Call Me By Your Name

This stunningly tender and visually encapsulating coming of age gay love story, directed by Luca Guadagnino, captures perfectly the complexities, the aching intensity and confusion of passion. Set in Northern Italy in 1983-the Psychedelic Furs’ ‘Love My Way’ offers an aural time guideline here- somewhere in Northern Italy, the scene is set when Elio- Timothee Chalamet- an exceptionally precocious and intelligent seventeen year old is moving out of his bedroom to make way for his academic father’s yearly intern who arrives in the shape of the impossibly handsome Oliver- Armie Hammer- with neither realising that the next few weeks will be life changing for both of them.
In fact their initial meeting is low key with Elio casually offering to show Oliver around the town and its neighbouring country vistas. At first there seems little in the way of natural chemistry but gradually we feel Elio’s interest piqued although it is Oliver who makes the first move when he casually starts to massage Elio’s shoulder during a volleyball game. There follows a series of subtle moves and missed opportunities on both sides until one day on a bike ride they both confess-albeit without saying it in explicit terms- their true feelings for each other and things slowly but eventually explosively unravel until they are able to be honest with each other.
The thing that makes this film stand out from others in this genre is that there are no external pressures on their affair. Instead the problems that arise are down to the two protagonists reading and misreading signs with neither one wanting to be the one to make the first move for fear of offending the other.
The film is also visually stunning and many analogies of succulent fruit ripening and waiting to be devoured are constant throughout the film. Likewise the erotica of classical male statues- the study of which is Oliver’s main purpose for being in Italy-, where everything is in exaggerated by sensual curves, offer further visual sign-postings as to where things are all heading .
As for the scenery it captures perfectly hazy, lazy summer days where everything and nothing happens; when Oliver first arrives he asks Elio what people do there and Elio flippantly replies ‘Wait for the summer to end’. A soundtrack of period music alongside the contemporary Surfjam Stevens contributions also work in perfect sync giving the film a sense of looking back at a simpler time most likely through the mature Elio’s eyes today.
The standout performance in the film is Chalamet as Elio. He is a character you constantly feel for and somehow manages to transfer his emotions over to the audience clearly and consistently. In one particularly poignant scene after the lovers have spent their final couple of days together he is at a remote train station after Oliver has departed for America and phoning his mother to collect him you actually feel his heartache as he struggles to hold it all together. Another great scene comes between him and his father-Michael Stuhlbarg- where his father makes a speech which is so profound and deeply full of morality that it applies to anyone whatever their sexual orientation.
Call Me By Your Name is quite simply an emotional, visceral and visually stunning film that captures not only the complexities of love but also the simplicity of an earlier era. The absence of technology allows real human emotions to raise to the surface-no emojis or smiley faces to express emotions needed here, not when eyes, lips and words articulate so much more- and succeeds on every level.



