Monday, May 31, 2004

togue [ariadone/spina] - togue is a bizarre and fascinating hybrid of forms, joining choreographer Carlotta Ikeda's all woman butoh company Ariadone with the French Spina, who are described as an industrial rock band. the performance took place at Glasgow's tramway, one of two nights at this venue.

the performance starts with the lights going down, so that we are all plunged into darkness. Spina start playing a heavy guitar piece, lights going up to reveal a section of the stage - a raised section, on which the three members of the band are playing at the back of the space. in front of them it appears there is some kind of net curtain, creating a diaphanous haze through which the band appear to be fuzzy silhouettes.

as the band play, we can make lighter coloured objects on the floor, patches where there is clear something there to relieve some of the darkness. as spina reach the end of their first number with some cacophonic climax, they are plunged into darkness, and instead 5 women are revealed crouched in a diagonal line that cuts across the ground. each wears a jaw length wig of stringy red hair, their bodies consumed by over sized and elaborately decorated robes - orange material, with various embroidered designs.

between the hair and the white face paint, along with the expressions of the women, there is a moment where their slow motion movements almost have me convinced that they are automations - toy women, going through painfully programmed sequences. with this section there is more of a sound track, atmospheric music, which compliments this introduction to the dancers. dancers who gradually rise and make their motions around the stage. this is the point where they are probably most blatantly butoh, everything deeply considered. this is also where the first sense of the pieces darkness comes in, the sudden gasps of fear, the wide eyed horror. heads are thrown back, arms raised, huge shuffling cloaks make advances, zombie style.

these undead make their way once more, writhing to the floor, where upon they fight their way out of the restricting robes. now mostly naked, they take on a more feral aspect, shuffling around the room on all fours, growling when they encounter each other, or simulating sexual encounters. the climax of this section is reached as each of them retrieve their robes, while retaining the more animalistic personalities - leading to at least one clash over territory. retreating from the stage, we are returned to darkness and the sound of running water.

a light flicks on, revealing the guitarist standing a few feet from the front row of the audience. as he starts playing, the singer steps out from stage right. as the two of them perform a light goes on at the back of the stage, where the raised wall the band were on earlier is, here we can see an older woman, who is presumably Carlotta Ikeda. she dances her way forward, keeping in with the music. this is a more straight forward piece, which presumably gives some time the other dancers to take a breather, and change costumes.

with the end of that section we are stripped back down to the sound of running water, before the girls erupt once more on stage. still scantily clad in ephemeral Basques, running and shouting, gesticulating in an expression of anger and disdain at the audience - maenads now. once more this scene is climaxed with a sense of horror and retreat, which leads to another piece with ikeda herself. this time the lights reveal the singer at the front of the stage, while behind him a large object has been placed, perhaps the thorn to which togue translates? ikeda, this time in a shoulderless dress, as opposed to the black trousers and blouse she wears in her other appearances, works off the thorn, while spina play.

the next section is perhaps where the most humour comes in. with another costume change the girls return to the stage one at a time, simulating some kind of bizarre children's television programme. the first hops in, bouncing up and down, each after that making her own move till the 5 are lined up in a shuffling line. this time they have black hoods, instead of red wigs, coming up over their heads to leave the white faces exposed. while their bodies are crouched down inside what look like large, grey, rubber, mail sacks. on their hands they wear oversized gloves, similar socks complete the impression that these are funny little creatures. from the back right hand corner, they shuffle along the back of the stage and then forward, till they are in a line facing the audience. all the way the five have an assigned expression, which gives them a definite emotion, as they work their way about the stage, the take a rippling progression along the line where each turns and pouts, looks bemused, or laughs at the audience. reaching a peak where they are lined up in front of the first row of seats. here like before they address the audience, but this time instead of furious arm movements, it is all facial, mouthing off at the audience in exaggerated forms in time with the musical shifts. as with each of the previous pieces there is a conclusion of cartoon horror, these little creatures fighting to protect each other, gasping confirmation that there is something at the back of the audience which is a threat. retreating they open a door way in the base on the back wall, while the band plays on top.

the final scenes see the girls return with the red wigs once more, this time each wearing a cut off pink swim suit styled costume. here there are some more slow motion butoh manoeuvres, before the singer steps his way into their midst. they move around him, at this point giving the most emphasis to the idea that we could all be sitting on the set of some elaborate pop video being filmed - a singer surrounded by dancers while the band plays their latest single. in stealthy steps ikeda passes behind all this, untouched and uninvolved. with the singers return to the top of the coppered wall at the back of the stage we approach the end game, the ultimate expression of the terror which seems to have been a theme of the performance. mixing in with more innocent dance, till the girls become convinced once more that there is something bad out there. they flee to the wall at the back, then come forward forgetting, then flee, but now these walls are moving forward. eyes look like they will pop out, frantic emotions are viral, spreading and escalating, as the girls are pushed further forward. forced to confront the fear, given no escape, we witness some pretty convincing displays of dismay, scrabbling feet pushing against the pushing wall, hands clawing at the wall, little gasps and yelps. then the girls are right at the front, there is no escape, and there is nowhere to go, the lights go out and it is over.

togue is an hour long performance, filled with intensity which captures the attention, with an aesthetic ranging from archaic robotics to feral eroticism, from start to finish we are captivate by Ariadone and the extremes of comedic shuffling creatures through the spectral to the animalistic. the performance was done twice in Glasgow, and catching the second night I instead wished that I had gone the first. the problem always with a performance like this is how much it is of the instant, the fact that you can't rewind, or flick back a few pages, just to relive a particularly striking moment. so to have caught the first night would have at least allowed for the possibility of a repeat performance.

Title: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Cast: Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet, Elijah Wood, Mark Ruffalo, Jane Adams, Kirsten Dunst, Tom Wilkinson
Director: Michel Gondry

Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind is the latest film to come from the pen of screenwriter Charlie Kaufman, who has been the writer behind films like Being John Malkovich, Adaptation., and Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind. Particularly like Malkovich and Adaptation., Eternal Sunshine is in typical Kaufman territory – getting inside the head and the psychology of the individual. In this case there is more of a Phili K. Dick launching point than before, the idea of memory erasure being part of the key components of the recent Pay Check.

Jim Carrie and Kate Winslett take the lead roles of Joel and Clementine, a couple who meet and have being going out together for some times. However it becomes clear that things haven’t been going particularly well between them. As a result coming up for Valentine’s day, Clementine who is the more impulsive of the two has decided to break the relationship off. Part of which involves undergoing a new treatment, designed to remove all memories of certain events, in this case all memories of Joel. Looking to make up for a recent fight, Joel turns up at Clementine’s work with a gift, only to be entirely blanked. From this it is isn’t long before he finds out that she has had him erased, deciding that two can play that game, Joel goes in to have Clementine wiped from his mind.

