Unquiet Graves

Featured

Tags

,

Unquiet Graves

Directed by Sean A Murray

UK, 2018

HOME, 12 June 2019

Unquiet Graves

This documentary is a difficult watch, and that for a host of reasons.

One reason is because the grief, still, is all too real. And the testimony of families affected is overwhelming. So you hear from grown men and women, who as children lost a father or mother, still perplexed by their absence. You see an old woman who, as a young wife and mother, watched her husband die and later had to identify one of his killers (she had answered the door to his killers). The grief and sorrow is palpable and, you know for sure, will remain with them after you have watched the film.

Another reason is that it makes a compelling case for collusion between loyalist paramilitaries and the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) and the Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR) – and therefore the British state – in over a hundred murders. Indeed, in some instances serving police officers took part in killings. There is the further claim that this involvement ‘came right from the very top’, which would be at prime ministerial or cabinet level, not merely the activities of MI5 or MI6, and entailed a colonial policy of ‘divide and rule’ aimed at the Protestant and Catholic communities in Northern Ireland. I am unsure whether to accept this entirely; after all, these two communities were pretty divided anyway. But the evidence may be found in the minutes of a key meeting held at Chequers during Harold Wilson’s tenure as PM. Those minutes should be investigated and disclosed.

Further details of the film can be had here.

Hobson’s Choice @ the Royal Exchange Theatre

Featured

Tags

, , , , ,

Hobson’s Choice

By Harold Brighouse

Royal Exchange Theatre, 5 June 2019

Shalini Peiris and Esh Alladi in Hobson's Choice at the Royal Exchange Theatre. Photo by Marc Brenner.

Shalini Peiris and Esh Alladi in Hobson’s Choice at the Royal Exchange Theatre. Photo by Marc Brenner.

A kind of quotidian magic.

Tanika Gupta’s re-imagining of Harold Brighouse’s Edwardian comedy – setting it in Manchester’s Northern Quarter in the 1980s and making the protagonists an Asian family recently arrived from Uganda – works wonderfully well.

It is at once a queer sort of romance (very brisk and business-like), a boisterous comedy and a hard-headed look at life’s robust limitations. Here the Asian family run a tailor’s shop, and the person you are drawn to most of all is Durga Hobson (Shalini Peiris), the eldest daughter. She is the brains behind the business, not to mention the hardest grafter out of all of them, besides having to contend with her father swanning around as a sort of titular figurehead, though frankly he is more often than not to be found off down the pub. Networking, it is called. What you glean about Durga is that, as well as being direct and down to earth, she is generous and (whisper it softly in her presence) a mite vulnerable.

Hobson’s Choice is in many respects an unpretentious, even a pedestrian play. But it also has a kind of quotidian magic. It is one of those plays where, as circumstances change in the surrounding world, people also are driven to change – or they fail to do so. In slo-mo, fates are revealed. Some people adapt and prosper, others fall by the wayside. Some show mettle and strength, while some are weak or callous toward others.

There are terrific performances here from a talented cast – not least from Esh Alladi as Ali Mossop. A wholly engrossing, highly entertaining evening’s theatre.

Hobson’s Choice is showing at the Royal Exchange until 6 July, further details can be found here.

Grand Finale @ HOME

Featured

Tags

, , ,

Grand Finale

Choreography and music by Hofesh Shechter

Hofesh Shechter Company

HOME, 22 May 2019

Grand Finale by Hofesh Shechter. Photo by Rahi Rezvani.

A compelling watch, this show, although pretty disturbing at times.

Bodies are dragged along the floor. Dancer’s mouths gape wide, trauma etched on faces. There is an embrace and a couple dance but then the man discovers that his beloved is lifeless. Her arms dangle.

The group scenes are also mesmerising, evoking media images of protest, conflict and violence. You don’t know exactly what events Shechter is referencing – maybe the Arab Spring, genocide in Africa, an episode from  Europe’s own legacy of darkness – but you can always foresee a new horror coming into view.

When the strains of the Merry Widow Waltz are heard, you are reminded of Carl Zuckmayer’s description of Vienna in March 1938, of how on the streets the gates of Hell opened up. In this respect, the tame salute at the close of the first half was a bit of a cop-out.

As an exemplar of cutting-edge modern dance, Grand Finale really cannot be bettered. It is razor sharp.

