Sunday, 27 October 2013

It came back with a story to say




My soundtrack for October. Enjoy :)

1. Cold Bread, Johnny Flynn
2. Godless, The Dandy Warhols
3. Dirty Paws, Of Monsters and Men
4. Simple Song, The Shins
5. The Fly, Cosmo Sheldrake
6. Hopeless Wanderer, Mumford and Sons
7. Box of Stones, Benjamin Francis Leftwich
8. The Captain and Hourglass, Laura Marling

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Came wandering with hesitant steps

This short film is such an arresting adaptation of the story of Actaeon and Diana. According to Ovid (one of several versions), Actaeon was a hunter who inadvertently stumbled across the Diana, goddess of hunting and chastity, bathing in the woods. Furious, she forbade him from ever speaking of the event by turning him into a stag (by far not the most crazy thing to happen in Ovid, trust me) and he was chased and torn down by his own hunting dogs. An overreaction perhaps, but as I'm currently writing an essay on Ovid's Metamorphoses (in relation to Tolkien's Silmarillion - I'm in complete ecstatic geek mode) and thus constantly reading about the various misfortunes of women therein, I'm inclined to be fairly sympathetic. Anyway, this video was inspired by Titian's painting of the scene and I think they complement each other beautifully. Also, who else is suddenly obsessed with imagery of stags after binge-watching Hannibal?



That's when the universe pitched and groaned,
and I shrank from cloud coloured flesh,
from calf and hip, curve and cleft,
from a writhing feast and fruit and meat:
salmon, silverside, redcurrent, peach;
from fingers worming for gowns and robes,
from eel and oyster, ankle and lip,
from bulb, bud, honeycomb, nest...And flinched
from Diana's arm bent back like a bow,

and flinched from Diana's naked glare - 
a death stare narrowed from eye to eye.
All seen in a blink but burnt on the mind
- Diana and Actaeon by Simon Armitage

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Funny bone

If skeletons telling bad puns isn't your thing, you need to re-evaluate your life choices. (And yes, I came up with the title to this post. Yes, it took me a few minutes to think of it. Shut up).
 
 

Sunday, 6 October 2013

All men's souls are immortal, but the souls of the righteous are immortal and divine

One of the best things about discovering a new film is that it suddenly opens up a whole world of connected films you had never considered before: other movies the director did, other projects the actors worked on. After I watched The Fall a year or so ago it quickly became one of my favourite ever films and I was eager to see what else Tarsem Singh had worked on, hoping to find another masterpiece. I was a bit disappointed to see that most of his other work had received rather lukewarm, mixed reviews - had The Fall just been some sort of one hit wonder? I've been gradually catching up with his other films over the past few months, and after seeing a few images from it during the Henry-Cavill-Man-of-Steel craze on Tumblr, I finally got round to watching Immortals.

The first thing to be said about Immortals is that - much like The Fall before it - it is a truly stunning film. Singh continues to establish himself as a truly visionary aesthetic director; each shot is carefully constructed, close-ups of objects transform seamlessly into wild landscapes, brutal battle scenes are almost dance-like in their graceful choreography and every single moment is filled with vivid, extraordinary detail. Singh stated that he wished the film to look and feel like a Renaissance painting and its bold, dark colour palette and dramatic scenery ensures this: in one particularly memorable scene, Gods, Titans and men battle against a backdrop of blue sky: the final effect is like staring up at the painted ceiling of a chapel.

Where the film does fall short is in its story. In the days of bad mythology adaptations (2010 Clash of the Titans I am looking at you) it's not even a bad story per se. It does have an interesting premise and, while it does veer away from the original story in a huge way - *deep breath* TheseuswasactuallythesonofAegeusKingofAthensandahugedouchebagbtwandPhaedrawashissecondwifeandnotanoracleandjustwhat - it doesn't do so in a ridiculous way. There's a certain gravitas and calmness with which the story is told which lends it a believable rather than campy air. What is also incredibly interesting is that Singh wanted to tell a story about religion, a story which questioned the morality of omnipotent Gods who let evil and misery run rife in the world; realising the film would be highly controversial if it took modern religion as an example, he chose to transfer his story into mythology. And for the most part it works very well. The problem is however that the script simply isn't particularly interesting or attention-grabbing. It does the job and it carries the film along adequately, but nothing memorable or original really happens. While The Fall was heart-breaking and life-changing, this is merely beautiful, albeit so incredibly beautiful as to be worthy of much praise. Having read an interview with Singh, I get the feeling that this criticism wouldn't particularly bother him either: for him, the story seems to come second to the artistry of the film itself. And, when you are so talented at creating such beautiful artistry, that isn't necessarily a bad thing. As a whole film, Immortals is no masterpiece, but it is entertaining, well-acted (although it does suffer from some stunt celebrity casting - Kellan Lutz is, I feel, unnecessary) and neatly paced. As a visual oeuvre however, Immortals is a work of art.

