Archives for November 2013

French Film “Blue is the Warmest Colour” Enraptures.

Blue is the Warmest Colour.

Blue is the Warmest Colour.

Abdel­latif Kechiche won this year’s Palme D’Or at Cannes with his sixth film, Blue is the Warmest Colour, though its orig­i­nal title, The Life of Adèle chap­ters 1 & 2, is the bet­ter description.

The 20 year old Adèle Exar­chopoulos gives an aston­ish­ing per­for­mance as the epony­mous hero­ine in the three hour film that charts her jour­ney from ten­ta­tive teenag­er into a ful­ly formed woman.

The Ital­ians use the word col­pi­to, lit­er­al­ly struck down to describe the moment of falling in love. And nowhere will you see it bet­ter cap­tured than when Adèle first catch­es sight of the blue haired Emma, played by Léa Sey­doux. What fol­lows is a mag­nif­i­cent­ly painful bur­row­ing into the war­ren of a relationship.

Inevitably, the bare­ly ten min­utes of pas­sion­ate sex that this includes is what has gen­er­at­ed all the inter­est and con­tro­ver­sy since the film first sur­faced this year at Cannes. With the actress­es appar­ent­ly com­plain­ing of exploita­tion, and the direc­tor angri­ly defend­ing himself.

Abdellatif Kechiche , Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux at Cannes.

Abdel­latif Kechiche , Adèle Exar­chopou­los and Léa Sey­doux, all smiles at Cannes despite the murmurings.

It’s not hard to see why the actress­es might feel some­what sul­lied, betrayed even by the result­ing film. Not because of the sex scenes, but because of the depth and raw­ness of emo­tion on view, and the way in which they, and espe­cial­ly Adèle expose them­selves so com­plete­ly before us.

It would be all too easy to be flip­pant about a film like this. It’s all so very French. It’s a three hour film about beau­ti­ful girls who draw lov­ing­ly on an end­less sup­ply of cig­a­rettes in between dis­cussing exis­ten­tial­ism and art and falling in and out of love with each oth­er. And all in a way that’s both beau­ti­ful to watch, com­plete­ly believ­able, and some­how nev­er pretentious.

And this being Ire­land, it gets an 18 cer­tifi­cate. After all, that’s the last thing any of us would want our teenage boys and girls watch­ing when they could be at home instead look­ing at hard­core porn in the com­fort of their bedrooms.

But the film tran­scends all of that. Because the jour­ney that the actress­es and the direc­tor take you on is so inti­mate, so emo­tion­al­ly engag­ing and so rap­tur­ous­ly cap­tured that it’s impos­si­ble not to be com­plete­ly tak­en in. And for once, that 3 hour dura­tion is jus­ti­fied. As with the num­ber of words Tol­stoy took, some­times you need the space that time gives you to be able to ful­ly delve into your sto­ry. And to con­vey all the emo­tion involved.

Com­fort­ably, and by a con­sid­er­able dis­tance, the film of the year. You can see the trail­er here.

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Series 6 “Mad Men”, Drugs and a Rare High.

Twin Peaks' dream sequence.

Twin Peaks’ dream sequence.

In ret­ro­spect, the arrival of Twin Peaks onto our screens in 1990 changed every­thing. On the one hand it explod­ed the pos­si­bil­i­ties of what a tele­vi­sion series could aim for and encom­pass. And on the oth­er, it marked the begin­ning of what would become a com­plete exo­dus of seri­ous, grown-up pop­ulist dra­ma from cin­e­ma onto television.

The exquisite At The Height Of Summer.

The exquis­ite At The Height Of Summer.

You can still see seri­ous dra­ma in the cin­e­ma. Films from Atom Egoy­an, Asghar Farha­di reviewed ear­li­er here, Julio Medem, Jafar Panahi reviewed ear­li­er here, Lynne Ram­say, Tod Solondz, and Tran Anh Hung. And of course David Lynch. But they are very much the excep­tions. The vast major­i­ty of what is on offer these days at the cin­e­ma is aimed at teenage boys and pubes­cent girls.

Tele­vi­sion on the oth­er hand has pro­duced, to pick but four of a long, long list, The Sopra­nos, The Wire, Mad Men and Break­ing Bad. And it all began with Twin Peaks, which was the prece­dent, the blue­print, and the inspi­ra­tion for them all.