Through the film we get a mix of present events and memories, with some bleed and distortion creeping in to the process as the film unfolds. Through this method we get an alternative form of narrative which provides an account of a relationship – early meetings, early bonding, gradual fights, regrettable comments that can’t be taken back. Flashing through the steps of each memory being removed Joel comes to the realisation that he really does still love Clementine and he really doesn’t want her removed from his mind, doesn’t want to lose the memories. This provides the twist, which makes the film more than the straight relationship story. Joel starts a fight to retain his memories, getting into that pure Kaufman territory of people running around inside the mind and playing with the idea of it’s structure.

Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind mixes a sense of humour with an increasing sense of the tragic. Mixing in a long the way some strong effect work, illustrating the distortion and erasure of memories, with memorable results.

Title: Bad Education
Cast: Gael Garcia Bernal, Fele Martinez, Javier Camara, Daniel Giminez-Caho, Lluis Homar, Dario Grandinetti
Director: Pedro Almodovar

Bad Education is the latest film from Pedro Almodovar, which he describes as being partly biographical, at last delivering a story he seems to have been working on for the last 12 years. Which probably explains why there are aspects of Bad Education which seem to be familiar from Almodovar’s past work. Most obvious is the presence of transvestites in Bad Education, who also featured prominently in All About My Mother.

Bad Education layers a couple of narratives, one is described as truth (within context) and the other fictional projection from that truth. The two main characters are a film director and an actor, who was the director’s friend when they were in school. The director was put out of the school for getting too close to the actor when they were children, the actor being the favourite of a priest looking to take advantage of the boy. Since then the expelled boy has grown up to become a prominent Spanish director, which is when he is approached by a young actor, who turns out to have been the other boy from the school. The actor presents the director with a story based on their lives, projecting the idea that the director’s character grew up to be just a regular bloke, who encounters the actor’s character years later, a transvestite who performs as part of a travelling show. The director is sucked into the story, and decides to make it as a film.

In this way we get flashes of the fictional narrative as the director reads the writing, then again as they start to turn it into a film. But along the way it would seem that the reality presented as truth perhaps isn’t, and events from the fictional version start to show themselves for what they are. So that in the end the true reality, somewhere between the threads comes out.

Cast wise the actor is played by the Mexican actor Gael Garcia Bernial, who has made is name from performances in the films Y Tu Mama Tambien (directed by Alfonso Cuaron, behind the latest Harry Potter film which has just been released) and Amores Peros (directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, who was behind the recent 21 Grams). Bernial’s performance here has been well received, many feeling the parts where he plays a transvestite are particularly convincing – while some may be over stating the case, there can be no denying that Bernial is on form here and puts in the films strongest performance. One of the other transvestite’s is played by another familiar face, Dario Grandinetti, who has appeared in a number of Spanish films, including Almodovar’s last film Talk To Her, as one of the four lead characters – here Dario Grandinetti has a smaller role, but there is some amusement to be had from this change in roles, and his atrocious stage performance.

Pedro Almodovar seems to have attained a certain status over the years, where many confuse being the most well known Spanish director with being the best. Which tends to bemuse me a little, given that there are a number of strong films coming from Spain each year. In saying that, while I may not think he is the best ever, he is certainly capable, and Bad Education should please fans of his work and of Spanish cinema. Though thinking about it, of the four or so of his films I have seen I would tend towards saying Talk To Her was my favourite still.

Title: Main Hoon Na
Cast: Shahrukh Khan, Nassar Abdulla, Kabir Bedi, Zayed Khan, Kunal Kumar, Rajiv Panjabi, Amrita Rao, Rakhi Sawant
Director: Farah Khan

Main Hoon Na is my first experience with Bollywood cinema, which I decided to go and see based on a couple of references, and reading up on the film based on having seen those references. Also it’s a medium I am kind of curious about, and lets face it Bollywood pretty much is a genre of it’s own –regardless of the other genres it may include in the process.

The film starts with a television interview with an Indian general who wishes to make some moves towards peace with neighbouring Pakistan. Unfortunately some don’t share his ambitions, and would rather see hostilities continue. As such plants in the audience pull out guns, and masked men storm the studio. Despite the general’s security measures, his second in command is killed in the clash, and the terrorists escape after threatening the general’s daughter. The officer who did the most to chase off the terrorists does so in classic action film drama, employing some particularly clumsy wire work in the process. The second in charge turns out to be this major’s father, and the general assigns the major to go undercover to protect his daughter. However the major is reluctant, with his dying breath his father has revealed that he has a brother. The general manages to persuade the major to accept his mission with the revelation that the general’s daughter and the major’s brother are in fact both at the same college. Thus setting up the scenario where the major goes undercover as a mature student. Of course the plot is complicated further by the fact that the general’s daughter is secretly in love with the major’s brother, who is a repeat student and something of a player, in the meantime the major quickly falls for the new chemistry teacher, and the terrorists are planning their move in the background.

Perhaps unsurprisingly with such a convoluted plot the film takes three hours to cover it all, incorporating much singing and dancing and particular set pieces along the way. Many of the action scenes are over the top, owing much to the influence of John Woo – an influence which is blatant, from the use of the Mission Impossible theme tune, the major being dressed totally like Tom Cruise for the climax scenes, which include the signature Woo white dove. At least for the particularly contrived climax, which takes in a part of the college being reconditioned and filled with scaffold, the major is more convincing than Cruise at the climax of Mission Impossible II.

The bulk of the film takes place is the college, giving it a very teen comedy feel. From the extremes of the farcically caricatured staff members to the antics of the students. This delivers a certain level of humour, which includes the by now seemingly inevitable matrix parody. It is against this background where much of the song and dance comes in to play – the first piece, which introduces the general’s daughter (perhaps an Indian Christina Aguilera) and the major’s brother being particularly striking and memorable. Though there is a combination of humour and spectacle which comes across with the major’s infatuation with the chemistry teacher, forcing him to burst into song every time she appears, accompanied by violists who are conjured up regardless of location.

Main Hoon Na I guess is like much of what I expect of the little I know of Bollywood, entirely over the top and filled with excess, producing what is undeniably spectacle cinema – which will at times it might be ham compared to the American cinema whose influence is at work here, it is entirely more memorable than much of that work.

