Thursday, 28 February 2013

Blu-Ray From My Collection: Let The Right One In, Directed By Tomas Alfredson (2008)

From allmovie by Rovi: "Pre-adolescent angst has rarely been as eerie or unsettlingly honest as it is in director Tomas Alfredson's stylish, psychologically complex tale of friendship between a tormented schoolboy and his new neighbour -- a reclusive 12-year-old girl who isn't exactly what she appears to be. Adapted from the popular novel by author John Ajvide Lindqvist, who also wrote the screenplay, Let the Right One In is one of those rare genre films that uses fantasy not as a means to its own ends, but as a springboard to exploring topical issues and mature themes that might come off as clichéd if explored within the restraining confines of a real-world setting. What we get, instead, is a thoughtfully plotted adult fable that builds quiet momentum while winding toward a true stunner of a climax that will literally leave you breathless."

DVD's From My Collection: The Fog, Directed by John Carpenter (1980)

From allmovie by Rovi: "Similar in style to his Halloween, director John Carpenter's The Fog makes for a sturdy, if unspectacular companion piece to the 1978 horror classic. Reteaming with many of that film's principals, including Jamie Lee Curtis, Carpenter and co-producer/screenwriter Debra Hill attempt to fashion a ghost story with a menacing edge. As in Halloween, The Fog's strengths are courtesy of gut-wrenching chase scenes that capture the director's ability to create suspense, atmosphere, and some wonderful jolts. Carpenter's eerie, pulsing score also helps to ratchet up the tension level. Where the picture weakens is in the script, which lacks punch, relies on numerous horror clichés, and features one-dimensional characters. The cast's performances are decent and Carpenter's then-wife Adrienne Barbeau is fine in the lead role, but Jamie Lee Curtis is wasted in a secondary part that helped cement her early reputation as a "scream queen." John Houseman, in a prelude to his later work in Ghost Story, turns in a wonderfully chilling cameo as a salty storyteller."

DVD's From My Collection: The Wicker Man, Directed By Robin Hardy (1973)

Ftom Rotten Tomatoes Website: "A righteous police officer investigating the disappearance of a young girl comes into conflict with the unusual residents of a secluded Scottish isle in this unsettling, intelligent chiller. Brought to the island of Summerisle by an anonymous letter, Edward Woodward's constable is surprised to discover that the island's population suspiciously denies the missing girl's very existence. Even more shocking, at least to the traditionally pious law office, the island is ruled by a libertarian society organized around pagan rituals. Repelled by the open acceptance of sexuality, nature worship, and even witchcraft, the officer takes an antagonistic attitude towards the people and their leader, an eccentric but charming English lord (Christopher Lee). The officer's unease intensifies as he continues his investigation, slowly coming to fear that the girl's disappearance may be linked in a particularly horrifying manner to an upcoming public festival. Anthony Shaffer's meticulously crafted screenplay creates a thoroughly convincing alternative society, building tension through slow discovery and indirect suggestion and making the terrifying climax all the more effective. Performances are also perfectly tuned, with Woodward suitably priggish as the investigator and horror icon Lee delivering one of his most accomplished performances as Lord Summerisle. Little noticed during its original theatrical run due to studio edits and a limited release, the film's intelligence and uncanny tone has since attracted a devoted cult following."

Monday, 25 February 2013

CD's From My Collection: God Speed You Black Emperor: Allelujah Don't Bend Ascend (2012)

"Godspeed’s tracks always started out quiet and swelled to raging climaxes, and that’s more or less what they do here too. But here, there’s more going on. Little melodic figures disappear and return. Loud bits flare up and die out before their time. And even the quiet drone moments enrapture; they’re not just the parts you have to get through to reach the catharsis. The two longer songs are different, too. “Mladic” goes for crushing quasi-Middle Eastern groove, and there’s a metallic fuzz-stomp to some of the earth-moving segments. Here and there, the guitars even vaguely recall Dick Dale surf-guitar runs. “We Drift Like Worried Fire,” by contrast, is all heart-bursting beauty, even at its loudest. It’s moments of suffocating prettiness don’t just arrive and leave; they keep coming in waves, everything building into everything else. Those two pieces, and the shorter drones that surround them, unfold based on their own internal logic. It’s hard to imagine a group of musicians sitting around and writing this music. It seems more like something they were lucky enough to pull from the air." From Stereogum

CD's From My Collection: Goat: World Music (2012)

"Over nine pulsating tracks, Goat embark on a kaleidoscopic rollercoaster tour of Afrobeat, Latin disco, post punk, kraut drone and rampant acid rock. It's as if Spacemen 3 ate Funkadelic's Maggot Brain and a random Fela Kuti album – whole – before projectile vomiting a riot of rhythm and psychedelic noise." From The Quietus

CD's From My Collection: Berberian Sound Studio: Original Soundtrack by Broadcast.

