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piccadilly (with igor outkine)

Piccadilly

The monthly silent film showing by Filmphonics at Hackney Attic (the top floor of the fantastic Hackney Picturehouse) was British film Piccadilly from 1929.

You may remember that we went to see The Cabinet of Dr Caligari last month, with live score by Minima.  I had never heard of Piccadilly before, and was looking forward to seeing a late 1920’s London!  This time, the live score was performed by Igor Outkine, a Russian accordianist.

Piccadilly is a slightly odd film really – it follows the story of Valentine Wilmot, owner of the successful Piccadilly club in Piccadilly Circus.  A lot of their success is said to be down to dancers Mabel and Vic.

On the night that we join them, a disgruntled customer causes a disruptive fuss about a dirty plate which sends Wilmot scurrying off to the kitchen and scullery in turn to find out how this happened.  Whilst there, he sees a Chinese dishwasher (Shosho) dancing on the table.  He fires her immediately.

Meanwhile, the disruption to his dance has vexed Vic so much, that he plans to leave Piccadilly for Hollywood, and tries to get Mabel to go with him, declaring his love.  Mabel however is already in love with Wilmot, and tells him no. Vic then goes to quit, but Wilmot fires him first.

The film then follows the story of how Wilmot encourages Shosho to dance at the club, the conditions she enforces and increasing Mabel’s jealousy.

The film includes scandal, racism, dancing and eventually murder.

There are lots of close-up shots of eyebrow-raising (mainly from Valentine), sly looks (mainly from Shosho)  and shock and horror (mainly from Mabel).

The whole film felt quite long, and there were parts that just seemed really random, with long shots of not very much, giving no progression to the story – in fact seeming to get in the way of it at times.  I often found that I was busy giggling at some random thing that someone had done in a rather bizzarre manner.

Igor Outkine played an accordian the like I had never ssen before, and he told us right at the start that he was improvising. His accordian was an electric one (I assume), and sounded of many, many different instruments, from drums to piano to trumpet – which was very effective.

However, I am not sure that Piccadilly is a particularly easy film to improvise a soundtrack to, as it flicks through emotions and moods rather quickly and has a LOT of scene cut-aways (you will see what I mean in the clip below).  It was also almost TWO HOURS long and he played admirably without a single break.  Pretty amazing really.

Anyway – for £20 including a rather bloody good homemade burger, chips and coleslaw and a nice glass of wine / £9 without food & drink (or £18 / £7 for members like me!) it was a really good evening out, and we will probably be going along to the next one.  The Great White Silence on Sunday 24th June.

I will leave you with this. Charles Laughton played ‘the disgruntled diner’ in the film.  And if I hadn’t seen this, I never would have known that Monty Python’s Mr Creosote was actually BASED on someone already dreamed up.  He was, wasn’t he?

the silent house – uruguay (2010)

The Silent House

I had never actually heard of this film before, but wasbrowsing the World Cinema section in CEX in Walthamstow a couple of weeks ago and it caught my eye – and for a couple of quid, you can’t really complain!

This is a rather claustrophobic horror story (but only a 15 rating, so not particularly gruesome – more of a thriller than a horror really) set in one location, a small, isolated, ramshackle cottage and the immediate grounds that it nestles in.

(Probably) teenager Laura and her father (Wilson)  have been tasked with tidying up the cottage and garden to get it ready for sale.  The film begins early evening, following them as they walk across the firld to meet the owner (Nestor) who is is Wilson’s friend.  He lets them in, shows them a couple of old chairs they can sleep in for the night and promises to bring them back some food.  He also warns them not to go upstairs as the floor is unstable and he doesn’t want them to have an accident.

The film has barely any colour, grim & grainy and shot on a ‘home-movie’ style handheld, almost shadowing Laura.  You feel like you’re permanently sitting on her shoulder! And she goes around the house with a lamp or torch most of the time, so there is a ring of darkness just to the edge of the shot.

The main reason that this film is unique though is because it appears to have been filmed all in one continuous take, making the film in real time.  There are a couple of moments where I thought “Could that have been edited?” but they definitely site it as a one-take film, which is pretty amazing really – and worth watching even just to see how they did it!  It certainly gives this a completely different feel to your usual horror film.

It was quite engrossing, but as I said, really rather claustrophobic.  I must admit, i enjoyed it quite a bit, BUT it did have times where nothing much seemed to be happening.  There was a lot of time spent with Laura holding up her gas lamp, just looking at various pictures and bric-a-brac in rooms.  I guess this is because of the ‘real time’ and one take aspect of it – they probably needed time to prepare for the more ‘action’ scenes.

