Blakeson - Writer

Cardiff-based film, theatre and gig reviews, cultural ramblings, whingeing, short films, etc.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

"Let Me In"

I’m lukewarm at best as regards the new-fangled teen vampires of the “Twilight”/”True Blood” variety, existing as they do in a universe where vampirism is just another nuisance rather than something rare and deathly mysterious (cf George A. Romero’s excellent “Martin”). Although I’m yet to see it, “Let The Right One In”, seemed like a welcome return to traditional values, so I was curious to see what Matt “Cloverfield” Reeves would do with the much-dreaded Hollywood remake. Very effective, I thought, the muted colours and 1980s setting (nostalgia for Reaganite certainties re “evil”) cleverly setting up the doomy tone. The performances were spot-on - Kodi Smit-McPhee heart-breaking as the lonely, bullied Owen; Chloe Moretz chillingly unreadable as the ageless 12-year-old bloodsucker; Richard Jenkins brilliantly low-key as her terminally weary helper; even Dylan Minnette as Owen’s loathsome but pitiable tormentor. Inevitably I was making comparisons with the Swedish original, based only on clips I’d seen (Kim Newman in the December 2010 Sight and Sound does a useful analysis of the differences and similarities), but the only false note for me was the use of CGI at crucial points, which immediately took one out of the naturalistic narrative and into a cartoon world. On the whole, however, were one to come at it with virgin eyes, “Let Me In” would probably be viewed as a significant achievement in cinematic creepiness.

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Friday, November 12, 2010

"Classical Women Reworked" / "The Ordinary Three" / "Tati's Hotel"

Velvet Ensemble, the female-oriented theatre company operating out of both Cardiff and London held a fund-raising performance evening at the Gwdihw café-bar, aimed at supporting their next show, a play by Bethan Marlow. Entitled “Classical Women: Reworked”, it featured famous women’s speeches from history and literature re-interpreted by contemporary writers (Marlow, Matthew Bulgo, Poppy Corbett, Stella Duffy, Shelley Silas) in conjunction with female directors (Julie Barclay, Bridget Keehan, Sarah Bickerton and Catherine Paskell), performed by an excellent array of actresses (Lucy Rivers, Ffion Williams, Christine Pritchard, Tonya Smith, Rhian Blythe). Unfortunately, from my vantage point, the first two, both from Shakespeare, were largely inaudible. Things picked up after the interval, however: although Poppy Corbett’s re-interpretation of Queen Victoria’s ruminations on widowhood seemed redundant next to the original; Stella Duffy’s response to a speech by Emmeline Pankhurst was more of an essay than a performance piece; and Shelley Silas’s take on an extract from “Saint Joan” was the tale of a girl’s conversion to Islam which seemed a tad Pollyanna-ish. Still, there was a good turn-out, and the buckets that were passed round seemed to jingle encouragingly with coinage.

The latest rehearsed reading in the current On The Edge season at Chapter was “The Ordinary Three” by new writer Lotty Morris, directed by Elise Davison, featuring Polly Kilpatrick as a woman who, in collaboration with her thuggish boyfriend – Robert Harper – and a weak, easily led young recruit, played by Tom Mumford, brutalises a young man she has taken prisoner. A pretty effective allegory about the contagion of violence under totalitarianism, excellently played, as is customary. There was an unusually high number of local playwrights in the audience, obviously engaging in industrial espionage.

I paid a visit to the set of “Tati’s Hotel”, the new children’s TV series I’ve been writing for, in a converted warehouse in Grangetown. A fascinating day, spent mostly trying to keep out of the way of cast and crew and ensure that the flash on my camera didn’t go off on the middle of a take. I managed to chat to, amongst others, veteran Welsh actor John Pierce Jones, the guest artist on that particular episode. As always on such occasions, I was impressed not only by the work-rate and professionalism of all concerned, but the intimidating range of skills (technical, artistic, people) required of the director – in this case, Delyth Thomas – of such a sizeable project.

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Thursday, November 04, 2010

"The Kids Are Alright" / "The Way Of It"

Lisa Cholodenko seems to have carved out a successful career making high-profile indie films about dysfunctional lesbians – the latest, “The Kids Are Alright” is her most satisfying to date. Starring the ingenious pairing of Annette Bening and Julianne Moore it focuses on the disruption which ensues when the couple's teenage children, Joni (Mia Wasikowska) and Laser (Josh Hutcherson), make contact with their charming, laidback sperm-father (Mark Ruffalo). Of course, had this been a Hollywood comedy, the father would have been a buttoned-up conservative played by Steve Carell, and there’d have been a sub-plot about Russian gangsters. Instead, this is a warm, sweetly funny tale about the messiness of family life, filled with excellent performances – especially from Bening in the unsympathetic, alpha female role, her subtly expressive face at the centre of the most striking moments. Highly recommended.

My R.S. Thomas show as part of the Dylan Thomas Festival in Swansea can, I think, be counted an artistic success, even if the audience was somewhat select. 36 poems, edited into a vaguely biographical sequence, it flowed pretty well, with Michael Kelligan effectively underplaying the suppressed emotion; as always, fresh resonances emerged on hearing rather than simply reading the verse. One hopes it’s an experience that will be repeated.

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