A Thriller At The Cinema

I went to see Last Night In Soho yesterday – the latest feature film by Edgar Wright, the man behind The Sparks Brothers. 

I had no intention of really reviewing this film. Film reviews here I want to keep to music documentaries. And it won’t be a big review by any means, but I enjoyed this film so much, I had to talk about it.

I don’t usually do gore and violence very often and although not really touted as a horror film, I could see from the trailer shown at the cinema a few weeks back that it was potentially going to be a bit bloody. 

I bought my ticket about a week ago after having seen The French Despatch. I didn’t even take in at the time that the ticket showed Last Night In Soho having an 18 certificate. Holy heck!

From seeing the trailer I saw that Terence Stamp was in it but I was surprised to see other stellar actors like Rita Tushingham and the wonderful (and sadly departed) Dame Diana Rigg also appear. In fact, it wasn’t until Dame Diana appeared on the screen did the dedication of “for Diana” at the start of the film make sense.

A review without spoilers is going to be fun but I will try my best. All the actors were brilliant. The young cast members were great, esp. the leading roles of Thomasin McKenzie and Anya Taylor-Joy (of Queen’s Gambit fame). 

The music was great, the plot, I thought, was great. A fabulous twist that I didn’t see coming at all. And as I say, fabulous performances from Terence Stamp, Rita Tushingham and Diana Rigg. Her last film performance as far as I am aware, and what a performance to end a wonderful career on.

I didn’t think anything was too languid, or too slow paced, or I didn’t feel there were any holes in the plot. I wasn’t watching my watch wondering when it was going to end. I feel I’ve seen things with as much gore that have had a 15 certificate. I didn’t think it was overly graphic, but there are good scares to be had in there!

I’d recommend it. If you want to hear some great music on a film soundtrack, see some fabulous acting and have a bit of a spook and a bit of a scream, go see Last Night In Soho.

Review – The Velvet Underground (Documentary by Todd Haynes)

I think this documentary ended up posing more questions than it answered. 

Firstly, it doesn’t sugarcoat the notion of Lou Reed being….well…actually perhaps they DO sugarcoat it. Because what became obvious was that to label Reed “troubled” is somewhat of an understatement. I actually started to wonder how anyone managed to work with him. Certainly John Cale was finding it difficult towards the end of his part in the Velvet Underground story “if you were nice to him, he only treated you worse”.

The one thing I’d say to Jim after seeing this film is when you say you’re not worthy of tying Lou Reed’s bootlaces – you do yourself a MASSIVE disservice, Jim Kerr. You really do! 

The film starts with a quote from Baudelaire – “Music fathoms the sky.” That immediately had me thinking of Jim for in the New Gold Dream tour program, he’s given the name “Kid Baudelaire” in brackets. Attributed from Adam Sweeting? A nickname the rest of the guys give him? Who knows?

A Warhol film image of Lou Reed appears fairly early on. Just that straight-at-the-lens, nowhere-to-hide portrait shot, the camera rolling for several minutes. A childhood that didn’t sound overly loving, but they talk to his sister Merrill and she makes the counter argument of it being easy to pin all of Lou’s troubles on his childhood and upbringing. 

Several minutes later we move on to a similar half of the screen moving image portrait of John Cale. This is how little I admit to knowing about The Velvet Underground and its individual members – I hear John Cale speak and….he sounds like he usually sounds….with a New York twang. And then, he speaks again and sounds WELSH! Like, a proper Valley boy-o! 

I know! I should know better than this. I should be more knowledgeable. A lot of the time I do feel incredibly ignorant about a lot of things. 

A lot of the film centred towards PRE-VU. Lou and John and how they got into music the way they did, their influences, and how they met and formed The Primitives. 

All of that I found good. Sterling Morrison remains a mystery. Moe Tucker seems a very lovely woman. Doug Yule seemed a very fitting replacement for John Cale. 