 
 
 
 
 

(Oh, also everyone in this film is super hot. I know it's not particularly relevant but it's so true that it needs to be stated.)

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

The New School Uniform

I got super back into Harry Potter this Summer. I ended up rewatching the fifth film with my parents one evening and, amidst the snorting and eye rolling, I felt a keen sense of nostalgia: enough to sneak into my little brother's room and pinch all of the books (to be fair, they were mine first). It's incredible to say this given what a huge part of my childhood they were, but I hadn't read them in about two years and had forgotten so much of what actually happens. My memories were mostly of the films - which I heavily dislike - meaning I'd become pretty cynical towards the whole thing recently. But as soon as Dumbledore appeared on the corner of Privet Drive I completely fell in love all over again and pretty much devoured them in two weeks. Hermione, the Marauders, the Burrow, Honeydukes...God it's all just so good. That being the case, I was thrilled to see this editorial from Vogue Japan doing the rounds on Tumblr. The combination of broomsticks and high fashion makes me even sadder that I never received my Hogwarts letter...

    

Photos by Giampaolo Sgura for Vogue Japan

P.S. I've moved up to St Andrews in Scotland for a year to do a Masters in Comparative Literature (P.P.S I graduated! From Oxford! With an actual degree! Holy shit!) - the train left from King's Cross and I spent the whole journey imagining I was on the Hogwarts Express.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

We like the same things and I like your style

So I'm still long term crushing on Zooey Deschanel since watching (500) Days of Summer all that while ago. I love her films, I love her comedy (Jessica Day from New Girl is my hero I swear), I love the work she does for women and now I have to say I love her music too. There's something really charming about her low voice and the pretty lyrics she says - listening to her feels like lying on the grass on a balmy summer evening. Also, how cute is this video? Vintage dresses, dancing and Joseph Gordon-Levitt are such a winning combination.

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

If you want to understand me, watch my movies

I've not really got that much experience watching old silent films; the silent film I know best is probably (embarrassingly) The Artist which was made a couple of years ago. Oops. I do love that period of cinematic history however, when films were still an unknown entity and everything made felt like an innovation, an exploration into uncertain territory. I therefore settled down last night to watch Chaplin - the biopic made of Charlie Chaplin's life starring Robert Downey Jr - thinking it would provide at best an interesting peek into the cinematic scene and culture of the time and at worst two hours of Robert Downey Jr. And while it certainly does both, it was also so much better than what I expected.

Chaplin details the story of Charlie Chaplin's life through a series of flashbacks as he helps his editor (Anthony Hopkins) fill in the gaps of his autobiography. It starts at his childhood and his relationship with his mother (played by Charlie Chaplin's own daughter Geraldine Chaplin) and continues through to his entry and success in the film industry, his multiple love affairs and marriages, and the difficulties caused in his later life by his controversial political opinions. Although the argument can definitely be made that the director tried to fit a little too much into one film (it clocks in at almost two and a half hours), the span of time covered showcases the rapid changes made in the entertainment industry represented by Chaplin's career: from vaudeville halls in London to the first slapstick comedy films in Hollywood to the advent of the talkies. It's also clear that the film makers are true Chaplin devotees; slapstick chases and old fashioned scene transitions act almost as a love letter to the film making techniques of the time and are a reminder of the warmth and charm these films had.

For all of this however, I doubt Chaplin would be as successful as it is were it not for Downey Jr's performance. It's funny - given his extraordinary popularity right now, people seem to have forgotten how wonderful he was when he was first starting out. This must certainly be one of his finest performances: not only does he perfectly capture Chaplin's physicality and movements, he also perfectly captures his character, portraying his compassion, determination, melancholy and humour with compelling honesty - the entire film rides upon his performance and he carries it off with confidence. Even if the rest were awful, this would be a must-see just for him.