Posts from 25th November 2004

Nov 04

We wandered into St Sulpice

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 246 views

We wandered into St Sulpice in Paris the other weekend. As my delightful travelling companion went off to light a candle for her Grandmother, I put on my specs and started having a glance around the old place. It’s nice in an not-very-demonstrative neo-classical sort of way. That is to say it has more flash baroque action than its average English equivalent and less than its average Italian one.

Anyway, a very friendly Frenchman, late middle aged / early old aged, came up and started talking to me about the architecture. He was some sort of guide: he had a wee name badge on. He explained to me about the style, about the relatively egalitarian impulse of the open chancel and the double height clerestory. All very pleasant. He seemed very keen to tell me about a line running at an angle across the nave, brass set in pink marble. He said it was the line the French took as the meridian before it was agreed that Greenwich would be The One. Hm. Quite interesting, I guess. His English was amazing.

The surprise came the next day when my friend got to the relevant part in The Da Vinci Code. That very line was there in the book! What a coincidence! And we wouldn’t have noticed it if it hadn’t been for the nice man. It clicked that he was stationed there to talk the roaming hordes of DVC tourists through something more than the wretched line they’d come to see. This seems marvellously welcoming and peculiarly unParisian.


I Hate Music3 comments • 1,123 views


Everyone knows one fact about ZZ Top.
The one without the beard is called Frank Beard.

Everyone should know this other fact about ZZ Top.
They are not top in any way. Except perhaps top of my hitlist.

Think about it. Many a plumber or a air-conditioning supplier give themselves names like A1 Plumbers of AAAAAirCon. Why? Puts them first in the Yellow Pages. One can only imagine therefore that ZZ Top only got into the pop business because no-one was calling up their electricians business. Can’t be any other reason.


FT + New York London Paris MunichPost a comment • 387 views


i. a co-worker just came in to announce he has tickets to the POP WILL EAT ITSELF reunion show
ii. a second co-worker then told EVERYONE IN THE ROOM that he once SHARED A BED with CLINT of pwei
iii. :O :O :O :O :O why are you still reading!!!??? :O :O


Do You See + FTPost a comment • 582 views

Received wisdom on Layer Cake was the shock that Matthew Vaughn (erstwhile Guy Ritchie producer) turned out to be a better director than Ritchie himself. LAZY LAZY LAZY! Yes, Layer Cake is a striking effort, but considering where Vaughn is in his career and who he has been able to call up to shoot and collaborate with it might not be a surprise that it is well made. Where are the flashes of directorial individuality which, for better or worse, ran through Ritchie’s debut like a dog in Walthamstow Stadium?

So to the Ordinary World section, the moment where the film leaps to life. I am not sure I like the section, but this is possibly personal. Ordinary World is one of my favourite songs, the pain in Simon Le Bon’s voice as he sings about not being a pop star anymore (my reading) gets me every time, so listening to it and suddenly visualising the savage beating from Layer Cake was a bit upsetting. Yet looking back, the songs choreography, for all its slick cruelness, is one of those perfect pairing of music and action. It may be flash tat, but that is where Vaughn showed he could do it.


The Brown WedgePost a comment • 221 views


“Guernica represents something recently demonstrated in this year’s passionate torrent of anti-Bush agitprop, namely art’s ineffectuality in the production of concrete political results.” I wonder if there’s a kind of Godwin’s Law active in ref. “Successful” Political Art – if you were to compare Grozny, say, to Guernica, the comparison risks being treated as on-its-face absurd NOT bcz the events are dissimilar (seeing as i cast around for like all of 7 secs to come up with a.n.other city bombed in a civil war), but rather bcz Guernica-the-painting, which “encapsulates an atrocity with genius” (=made-up ‘typical’ quote), is incomparable w.all art (so far) abt Grozny? Hence by unconscious extension…


Do You SeePost a comment • 886 views


Martin Skidmore says:

This film has become oddly topical in recent years, with its pre-echoes of reality TV, since it is about sitting there and watching ordinary people go about their lives. The filming of this is brilliantly simple – we’re made entirely complicit in James Stewart’s voyeurism (how deliberately meta is Hitch being here? He even views them through a lens, Stewart being a photographer, and the camera is his protection in the finale!), and we are trapped with his viewpoint as much as his wheelchair traps him, by the camera being stuck in the apartment with him, watching others from a distance, and this voyeurism is justified and even valorised when it is turned to heroic use.