It flowed well up to the point we got to when Warhol became involved and Nico joined the group. Then, for me, the documentary became a bit…rushed. It spent a lot of time on the preamble but then not much time on the Velvet Underground itself, once a modicum of success came.

Also, whenever they played Venus In Furs, it was DEAFENING! Venus In Furs was ssooo much louder than anything else within the audio, other Velvet songs, people speaking, etc, etc. It was a real wallop to the ears.

I kind of came away a bit…unfulfilled by the experience. I wanted more and something different. I probably wanted to learn more about Lou Reed than I did. I certainly wanted to learn more about the band than I felt I did. 

What I did learn though (or had confirmed to me) is:

  • The Velvet Underground are definitely punk. They are the TRUE pioneers of punk. Forget the “avant garde” schtick, although that does apply too. They’re punk.
  • John Cale is Welsh (I know! Lol).
  • Lou Reed was a douche canoe (at least at that time) and I honestly don’t know how anyone worked with him.
  • Delmore Schwartz was a massive influence on Reed.
  • Jonathan Richman is a sweetheart, and just about the only person to say something nice about Lou. And it explained why The Modern Lovers’ Roadrunner is ssooo much like Rock ‘n’ Roll to me. (Though it is meant to be a homage to Sister Ray – shows you how familiar I am with Sister Ray!)
  • Nico was a drifter. Lost, trying to find purpose in her life.
  • Warhol gave us “celebrity” and fame for fame’s sake. He’d love Love Island and Big Brother, and probably Gogglebox too.
  • Without Warhol no one outside of NYC would have heard of VU.

So, last night, in bed. Wanting to listen to some music to help me drift off to sleep, did I choose the “Banana Album”? Or White Light/White Heat? Or The Velvet Underground (aka album three)? Or Loaded? 

Nope!

I chose to listen to The Modern Lovers – the original set of recordings from 1972 that were finally released in 1976. 

And to paraphrase words from Roadrunner “I’m in love with Jonathan Richman”. We could all do with keeping that childlike wonder. Oh, man. Even in the documentary – you just want to reach in through the screen and hug him!

In summary of the Velvet Underground documentary. Did I enjoy it? To a degree. Did I find it insightful? Again, to a degree. Did I enjoy it as much as the previous music documentary I saw (The Sparks Brothers)? Naw.

If I was to give it a mark out of 10 – where the Sparks Brothers doc gets a firm 10/10. The Velvet Underground documentary gets a 7/10. The best bits were the interviews with John Cale, Moe Tucker, Jonathan Richman and Mary Woronov. 

It wasn’t quite what I had hoped for or anticipated. For one I didn’t expect to come out of a Velvet Underground documentary thinking “Aawww, Jonathan Richman – he’s sssooo sweet!” Lol

Can I recommend it? I guess. If you’re a REAL diehard Velvets fan, it probably isn’t going to give you much more of an insight in all honesty. Novices interested in the band and the period and wanting to know more…you might learn some stuff, but for me personally, it didn’t completely fill the remit.

And so, I shall leave you with this, influence of an influence that leads to an influence. And I love a fade-in!

The Velvet Underground Documentary – Coming Soon

UPDATE: Oct 5th – saw a review in the latest Rolling Stone. Thought I’d post it here.

Looking into what was coming up for viewing at the Glasgow Film Theatre, I spied this!

When I was at the Living Proof screening last week, I decided to secure a ticket for one of the screenings of it. I’ll be seeing it in a couple of weeks time and I’m looking forward to it. And if I’m honest, I am also looking forward to being able to enjoy being in a cinema or theatre without having to wear a fucking mask all the time! I know it’s for the greater good and I genuinely have no problem with that. But I need to wear distance glasses these days and so I either put up with my glasses fogging up or I decide to take them off so I can “see” a bit better. That bit of it really sucks. And…it does still feel really breath inhibiting to be indoors for a few hours and wearing a mask. It just does.

Anyway, just thought I’d mention this Velvets documentary here as we all know what a massive influence the Velvets and Lou Reed has been on a certain James Kerr, esq. and to the music of Simple Minds as a whole.

