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.



Friday 23rd December


Well the festive spirit that has so far eluded me is starting to stir after a cinema excursion to see the wonderful James Stewart in the perennial classic It’s A Wonderful Life. Despite gushing in lachrymose Hollywood sentimentality this film and its themes about how friendship-borne out of goodwill to others- is the most valuable currency never fails to bring a tear to the oasis free desert that are my eyes. Trying to attain the right Xmas feelings got off to an ominous start at  the beginning of the week when I thought watching Roman Polanski’s classic about the devil being summoned up to impregnate an unsuspecting newly wed in Rosemary’s Baby would be suitable. Not exactly traditional Xmas fare I am aware but it unfortunately captured my mood at the time. This feeling of cynicism passed however and armed with a hot chocolate-topped up with a shot of Amaretto-and a clutch of hankies I sat down to Frank Capra’s tale about an angel in search of his wings and a man looking for a reason to keep on living more than willing to be seduced by its –admittedly contrived- sentiments. It did the trick however and I left the cinema with a warm glow and the need to walk along Princes Street through the French and German markets- strange how there is no Scottish Market at a time of year when the tourists arrive in numbers second only to the Festival-soaking up the Xmas spirit and I don’t mean the mulled wine.

Elsewhere this week the news has been full of reports about racist comments made on the field by England and Chelsea captain John Terry. I am not sure whether making racist comments makes a person a racist but this is something I will leave to the politically correct obsessed twittering classes. Racism-and any other form of derogatory bullying and bigotry whether it concerns someone’s sexual orientation or colour- itself is something which should not be tolerated in any form but sometimes the PC brigade jump onto their moral high horse with indignation and unhealthy self righteousness. This was never more in evidence than when in the midst of the Terry debacle pundit Alan Hansen  unwittingly and sympathetically referred to ‘coloured’ people and another outcry broke out as Twitter went into meltdown. Having studied Black American Literature at University I became aware so many terms were considered offensive and African American was the only acceptable one though I am not sure if this is still the case and have probably offended someone somewhere. Before I am accused of being sympathetic towards Terry or any others accused of being abusive I need to say I have been called enough names in my time-often by friends who think they are merely being ironic or funny though I feel they find it funnier than I actually do- to understand how this can have an adverse effect but am fortunate to have an inner strength to laugh it off as I get the joke. However not everyone has  inner strength and enough confidence to withstand the abuse hurled at them and there is no reason they should feel equipped to do so. Bullying is bullying full stop and has no place anywhere in today’s society.

A few years ago I reviewed a show which used the words ‘nigger’ and ‘queer’ repeatedly and for little reason as they were not hinged on any particular jokes and instead the words alone were supposed to engender a laugh. In my review I complained about this and the performers replied by claiming they were being ‘ironic’. A lame excuse and one frequently trundled out. My response was that the umbrella of irony would not shelter those who had to suffer a torrent of abuse on the streets for simply being what they are. After this they did change their show to remove the offending segments but what struck me was how the audience on the night was divided in their reactions. More than half were disgusted by what we saw-several walked out- but a younger element mostly pissed up on alcopops laughed –sometimes admittedly uncomfortably- and it was almost visible to see them recognise using such terms could be acceptable as they had seen it on stage in what was billed as an ‘edgy’ show. For this the performers were not only inappropriate but also totally irresponsible.

The point I am trying to make is not whether Terry is guilty of racism but that is what is under the spotlight here is how as a role model-well paid and successful in his sphere- he should have been more responsible. Mind you football pitches are charged with excessive amounts of competitive testosterone and players are hardly renowned for their high IQ’s-this not me being hypocritically judgmental as most are removed from school to train before their education is complete and there is the interesting tale of how David Beckham was unable to spell professional footballer on his first contract– so this combines to create a lethal cocktail. Under the scrutiny of thousands of fans and the ever present cameras which he should be used to by now he should have exerted some restrain. As he didn’t he should be punished accordingly and not only to satisfy the righteous twittering classes but because he was wrong.

