Blakeson - Writer

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

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

"We Need To Talk About Kevin"

It seems strange to describe as “beautiful” a film which deals with such horrific themes as “We Need To Talk About Kevin”, but it’s entirely appropriate – Lynne Ramsey’s adaptation of Lionel Shriver’s novel is a great achievement. Tilda Swinton is wondrously compelling as the mother whose icy relationship with her son may or may not have had some bearing on the unfortunate events for which he is responsible. Frequently abused as she goes about her daily business, pathetically grateful for any expression of human warmth, consumed with guilt and grief, Swinton’s Eva is a remarkably vivid creation; Ezra Miller is eerily attractive as the teenage bad seed of the title (and Jasper Newell and Rocky Duer are even creepier as the gimlet-eyed younger versions), and John C. Reilly heart-breakingly hearty as his father. The story is told through fragmented images (plenty of reds, obviously), incongruous soundtrack songs (notably Buddy Holly’s “Every Day”) and sparsely contextualised flashbacks, of a kind which fill the viewer with dread, leaving us in no doubt as to the eventual direction of the story. Ramsey (whose similarly dreamlike “Morvern Callar” is a personal favourite) leaves much of the violence to the viewer’s imagination (which, of course, makes it much worse), and offers us the merest crumb of redemptive comfort at the very end. Shriver has given this adaptation her full endorsement, and rightly so – this is a masterpiece of impressionistic narrative cinema.

Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Made In Roath 2011

I made the effort to check out some of Made In Roath 2011, a festival of local arts and crafts taking place over the weekend of 14th-16th October: some busking in the Mackintosh Institute Farmers’ Market, customers’ drawings of the proprietors of the Record Shop in Inverness Place, Hannah Goudie’s “Designated Dance Area” on Albany Road, Norma Jean Finnegan’s photos of artists’ workshops in the window of the Bottle Shop on Pen-y-lan Road, an exhibition by recent Cardiff School of Art graduates in Roath Park. All very jolly, even if some of the activities detailed in the impressive brochure seemed not to materialise. Sadly, technical difficulties meant that my short, “Proverb” didn’t make it into Sunday’s (nevertheless largely diverting) Roathbud Film Festival at the Gower Pub. In sum, though, a heartening artist-led initiative, blessed by the absence of rain.

Meanwhile I’ve made another mash-up film, based on the poem “The Great Longing” by Kahlil Gibran.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

"Midnight In Paris"

I loved the new Woody Allen film, “Midnight In Paris”, but then I’m a long-standing fan, even of some of those works which have been received with little enthusiasm by critics (e.g. “Whatever Works”, “Anything Else”); although I’ve thus far avoided others (“You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger”, “Cassandra’s Dream”). This time round, the Woody surrogate is Owen Wilson as Gil, a successful screenwriter engaged to California princess Inez (Rachel McAdams), who nonetheless hankers after the artistic milieu of a golden age, and whilst on a trip to Paris, manages to travel back to the 1920s and commune with his artistic heroes (Picasso, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Bunuel, Man Ray etc.), and fall under the spell of Marion Cotillard’s discontented Adriana. It is perhaps his most filmic work in a while – there are no lazy voice-overs or direct addresses to camera, and the city, as well as the various women Gil encounters, are photographed beautifully (courtesy of cinematographers Johanne Debas and Darius Khondji). The central character is, of course, a fool – in love with France, but never bothering to learn the language; sleepwalking into marriage with a woman with whom he has little in common – but Wilson is effortlessly engaging. As usual with Allen, a host of actors shine – Michael Sheen as Inez’ intellectual old flame, Alison Pill as Zelda Fitzgerald, Corey Stoll as an intense Ernest Hemingway, Kathy Bates as Gertrude Stein, Adrien Brody brilliant in a regretfully brief turn as Dali. Of course, the plot makes no logical sense, and the messages – it’s important to live in the present, you can only find real love with someone who shares your dreams – are obvious, but it’s all delightfully done, and as witty as ever. One is heartened, if mystified, by the fact that it’s become his biggest ever box-office hit in America.

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, October 09, 2011

"Tony Blair - A Journey"

As an unrepentant and incurable Labour voter, I only got round to reading my copy of Tony Blair’s “A Journey” in the past couple of weeks. It’s a fascinating account of his life at the head of the Party which he led to three General Election victories, but will probably do nothing to endear him to those who have no desire to be charmed. The style veers wildly between the conversational and the esoteric; several words and phrases recur innumerably (“a good guy”, “smart”, “to be fair”); it’s badly in need of explanatory footnotes; and it’s inevitably self-serving (what autobiography isn’t?), and full of points-scoring against his enemies in the media and politics (although I suspect that those he most disdains simply remain unmentioned). I greatly enjoyed it, however. Those who claim that he never believed in anything will find plentiful (doubtless annoying) evidence to the contrary; anyone seeking a cringing apology for his Iraq policy will find, instead, a meticulous defence; the love-hate relationship with Gordon Brown is covered in great detail and with some poignancy. The book is most valuable, however, as an insight into the business of making life-or-death decisions involving millions of people - one is constantly reminded of J.K. Galbraith’s line about politics being “the art of choosing between the disastrous and the unpalatable”. An essential read for those interested in real-world as opposed to gesture politics.