Johannes Berauer’s Hourglass

Tags

, , , , , , ,

Johannes Berauer’s Hourglass

RNCM Concert Hall, 6 December 2018

Johannes Berauer’s Hourglass

Here the Austrian composer Johannes Berauer compered a concert that showcased the music from his latest album Hourglass.

On show also was music by The Impossible Gentlemen – Mike Walker on guitar and Gwilym Simcock on piano, two of the players here, hail from that combo – and some RNCM students joined the professional musicians on stage for these performances.

Altogether it was up-tempo and exhilarating (you could not help nodding your head along with the music), eclectic and intriguing (Berauer cited Messiaen and Indian Rhythms as two main influences and there was, as well, an embrace of melody that made me think of none other than Brahms). As a concert it nourished the heart and the head, being both rigorous – yes, it was certainly that – yet generous too. Each player, whether on guitar, piano, violin or drums, took flight with a solo or two as the night rolled on. And Berauer duly spoke at one point of the thrill of seeing his music recreated afresh each night: you get that with jazz brethren, less so where classical recitals are concerned. Lively improvisation, the life not eternal but fragile: like, well, life. The music daring, gorgeous darlings, ending up sometimes bruised and scarred.

It is rare to see classical music and jazz enmeshed as finely, welded together as completely, as in this beautiful, memorable concert.

Advertisements

Suspiria

Tags

, , , , ,

Suspiria

Directed by Luca Guadagnino

Italy, 2018

HOME, 5 December 2018

Suspiria

This film is a bit of a mess but has moments of interest.

Set in a divided 1970s Germany, it tells the story of a coven of witches within a dance company. Tilda Swinton plays the dance mistress as Pina Bausch, pretty much (and the troupe’s keynote dance, pictured, recalls Bausch’s Rite of Spring), and Dakota Johnson is the American girl who becomes her new protege. Though Dakota Johnson is not really athletic enough to pass as a dancer.

There is gory spectacle and visceral horror but no really coherent story – at any rate, I didn’t understand it. The dance is called Volk, presumably an allusion to the Nazi notion of the Volksgemeinshaft, but this felt more like an exploitation of German history than a meaningful allusion. There is a mention of the Holocaust too at the end.

Expect some very scary moments but a lot of boredom in between: so a realistic depiction of life in post-war Germany, I suppose.

 

The Wild Pear Tree

Tags

, ,

The Wild Pear Tree

Directed by Nuri Bilge Ceylan

Turkey, 2018

HOME, 5 December 2018
The Wild Pear Tree

A portrait of the artist as a young man.

Ceylan’s protagonist is a young man who returns home from university. A graduate, he is considering teaching as a career but has aspirations to become a writer. There is a troubled relationship with his father, who is a gambler and a bit of an all-round chancer. It is his father who gives him the image of the wild pear tree: a tree whose fruit are misshapen and (Turkey being beyond the EU’s ambit) unregulated. Strange fruit, as human beings are strange.

It is a heartfelt and reflective film with a vivid sense of place. There are discussions of literature, Islam, fate and time; and these are serious, penetrating discussions too. Earnest examinations of matters of importance.

Ceylan has made a fine film.

The Maids @ HOME

Tags

, , , , , ,

The Maids

By Jean Genet

Translated by Martin Crimp

HOME, 29 November 2018

The Maids

Two maids are in thrall to their Mistress.

So much so that, while she is out and about, they – the sisters (nuns?) Claire (Jake Fairbrother) and Solange (Luke Mullins) – role-play, with each taking the role of the Mistress in turn. Their game, never entirely innocent, becomes increasingly sinister, more and more extreme…

This mesmerising version of the play, crisply translated by Martin Crimp, takes you right into the heart of Genet’s world. There are allusions to Miracle of the Rose at the start and throughout, and like in that novel, so here too, fantasy isn’t an escape from oppression but a displacement of it.

