Sessions

Maths student commenting from Manchester

Her (2013)

6a0168ea36d6b2970c01a511b6da18970c-800wiThis film is one of the rare recents which have truly blown me away. Spike Jonze fantastically demonstrates the modern technological circumstance whilst simultaneously poking fun at the blossoming adults of today: decked out in their outfits of pastel and neutral shades, strictly shopping organic and possessing that infuriating, self-conscious artistic expression. Amy Adams and Matt Letscher’s relationship is a particularly interesting embellishment of the main plot, supplying a substantial amount of both comedy and grief throughout.

As the film progressed I started to strongly dislike Joaquin Phoenix’s character: a wallowing, self-absorbed daydreamer, an overgrown toddler incapable of loving anything other than an operating system specifically designed to meet his every need.. in other words, serve him
Yet after some thought, I clocked that this is one of the most accurate and relatable depictions of human nature, surprisingly scarce in films, perhaps out of our own narcissism (note I refer to human rather than man – us gals are equally guilty of such egotism). Phoenix embodies our state of self-awareness and thought that characterises our evolution beyond any other creature. I think therefore I am and all that.. Although on the surface Her is a love story, the concept of existence is much more at the heart of the film.

To my glee, the nature of being is also brought into the mix with the passing mention of Alan Watts, no doubt (well, I refuse to believe otherwise) an intentional reference to the late spiritual philosopher who, in his time, always advocated existential exploration of the self.

Albeit a portrait of isolation, Her oddly connects with the viewer. The only explanation for this I can give is Jonze’s capturing of the very crux of the human condition. Compulsory viewing for anyone who wants to take a good hard look at themselves, and consequently everyone around them.

The Place Beyond the Pines (2012)

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This stylish study somehow reminds me of Steinbeck’s East of Eden with its sort of ‘saga’ atmosphere echoing throughout its beautifully disjointed story. The polished ring of the film’s structure cleverly confronts the very grey-area concept of justice, and Ryan Gosling performs outstandingly – none of the usual borderline pretension you oft feel is forced upon him by producers – with an impactful reservation that Drive failed to deliver. Bradders Coop also comes up trumps playing a man whose emotions fester agonisingly beneath the surface.

Clever camera-work (one of which is an exceptional police chase scene) induces our physical trailing after the characters, following them in paths neither we nor they can control – they are directions set by indescribable events, events we are unable to recount clearly, unable to dissect fairly, without removing our own bias. This moral blindness truly brings an irrefutable sense of magic to the film; we don’t truly understand these characters, yet we feel so strongly connected to them.
But despite the magic, for me it (sometimes painfully) reflects our real life relationships to a T. And I’m a sucker for films that capture bleak reality.

Benjamin Clementine

My dad went to see Benjamin Clementine play at the Deezer Sessions (in Waterloo somewhere I think?) after seeing him perform on Jools Holland. Here’s the recording of the evening. This guy is the epitome of striking; his remarkably fluid piano playing, as smooth as his epic voice, and the almost inhuman angles of his cheeks.

Make sure to check out his ‘Cornerstone’ as well.

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SONY DSCPhotos I took a while back, perhaps a little influenced by Gaspar Noé?

Atomised, Michel Houellebecq

When we think about the present, we veer wildly between the belief in chance and the evidence in favour of determinism. When we think about the past, however, it seems obvious that everything happened in the way that it was intended.

imageBeautiful, beautiful cover illustration.

I had wondered recently, about foreign books, and whether we lose a sense of authenticity in the writing and language when the work is translated. This thought was rendered pretty much null in reading Atomised (Les Particules elementaires), which maintains a distinctly cutting and genuinely daring French attitude in telling this rich story, one that has comfortably reassured me that I do in fact have something less than an iron heart during this mundane Christmas period of family feuds, tonsillitis and maths revision.

It’s a social commentary which regularly coaxes wry, ironic smiles from you – every time a minuscule, yet detrimental, flaw in society peeps around a corner, Houellebecq makes sure he grabs it by the ankles, rips off its underwear with his teeth and makes it dance uncomfortably across the page for us all to witness, unbearably yet captivatingly.

This novel is entrancing, gloriously sardonic and wrenching, which is so goddam typical of the French, to be able to stare right in the face of anything and rip it to pieces coolly, audaciously, and without a hint of being a pretentious wanker (well, mostly).

I’ll also be sure to return to this once I have a better grasp of philosophy – I had to keep re-looking up all the “-ism”s on Dictionary.com, and I think there’s a lot to gain from Houellebecq’s social, religious, philosophical and scientific cross-overs.

The writings of a decaying society, an opinion I actively (darkly) embrace, completely struck by that heavy melancholy of modern life, post-freedom years misery. But then again, the hippies were wrong, non?

Saturday, Ian McEwan

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Following a recent conversation with a friend who praised a passage in McEwan’s Enduring Love (which I haven’t read), I decided to return to the author of The Daydreamer (a story with which I was entranced for most of middle school) and embark on his bestseller Saturday, digging it out from our living room bookshelves in that “I’m-not-well-read-enough” frenzy I seem to get myself into every couple of months.

He truly is a gorgeous writer. Sometimes I look at a page in a book and I just like the way the words look, and with McEwan’s linguistic mastery, every aesthetic pleasure of his prose, from appearance to digestion, tastes insightful and originally composed.

Plus, the beauty and incisiveness of his story-telling sure takes the edge of being quite disdainful/awed/burningly envious of his characters in their vibrant lives of talent and privilege.

I like the way the novel spans just one day (clue: it’s not Tuesday). Infuses a lightness to the reading; you don’t feel as pressured to draw conclusions as you would with a differently structured book, and find softly constructed opinions floating down gently into your lap anyway.

A real nice condensation of world crisis into the contained life of a middle-class dude; the Saturday in question here is 15th February 2003, the gigantic global anti-Iraq war protest. Safety and security is brought into question, and protagonist Perowne’s pensive thoughts will most certainly get you thinking.


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Alberto Balsalm, Aphex Twin

Disconnect (2012)

image(dir. Henry-Alex Rubin)

Everybody has predictably labelled Disconnect as a dim, wannabe version of Crash, simply because of the whole destined-to-interlock story routine, a choice of criticism tantamount to the film’s own poor attempt at cutting a sharp message with the blandest of plot-lines.

Each sub-story seems in place simply to fill a narrative vacancy. You do not get the impression that these stories are screaming to be told, they merely plod along in directions you know they are headed. A film criticising our online activity needs to hit harder in places we aren’t aware of – we could deduce everything this film tells us from reading the news.

Structure is as textbook as you get, but I actually liked those cheesy slow-mo scenes near the end. Sort of like Gregory Crewdson meets …the Matrix?

Applause to young talent Colin Ford and reliable Skarsgard for maintaining solid performances in their poor plot-lines (predictable and implausible, respectively).

Plus, I cannot fault cinematographer Ken Seng’s input; the gauzy, blurred obstructions in certain shots add a gorgeous multi-layered texture, complete with glowing bulbous lights permeating the screen, reminding us exactly how electrically charged our world has become.
Interesting use of frame also, fluctuating between Big Brother spying on tense exchanges and space-invading up-close shots placing emphasis on the many turbulent relationships present.

So. A mildly pleasing sensation to watch, thanks to some convincing acting and an infusion of Seng-tinted artistry, yet overall paucity of originality lets Disconnect down.

Responding

 

 

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