Title: Heaven
Cast: Martin Donovan, Danny Edwards, Joanna Going, Patrick Malahide, Richard Schiff
Director: Scott Reynolds

Heaven is transvestite stripper, sponsored by a club owner who has taken her off the street, when he has found out that she is capable of precognition. However Heaven sees that one of the club owners friends will help her in the future, so she advises him how to win a card game that she has scene. This sets up a convoluted series of events. The club owner’s friend is played by Martin Donovan (The Amateur, The Opposite of Sex), he is architect with a gambling problem, who looks like he is about to lose his son to his estranged wife. But with Heaven’s prodding he is also pulled into the whole thing with the club owner, who is annoyed at having lost card games that Heaven should have warned him about, and is also planning some criminal activities with a couple of thugs who Heaven and Donovan have had unfortunate run clashes with.

As a film this is a curious piece, building up the various threads into a layered result, that keeps tensions high. The narrative is played around with, certain things seen in advance thanks to Heaven’s abilities, though it isn’t always clear that is what is going on, which creates another level of false tension, to keep the viewer guessing. The screen play seems to have been written by Chad Taylor, who from the credits for New Zealand casting, I am assuming is the New Zealand based author, who was responsible for the convoluted thriller Electric, which I read in the last few months.

Title: Critical Space
Author: Greg Rucka
Publisher:Piatkus Books

Critical Space is the 5th novel by Greg Rucka, the 4th in which Atticus Kodiak is the main character. Of course, typical in the way these things go, the only previous novel by Rucka was Shooting At Midnight, which featured Atticus' girlfriend Bridget Logan. Though in saying that, I am more familiar with Rucka's work since he started writing comics, being the man behind one of the best ongoing series of the moment - Queen And Country - an espionage series set with in the covert world of the British Secret Service.

As the latest novel following a set of characters there are certain references to previous events, having not read the previous novels it is perhaps difficult to determine how much of the text is a recap, and how much is fresh, filling in a past for the benefit of this novel. Regardless, Atticus is one of four members of a small protection company, who made their name from an attempt on the life of a visiting member of the British Royal family. Since then the company has become successful, though Atticus is getting bored, being a status symbol for celebrities really isn't why he got into the game. When Lady Antonia returns for another trip to America it looks like a chance to do some real work as well as catching up on old friends. Unfortunately Atticus is also the only man to have stood against the professional assassin only known as Drama and survive. So just when he thinks things are looking up Drama appears on the scene and kidnaps the Lady Antonia.

This leads us through the three sections of the book, where the real threat of Drama is established - the idea of just how much the bodyguards really fear this woman, and how lucky they were to survive the last time they met. From here we have a conspiracy, such that the appearance of Drama on the scene isn't quite what it seems. Especially with Drama being just one of the group called The Ten, an elite group, with another of the Ten looking as though he is also going to appear on the scene.

The character of Kodiak, and his relationships with those around him is well delivered. The sections where he goes through extensive re-training in order that he might stand any chance at all against a member of The Ten, comes across as something which is classically cinematic – thinking Rocky, the Eye of The Tiger – a seriously intense training designed to bring out the highest potential of one man.

Obviously with the different character focus between Shooting At Midnight and Critical Space, the two come across in a different manner, illustrating an ability to work within the same character environment, while changing point of view. Through the course of this book Rucka pretty much dismantles the life of Kodiak, changing every relationship he has by the end of the book. Which really does open up the question of when Rucka will return to Kodiak and how he will possibly live with these events.

Title: Fences and Windows: Dispatches from the Frontlines of the Globalization Debate
Author: Naomi Klein

Fences And Windows is the second book by Naomi Klein, though it comes not exactly as a follow up to No Logo. No Logo is a study of the rise of globalisation on all fronts, as well as the resistance movements around the world. No Logo was well received and established a reputation for it’s author Klein, as a result she has spent the years since No Logo continuing to report from the world’s frontline – from the big corporate events and protests, to being in Iraq at last report. As a result she has written for numerous newspapers and magazines, as well as giving talks and the like. Such that Fences And Windows is a collection of all these pieces, collected under headings which link the papers together. Because each piece was written individually and at a specific point in time Fences And Windows doesn’t come together in the same way as No Logo, there is a greater sense of repetition at times, or contrasting that, of separation. But on the whole this volume is a companion piece to No Logo, showing the extension of what was written in that volume, illustrating where the fight on each side of the globalisation debate continues, while also fleshing out, and bringing to life many of the ideas that were key to that previous volume. One of the things that makes or breaks non-fiction works of this type is how readable they are, to what degree the author is actually capable of writing in a way that puts their facts across well. Again with Fences And Windows Klein illustrates that ability, which is part of why her work has met with some success.

Title: Von Bek: "Warhound and the World's Pain", "City in the Autumn Stars", "Pleasure Gardens of Felipe Sagittarius"
Author: Michael Moorcock

Ironically, given that the Von Bek omnibus is considered to be the first volume in the Eternal Champion series, Von Bek is one of the few Michael Moorcock characters that I had not read. I read all the Elric, Corum, Hawkmoon, and assorted other Eternal Champion incarnations – the Eternal Champion being a being chosen in each reality to fight in the great fight between order and chaos, normally to redress the balance from the extremes one or the other has attained.

With that Von Bek is the volume set in the most traditional/real environment, the two books which make up the bulk of this volume are both set in historical Europe. The first book is The Warhound And The World’s Pain, in which Ulrich von Bek, a minor German noble, has been fighting in numerous religious wars and border clashes across Europe. Ulrich finds himself surrounded by carnage, tragedy, disease flourishes with the darkness, and he decides to break free from the rut he is in, rejecting this darkness. This is when he is found by Lucifer, the fallen angel who wishes to repair the rift between him and god. Lucifer persuades von Bek that he can heal the world’s pain if he can only find the holy grail. This puts him on a quest across Europe, and alternate Europe of the Mittelmarch, esoteric lands between lands.

A couple of hundred years have passed by the time of The City In The Autumn Stars, and now the young Manfred von Bek is fleeing France, having dedicated himself to the rebirth of a country through revolution, only to see it turn against him. Heading for the city of Mirenburg, which he reckons that of all the places in Europe it is the only he will be safe. However at each step of the way it seems increasingly like there is a plot going on, a conspiracy which looks to pull in the latest von Bek, based on his families history with the holy grail. One of Moorcock’s big and consistent ideas is that of cosmic alignments, where the planets come together, providing a point where perhaps everything can be changed for the next millennia or so. Alchemists and Satanists vie for the holy grail, figuring it central to rituals which will give them key power at this significant time.

The volume is rounded off by a short, The Garden of Felippe Sagittarius, an alternate history, illustrating the idea of multiple realities and existences, which populate Moorcock’s work. Here von Bek is a member of grail based police force, wandering through an alternate Berlin of the 1930’s, where he encounters the like of Hitler and his old enemy Klosterhiem, present in each of the von Bek stories.