 A drama on channel 4 last night about the summer riots in London could have focussed on the racist angle-many in the press and elsewhere were pointing the finger at troublesome black youths as ringleaders- but instead sensibly chose to tell the story through the inhabitants and shopkeepers in the area alongside that of the police. Actually it was interesting to note in the credits how the police refused to co-operate in the making of the drama and if their portrayal in the sequence of events was accurate then it is understandable why they would not want to be seen in such an unfavourable light. It was an interesting hour long programme which could have been longer although its brevity captured some of the urgency of the situation. As it did not target any part of society as the troublemakers what became clear during its duration is the problems which sparked the riots are malignant in our society and the lack of resolution means they are bubbling away under the surface and could erupt again at anytime. Channel 4 were brave to show this so soon after the events and as such it was not afforded the pontificating and clarity of hindsight which usually accompanies such programmes. Instead the freshness and lack of clarity conspired to make it feel almost like a docudrama with gravitas and it was borne of the testimony of those who found themselves unwillingly at the centre of the maelstrom.

Nothing like that would ever happen in Chelsea however, whose civilised inbred inhabitants returned for a seasonal special of Laid In Chelsea, as they are all too busy shagging each other then obsessing and regretting it before moving onto their second/fourth removed cousin. Actually the Spencer and Caggie fauxmance shifted up a gear as they consummated their relationship during a jaunt to Finland. Thank God as the will they/won’t they yawnathon could not have withstood a third series. Meanwhile Millie cried a lot –again- about Hugo whilst Rosie’s overactive thyroid stary, scary eyes were nearly as overactive as her overactive gossipy mouth.

Whilst the posh folk of Chelsea were in Lapland their Essex counterparts were in Lapland where Joey and Chloe ruminated about Reindeer antlers. The look on their faces when they were informed they were not made of wood but in fact bone was comedy genius as they could not comprehend such a notion. Mind you from two people who previously had a conversation concerning one of them discovering that the sun and moon were not one planet- with Britain getting the front half whilst Australia was in receipt of the back which explained how it was day here whilst night there!- this is hardly surprising.

Elsewhere this week the BBC showed some great footage of David Bowie from 1973-during the 1970’s his greatest era he only appeared on Top of the Pops three times- in all his glam rock pomp performing The Jean Genie. This was an amazing find as the original tapes had been wiped and nobody believed a copy existed or in some cases whether the performance had actually taken place. However one of the cameramen had kept a copy and had not realised it was such a valuable piece until he mentioned it and someone informed him he was in possession of a great piece of British rock history. Here it is in all its glam rock splendour and after it is a classic version of Little Drummer Boy by Low sounding like the Velvet Underground meets The Jesus and Mary Chain from what is probably my favourite Xmas album. Merry Xmas!


Monday 19th December


With less than a week to go until Xmas day I expected to be feeling the festive spirit a little more than I do. So far I have tried all the usual tricks in getting into the mood-shopping, partying, drinking and even assisting in the decoration of a friends pub- but all to little avail. I am sensing there is a general consensus that this year’s proceedings are wrapped in a certain amount of ennui rather than tinsel and glitter. The main reason would seem to be a distinct lack of cash in all quarters and as the whole affair seems to revolve around how much money you can spend to prove how much you love your loved ones this is a severe setback. Of course we are constantly told this doesn’t matter when buying presents as it is the thought that counts but these sentiments seem to ring hollow as everywhere you look in the media and on the high street nothing perpetuates this as everything is geared around enticing you to spend as much money as possible. This year I have little choice in the matter as I have little spare cash to spend on presents so will just have to hope those in receipt of my gifts- or not in some cases- will understand that it is the thought which counts and I definitely did think about it I just never bought them anything after giving it the necessary consideration.

Out on the social circuit everything seems to adhere to the festive theme whether willingly or by accident. The theatres are full of big family orientated shows such as traditional pantos or We Will Rock You-which I saw two years ago and actually loved although I have never wanted to hear a Queen record since- and bands seem to reform in the hope of earning some filthy lucre under the guise of nostalgia.  Last week saw Adam Ant trundle out his ‘80’s hits and this week sees art school punks the Rezillos reform for their traditional Xmas gig at the Liquid Rooms. Always a good time band this Edinburgh group always put on a great show which is well worth catching. The cinemas are full of big money blockbusters such as Mission Impossible and Guy Ritchie’s second attempt at injecting some super hero action and muscle into Arthur Conan Doyle’s intellectually superior and previously cerebral Sherlock Holmes. The latter is definitely worth catching as it roars into view and never pauses for reflection during its duration. Extremely loud and visually impressive he may well have been more apt in naming it Lock Stock and Two Shattered Eardrums being such an assault on the senses. A full review can be found here.