Of the many, many things that Twin Peaks did so effort­less­ly well, the one thing that most peo­ple prob­a­bly think of is dreams. Specif­i­cal­ly, the dream sequence that so mem­o­rably end­ed the sec­ond episode.

Lynch got his actors to mem­o­rize and say their lines back­wards, which he filmed, and then reversed in the edit­ing suite. Sim­i­lar­ly, he got them to per­form some of their actions – but cru­cial­ly not all of them – in the same way. It’s daz­zling­ly unset­tling, and you can see it again here.

Lynch has always had a sen­sa­tion­al han­dle on dreams. David Thomp­son astute­ly writes in his entry on Mul­hol­land Dr. that the Dr of the title refers not to Dri­ve but to dream here. It’s strik­ing how often dream crops up in the dia­logue. And his career began of course with the all too con­vinc­ing por­tray­al of a liv­ing night­mare in Eraser­head.

So intim­i­dat­ed was David Chase by Lynch and his facil­i­ty with dreams that he was ren­dered cre­ative­ly pet­ri­fied. Dreams are the one thing that The Sopra­nos failed to daz­zle on.

If Chase is the tele­vi­su­al son of Lynch, then Matthew Wein­er is his spir­i­tu­al grand­child. But Mad Men has most­ly avoid­ed dreams. What it’s done instead is to tack­le the one area that’s even more dif­fi­cult to get right than dreams; drugs.

Mad Men.

Mad Men.

After all, at least in the­o­ry, anything’s pos­si­ble in dreams. But for any­one who’s ever tak­en opi­ates, amphet­a­mines or hal­lu­cino­gen­ics, there’s only ever one way that that looks or feels. And it’s cringe-induc­ing to watch when­ev­er any­one tries and gets it wrong.

Impres­sive­ly, on the few occa­sions that drugs have sur­faced in Mad Men, they’ve got it bril­liant­ly right. There was that brief scene in series 2 when Don had his – and the show’s – first joint. There’s was the just­ly cel­e­brat­ed scene in series 5 when Roger does LSD here.

And now in series 6, there’s a whole episode, 8 The Crash, when a Dr. Roberts type fig­ure gives Don and the rest on the cre­ative team a shot each of speed. I’ll not spoil any­thing by giv­ing any of it away, but it cap­tures per­fect­ly that mis­placed sense of cer­tain­ty that some drugs cause you to fix on oth­er­wise mean­ing­less ephemera. And it’s absolute­ly, and hor­ri­bly hilarious.

Series 6 is cur­rent­ly hid­den away in the depths of RTE2’s  Tues­day night sched­ule, like a for­mer hip­pies’ final acid tab buried deep in a secret draw.

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Gravity” and Sandra Bullock Captivating Despite the 3D.



Grav­i­ty arrives trail­ing truck­loads of hype and weighed down by a cacoph­o­nous word of mouth. But for once, it delivers.

Nom­i­nal­ly set in space and in some not too dis­tant future, like so many sci­ence film films, and not just Star Wars, it’s real­ly just a west­ern dressed up with fan­cy futur­is­tic toys.

San­dra Bul­lock is the lone­some hero pit­ted against the forces of evil, with the effort­less­ly charm­ing George Clooney as her side­kick. Clooney man­ages to be charm­ing even when he’s doing and say­ing things that, irri­tat­ing­ly,  have been designed and fab­ri­cat­ed to charm,  and still pull it off.

Alfonso Cuaron directs Sandra Bullock and George Clooney.

Alfon­so Cuaron directs San­dra Bul­lock and George Clooney.

But it’s Bullock’s film. Only instead of hav­ing to square up to an even mean­er bad guy than the one she’s just dis­posed of, she’s faced with a set of insur­mount­able tech­no­log­i­cal obsta­cles, each one even more hope­less than the one before.

Inevitably, there are exis­ten­tial mus­ings about life and love and the mean­ing of it all.  And yes, as some crit­ics have point­ed out, for some­one who’s sup­posed to have tak­en on the job because of her love of silence, she does an awful lot of talk­ing to her­self. And sure, Clooney is lit­tle more than a pas­tiche of any num­ber of iden­tik­it side­kicks from those 70s B west­erns or 80s cop films.

