Kelly’s Eye

This is Tomorrow (Paul Kelly, 2007)
Finisterre (Paul Kelly and Kieran Evans, 2002)
What Have You Done Today Mervyn Day? (Paul Kelly, 2005)
Kelly + Victor (Kieran Evans, 2012)

So, Paul Kelly has made at least three documentaries with Saint Etienne, a musical beat combo whose work I confess I’m not familiar with, although I’ve listened to some since. And I suspect that means I’m missing something with Finisterre.

Of course, This is Tomorrow is mistitled, because it surely refers to the iconic exhibition at the Whitechapel Art Gallery in 1956, featuring artists such as Eduardo Paolozzi, William Turnbull, Richard Hamilton, and many more. Instead, it takes us back to the Festival of Britain in 1951, of which the Royal Festival Hall is one survivor. Designed by Leslie Martin, Peter Moro and Robert Matthew, compromises in building meant the acoustics were not as rich as they might have been. There was an attempt to improve this in 1964, followed by a major restoration and improvement between 2005 and 2007. The documentary shows the festival and then moves into an account of the work. I confess I was interested more in the former than the latter and it’s such a shame the Skylon was destroyed.

Having realised this was a loose trilogy, I then watched Finisterre, which includes extracts from The Shipping Forecast and music from the album by Saint Etienne. It’s a version of the City Symphony genre although, despite some really interesting shots and juxtapositions, doesn’t compare with Manhatta (Paul Strand, 1921) or Berlin: Symphony of a Metropolis (Walter Ruttmann, 1927). It’s a day in the life of the city, from 6.00am to 6.00am at Victoria Station, apparently also biographical of the band. I missed all this, but did like the snark about Camden.

Like This is Tomorrow, Mervyn was commissioned to be performed and screened in the Barbican, and is a depiction of the Lower Lea Valley, at around the time of the announcement of the 2012 Olympics. This coincided with the 7/7 bombing, which is brought in via snippets of news broadcasts. The trajectory depends on the wanderings of a paper boy, Mervyn Day (Noah Kelly, presumably the director’s son) on his rather extended paper route. David Essex and Linda Robson contribute as his grandfather and mother. Presumably his name is taken from a Leyton Orient footballer. It’s diverting enough, I learned a fair bit, and maybe needed to be watched alongside reading Iain Sinclair’s Sorry Meniscus (1999), about trying to walk to the Millennium Dome.

Kelly and Saint Etienne have since collaborated on How We Used to Live (2014), which I haven’t seen.

Evans, co-director of Finisterre, has also made a fiction film, Kelly + Victor, (apparently) loosely based on a novel of the same name by Niall Griffiths. Kelly (Antonia Campbell-Hughes) and Victor (Julian Morris) meet at a club and go back to her place where they have violent sex in which she bites and chokes him. Kelly is a shopworker, who occasionally helps out her dominatrix friend, whilst Victor is a romantic who works on Liverpool dock and whose idea of a date is wandering around the Walker Gallery or Sefton Park.

I’m in.

Of course, this can’t end well, so it needs a bit of caution.

They Were Not Divided

Radclyffe Hall, The Well of Loneliness (1928)
Patricia Highsmith, The Price of Salt/Carol (1952)

So, it turns out I bought these books on the same day, in April 2000, in High Wycombe I assume, and chose the last couple of days of 2021 to finally read them. Both are, for better or worse, foundational lesbian novels.

