Movie Review – After the Storm

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After the Storm review at Flickering Myth

After the Storm, Hirokazu Koreeda’s  (Still Walking, Our Little Sister) latest work of social realist drama beautifully captures the insecurities and doubtfulness of middle age angst. Laced with a darkly wry humour, the film is full of universal observations about ageing, family relations and finding a way in the world. The film is funny, touching and humanistic. Profound in its look at the passing of time and life, the work manages to display a confident and philosophical treatment of hopes, desires and family.

The film follows Shinoda Ryota (Hiroshi Abe), a prize-winning author in his younger days, who while reminiscing on his past glory lives an unsteady life as a gambler and a private eye. Barely able to pay his ex-wife Kyoko (Yôko Maki) child support money for his only son Shingo, Ryota leads a troubled existence bullet-pointed by various scams and dodgy plans. At various times, stressed out and belligerent or humble and resigned, the character is nevertheless likeable and his pained expressions and aggrieved outlook at life’s treatment provide plenty of bitter-sweet humour to what is a poetically honest and refreshingly produced story.

Much of the humour also comes from Ryota’s mother Yoshiko (Kirin Kiki), someone who sees life as an opportunity for acerbic one-liners and darkly funny observations about modern life. While always remaining tough and philosophical about her own solitary (since her husband passed) life, she still values the company of her son and holds out hope that he and his former wife will someday reunite. From the outset this looks unlikely, with Ryota and his mother symbolising the past, and the hard-working career driven Kyoko the present and Shingo the future.  Whether these different strands of time and thinking can link up again is part of the film’s success. A beautifully written piece and further evidence of Koreeda’s ability to get to the very heart of human nature.

Spaceship Movie Review

My review of Spaceship is over at FM now.

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Aiming to bring a sense of the intensity of feeling associated with adolescence, Spaceship is an ambitious attempt at illustrating the spirit and psychology of growing up. Using every single colour in the make-up box, it’s partly successful in showcasing teen-age confusion and wonderment, but ultimately disappoints with a mish-mash of styles and an insubstantial and wayward plot.

Essentially the story of Lucidia (Alexa Davies), a teen who dissapears in pursuit of aliens and unicorns, and her friends and grief stricken father Gabriel(Antti Reini) who try to find her, Spaceship works best when describing the seemingly insurmountable gap between adulthood and childhood. It does this in an even handed way, and it is one of the film’s strengths that it doesn’t resort to lazy cliches in its examination of youth sub-cultures and lifestyles. The numerous tics and obsessions of the youth on show are not mocked or laughed at, merely presented as part of the nature of things.

Indeed, Alex Taylor’s debut feature certainly looks the part, with hazy shots of halcyon views emphasising the film’s essential dreaminess. The young actors, along with Lucidia’s main two friends Alice (Tallulah Rose Haddon) and Tegan (Lara Peake), are an integral part of the film’s visual focus, with  a day-glo hyper stylised ‘cyber-goth’ dress sense informing the whole construction of the piece in every sense.

Unfortunately, this examination of ‘cyber-goth’ doesn’t seem to have carried over into the soundtrack, a confused melange of indie folk-rock and bargain bin electronica. Still, the visuals are remarkably effective and authentically weird and psychedelic at times, admitting the audience – and Gabriel – into a strange world of circus acts, hallucinations and wonder.

The innocence of youth is well highlighted, with the group of teens seemingly more interested in philosophising and day dreaming rather than in drugs and sex . This heightens the fairy tale nature of the film, bringing out its fantasy play and make-believe. This certainly isn’t a home-counties Kidulthood.

There are also some nice examples of dry humour, with the tale of the forgotten soldier at Aldershot barracks who wants to set up a rave one that could have been expanded on. The main story itself seems to have been left unattended after the first few drafts and the dialogue would have benefited from further edits.  In all then, something of a mixed bag. Strange and interesting, but with less to say than it initially thought it did, Spaceship is nevertheless worth a look and Taylor is a name to look out for in the future.

