JUST AN OBSERVATION

Monday 16th January

 

So the Golden Globes, seen by many as the dry run for the more prestigious-not to mention financially viable-Oscars next month, have been dispatched with very little in the way of surprise. That is unless ,like me, you wonder why Drive and its stand out performance-certainly amongst the years best if not the best- from Ryan Gosling managed to be ignored as not only a winner but from actually being nominated, Gosling was nominated for Crazy Stupid Love and The Ides Of March so he wasn’t left totally out in the cold. It was not alone in the glaring omissions category-surely a new category which should be included in future years- as also missing were We Need to Talk about Kevin-both Tilda Swinton and Ezra Miller turned in amazing performances- The Help, which has impressed its audiences although critics remain sniffy about its sentiments, and countless others including the independent Weekend  featuring a heartfelt performance by newcomer Tom Cullen. It was no big shock to see The Artist sweep the board taking home six awards as it is indeed an irresistible film offering up a refreshing alternative to the crash, bang wallop CGI dominated films which infiltrate and pack out the multiplexes at this time of year. No surprise either that industry stalwarts George Clooney and Meryl Streep took home prizes either as both have paid their dues although in Streep’s case she has been ably rewarded being the most Oscar nominated actor ever-16 times so far- and Clooney although winning the supporting actor award a few years back has never taken home the big prize so far. The chances are good  both will reprise their success-along with The Artist- at next months ceremony but who knows what way things will pan out as the Oscars generally rely on how well the nominated have played the Hollywood kowtowing game as opposed to just being judged on merit. A link to a full list of winners can be found below.

Do these ceremonies actually make any difference to a films success in any way? Or are the lists simply compiled to boost sales rather than credibility or kudos? Usually the lists are compiled by industry insiders who are constantly schmoozed by agents, PR teams and actors themselves in the hope of winning the necessary votes to win so the former financial incentive seems more likely than any artistic merit. The same applies to music events such as the Grammies and the Brits which far from having the finger on the pulse are usually so behind the times as to be laughable.

Last years Brits were a case in point with The XX winning best newcomers award for an album which came out in August 2009. At this rate the Beatles could be nominated for most promising breakthrough act at next months show. Actually the Brits are quite an embarrassing representation of the state of the music industry although last year witnessed an upswing in the artists who won with Arcade Fire, Laura Marling and the aforementioned XX emerging triumphant. This year however Adele looks set to sweep the board although PJ Harvey may give her a run for her money. Adele has sales figures on her side and the record industry will no doubt feel the need to pay its cash cow homage by kissing her ample sized butt and reward her with the prize. Not that it is wholly undeserved but 2011 was definitely a year for female musical artists- Laura Marling, Lana Del Rey and a revitalized Kate Bush are also contenders- and it will be a close run thing. The male section however as far as I can see is about as uninhabited as outer Siberia and the group section belongs to The Black Keys although the likelihood of them winning is unlikely. Not winning is not always a bad thing as far as credible longevity is concerned as winning generally means your album becomes overexposed and abused in so many ways-adverts, programme links, Dancing on Ice and the X Factor for starters- until songs no longer engender any emotions apart from ennui and nausea. Witness Adele’s Someone Like You as a prime example of a song which has almost been reduced to cliché.

This weekend I went to see Shame starring Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan giving two award deserving performances. It is a high calibre psycho sexual study of a sex addict Brandon played by Fassbender in a performance which calls for a lot of full on sex scenes and full frontal nudity. In fact can I be the first to nominate Fasbender’s, noticeably large, private parts- on show for most of the first five opening minutes- for an award of their own as they certainly dominate the screen. The film  relies on so much more than sensationalism-and nudity- however and however impressive Fassbender’s meat and two veg are McQueen does not make an unnecessary meal of them and Shame emerges as a deeply disturbing though fascinating insight into not only the depravity of his addiction but also the mind numbing intensity of its monotony. Mulligan more than ably supports Fassbender as his wayward sister Sissy and Steve McQueens direction is not only innovative and thought provoking- keeping the audience out whilst simultaneously drawing them in- but highly effective. Probably too risqué for the Oscars next month but I wouldn’t be surprised if Fassbender and Mulligan were at least, deservedly, nominated. A full review can be found here.