This is STILL my favourite SM cover along with Street Hassle. The emotion in Jim’s voice is just beautiful. It just proves what an influence that the Velvets and Lou have been on them for my fave SM covers to be VU and Lou Reed compositions.

Living Proof – Review – Glasgow Film Theatre – 23/9/2021

I ventured out on Thursday evening to see the second “World Premiere” (Edinburgh actually pipped us to the post the night before) of the documentary Living Proof.

It dealt with looking at Scotland’s growth under Capitalism over the past 150 years, but concentrated on the rate of growth from post-WWII. Also the way Scotland has dealt with its climate, in good and bad, for the past 150 years and the ramifications of tapping into its apparently abundant natural resources – but at what ultimate cost?

The presentation of the film started with a short introduction from the film’s director, Emily Monro, about what the film’s main objective was. 

The film starts with a broad outline and visual run-through of what the film will be exploring in closer detail. A rush through the past 100+ years of Scotland’s environmental history – with a musical backdrop from the wonderful Louise Connell. Louise was there herself to watch the film. She had also been there to see it the previous night in Edinburgh. 

We start with a look at post-war Scotland and the richness of treasures that industrial juggernauts see in it. All for the good on the surface, with the talk of capitalising on those natural resources with hydroelectricity implemented in the Highlands. 

We continue on from there, looking at things from the farming of peat from bogs to coal mining, to North Sea oil drilling and gas harvesting. 

It quickly feels like we are just plundering something that we should have realised much earlier on is only finite! We as humans have somewhat blighted Scotland’s landscape by being swept up into the kind of “corporate greed” model of “improving” our lives. Some things done with the initial view of being better for everyone, for example, the hydroelectric schemes in the Highlands, have actually had negative repercussions. And we can’t escape the fact that the mining industry and the drilling of North Sea oil has had a massive impact environmentally. 

The film also looks into the decline of the shipbuilding industry. The shipbuilding docks try to move themselves forward by becoming the construction areas for the North Sea oil rigs. That was the most eye-opening and jaw-dropping aspect of the film for me. As one of the oil rigs had completed its first part of construction – its base, the foundation platform that will be plunged into the sea bed, just what a feat of engineering that it is. It’s hard to reconcile being marvalled by all that. To see this human constructed metal monolith making its way out of the Clyde firth in outrageously stormy seas to be slowly upended from its side to start being (weather permitting!) slowly, painstakingly, millimetre by millimetre hammered into the sea bed. It was both astonishing and gut-wrenching in equal measure. 

Conoco was the company in question building the massive offshore oil rigs, taking advantage of the docks left empty from the Clyde shipbuilding that went asunder. Watching that footage with a genuine mix of awe and lament. 

The film also takes a look into selling Scotland as an “attractive” prospect for investment and having some American firms come over and set up bases here – like the big Digital Equipment factory in Ayr. I remember as we made our way down the west coast towards Girvan a few months back being struck by how many huge factories there were along that part of the Ayrshire coast between Ayr and Girvan – particularly from Turnburry to Girvan. But then, why should I be surprised? Turnberry just for starters has a Trump stamp all over it!

Towards the end of the film we look at the take up of wind turbines and wind farms. Earlier in the film there is a bit about how ubiquitous and reliant upon metal we are for things. Like, it is in our lives EVERYWHERE. And you can’t help but in the end see the irony of the wind turbines being these monstrous metal contraptions and it all just cycles round. And that was the crux of the film’s point (well it was for me personally, anyway) – how do we get out of this loop? How do we get out of the capitalist “hamster wheel” (for want of better terminology)? Can we actually even do it? Are we too far down the line with things? Are we far too reliant on it all to not see any other way out? How do we really make REAL CHANGE?

