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Showing posts from September, 2019

Luc Besson

An introduction?
It might seem preposterous to consider today, but there was once a time when Luc Besson was regarded by some factions of the cineaste mainstream as one of the coolest and most exciting filmmakers of his generation. For kids like me discovering movies at the end of the 1990s, Besson's name was a shorthand for a particular type of haute couture action cinema, which became a brand unto itself. A younger, more energetic cinema: lionised at the time by the generation of critics that came before us, who responded to what they perceived as Besson's subversion of the kind of mannered, bourgeois, domestic movies that typified the supposedly staid French cinema of the period.
The narrative surrounding Besson during this stage of his career was that his work cut through what many English-speaking critics saw as the pretentious or elitist nature of his native cinema, and opened it up to a new audience looking for style, action and emotional intensity. Besson's biggest h…

The Last Man to Leave

Thoughts on the album "Merrie Land" by The Good The Bad and The Queen Originally written in December 2018
Although unlikely to garner much attention during next year's award season, one of my absolute favourite on-screen performances this year is Damon Albarn's beguiling turn as the ventriloquist dummy that appears in all ten promotional videos released in support of Merrie Land (2018): the second and very much long-awaited new album from Albarn's non-Blur, non-Gorrilaz side-project, The Good The Bad and The Queen.
As a more-than-worthy follow-up to the band's brilliant, self-titled 2007 debut, this second release continues the same approach of exploring the vague notions of "British identity" against a diverse musical soundscape, while at the same time presenting a wry but evocative commentary on the modern cultural landscape, its politics and the general mood of the day.
If the first album took as its focus the growing surveillance state of New Labour…

The Red and The Blue

Thoughts on the film: Demon City Shinjuku (1988)
First scene, pre-credits: a battle upon a rooftop. The evil Rebi Ra has sided with the demon world to become all-powerful. In attempting to open a portal that will unleash the demon world into that of our own, Rebi Ra is challenged by a former associate, Genichirō Izayoi. From the first images, the presence of Rebi Ra - and by extension, the demon world itself - is linked to the colour red. The presence of Genichirō and the side of good is linked to the colour blue.
In these first frames we can already see an obvious polarity between these saturated colours: red, with its connotations of heat - equating to hell, violence and "sin" - and blue, with its connotations of cold - equating to logic, introspection and the natural world. In a sense, these are the colours of dawn and dusk, falling at either end of a chromatic spectrum. Red also suggests fire, but in a way so does blue. The blue flame burns brighter, and perhaps that's…

The Sheltering Sky

Thoughts on the book by Paul Bowles
"And in the same fashion, the strange languor in the centre of her consciousness, those vaporous ideas which kept appearing, as though independently of her will, were mere tentative fragments of her own presence, looming against the nothingness of a sleep not yet cold. A sleep still powerful enough to return and take her in its arms. But she remained awake; the nascent light invading her eyes, and still no corresponding aliveness awoke within her; she had no feeling of being anywhere, or being anyone."
Several years ago I saw Bernardo Bertolucci's 1990 film version of the book in question and found it rather forgettable. The film version felt like the story of a bourgeois couple who venture off the beaten track in search of new experiences and pay the price for their xenophobic entitlement. It was all surface, with none of the deeper nuances or illusory tone that Bowles captures so brilliantly in his book. Here, the connection with the f…