The Animals and Children Took to the Streets @ HOME

Tags

, , , , , , ,

The Animals and Children Took to the Streets

Written & Directed by Suzanne Andrade

1927

HOME, 7 October 2019

Set in and around a tenement block on the outskirts of a corrupt, sinful city, 1927’s latest offering is a dark amalgam of The Threepenny Opera, Beasley Street and The Gashlycrumb Tinies.

The story was OK, nothing special – a do-gooder and her daughter take a crib in the block in a bid to save the souls of the slum kids, that was part of it – but Paul Barritt’s expressionist graphics and atmospheric animations were stunning. They made the play, or perhaps distracted you from its shortcomings. There were scenes that evoked Grosz, Schiele (those houses tumbling one upon the other) and, of course, Edward Gorey. Besides the graphics, another way in which the play resembled Gorey’s work was in its hostility towards children: here the feral street pretties are drugged, kidnapped or otherwise contained by the adults around them. However, while I found the dystopian world of the play utterly convincing – a world populated by people who could be grotesque, eccentric or perverse – the narrative too often felt episodic, simply a series of black comedic gags strung together. It waned and dragged.

The Animals and Children Took to the Streets is showing at HOME until 16 February, further details can be found here.

Vice

Tags

, , ,

Vice

Directed by Adam McKay

USA, 2018

HOME, 30 January 2019

Vice

This one tells the story of Dick Cheney, Vice President during Bush’s tenure.

It is not entirely an hatchet job. We see how Cheney (played by Christian Bale) makes something of his life, despite humble beginnings. How he is supportive of his younger daughter, when she comes out as gay. And there is a large part of his life – his career in business, when he quit politics – where we are in the dark.

The main thesis of the film seems to be that Cheney, for a long time, had an interest in the (legal) theory that the American President could exercise absolute sovereign power (like a king, say). And that he altered the job description of Vice President, made it more substantial, so he could share in this. Power was Cheney’s vice. It is a thesis.

Whilst the film is formally inventive in various ways (e.g. the credits roll within the film to show us that Cheney’s life could have been very different if he had not received a call from Bush), it does seem somewhat partisan. As we know, Clinton exercised such sovereign power, signing off on numerous executive orders, as did Obama. And while it is undoubtedly true that Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld (and their poodle Blair) messed up in Iraq, the Obama administration’s military action in Libya, the non-action in Syria (giving Assad a free pass despite the use of chemical weapons), the increasing use of drone strikes particularly in Yemen (including the deliberate killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen) were at least as parlous.

Anyway, a fine film with a slue of excellent performances, and an interesting tale of Yankee power.

Destroyer

Tags

, , , ,

Destroyer

Directed by Karyn Kusama

USA, 2018

HOME, 30 January 2019

Destroyer

Destroyer is a very decent, pretty satisfying crime drama where the sins of the mother are visited upon the daughter.

Nicole Kidman is an undercover cop who goes along with an armed robbery she should really prevent. She does so because she hopes to profit from it. In making her choice, she crosses over a line and when, on the day, things go wrong, it all turns to shit. While she gets out alive, not everyone else does. Her partner is not so fortunate.

Toby Kebbell is in good form here as Silas, a dark nasty piece of work who can see into people’s souls. Kidman is a cop, once rogue now damaged, in search of redemption or maybe just revenge.

At end, I wasn’t sure if the story made any kind of sense as the timeline was confusing (all those flashbacks, where Kidman is young and beautiful and seductive). It seemed at the start that she was seeking out Silas to hunt him down, having concluded that he was the killer of a guy dead by the roadside. But that could not be.

Anyway, a sweet tale of Biblical justice. You pay for everything, all the choices that you make.

Bergman: A Year in a Life

Tags

, ,

Bergman: A Year in a Life

Directed by Jane Magnusson

Sweden, 2018

HOME, 30 January 2019

Bergman: A Year in a Life

This revealing documentary presents a compelling portrait of the great director.

It focuses on 1957 – though ranges before and aft – a key year in Bergman’s career, the year when he made the two great (and thematically dissimilar: his versatility was wondrous) masterpieces, The Seventh Seal and Wild Strawberries.

There is a thesis that is put forward in the documentary, along the lines that it was in 1957 that Bergman first began to use his personal life as the source material for his films. He then did this consistently thereafter. The argument is that he may not tell the truth about himself in his autobiography and memoirs (where he distorted facts, told porkies, by all accounts), but the personal truth is to be found in the films. It is Lawrence’s principle: do not trust the artist, trust the tale. Maybe, as well, he just had a different approach or orientation to experience. For many artists, if they witness something then they own it, can transmute it through empathy into their own; it doesn’t have to have happened to them.