A quick look through the television schedule also threw up little in the way of surprise and in fact was probably even more disappointing than I expected. There are little in the way of decent movies and even less in the way of originality. Much has been made of the return of Absolutely Fabulous and although I loved it first time around it is about time the BBC stopped resting on their laurels and started nurturing some new talent and ideas. No doubt the soaps will be the usual doom and gloom –it is not Xmas in Eastenders unless some tragedy occurs and this year they must be due another murder- and Poirot will be considered a highlight even though it is usually relegated to a Sunday afternoon where it belongs.

There are however several films out during January which will help to assuage the post festive comedown. Shame starring Michael Fassbender is an intriguing proposition and the Iron Lady starring Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher are just two which will require my attention. This week the Filmhouse is showing several Xmas films including the Wizard Of Oz, Gremlins, Meet Me in St. Louis and my personal favourite It’s a Wonderful Life which I am going to see midweek armed with  hot Chocolate, Maltesers, a clutch of hankies and a willingness to succumb to it’s heartfelt message and undeniable sentiment. If that fails and does not get me in the festive mood then I will willingly adopt the soubriquet Scrooge permanently and without complaint though the latter is perhaps too ironic even for me.

Here for everyome who is sick of the constant repetition of the Slade , Wizzard et al-even John and Yoko’s War is Over palls after several plays- Xmas standards is a track from probably the only truly classic and credible Xmas album-Phil Spector aside- by Low.


Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows


The trouble with most sequels is that whilst their predecessors have to gain the audiences support the follow up generally relies on the fact there is a ready-made audience who were so impressed by the first film and are eager for more. When it comes to the sequel however sometimes they simply stagnate and become formulaic or else they go the other way and become bigger, bolder and brasher. Director Guy Ritchie’s second foray into the world of Arthur Conan Doyle’s detective Sherlock Holmes seems to favour the latter approach with an all out assault on its audience’s senses from the very outset. So much so that he would have had justification in naming it Lock, Stock and Two Shattered Eardrums as the pace is so frantic and the accompanying soundtrack so ear splittingly loud. It also possesses little of the nuances of its predecessor whilst the character development is virtually non-existent. Despite this once you have determined that subtlety is out to lunch on this project you can sit back and enjoy what is very much an action film of a very high calibre and, so what if there is not too much of a script to follow for its two hour duration, it is a hell of a ride which allows little time to worry about intricacies of plot or characterisation. It is also for all its macho posturing overtly and outrageously camp.

With both Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law both back in their roles as Holmes and Watson –alongside Rachel McAdams who briefly reprises her role as Irene Adler- the main difference in their relationship from the first film is that it is far more homo-erotic. To perpetuate this Holmes actually unceremoniously dispatches of Watson’s new bride shortly after their wedding, whilst in drag, even though they are on their way to their honeymoon. Stephen Fry makes a welcome addition to the cast though one prolonged scene in which he appears in the buff- despite being in possession of a body anything but- is certainly homo but most definitely not erotic. In fact there is very little room for female characters in this essentially Boys Own adventure as they are superfluous to the story and at best appear only obligatorily or as mere decoration. Downey Jr. seems to have taken some tips and inspiration from the camp flippancy of Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow which was missing from the first instalment of the franchise and is not wholly convincing. The cerebral intensity of the relationship between Holmes and his adversary Moriarty is also a wasted opportunity which in the hands of a more subtle director could have been explored to much better effect.  Then again subtlety has never been Ritchie’s trademark

Despite these pointless gripes however the film roars along on its own terms never letting up and fittingly, considering its outcome, does not hesitate in taking no prisoners. It is a perfect holiday season film borne of little introspection although its premise of war as industry is highly relevant and shows the old fashioned ideology of conflicting personalities and duelling minds harboured at its roots. Although the constant barrage of visuals in the absence of plot may discern some viewers I must admit I actually really enjoyed this film for what it is, which quite simply put is a superior action film of high intensity.


