Posts from 31st October 2003

Oct 03

What’s The Time Mr Wolf

Do You SeePost a comment • 378 views

What’s The Time Mr Wolf was one of my favourite playground games as a youth. A creeping up on the bad guy game, there was a delicious moment, when whoever was playing the wolf would shout “Dinnertime” and the dynamic changed from sneaky to out and out chase. I mention it because in Michael Haneke’s Time Of The Wolf there is are two similar moments. One happens thirty seconds into the film, the other about two thirds in.

The intro to this film is so damn good that it does not really leave the rest of the film anywhere to go. The plot is pretty much a French version of Survivors. There has been an unnamed catastrophe and now supplies are running low. Unlike the plucky Survivors band, the French appear to be a much more vicious bunch, their communes are full of moaners, religious fanatics and cripples. The problem with post-apocalyptic dramas is that there is nowhere for them to go. The set up is grand, but when the problem to be solved is the reinstatement of civilization, there is too much to do in a two hour film.

This is possibly why Hanake, after getting to the bottom of small society dynamics suddenly changes everything by bringing in a much larger settlement. It gives the film something to do but seems to unsettle it. It certainly allows for more conflict, but stretches some of the narrative. He relies on a withdrawal to a tiny personal ending to try and cap it off, without really making any conclusions. The only conclusion I made, except for being grimly entertained, was yet another reminder at how good Isabelle Huppert is. Here, looking like Helen Mirren, she is strong when she needs to be, whilst never hiding the broken woman in her eyes. Time Of The Wolf is her film, and it is a little bit disappointing that she does not get to end it and that the influx of characters removes her slightly from the fore. But probably the best French film I’ve seen this year.

‘pater le bourgeoisie long ago went intraclass tribal (and tiresome)

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 353 views

‘pater le bourgeoisie long ago went intraclass tribal (and tiresome): elements of the Bourg yokking it up when something they appreciate irritates THAT LOT over yonder, then suddenly all self-righteously pompous when THAT LOT’s art riles THEM in turn. ‘pater les bits of le bourgeoisie I’m not in is a less important project, surely? Anyway, that’s not quite what I want to write about. The Sunday Daddino and I walked the South Bank’s Art Mile tourist-style, from Tate Modern to the Design Museum, we saw plenty of nice stuff. WEATHER, by Olafur Eliasson, is tremendous (no link bcz spoilers might actually be spoilers here, a bit – except haha to note that the news-story that the vapour is causing Tate staff to hallucinate and feel queasy, when it’s only sugar plus water, demonstrates the occasional power of SHEER AESTHETICS). And Paul McCarthy’s giant inflatable sculptures are good also – the captions say “subversive” (the pink one is based on a Daddy’s Sauce Bottle label) but of course this word is a Classic of Nonsense Artspeak, wheeled out when commentators who Hate Giant Inflatable Fun seek to squelch it, especially in a Museum OH NO!

Anyway, there are plenty of other Jolly Famous Nose-tweakings on hand (Duchamp’s Urinal blah blah), all carefully decommissioned and placed back in the box by their context or their neighbours or whatever: the surprise is leadenly anticipated, the joke is pedantically explained, the novelty long ago became a broadsheet/rockpress/tabloid clich’. But toodle along to the Design Museum, where such Grandly Modernist Hah-Gotcha! Pretensions are set aside in the name of practicality, fashion sense and undeluded salesman instinct, and – for all that so much pretty-looking, clever stuff presents itself – it can quickly feel like (comment ‘Daddino) sightseeing in Ikea, everything SO beseeching and needy (“Like MEEEE! Buy MEEEE!”) etc etc.

Inadvertently, our route took us past David Blaine, on his penultimate day. Being there was fairly wearing (cold, press of the vulgar crowd, nothing “happening”), so we hurried on – but on strict ‘pater grounds, you can’t really fault this stunt. And its sheer intent/content blankness seems to have allowed us all to project our pet peeves (or perversities) onto it, like Big Brother or Arnie-as-Governor or whatever. My personal enjoyment scale is old-skool – Tate > Design M > Blaine – but other comparisons make me want to retool that chart a bit. Design Museum is smallish, slightly out-of-the-way, and pricey: the times I’ve been there’s never been many other punters in it. Tate and Blaine were rammed, and that’s good. If you look on the box art arrives in, it says (in wee letters) BATTERIES NOT INCLUDED: bcz the batteries are us. The routine energyflow of celebrity and of institutionalised art does bad things to Shock Art: if the information really travels just one way, then it’s not really much more contentful than trolling on interweb messageboards: “YES YES YOU DID IT TO GET A RESPONSE HAHA but where exactly is the mechanism for engaging w.that response, plz?” (ie what’s aggravating abt trolling is not so much the initial stimulus as the refusal to be affected in turn). But in a packed gallery, intimidation-towards-“correct”-response diminishes – *we* energise this stuff, we bring it (back) to life: and the more of us that metaphorically touch it back, the more power it contains. What happens next is the good bit, and – like a good ilx thread – that depends on ALL the contributors, not just the troll.