The film finished with a Q and A with a panel of guests including the film’s director Emily Monro. One question asked of Emily was how she thought the film would be received by non-Scots? Emily found it not an easy question to respond to, but if I had responded to it (as I will do now) – I think it’s a universal problem and dilemma. Although the things within the film are entirely Scotland based, all the world’s countries are going through these same problems and going through the same questions. For some countries in the world, the crisis is a lot more profound than what Scotland is going through. So I think it can resonate and speak to people whether they live here or not. It really isn’t a thing that affects Scotland exclusively, the broader aspects of the climate crisis. 

It was pieced together so well by Emily and the final beach scene and dialogue ends on a really harrowing, pondering note. And the soundtrack used within it featured music wonderfully chosen. I will link to the tracks used through the film below. 

It was sobering viewing and I’m not sure I have any answers for it myself. Let us see what COP26 brings to us in November. Let’s just see how Glasgow copes with hosting such a summit, for one.

The Sparks Brothers – Review – Glasgow Film Theatre – August 5th, 2021

As usual, I’ll give a preamble to what happened with watching the film. 

That spark of spontaneous conversation that only ever seems to happen in Glasgow. It happened AGAIN today. We arrived (myself and my OH) outside the Glasgow Film Theatre, located on Rose Street, around 1.20pm. Me doing my usual “I MUST NOT REFER TO GOOGLE MAPS!” mantra and then STILL having to admit defeat and look at Google Maps to make sure I was actually going in the right direction. (This pandemic has fucked about with so much stuff, I tell ya!)

So. I kept in walking down Renfrew Street knowing I was at least heading in the right direction. Once I passed the intersection with Hope St, I was getting a little worried that maybe I had fucked up – but it was fine. Still a little ways to go. A little lost once we get to Rose Street as to where the cinema was, as it was hiding itself under the much larger banner of “Cafe Cosmo”.

The film wasn’t starting until 2pm but it was all good as we ended up chatting to a lady who had turned up to buy herself a ticket to see Now, Voyager. I KNOW! And I had seen this on the cinema’s website yesterday that they were screening Now, Voyager over the weekend and into next week! I am sssoooooo excited by that! (And booked a ticket to see it on Tuesday – sssooo happy!)

Turned out she had been living in the south for YEARS. Lived around Watford and St Albans. Bloody small world! Asked us where we were from and said Luton (originally Sydney for me) and that’s how we got to chatting about the towns and cities around Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire. She found it a wonderfully humorous story to tell us her daughter was born in England and was as English as they come but came up to study English Literature at the University of Glasgow. Lol. 

We both admitted to missing aspects of London – the galleries. The art side of things. And it turned out she was an art librarian. The people you meet and the conversations you have! I just love it! It is the thing I love about this city more than anything else! And we both agreed that that is what makes Glasgow so special. 

Twenty minutes of time sailed on by. We collected our tickets for the Sparks Brothers from the box office. The lady bought her Now, Voyager ticket. I queued and bought MY Now, Voyager ticket and off we went into the cinema to see the film.

I had little expectations about this documentary. I heard it was really good – but I was worried you might have to be REALLY into Sparks to appreciate it. 

I like them – don’t get me wrong! I like what I know…but I don’t know much and I would say my partner is much more the fan of them than I am – or was prior to the film. But some two hours later – oh, wow! Just. Yeah!

If you think you’re only a fairweather fan of Sparks. Like, you appreciate what they’re about musically….the avant garde, irreverent, subversive, humorous….kind of “can’t be pigeonholed” behemoth they are, but you’re not THAT into it – or you think you’re not – like, JUST GO AND SEE THE FILM! It was sssoooo well done!

Not a band documentary as you would think it would be. Really cleverly done it that it was more a spanning retrospective of their career. Just…the body of work!

I don’t want to give out spoilers, and it’s hard to review things without spoilers. It was just so well done. It wasn’t bogged down in interviews. You think from seeing the trailers that it’s going to be filmed with people just talking about them – but it isn’t like that. 