"Completed by Keenan's partner, James Cargill, the soundtrack's 39 short pieces offer a partial index of Broadcast's various styles. Like their 1997 track Message from Home, the theme to the giallo itself, The Equestrian Vortex, is filled with harpsichord and tumbling, jazzy drums that recall the Pentangle's Terry Cox. The North Downs Dimension and Collatina Is Coming feature a flute – or some arcane piece of electronic equipment that sounds like a flute – playing a heartbreaking descending melody that conjures up, as Broadcast tracks so often did, a kind of rainy, mid-afternoon melancholy. The assemblage of bells and organ on Theresa, Lark of Ascension is simultaneously wistfully pastoral and oddly unsettling. Found Scalded, Found Drowned and Mark of the Devil are fragments of pulsing, icy electronics." From The Guardian review.

Friday, 15 February 2013

Books: Memoirs Of A Revolutionary By Victor Serge

A beautifully written epic of the tragic failure of revolution in the 20th Century. Victor Serge saw it all; a young anarchist in poverty stricken but vibrant Paris before WW1, then involved in an aborted syndicalist uprising in Barcelona, before going to Russia in 1919 and joining the Bolsheviks. Here on in Serge is a personal witness of the disintegration of the dreams of the revolution, as the regime becomes increasingly despotic, ending in the final totalitarian nightmare of Stalin's rule and the apocalypse of WW2. This is not a dry or detached tome but written by a masterful writer; you are right there living this turbulent period in history-the exhilaration, the hopes, the anger, the fears and the despair. It's also for those wishing to understand the defeat and failure of the 20th Century revolutionary left. The impact of this disaster is still being felt today.

Although John Grey is no leftist his review of the book in the New Statesman is still basically correct and worth a read here. His despairing conclusion, very much in tune with his philosophy, that all Utopian dreams are doomed to failure, I believe is wrong. Ordinary working people through their everyday struggles against oppression can achieve wonderful things, if only briefly-The Paris Commune, The early pre-Bolshevik Russian Soviets, the Spanish collectives of 1936 and countless other revolts and uprisings right up to Tahir Square, Egypt.

Please see the Wiki entry for Victor Serge here         

Friday, 1 February 2013

DVD's From My Collection: Ghost Stories For Christmas: The Definitive Collection

The Wiki entry for the BBC's Ghost Stories For Christmas

From BFI Screenonline about Whistle and I'll Come To You (1968): "A masterpiece of economical horror that remains every bit as chilling as the day it was first broadcast, this was the first, and arguably the best, of the M.R. James adaptations that peppered BBC schedules during the late 1960s and '70s, and an advance warning of a new tradition of Christmas ghost stories.
Some James purists have been less enthusiastic, upset perhaps by director Jonathan Miller's complaint, in an otherwise respectful piece in Radio Times, that James' dialogue was "ludicrously stilted", but also by the other liberties Miller takes with the much-loved story, from pruning its title - originally 'Oh Whistle and I'll Come to You, My Lad' - to recasting its protagonist, Professor Parker, as a bumbling, self-satisfied old academic so detached from everyday life that he struggles with even the most basic interaction with others.
A graver offence for some, perhaps, is the way that Miller introduces an element of ambiguity as to the truth of the Professor's supernatural experience - what we may be witnessing, he dares to suggest, is not a literal haunting but a clever mind teetering into madness. All the same, Miller's adaptation is not only genuinely unnerving but, in fact, remarkably faithful to the spirit of James, and the theme of an arrogant, self-absorbed intellectual being harshly punished for his dabbling in things better left alone is entirely Jamesian.
Absorbing the lessons of Val Lewton's legendary team at RKO Studios in the early 1940s - responsible for such low budget genre classics as Cat People (1942) and I Walked With a Zombie (1943) - Miller uses suggestion rather than direct representation, and builds and sustains an eerie atmosphere with a diverse array of stylistic devices - exaggerated sound and lighting effects, high and low camera angles, disorienting extreme close-ups, teasingly obstructing our view with trees, railings or other objects. The ghostly manifestations, particularly the Professor's dream/hallucination on the beach, conjure terror from the minimum of special effects.
As the unfortunate Professor, Michael Hordern - whose career more than once entered James territory - is glorious, with each line on his multi-furrowed face used to expressive effect. The drama's success owes much, too, to the gorgeous black and white photography of Dick Bush, whose previous credits included Peter Watkins' Culloden (BBC, tx. 15/12/1964) and Miller's own extraordinary Alice in Wonderland (BBC, tx. 28/12/1966)."

CD's From My Collection: The Association: The Complete Warner Bros & Valiant Singles Collection: 1965-1971 (Double CD)