Friday December 16th


Ah ! That final weekend before Xmas, you know the one when anyone with any sense prepares themselves for a lock down avoiding shops and bars in the city centre at any cost. The unfortunate thing is it never quite works out that way-last year was the exception but that was more to do with excuses about heavy snow than any desire not to join the not so merry throng on the streets- and inevitably the likelihood of finding yourself amongst the amateur drinkers of ‘Black Friday’, as it is referred to amongst those who work in the hospitality trade, becomes alarmingly more likely. Actually ‘tourists’ is a more apt word for the participants of this night decide to hit the pubs they avoid for 51 other Friday nights of the year and use this as an excuse to get totally obliterated, make passes at their co-workers and eventually start brawling in the streets with the remnants of a doner kebab dribbling down their chin alongside a few loosened teeth. Meanwhile their wardrobes are in a state of total dishabille with crumpled bri-nylon suits accompanied by loosened ties which have somehow taken on the appearance of nooses due to their reversal and positioning and not forgetting the prerequisite Santa hat at a not quite jaunty angle. Meanwhile the female of the species have unbuttoned blouses, sensible court shoes and skirts with invisible strings they keep hitching through the evening until they rise well above the knee. The exception to this is the office minx-the one who gets on better with the men in the office- who has dressed for the occasion and tonight is not the night she will be indulging in bonding with the sisterhood instead her sights are set on a different prize and after a few Pinot Grigiots she does not see herself as drunk and desperate but totally irresistible. The volume control on this melee seems to be dysfunctional and through the evening the same conversation can be heard again-and again-each time a few decibels higher than the previous time. It is usually all over by midnight by which point they are all suitably pissed up and they retire for another year to regret this yearly blip in their lifestyle. A sense of normality can then be restored to both the participants and those who have to work through the whole scenario. Having been involved in both sides of the evening I am relieved that on the evening in question I am attending a house party away from this debauchery and my relief is palpable at avoiding the whole sorry state of affairs.

Actually the previous observations may seem a little unfair and clichéd but one thing is true being out on ‘Black Friday’ is really not much fun at all. There really does seem to be an inability in our culture when it comes to moderating our alcohol consumption and this usually results in making an arse of ourselves, becoming belligerent and heading for totally oblivion. Guilty of all of the aforementioned I have over the last few years adopted a different, healthier, approach to drinking and apart from a few slip ups-one very recently- seem to have reached a healthy relationship with the demon alcohol. In some ways I sympathise with the ‘Black Friday’ revellers as the hangovers they must be in possession of the next day are probably horrendous and require taking a whole day out-at least- to recover and after a while this becomes more than just an inconvenience but an excuse for doing things that are ultimately more important. In fact a heavy bout of full-blown hedonism actually seems to necessitate a three day recovery period and after a while this palls when compared to the couple of hours ‘enjoyment’ which engenders it. Perhaps a liver swap programme would be a solution with teenagers and twenty somethings lending their young livers to those in their thirties and forties to enjoy a night of partying without the fallout and at the same time they, in turn, can see how bad it is going to get in their later years.

This week has also seen the  Shane Meadows drama This Is England 88 on for three consecutive nights updating the lives of the characters of the film and the ’86 TV series, The good thing about this drama is that it shows that the ‘80’s were not all good times, ra-ra skirts and a Duran Duran soundtrack. They were indeed hard times and the ‘Greed is good’ manifesto of Hollywood’s defining film, Wall Street, did not apply to everybody simply as not everyone was in a position to be greedy. Poverty, race and sexual issues were making some inroads but for every step forward there seemed to be two steps back. Thatcher’s government-alongside the Regan administration on the other side of the Atlantic- who had never been comfortable with gay issues found an unlikely ally in the arrival of AIDS which allowed them to scaremonger and force through the inhuman and societally divisive Clause 28. Meanwhile mixed race children were nowhere near as readily accepted today where they are considered totally respectable, something to aspire to and very much a necessary wave of the future. Made In England tackles these subjects with brutality but somehow furnishes them with a sensitivity which is thought provoking. At the time of writing I have not seen the final episode but the drama is unfolding at its own pace and whilst it is not always comfortable viewing its gritty realism is superbly acted and constructed and unfortunately not indicative of the majority of British television today.