Grand Finale is at HOME until 25 May, details here.

Halle Orchestra: Ravel’s Bolero

Featured

Tags

, , , ,

Halle Orchestra: Ravel’s Bolero

The Bridgewater Hall, 9 May 2019

Sir Mark Elder and the Halle

This was an impromptu concert, so an unexpected bonus, and all the better for that.

Sir Mark Elder conducted the Halle and the orchestra played these three wonderful works:

  • Debussy: Images for Orchestra
  • Mussorgsky (in an orchestration by Ravel): Pictures at an Exhibition
  • Ravel: Bolero

You could see how the works, although in many respects very different in tone and texture, were interlinked. Debussy’s Images for Orchestra aimed to evoke scenes from memory – it is focussed around various countries – and Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition attempted a similar feat: it was about a painter and his pictures. There is a difference, mind, between memories, psychological images as it were, and external vision: pictures, things seen in the world.

Ravel orchestrated the version of Mussorgsky’s work performed here and he composed the final work, Bolero. There is also a further connection: the most elaborate of Debussy’s Images focuses on Spain, the country from which Bolero takes its inspiration.

In Bolero just the one theme is repeated again and again, with more colour and orchestration gradually added with each repetition. But the underlying theme is always present, never obscured. It is thrilling – the way it builds up to a climax, the uncertainty as to how it will all end – but a bit gimmicky, in truth: you are pleased that Ravel wrote it because that means that no one else now has to. Here, though, a visual analogy occurred to me. That Bolero is like one of those Warhol silkscreen prints where the same image (say: Marilyn pouting, Elvis drawing a gun) is repeated over and over, with slight variations in colouring, say.

An evening of vital music and visual culture. A lot to hear, a lot to see.

Details of future Halle concerts can be found here.

A Season in France

Tags

, ,

A Season in France

Directed by Mahamat-Saleh Haroun

France, 2018

HOME, 26 June 2019
A Season in France

France is Hell for those who are there seeking asylum, as this harrowing film makes clear.

We follow the journey of Abbas and his family as they try to settle in the Republic. Already traumatised by the violence in his own country, where his wife had been murdered, now he must confront violence and enmity anew.

His brother takes a different path. When his makeshift dwelling is burnt down, he decides to set himself aflame. But Abbas perseveres – for the time being, at any rate.

A bleak film, but with moments of joy and humour too. And full of heart.

 

The Hummingbird Project

Tags

, ,

The Hummingbird Project

Directed by Kim Nguyen

USA, 2018

HOME, 26 June 2019

The Hummingbird Project

Here a couple of cousins concoct a plan to build a fibre-optic cable across America.

Their big idea is that they can thereby speed up trading transactions, so allowing certain investment banks to make a big profit. They would allow these banks access to the high speed cable for a price. So they would come out with a big profit too.

It is an engaging film, with several dramatic moments. One of the cousins comes a cropper with cancer and so you have those old saws about money being pretty useless when you are dead. You cannot take it with you. You haven’t got anything if you don’t have your health. And that other one, the one about the rich man and the eye of a needle.

Also, the cable laid in the earth is a kind of cancer: an invasive, hostile presence which threatens the balance of nature.

Diego Maradona

Tags

,

Diego Maradona

Directed by Asif Kapadia

UK, 2019

HOME, 20 June 2019

Diego Maradona

Show me a hero and I will write you a tragedy.

So what we have here is the tragic tale of Maradona, sublime footballer and flawed (mind you, who isn’t?) human being. Born in an Argentine slum, he went on to win the world championship for his own bedevilled country and the Italian championship, Serie A, for his adopted city of Napoli. Then there came the fall, following the game where Argentina put Italy out of Italia ’90 – in the Napoli stadium, no less. Prosecutions for drug use, all the rest.

It is a brilliantly constructed documentary, the way it snakes back then forward in time, with lots of excerpts of Maradona in play. His greatest strength, we learn, was his brain. Football is a game of deception and he fooled, out-thought, them all. And you cannot deny that he worked and trained hard, that he endured a lot of pain (an ankle injury, a recurring back ache),that he paid his dues.

