Archive for the ‘ FILMS 2016 ’ Category


One More Time With Feeling- Nick Cave

‘You’re a cold mist rolling off the sea’ is just one poignant line in ‘Jesus Alone’, the new single by Nick Cave, a song in which heartache drips from every word and sorrow permeates every musical nuance to create an intense work of tragic beauty which leaves his contemporaries floundering at the starting line. It is also however how this Andrew Dominik film, capturing Cave as he records and prepares his new album ‘The Skeleton Tree’,makes us feel as a distinct chill permeates proceedings and envelopes you throughout following the death of his fifteen year old son Arthur last year in tragic circumstances.
It is impossible to separate this film and accompanying album from the context of Cave’s personal grief as it seems to be some part of his artistic grieving process and in complete contrast to his previous film, 20,000 Days On Earth, which was essentially a contrived vanity project as it captures him unguarded and raw; deep in tumult and trying to make sense of the chaos constantly in his head.
At one point he gives possibly the most concise description of loss I have ever heard when he compares it to being like an elastic band which stretches and allows you to move a forward a certain distance only to suddenly pull you right back to the centre of the heartache forcing you to try to move forward all over again.
I can’t imagine anyone seeing this film would not be aware of the tragedy that lies at its core and in the scenes his wife, former model Susie Bick, and Arthur’s twin brother Earl appear it becomes clear that is this is very much a family pulling together to try to deal with a situation no family should ever have to go through. A scene where Susie holds a painting the five year old Arthur had done of the very place he died ten years later is not only heartbreaking but also eerily prescient.
The music is, of course, stunning. I doubt if a record has ever been recorded with its audience knowing so much about the tragic circumstances which surround its genesis. Certainly Cave, looking like a ‘ragged monument’, has confronted his situation head on and this lies in line with the uncompromising stance of his whole career only this time it comes from emotions and situations he no longer has any handle on.
A totally compelling, riveting and emotionally raw film ‘One More Time with Feeling’ deals with emotions we will all have to deal with or have already dealt with at some point in our lives and captures that disconnected, dislocated feeling true sorrow generates. It is a film which will certainly stay with you for sometime after as anyone ever affected by loss can truly relate to its central theme.


Absolutely Fabulous:The Movie
It was with more than a slight feeling of trepidation that I approached this film; a spin-off of a much loved television show which captured and parodied a particular zeitgeist in PR and fashion in the early to mid nineties. The central characters Edina (Eddie) Monsoon and Patsy Stone- respectively Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley- became an instant success and legendary comedy figures with every pair of girlfriends who had ever shared a glass of cheap fizz believing they were one of the two and adapting to their roles accordingly.
The series began to pall in the late nineties and the spark failed to re-ignite as comeback series after comeback series failed to generate the same laughs or capture the current climate as successfully as the original runs did; the less said about the 2012 Olympic themed one-off ‘special’ the better.
However, as if to make sure that a dead horse has been properly flogged, Saunders was persuaded that what the world really needed was a full length movie version of a show which peaked over twenty years ago. Thus we find ourselves with Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie and with the country on the brink of chaos after the recent Brexit result it would seem that a bit of comedy is just what we need to cheer up what is quite a miserable time.
Or at least that is the theory!
The film is based around the premise that Eddie’s PR firm, which at best was a nebulous concept anyway, is in dire straits and needs some serious attention or at least one decent client. As if on cue it transpires that Kate Moss is seeking new PR and therefore Eddie sets about pursuing this dream client but inadvertently ends up pushing the supermodel off a balcony and into The Thames, where everyone assumes she drowns.
Eddie quickly finds herself accused of her murder- the only thing that really gets murdered in this film is the Scottish accent left in the incapable and culpable hands of Lulu- and an international hate figure, which combined with her business and financial woes, forces her into fleeing the country conspiring with faithful cohort Patsy who believes she is still such a catch that she can attract a rich playboy who will fund their lives in the champagne lifestyle they feel (self) entitled to.
Around this juncture the whole movie degenerates even further into predictable farce and there is even a ‘Some Like It Hot’ styled plotline you see coming a mile off.
I am not sure quite why Saunders chose to make this film as it is clearly way past its peak and although she and Lumley are as brilliant as ever in their roles there is a feeling they are sleepwalking their way through them; they even on occasion throw out a few greatest hits moments. The thing is, due to re-runs and box sets, these are not as funny as they should be as familiarity alongside predictability are the curse of any comedy.
The roll call of celebrities doesn’t help matters – the aforementioned Lulu, Emma Bunton, Lily Cole, Christopher Biggins, Jon Hamm, Stella McCartney, Jean Paul Gaultier and a particularly wooden Kate Moss who clearly doesn’t have a career as an actress lying ahead of her.
Eventually the best thing I can say about this film is that it was mercifully short- apparently the editing suite did the bulk of the work in trying to salvage anything remotely watchable. If anything the whole concept felt dated and irrelevant –surely even Eddie and Patsy in a desperate bid to remain current would now drink Prosecco rather than insisting on Bolly- and the laughs were the thinnest thing in the movie. A much better option would be to open a bottle of fizz, get a few friends round and watch a box-set or an early series on Netflix. With the weather outside you are more in need of a brolly than Bolly anyway!


