Category Archives: Film

Locke (2013) – one man *in* his car.

Locke (2013) is a high concept movie without the Bayhem explosions, like Phone Booth (2002) in its situational drama but set in our everyday more altogether maudlin and depressing British existence ….

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One man, one car, one mobile phone with hands-free kit, one 90-minute journey. Seldom do we see a ‘travel’ movie in which the visual exterior landscape is totally irrelevant to the protagonist’s crumbling world. It’s a film as much about sound as the image. And it makes a concrete pour seem quite the arresting topic. A must see.

 

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Iconoclasm and ‘truth’ – challenging the official narrative.

Iconic moments of recent history are inseparable from the defining image which catapults them into popular consciousness – the Moon Landing, ‘Tank Man’ at Tiananmen Square, that famous kiss on VJ Day.

It’s only through viewing other photographic sources that we can escape the prism of these force-fed yarns and experience events three-dimensionally.

 

I see some accompanying images of articles and do wonder why, time and time again, the same stock image is used. It’s as if the rest have been erased and this one is the last Malteser in the box.

Every single piece I’ve ever read about the JFK Assassination is accompanied by stills of the Zapruder film, which has served as the basis for conspiracy theorising and debunking. No one denies its value, but it has to a large extent conveniently encapsulated and simplified the entire discourse (the ‘death’ of the American Dream, the dawn of cynicism) into a singular artefact.

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It’s in our nature to seek easy explanations. What happened immediately before and after the event has been sidelined (with the causal factors and consequences), the icon seemingly enough to digest. They say a picture is worth a thousand words. That’s the problem. There’s only one picture doing the rounds.

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Whicker’s War.

Alan Whicker, that mustachioed gentleman traveller, the original dapper vagabond. It was in the last great daring crusade that he honed his craft as the director of cameramen of the Army Film and Photo Unit (AFPU), or the “Army Film and Punishment Unit”. This two-part documentary is cracking. We seldom get the filmmakers as subject matter, the images of war taken for granted (our YouTube pleasures). Their sole purpose was to document. It’s our record of that struggle, the spearhead evidence offered to new generations. Their weapons were film reel.

Whicker talks of the danger of seeking that ‘perfect shot’. You may get it, but that entails being up close. And then you’re dead. Only Oliver Stone’s Salvador (1986) comes to mind here, *the* photojournalism masterwork.

N.B. More than half of Whicker’s team were killed or wounded.

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Under the Skin (2013) – unexpected chuckles.

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A truly mesmerising and disturbing picture, Under the Skin (2013) is film as art, an elusive, visually stunning meditation on identity and immigration. It’s also one of the few films set in Scotland that doesn’t wallow in hooligans or smack. There is one scene in it, though, that made me piss myself. Scarlett Johansson’s alien character meets a bloke in the Highlands. He cooks her a microwaved ready meal, a.k.a. a TV dinner. Scarlett Johansson – a READY MEAL.

That’s how the charming Scots treat their women. Romeos.

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Begbie’s crib.

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The infamous ‘Banana flats’ on Gorgie Road. This is where Begbie stays in T2 Trainspotting. I went to a house party in there a few years ago. Everyone present was a chav and they were all off their tits on Daz washing detergent. I quietly left and went home for a wank.

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Titanic: Part II.

The unsinkable ship, iceberg right ahead, Jack and Rose, Billy Zane, Celine Dion, John Jacob Astor, brandies and cigars before the descent. RMS Titanic is the most often told, popularly celebrated of all maritime disasters, continuing to fascinate new generations through the sheer fatalism of its first and only voyage. Now weve got this replica cruise in the works. 3458-titanic-ii

Why bother reading history when you can live it, or even remake it? Its like we have to go one better and prove that were smarter than our doomed ancestry. Whats next? A Hindenburg re-enactment? The Challenger shuttle Mark II? I might start doing Omaha Beach tributes at Portobello. If you book it they will come.

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Further reading:

http://www.chesterchronicle.co.uk/whats-on/whats-on-news/titanic-replica-ship-clive-palmer-10903118

http://www.titanic2ship.com/

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Lunch atop a Skyscraper, 1932.

