INTIMACY directed by Patrice Chéreau (UK, 2001)
Sex in movies or music videos is mostly more concerned with titillation than realism while in porn its primary function is stimulation.
The makers of Intimacy, based on a short story by Hanif Kureishi, adopt a less glossy and therefore more adult perspective.
In the movie, scenes of coupling are explicit, including un-simulated fellatio. Little is left to the imagination but, equally, nothing is particularly arousing.
On the contrary, the sex act is reduced to the level of a basic human need (like eating and sleeping but more energetic).
This is fucking not lovemaking and seems more akin to an act of penance than passion. Once the desire is satiated, words are unnecessary and the two go their separate ways arranging only to meet again the same day (Wednesday) the next week. Continue reading
Not surprisingly, the creators of the National Youth Theatre’s cancelled production of Homegrown smell a rat.
The official explanation given by the London-based company is that the play was not ready and would have failed the meet the theatre group’s high standards. The fact that neither director Nadia Latif nor playwright Omar El-Khairy were given prior notice of this decision means that this seems more a case of censorship than quality control. Continue reading
BIRDMAN (OR ‘THE UNEXPECTED VIRTUE OF IGNORANCE’) directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu (USA, 2014)
From the stylish opening credits and free-jazz drumming of Antonio Sanchez’s unorthodox soundtrack, this is a movie that is keen to make an immediate impression.
It is the kind of derring-do which could so easily have backfired and then been dismissed as nothing more than brash arty-fartiness. Yet Birdman postively revels in its showiness and having a excellent supporting cast, that includes Naomi Watts and Edward Norton in prime form, means that all the risks are calculated ones.
The story revolves around Michael Keaton as Riggan Thomson, one time celluloid superhero who now feels all too human as he approaches the third age. By adapting a Raymond Carver story for a Broadway show he wants revitalise his flagging career and, in the process, demonstrate that 60 is the new 30. Continue reading
The fifth in a series of 13 book reviews from my pre-blogging years.
STEPPENWOLF by Hermann Hesse (1927)
The Steppenwolf of the title is Henry Holler, a tired intellectual living a solitary life in an attic flat in a cosy bourgeois home. He is 50 years old and weary of life to the point of contemplating suicide. The nephew of his landlady observes that “the root of his pessimism was not world contempt but self contempt”.
Holler thinks of himself as a kind of Jekyll & Hyde figure with the wolf in him representing the pleasures of the flesh. Despite his book learning he finds no enjoyment in the spiritual life and finds himself “outside all social circles, beloved by none”.
In this desperate state he meets Hermine who is a member of a Magic Theatre advertised as being ‘For Madmen Only’. She teaches Holler to laugh, dance and enjoy sex without guilt.
Above all, she despises his patronizing attitude to those he regards as uneducated: “You learned people and artists have, no doubt, all sorts of superior things in your heads, but you’re human beings like the rest of us, and we too have our dreams and fancies”.
Through Pablo, who plays in the theatre company’s band, Holler learns that music is not something to be felt with the heart not something to analyse or philosophise over.
The moral of Hesse’s novel can be summed up by the criticism of what he calls the “never-ceasing machinery” of everyday life which can prevent people from being “the critics of their own lives and from recognizing the stupidity and shallowness, the hopeless tragedy and waste of the lives they lead”.
What he advocates as an alternative is to “learn what is to be taken seriously and laugh at the rest”.
I second that emotion.
ARCHIPELAGO directed by Joanna Hogg (UK, 2010)
In the age of digital cinema and crowd pleasing blockbusters, social realism has largely gone out of fashion.
Top grossing movies are often those with the most elaborate special effects. while modest, people-centred dramas or comedies tend to rattle along at such a rapid pace as though directors are worried that if viewers are given time to draw breath they’ll realise how superficial these ‘entertainment’ packages really are.
Thankfully, there are still filmmakers out there who focus on stories with genuine substance and depth. Joanna Hogg is one of them.
Archipelago is a slow-moving, at times static, film that many could lose patience with but which stands as a welcome antidote to the contrived story-lines and stereotypical characters you find in so many so-called ‘serious’ dramas. Continue reading