Von Bek is probably Moorcock’s most historical Eternal Champion, the others flitting through imaginary and fantastical worlds. Written during the 1980’s, von Bek is one of his most recent characters, much of his other work having been written in the decades before that – often serialised in magazines to be later collected in individual books. Coming from a more accomplished point in his career the writing style in considerably more remarkable, which is no doubt also part of why these books hit the 300 page mark, rather than being barely 200. Particularly in The City In The Autumn Stars, the language really tries to capture a vision of a time period, references to the types of people and the political upheavals of the period. Part of reading this volume was to fill in the gaps in my Moorcock reading, a stable of my teens, but reading at the moment it fits in well with some of the other pieces I’ve covered recently. Covering to some degree the kind of periods which have some significance to Umberto Eco’s Foucault’s Pendulum (the ideas conspiracies, of mystical cloak and dagger) or Neal Stephenson’s Quicksilver and The Confusion (the ideas of political machinations, the mudlarks/vagabonds, the alchemists as being amongst the first scientists).

Title: A Confederate General from Big Sur
Author: Richard Brautigan
Publisher:Rebel Inc.

A Confederate General is the third novel by Richard Brautigan that I have read, and of the three it is perhaps the least straight and most straight. Sombrero Fallout and The Abortion had a certain absurdity that was clear and central, and reminded me of the things I like about writers like Russell Hoban and Haruki Murakami. Confederate General, I suspect, is more of what gives Brautigan his reputation, the ideas that he foretold the beat generation, the free love of the 60’s. This coming from the central characters of Lee and Jesse, who kind of drop out and lead that kind of alternate life style. This book comes across as being more about the poverty and culture of a time. Though at the same time there is still a certain level of experimentation – sudden chapters which are collections of letters – or humour – the host of croaking frogs who can only be shut up by shouting “Campbell’s Soup”. A second reading will probably provide a greater enjoyment, being more aware of the kind of thing to expect, but from this first I have to say this was the least of the three.

Sunday, May 30, 2004

togue flyer for tramway Posted by Hello

Saturday, May 22, 2004

L to R: japan, jamaica Posted by Hello

from L to R: el Salvador, ecuador
 Posted by Hello

from L to R: bolivia, benin Posted by Hello

from L to R: nambia, mozambique, mongolia, moldavia, mexico, macedonia Posted by Hello

from L to R: sao tome and principe, zambia, russian federation
 Posted by Hello

bigger view of the whole circle; in the foreground we can see the cambodian bear to the left and the canadian to the right Posted by Hello

from L to R: nigeria, niger, holland Posted by Hello

NOTES - i've been following up on some of the new features included in blogger with their relaunch. this includes the use of blogger commenting, which i have now switched on, i always interested in discussion/opinion, so feel free to leave some comments. there is also a new photo-blogging tool which has been incorporated, this is something i've been thinking about for a while now - so this is quite a useful new thing, as far as i'm concerned. the first test of this tool is below, a photo from our berlin trip, which was covered in detail at the time. with this i'll probably start to post a lot more images.

four of the buddy bear series which we saw on our visit to berlin in october 2003 Posted by Hello

Constantine - i guess while i am posting about Sin City, it might be an idea to mention Constantine as well. The trailer for this adaptation of Hellblazer as being doing the rounds, frustratingly the only trailers i have seen are streaming, which is bloody useless really. In a piece of casting i think most folk will find curious, Keanu Reaves takes the lead role of John Constantine, with Rachel Weisz also featuring. Hellblazer is one of those titles i actually avoided for years, a mix of art that i didn't like, and at least one run in with someone who was raving about it to a degree that based solely on their recommendation of how good it was i was avoiding it like the plague. Funny how some folk can have that effect. Regardless, i actually did start reading Hellblazer a couple of years ago - a run by the team behind 100 Bullets caught my eye, and having just in the last month re-read that whole run its not really susprising that i found myself enjoying it. Constantine is rugged, unshaven, chain smoking brit, dressing in ruffled trench coat, who likes a pint; he is also something of a magician, trickster, and all round bit of a bastard. A classic anti-hero.

sin city clip - this is a link to one of those entertainment specials about the work in progress that is Sin City. Sin City started out life as a serial in the monthly Dark Horse Presents, a new direction for long time comic creator Frank Miller. It was a particularly stark and striking black and white piece, highly stylised and noir. For me the early material was pretty damn cool, though i started to feel that perhaps he had fallen into a rut as the material went on, so that the plot became as sparse as the art at times. Though having just seen this clip from the film which is in the works, there is the urge to go back and re-read the books. The clip features Jessica Alba as a stripper along with Bruce Willis. The current entry on IMDB for the film lists Robert Rodriquez and Frank Miller as directors, with the rest of the cast looking to include Josh Hartnett, Jaime King, Maria Bello, Kate Bosworth, Brittany Murphy, Mickey Rourke, Nick Stahl and Elijah Wood. Of course the question is how true to the original will they be, compared with how much they'll be encouraged to tone it down for sales?? We will see in 2005. (thanks to Brian Wood, for the heads up for the clip)

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Title: Light
Author: M. John Harrison

Light is the most recent novel by the writer M. John Harrison, from which I had read an extract at the time of it’s publication in hard back. I’ve just recently come across the paperback, which has been available for about 6 months apparently.

Light is a curious book, crossing genres, and at times baffling readers as it pursues it’s own train of thought. Following three threads, the first being Michael Kearney, a scientist who is involved with what might bring a real break through in mankind’s understanding of space. It is 1999 and despite Kearney’s genius, he might also be described as a mad scientist, an isolated childhood led to flight’s of fancy – with adulthood however, these have transformed to the belief that he is being pursued by a demon, and only continual movement and the regular ritual killings of women keep the demon at bay. The next section is about a girl who ran away to become a spaceship, Seria Mau achieved this by bonding herself with some sentient mathematics, but with years passed she might be regretting losing her humanity. it’s the far future and humanity as reached the stars thanks to Kearney’s work. Here they have found numerous other races and artefacts, one in particular being of fascination, and where all races become stumped. The third thread starts on one of the planets Seria Mau stops off on, Ed Chianese has become an addict of the current version of virtual reality, escaping life by holing up in a tank and dreaming. But as his past debts catch up on him, he is forced to come out and face facts – a man who has at one time or another flown every type of ship available to the human race, he finds himself recruited by a circus to become a prophet.