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The Art of Sex

Sequin in a Blue Room (Samuel Van Grinsven, 2019)
Love Is the Devil: Study for a Portrait of Francis Bacon (John Maybury, 1998)
Jumbo (Zoé Wittock, 2020)
Postcards from London (Steve McLean, 2018)
Théo et Hugo dans le même bateau (Paris 05:59: Théo & Hugo, Theo and Hugo, Olivier Ducastel and Jacques Martineau, 2016)

I think three of these films were distributed by Peccadillo Pictures, a distributor of gay-themed films of varying quality. These were at the better end of the scale, beginning with Sequin, the story of sixteen-year-old Sequin’s (Conor Leach) conflicting search for anonymous sex with older men and for the attractive man he met at the orgy at the private and mysterious The Blue Room. Unfortunately, one of his hook-ups is with B (Ed Wightman), who wants more than a one-night stand. The narrative mutates into something closer to thriller, but feels a bit disjointed. Unlike Théo & Hugo, there doesn’t seem to be any concern about HIV.

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Anyone for Denis?

Un 32nd Août sur terre ((August 32nd on Earth), Denis Villeneuve, 1998)

Maelström (Denis Villeneuve, 2000)

Polytechnique (Denis Villeneuve, 2009)

Incendies ((Fires) Denis Villeneuve, 2010)

Enemy (Denis Villeneuve, 2013)

Québécois director Villeneuve has had a run of big budget sf blockbusters – Arrival (2016), Blade Runner (2017) and Dune Part One (2021) – of variable box office success and various level of my own disdain. Arrival seems to be scuppered by Sapir-Whorf nonsense, whereas the other two were unnecessary. Whilst Amy Adams is strong in Arrival, Blade Runner 2049 has less excuse for its misogyny than the original and a major female character in Dune doesn’t get to speak for the first three days of the running time. (Apparently she will be more prominent in Part Two.)

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Isn’t It Actually Fitzrovia?

Last Night in Soho (Edgar Wright, 2021)

Wright first came to prominence for me with the sitcom Spaced, working with Simon Pegg (and the fantastic Jessica Hynes/Stevenson), but I confess I’ve been a little less than methodical with his films. I largely enjoyed Scott Pilgrim vs the World and Baby Driver, although had issues with the blokeiness of both. I blinked when The Sparks Brothers was released and still can’t decide if he made it all up.

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Mentioned in Dispatches

The French Dispatch of the Liberty, Kansas Evening Sun (Wes Anderson, 2021)

Anderson is a Marmite director and I confess to blowing a little hot and cold – I can’t help but admire the inventiveness and – like Jim Jarmusch and, formerly, Woody Allen, he gets a high octane cast. I just wonder if he doesn’t go too whimsical and self-indulgent.

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Facing Up

Clint Dyer and Roy Williams, Death of England: Face to Face (directed by Clint Dyer, National Theatre film, 2021)

One of the unexpected delights of lockdown culture was a screening of Death of England: Delroy, in which Delroy (Michael Balogun) recounts his arrest on the way to see the birth of his daughter and his subsequent electronic tagging. It was funny and gripping and anger-inducing and intelligent, and based on a play closed after press night. It was also a sequel to Death of England, in which Delroy’s friend Michael (Rafe Spall) discusses his relationship with his father, Alan, itself based upon a ten minute short.

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No Time to Diet

No Time to Die (Cary Joji Fukunaga, 2021)

I confess I’ve lost track of which Bond films I’ve seen — they were Christmas and Easter and Bank Holiday films and ITV had a phase of showing them on a Sunday afternoon. They followed a familiar pattern, a precredit sequence full of stunts, Bond being sent on a mission by M and being geared up by Q, a car chase that graduated to a lot of cars chasing, to helicoptors chasing, the entire Russian army chasing on skis, seemingly unable to shoot one man. And thence to a volcano base, and a final confrontation and a big bang. And along the way, one liners and a several Martinis and a bit of the old in-out with a girl thirty or forty years his junior. Continue reading →

Ssssssssshhhhhhhhhhhhh

Suzan-Lori Parks, White Noise (directed by Polly Findlay, Br/dge Theatre)

I don’t think I’ve seen the stage so deep here. At the back, there is an apartment set, a set of wires room from the back to the entrance to the auditorium, partly above a runway extension to the set. The apartment will be moved closer, and rotate to reveal more, and there is a comfy armchair.

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