Another interesting prospect this week is the Margin Call which details the fall out and events leading up to the financial crash of 2008 featuring a roll call of several major Hollywood players- Jeremy Irons, Kevin Spacey, Demi Moore, Zachary Quinto and more- and is interesting as it will allow us to put familiar faces to the names of the anonymous people responsible for much of the financial mess and plight we live in today. January also sees the Turner collection on display at the RSA on the Mound and this year I will definitely catch it-usually I remember about the first or second of February after it has been packed away for another eleven months- and is worth seeing as it is part of our heritage and it is free.

Here is a clip of should be Brit winners the Black Keys with a stand out track from their album El Camino, Gold on the Ceiling. Also here is a scene featuring Ryan Gosling in Drive worthy of an Oscar for intense speculation and tight lipped angst with an explosive outcome that is guaranteed to unsettle.

Below is the link to a full list of Golden Globe winners

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SHAME

Shame

 

Director Steve Mc Queen’s second film –the first was Hunger the IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands tragic and harrowing tale- and like its predecessor is raised to a higher level by a tightly controlled, coiled and passionate performance by its star Michael Fassbender. Portraying the ravaged and debauched lifestyle of the film’s protagonist the successful and attractive thirty something Brandon Sullivan, who also has an addiction to frequent explicit and anonymous sexual encounters, Fassbender turns in an amazing performance which dominates the screen whilst requiring a lot of full frontal nudity proving that he indeed does have a very large part in the films success. The film itself although beautifully shot capturing both the gloss and depravity of Brandon’s lifestyle is unsettling and McQueen’s directorial skills are brave in that he concentrates on a long take when less confident directors would have yelled ‘cut’. Instead he allows his camera to elongate its unflinching gaze allowing not only the actors expressions to articulate the machinations of their minds but also allowing the audience to absorb and involve themselves in the uneasy tension of the drama. It is an unsettling experience which whilst not obviously enjoyable certainly resonates on so many levels with not only the ravages of addiction brought to the fore but the sheer monotony and time consumed featuring to highlight what a numbing experience it becomes.

Whilst he is never obviously happy- Fassbender articulates with a detached look in his eyes which barely conceal his inner pain and internal turmoil- Brandon’s life is thrown even further into disarray with the arrival of his obviously emotionally disturbed younger sister Sissy in an equally strong performance by Carey Mulligan. Launching herself into Brandon’s stratosphere like a whirlwind she moves into his apartment then sleeps with his boss at a rate which even makes her brother wince and register discomfort. She gives a slow languorous and emotionally heartfelt rendition of New York, New York which has none of the joie de vivre and upbeat enthusiasm usually associated with that song instead tingeing it with a deep rooted melancholy. McQueen shoots this scene in one take focussing intently on Mulligan’s features which seem to contort with grief whilst simultaneously revealing her fractured inner psyche. It is a scene which reduces Brandon to tears though we are never sure why.

Further problems arise when Brandon attempts some normality in his relationships by going out on a date with Marianne a beautiful girl from his office. The awkwardness of the date combined with Brandon’s inability to express emotion or even have sexual relations with someone he is emotionally attracted to ensure that the relationship is essentially a non starter. Following this he embarks on even darker episodes in the inferno of the demi-monde and as his life appears to unravel more and more he simply confronts these issues by becoming even more debauched. There does not seem to be any resolution for either Brandon or Sissy and the root of their unhappiness is never revealed as is the fact whether they are ever likely to find any resolve to their obvious problems.

Shame is a deeply unsettling film that is no walk in the park followed by a skip around the flowers and its intensity is at times claustrophobic but it never fails to be compelling. This is due to extremely strong performances by Fassbender and Mulligan which McQueen’s brave and inventive direction only further highlights to great advantage. It is a film which will stay with you long after the unresolved ending and its impact will resonate even if you are not sure how or even why.