There are all sorts of mirrored notions here too – the woman wishing for a man, and the one turning men away; the newlyweds shagging all day and the childless couple doting on a dog; and of course most importantly the immobilised Stewart and Grace Kelly, happy together but apparently going nowhere, watching an unhappy couple with a bed-bound woman (and the happy subsequent irony of her husband’s later role as Ironside adds something too, a pleasing retro-influence) – their wedding ring is an important clue late on, as well as a reminder of the stasis of the central relationship.

Stewart was a perfect choice for this movie, less for his acting (nothing at all wrong with it, though – he is actually given little to do here, just looking) than for his previous roles – he was the perfect everyman, someone with whom we had almost always happily accepted invitations to identify over the years. This helpful bagagge is probably needed here, as he isn’t that likeable a character – cold to his beautiful girlfriend, bad-tempered, selfish.

I’m making this sound like a clever intellectual exercise rather than an entertaining film, and that’s not right. The tension when Grace Kelly investigates the flat opposite, and James Stewart can see the murder suspect returning, is as great as the master of suspense ever achieved – Hitch claims (in the great Truffaut interview book) that Joseph Cotten’s wife turned to her husband at this point in the premiere and insisted he do something! And the moment when this suspected killer (played by Raymond Burr) locks eyes with Stewart, across the courtyard, is extraordinarily powerful. It’s a masterfully involving film, with immense power, and maybe Hitchcock’s most perfect movie.

Pete Baran says:

The remake with Christopher Reeve shows that from a script point of view Rear Window was a film that was almost impossible to fuck up. But then I would have said that about Phone Booth (almost a reversal of some of the ideas in Rear Window) and look at the dogs dinner Joel Schumacher made of that. But the match of murder and Celebrity Square is so compelling that you wonder why other game shows have not been cannibalized in this way. Blankety Point Blank anyone?


Blog 7Post a comment • 1,001 views


The Ukrainian election coverage by the BBC surprised me. Lead item for the last two nights and highly detailed in terms of context.

Why is this? Other elections in former Soviet Republics this year received far less BBC coverage. Georgia (where an old plutocrat was ousted) and Belarus (where one wasn’t) barely raised a murmur, but Ukraine dominates our headlines.

At first it seemed to be a nostalgic Russia vs the Imperial West contest. Putin wasn’t slow to congratulate the pro-Russian candidate, then about-faced after two nights of popular protest. The ‘western’ candidate seems confused about how to proceed. Exit polls suggested he would win, official polls didn’t, the people are braving the snow in protest and he isn’t lacking advice from the rest of the world. To aid confusion, both candidates have long names beginning with Y! Even allegations of drugs have surfaced. The Americans have derided the election process and somehow managed to keep straight faces as they said this.

And civil war is being mentioned, which is a shame as (from purely selfish reasons), I quite fancied a trip to Kiev next year.

I just saw a man with a Hitler moustache!!!

Blog 71 comment • 357 views

POST INTRO 1: I just saw a man as I got off the bus with a tiny little moustache shading the philtrum twixt nose and lip but no wider than his actual nose. I do not believe I have ever seen a moustache like this on a live human being.

POST INTRO 2: I just saw a man with a Hitler moustache!!!

Does anyone believe that the monstrosity of Hitler’s acts in the 20C were due to his moustache? Is there any suggestion that his moustache in some way contributed to the final solution? I think any right thinking person would probably mark the connection as tenuous at best. Nevertheless the so-called Hitler moustache (note, not Little Tramp moustache) is out of currency in the facial hair world. It may be that the tache is a ridiculous thing, a fussy piece of garden furniture on a clean shaven face. From a shaving point of view its one more stroke. And yet the exactness, the fussiness may well have been its appeal – Roger Hargreaves Mr Fussy had such a moustache after all. Nevertheless, with the exception of the bold man I saw this morning, this look has gone out of fashion. And I know it loses the argument, but I blame Hitler.

Economic Temple of Doom! Monkey Brains Solve Game Theory

Proven By SciencePost a comment • 1,109 views

Economic Temple of Doom! Monkey Brains Solve Game Theory

I am wondering if this headline (loosely based in recent neuroscience, even!) beats Tom’s latest.