Tag Archive: Woody Allen


THE LITTLE BOOK OF ATHEIST SPIRITUALITY by André Comte-Sponville (Penguin Books, 2007 – translated by Nancy Huston)

I chanced upon this slim volume at the excellent Judd Books in Bloomsbury (a highly recommended source for bargain books if you are ever in this part of London).

I hadn’t heard of the book previously but it proved to be an inspired and inspiring purchase. It makes the case for atheism in a concise and intelligent manner whilst maintaining a tolerance for those who believe in God or some other supreme being.

André Comte-Sponville addresses this question from an overtly philosophical perspective so it is cogently reasoned with numerous quotes about faith and belief from heavyweight thinkers like Nietzsche, Kant, Spinoza and Wittgenstein.

These are not just chosen to make the writer look smart (although he plainly is!) but to illustrate that the big questions – ‘Can We Do Without Religion? ;  ‘Does God Exist?  – are far from new and can be answered in numerous ways.

These questions are the titles of two of the three chapters in the Frenchman’s guide for the perplexed, the third seeks to respond to the query: Can There Be An Atheist Spirituality?

Needless to say, his answers to these three points are, respectively, YES, NO and YES. Continue reading

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Richard Linklater

BEFORE SUNRISE (1995), BEFORE SUNSET (2004)

+ BEFORE MIDNIGHT (2013)  directed by Richard Linklater

There’s a fundamental difference between being older and acting older. This came out strongly in Richard Linklater’s ‘Boyhood’ and is also a strong feature of the characters of Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Céline (Julie Delpy) in the director’s consistently marvelous ‘before’ trilogy.

What makes this such a mighty cinematic achievement is the absence of what I would call Hollywood moments. You know those scenes where couples break up and make up during a freak downpour or in a public place where the emotional (melo)drama is absurdly heightened.

Hawke and Delpy are so completely in their roles that there is never the sense that we are watching stars pretending to be ordinary. There is a genuine lack of artifice which makes their love story both romantic and moving without ever being cloying or sentimental. You don’t feel manipulated into taking sides. Continue reading

BLUE JASMINE directed by Woody Allen (USA, 2012)

Jasmine (Cate Blanchett) hits rock bottom.

Jasmine (Cate Blanchett) hits rock bottom.

In 1980’s Stardust Memories, the autobiographical character Woody Allen played complained “I don’t feel funny. I look around the world and all I see is human suffering”.

Despite this, he has mainly continued to make comedies which, of late, have been little more than sentimental travelogues like Midnight In Paris and To Rome His Love.

In other words, he seems to have become resigned to the idea that people go to the movies to escape the stresses and suffering of the real world.

In the cinema in London where I saw Blue Jasmine the pre-publicity included a montage of clips with the tag-line “leave reality at home”. This invitation to enjoy the guilt-free two hours of pure escapism seemed a little at odds with the censor’s straight-faced warning of “mild references to sex and suicide”. Continue reading

Mark Cousins

scenebysceneIn previous posts I have praised Mark Cousins’ epic  ‘Story of Film’ – both the book and the Channel 4 TV series.

Cousins has an encyclopedic knowledge of cinema and the gift of articulating his enthusiasm for movies.

This talent is also evident in interviews he conducted for the BBC Scotland between 1999 and 2001 in a series called Scene By Scene.

The idea, which originated at the Edinburgh Film Festival  through an interview with Sean Connery, was a simple one. Top directors and actors were shown clips from films they had made or appeared in and talk about the background to them.

Cousins is from Ulster and his Irish accent is often confused for Scots. From comments on various forums, it’s obvious that his speaking voice irritates the hell out of many. Personally, I find the sing-song quality charming but whatever you may think about how he talks, it’s hard to criticise him for the passion and preparation he puts into his work.

Television is so full of shallow chat shows or banal documentaries that tell you nothing, that it’s a pleasure to find someone who doesn’t insult or patronise the audience. Continue reading

THE ANGEL’S SHARE directed by Ken Loach (Scotland, 2012)

I’m getting a bit tired of Ken Loach movies. He’s like the Woody Allen of British cinema prolifically churning out film after film using the same production team; never worrying too much whether he is being in or out of fashion. And like Allen, his best work is behind him.

The recurring theme of his oeuvre is that a working class hero is something to be and if you want to be hero you have to follow the example of the lead character.

The problem with his latest movie is that you also have to be prepared to accept that a vicious hooligan can turn over a new leaf, become a whisky connoisseur and make enough money to start a new life. To believe this unlikely scenario it doesn’t pay to analyse the story too closely. Continue reading

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