JUST AN OBSERVATION

Friday 12th January

With it feeling more like late March/early April outside 2012 has got off to a confusing start-hurricane winds last week then an early spring this week-but in a good way. Personally though the most confusing thing for me occurred after channel surfing the TV the other night I landed briefly on Celebrity Big Brother – have not watched this particular reality show for years after it became too self conscious and continually messed around with the format simply to boost ratings-and was unable to locate a celebrity amongst the inhabitants. Seriously unable to distinguish what makes an X-Factor reject, an annoying Shrieking Harridan-or one of the Loose Women to give her the title she prefers- a dancer who is on a show with Louis Spence but isn’t Louis Spence although he is even camper-hardly seems possible-and a tawdry collection of ‘glamour’ models worthy of the soubriquet celebrity is simply beyond me. Being the first really big reality show to catch the public’s imagination at the dawn of the twenty first century it is sad that the show did not bow out years ago or even when Channel 4 decommissioned it about three years ago. It is now beyond embarrassing and the celebrities are almost as unknown as the unknowns who entered the house twelve years ago unaware of what they were entering into. In fact non-entity would be a more appropriate monikor than celebrity. This lot however are in there for a career boost and a financial top up to their bank balances from the inevitable articles in the trash mags –the ones which if placed in a certain order on the shelves spell out Hello, Take a  Look, Closer, Now and Reveal ,OK- and the whole thing reeks of desperation. I managed less then ten minutes watching it however and maybe am missing out on some unmissable cultural artefact but I very much doubt it.

What I would consider an unmissable cultural artefact was a one off showing of a silent film classic Vampyr by Carl Theodor Dreyer from 1932 accompanied by a new original soundtrack by Steve Severin. Relying on a strong visual aesthetic-the plot line was somewhat convoluted and secondary to the development – the musical accompaniment helped to enforce and distil the eerie, unsettling atmospherics of the film operating in perfect synchronicity with the amazing visual constructs. It was the third of s series of three sound and vision experiments/projects by Severin-Dr. Caligari and Death of a Poet received the same treatment to equally stunning effect- and was a welcome addition to what hopefully could be a regular series of events. Many of the silent films of this era cry out for something to make them more appealing to a modern day audience and I feel Severin got it very right in his musical interpretations. His chilling, haunting ambient soundscapes provided suitably spectral qualities as required and were never overbearing or incongruous.

There has been much in the news the past few weeks about PC madness and how it has gone too far with people now being afraid to say anything without someone finding something offensive in it. Not that this stops the likes of Frankie Boyle, Ricky Gervais or anyone in the Big Brother house- accusations of bullying and offensive remarks pepper the media but it is simply people behaving as they do in real life-from saying what they mean. Much as I have no wish to return to the primitive days of the seventies and early eighties when PC awareness was an essential antidote to the bigotry of racism, anti-gay sentiment and even rampant misogyny it is now being associated with a bunch of do-gooders ready to pounce on any little remark in the form of censorship and fascism which the original advocates set out to destroy. It is like it is now eating its own young. Whilst many of the issues it covers are extremely worthwhile and important-no-one should be mocked or judged because of their colour, race, sexual orientation or disabilities whether they be physical or mental- a little leeway is required otherwise we are in danger of becoming a humourless nation under constant censorship. I remember a couple of years ago watching an episode of X-Crutiating Factor wherein after two of one of the judges acts had ended up in the bottom two and said judge had to decide which one of the sobbing, pleading wannabes they would save to continue in the competition Dermot O’Weary attempted to cajole a decision by saying that it was a bit like Sophie’s Choice. Following this off the cuff remark- inappropriate and ill advised but hardly offensive – the phone lines were jammed with complaints that his remark was insensitive to descendants of those who perished in the holocaust. Personally this was PC madness in extremis over a stupid remark which was obviously not meant to cause offence or belittle the seriousness of the holocaust but it showed how far things have gone and not necessarily in the steps of advancement. It is a bit like when Mary Whitehouse humming along to the Beatles’ I am the Walrus realised there was a line in there about someone being a naughty girl who took her knickers down and immediately outraged tried to have their specially commissioned film which included the song banned. We do not want to turn into a nation of Mary Whitehouse’s nor do we want to return to the values where those alienated from the mainstream become the afflicted because of their differences but we do need to get some kind of reasonable perspective.