But their per­for­mances man­age to tran­scend all of that. Cou­pled with the fact that Alfon­so Cuarón, the film’s direc­tor, has man­aged to use all the time, effort and imag­i­na­tion invest­ed in the tech­nol­o­gy in the ser­vice of the story.

So there are times when you man­age to for­get that every­thing you are watch­ing has been hap­pen­ing in what appears to be zero grav­i­ty. When sud­den­ly, and mov­ing­ly, you’re remind­ed again of the alien back­ground against which all this is tak­ing place.

Cuarón shot to fame with Y Tu Mama Tam­bi­en in 2001, before get­ting invei­gled into direct­ing one of the Har­ry Pot­ter films. He’s spent the last sev­en years mak­ing Grav­i­ty, get­ting its tech­nol­o­gy right, but he and his son who wrote the script with him, nev­er lost sight of the story.

Not a pro­found film. But then nor does it try to be. Just an old fash­ioned, seat of your pants, thrill of a ride that’ll keep you root­ing for the good guy and pray­ing she pulls through, in a bril­liant­ly told and per­formed sto­ry that you com­plete­ly believe in. Despite the fact that they end­ed up shoot­ing it in 3D.

Sandra Bullock in "Gravity".

San­dra Bul­lock in “Grav­i­ty”.

And yes, here we are again. It’s Life Of Pi all over again – reviewed ear­li­er here.

3D was a gim­mick in the 50s, a gim­mick in the 70s and it’s a gim­mick again now. Grav­i­ty is a mar­vel to look at and lis­ten to, but because of the seam­less merg­ing of dig­i­tal effects and phys­i­cal act­ing. And the mag­nif­i­cent use of sound and music. It has noth­ing to do with the fact that it was need­less­ly shot in 3D. Go and see it in 2D. Either way, see it.

Here’s Gravity’s trailer.

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Hypnotic Debut Album ”Psychic” from Nicolas Jaar and his Darkside.

Darkside's Psychic.

Dark­side’s Psychic.

Nico­las Jaar first rose to offi­cial promi­nence when he won the annu­al BBC Radio 1 Essen­tial Mix of the Year joust in 2011. Mov­ing effort­less­ly from Bill Calla­han, the Aphex Twin and Kei­th Jar­rett to Mar­vin Gaye, Bey­on­cé, NSYNC(!) and back again, you can see the full track list­ing here. And you can down­load it – minus the annoy­ing BBC idents — via the small grey down­load under the blue Play but­ton here.

For the last year or two he’s been tour­ing with fel­low DJ hip­ster Dave Har­ring­ton as Dark­side and Psy­chic is their debut album, after their eccen­tric and ever so slight­ly aca­d­e­m­ic remix­ing of Ran­dom Access Mem­o­ries (reviewed by me ear­li­er here) which they called Daft­side.

The women of Twin Peaks.

The women of Twin Peaks.

And yes I know, remix­ing and sam­pling the arche­typ­al musi­cal mag­pies pro­duces a resplen­dent po-mo moe­bius strip that’s delight­ful­ly clever, but it doesn’t make the results any more danceable.

Psy­chic is a much more robust affair. As you’d expect after hear­ing the regal Essen­tial Mix, which kicks off with Ange­lo Badale­men­ti talk­ing us through the com­pos­ing of the Twin Peaks’ theme, this is indi­etron­i­ca fil­tered through the prism of widescreen cinemascope.

The best way into the album real­ly is via the Essen­tial Mix. Every­thing that is deft­ly hint­ed at and explored in Psy­chic, from dub­step and dis­co to prog rock psy­che­delia, free jazz and Enoesque min­i­mal­ism is aired and touched on there.

This is what Jaar feeds off of, where he sources his ingre­di­ents from. But the album that results when it’s all reduced down to a sin­gle 45 minute record is its own beast entire­ly. And yet beneath the sur­face, all those ele­ments can clear­ly be savoured.

Psy­chic  is both moody and men­ac­ing, yet rhyth­mi­cal­ly dri­ven, deft­ly strad­dling the divide between elec­tron­ic ambiance and the dance­floor. Where just enough is sug­gest­ed by the breathy, falset­toed vocals with­out ever being ful­ly explained.