New York Construction Workers Lunching on a Crossbeam

For about a decade I thought this image was a shot of construction workers enjoying a lunch-time nibble on the Empire State Building. Only last year was I told the building wasn’t the site of King Kong’s last hurrah but 30 Rockefeller Plaza, or 30 Rock for short (now recently renamed the Comcast Building).

Weirdly, Sir Alex Ferguson brought me here. In a TV interview with Fabien Barthez, Fergie explained to his old goalkeeper the importance of the photograph (it adorned his office wall), that it encapsulated with its 11 men dangling on the 840-foot girder classic themes of sacrifice and teamwork, and of realising the impossible. A cultured chap for a football manager, one would of course expect this kind of art on his wall, and not Vinnie Jones crunching Gazza’s testicles.

Widely credited to Charles C. Ebbets, the snap has a staged, advertising feel to it, but is nonetheless quietly subversive in its details. This is the Prohibition era, yet the bloke on the far right is hogging a bottle of whiskey (fuck the system!). Researchers have identified him as Gustáv (Gusti) Popovič, a lumberjack and carpenter from Slovakia, who would at the end of WWII be killed by a grenade. He even sent his wife this photograph, on which he wrote, ‘Don’t you worry, my dear Mariska, as you can see I’m still with bottle. Your Gusti.’

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Immigrants building the future, eh. Many photographs are considered great merely on the basis of their functional quality (a photo is a photo is a photo), others also have an accompanying historical value which enriches them, surface components opening up human dramas outwith the artefact.

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United  ̶A̶i̶r̶l̶i̶n̶e̶s̶ Shambles

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This whole United Airlines calamity is I feel best summed up by the above hoot of a meme.

Just to recap, planes are hell. Many passengers stink – it’s like being plonked next to a skunk. Another hefty minority clearly struggle to match a ticket and seat number, and another fifth are extremely loud creatures. It’s a microcosm of society. Anyway, you are all packed together as tinned sardines, doing anything to drown out the image of your flying machine plummeting into a mountain. Some watch movies to escape these thoughts, others try and have a sly wank in the bog. My own wee personal technique is to guzzle alcohol like it’s my last day on the planet. It works.

And now, as if air travel wasn’t bad enough, we now have to put up with the crew (or airline ‘authorities’) turning on the passengers. Brilliant. Ever get the feeling you’re living in some kind of comedy sketch show?

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Kolberg (1945) – last looney propaganda piece of the Third Reich.

Kolberg (1945) is frankly bonkers.

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The most expensive German film of World War II at eight million marks, and shot between October 1943 to August 1944, this monstrosity depicts the defence of the eponymous fortress town against French troops at the height of the Napoleonic Wars (1807). It’s a kind of metaphor for German fortunes after the failures of Stalingrad and Kursk; with strategic initiative lost, the remainder of the fight on the Eastern Front became a series of attritional, reactive operations with no chance of success.

The extras comprised 187,000 people and 50,000 soldiers, apparently the second-highest cast of all time behind Gandhi (1982).

The city of Kolberg itself was declared a fortress town a mere month after the film’s opening, this consisting of regular showings in Berlin whilst air raids pummelled the capital.

Imagine the ideological fanaticism of a regime that, as ultimate annihilation beckoned, it still felt the need to plough such ludicrous resources into a movie of epic undertaking, resources that could have been of immeasurable human and material value in the war effort. This Nazi-opus Gone with the Wind (1939) just serves to highlight the tenuous grip on reality exhibited in the last years of the Third Reich, and an overbearing emphasis on *will* as the essential component in turning the tide of war.

Further reading:

http://militaryhistorynow.com/2015/04/29/kolberg-the-third-reichs-cinematic-swan-song/

 

 

 

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I am a travelling slob.

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On every one of my wee city adventures I have pre-trip visions, grandiose plans for culture, a desire to immerse myself in the local community, a wolf in the sheep pen (something like that).

All I ever end up doing is getting fucked up and sitting on my arse. A ten-minute museum cameo and I’m back to the pub for another intake of liquid delights. Sometimes I think I’d be better off just staying at home, necking Lidl’s own-brand Scotch from the bottle whilst furiously wanking away to Apocalypse Now (1979).

This snap defines my ‘adventures’. Copenhagen in spring. Winning (maybe).

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