From the very beginnings of Ron and Russell’s lives and just linear, from Halfnelson on to the formation of Sparks, and it just went on…bang, bang, bang. And just so informative and so focused on the music and the up and downs. The degrees of success (or otherwise) with each album. Their time based in the UK, and then going back to California. Getting into the charts and on Top of the Pops, getting so much exposure and then it dying away, only to return again when they work with Giorgio Moroder, and hitting the high of the early 80’s electronic wave. 

At this point, my jaw dropped. All this time I have lived here in the UK, I thought I had never known a single Sparks song until I moved to the UK. I was not really aware of them at all – or so I thought. The only thing I had an inkling about was in Paul McCartney’s Coming Up video in which he does a parody of Ron Mael – but I didn’t really know who Ron Mael was. I think I had seen bits of Sparks so I know Macca was taking off that guy in the band – but that was the extent I know.

And THEN – they played When I’m With You – and my jaw dropped. I don’t think I had heard it since the time but it was an instant (excuse the pun) spark! I knew it instantly because I fucking LOVED IT! I was obsessed with that song at the time! And I couldn’t believe how long it had been since I had heard it – AND THAT IT WAS ONE OF THEIR SONGS! 

I don’t know whose song I thought it was. Just the video, even…as soon as I saw it, it’s so obviously Ron and Russell and yet – I … it’s like my memory of the song was wiped. Until today and they started playing the clip in the film. What a revelation that was! 

Having the exposure since moving to the UK of things like, This Town Ain’t Big Enough For The Both Of Us, and Get In The Swing, Beat The Clock and The Number One Song In Heaven, I’d have thought that just because of what an impact When I’m with You made upon me as a not-quite 10 year old that I’d put two and two together – but nope!

I came out DETERMINED to work my way through their back catalogue – but I know already that the Moroder produced albums will be the favourites. In recent years, The Number One Song In Heaven has been a firm favourite of mine – having COMPLETELY forgot about When I’m With You – as it’s NEVER played here in the UK, but it made the Top 20 in Australia in 1980. 

They brought it right up to the present day too, with talk of A Steady Drip Drip Drip and the lead track, Lawnmower.

A really comprehensively done documentary. I loved absolutely every second of it. Every second. There is no “dead wood” in this documentary. It has been lovingly put together.

If you’re a Sparks fan, you’ll love it. If you’re not a Sparks fan, you’ll end up a Sparks fan AND you’ll love it!

Go see it! It’s a fabulous way to spend two hours!

The Best of 2020?

Of course, the “Best Photographer” award for 2020 COULD go to someone for their work that had to wait 40 years to be seen – Mr Ronald Gurr…and the offering below….

But I jest…at least on offering up the award – but the photo is still just absolutely fabulous!

In response to his post today (his “Best of 2020”), here is…part my response to his choices, and part a broader explanation of mine.

And here is my response to him of my choices that I left in the comments of his post. (With replies to him kept in.)

Best Album : In Memory Of My Feelings – Catherine Anne Davies and Bernard Butler
Best Single : Fools Tomorrow – Warm Digits (with a VERY close runner up being Bitter Tang by Michael Rother)
Best Cover Version : Absolute Beginners – Steve Harley
Most listened to song : New Gold Dream 12” German Mix (HONESTLY! Played usually 3 times over most mornings for the past several months)

Best Book : I haven’t read any new books other than…the obvious – but I really, REALLY want to read Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart
Best Photographer : Chris Leslie/Disappearing Glasgow – DITTO!
Best Podcast : The MainMan podcast (Mr Francis Gallagher’s a very close second!)

Best Film : Haven’t seen a film all year – apart from one documentary (see Best Docu)
Best Series : Not watched a series, either (how does a man who doesn’t like telly watch a TV series? *confused face*)
Best Documentary : Rockfield: The Studio on the Farm
Best Gig : Oh, Jim! Don’t do this to me!!! Let me pre-empt it by saying Copenhagen was BRAW! And…you know…I’m a very lucky girl for seeing both shows, I know! But I saw Bryan Ferry the week before! And…well, that was amazing too! But…for, venue, setting…uniqueness of the experience, band performance – it has to be Field Music at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum (sorry, Jim! It was REALLY close though)

Best Journey: COPENHAGEN!
Best Decision : To go to Copenhagen – ALMOST decided against it.
Best Meal : Cafe Andaluz, Edinburgh
Best Drink : IRN BRU (I’ve got the taste for it now)

Worst Moment : How long you got?
Biggest Disappointment : The halting of the 40 Years+ Tour WITHOUT A DOUBT!
Person I’d Most Like To Have A Drink With : My brother, David. (He’d drink me under the table and I’d love every second of it!)
Person I’d Least Like To Have a Drink With : The EX president.