Continuing on the theme of what is acceptable I am off to see Steve McQueen’s latest film Shame starring Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan this afternoon which deals with the issue of sex addiction. With pornography available online it no longer is associated with something to be ashamed of as many indulge themselves after a simple two clicks on the mouse. What the PC brigade would have made of this twenty or thirty years ago is anyone’s guess but it only goes to show how generational some things are as pornography is no longer a social taboo and in many ways is an accepted part of the mainstream. There is no longer any need to reach up to a top shelf-filled with trash mags now anyway- or sneak through to the back area of a down market shop in order to make an illicit purchase when it is available in your living room on your screen at anytime. Having not seen the film as yet I am curious as to how it approaches this recent phenomenon and how it impacts on our society.

To finish off today and to propagate today’s themes of sex and debauchery here are the Gun Club with a charming little ditty called Sex Beat perfectly synchronised with a clever visual assemblage that no-one should feel the need to complain about if they have even but just one rock and roll bone left in their body.

JUST AN OBSERVATION

Monday January 9th

 

Well the festive festivities have drawn to a close, the family get togethers are dispatched with for another year, the trees have been dismantled, the tinsel discarded (well apart from the remnants I continue to wear) and the reality of 2012 is upon us. The year didn’t so much breeze in but roar in on winds of 102 mph which wreaked havoc and destruction that made last month’s Hurricane Bawbag seem like a welcome summer breeze. Being out of Edinburgh for New Year I missed the hurricane winds but the devastation was apparent even on my return several days later as a walk through the Meadows testified as the sight of trees ripped out by their roots still languished at the side of the footpaths. It is a shame that the New Year party itself was not quite so eventful- about ten years ago the party was cancelled a couple of times due to the severe weather- but these days an Edinburgh New Year is more about the tourists than the city residents. This is one of the main reasons I abandoned ship and got out of town for the years end as even the most simple of excursions on Hogmanay requires expert timing and military precision in it’s undertaking simply in order to avoid the crowds, restrictive barriers and general disruption. Like the festival before it Hogmanay is fast becoming essential to the city’s economic growth but little more than an inconvenience to its residents. Unlike the Festival though the acts on show are generally underwhelming though this year at least Primal Scream were guaranteed to put on a good show and have the authenticity of being Scottish.

Apart from the excessive winds at the beginning of the year the weather over the period has been remarkably clement in contrast to the big freeze of the last two years and this has led to a lot more positivity regarding the ushering in of 2012. Certainly the year is off to a good start in the cinemas with The Artist a French black and white silent film which pays homage to the silent era of Hollywood to great effect and ensures you leave the cinema wrapped in the comforting warm glow of nostalgia. A full review can be found here.

Also out this week is the new film directed by Steve Mc Queen and starring Michael Fassbender-along with Tom Hardy and Ryan Gosling one of the triumvirate of Hollywood’s new breed of leading men- about a shameless hedonist and sex addict which looks more than promising. A film which polarises opinion-even in myself- is The Iron Lady starring Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher and try as I might I do not know whether I can put my personal opinions aside and sit through two hours of the humanisation of this monstrous being whose politics caused so much pains and marginalised so many. Just sitting in the cinema watching Streep’s portrayal would feel a little too much like spending time in her company and I find that simply too much to bear. It is unfortunate as I believe Streep gives a commendable performance but even this concerns me as the worry of empathy toward someone so undeserving of it- and seemingly pretty incapable of said emotion herself- fills me with a cold feeling inside. A much better bet for the cinema this week would be a one off showing of Carl Theodor Dreyer’s 1932 silent classic Vampyr with a live soundtrack performed by Steve Severin –ex Siouxie and The Banshees- in the third of his trio of musical interpretations. The last one was a performance of Jean Cocteau’s Blood of a Poet which was excellent. Vampyr is on at The Cameo on Thursday 12th Jan at 9.15 pm and is definitely a night worth considering as an effective post festive fallout pick me up. Full details and info can be found here.Vampyr_Steven_Severin_Event