Just an Observation
Wow! What a week!
Have stayed away from writing about the shock result of last week’s European Referendum as emotions –mine included- were riding so high and was waiting for a bit of clarity after the dust had settled..
Unfortunately this hasn’t been the case, far from it actually, and a full week later things are no nearer to being resolved satisfactorily- which ever way you voted- and the country is in an even worse state of turmoil than ever. In fact I would go as far as to say it is in its worst state of turmoil it has ever been in during my lifetime. Never have divisions been more apparent and never have so many people been as clueless as to which direction we are heading in; unfortunately this applies as much to those who are supposed to be directing us as it does to the general public.
It’s a mess!
It is ridiculous that such a large percentage of the populace waited until after they had voted to find out what the plan was for after a leave vote had been attained. It is beyond shocking that the top two Google searches immediately following the vote were ‘What is the EU?’ and ‘What will happen to the UK if it leaves the EU?’ Surely a bit of research beforehand would have been the sensible thing.
Then again what sense can be made of the whole shambles, including the result?
Since last Friday morning when shock, despair and disbelief set in, matters seem only to have gone from bad to worse with everyone blaming someone else.
Young people blaming old people for ruining their future- the highest age group voting Leave were the over 55’s- when the percentage of young people bothering to actually vote itself was extremely low. I have continuously mentioned an apathy, complacency and a sense of entitlement amongst young people on several occasions and now by not even bothering to vote on their own future they are entitled to lot less than they were just over a week ago. Blaming it on the older generation is unfair and complacent in itself!
Poor people blame the rich people with their private schooling and advantaged lifestyles. Rich people blame the poor people who are uneducated , unable to find jobs and therefore draining the welfare system.
Racists and bigots blame the immigrants while racist related hate crimes are on the rise; it seems as if what was until recently thinly veiled xenophobia has now dropped its veil and is clearly out in the open and viciously exposed.
Meanwhile both the Tory and Labour parties are in disarray and squabbling whilst jousting amongst them selves rather than reassuring a troubled nation which is in need of some guidance.
From where I am standing the person responsible for the whole debacle is David Cameron who needlessly called the referendum in an arrogant attempt to silence the Euro-sceptics in his own party. The whole thing then sensationally backfired and on losing the public’s support he then backtracked and resigned when the result didn’t go his way.
It then didn’t take even the bumbling buffoon that is Boris Johnson too long to work out that as his natural successor-having led the Leave campaign to their result, I stop short of calling it a victory- that he had basically stuffed his own chances at being Prime Minister as he was merely being handed a poisoned chalice.
In fact the whole thing has been like an Old Etonian version of Truth or Dare –with the Truth part omitted obviously- with the country’s future as its stake.
Only Nicola Sturgeon seemed to have had any plan following the shock result and Scotland-along with Northern Ireland- are making plans regarding their own future. Sturgeon is the only leading British politician who has shown any integrity in this debacle and it looks as if another Independence Referendum is now on the cards.
Mind you I feel that we are on a constant loop of referendums, protests and voting these days.
All this turmoil is so distressing when all I want is for life to be Absolutely Fabulous! As if on cue the film of that very name is released today with a vague intention of cheering us up. Initial reviews have been a little guarded in their praise-although more favourable than expected but that is probably down to the prodigious amounts of free ‘Bolly’ being poured down reviewers throats at screenings than anything- but to be honest anything is better than the comedy of errors, or tragedy, that is British politics and politicians at this very moment in time.