Bloodlight and Bami

Grace Jones: icon, diva, untouchable goddess, fearsome adversary and real life, live genuine superstar. A bullet-proof façade or so you might think until you see this Sophie Fiennes documentary on the Grace Jones behind the armour; how much behind the armour is still unclear at the film’s conclusion but this is probably just how the irrepressible Ms. Jones wants it.
Essentially it is a film of two halves, one half the diva and public persona whilst the other focuses on her family life back in her original home of Jamaica.
Hence we witness the typical superstar strops as she bawls someone out over the telephone for not meeting her specific demands, ending with her throwing the phone across the luxurious hotel suite; the next minute however we are ensconced in a shanty town in a sunny and breezy Jamaica where she effortlessly slips into the local patois with childhood acquaintances, smoking a spliff emerging altogether as a much softer character, although the charisma remains firmly intact.
Likewise the glamour alternates between body-con Azzedine Aliah mixed with the structured futurism of Issey Miyake in her role as superstar. This contrasts with the more relaxed diaphanous loose dresses, baggy fatigues topped by the Philip Treacy sunhats and caps of her Jamaican self. Both are constructions however, both she wears impeccably and both are very much Grace Jones.
A new side for many viewing this film however is the reveal that her grandfather –Mas.P- was an extremely religious preacher and violent disciplinarian and that Grace and her siblings endured many beatings and punishments as children. Apparently it is the fearful presence that he used to command to instil terror in them that she distils in the icy, detached and cool demeanour of her stalking, skulking, marauding and intimidating stage presence.
The live shots which inter-cut with backstage shots and the Jamaican home life seem to originate from her 2009 Hurricane tour and one backstage conversation returns to her infamous altercation with Russell Harty, which propelled her to household name status, which she initially dismisses with a flippant ‘He’s dead but I didn’t kill him’ before offering her explanation of what actually happened on that 1980 show.
Of course it wouldn’t be a film about Grace Jones if we didn’t actually witness some true diva style tantrums; the aforementioned phone throwing sequence is typical but another sees her refuse to perform on a stage set miming to La Vie En Rose surrounded by female dancers as it makes her look like a Madame in a brothel. Another sees her try to restrain this side in Jamaica when long-time collaborator Robbie Shakespeare- one half of the legendary rhythm section Sly ‘n’ Robbie- fails to turn up for a recording session and she tries to reason then intimidate him into appearing much to the consternation of the engineer who keeps worriedly insisting ‘don’t piss him off’.
Ultimately this portrait attempts to unravel the mysteries behind the enigma and reveal another side to a very public demeanour and it does so successfully. To an extent. One can’t help feeling that despite the other side of Grace that emerges from the film is in deep contrast to the more recognised one it is still very much what she wants us to see and how she should be seen. It is still a fascinating ideology however and having her in control of how she is observed is just quintessential Grace Jones and frankly we really wouldn’t want it any other way!


Just an Observation

Confirming my assertions last week that we are living in a world in seemingly permanent freefall this week has brought light to producer Harvey Weinstein’s decades of abuse towards women.
Whilst it should come as no surprise to anyone that Hollywood moguls in positions of power would violate their positions of power and influence- this scenario is as old as Hollywood itself- but it is the extent of his abuse that is shocking. What is just as shocking is that it has been an ‘open secret’ in the industry for years and no-one has thought to speak out about it until last week when the floodgates opened.
This in itself exposes a darker underbelly to Hollywood life as it is not that industry insiders have only just discovered this vile information and decided to do something about it but that they have known it has existed for years and done absolutely nothing about it whatsoever. It was only the threat and eventual inevitability of it becoming public knowledge that necessitated some action; they haven’t just found out about it but we-the public- have and that is unacceptable and has a whole industry running scared as I doubt Weinstein is the only perpetrator.
Meanwhile Weinstein grew in power and influence gaining more control and support enabling him to wield such a reign of terror; here my thoughts turn to Marilyn Monroe on her marriage to Joe DiMaggio- an influential figure in the sporting world – expressing her relief that she no longer had to provide the obligatory blowjob in order to secure a part. If a star such as Monroe still felt obligated to prostitute herself –her career was up and running at this point- then imagine how intimidated and pressurised a younger and more unknown actress might feel.
Spiralling from the Weinstein fallout is another telling story in that Ben Affleck was quick to hold his hand up and apologise for some of his past predatory actions but denied having any knowledge of Weinstein’s behaviour. Untrue, countered actress Rose McGowan followed by a heated and abusive exchange which found her suspended from Twitter for inappropriate language.
Yes, this is the same Twitter which allowed the President of the United States to use heated and abusive language to virtually declare war on North Korea. Again it is the woman who was silenced and put in her place-for daring to answer back and challenge- whilst the male of the species run rampant doing whatever they please it would seem
Of course with America having a President who advocates sexual assault and abuse on women- and is actually on tape doing so- is seen to get away with such indecency but still manages to get elected then it is time to realise the problem lies much deeper than politics or the entertainment industry. It is a sad indictment, yet again, of the world we live in.
Over here in the (not so) United Kingdom our very own emboldened female Prime Minister- snigger away at the back please- is unfortunately the worst example of a woman who has made her way to the top on her abilities by messing up everything she touches by her sheer incompetence.
The Brexit fiasco- and it is a fiasco-is a total shambles and sixteen months on is no further forward in any shape or form: it seems to be a stop start game of truth or dare without anyone either telling the truth or being daring. May herself is unable to answer the simplest question on any issue; if asked what two and two was she would probably reply that it is a number but there are all manner of things to be considered and there is government department dealing with this and it is strong and stable on and on and etc., ad nauseam….
At least Boris Johnson has had a thankfully quiet week and it was good to see Nicola Sturgeon –now there is a woman who is on the ball and has used intelligence, integrity and insight to achieve what she has and even answers a question when asked- lay into him and actually say that he is a liability in the position of Foreign Minister. Admittedly, his own party should be saying this but it was refreshing to hear what so many of us think at last.
Out and about in the city tonight is another worthwhile Refugee Benefit at the Leith Depot. The last one was excellent and this one features Little Love and the Friendly Vibes, Cat Caldwell and Screamin’ Whisper; doors open at 7.30. I meanwhile will be participating in a David Bowie quiz at the Pond but may stop in after to buy a drink with my winnings