Repeats

Putting the pieces together
And then taking them apart
Frustrated by symmetry
And a semblance of art
When all around is confusion
And chaos on demand
The schedule is nightmare
A sentence without remand

I’d like to change the picture
And bring it more in line
But as you know tracking’s touchy
And the bells don’t always chime
Whether we like it or not
This shit’s always on repeat
So don’t bother with the timer
It’ll be on again next week…

Snap or Chat

Snap or Chat
Chat or Snap
Face or Book
Book or Face
Worth a Look
Try to Talk
It’s not Compressed
It’s Worth a Look
Chat or Snap
Face or Book

Surtr

The Norse fire giant Surtr lived in a small electricity power station just outside my primary school. The bringer of Ragnarok was a distinct presence around the playground, with tales of his wanton destruction and grief-giving the talk of many a troubled playtime.
Once an overzealous goal kick led to a fly-away Frido football pitching up just outside Surtr’s modest home. I went to retrieve the ball. As I approached I was gripped by a sense of pure dread and dark foreboding as if this was it, the phase of all-consuming fire. A warning sign of ‘electricity – danger of death’ glowed hypnotically, radiant with the full fury of the arch-demon. I stood there, entranced and with a feeling of impending doom.

And in the furthest reaches of my brain I heard a bell sound and a voice, stark with intensity:

“Oi, Rob, where’s the Frido?”

Maneki-neko

The lucky cat wants to say hi, I think.

Or maybe goodbye?
A farewell to memes, shared themes and cultural icon dreams?
Or a welcoming of clickable debate, pop culture pointers and tales from long ago and far away?
In fact, the feline is a good luck charm and symbol of fortune, often used outside street vendors and commercial enterprises.
All of which stood me in fine stead as I shrugged off a rough night and strode the miles to my temp job for another day of unrelenting similitude.
There is a cat looking out for me, I remind myself.
They are waving a paw and offering good luck.
Something to take to the photocopier, I think.

Robert W Monk

Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars – For One Night Only

My review of the documentary film Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars screening across the UK on March 7th is over at Flickering Myth..

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City

In the shadow of Etna
We live, work, die and love
Threat and power loom over us
As a reminder of what could be

But possibility does not impede
Instead, it inspires
To take the time we have
And use it – here and now.

Tower of London (1962)

Just released new Blu-Ray/DVD pack of the Corman/Price Shakespearean vehicle Tower of London

Find my review over at Flickering Myth and below…

What’s the best way to liven up a bit of Shakespeare? Get Roger Corman and Vincent Price involved of course!

Following the pair’s successful experiments with film adaptations of stories and poems by Edgar Allen Poe (The Fall of the House of Usher, Pit and the Pendulum and Tales of Terror) the idea seemed like a pretty good one. It’s certainly one which details many of the reasons why classic chiller fans are so devout to Corman’s genius ability to wring dramatic action out of every available space and dollar, alongside Vinnie Price’s wonderfully entertaining mixture of camp and maniacal performances.

Shot in a sharply focused black and white, the film is a loose remake of the 1939 film of the same title and the English playwright’s Richard III. There’s a bit of the Scottish play in there as well, as Price’s Richard of Gloucester – brother of a dying king – sets about taking out all of his rivals for the throne while also dodging the ghosts of those already slain. Price is, of course, the prime selling point of this movie with the actor at his nefarious best in this ‘drive-in Shakespeare show’.

But does it work? Well yes and no. The film does indeed feature a transfixing Price who is always worth watching and the pace is (usually) high tempo – which was presumably something of a priority when re-imagining Shakespeare. However, some of the scenes seem a bit rushed and conversely far too much time is given over to a disturbing rack torture scene that doesn’t sit too well with the tone of the rest of the film. Horrible yes, and it does set out the ruthlessness of Richard’s pursuit of power but doesn’t fit too well with the pace and takes up a large segment of the total running time.

That aside, much of the film is better judged and aside from a fairly abrupt ending and the scene already mentioned, Tower of London is another release from the Corman/Price stable well worth seeking out for anyone fond of devilish literary inspired goings-on in not so merry olde England.

News

Watching
Listening
And
Taking In
Less News
Whether it be
Fake or Real
Seems to be a reasonable choice right now
As it’s certainly better for the general head-space

But is it a form of ignorance
Of blocking out
To try and pretend
That things are not happening?
Or
Is it just
That we already know
What things
Need to be done?