Posts Tagged ‘ FILMS 2017 ’

McQueen

McQueen

The legend that is Alexander ‘Lee’ Mc Queen and his legacy ripped at the heart of the fashion from his earliest recognized appearance in the early nineties. His legacy runs even deeper than even his impressive legend though and his contribution and art of tailoring can never be underestimated.
This film co-directed by Ian Bonhôte and Peter Ettedgui strives to bring together the disparate strands of his already well documented life and place them into sharper focus and succeeds in most of its intentions. Dividing the film into chapters relating to his most famous and iconic collections provides a cohesion to the chaos of a too short life.
For die-hard Mc Queen aficionados there is little in the way of new information and the usual suspects such as the drugs, the liposuction, the HIV diagnosis, the various lovers. The Givenchy years, the Gucci deal, Kate Moss as hologram and the well documented mutual ‘love’ affair with Isabella Blow and its subsequent fall-out all make an appearance and somehow only add to the enigma.
The Isabella Blow sequence is of particular interest as it reveals the ruthlessness of his ambition as she is tossed aside when the real money starts to flow in. Some would argue that her work was done and there was no longer a position for her in the new regime- Blow never operated well in any restrictive circumstances and serious business requires a discipline she perhaps didn’t possess- but there is a feeling that she was discarded at a vulnerable time in her life and her subsequent suicide indicates she never quite got over this rejection from someone she had placed so much time, faith and energy in.
However if Blow took the rejection hard there is also the sense that McQueen himself never really forgave himself as her death precipitated an inherent sadness and tendency towards the grotesque and macabre which became even more apparent in his work than it had been previously; it had always been there but now it was prevalent and heavy hanging memento mori.
The footage of the shows however is simply transcendent and this is where the film shines as it serves to remind us of his genius. The early shows put together from unemployment benefit and quite literally rolls of cling-film are especially intriguing as although the clothes are un-wearable facsimiles of them exist even now on the fringes of mainstream fashion whilst some of them have had major fashion moments.
An intriguing film which whilst offering nothing new reminds us of a time when fashion actually meant something- nowadays the time between catwalk and chain store mass production is the blink of a camera shutter- and was both inspirational and aspirational rather than disposal.
McQueen himself states in the film that if he died then he wouldn’t want his line to continue in his name and the collection I saw recently in Harvey Nichols merely confirms his worst fears; commerce before art. As any purist will agree the McQueen line died with the man himself.

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WESTWOOD;PUNK, ICON, ACTIVIST/ HERE TO BE HEARD:THE STORY OF THE SLITS

Westwood: Punk, Icon, Activist/
Here to be Heard: The Story of the Slits

In the year which celebrates a 100 years of women having the right to vote it is fitting that two very different tales-with some connecting threads- of how women gained a strength then took that acquired power and used it as a means of expressing this recently found freedom through fashion and music. Athough the stories of Westwood and The Slits are very different and have vastly opposing outcomes in terms of financial success- Westwood has a global business generating millions whilst The Slits have still to recoup the advance on their nearly 40-year-old debut album- they do have a shared and significant starting point: Punk!
Technically Westwood had moderate success before punk but it is her association with Malcolm McLaren and The Sex Pistols –whom McLaren managed- that she first became widely recognised and forever associated with.
Not that this is something that she wants to discuss in the documentary by Lorna Tucker. In fact it would seem that Westwood is reluctant to discuss anything of this era or any other in this documentary by Lorna Tucker as she appears curmudgeon like, awkward, brusque and downright rude whether she is aware she is being filmed or not.
Often the viewer is left wondering why she agreed to participate in this film at all as she waives most questions with a haughty air, rarely even making eye contact with the camera at all. Having since distanced herself from the film it is easy to see why as she is painted in a very unflattering light although this is no fault of Tucker who continually tries to draw out Westwood’s more pleasant side. Despite this car crash quality-or maybe because of it- it is still extremely watch-able whilst the clothes are never anything less than exquisite and her influence can never be underestimated.
Perhaps Tucker should have made the film about Westwood’s husband Andreas Kronthaler as he makes for fascinating subject matter, more than willing to discuss anything even if he is like a comic creation of Sacha Baron Cohen; a figure of ridicule who takes himself so very, very seriously.
The only time Westwood’s icy demeanour melts a little is, ironically enough, when she is discussing climate change. One is left with the feeling that this is a subject she would happily talk about for hours and hours on end.
By comparison Tessa Pollitt and the former Palmolive of The Slits seem more than happy to recount their glory days as members of all girl band The Slits as it at last focussing on their side of the story as previously the media focussed on the perspectives of the late Ari Up- who sadly passed away in 2010- and Viv Albertine. Like Westwood, The Slits have a great legacy and were hugely influential in the punk and post punk era.

