Blakeson - Writer

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

Friday, January 22, 2016

"Room" / "Play" & "Silence

Emma Donoghue's “Room” is one of the most accomplished popular novels of recent years. The story of a young woman struggling to survive an abusive abduction scenario along with the son to whom she has given birth whilst in captivity, its effectiveness comes from the skill with which she conveys the surreal fact that the small room in which they are enclosed is the only universe the child, Jack, can comprehend.

Had it focussed on the bare bones of the plot, Lenny Abrahamson's cinematic adaptation could have been a TV-movie of the week cliché-fest. Imaginative camerawork, a subtle score (by Stephen Rennicks) and wonderful central performances from Brie Larson and young Jacob Tremblay, however, ensure that the clammy reality of their shared plight is rendered with dreamlike intensity. The integrity of the narrative has been maintained by having Donoghue write the screenplay herself; therefore the story continues past the point at which a more conventional Hollywood movie might conclude, and after the heart-stopping climax, one kind of tension is replaced by another.

Ultimately “Room” is a hymn to motherhood, but it is unrelentingly unsentimental and utterly deserving of all the plaudits it is receiving.

Victoria John in "Play" (Pallasca Photography)

My first theatre reviewing assignment of the year was the opening presentation in the new season from Cardiff’s The Other Room – a double bill comprising Samuel Beckett’s “Play” (the one with the people in jars) and Harold Pinter’s “Silence”; both involving three people reflecting poetically on past, unhappy relationships. A short but intense evening’s entertainment.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Friday, January 15, 2016

"The Hateful Eight" / David Bowie

Quentin Tarantino’s latest, “The Hateful Eight” has a classic Western plot – a fugitive who must be brought to justice, and those who aim to stop this. Inevitably, though, he puts a twist on this, since the villain is played with remarkable intensity by Jennifer Jason Leigh (deservedly Oscar-nominated), and the story is overlain by a post-Civil War race theme, involving the magisterial Samuel L. Jackson. There is much talk before the inevitable, extravagant bloodletting, but it is ripely fascinating, enabling us to become fully acquainted with the characters, such that the violence has some meaning; it’s almost like a Tennessee Williams play. The cinematography (also nominated) is excellent, with especially lush snowy vistas. It’s hardly a pleasant watch (and the built-in intermission is welcome), but Tarantino once more shows himself to be a master of his craft, if a somewhat cruel one.

In common with everyone who has the slightest interest in pop music, I was profoundly shaken when I heard of the passing of David Bowie, possibly the last public figure whose death will impact so widely and so deeply. I never got to see him live, and I only ever actually bought a handful of his albums, but it only takes a glance at the miraculous track-listing on any of his singles compilations to see the remarkable contribution he made. Through the blanket, adulatory media coverage, doubtless many young people will now be truly discovering his work for the first time; I humbly recommend “Hunky Dory”, one of the finest albums ever made.

Labels: , , , ,