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Category Archives: Films

Jane Eyre Tour


It is a reasonably well known tale, orphaned child reluctantly brought up in disdain by Aunt, sent off to an ‘educational institution’ at the age on ten. Many years later the child as an adult is a teacher in the same institution, working for bed and board, wishing for something better. She secures a post of Governess at an isolated mansion for a child, where Jane for the first time has freedom, warmth from friendship, and a sense of inner contentment. When the master returns from his travels, his aggressive demeanour, their differing stations in life, her straightforwardness, fuel a tender passion. But there is a heavy secret, locked in the attic is his mad first wife. When Jane discovers the truth she runs away from the lies and the liars as well as trying to distance herself from the distress and disappointment, however something draws her back, and when she returns she finds the mansion in ruins and Mr Rochester blinded from injuries. 

Both my sister and I had seen several adaptations of this classic Charlotte Brontë story.  As this was a National Theatre production we knew it was not going to be the traditional theatrical setting, however as we took our seats the stage was set with what looked like a grown-up sized childs playground climbing frame. Slowly the auditorium began to fill but with just five minutes before curtain up, there were still more than half the seats vacant. The complete cast of 12 took up their starting positions.  Whilst the dialogue, accents and costume stayed close to the original story, the staging was contemporary and sometimes difficult to properly grasp its concept and symbolism. The introjection of music and singing sometimes felt disconnected. By the third act seeing the quiet cast move and climb up and down the various ladders and stairs without seemingly purpose, became rather annoying and children climbing in the playground.

This in no way means the performance was bad. The actors did a brilliant job of portraying the various characters, and by far the most enjoyable was a bearded gentleman who played the part of Pilot the dog, who often raised a mild laughter from the audience with his instantly recognisable dog like antics. The actor portraying the arrogant Mr Rochester brought with it a sense of distraction, of brooding resentment of how his life had been mapped out for him by his father without making him evil or wicked.

For us the thing missing from the production was the sense of a sinister secret. In everything we have seen or read there was always a sense of foreboding, of Jane being told not to go into the attic, of sounds and happenings that indicate all is not right. There was absolutely none of this at all throughout the whole performance, only twice was manic laughter heard. For us it was a significant element that was missing.

With a mixture of live music and recorded sound effects these had a tendency to drown out the dialogue of the actors, and on occasion I felt I had missed a vital piece of information that carried an element of the story. This is not unique to this production but something I have experienced at other performances at this Theatre.

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Posted by on July 20, 2017 in Books, Films, Review

 

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Amazing Grace

Amazing-Grace
I re-watched this moving film last night.  I knew very little of this period in history, other than a couple of names and recall watching the first time because it is historical, it had Ioan and Benedict in it.

It covers the period in William Wilberforce’s life where he tries to bring through parliament the Abolition of Slavery Act, during a time when many direct and indirect industries were reaping greedy amounts of riches from the backs of Africans, shipping and sugar plantations.  As humans we rarely want to think about the full consequences that bring us what we want [how many of us could really visit a slaughter house but would clamour for a good steak or sizzling bacon, how many of us think of sweat shop working conditions but begrudge paying extra for ethically traded clothing, I am as big a hypocrite on this score as anyone].

Politics and its ugliness, it most devious and scheming thwarts attempts time after time.  We meet John Newton [excellently portrayed by Albert Finney] in his monastic years, his spirit and dreams haunted by the thousand of slaves he had on his ships, and the bodies he threw overboard.  Known to the educated as the author of the hymn, he implores and encourages Wilberforce to struggle on.

Eventually he succeeded, but only be a lighty devious means.  Often when his motion was put to the house the opposition would ensure they had all their people there ready to vote.  So, a bill was introduced by another with regard the use of ‘neutral flags’, where ships often flew them to avoid being attacked and boarded by privateers.  A boring bill, a piece of nothing, but all too late did Lord Tarleton realise that by banning the use of ‘neutral flags’ the slave ships and sugar ships could not carry their cargo safely and thus a resounding victory saw the start of this country’s abolition of slave labour.

The portrayal of these men is colourful and impressive and gives insight to the period excellently, but it is the very end as the credit begin to roll that so do my tears.  It starts with a lone piper, in full dress uniform slowly marching through the amassed company playing the haunting strains of Amazing Grace, shortly the remainder of the pipers join in, as the lone piper continues his slow march.  As the piper progresses and the camera pans back you see the drummers as the begin.  Until finally the whole band is together in harmony.  The building up on the layers is goose-bumping and to my ears no piece of music is ever as ‘right’ as bagpipes and Amazing Grace.

A blight on our countries history, one of quite a few really, but we do find enlightenment eventually.

 
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Posted by on October 30, 2014 in Films, Review

 

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Magdalene Sisters

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A thoroughly mind provoking film about 3 young women whom, under socially unacceptable circumstances see themselves cast away to a Magdalene Asylum for young women in 1964. One of many such institutions all over Ireland at the time; run by the rule of God and a will of iron, the prison like regime saw young girls forced to do workhouse laundry and hard labour, never to understand their crime and never to leave, unless they decide to ‘take orders’ and become one of the nuns.