Elsewhere Lana Del Rey has her hotly anticipated debut album out on January 30th.. Entitled Born to Die Del Rey looks like going global this year but much as I wish her success I hope she does not suffer the same fate as Adele did last year. Her 21 album released in March had already suffered from overkill and overexposure by March and this devalued it somewhat. I have a feeling Del Rey may be a little too Lynchian to meet with the same level of success – Adele was so damn ordinary she appeals to a mass audience- and  may remain something of a cult artist. The runaway success of the Video Games single- and the accompanying song Blue Jeans- however suggest the world is going to be very accepting of Miss Del Rey in 2012 and her ethereal beauty will probably not hold her back.

The rock legend that is David Bowie turned 65 yesterday and although a semi recluse since 2004’s reported heart troubles I don’t think he is quite ready to pick up his bus pass yet. Much is made of the fact he has not recorded for nearly ten years now but so what? His legacy stands intact and barring most of the eighties-which he already created and lived through during the creative peaks of the seventies- and the hideous Tin Machine he has little to be ashamed of and even less to prove.

Television over the Festive period was the usual dross unfortunately. The Absolutely Fabulous Xmas day special was amusing enough- a highlight was the zeitgeist appropriate appearance of the Killing’s Sarah Lund- but ultimately disappointed and as for the soaps well treachery, death and all round gloom seem to be the order of the day. The New Year offers up the Dancing on Ice debacle- can’t bring myself to watch it – although Saturday nights have another Danish import in the shape of Borgen which had me hooked after the first two episodes. Any fans of the Killing should watch this-not least because Sarah Lund’s two deceased sidekicks appear- as it maintains the high standards of its predecessor although the action and intrigue centres on politics rather than murder. As no fan of the machinations of political intrigue I was initially wary but must admit I found the programme compelling in both it’s characterizations and plot. That is my Saturday nights taken care of then as that is one night of the week I would ultimately prefer to stay in rather than brave the depravation of the stag and hen party infested streets of Edinburgh. Another interesting programme looks like being the interpretation of Dickens’ unfinished The Mystery of Edwin Drood on BBC2 on Tuesday and Wednesday starring rising star Freddie Fox of the Fox-James, Edward, Emilia- acting dynasty.

Here to welcome us into 2012 is the aforementioned Lana Del Rey with a live performance of the title track of her forthcoming debut album Born to Die.

THE ARTIST

The Artist

 

 

Directed by Michel Hanaviscious this French film pays homage to the silent era of nineteen twenties and thirties film making and its role in the creation of an early form of celebrity culture. Lovingly crafted by Hanaviscius the films charms are enhanced by the casting of Jean Dujardin as George Valentin- a handsome Rudolph Valentino/Clark Gable type- the silent film star at the pinnacle of his success and Berenice Bujo as Peppy Miller as the emerging star of the talkies being ushered in as silent film is now considered passé by the Hollywood industry bigwigs. In contrast to many other films released over the Holiday period-mainly sequels or remakes- The Artist relies on neither computer generated visuals, big bangs, elaborate stunts or the sacrifice of plot over cheap but very expensive aesthetics to make its impact. Instead the lack of dialogue is almost refreshing-dialogue and sound do appear at incongruous moments unexpectedly and as an effective tool- allowing the soundtrack by Ludovic Bource and the facial expressions of the cast to articulate most of the plot development. The black and white cinematography is also extremely effective in lending the film an air of authenticity and for those purists who claim they don’t make films like they used to here is evidence to the contrary.

The action revolves around the accidental meeting of Valentin and Miller after the premiere of George’s latest successful film and expelled from the crowd of well wishers in front of the cinema Peppy is catapulted into the limelight after her photo appears on the front of the following day’s papers with the press enquiring after the mystery girl’s identity. Valentin is also fascinated by this exquisite creature and on encountering her at the film studio where she is auditioning as an extra a mutual fascination becomes something more. However as her career takes an upward trajectory his is  starting to flounder as the arrival of sound heralds the death knell for the stars of the former silent era. The Wall Street crash of 1929 does little to improve his fortunes and Valentin finds himself bankrupt and at his lowest ebb. Peppy however the latest sensation-her newfound fame  even elicits from her an oblique reference to Garbo’s plea for solitude in the phrase ‘I want to be alone’- but despite this her respect, admiration and love for Valentin remain intact.