The result is curious and at times quite dark. The present day (Kearney’s 1999) has an esoteric feeling, a mix of strange characters, disembodied heads and the like which seems reminiscent of Hellblazer and John Constantine. While the future parts play with the madness of unimaginably ancient and alien races, the exoticness of things which transcend reality – including that whole sentient math thing. The future also mixes the ideas of things like cyber/virtual fiction with alien encounter and the hard science of the hard core space operas which are seeing a resurgence with the works of people like Alistair Reynolds and Robert Reed. Though with that, despite this being my first encounter with Harrison, it is clear that he has actually been writing for a long time, and pre-dates many of the folk who are attempting to write this kind of thing now. Light was something I really enjoyed, at times baffling me entirely with what was going on, but regardless intriguing with the levels of esoteric/exotic contents, coupled with repeating symbolism like the ideas of the black cat/white cat. With just how much I enjoyed Light, I have to say how frustrating it is to find how difficult sourcing more of his work appears to be.

Title: The Lonely Dead
Author: Michael Marshall

As Michael Marshall Smith he has published three novels, each of which presents a kind of twisted science fiction, one which is unique to his style. The Straw Men started out as a MMS novel, but somewhere along the line became more straight, a crime thriller, which might cause some problems with his established style, even if, as far as he was concerned, he was writing in exactly the same manner. This brought about the decision to create the new writing name of Michael Marshall, providing some kind of guide line should it be needed for those who like one style and not the other.

While The Straw Men felt a lot straighter than his previous work, it still was a reasonably readable thriller about a serial killer and those trying to catch him. The result seems to be that The Straw Men has made Michael Marshall more well known than Michael Marshall Smith. Luckily Marshall had decided that his follow up to The Straw Men would quite literally be a follow up to The Straw Men. Unfortunately the original title which he planned to use for this sequel was not well received by his publishers, leading to the perhaps confusing circumstances of the UK publishers accepting The Lonely Dead as a replacement, while the US publishers preferred The Upright Man.

With an initial skim of the description for The Lonely Dead, it is not initially obvious that it is a sequel, but once you start reading it becomes very clear – the second in what Marshall envisages as a trilogy, his next book being the conclusion of the sequence. The Straw Men introduced us to the three “heroes” – Ward Hopkins, ex-CIA, parents murdered; John Zandt, ex-LAPD, daughter murdered by a serial killer; Nina Bayman, FBI, investigating the serial killer, and becoming involved with Zandt as a result. The Straw Men brought the characters together and built to an explosive climax, the events of which are repeatedly referred to through The Lonely Dead – such that while The Lonely Dead can probably be read without The Straw Men, a reader would likely find that their view of The Straw Men was tinted if they then went back the way.

Certain things are left unresolved with the end of The Straw Men, providing a base point of The Lonely Dead. A powerful and long lived organisation has been revealed, and with The Lonely Dead, we follow Hopkins as he goes into hiding, fearing for his life, contrast by Zandt, who seems to be determined to find out all he can. The discovery of a mass grave starts the book off, quickly followed by Bayman’s involvement in the investigation of the latest potential serial killer – a cam girl is found dead in a hotel room, with a clue left in her mouth.

The change in style from MMS to MM was clear with The Straw Men, the narrative more restrained by convention and the fact that the story was trying to fit into a real world – a first outside his short story work. This probably affected a reading of The Straw Men for anyone familiar with his previous work. However, either he has hit his stride better with The Lonely Dead, or we have a better feel for what he is doing with this work. Such that The Lonely Dead is easier to get into and on the whole more enjoyable than The Straw Men – though certainly this invites the reader to go back and re-evaluate that previous edition. Here we are more conscious of the themes and ideas, the commonalities of both identities style.

The consistent lead characters, hard and capable of violence, but driven by a dark past, that mixes grief with a reluctance to do what has to be done, at least until it has to be done. With Hopkins we also get a sense of the other space present in the work of Michael Marshall Smith, the idea of some other fringe element, an alternate – of course, in The Lonely Dead, that fringe is one which is closer to here and now, that of the decrepit, Hopkins travelling from deserted building to deserted building – finding these grey spaces, ghost spaces of a dead culture and inhabiting them as he becomes something of a ghost himself, avoiding the reality that would bring him back into tune with the world. This kind of thing also comes in with the possible sightings of a big foot, the rants about conspiracy theories, and the manner in which all of that might just tie in to the origins of the straw men.

Title: Clever Girl
Author: Tanya Glyde

Clever Girl was the first novel by Tanya Glyde, one which I had been looking for for a while, having read a short story by her in the Disco 2000 anthology. I had read her more recent novel Junk DNA, which was more in keeping with that short story than Clever Girl turns out to be. Clever Girl being one of those curious instances where the description on the back of the book turns out to not really represent the contents. In this case the back of the book describes a story where a girl kills herself, only to be reborn as a vicious avenging angel, who sets out to destroy all those who had driven her to death. Instead the book, which is about 250 pages long, spends a good 200 pages taking apart the main character Sarah.

We are introduced to Sarah as a bright 13 year old girl, a clever girl, filled with enthusiasm and investigative interest. She is thrilled by astronomy, makes all sorts of weird and wonderful sculptures, and forms a punk band with her school friends. Unfortunately Sarah comes from a fairly middle class family in fairly upper class town. Over the back fence of her home are the dorms for a prestigious boy’s school, so it perhaps isn’t surprising when she starts to become involved with some of the boys from there. However as a 13 year old girl eager for popularity and the chance to be cool, she is easily swayed by these swaggering 16 year old boys. The result is that she is readily abused, her reputation being torn apart, and pretty much she is gang raped – but the school gives so much to the community that no one is concerned about the foolishness of a silly little girl from the town.

With this Sarah closes in on herself, puts her head down, absorbs her life in her studies. So that she eventually manages to get away to university and leave the past behind her. But this is the 80’s, Thatcher is in power, and people are at their worst, so that through university and in to the working environment it becomes clear that at every level Sarah is just going to encounter more of the same. So that from every step she is ground down a little more, torn apart bit by bit. With this we are getting a grim view of this time from Glyde, who is clearly painting a response to having lived through those dark years herself. To some degree there is an element put forward that suggests this is about sexism and the feminist struggle, but it should really be clear that Sarah’s abuse comes just as readily from women, and that it seems that more of the cause comes from the clashing boundaries of a class struggle. Especially given the greed that seemed to come from Thatcher’s time in power.

Glyde presents a dark piece here, which at times shows a certain twisted humour, but that doesn’t really serve to lighten the overall feel. There are hints of the more bizarre aspects of Glyde’s later works that come through, serving to flesh out the sheer hell that is the character’s life. The culmination of the book comes with some ambiguity, this part coming under the header “sin eater” – one could presume that this is the rise of the avenging angel described, however the actual text provides little clarification. When the character herself has no idea what is going on, the facts seem to lend themselves to an alternative interpretation of events. Clever Girl is a nasty piece of work, filled with despicable characters, who from the establishment of Sarah’s potential as a clever girl are dedicated to her destruction.