I think the one thing that disappointed me though was the ending, I’m not exactly a thickie, but I really didn’t understand it.  I understood what it was trying to say, and what had come before, but how it all actually worked within the confines of the film slightly alluded me.

If anyone nearby wants to borrow the DVD though, it’s worth a look and you’re more than welcome 🙂

My rating 6.5/10

the cabinet of dr caligari (with minima)

May 8, 2012 2 comments

The Cabinet of Dr Caligari

A couple of weeks ago, me and three friends went along to Hackney Attic (top floor of the wonderful Hackney Picturehouse – where I happened to take The Girl to see the brilliant Avengers Assemble yesterday) to see a one-off showing of 1920 silent film The Cabinet of Dr Caligari.

This featured a live score by 4 man band Minima.

The film itself is often thought of as one of the most influential horror movies.  It is a lesson in German expressionism – the sets are all highly stylized, with a lot of sharp, jagged buildings and furniture, disproportionate sets and backdrops that were painted on canvas.

The actors also often played their roles in a rather odd and jerky manner (think the Smirnoff Judderman advert) and I read that it is believed to have introduced the twist ending in film.

Obviously these days, watching such an old film, a lot of the melodrama and horror and over-acting seems rather amusing in places, but it doesn’t detract from a solid tale, and some truly iconic scenes and memorable moments.

This was completely enhanced by Minima’s score.  i had never heard of Minima before, but I will certainly be looking out for them in the future – they were amazing.  This definitely wasn’t your usual silent film score.  They’re funky, and definitely more of a rock band, but the atmosphere they injected into the film was truly outstanding.

Minima consist of an electric guitar, drums, bass, and the necessary spooky cello – and you wouldn’t believe such a wide-range of moods and sounds could be emitted from such a tiny number of instruments…they were fantastic.

The film for this month is Piccadilly (which I had never heard of, let alone seen!) again at Hackney Attic on the 20th and will have a live score by Igor Outkine on the accordian.  I will probably be going!

I will leave you with a clip.

never let me go – kazuo ishiguro

February 25, 2011 4 comments

Never Let me Go

I have never read an Ishiguro book, and I have never even seen Remains Of The Day, but I saw an interview with Keira Knightley and a couple of trailers for the film of Never Let Me Go and was rather intrigued, so thought I’d give the book a try.

I finished it about 4 days ago, but haven’t really known where to start with my review, as it left me feeling a little confused.

The book was apparently shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 2005 and the 2006 Arthur C Clarke Award, which is obviously science-fiction.  But having read it, I think the idea of it being sci-fi is just weird.

I think most people know by now what the story is but will warn you THIS WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS!!!

The story is set in an alternative reality where most major diseases are curable and life expectancy is high.  Part of the reason for this is the availability of replacement organs.  this seems to be the only ‘alternative’ in this reality – hence why it doesn’t feel sci-fi in any shape or form.

The story is told by Kathy, now in her early 30s and starts in an alternative 70s at Hailsham, seemingly a very old-fashioned boarding school, where Kathy, Tommy and Ruth are students.  The Hailsham students know that they are special, and the fact that they have been cloned to become organ donors and are unlikely to live through more than three donations, therefore ‘completing’ as very young adults is revealed throughout the story.

Tommy & Ruth have a relationship as young students into their teens, even though there is obviously a strong bond between Kathy & Tommy.

The story progresses through the 80s when they leave Hailsham to live in ‘The Cottages’ with other ex-students from around the country while they wait for either their ‘notification’ or to leave to train as a carer.  Things come to a head between the three friends, and Kathy leaves to become a carer.

In the 90s, she chances upon Ruth again, and they meet up with Tommy – eventually coming face-to-face with the realities of their existence.

The book is narrated as if Kathy is just talking to you, it’s very chatty and jumps around the timeline, as if she’s just remembered certain things.  This can be quite confusing as to the order of events sometimes but it is a very easy book to read.

It really is just about relationships though, and to be honest, Kathy doesn’t come across as a very nice person.  I think the point within the story is to show Ruth in a bad light most of the time, but I got SO frustrated with Kathy as she was so irritating – a weird mixture of sappy and combatative.  And Tommy – pathetic.

And I’ve said before, if I don’t really care about the characters, it’s hard for me to lose myself in the story.  however, the idea of the story was very good – I wish that the actual way it had come about, what the other ‘schools’ were like, how increased life-expectancy had impacted on society had been explored more rather than these three frankly annoying characters.