We learn that Bergman could be a monster, especially in his later years: the grand old man of cinema and theatre was not always supportive of younger rivals. And in his youth he flirted with Nazism and had a genuine admiration for Hitler, as his notebooks and diaries show. He spent some time in Germany in the 1930s and apparently found the country congenial. Mind, was this unusual for Swedes at the time? While Sweden was ostensibly neutral during the Second World War, the country did supply iron ore to the German war machine. So many Swedes must have been quite relaxed about enabling wars of annihilation and genocide.

The film gave me an appetite to view Bergman’s films again, especially Wild Strawberries.

Alexandra Dariescu: The Nutcracker and I

Tags

, ,

Alexandra Dariescu: The Nutcracker and I

RNCM Theatre, 24 January 2019

Alexandra Dariescu: The Nutcracker and I

This was a late, post-Christmas treat for children of all ages.

There was a lot going on in the show, which was altogether rather splendid, an enchanting blend of music, dance, animation and storytelling. Right from the start you were smitten: the music (all from Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker, naturally) swept you away to the heavens, as the stage showed a winter night with stars. The stars fell, becoming snowflakes which then dissolved. You were sold – hook, line and sinker.

Desiree Ballantyne, an accomplished ballerina, danced with myriad characters from The Nutcracker – a toy soldier, a prince, a pair of cossacks – all miraculously brought to life through animation. It was magical how the movements of the digital characters (aglitter with all those pulses of light) meshed with that of the carbon-based one (if I can describe the elegant Desiree Ballantyne thus); it was seamlessly synchronised throughout.

Mind, magic was everywhere here. In the excitement of a winter’s night and the delirious anticipation of gifts and life to come. In the bountiful dreams of childhood – for the moment joyously alive, with no suggestion of the possibility of loss or disappointment. In the belief in an eternal future. And also in the steadfast loyalty and devotion of beloved pets (not to mention parents).

Mantegna and Bellini (and Brexit)

Tags

, , ,

Mantegna and Bellini

The National Gallery, London

Until 27 January 2019

Andrea Mantegna Virtus Combusta, 1490s Pen and brown ink and point of the brush on a brown ground, heightened with white, the black background over red, on paper 28.6 x 44.1 cm The British Museum, London © The Trustees of The British Museum

Andrea Mantegna Virtus Combusta, 1490s Pen and brown ink and point of the brush on a brown ground, heightened with white, the black background over red, on paper 28.6 x 44.1 cm The British Museum, London © The Trustees of The British Museum

If you go to the National Gallery’s magnificent exhibition Mantegna and Bellini – and I would recommend that you do so sharpish before it closes next Sunday – you will come across the interesting print above.

It is not the best thing in the exhibition, in truth – and really, how could it be? What with Bellini’s wonderful landscapes, Mantegna’s vivid reimagining of antiquity, and his sublime Simon Madonna: Mary as a plain and simple woman, an ordinary mother nursing her sleeping child. But the print is certainly the most topical work: an allegory of Brexit, in fact.

Entitled Virtus Combusta (The Burning of the Virtues), here is the description of the print taken from the British Museum website:

The two parts of this engraving are based on drawings by Mantegna. The subject is an allegory on the hold of ignorance on humanity. At top right the fat naked woman seated on a globe representing Ignorance reigns. She is served by the blindfolded figure of Fate and emaciated Avarice. At left, a sightless woman accompanied by a satyr symbolising Lust, and Error, a man with an Ass`s ears, stumbles toward a chasm. Below figures have fallen into the pit. One is being rescued by Hermes, the God of Knowledge, demonstrating that Humanity can be saved.

Well, probably this is sufficent as an explanation. But a temptation for the contemporary viewer is to slot in the names of the various personages involved in the unfolding Brexit farce. The sightless woman, now surely that can be none other than our own dear Prime Minister? Yet when it comes to the fat figure of Ignorance, the Ass, Lust and Error, you are spoilt for choice. There are several candidates for each of these roles. Take your pick.

To view Virtus Combusta at the British Museum website go here.

To read Alex Massie’s brilliant piece Who can spare us from this Brexit disaster? go here.

Finally, further details of the exhibition Mantegna and Bellini are here.