Title: I'll Sleep When I'm Dead
Cast: Clive Owen, Charlotte Rampling, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, Malcolm McDowell, Jamie Foreman, Ken Stott, Sylvia Syms
Director: Mike Hodges

Director Mike Hodges returns from the relative success of his work with Clive Owen on The Croupier, to see Owen again in the lead role with the noir I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead. Owen takes the role of Will Graham, a possibly reformed hard man, who has left London and all connections to his past behind him. Graham moves from job to job, living rough in a van, a far cry from one of the most feared men of his generation. However, just as he is preparing to leave the country, he has some kind of premonition. His inability to get hold of his brother on the phone leads him spiralling back to London, and the discovery of his brother Davey Graham’s suicide. Davey had been a man about town, dealing enough drugs to make a bit of money, and never lacking in a bit of female company – so it is a mystery to all why he would kill himself. Will’s return can only bring about bad things, the former members of his gang making it clear that where Will goes death will follow, regardless of how much he thinks he has changed. From the rising tensions of rival gangsters it is clear that things are going to go badly.

The direction and Owen’s part provide a gravity, a centring to the film – Owen comes across as dark and brooding, wild hair, a straggly beard and a reluctance to fill the air with his voice for the sake of it, surrounded by those who seem only to happy to hear themselves speak. The atmosphere is emphasised and complimented well throughout by the soundtrack provided by Simon Fisher Turner, at times providing a definite abstractness which conjures emotions stronger than the run of the mill orchestrations too many settle for. The only weakness perhaps in I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead would seem to be the ending, the ambiguity and openness of it – particularly the way a particular scene was left, I couldn’t decide whether someone was still breathing. The film seemed to building threads of threat and potential, but the end doesn’t entirely resolve this, which causes an element of dissatisfaction. Though perhaps one that shouldn’t detract from the whole.

Title: Wonderland
Cast: Val Kilmer, Kate Bosworth, Lisa Kudrow, Dylan McDermott, Josh Lucas, Eric Bogosian
Director: James Cox

Where Boogie Nights perhaps concentrated on the rise and success of John Holmes, porn star, Wonderland explores certain events in the life of Holmes once his legendary status was tattered and worn thin. The result is a dislocated, layered narrative, which uses a series of effects to create a distinctive atmosphere and emphasize the period the film is set in.

Holmes, played by Val Kilmer, has become a drug addict, estranged with his wife for five years, having started a relationship with a 15 year old girl. Over the years Holmes has gained a reputation as a liar and a thief, so that most people won’t tolerate his presence. At the core of this story, is a group located on Wonderland Drive, who are willing to give him drugs now and then, and have him about for his novelty value. The events which stem from that left four people dead, and one in intensive care. What exactly happened varies depending on who tells the story, a fact which is well demonstrated by the film – one of the gang having been out at the time of the killings tells one story, which depicts Holmes as a simpering, pathetic junky responsible for what happened. While Holmes version depicts him as a swaggering legend, reluctantly helping these vicious, drugged up killers with their plan. In the meantime some of the other spaces/interpretations are filled in by Holmes girlfriend Dawn (Kate Bosworth) and his wife Sharon (Lisa Kudrow).

For a film with its lead as a porn star, there is perhaps surprisingly little sex involved in this story. Given the faded status of Holmes this is more about the drugs and violence. The facts of the film are played with, split screens, news paper reports, opinionated stories adding up as the film unfolds. But the last word on events is delivered as the film makers belief of what really happened, based on the statements made by Sharon Holmes after John’s death from AIDs in the late eighties. This leaves us with the brutality of the killings, something which hadn’t been shown till this point, shown in feral, growling viciousness.

The performances throughout are strong, as is the cinematic composition of the whole, such that Wonderland is a striking and memorable narrative.

Title: Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter, and Spring Again [Bom Yeoreum Gaeul Gyeoul Geurigo Bom]
Cast: Yeong-su Oh, Ki-duk Kim, Young-min Kim, Jae-kyeong Seo, Yeo-jin Ha, Jong-ho Kim
Director: Ki-duk Kim

This is one of those sparse oriental films, slow moving and lacking in dialogue, which can either drive you crazy or draw you inwards. Part of the feeling of the film comes from all being in one setting, a Buddhist temple in the middle of a remote lake, and the shoreline around it. The story follows the live of a novice monk, split into the seasons, which mark the changes through his life – a manner which reminded to some degree of the style used in Requiem For A Dream, though here there is a spring to look forward to after the bleakness of winter.

While watching the film, I was struck by the idea that there was a similarity to Star Wars, in a really stripped down, raw sense. At the core of the film we have the old monk and the young monk, and despite the wise one’s best attempts the youngster is constantly prone to the dark side. In spring we see a child gaining amusement from the torment of animals, while summer brings the border between child and adult, and with that the first impressions of lust, and autumn brings truth to the old man’s prophetic statement of what lust leads to. With this the young monk doesn’t really endear himself to the audience, which kind of puts us in a curious position.

The cast is pretty limited, the old man aging from scene to scene, while the younger leaps forward in years. With that there are at most another two characters in any one chapter, acting as catalysts to the lives of the monks. So that the whole forms a circle, filled with symbolism, which is evident, even if it’s meaning is not. One of the easiest symbols perhaps is that of the door, and of it opening – the temple is split in three, two sleeping chambers, and the body of the hall, there are no internal walls, though there are doors, which the characters make a point of using, even though they could bypass them; additionally there are a pair of doors at the end of the pier, which again seem more symbolic than practical. Another clear symbol is the fact that each of the chapters features an animal properly, though the meaning of these seems perhaps a little more obscure – the first spring is a dog, with summer providing a rooster, followed by autumn’s white cat, winter’s serpent is perhaps the most blatant of the group (though with reflection the cock perhaps also becomes evident), returning to spring and a tortoise.

The negatives of the film are the way the audience can feel about the characters, particularly where there is a display of cruelty towards animals. The sparseness is something which is bound to annoy some, and is a technique which can be very hit and miss, leading to a success being more dependant on mood. On the other hand the scenery and the visuals are the real strengths of the film, the scene where it looks like the temple is shifting position in the centre of the lake being a particularly effective moment. The fact that the film unrolls with little reliance on dialogue also works for me, speaking through its actions, with the verbal interaction being a secondary.

Title: Infernal Affairs
Cast: Andy Lau, Tony Leung, Anthony Wong, Eric Tsang, Kelly Chen
Director: Andy Lau, Alan Mark

This is a classic Hong Kong drama, starring the well known actors Tony Leung and Andy Lau. The film starts off with the two characters in their teens, one is a gang member who is encouraged to infiltrate the police as an inside man, the other is in the police academy, who is given the assignment of penetrating the cities gangs by going deep undercover. Over the years the two have risen through the ranks, so that they have both reached points where they are doing the most good for their respective bosses. However, it has become clear as each pretends to serve the other’s boss that both sides have a double agent. Setting both sides up in a race to find the inside man on their team, so that they can catch the baddies, or so they can avoid being caught and continue to bring in drugs. The result builds tension as these two men get closer and closer to discovering each other, using all sorts of methods to communicate back and forward, and to try and discover their opposite number.