So – I felt that I must have missed something, and last night went to watch the film to see if it opened my eyes a bit more.

It was beautifully shot, totally grim, Keira Knightley was amazing…and actually did ugly very well.  I hadn’t realised that Carey Mulligan was the girl from my absolute favourite episode of Doctor Who – Blink.  She was OK, but played Kathy far differently to how I’d read her.  She seemed far more ‘worldly’ – always had a half-smirk on her face as if she knew more than Tommy & Kathy.  Andrew Garfield annoyed me immensely.  Shame he didn’t die in the first scene really…

There was so much left out, and one of the key scenes was completely altered.  Where a 12 year old(ish) Kathy is dancing to Never Let Me Go in the book, she is discovered by Madame – this is crucial to the story, I feel.  But in the film, it’s Ruth that sees her.  I don’t see what the point of that change was.

There were other changes – the relevance of Norfolk isn’t explored, for example.  However, I did like the film – could maybe have enjoyed it more if I hadn’t just read the book.

All in all – I don’t think the book is all it was cracked up to be, but was entertaining enough.

the girl with the dragon tattoo – sweden (2009)

November 5, 2010 2 comments

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

I was a bit wary of watching this film at first because I had enjoyed the book so much (as per my review) and we all know how disappointing adaptations can be.  However, I’d heard good things, and at least it was a Swedish film, so I gave it a go a few weeks ago (yes, and have only just got around to reviewing it!)

I must admit, it makes a pretty good film.  the girl playing Salander is very believable and grungy (which is twice as amazing when you see how gorgeous the actress usually looks), and Blomkvist feels right too.

However, I watched it with The Man and I found that I was having to explain quite a few bits to him that I only knew from reading the book.  The film felt slightly shallow.  I was quite shocked that Erika Berger was shown in the film, and yet not even named, and the relationship between her and Blomkvist went completely unexplained.

Saying that, The Man didn’t feel cheated of any story, and has said that he’ll probably read the books now.

It’s a great story, and it’s a good film.  I will definitely watch the other two.  However, it wasn’t a patch on the book – so probably best to watch BEFORE reading it!  I’d be very interested to know if anyone else felt that some of the vital elements of the plot were missing, or glossed over.

My rating 8/10

them – france / romania (2006)

November 1, 2010 Leave a comment

Them

I picked this little film up for the grand price of one english pound from Computer Exchange.

It takes a lot to make me jump, but jump I did during this film.  It did help of course that i got into the spirit of it – turned all the lights out and watched it on my own.  Although the bloke from British Gas did come around while I was watching, and the doorbell going frightened the life out of me!

The story is of a French couple living in Romania, in their dream home – a large, sprawling old house in the middle of nowhere.  One night, they hear sounds outside, and then their car is stolen.  Soon after this, they realise there is something/one actually in the house, and a night of panic and terror commences.

The suspense through the most part of the film is brilliant, which is why it was quite a relief that it is pretty short – just a 77minute running time I believe!

However, I was quite disappointed by the ending.  In the same way as I was disappointed by the ending of the fantastic Rec.  it felt like the last 5 minutes let the rest of the film down.  I’m not exactly comparing it to Rec (which is a masterpiece throughout…apart from the last 5 minutes), but just the feeling of being let down by an ending that could have been SO much better!

It was a good watch though.  I like jumping!  And who can complain for £1??

My rating 7/10

l’appartement – france (1995)

October 24, 2010 2 comments

L'Appartement

I have had this DVD sitting on the shelf for a couple of years, I think, and for some reason forgot all about it!

I’m kinda embarressed that I’ve never seen this before, as I know that it is a film that epitomises French cinema.  All the elements are included – chain-smoking, male-hugging, brooding looks, casual chic fashion, women friends that always seem on the verge of lesbianism, deep-rooted envy, stalking, devastating misunderstandings and a splash of casual sex.

Perfect.

Vincent Cassel is one of my favourite actors, and it’s great to see him 15 years younger playing Max, a Parisian playboy type who has just decided to settle down and propose to his current girlfriend.  However, a chance encounter sends him chasing after Lisa, the big love of his life.

And who would blame him, as it is the infinitely beautiful Monica Bellucci (who he married in real life a few years later).  All is not as it seems though, and him, Lisa, his friend Lucien, Lucien’s girlfriend Alice and a widower called Daniel become embroiled in a web of lies, intrigue and heartache.

My rating 8.5/10

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