Just an Observation

This past week has certainly confirmed the fact that the world is in a bit of a mess at the moment and shows no signs of pulling itself together anytime soon.
Things started off badly with disgusting scenes at polling stations in Spain as Catalonians made a bid for independence and met with brutal force from authorities who are generally there to protect people. The scenes were quite horrific to watch and even though the vote was in favour of independence it is regarded as an illegal referendum by the Spanish government. The EU has since upheld this view and the violent altercations that were seen around the world have been dismissed as the authorities using ‘reasonable’ force.
On what planet exactly does kicking a middle-aged woman down a flight of stairs and dragging her by her hair constitute ‘reasonable force’?
Meanwhile over in Trump Land –every day I hate Donald Trump a little more and every day I wonder how that is even possible but he never fails to deliver- the most ridiculous President in history told the people of Puerto Rico that they should feel blessed at being struck by a natural disaster as its death toll was not as great as one that the US had several years ago. I am not sure when a death count of human lives became a competition but it seems to endear this orange faced buffoon to enough people to keep him in office.
Once again how is this even possible?
Not that over here in the (not so) United Kingdom we have any real right to sneer and snigger as our own political system is also an international joke.
First up we have our own straw-haired buffoon in the unsightly shape of Boris Johnson; the Foreign Secretary who thinks that a war-shattered Libya could become a worthwhile tourist resort in the manner of Dubai as soon as the dead bodies are cleared away. I seriously cannot comprehend how this man holds onto his job and further dismay engulfs me every time I hear a member of his party refer to him as some sort of ‘rock star’ figure.
Again I ask myself, on what planet?
He was however superseded in the idiot stakes as Teresa May took the stage at the Conservative Party Comedy Farce in Manchester this week.
Struggling to talk through a coughing fit- as if her own body was rejecting the bile coming out of her mouth- a member of the audience then handed her a P45. We are supposed to believe somehow that this party is in charge of our national security when they can’t even control the security at their own conference. Then the set behind her began to disassemble itself until it was like the opening credits of a Fawlty Towers episode. It would be funny if it wasn’t so tragically frightening.
This will surely go down as the worst Prime Minister’s speech ever and I doubt that even her smug arrogance can save her from the wolves in her party. With Boris waiting in the wings however I fear that things will get a lot worse long before they ever get better.
If you need something to take you away from all this mayhem then I suggest maybe going to see the new Bladerunner 2049 film out today.
Although it is not exactly a barrel of laughs it does have the bonus of having Ryan Gosling, Jared Leto, Robin Wright, Harrison Ford and Ana de Armas to look at. Any fans of the original film will not be disappointed. Set, like the original, in a near future dystopia it is a master-class in film-making; the music and cinematography are simply stunning and the cast is top-notch.
A full review –with no plot spoilers- can be found here.
To make some sense of a crazy week in world affairs I am heading off to a Grace Jones themed club night at the Wee Red Bar in the Art College- the culmination of a two day symposium of the celebrated Ms. Jones- as at least her form of (un) reality and artifice is one I can actually relate to and stomach!
Maybe Grace can save us all. There but for the God of Grace go I!