The 1980’s may have been hard but catching the end of TOTP 2 1976 last night made me realise the seventies may have been worse. I have no idea- nor and need to find out- who the band playing was but it involved smiley faces, bad flares, gormless expressions, bad hair accompanied by some form of bells or chimes. It made me realise why the creation of punk was so necessary and inevitable if this bland, puerile drivel was what was being served up. It was on this very month 35 years ago in ’76-the same date this programme dated from- when the Sex Pistols released the cataclysmic Anarchy in the UK with its crunching opening chords followed by Johnny Rotten’s snarling, sneering, sardonic salvo ‘Right Now’ followed by his salacious cackle laughing off- and at- all competition and things were never the same again. Actually the bands manager Malcolm McLaren realised the corporate truck heading down our cultural highway was unavoidable but punk offered a diversion even if it was simply placing a tack under its wheels and causing it to swerve slightly. It certainly served its objectives however as punk was the first time a generation took their destiny into their own hands and the movement extended way past the music which was  more of a  wiping the slate clean and back to basics  exercise than anything. Despite this Anarchy and all of the Pistols work still stands the test of time as the energy and potency still resonate thirty odd years on. So happy birthday Anarchy In the UK you have no need of botox or remixing surgery as you sound as young , fresh and essential as you ever did.


Monday 12th December


Well after months of sniping, tears, tantrums and ego crises-mainly the judges- the X-Crutiating Factor came to an anti climatic finale last night. Talk about dragging it out two hours of prime television-and more importantly advertising space- were devoted to watching a turgid, hastily assembled, mediocre to middlingly average girl band be crowned as winners and proclaimed future pop stars. God help us. During this over extended farce- which I could only bear to watch intermittently- the audience were ‘treated’ to Coldplay, Marcus bouncing around in variety mode obviously not connecting with the lyrical themes of Wham’s mournful Last Christmas and not one but two tortuous versions of Damian Rice’s Cannonball which has had the misfortune of being chosen as the winners debut single. Actually Little Fix-sorry Mix- delivered the better of the two versions and were clearly going to be the winners anyway as the audience have been told for weeks that a girl band has never won the X- Factor and this is probably as good a reason as any- in all likelihood the only one- that they were going to take the final prize. There is no way Marcus could have won -too bland and forgettable- and the last two winners have been from the male category and subsequently failed to set the charts on fire. A girl band however provide something new for Cowell’s marketing team to get their teeth into as long as none of them come out as gay as Joe McElderry did two years ago only to watch his career vaporise immediately. One of Little Mix is slightly weightier than the others and no doubt Cowell will involve this in the media blitz that follows showing how on trend and caring he is as a move away from size zero role models is very much a talking point and in vogue at the moment.

Interestingly enough in the same week four girls put together in a band for not being good enough as solo artists win the nations most watched TV show techno meisters Underworld  a band with real talent won the accolade of being commissioned to write the opening theme tune for the 2012 Olympics. Having influenced musical trends for nearly twenty years with limited chart success- Born Slippy ‘ the’ summer song of 1996 with its ‘Lager, lager, lager’ refrain remains their most familiar song to many- it is good to see their hard work and immeasurable talent recognised and I would much rather have their sounds-all dark throbbing rhythms against pulsating, polyrythmic beats and the right amount of emotional punch- beamed out to a global audience as typical of our nations musical abilities than any of the bland , manufactured, neutered pop-hello again Coldplay!- usually churned  out for such events. Someone somewhere has got it right and this makes more than a pleasant change.

With the run up to Xmas-only 13 days to go- the TV schedules may have ridded themselves of the behemoth dominatrix the X-Factor but this does not mean there is anything worthwhile watching on any other nights of the week. Last week I could not find one solitary programme- the Killing II excepted which goes from strength to strength- I actually wanted to watch and this weeks schedules promise little more in the form of solace. One thing which should not be missed is a documentary about an artist Jean Marc Calvet showing on More 4 on Tuesday at 11.15. Having seen this during June’s Film Festival I was intrigued and fascinated by this compelling character and his life story which involves a past including a spell in the foreign legion, stealing 600,000 dollars from Miami gangsters, a time as a rent boy to fund his drug addiction and a brutal rape in a public toilet. Dragging himself up from these excursions into the demi-monde he used his experiences to construct artworks which emerge as some violent emotional purging and the visual equivalent of vomiting over a canvas which now sell for five figure sums in New York galleries. It is a fascinating and emotionally touching insight and you would have to be stone hearted not to want him to succeed. Having met Calvet after the screening I can also report he is as charismatic in the flesh as he is on the screen and the tales he tells during this scarily honest and revealing portrait are only the tip of the iceberg. In many ways Calvet could be to the art world what Jean Genet was to the literary one. A full review of the film can be found here.