Erm I shd probably just note (in case Mr Fraser’s humourless lawyers are reading)

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 281 views

Erm I shd probably just note (in case Mr Fraser’s humourless lawyers are reading) that I don’t ACTUALLY think he was ticking the paragraphs off, one by one. Also Ged is not actually the naked and trussed one, that’s some other prisoners, earlier. ie Flashman <=> Ged won’t fly, even subconsciously: I think Brit Emp <=> Ged does, though.


The Brown WedgePost a comment • 280 views

DEEP IN THE DEPTHS OF, UM, “READING ROUND THE SUBJECT”, I was suddenly left open-mouthed in surprise. Three-quarters of the way through FLASHMAN AND THE DRAGON (8th of the 11 Flashmans to date, but actually my 11th), I thought, hang on, I know these characters already. Flashman is a barbarian prisoner of the Chinese Emperor, trussed up and naked in a store room: here to peek at him is the gorgeous Concubine Yi (who actually really historically went on to rule all China for cruel decades) and her eunuch servant An. Well, for a half-dozen pages at least, this threesome is UNCANNILY SIMILAR (I mean like George MacDonald Frasier was ticking off paragraphs) to the early section in THE TOMBS OF ATUAN, where Ged is a barbarian prisoner of the Nameless Ones, trussed up and naked in a store room, and here to peek at him is the young priestess Ahra and her eunuch servant Manan. Coincidence? Sorry, but no. Hommage? Why on earth? Plagiarism? To what the hell purpose? Unconcious regurgitation of a book long-ago internalised (Tombs = 1971, Dragon = 1985): possibly, but some lines almost dare you to check the source. OK yes, Le Guin’s is a book for children, more or less, and appropriately chaste; Frasier’s is a book for adults, more or less, and the Concubine is naked and wicked and even hornier than Flashman: even so the echo – for a few pages – is genuinely disorientating. On this side: the Emperor of the Middle Kingdom as his realm was violently forced (by the Brits and by savage internal upheaval) to emerge from self-deluding myth into the modern world; on that: the Godkings of Kargad, shaken when their hollow, terrible mysteries are laid bare by the brave young Wizard of Earthsea. I’m not exactly sure where in the series GMF switched from being mainly anti-Empire – I’d need to read them in order – but by No.8 in the series, his deep-readerly unconscious is clearly gone pro.

Invalid redux!

Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 526 views

Invalid redux! I think I have found the un-meat food for invalids, and no it’s not Mrs Beeton’s fright-movie cuisine. Tonight for dinner I had a bowl of steaming vegetable udon soup, a few pieces of vegetable sushi with loads of wasabi (clears the sinuses!) and some fresh ginger soda made by the nice Japanese restaurant down the street. Ginger ale made from freshly grated ginger root is massively potent, burning and stinging your throat in an an oh-so-good way. That plus the giant mouthful of wasabi made me feel a hundred times better now than I did yesterday, when my brain was pounding and my throat felt like gravel. Now I just have to find a place that has good wasabi-flavored ice cream. Mmm, wasabi ice cream.

WILL YOUNG – ‘Leave Right Now’

FT + New York London Paris MunichPost a comment • 633 views

Where, I was asking a few weeks ago, is a new ‘Careless Whisper’ going to come from? Where is the next ‘True’? All the current pop generation like their ballads – they love the opportunity to show off all those neat vocal tricks they’ve picked up, the ones that prove they’re ‘talented’. But precious few of these slowies have been any good. Here’s an exception. ‘Leave Right Now’ is very good indeed.

It gets the basics right, for a start. It’s catchy, it’s got a huge chorus, it builds up naturally from modest acoustics into a string-sodden harmonised monster, and it still clocks in at a winning 3 minutes 25. Anyone could have been given this and made it work, but not anyone was. And so Will Young saunters back out of obscurity and claims the song entirely.

Last year’s Pop Idol voters went for vulnerability in a big way. Gareth looked and acted the part, with his bog-brush hair and his stutter, but Will sung it: there’s a lightness and politeness to his voice which can make him sound wonderfully wimpy. (In the imaginary ‘Indie’ week on Pop Idol, Will would have aced ‘The State I Am In’). ‘Leave Right Now’ is obviously custom-written for him – the way it goes from wounded well-mannered diffidence to fierce pride is so Will Young – and it works.

But on previous singles when Will has dropped the oh-gosh schoolboyisms and snarled a bit he’s come across more like an angry gerbil than a passionate soul man (remember his strained ‘Fi-yah!’s on that Doors cover – nasty!). Here, suddenly, he gets it right – the bridge at 2’20” is startling and spectacular and, yes, soulful. For thirty seconds it’s a quite new Will Young we’re hearing, totally convincing, the best British pop-soul singer since George Michael.

I hope ‘Leave Right Now’ is a big hit. I can’t see why it wouldn’t be, unless the wish to clear the boards for this year’s Idol crop blinds radio programmers to the tune’s potential. I’m guessing Young still has enough public goodwill (ouch) to pull it off. And if he does – and if the album isn’t filled with makeweights–well, let’s wait and see. But next time you need to offer a justification of the whole Reality Pop thing, reach for this moment.