I was surprised to find HOME’s Theatre 1 transformed into a theatre in the round (with video sometimes used for close-ups) and was unsure about the reason for this. Then I saw the audience opposite me ‘lit up’ at a certain point, looking for all the world like the Apostles at the Last Supper (think: Andrea del Sarto’s effort at the Vallombrosan Abbey), Believers hungry for sacrifice and spectacle. And anyway decided it worked.

Actually, there are a lot of Catholic tropes in Genet – as Sartre recognised in his book on him – and this play, while on one level a sordid crime drama, offers plenty of scope for piety, ecstasy and debasement. Like the Maid of Orleans, these maids too are saints – of a sort. They suffer torment. They lament their fate. They glorify their Mistress, and even coronate Her: as Lorenzo Monaco coronated the Virgin in the painting that provided the inspiration for the EU flag.

The Maids is at HOME until 1 December, details here.

Wildlife

Tags

, , ,

Wildlife

Directed by Paul Dano

USA, 2018

HOME, 14 November 2018

Wildlife

It is late fifties America, we are in a small town in Montana, and a teenage boy watches his parents’ marriage fall apart.

When the father leaves home to fight wildfires – he cannot find a decent job otherwise – the mother is drawn toward another man, beginning an extramarital affair.

What is invigorating about the film is the way Joe (Ed Oxenbould) is able to be loyal to both his parents, to cope with their explosions of rage, to navigate what becomes a very uncertain world. There is a rooted rhythm to his life, a path through, despite all the emotional disruption. And his love for his parents never really falters. They give up on each other, eventually, but he doesn’t give up on them. He is a kind of heroic figure.

Joe notices things, compassionately and a little coldly too. His parents frailties for one thing, the filibuster pretensions – what a grand, pathetic facade they make – of his mother’s lover for another. He closely observes all the small-town life that goes on around him.

Probably, since Richard Ford wrote the source novel, there is an allusion in one incident to Faulkner’s classic story ‘Barn Burning’ – and that’s all to the good. Wildlife can sit in the same company. It is a classy, emotionally potent film about fathers and sons, mothers and family.

Widows

Tags

, , ,

Widows

Directed by Steve McQueen

USA, 2018

HOME, 14 November 2018

Widows

Warrior women wade through a swamp of petty, inadequate men – and come out with the dosh.

With this film, Steve McQueen has constructed a stylish crime drama chockfull of political intrigue and personal betrayal, graced with a cool, lead performance by Viola Davis as Veronica. When her husband, a bank robber, dies along with his crew, she finds herself owing a couple of million dollars to a dangerous man. So Veronica decides to pull off her dead husband’s next planned heist, and to do so she enlists the help of the crew’s other widows.

McQueen directs with an unswerving eye that is at once cool and compassionate, turning what might have been a bog-standard crime caper into cinematic silver. He shows us acts of vacant violence, the evil banal and oh so casual, along with grief-wrenched shoulders burdened with unbearable emotion. No fair sharing of life’s sorrow here; the sociopaths get away scot free. In one scene a young black man is killed by police because they suspect he is going for a gun – a clear allusion to the recent killings that sparked Black Lives Matter. It is a dangerous world out there.

Widows works as a thriller, as a study of sexual poiitics and it is, moreover, a compelling portrait of contemporary America. What more could you want from a movie?

RNCM Big Band with Eric Marienthal

Tags

, , , , ,

RNCM Big Band with Eric Marienthal

RNCM Theatre, 3 November 2018

Eric Marienthal

It was perhaps the best RNCM Big Band concert ever.

There was the precious pleasure of seeing someone – Eric Marienthal, saxophonist – do something supremely well. Nor did the RNCM Big Band disappoint: there was much urgency, a constant forward propulsion always, the pace brisk and always accelerating, to all of the twelve tracks, many of them composed and arranged by Eric’s colleague Gordon Goodwin.