The Artist is that unusual genre of film in that it is hard not to like. Many may argue that it is style over substance but, in fact, its style is its substance and the whole thing simply exquisitely executed. From the great swells of the soundtrack to the ravishing beauty of its stars-look out for Malcolm Mc Dowell and George Goodman in supporting roles- everything draws to a nostalgic feel that is hard to resist and is indeed pointless trying to. In essence, the film is refreshing in its objectives of simply setting out to entertain in a market saturated with overkill and complicated plot lines bringing everything back to merely pleasing the audience whilst providing them with a glamorous piece of high quality escapism which we all need  once in a while. Don’t we?

JUST AN OBSERVATION

Thursday 29th December.

 

Well here we are in the last days of 2011 with 2012 hovering into view so it seems about right to place some form of objective focus on the last twelve months and what sort of impact they are likely to have on the forthcoming year. Initial thoughts condemn 2011 to being a pretty uneventful year in the cultural spectrum-the arts in particular seem stuck in some form of stasis- until you consider some of the major events which have occurred and will have long-lasting effects. First off the tsunami in Japan in March was a cataclysmic disaster which killed thousands, wrecked villages and towns and impacted on millions of lives whilst gravely affecting their economy but ultimately showed the world what a strong nation of non-complaining hardworking people the Japanese are when confronted with adversity. We in Britain could learn a lot from their ethos as complaining seems to be second only to potty training when it comes to educating children in this country today. Not that there is nothing to complain about however and the riots which took place in London-spreading to other cities nightly- in August highlighted this.

A non-elected cobbled together government which no-one actually voted for, rising unemployment, benefit cuts and a black man being shot whilst being arrested were merely some of the grievances of the rioters and serious issues they were indeed. However I am unsure how a flat screen television or a £200 pair of trainers from Footlocker then the wilful destruction of retail properties already struggling with the recession could assuage the problem as looting and arson helped to create what certain media pundits refer to as ‘retail rioting’. The problems which sparked these riots show no sign of resolve-in fact many have got worse- so I can only assume the same tensions are still bubbling away slightly beneath the surface so unfortunately a reprisal of sorts is likely in 2012.

Over in America they were feeling slightly smug over the discovery and then shooting of Osama Bin Laden at a compound close to a military base in Pakistan. This again will herald some form of revenge attack at some point in the future so the fear he instilled still exists although it did probably win Barack Obama a few extra votes and allowed the right wing Republicans a chance to gloat over the maiming of an enemy.

Musically not much happened this year with the 41 year old PJ Harvey capturing the zeitgeist in her epoch defining Let England Shake album. Adele was hot on her heels however and in commercial terms trampled all over her both here and across the Atlantic even if her album 21 was suffering from overkill and over exposure as early as March despite only being  released in February. A young girl going by the name EMA was the lefrfield choice of the year sounding like a young Patti Smith meets the Velvet Underground on the stupendously stunning Past Life Martyred Saints. Laura Marling and Bon Iver served up two more muscular albums with Marling in particular looking like she is here for the long haul. Little Dragon provided the non existent summer with the slinky electro of Ritual Union whilst The Black Keys slipped in at years end with the classic  El Camino. The track of the year was, for me, Lana Del Rey’s Video Games which haunts and flaunts in equal measure. This Lynchian sounding track was everywhere for a while and big things are expected for Del Rey in 2012 starting with the release of her debut album in February. Oh, and Kate Bush released not one but two albums this year the second of which 50 Words For Snow is up there with her very best work.