Their debut album ‘Cut’ is a classic which transcends the era that bore it due to it sounding nothing like anything else either then or even now (by default they were the first band I ever saw live in my early teens as they supported The Clash on 1977’s White Riot tour and being the opening band therefore makes them my first live music experience). The fact that it was produced by young women with a fierce attitude and a blinding vision was a revelation at the time is this is simply not how women were supposed to behave or look; at least in the nineteen seventies male dominated patriarchal society. Patti Smith may have opened the door for them but The Slits booted it in, and then used that same door as a weapon thus making sure it would never close again.
Albertine makes an appearance and is always a worthy contributor but her side of the story was more than ably told in her 2014 book Clothes, Music, Boys and one feels this is more Pollitt’s and to a lesser extent Palmolive’s film.
Although the overall feel of the film is occasionally disjointed there is some very fascinating early footage captured by Don Letts which raises the interest quotient somewhat. When it does begin to drag around the time of the reunion tour another dimension still remains as some of the last ever clips of Ari Up not too long before she dies give the whole thing a sentimental twist one doesn’t normally associate with The Slits.
Now that the 40th anniversary of punk in 2016 has passed both of these films can stand alone in their re-telling of an era which forever changed the landscape of the country; with things in even more disarray now than they were then perhaps neither are films of sentiment or history but a lesson in how to drag a sexist,racist, backward, bigoted country with delusions of grandeur out of the quagmire it has entrenched itself in.

I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO

I Am Not Your Negro

This Oscar nominated documentary by Raoul Peck focuses on author and civil rights activist James Baldwin and his personalised recounting of the struggles and assassinations of three of his close friends, allies and fellow civil rights campaigners and/or activists: Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King. Unfortunately he died several months after embarking on this project in 1979 so we will never know what conclusions he eventually reached regarding some of the changes that took place in his lifetime.
It is a stunning and utterly captivating piece of work which highlights the struggles of the African-American in 1960’s culture when it seemed anything was possible and change was not only inevitable but necessary. It was going to be long, hard fight however.
Baldwin’s fictional work at this stage was beautifully written prose and his stand out works- Go Tell it on the Mountain, Giovanni’s Room and Another Country- tackled taboo subjects, both racially and sexually motivated, in a fashion that furthered his beliefs without ever being didactic. His message was always very clear however and that message was one of injustice and that survival meant a change in both moral and racial codes.
Baldwin also published poetry and short stories to further that message even further and also appeared on the TV and lecture circuit where he called out the racist standards inherent in American culture at this time. An interesting excerpt on the Dick Cavett show in 1969- Cavett looks as nervous as he did five years later when confronted with a drug addled David Bowie in his most outlandish and talked about interview- sees him pitted a right-wing conservative ‘expert’ and subsequently demolish him most eloquently and elegantly; making a point without having to force it.
His interesting analogy that black Americans were brought up being force-fed white heroes such as John Wayne and Gary Cooper and rooting for them in the movies as they obliterated the Native tribes was an eye opener for Baldwin when he realised that the native tribes were in fact him and his culture and that he was already being conditioned to oppose them.
The fact that he was also homosexual was a double whammy but that is only looked at briefly in this documentary as it is not the central theme of the work.
The most interesting and poignant thing about this documentary is how far things actually did change. At one point there is talk of a black President in the next forty years and the idea is thoroughly ridiculed. If in fact the two decades leading up to the Obama years were neglected and history moved sharply into the Trump administration it would be easy to say that little change had been effected at all as the racial divisions which drove the civil rights campaign fifty years ago are as wide as they ever were. Or perhaps they are just as apparently obvious again.
This documentary although it looks at a particular time in history is just as relevant as ever. In fact as much can be learnt today from the viewpoints it contains and similarly they can also be acted upon and things can hopefully move forward yet again.