Bladerunner 2049

The eagerly anticipated- or over-hyped depending on your view of the original- sequel to Ridley Scott’s 1982 classic Bladerunner like its predecessor is ambiguous in its intentions; leaving more questions unanswered than answered. This time Denis Villeneuve is at the helm although Scott’s spectral presence is in every nuanced frame and deliberately so as familiarity with the original is essential in understanding the continuing narrative of Bladerunner 2049.
Ryan Gosling’s Officer K aka Joe fills much the same terrain as Harrison Ford’s Deckard in the original; an LAPD sleuth who hunts down replicants and ultimately ‘retires’ them in a dystopian near future. Convincingly played in his usual doe-eyed inscrutable way Gosling is ably supported in his task by Robin Wright, Jared Leto and of course Ford himself who returns as Deckard giving a great performance. Also of note is Ana de Armas as K’s holographic lover who absorbs the persona in line with his current moods and desires; one minute caring and nurturing supporter the next a sultry vamp.
The characters would be nothing without the sets and cinematography though and both are visually stunning throughout. Capturing the essence of the original but not relying on either homage or impersonation; sun-drenched vast deserts, rain-soaked streets and neon skyways all compete for attention and mirror the unfolding drama.
It is the music however which is the film’s true star, swelling, soothing,building and malingering as suits the scene. It is the music which ultimately prevents the film from dragging- at 2 hours 45 minutes it could be termed overly long for some used to more action filled blockbusters.
As for the plot I am not going to reveal anything in the way of spoilers- every sequence of events in this film offers up unnecessary clues- but suffice to say it is as intriguing, complex, perplexing and intuitive as its predecessor.
Ultimately the film as a whole is a triumph. For once the hype was(almost) justified and fans of the original who have sat through various drafts-I am sure there was even a Tea Lady’s Cut at one point- will find their patience has been rewarded.


Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds- Glasgow, SSE Hydro

This gig was already shrouded in controversy due to Cave agreeing to play in Tel Aviv. He is not alone in this however as Radiohead, The Pretenders and of course the King of Controversy, Morrissey have all played there recently and although it is expected that some of those listed can be a little-shall we say- misguided in their principles and beliefs at times Nick Cave always seemed, to me at least, to be navigated by a moral compass which lent itself to the right thing.
I did deliberate over whether to go or not but being a huge fan of Cave I eventually succumbed.
Quite a lot has changed in the two and a half years since I last saw Cave what with personal tragedy striking him in the most horrendous way and the trajectory of his profile with the general public increasing not only because of said tragedy, which featured heavily in the mainstream press, but also the inclusion of his music in the hit show Peaky Blinders which introduced him to a whole new audience.
This transference to the mainstream was abundantly clear from the size of the venue he appeared in last night and the gulf between this cavernous arena and the sweaty club I first saw him in is immeasurable.
Opening with a trio of songs from last year’s Skeleton Tree opus – The Anthrocene, Jesus Alone and Magneto- proved from the outset that Cave and his amazing band are more than adept at taking intimate songs of darkness and mournful fragility to such a vast audience and space. The sound was amazing- it lost a little of its customary warmth but that was more to where we were positioned than any lack of musical skill- and after this low key start creating a mood he was off into Higgs Boson’s Blues swiftly followed by a threatening From her to Eternity and a rumbling Tupelo.
This was followed by a riveting Jubilee Street, a mesmerising Ship Song and a beautiful Into My Arms.
The latter however was when I first noticed the change in Cave’s approach to his audience – a few uncharacteristically witty asides had preceded this- when he held his microphone out to the audience and let them sing the final chorus. It was a very moving and tender moment but it had the feel of Gothic Karaoke about it.
Things swiftly got back on track though and drawing from his impressive back catalogue we were entreated to such delights as an atmospheric Red Right Hand, the white knuckle ride of The Mercy Seat, a transcendent Distant Sky before finishing with Skeleton Tree.
Then we were into the encores!
This is where things started to go a bit wrong for me personally…
Starting with a powerful Weeping Song things were fine until Cave decided to attempt some sort of Iggy messianic, idolatory pose and disappeared into the crowd only to reappear again in the midst of them on a platform. Decidedly shaky on his legs he went into his preacher man role – I have seen him do this many times before successfully and convincingly- and within seconds he was surrounded by his adulating and adoring public who couldn’t believe their luck and did what is now expected of such situations and pulled out their phones and started snapping and filming away. Meanwhile the band played on as Cave played up to this and seemed to be enjoying it.
Things didn’t improve much for the next song Stagger Lee where making his way back to the stage he invited several of the locals with him so the rest of us were treated to the sight of rhythmically challenged wannabe’s crowding out the stage area and any tension of the song was lost amidst the mayhem. The closing number, Push the Sky Away, saw Cave back down amongst the audience again and once again an amazing song lost much of its impact due to the cheap theatrics.
I am not sure why Cave has chosen to pursue this Robbie Williams as Redcoat routine but whilst it is good to see him having fun- if anyone deserves fun after the tragedy he has suffered then it is him- but for me personally it cheapened the music by turning it into Karaoke and diminishing its mystique. I am sure for those who were close to their idol it was a great moment but the problem with vast arenas such as this is if you only play to one small section then inevitably you lose the interest and support of others.
Perhaps this is what we can expect from Cave from now on- next step Las Vegas maybe?- and certainly if anyone deserves recognition and success for his music then it is him. Up until the encore I admit his performance was flawless but despite this I felt a little bit of him was lost last night and I only hope he manages to find it again.