Title: Secret Window
Cast: Johnny Depp, John Turturro, Maria Bello, Timothy Hutton
Director: David Koepp

Secret Window is the latest film to come off the work of Stephen King, based on one of his short stories. Which at least narrows the scope from the farcical layering of Dream Catcher, which was the last big screen work based on King’s material. While Dream Catcher increasingly became an incoherent mess, which came across as amateurish and unwatchable, at least Secret Window endeavours to maintain a greater sense of lucidity, for the most part. On the basic plot of Johnny Depp playing a famous horror writer, living in the middle of nowhere, caught up in the midst of a messy divorce, confronted with the sinister figure of John Torturro’s adversary, who claims that Depp has stolen his story and ruined it. From this a sinister atmosphere is created, where Torturro’s ability to appear just at the right point to upset Depp, is worked quite well. However this is of course based on a Stephen King story, so the “twist” probably doesn’t really come as much of a surprise, and is in fact where the film pretty much loses it. So that from this point we are in a territory which is more reminiscent of Dream Catcher, and a film that might just have worked goes out the window.

Title: Van Helsing
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Kate Beckinsale, Richard Roxburgh, David Wenham, Shuler Hensley
Director: Stephen Sommers

In terms of main stream block buster potential it should not be that hard to make a film containing Mr. Hyde, werewolves, Frankenstein’s monster, and Count Dracula work and work well. But then in age where increasingly it is more about special effects, where the one liner makes dialogue redundant and just about everything is toned down to enable a film to get the lowest rating possible, it perhaps doesn’t come as a surprise to find that films like Van Helsing are the result.

The film is written and directed by the director of The Mummy and The Mummy Returns, who seems to have reached a point where he believes his own hype and thinks he can get away with anything. As such he has taken the character Van Helsing from Stoker’s Dracula and pretty much rewritten everything about him, including his first name – the character now being Gabriel Van Helsing, because apparently Abraham didn’t suit. This re-imagined Van Helsing is someone who appears to be hundreds of years old, with little memory of a past that went before he was recruited by a secret order within the Vatican to fight evil. As such Van Helsing is fresh returned from Paris having fought with Mr. Hyde, to find his next operation is to travel to Transylvania, where he will help fight vampires. Of course the vampire in question is Dracula, who has werewolf servants, and is trying to harness the science of Dr. Frankenstein to bring life to his offspring.

The result is a mix of hideous acting and clumsy plot devices – Kate Beckinsale’s motivation purely to provide an abundance of artificial sexuality, backed up by simpering and pathetic vampire brides who grow increasingly irritating, through which a practically monosyllabic Jackman pouts in dark and mysterious fashion. The culmination of this nonsense comes together in Dracula’s castle, where we find ourselves in hysterics of laughter, as the film makers forget the layout of the building from scene to scene as it suits them, resulting in bare walls vanishing, and people swinging on ropes from location to location in the most convenient fashion. Increasingly one hopes that films like this will provide some amusement, because it is too rare for them to actually be worthwhile on their own merits, here however we are left cringing with embarrassment.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

michael marshall - just back from the reading by michael marshall in borders in glasgow tonight, whole thing lasted about an hour as was pretty cool. i've been to a couple of readings in my time, but it tends to be one of those things i have a habit of finding out about after the event (eg. jeanette winterston reading friday there, i found out saturday). he started by reading a chunk from the first chapter, which is perhaps a little arbitrary in terms of giving folk a feel for the book, but it is the starting point and the section in question came across quite well. after that was a question and answer session, which had some good interaction, there was a decent turn out, and most folk seemed to be aware of both sets of work.

the lonely dead - i finished the lonely dead by michael marshall, which turned out to be very much a sequel to the straw men after all, such that i wouldn't recommend reading it without having read the straw men first. personally i found that i enjoyed this one more, though part of me wonders if it is a case of i am more used to the writing style after the change that straw men represented from the previous michael marshall smith material. a full review will be posted properly, but thats the quick version. also of note, the idea that "the upright man" was the same as "the straw man" came up, it is actually that the american publisher didn't like the title "the lonely dead" - so in the uk we have "the straw man" and "the lonely dead", while in the us it is "the straw man" and "the upright man".

Sunday, May 09, 2004

Title: Gothika
Cast: Halle Berry, Robert Downey Jr, Charles Dutton, John Carroll Lynch, Penélope Cruz
Director: Mathieu Kassovitz

To be honest I had kind of been avoiding Gothika, the trailer was filled with clichés, and having gotten bored enough to catch it I guess I should have stuck with my instinct after all. To be fair there are some nice little touches, but on the whole Gothika is by numbers, every time you think something spooky is about to happen… it does. In fact I had the whole thing worked out before the characters had even worked out that there was even something to work out, and I was annoyed to find that I was right on every count.

Halle Berry stars as Miranda Grey, a top psychologist working with the criminally insane. The same night she is working with a patient, played by Penelope Cruz, who claims to have been raped by the devil, she encounters a ghost on her way home. Next thing she knows she is in the mental ward where she works, only now she is a prisoner, detained for murder. This sets up the struggle between the psychologists mind that denies the supernatural against the clearly illogical events that are happening.

In composition terms Gothika is certainly put together in a professional manner, there are some nicely done visual effects. But it is far too much by the book, and one gets the impression that someone thinks casting and dotting the i's and crossing the t’s of the spooky rules is enough to make a film worthwhile. It isn’t.

Title: Taking Lives
Cast: Angelina Jolie, Ethan Hawke, Kiefer Sutherland, Olivier Martinez, Gena Rowlands
Director: DJ Caruso

Taking Lives is perhaps the crime thriller equivalent of Gothika, which was recently un-engaging. To some degree one could kind of see this as an extension of The Bone Collector for Angelina Jolie, another fairly average thriller based on a novel. There she was a rookie cop with enough instinct to be of use to an incapacitated elder cop. Here she is the experienced FBI agent – an expert – allegedly. Initially, some work is done to convince is that this is a woman with a reputation for being quirky and for results. But as the film goes on she becomes implausibly compromised.

One of the problems with Taking Lives is the casting, in the way that it is (at least in theory) high profile – Angelina Jolie and Olivier Martinez as the good guys, and Ethan Hawke and Kiefer Sutherland as suspects. And that’s the problem there, at no point do you really have any doubt that the serial killer is one of those two guys, in fact, from the start there is a strong suspicion of which one and to be honest, we aren’t disappointed in that suspicion. As a result, Taking Lives is mechanical, it goes through the motions, creating absolutely no tension or thrills in the process.