We heard the brazen confidence of a sweetly blaring city, mellow and spacious, swarming with colour and sound. Resplendent solos on piano, guitar, trumpet and (naturally) saxophone softly ruffled the ear; and, on drums, Joshua Savage took part in a kind of dialogue with Eric’s saxophone. It was much more than a pair of solos, with these two; more of a beck and call.

Now the only question is: how will the RNCM Big Band top this?

Possum

Tags

, , ,

Possum

Directed by Matthew Holness

UK, 2018

HOME, 31 October 2018

Possum

This is a weird, British horror film which will not be everyone’s cup of tea.

Sean Harris is a troubled soul who walks around with a puppet in a leather bag – like Michael Redgrave in Dead of Night. Haunted by the past, it looks like, he spends his days walking by canals and parks, or shuffling along the streets of run-down estates. One time he visits an old army barracks. When he returns home, we learn that he lives in a cluttered house with a creepy uncle (Alun Armstrong) and that there is damp on the walls. It is all very grim and English.

I found it intense and effective sometimes, but in the end just a little monotonous.

Utøya: July 22

Tags

, ,

Utøya: July 22

Directed by Erik Poppe

Norway, 2018

HOME, 31 October 2018

Utøya: July 22

This is a fictionalised account of the terrorist attack on Utøya on 22 July 2011 that left over 70 young people dead and many more seriously injured.

The film ably captures the confusion of the attack. Indeed, we look at it wholly from the viewpoint of the victims. In a sense, this attack was a precursor to the far-right extremism and terrorism of our own day (such as the attack at the synagogue in Pittsburgh at the weekend), though in truth such far-right extremists (nutters all) have always been around.

It is a compelling film, all the more so since the register and tone is naturalistic and matter of fact. Thereby, it manages to avoid various pitfalls. It’s not a cheap thriller, though there is an undercurrent of danger; it’s not maudlin and emotional, though there is a sense of young lives and human potential lost; it not overly worthy, since these are ordinary young people, not saints.

All in all, a fine film.

 

 

SHOW @ HOME

Tags

, , , ,

SHOW

Choreography and music by Hofesh Shechter

Hofesh Shechter Company

HOME, 31 October 2018

Photo by Rahi Rezvani

The Night of the Long Knives.

It was like 101 ways to kill your fleet-footed footed lover – or cloven hoofed enemy, come to that. You could use a hand-made gun to the head, the thumb going down and then they collapse. Or how about a zip-like screech across the neck with an open palm, that looked like doing the trick too: they crumple to the ground, throat slit. Then again, you might want to kill more than one enemy at once, so there’s the firing squad, a line of dancers, arms outstretched. And so it went on, each killer becoming the next victim, the march – or, rather, the frenetic dance – of history as an infinite cycle of violence. Often,the fatal denouement was preceded by a courtly or a showmanlike gesture, as though to proclaim: ‘Ladies and Gentlemen, for my next trick…’

If this description seems grim, well, it was anything but. Instead we had a show full of a gleeful, diabolical energy whose aesthetic was akin to that of a conte cruel or a Grand Guignol extravaganza. Its sinister ambience evoked the Dance of the Knights sequence in Romeo and Juliet, but whereas Prokofiev’s score is a kind of tango, Shechter instead went for a queerly rollicking percussion that was haughty, jolly and (in the end) infectious. As for his choreography here, it had violence and danger, yet also elegance and precision, and the dancers brought into this full pelt. It was like watching an elaborate checkmate – say King, Bishop and Knight checkmating a lone King – again and again, with each time a slightly different variation.

There are few of us who are not fascinated by the cool display of unbridled ambition, by wanton betrayal, by the grand spectacle of the execution of our enemies and rivals (if only occurring in our imagination). SHOW is unlikely to purge you of this sinful, all too human fascination, though the purges depicted here will certainly satisfy it. Momentarily, at least.

SHOW is at HOME until 3 November, details here.