Free Fire

Free Fire

This latest addition to the impressive Ben Wheatley canon draws together a strong cast- Cillian Murphy, Brie Larson, Armie Hamner, Sharlto Copley, Michael Smiley and Sam Riley- and assembles them in a deserted warehouse in 1970’s Boston. There an arms deal between two Irishmen, Chris and Frank-respectively Murphy and Smiley- and a dandy South African Vernon (Shopley) set up by the fixer Justine (Larson) is about to go down.
And go down it certainly does!
Pretty soon an argument breaks out between a couple of the hired help over a transgression the previous night and the whole scenario descends into a shoot out of epic proportions. Comparisons are inevitable with the shoot out in Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs even down to the incongruous anodyne musical choices at moments of tension; here Annie’s Song by John Denver replaces Stealers Wheel’ s Stuck in the Middle with You for comic relief.
What follows for the next hour is a hail of bullets, a barrage of witty dialogue inside a collapsing building and surroundings which ultimately do more harm than the bullet storm; maiming and fatally wounding each participant until it becomes clear that no-one is going to leave that warehouse unscathed even if they do manage to stay alive.
If fast paced action shoot-outs are your type of thing then I have no hesitation in recommending this film as it is definitely a prime example of this particular genre. However I must admit I felt my attention wandering about twenty-five minutes into the carnage and felt that an opportunity had been wasted with such a stellar cast and greater use could have been made of their actual acting abilities- as opposed to rolling around in broken glass, rubble and eventually agonising pain- and there could have been either more build up or comedown before and after the action theme took over with more dialogue and deeper character analysis.
However the premise of this film never was to explain the underlying nature of the characters or to engender any interest in their back story and even the deal at the centre of the whole film is sketchy and vague about who is actually involved or even why.
As an action movie Free Fire delivers admirably on every level and of course Wheatley manages to create an overall look and feel which never disappoints. Add an attractive strong cast and Free Fire is a visually arresting feature which takes no prisoners.

PERSONAL SHOPPER

Personal Shopper

Kriten Stewart gives an outstanding performance in this understated film directed by Oliver Assaya. That is not to say that the film is not flawed in certain respects- in fact the central premise of s supernatural ghost story is unconvincing and the potentially the film’s weakest link- but Stewart’s all engrossing habitation of her character Maureen is never anything less than compelling.
Maureen works as a personal shopper for a celebrity named Kyra- it is never clear exactly what she is famous for- and harbours frustration and resentment at her role as she feels it is unsatisfactory; although it pays well it prevents her from doing what she really wants. A major reason for her staying in this job however is the fact it is based in Paris which is where her twin brother recently died and she believes that by staying there he will try and contact her from the afterlife in a pact they made before his death.
This all becomes secondary however when her life takes an unexpected turn when she becomes a central figure in her boss’s brutal murder and when she becomes embroiled in text message game of cat and mouse with what initially seems like an insignificant character.
The film maintains an underground art-house feel to it although it is similar to this year’s Oscar winner ‘Moonlight’ in that at its conclusion it raises more questions than it answers and this is a relief as the tired formula of a conclusive ending- as demanded by most mainstream films- was always something I found frustrating and a little predictable. By not providing any finite answers Assaya allows the characters and their situations to linger in your mind and imagination some time after the film’s credits have rolled.
As stated before this film is really a tour de force for Stewart and her performance but it is still an intriguing work which captures the uncertainty and stifling nature of its central character’s life. If the ghost story part is unconvincing it is probably just that ghost stories in general are.

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