Asif Kapadia interviews many people, including the player’s personal trainer, who introduces a distinction between Diego (the boy who simply wanted to play football and buy his parents a house) and Maradona (an arrogant, ultra-confident star with a sense of absolute entitlement). If Diego didn’t have Maradona, he would have remained in Argentina: underappreciated, a journeyman footballer. But Maradona at his worst is a nightmare; he doesn’t allow Diego to do what he is best at. Only when they are harmony do we get Diego Maradona, genius footballer, an irresistible force.

In the end, you are left with a fumbling gratitude that he managed to achieve all that he did. Naturally you’d have to wanted to get more out of him. But really, just be grateful that we got all that we did.

Another fine documentary by Asif Kapadia, right up there with Senna and Amy.

Dirty God

Tags

, , ,

Dirty God

Directed by Sacha Polak

UK, 2019

HOME, 13 June 2019

Dirty God

This is all about a young woman disfigured by an acid attack, who sets about trying to rebuild her life.

It is one of those naturalistic, ‘what happens when… ?’ sort of affairs but it is done with an awful lot of nuance and care. People don’t look at Jade (the wonderful Vicky Knight) anymore, or they look at her then quickly avert their eyes. Even her daughter, for a time anyway, sees her as a monster.

What you notice is how real her predicament is: Jade remains a young woman, and so she doesn’t suddenly stop having sexual desires or taking an interest in men. In time, she finds a beauty and humanity all her own. That has not been taken away from her.

A very moving film.

 

Beats

Tags

, , , ,

Beats

Directed by Brian Welsh

UK, 2019

HOME, 12 June 2019

Beats

Set in the ’90s rave scene in Scotland, this film tells the story of two young men seeking ecstasy, epiphany and escape from their surroundings.

They are hunted people, albeit in different ways. Fear haunts them, despite their youthful pretensions that they are challenging authority. Johnno (Cristian Ortega)comes from a respectable, lower-middle class family, where his life has been mapped out for him by his mother. While Spanner (Lorn Macdonald) has a looser existence, being constantly bullied by his drug dealer brother. But they have a friendship based upon their love of rave music.

It is an engaging, even a poignant film, which most of all captures a perfect moment in their lives : a moment where their youthful friendship which means everything (everything just then: it won’t endure).

I liked a lot in it, notably the scene where Spanner’s brother throws a whining colleague out of the car. There is a family bond between the brothers. It means something.

Sunset

Tags

, ,

Sunset

Directed by László Nemes

Hungary, 2018

HOME, 11 June 2019

Sunset

Set in Budapest on the eve of the First World War, this is a deeply disquieting film.

Irisz Leiter (a wild, wondrous Susanne Wuest: the world swirls around her) has to the city to take up a position in a hat shop. She is also, mind, trying to get a sense of her past and her identity: the shop had once belonged to her parents, who had died in a fire there when she was a child. It was then trhat she was sent away.

And indeed there is much to learn about her past and, also, the present: the world she is aiming to enter. It is a world of privilege and exploitation, which reaches even as far as the Hapsburg Royal Family. The poor and downtrodden, shop-girls like her, are their sacrificial victims (a Girardian motif anticipating the slaughter of World War One). Meanwhile her brother – yes, she learns that she has a brother – runs a kind of Falker gang that robs the well-to-do. Among them being a sinister Viennese who indulges in Schubert and sadism: it is enough to cure you of any notion of Gemütlichkeit as far as the Viennese are concerned. Iris herself is conflicted: sometimes it seems as though she wants to tear down this corrupt social order, whereas at other times she clings to it for security.

Budapest, and end of the century middle Europe more generally, is vividly and atmospherically depicted. The film has something of the flavour (in other words: the muted dread and subdued terror) of the trilogy of films that Klaus Maria Brandauer made with István Szabó. A very impressive accomplishment.

Amazing Grace

Tags

, , ,

Amazing Grace

Directed by Alan Elliot and Sydney Pollack

USA, 2018

Amazing Grace

Aretha Franklin singing Gospel songs in a church.

She sings the songs, which became the album Amazing Grace, over two nights in 1972. On the second night, a pasty faced Mick Jagger turns up – he looks much healthier now, about half a century later – and the camera picks him out, clapping along with the congregation.

What to say? It is a religious experience, for sure. The congregation listen, clap, cry, sing along, dance. One or two people seem to faint.

Aretha herself is all emotion during the performance but quite calm – on the ball, professional – in between times. She is an artist.

Aretha’s performance of ‘Never Grow Old’ was way beyond wonderful. The audio can be heard on YouTube here.