This is what Don­al Dineen means when he uses the term “head­phones” as a genre descrip­tion. Ian Cohen gives it a 9.0 and a more ful­some descrip­tion in Pitch­fork here. And Jim Car­roll has an inter­view with Dave Har­ring­ton in the Irish Times here. It get the album of the week from Nialler 9, the best Irish music blog here.  And you can hear Paper Trails from the album per­formed live here. Get the album and the Essen­tial Mix. It’s not the sound of the future. It’s the sound of now.

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RTE’s “Love/Hate” is Not Like Real Life At All.

RTE's Love/Hate.

RTE’s Love/Hate.

There’s been an enor­mous amount writ­ten about how real­is­tic and true to life (or not(!)) the RTE dra­ma Love/Hate is, with many peo­ple com­plain­ing about the fac­tu­al errors on it.  And I have to say, on watch­ing series four I too was left sim­i­lar­ly per­plexed. To pick just three of the many, many glar­ing and inex­plic­a­ble inac­cu­ra­cies:

Oh come on, would anyone really wear a wrist watch like that?

Oh come on, would any­one real­ly wear a wrist watch that garish?

There’s a scene in episode 3 as the Gar­dai are keep­ing sur­veil­lance on a ware­house. To cel­e­brate the suc­cess­ful hid­ing of the cam­eras and mikes there, one of the guards lights up a cig­a­rette. In an enclosed place of work! Which is against the law!

So, what, we’re being asked to believe that a serv­ing mem­ber of an gar­da siochana would know­ing­ly break­ing the law?!

But that’s just the start of it. In anoth­er scene, a num­ber of crim­i­nals are hav­ing a dis­cus­sion and, as you’d expect, the light­bulb above their heads gives off an abun­dance of light, clear­ly indi­cat­ing that they’re using a con­ven­tion­al, stan­dard (prob­a­bly 100w!) incan­des­cent lightbulb.

But when we cut to the Gards at their head­quar­ters, they seem to be in a room lit in exact­ly the same way! Sug­gest­ing that, instead of using a Halo­gen, CFL or even LED bulb, as I’ve no doubt you’ll find installed in all police sta­tions through­out the coun­try, they are every bit as envi­ron­men­tal­ly irre­spon­si­ble as the peo­ple they are up against in the crim­i­nal underworld!

Totti by name...

More TV Totti.

And then again, in anoth­er scene, in a broth­el – which by the way are ille­gal in this coun­try, so where’s this scene sup­posed to be tak­ing place! – one of the bystanders is wear­ing a Roma FC soc­cer jer­sey. But if you freeze frame it just before he scratch­es his nose, you can clear­ly see the words “Asa NIsi MAsa” tat­tooed on his knuckles.

Obvi­ous­ly, this is a ref­er­ence to Felli­ni’s appro­pri­a­tion of Jung’s “ani­ma” con­cept, which he trans­lat­ed into the Rim­i­ni dialect for 8 ½, and which we hear being whis­pered in the dream-like flash­back scenes depict­ing his child­hood. But why would some­body who went to the trou­ble of hav­ing that tat­tooed on his hand, clear­ly indi­cat­ing he grew up in the East coast sea­side town of Rim­i­ni, be wear­ing a Roma FC jersey?!

Marcello Mastroianni in Fellini's 8 1/2.

Mar­cel­lo Mas­troian­ni in Fellini’s “8 1/2”.

How can you pos­si­bly get involved in the sto­ry being told when there are all these woe­ful inac­cu­ra­cies just leap­ing off of the screen at you at every turn?

Nat­u­ral­ly I’ve for­ward­ed this on to the Direc­tor Gen­er­al at RTE, togeth­er with a full list of all the fac­tu­al errors (1,036 in total) that I man­aged to find in just the first three episodes. I’ve no doubt he’ll be keen to sit down with the writ­ers and the pro­duc­tion team in an effort to stamp this out. And I con­fi­dent­ly expect to be receiv­ing a reply from him on the mat­ter in the very near future.

After all, and I real­ly didn’t want to end on this note, but; is this the kind of thing we’re being asked to pay our license fee for? Because, I regret to report, Love/Hate isn’t remote­ly true to life. It’s all made up. The whole thing’s a com­plete fiction.

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