Biggest Thrill: Seeing Loch Lomond with my own eyes.

That’s it…on the spot, without much time to think. 

Happy New Year, Sir 😘😘

An Independent Socialist – A World In Gray

Please do not be fooled by the blurb you see attached to the video! There really isn’t too much talk about the then imminent Scottish Independence referendum. It really is all about the remarkable Alasdair Gray. A man I wish I had been aware of, learned about and began to have some kind of – albeit without any actual personal interaction with – affinity for while he was still living.

There is a sadness I feel that, having moved to this amazing city just a few short weeks before, that Alasdair left us at the end of December in 2019.

Yes, you have to pay to watch the film – documentary – but if you love art, love the murals around Glasgow, have ever read Lanark or 1982 Janine and loved them – see that mural at Hillhead subway station each day (I can’t tell you how many times I have passed it by already and never realised it was there – with great shame) …

Just watch it.

Even as I am still finding my way through Lanark, I take in all the places I recognise. A number of them are local or not very far away. I even found myself reading a letter to a local paper he had submitted about wondering what was to become of Sighthill (the general area, not the cemetery – that wasn’t the topic of Gray’s letter) It is literally just up the road. Just go down to the end of the adjacent street, past the bowling green, round the corner, past the speedway track – up Finlas Street turning into Carlisle Street, until it meets Keppochill Road – and there you are. Sighthill Cemetery. Three weeks ago I didn’t even know it existed! There is NOTHING to mark it out on Google Maps. A few times coming down the A803 from the city centre by car or on public transport I could see there were some graves but I had assumed it was attached to a churchyard – not an actual full cemetery. A cemetery so vast that – as far as I am aware, only the Necropolis is larger (although trying to confirm this with research would indicate Sighthill is larger in acreage so I am a bit confused). Needless to say it is a large expanse and perplexing not to be revealed on a map!

Gray within the pages of Lanark seems to mention a street nearby, Ashfield Street. There is only one Ashfield Street in all of Glasgow. A few Ashfield Roads but no “street”. Only this one. It must be it! And there is talk of Riddrie where he grew up and the area that is now know as Robroyston but was once Garngad – all not terribly far away, further over to the east and north of us on the other side of Bishopbriggs.

But I shall stop waffling and let you watch it! I found it enthralling.

Today I Saw A Fill-em

My mum never knew her father’s parents – her grandparents – actually, she never even got to know her father for he died shortly after her birth – complications he’d long carried with him from WWI. Errol Forde Clancy was his name. First generation Australian, a son of Irish immigrants. Speaking of films…my Nan (mum’s mum) would often recount the story to mum (and mum, as a consequence to us kids) of Granddad refusing to stand up in the cinema when the national anthem played (back then of course still God Save The King – as it would have been at that time, during the reign of George V – and film being in its infancy). “He wouldn’t stand up for me!”, he’d say to my Nan, “so why should I do it for him?”
I’m sure he’d have felt differently had Advance Australia Fair been the anthem.
Somehow just one word…one quirk from mum’s Irish ancestry filtered through audibly…and it was her way of saying the word “fill-em”. I never knew anyone else who’d say it like that…unless they were actually Irish.
It’s audible in Jim singing it in Thirty Frames A Second…he actually says it that way too – with his talking voice.
I love the word. Sometimes the sound of a word, its intonation when spoken, can give it as much significance as its actual definition. Such is the case with “film”.

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