The asylum is for supposedly ‘fallen’ women, one of the three had found herself pregnant, the child taken for adoption and she ostracised by her family; a second had been seen behaving tentatively flirtatiously towards the boys hanging over the railings at the orphanage, branded as potential ‘trouble’ she was whisked off; the third a young innocent who was raped by a village boy at a wedding, he said she asked, she said she didn’t, as he was believed she was denounced as a lying whore and taken at first light.

The young girls are imprisoned indefinitely and endure agonising punishments and a long, harsh working system which leaves them physically drained and mentally damaged.  Every ounce of human identity is removed, they are uniformed day and night, drilled and marched around, no idle chit chat permitted, every opportunity to humiliate taken advantage of.

As the girls bond together, it soon becomes clear that the only way out of the Magdalene convent is to escape, but with twisted Sister Bridget running the wing, any chances seem limited.

To say I enjoyed this might sound sadistic, but the enjoyment came from the quality of acting, the script, the scening, the whole package delivered its subject extremely well.  It was informative without being documentative.

I won’t go into the rights and wrongs of this system, nor the doctorin of religion imposed, it was of its time and now thankfully no more, but I do wonder if we had such schemes today more women would be ‘in’ than ‘out’.  It is a sad piece of social history.

 
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Posted by on May 18, 2013 in Films, Review

 

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The Soloist

SoloistPoster

From the moment I first heard about this film I wanted to see it.  The film is based on the book by Steven Lopez a columnist for the Los Angeles Times about the Cellist Nathaniel Ayers, the book came about because of a series of columns wrote about Nathaniel, his life and its spirals.  There is something about a true life story that gives a film an undefined depth, but this one for me didn’t quite get there, maybe because as is often the case with such fall and rise films you wanted an ending that brought everything back together for the better – an ending with positive hope.

Lopez first finds Ayers playing beside the Beethoven statue in Pershing Square on a two stringed violin, Ayer’s schizophrenic mind zipping and darting as if on permanent fast forward but Lopez catches snippets that intrigue him as a writer, the mention of the word ‘Julliard’ the prestigious musical university.  He wonders what brought such a gifted musician to the streets of LA, homeless, broken of mind, but still enraptured in music, specifically Beethoven.

As when one human is touched by another so profoundly you want to do right by them, you want to be able to help set them straight, get them back to some kind of accepted ordinary.  Carting your life around in a shopping trolley, sleeping in doorways where the rats and detritus of the world accumulates, sitting for hours beneath an underpass playing a two stringed violin is far from the ordinary this once child prodigy deserves.

One of Lopez’s readers send him a cello for Ayers and this becomes the tool to bring Ayers out of his solitude, but the realities of life on and around skid row are harsh.  The interactions are wonderful, the scenes sometimes dramatic and disturbing, you sense the hopelessness of many folk so down on their luck that even the viewer cannot see help.  You see the results that a violent world can have on a person, and how their fear over rides everything.  It can be difficult rationalising a fear with someone of sound mind, but if you put pure fear together with an injured mind there is little that can be done.  You sense that Ayer’s does not want any association with the word schizophrenia because he will be locked up.  Ayers does not know what he wants for himself and is distrustful of everything.

If anything, for me, this film showed that how ever much you want to help and improve things for a person, they themselves may not want that.  You could see that Lopez wanted Ayers brought back to full health, receive treatment for his schizophrenia, had visions of one day Ayers being back at school, maybe touring as a cellist, in an orchestra, a world of audience adulation and acceptance, but Ayers would not want that.

It was an interesting film to watch, not exactly entertaining, not exactly inspirational, not altogether uncomfortable, but yes I would watch it again, there are nuances that I know I will pick up on second time around

 
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Posted by on April 28, 2013 in Films, Review

 

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Senna – TT 3D – Fastest

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If you’re a an fan of the motor racing world then you will find this three disc box set very interesting and somewhat enlightening.

SENNA – a documentary style film about Senna’s years in Formula until his tragic death in 1994, predominantly featuring behind the scenes home cine footage and television interview footage, enlightening insights into the politics of formula 1, the on and off track rivalry between he and Prost, the changes in cars and teams.  F1 went through a rough period in the early 1990’s, the successful season of 1992 was followed by a controversial 1993 season when the early days of electronics ad computerisation creeped in, as such technology was out of the pockets of many teams they were banned for the 1994 season.  one would think this meant returning to the 1992 cars but no, it became a year of carnage where Martin Donnelly was severely injured in a practice session for the Spanish Grand Prix, Roland Ratzenburger died while driving a qualifying lap at the San Marino Grand Prix and the next day Senna died during the race.

TT 3D CLOSER TO THE EDG – This centres on the 2010 season of this bastion of road racing.  It shows many of the riders [they look either old enough to know better or young enough to still be using stabilisers].  It does not really explain the circuit, which for a unique place is a shame.  I found the drivers talk interesting and insightful, however, it is portray Guy Martin as a slightly selfish renegade, maybe he was, maybe it was the black leather relentless sponsored attitude; all the same those eyes .  These guys are straight talking, hard riders, they know the perils and they know the dangers.  While the crashes are spectacular, there are injuries and fatalities, they do not make light of it.