Just an Observation

Bypassing summer completely this year we seem to have arrived at an early mid-autumn and all that brings with it.
On the plus side a vast improvement in films at the cinema, television programmes other than just endless sport, slightly more reliable weather in keeping with the date on the calendar and a good reason to eat comforting foods- not that the latter ever requires any reason at any time of year really.
On the minus side the slightly darker evenings are just a precursor to seemingly permanent darkness, cold biting winds and rain, endless layers of clothes in a misguided attempt to stay warm, endless chats with everyone about how awful the weather is and an insatiable appetite for comfort food!
It also means that the parliamentary summer recess is over and once again we have to reconcile ourselves with seeing politicians we despise on the news on almost a daily basis.
I had almost wiped out the sight and sounds of Theresa May from my mind when up she popped last week and reminded me once again just how insincere, annoyingly delusional and smugly arrogant she actually is. Mind you she has some stiff competition from Jacob Rees-Mogg in all of the aforementioned categories and sometimes you wonder whether there is a competition within the Tory party to see just how misguided and evil it is possible to be and still somehow manage to get people to vote for you.
I find it all quite bewildering!
Both going out and staying in are preferable ideals at this time of year and as already mentioned cinematic offerings are infinitely preferable to the blockbuster fodder served up over the summer months.
One film definitely worth seeing, possible contender for film of the year, is Francis Lee’s God’s Own Country starring Josh O’ Connor and Alec Secareanu as mismatched lovers set against the bleak but beautiful Yorkshire landscapes. Annoyingly referred to as a British Brokeback Mountain, a lazy comparison which does this tender yet brutal film a disservice as the beauty and harshness of this film has more bite, genuine emotion and gritty realism than the aforementioned Hollywood fare, which only tipped its toe in the water by way of contrast.
A moving and oddly sentimental film which refuses to drown itself in schmaltz; God’s Own Country, like Weekend before it, shows a new sensibility in gay film making which steps out beyond the gay theme at their core to show a more universal approach to relationships in general.
In direct contrast to this the other great film out at the moment is Steven Soderbergh’s Logan Lucky which really is a product of Hollywood although it is far from being mere Hollywood product.
Featuring a virtually unrecognisable Daniel Craig, who has stepped well out of his comfort zone, alongside Channing Tatum, Adam Driver and Hilary Swank it is that old Hollywood staple, the heist film. Somehow it works and although it is totally fantastical it is a thoroughly entertaining and compelling film which does not insult your intelligence. Against all the odds I actually loved it!
Even television schedulers seemed to have lightened up to the fact that after being bombarded with sport over the summer months autumn is the time to return to drama. Rellik on BBC1 has some great promise as a small screen Brit version of Memento- the story unfolds in reverse- but was marred by the BBC affliction of bad sound-why can’t they apply this whenever Theresa May is on screen?- which along with the difficult narrative structure makes it hard to follow. I watched it again on iPlayer and it is certainly worth sticking with. Likewise ITV’S Safe House with Stephen Moyer and Ashley Walters is marred by the channel’s annoying adverts every five minutes stance which ruins any sort of atmosphere or tension.
Tonight also sees the return of the worthwhile Refugee Benefit Nights at Leith Depot and what a line up there is for their return; The Safari Surfers, Mattie Collins, The Omega Corridor and the Filthy Tongues’ front-man Martin Metcalfe in a solo outing. Looks like being a great night and for only £7.50 and for a good cause what is there not to like!
Image by Liz Tainsh.