Lost In France
Niall McCann’s documentary focuses on a 1997 trip by Glasgow independent label Chemikal Underground’s trip to Mauron in France using some original footage interspersed by that of a return visit in 2012 with some of the key players of that memorable trip.
Fondly remembered-that is what can be remembered as chemicals and alcohol played a large part in the .proceedings- by several key participants who recall what they can of events for this film including Mogwai’s Stuart Braithwaite, three quarters of The Delgados-Paul Savage, Stewart Henderson and Emma Pollock-, RM Hubbert and Alex Kapranos who made the journey prior to his Franz Ferdinand days. Grainy video footage provides essential visual confirmation of some recounted events and the graininess effectively presents it as hazy memories thus adding to the mystique and clouded judgment.
All the interviewees give surprisingly accurate and coherent accounts of what they remember but apart from Pollock and Kapranos none of them seem to have been treated too kindly by time. Therefore often the visual appeal of the film lacks the dynamic required for a film about the heady rock and roll lifestyle it so obviously wants to depict. Instead it relies on the articulacy of its contributors and luckily enough they all fulfil this criteria more than adequately with Braithwaite, Pollock, Henderson and Kapranos offering interesting insights and humorous anecdotes.
As stated before the video footage adds an extra dimension and although it is used sparingly and effectively the feeling lingers that perhaps a little more of this could have been included to provide a bit of visual treat as opposed to yet another middle aged man sitting in a bar talking about his misspent youth ‘back in the day’.
The film hinges on a return trip to the town of Mauron where those who made the trip give a repeat performance in a hastily assembled super-group. It is with a rendition of Franz Fedinand’s ‘Jacqueline’ that the film really feels like a rock and roll documentary for the first time and it is telling that it is with the inclusion of a song by a band that hadn’t even been formed on the original trip.
Often it feels as if Kapranos is there as a box office draw as although he was present on the earlier trip he wasn’t a central figure but despite this he is an interesting interviewee with a keen observer’s viewpoint. As the major success story of that scene it is also good to see him acknowledging his roots whilst affording them some respect.
If I am honest I found this film a little self indulgent and I can’t imagine it would hold much interest to a wider audience apart from those with a keen knowledge of the Chemikal Underground roster. Unlike last year’s EIFF offering ‘Big Gold Dream’ which focussed on the Edinburgh post punk scene there is distinct lack of charismatic characters- Kapranos and Pollock are the obvious exceptions- and it tends to drag towards the end. Definitely one for the fans who will no doubt love all the recounting of a mid-late nineties Glasgow scene they played some part in, but if you weren’t there this film is unlikely to make you wish you were.
Lost In France is showing at Odeon 2 on Thursday June 16 at 20.55


