” make me suspect that this is not to be taken too seriously. This seems to me equivalent to bitching about the street patois of the black characters from Baltimore in HBO’s ‘The Wire’. One man’s incomprehensibility is another man’s authenticity. I give more credence to Mark Cousins whose magnificent Story of Film (book + TV series) makes him a movie expert whose opinion I respect. He has just written two Tweets which read as follows: “I think it’s years since I’ve seen a film as good as Under the Skin directed by Jonathan glazer. A masterpiece”. “S Johansson + Scotland + hidden cameras + new imagery + death music + tenderness + brutality + sex + Orphee + Glasgow = Under the Skin” Continue reading
BOYRACERS by Alan Bissett (Polygon Books, 2001)
“Like characters in a plotless novel, we race through night after night, story after story, film quote after film quote, eternity stretching out before us like an open road”.
The above quote may sound like a romantic dream, but this rambling, but entertaining, tale is set in Scotland not America so the symbolic open roads have a nasty tendency of going in ever decreasing circles or else ending up at brick walls.
The ‘boyracers’ of the title are groups of teens who race cars in industrial wastelands in the city and exemplify the speed of life which is a double-edge sword of excitement and terror. A kind of modern equivalent of the ‘chicken’ game played out in Rebel Without A Cause.
This is not the story of the racers themselves but of four young male onlookers whose beat up car named Belinda is not built for speed. The Falkirk friends are soccer mad Irn-Bru addicts in pursuit of any combination of sex, booze and rock’n’roll that they can find.
Cover to Imaginary Walls Collapse
Y’all Is Fantasy Island is not a name that rolls off the tongue easily and when this Indie band from Falkirk, Scotland split in 2010 few grieved and many, myself included, didn’t even know they existed.
I came across them while reviewing the excellent new album by Adam Stafford who was the band’s lead singer and driving force.
Stafford has his own record label Wise Blood Industries (which I like to think was named after Flannery O’Connor’s sublime novel) and if you go to the label website you will find a link to a zipped file containing the complete works of Y’all Is Fantasy Island - 55 songs and 5 albums.
The cynic in me thought that if he was now giving all these away tracks they must have been crap so I was, to coin an overused phrase, blown away by how good they are/were. An album called No Ceremony is particularly impressive.
Sure, it is derivative (what isn’t?) but they have processed their influences in a way that sounds pretty dynamic to my ears. You can tell they had fully absorbed their albums of gothic alt.country like Songs:Ohio and Will Oldham’s various incarnations of Palace together with a healthy diet of Grunge. It will cost you nothing to take a listen for yourself.
And while you’re about it you really must near the aforementioned Adam Stafford solo album called Imaginary Walls Collapse and is out now on Song, By Toad Records. Continue reading
FROST ON MY MOUSTACHE by Tim Moore (Abacus, 1999)
I don’t read that many travel books but,if Frost on my Moustache is anything to go by, this is my loss.
The young Englishman’s Bill Bryson-esque account of a two month journey to the Arctic Circle in 1997 by boat and bike begins with an over long prologue, ends in an anti-climactic manner but,in between, contains plenty of very funny descriptions of his, often less than pleasurable, experiences.
The journey from Scotland to Iceland and then to the northernmost tip of Norway follows that of Lord Dufferin; an account of which Moore discovered in a book entitled Letters From High Latitudes first published in 1856 which his Icelandic wife had given him.
Wikipedia says that this book was noted for its “irreverent style, lively pace and witty commentary” so you can understand why Moore was attracted to it and why he was prompted to write an updated version.
Having lost his job with Teletext and finding himself at a loose end, Tim Moore was looking for something to shake himself out of a rut.
Though by no stretch of the imagination can he be described as a hardy traveller, he wants a break from his idle, sedentary lifestyle : “my motivation in replicating his [Dufferin's] voyage encompassed a vague desire to achieve something notable for once”.
From the outset you are struck by Moore’s ornate, extravagant and self deprecating style. This for example, is how he describes his lack of adventurous spirit prior to undertaking this arctic trip: “it was impossible to find any residual spark of pioneering grit in the shrugging sneer that besmirched my bathroom mirror”. Continue reading