Blakeson - Writer

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

Friday, November 30, 2012

"To Kill A Machine"

It has been noted that the cavernous foyer/cafe-bar of the recently redeveloped Sherman Cymru could do double duty as an airport departure lounge. As it turned out, though, it was an excellent forum for a showcase performance of "To Kill A Machine", Catrin Fflur Huws' take on the unhappy life and death of pioneering computer scientist Alun Turing; the first offering from Scriptography Productions, a company formed by Aberystwyth's new writing community. Featuring a compelling, Aspergers-inflected performance by Gwidion Rhys as the tortured hero, the piece presents scenes from Turing's life as mathematics obsessive, WWII code-breaker and pre-legality gay man, interspersed with elements of a fantasy game-show based on the Turing Test (in which the task is to distinguish artificial from human intelligence). The cast (also consisting of Ceri Murphy, Gareth John Bale, Thomas Middler and Stephen Marzella) negotiated a fearsomely intelligent script and a busy set (dominated by a complex metallic construction - a tree of knowledge?) with great skill, cleverly marshalled by director Angharad Lee. The subject has been more than ably tackled before (most notably in Hugh Whitemore's "Breaking The Code"), and there is a conspiracy theory aspect of the plot which seems superfluous; but both play and production are highly impressive, boding well for the future of what appears to be an ambitious new company.


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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

"The Master"

Anyone who goes to see "The Master" expecting a reasoned (or indeed an unreasoned) critique of Scientology will be somewhat disappointed - indeed, since writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson owes a great deal to his friend Tom Cruise (who did excellent work in his magnificent "Magnolia"), it would be unrealistic to expect any kind of one-dimensional exposé. While Lancaster Dodd and his movement are obviously modelled on L. Ron Hubbard's life story, methods, ethos etc., the film is more of a character study - the story of the physically, spiritually, morally and psychologically broken World War II veteran Freddie Quell's journey towards redemption, and beyond. It manages to take as its theme the transformative power of love and faith, whilst being sceptical about both. Joaquin Phoenix is startlingly, hauntingly intense as the deeply damaged hero, the camera focusing intently on every tic and grimace. Philip Seymour Hoffman is equally compelling as the worldly guru Dodd, a multi-layered force of nature, with Amy Adams quietly impressive as his iron-fist-in-a-velvet-glove wife; and Jonny Greenwood's score is subtly creepy. Clocking in at nearly two and a half hours, "The Master" is sometimes an uneasy watch, but in a medium where generic narrative is the norm, it's refreshing to be wrong-footed at almost every turn. One of those films which one relishes more in the recollecting than the experiencing, it is a worthy addition to Anderson's astonishingly accomplished and idiosyncratic oeuvre.


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Sunday, November 18, 2012

"When You Are Old" by W. B. Yeats

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Thursday, November 15, 2012

"Lulu Gay" by Wallace Stevens.

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Sunday, November 11, 2012


Argo” commences with a brief documentary montage, critically outlining the history of Western involvement in Persia up until the late 1970s. From then on, however, we’re left in no doubt as to who the bad guys are. Taking place as one brutal Iranian dictatorship is replaced by another, this is the story of a handful of U.S. government employees who escape from the Embassy in Teheran (thus avoiding the 444-day hostage crisis), taking refuge with their Canadian counterparts; stony-faced C.I.A. agent Antonio Mendez hatches a clever scheme to sneak them out of the country disguised as a Hollywood film crew.

Director Ben Affleck (with the help of screenwriter Chris Terrio) does a terrific job in fashioning a gripping thriller from what is essentially an anecdote, using plenty of nervy close-ups, and degrading the image to give the film a washed-out “1970s political-thriller” look. The performances are uniformly excellent, notably from Affleck, putting himself at the centre as the hero who must convince everyone of the viability of his plan whilst privately harbouring severe doubts; as well as a host of familiar and unfamiliar character actors – Brian Cranston scores highly as Mendez’s closest ally, as does Scoot McNairy as the most sceptical would-be evacuee; and John Goodman and Alan Arkin clearly enjoy themselves as the producers of the amusingly conceptualised “Star Wars” rip-off project which provides the cover story. The nail-biting, against-the-clock climax is straight out of the screenwriters’ handbook, but that is forgivable when it’s as slickly handled as it is here.

Apparently (inevitably) liberties have been taken in respect of fact, and the outcome is never really in doubt (otherwise the implications would have been massively historic). Nevertheless, “Argo” must go down as a triumph – commercial cinema at its cleverest and most relevant.

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Sunday, November 04, 2012

Short film: "'To Fanny' - by John Keats"

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