Mapplethorpe: Look At The Pictures
Robert Mapplethorpe 93.4289 4/18/02 Ellen Labenski
There is a poignant moment in Patti Smith’s highly romanticised and idealised biography ‘Just Kids’ when she describes how on New Years Eve 1969, as the sixties rolled into the seventies, she and this film’s subject matter Robert Mapplethorpe stood looking at the billboards John Lennon and Yoko Ono provided for the major cities of the western world proclaiming ‘War is over if you want it’ apparently inspiring both of them to make their mark in the coming decade; she via the form of wordy message and he through the medium of visual art.
Of course this is like everything that Smith propagates around this time, in that life was an incessant voyage of discovery and although she is obviously an important part of Mapplethorpe’s life-and a personal inspiration to me- I was quite relieved that she only appears in this film through recorded early interviews and even then only as a side figure; rather than allowing her to crowd the tale as she often does when it comes to Mapplethorpe.
Instead, for possibly the first time, the selfishness, ruthless ambition and tendency to use anybody who could help him in any way, through whatever means he had at his disposal, becomes wholly apparent and perhaps this is what he and Smith shared more than anything apart from those very early formative years when their ambitious natures settled on the Herculean task of taking on the world.
Other lovers, friends and family are therefore allowed their say in the making of the Mapplethorpe legend including telling statements from David Croland, Debbie Harry and most revealingly his younger brother Edward. What emerges is a self-obsessed narcissist who used people as he needed them but only if they could further his career. It was a trait he was quite open about, particularly in the case of Sam Wagstaff who had the connections and money to further his career in a way that Mapplethorpe could only dream about. In fact some would say and confirmation exists in a separate documentary film- Black and White and Grey- about the two of them that without Wagstaff’s patronage Mapplethorpe would not have the career that he eventually did.
However it is Mapplethorpe’s work that stands out and his revolutionary approach to taboo subjects such as homosexuality, male genitalia and S&M practices are what ultimately made him successful.Also positioning himself within the photos thus removing the voyeuristic aspect associated with such practices was a revolutionary idea in the seventies; the photo of him administering an enema tube into his own anus is both compelling and fascinating.
His portrait pictures however have not stood the test of time so well and apart from several sessions with Smith-most notably his cover portrait for her revelatory debut album ‘Horses’- his work with women was not always so successful as in both these areas he tended towards a slickness that was too idealised and has no edge in contemporary eyes. His flower shots though are stunning- ‘From flowers to fist-fucking’ is how one contributor describes the dichotomy that lies at the heart of his best work- and show a tenderness and sexuality that is not initially apparent.
This film is extremely worthwhile for anyone with an interest in Mapplethorpe’s work and allows a glimpse of what actually drove the man-ambition, ruthlessness, fame, money and post-death legacy- while still leaving something of the legend intact. The photos, as ever, remain the entire legacy he really needs!
Robert Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures is showing at The Filmhouse for the rest of this week only.


Miles Ahead
Don Cheadle’s directorial debut also finds him playing the lead role as Miles Davis in, what could be termed, his wilderness years. At times the film feels as if it is trying too hard to create something of the impressionistic nature of Davis’ best music but at other times the whole thing coalesces into something quite cohesive even if it feels the film tries to say a lot without saying very much at all.
Unfortunately much of Cheadle’s good work is almost undone by an over enthusiastic Ewan McGregor as a fictional Rolling Stone journalist Dave Braden out to get the scoop on Davis-laughably dubbed ‘The Howard Hughes of Jazz’- troubled times and new recordings which his public has been eagerly awaiting for five long years. At first I thought McGregor’s all over the place accent was a bad Scots impersonation of an American one and then it transpired that his character was in fact Scottish which means it became a bad impersonation of Scottish accent from a native Scot! The accent aside McGregor was as unconvincing as ever and a particularly jarring note in an otherwise well executed film.
As I said before the story focuses on Davis’ wilderness years- the early to mid seventies- but it has flashbacks to his earlier successes, the beginnings of his marriage to Frances and the subsequent breakdown of said marriage as his career, womanizing and drugs took hold and pushed the relationship into the background.
The main story itself seems to focus on Davis’ troubled relationship with his record label who desperately wanted some new product to sell and other dodgy opportunists who steal said unfinished product from Davis’s home during one of his many impromptu parties. At this juncture the film degenerates into predictable farce with shoot outs and car chases all to little effect.
In fact the main thing which holds this film together is Cheadle’s exceptional performance and Davis’s music, which at certain points articulates certain scenes better than any dialogue ever could.
Admittedly I have only started to appreciate Davis’ music over the last few months and although I love ‘A Kind Of Blue’ and ‘Sketches of Spain’ I am still struggling to get to grips with ‘Bitches Brew’ although there is enough there to tempt me back for repeated listening. I don’t know whether that could be said of this film which aims high often and gets there but then lets itself down again.
It was also hard seeing this the day after the news of Prince’s death broke. It was perhaps easy and a little too convenient to see something of the troubled genius in Davis and somehow relate it to Prince although they had nothing in common apart from their exceptional talents, originality and longevity in a notably fickle music scene.