FASTEST – The prime focus for this is Valentino Rossi, number 46, known as ‘The Doctor’ [give him the bike, and he will tell you what is wrong with it and how to fix it].  This baby faced uber talented rider charms those all around him, his fans range from the 80-year old Granny to the 3-year old toddler.  Listening to them as they describe the injuries that they ride with is astounding.  Rossi broke his leg and within weeks was back in the saddle and riding hard to reach a podium finish.  Watching the race footage I required a defibrillator as well as a ventilator because I was twitching and gasping as the wheels wobbled and my heart stopped as a rider high lined it off into the air.

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I said there was something about those eyes ………….

 
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Posted by on February 25, 2013 in Films, Review

 

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Telstar : Story Of Joe Meek

Telstar

I happened by happy chance to catch this on BBC2 last week, and am happy to say it is available on DVD.  What an absolutely astounding and sometimes disturbing portrayal of the man who brought us so many memorable hits [“Have I the Right,” “Just Like Eddie,” “Johnny, Remember Me” and “Telstar.”], who worked with such names as Clem Cattini, John Leyton, Gene Vincent, Chas Hodges, names you do not realise you know until the closing credit and you see what they worked on in the decades that followed.

Joe Meek was a music-infused tone deaf, (supposidly) flamboyantly gay, songwriter and producer of the 1960’s, plagued by anxiety, paranoia, depression, possibly even mild schizophrenia (you wonder if this is another ‘genius beside madness’ person), addicted to slimming pills, not for their slimming aid but because they allowed him to think outside convention, avoid sleep, and be receptive to communication from the other side.

Meek is caught by the police engaging in a sex act with an undercover police officer and the shock and shame spirals him into even more alarming behaviour, and after a brief affair with Heinz Burt whom he lavishes suits and style grows increasingly erratic and distrusting of those around him, prone to sudden bouts of anger and threatening behaviour.

When a French composer accuses Meek of plagiarism of Telstar and starts a lawsuit in 1963, it results in royalties and all revenues associated with the track being frozen until the court case is heard.  With such funds being locked, Meek’s business is thrown into cash-strapped hell, this alongside his behaviour, means fewer people will have anything to do with him.

Sadly in an episode of paranoid hysteria he shoots his landlady and then himself with a shotgun registered to Heinz Burt, who is extensively questioned by the police but is release uncharged.

Three weeks after Meek’s death, the Courts ruled in his favour regarding the ownership of the track “Telstar” releasing the revenue to his estate which he left to his assistant and quite possibly only friend, Patrick Pink.

EDIT  ::  Further reading online shows many who knew Mr Meek are/were shocked and angered by how the film portrayed him and over dramatised some of the elements of the period in his life.  There is an open letter from Patrick Pink for all to read http://launch.groups.yahoo.com/group/joemeek/message/5888

 
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Posted by on June 16, 2012 in Films, Review

 

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Revolutionary Road

RevolRoad

Set in the 1960’s American, two teenagers meet at college with eyes wide to the opportunities of the world.  We meet them again years later,married with two small children at that stage in life where you either go against convention and strive for that dream or put them away forever and become the conservative images of your parents.

Their marriage, while not in its first flush or serious trouble, is tired and strained, he has an affair with a secretary [well more of an afternoon bonk session], she the housewife, the sophisticat small town outsider that has everyone in awe.  An idea hatches that April [Kate Winslet] could earn good money working as a secretary/interpreter for the governments international agencies in Paris [France, not Texas, lol], leaving her husband Frank [Leonardo DiCaprio] bored with his monotonous sales copy position at the same firm his Dad worked at for decades, free to do what his dreamed of, whether it be paint, write or discover himself.

This possibility of adventure and reawakening of old dreams rejuvenates their emotions and passions for each other.  Neighbours and work colleagues are told of their plans, some greet them with envy or disbelief, some with cheers for their friends.  All is coming to fruition until April discovers she is pregnant, a fact she initially does not tell Frank, deciding to self-abort, a procedure that she believes is perfectly safe before 12 weeks.

Frank discovers she is pregnant and here the film changes because both are opened to see how life looks from the others eyes.  For the female 1960 university honours degree student who now looks after a family in the white picket fenced world so far removed from her dreams, slowly growing to resent the actions and blindness of her husband.  He the male provider with the responsibility to take care of, to do the job that maintains the expected life style of their status, where the folly and freedom of youth is gone too soon.

As the adventurous plans for France are moth balled, and the cracks in their marriage left unbridged, unacknowledged, the film reaches its dramatic conclusion ….. for that folks either seethe film, read the book by Richard Yates or google for a spoiler.

Enjoy is probably the wrong word … I was entertained, informed and moved by the film.  It was well cast, well scripted, no unnecessary elements, the sensitive topics were handled well considering the greatly differing perspectives between the 1960’s and modern day.  If it came on tv again, I would watch it again.

 
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Posted by on February 5, 2012 in Films, Review

 

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