In cinema the surprise film of the year was Drive and Ryan Gosling emerged as man of the year starring in four films released in 2011. Along with Tom Hardy he should be awarded with an Oscar for being ubiquitous. Michael Fassbender looks likely to join them in the Hollywood elite in 2012 and his role in Shame released in the New Year is likely to secure his position. Elsewhere Almodovar struck home with The Skin I live In and We Need To Talk About Kevin ticked all the right boxes whilst the independents Tabloid and Weekend stood out as highlights for me. The latest Hollywood adaptation of a foreign film in this case David Finchers re-fashioning of the Stieg Larson novel the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo proved a pleasant surprise and a review can be found here.

As for television a few dramas-notably on Channel 4 and BBC2-made the grade but in general television in 2011 was in a sorry state. It can only continue to remain in this quagmire also if the schedulers do not do something about the same two shows unfairly dominating the weekend schedules for a third of the year. Strychnine Come Dancing and the X-Crutiating Factor I do mean you! The latter in particular even seems to be boring and disillusioning its core audience and if it had any grace or savvy would bow out now. Then again we are talking about Simon Cowell here, a man who would continue squeezing the public dry and manipulating them into a frustrated fury until they take to the streets and riot but this time returning their stolen flat screen TV’s in protest of the crap they are being served up. Now there is something to hope for in 2012. Happy New Year!

Here is the wondrous Lana Del Ray with the song of the year Video Games

Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

 

I must begin this review by stating that I was totally unfamiliar with the general premise behind author Stieg Larsson’s posthumously published series of novels and their subsequent Swedish film adaptations. It was with a completely unbiased opinion then with which I approached David Fincher’s Hollywood re-fashioning then with no expectations to be dashed that here again was another bland diluted Americanisation- as with adaptations of the Danish crime thriller The Killing or Swedish vampire movie Let The Right One In- of a familiar cult classic. Instead I was able to view the film for exactly what it is which  is a superior thriller albeit one directed by Fincher starring Daniel Craig and with a soundtrack by Trent Reznor which features Karen O doing Led Zeppelin over the dizzying but compelling opening sequence. Although at over two and a half hours long it may seem overindulgent Fincher and his cast provide enough momentum to hold the audience even if the central story has several improbable plot strands and the murder which the action hinges on doesn’t engender much sympathy or intrigue- I am unfamiliar with the plot but had unearthed a major facet at its core less than half way through- and is perhaps the films weakest link.

The plot centres on the relationship between journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Craig)- Fincher wisely kept the original characters names as well as the Swedish location- recently involved in a libel case against a wealthy and powerful industrialist which he lost and in the process brought himself to the precipice of bankruptcy. Enter an old adversary of Blomkvist’s nemesis (Christopher Plummer) who offers him financial retribution and career salvation if he solves the mystery of his niece’s disappearance nearly forty years previously. At this point Blomkvist enlists the services of a research assistant named Lisbeth  (Myra Rooney) whose methods-and lifestyle- may be unconventional but she is a savant with the technological know how he lacks even though they seem to reach the same conclusions at the same time despite deploying different methods. A plot involving rape, revenge, corruption, sinister Nazis, dysfunctional families and deceit then unfolds.  The mystery at the centre of the narrative is really not too interesting however but the characterisations are intriguing whilst the developing relationship bears scrutiny being held together by tightly written dialogue and convincing performances and a natural chemistry between the two main protagonists.

After the mystery of the missing girl has been solved the back story involving the corrupt industrialist who almost bankrupted Blomkvist takes centre stage and the film moves into a different area entirely changing not only the narrative but the style of the film completely. The pace shifts up a gear and in less capable hands could appear tacked on and superfluous but Fincher is too skilful a director to allow this so it ties the film up neatly even if the ending sequence prepares the audience for the inevitable sequel.

As stated before never having seen the Swedish version nor having read any of the novels I have nothing to compare this film to and as such must admit it held its own more than admirably. Fincher handles his actors with consummate skill and the cinematography lends itself to the Swedish atmospherics beautifully whilst the soundtrack throbs and pulses in synchronicity with perfectly executed action sequences and the icy chill of the darkness which pervades throughout. As a thriller on its own it is more than adequate and withstands criticisms of being an unnecessary addition to an already overly full genre by being sleek, sexy and darkly compelling. I may now get around to actually reading one of the novels.