The Xmas and New Year season usually sees the release of several big name films and this year is no exception. The big ones so far look like being Guy Ritchie’s second foray into the world of Sherlock Holmes- the first instalment I enjoyed against all of my natural instincts- and Meryl Streep’s interpretation of Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady due out on January 6th. The latter is particularly interesting as it features one lady whom I love and greatly admire as an artist portraying one to whom my feelings towards are not quite so warm. This juxtaposition is particularly compelling as Streep has a way of making you empathise with her characters and if she can make me empathise with Thatcher then she might as well be awarded the Oscar now and save anyone else the problem of agonising over what frock to wear or their acceptance speech.

So with less than two weeks to go until Xmas it is seriously time to consider doing some Xmas shopping. The inevitable round of parties has begun and the wonders of Facebook allow you to see in advance who will be attending what. Already this week poses a dilemma as two different parties on consecutive nights seem to boast an extremely similar guest list and I am not sure I really have any desire to see some of the same people on two occasions especially as in some cases when once is more than enough whilst with a few others it is even one too many. It is that time of the year though when such occasions do arise and no matter how hard I try to keep different aspects of my life separate at some point they often do collide. It is Xmas however and I suppose feelings of goodwill and alcohol may numb my misgivings as long as the latter doesn’t overwhelm me and reduce me to a drunken wreck as it did on one such occasion recently much to my embarrassment.

Here as a reminder of how good Underworld can be-as if one were needed- is a rare remix of One Dove’s beautiful Why Don’t You Take Me?



 Jean Marc Calvet purges his soul in this outstanding documentary directed by Dominic Allan. It is a fine piece of work that is ultimately an auto-biographical feature and acts as a form of catharsis for Calvet to relate his past transgressions as the director made the brave and justified decision not to include contributions from any other interviewees. What the audience is then left with is Calvet’s own explanations into what drives his artistic creativity and how his chequered and vividly coloured past   – drug addiction, rape, theft, a spell in the Foreign Legion and a period working as a rent boy-  informs his intricate and often disturbing work. Allan also manages to capture intimate and genuinely compelling moments as Calvet attempts some form of rapprochement with his eighteen year old son whom he abandoned twelve years previously. It is this part of the film that adds yet another dimension to an already fascinating portrait as the viewer is left in as much doubt as Calvet himself as to how this situation will pan out.

Opening with shots of Calvet’s art work – all demonic swirls and complex detail juxtaposed with vivid colour palettes- Calvet begins his tale in earnest. Stories range from the time he had to leave Miami tout de suite after defrauding 600,000 dollars to his brutal rape in a public toilet are di rigeur in this tale of an artist who had to sink to the lowliest depths of the demi-monde before reaping some form of salvation and ultimately redemption in the form of his art. His art in many ways resembles this film as he purges his soul in front of the omnipresent camera capturing him visually spewing forth over a canvas in a violent outpouring of emotion. Comparisons have been made as regards to Jackson Pollock but I also detected a definite Keith Haring influence. The sentiments and the demons are all Calvet’s own however as is this film which allows Calvet to share his story and in doing so garner a sense of relief and a clearer purpose in how he intends to pursue his future. Calvet allows uninhibited access into many private moments and unlike many films of this genre which attempt to do this there is something about this particular effort that feels genuine. Perhaps Calvet’s contriteness and willingness to apologise and try to redeem past mistakes go a long way to gaining the audience’s support and you would have to be stone hearted not to want him to succeed.

At the conclusion of the film a certain sense of a clearer future looks set for Calvet. A recent New York show saw his paintings being valued at six figure numbers. Personally he seems to have reached a sense of stability also and how this will affect his work in the future is unclear. What is clear however is that Calvet makes an outstanding, intriguing and sympathetic  source of subject matter and he and Allan should be proud in delivering this document which details an artist who could be to the art world what Jean Genet was to the literary world.

Calvet is on More 4 on Tuesday 13 December at 11.15pm