The plot follows a young man, who has been killing people over the years and taking their identities. The latest bodies are being found in Montreal, and Jolie is called in as an expert to help an old friend. In theory this creates some friction with the local cops who resent her presence, and is also supposed to provide some humour with the language barriers – the local cops talking in French in the belief that the American won’t understand them – how naïve – yawn!

the author formerly known as michael marshall smith - author michael marshall has just published his second novel the lonely dead, its available on special offer in the likes of tesco, an edition which includes his first novel straw men. to go with this he is doing a release tour of the uk, including the following night in glasgow:

Tuesday 18 May
6pm, Borders, Glasgow
98 Buchanan St.
Glasgow G1 3HA

-michael marshall is the more crime/thriller orientated name for michael marshall smith, who wrote the three novels: only forward, spares and one of us, along with the short story collection what you make it.

This Is Now - a new short story by michael included as part of a bbc sub-site dedicated to vampires. one of a number of contributed stories.

machinista - frustratingly i've just found out about this three day arts and technology festival that has been going on since thursday. not sure what a lot of it is, but it looks like it could have bene interesting - a mix of performances, screenings, talks, exhibitions, clubs and the like. the sunday event at the arches running from 4pm to midnight looks like something i could catch and might have something of interest. we shall see.

Title: Fugitives And Refugees
Author: Chuck Palhaniuk

It is my understanding that Chuck Palahniuk’s most recent works were published in a different order in the UK from the US. I think Diary came out there after Fugitives And Refugees, while here it was the other way round. As such I’ve just finished reading Fugitives And Refugees, which is probably Palahniuk’s most curious work to date – described as probably being the closest he will get to writing a biography. In some ways it might be considered a bastard travel guide to Portland, Palahniuk’s home town. In the introductory piece Chuck talks to another Portland author, one who expresses the opinion that Portland is the kind of place where folk migrate to when they travel west – ending up in Portland because it is cheap, so that the kind of people that end up there could be described as “fugitives and refugees”. From that introduction Chuck takes an alternating form – a tour guide chunk followed by what he is calling “postcards”, anecdotes about his life in Portland covering the last 20 years or so.

The result is at times fascinating, amusing or just bemusing. The tour parts reflect Chuck’s sensibilities, covering the weird and wonderful – from haunted houses to the mechanical reclamation of transport; the gardens to visit, the animal characters of the local zoo, where to eat, where to get your photo taken – the works. In some ways the postcards flesh those guides out, with the likes of Chuck’s exploration of a dry docked boat, his part in the Santa riots, crashing festivals. At times the guide parts can be a little dry, reducing down to a sentence description, followed by directions/address, phone number, kind of details. Though there are other entries which make up for that, pages of detail, the ghostly experiences, the explorations of tunnels. Throughout we start to get a better idea of how Chuck works, a greater understanding of where some of his ideas are coming from, as well as the almost obsessive eye for details that is present in all of his novels.

Title: The Other Side Of The Bed [El Otro Lado De La Cama]
Cast: Ernesto Alterio, Paz Vega, Guillermo Toledo, Natalia Verbeke
Director: Emilio Martínez Lázaro

The Other Side Of The Bed reportedly did well in it’s native Spain, a comedy musical, which is pretty good if you take it as being fun. Plot wise it is fairly straight forward – there are two couples, with one splitting up at the start of the film, and revealing shortly after that the guy from the other couple has been seeing the one that split up – but he keeps finding excuses not to tell his girlfriend. Setting up a farce situation, where he is nearly found out by his girlfriend, or his best friend who he has betrayed, while the other girl gets increasingly annoyed. At key moments the cast will suddenly burst into song, and given that this is a film where the lyrics are being translated into another language for the subtitles, they hold up quite well. While the two lead men may get higher billing here, they are unknown to me, and in fact it is the two lead actresses who are known and of appeal to myself. Paz Vega took the lead in what was probably Julio Medem’s most successful film to date – Sex And Lucia – a memorably sexy and emotionally intense feature. While Natalia Verbeke was the love interest in the indy American comedy Jump Tomorrow, an Argentinean born actress, now cropping up in major Spanish cinema. While Sex And Lucia and Jump Tomorrow are probably both better films than The Other Side Of The Bed, the two actresses are on form and the results are amusing and entertaining.

Title: Suddenly (Tan De Repente)
Cast: Tatiana Saphir, Carla Crespo, Veronica Hassan, Beatriz Thibaudin, María Merlino, Marcos Ferrante, Ana María Martínez
Director: Diego Lerman

A curious contribution from the going South American cinema scene, Suddenly is a black and white film from Argentina. The start of the film provides the set up, an introduction to two sets of characters. The first is a chunky shop girl, Marcia, who sits in a struggling lingerie shop all day and does little, then heads home at night and does little. The second are two short haired girls, calling themselves Lenin and Mao, who we watch stealing and then selling a motor bike.

The day after this set up Lenin and Mao are in an arcade playing games, when Lenin spots Marcia walking down the street. She chases after Marcia, propositioning her in the street, Marcia says she is not a lesbian, and isn’t interested, Lenin insists she isn’t a lesbian either – she just wants to fuck. However Marcia‘s rebuttal isn’t taken lightly, Mao pulling out a knife. So that from here this is effectively a kidnapping.

Though it is of a peculiar kind, as they end up in a small town staying with Mao’s aunt. Here we get to know the characters, the inconsistencies of Lenin, and the family history of Mao, somewhere in between Marcia is spun around by the two and events in general.

Suddenly (Tan De Repente) is one of those films where you aren’t really sure where it is going to go, though there are parts of it you can see coming. Coming out of it I wasn’t entirely sure what to make of it, but its certainly an interesting piece coming from Argentina, and the background that provides to events.

Friday, May 07, 2004

Main Hoon Na - i guess bollywood is one of those i am kind of curious about, but don't get based on the clips i've seen, never actually seen a film though. just checking out the bruce sterling blog, and he is talking about this film, which happens to be showing in glasgow at the moment... coincidence or cosmic force?

Sunday, May 02, 2004

Ultimate Fantastic Four - it looks like the entire first issue of a run by warren ellis on the fantastic four is available online. text isn't entirely easy to read at that size with the font on use, but interesting preview anyway. there is a certain irony with ellis taking over a fantastic four title, given that my favourite title by him is his planterary material - which features a shadowy and evil group referred to as the four, whose powers and beginnings mirror the fantastic four to some degree.

Bad Sector - Polonoid - awesome!

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