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Still I Dream Of It
Still I Dream Of It
Price: £0.79

5.0 out of 5 stars A genius producer and arranger stripped raw, 3 May 2013
This review is from: Still I Dream Of It (MP3 Download)
On the Pet Sounds Sessions, you hear a focused but affable leader directing many musicians in complex and visionary arrangements. That's when Brian Wilson was consciously trying to make the best album in the world, a beautiful masterpiece to outdo Rubber Soul. That was before the drug induced paranoia overcame him, before he was rocked by Strawberry Fields Forever, before A Day In The Life sent him spinning, before his ambitious comedic, epic, historical vision of America and growing up, Smile, sprawled out of his control, was panned by those around him, and was shelved.

By 1975, Brian Wilson was socially withdrawn, obese, addicted to cocaine, hearing voices, and rarely out of his dressing gown. The coke and a chain smoking habit had destroyed his once beautiful voice. After intervention by the controversial psychotherapist Eugene Landy, Brian recovered somewhat and was ready to work on the album Adult/Child. This 1976 home recording of Brian stripped bare, with just his piano to keep him company, is a heart-rending testament to the depth of Brian's mental and emotional struggles since the creative zenith of 1966. This is the emotionally jagged yearning of a man who has fallen too far, and has but faint hope of paradise somewhere in the distance. For all its roughness, partly because of its roughness, this is music of fragile beauty.

Download this track, and even if you don't listen to it, put it on a disc or a memory stick and bury it in a time capsule in your garden, so that some (long) time after the apocalypse film-makers documenting humanity's devastating losses can use it as the music to accompany the final lingering footage of the dry wastelands that used to be a thriving harbour and Sydney Opera House.

"I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away."

- Percy Bysshe Shelley.

Adult/Child? That didn't see the light of day either.

Partie De Campagne [1936] [DVD]
Partie De Campagne [1936] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Sylvia Bataille
Offered by A2Z Entertains
Price: £8.47

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A cinematic gem, an overpriced DVD, 10 Mar. 2011
What could be more idyllic than a day in the countryside? Cherry trees, boating, a lovely picnic, a ride on the swings, a beautiful innocent romantic from the city, two charming gentlemen...

In real-life, as opposed to much cinema, meaning isn't always signposted; it is often revealed in seemingly trivial, off-hand comments and brief gestures. So it is in Partie De Campagne. We are whirled effortlessly through a naturalistic world where everything is frothily jolly on the surface, but we find that we have been made aware of the more fraught world of the playing out of human motivations.

Henrietta does her best to maintain her romantic faith, but we who know of her lover's sexual pragmatism, who have looked up her skirt (or imagined we have), who have been voyeurs to her affair, know that reality will intrude. On the banks of the river, she may have been distracted from her own seduction, rapt by the nightingale's beautiful mating call, but we were paying due attention to the taciturn boatman's insistently physical advances.

This is Renoir expertly using visual shorthand to create a sense of lyrical natural beauty, and simultaneously layering it with a direct but subtle irony, all the while maintaining a jaunty pace. It adds up to forty minutes of meaningful, magical, and ultimately poignant cinema. Technically innovative but never frivolously so, Partie De Campagne is fresh and exciting even 75 years since it was made.

It's a push to say the film is finished, but it does work as a self-contained piece, although the narrative leap to the final scene is rather large. As good as the piece is, as a purchase a full price DVD for an unfinished forty minute film is too much.

Rashomon [1950] [Special Edition] [DVD]
Rashomon [1950] [Special Edition] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Toshirô Mifune
Price: £8.63

3 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars No longer essential cinema, 8 Mar. 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Rashomon does not, and cannot, have the same impact on an audience that it had in 1950. Multiple flashbacks by unreliable narrators is a fairly common cinematic trope these days, shooting directly at the sun is something almost every film does (The homage shot of the sun peeping through tree tops is now something of a cliche), and the number of separate shots (400) is by modern standards wholly unremarkable.

The basic revelation of the story ('everyone lies') - stripped of the emotional resonance no doubt lent to it by what was once surprising and daring film-making - is itself unspectacular. The acting is energetic, highly physical, especially from Mifune, and may be a little too melodramatic for modern tastes. Or perhaps, the problem may be what the emotion is about. Specifically, the noble wife's ambiguous response to her rape (she seems, in some tellings of the tale, only upset about her honour and not about the act of violation itself) strikes something of a false note, which cannot be mitigated by the 11th century setting or geocultural differences. Such criticism may be criticism of the age rather than of one film-maker (For example, Otto Preminger's Anatomy of a Murder (1959), is striking for the breeziness the victim shows about her rape, and that a film lauded for its adult script), but the issue (and the dramatic issue) doesn't go away for that.

Kurosawa's editing is almost seamless, and the cinematography is notable for its picturesque tidiness, but these are not enough to sustain the film for the modern viewer. The film may have great value as a historical document, but it is no longer essential viewing for the filmgoer who will probably have seen more sophisticated examples of unreliable narration such as Memento, The Usual Suspects, and Once Upon a Time in America before encountering this film.

The DVD contains impressive extras, including a 36 page booklet, which makes this a decent purchase for the insatiable film buff.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 16, 2014 4:03 PM GMT

The Trouble With Harry [DVD]
The Trouble With Harry [DVD]
Dvd ~ John Forsythe
Offered by Emjays Webstore LTD
Price: £3.47

2 of 7 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Dull comedy about a dead body., 11 Feb. 2011
This review is from: The Trouble With Harry [DVD] (DVD)
The joke, such as it is, is that no-one treats Harry like a human being. He is pure macguffin. Unfortunately, the comedy that centres around disposal of the body is tedious. The characters are all preoccupied with themselves, but as this plays out it is simply yawn-inducing.

Too one-dimensional to be a comedy of manners and too slow for farce, this movie is truly a rare thing: An utterly boring Hitchcock film.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 10, 2014 1:46 AM GMT

The Maid [DVD]
The Maid [DVD]
Dvd ~ Catalina Saavedra
Offered by The World Cinema Store
Price: £6.99

8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Slow, but eventually a rewarding watch, 8 Feb. 2011
This review is from: The Maid [DVD] (DVD)
The film makers go for a realistic documentary feel in this sweet portrait of a repressed, eccentrically bitter woman who eventually begins to find the sparks of fun and true friendship in a hitherto unfulfilled life.

Partly as a consequence of the "verite" style, the first forty minutes or so drag. The psychology of the characters is revealed subtly, but so the drama comes slowly, and the humour in the situations is not exploited as it could be. Certainly the film does not patronise the viewer, but it is somewhat visually bland, and in a drama a few more direct hits in the region of the head or stomach would not go amiss. On the other hand, the film achieves what it sets out to achieve: It is an ultimately uplifting psychological drama, lightly served, with unshowy dialogue, yet genuinely heartwarming; a well told piece of cinematic realism.

Flowers For Algernon (S.F. MASTERWORKS)
Flowers For Algernon (S.F. MASTERWORKS)
by Daniel Keyes
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

4.0 out of 5 stars Charming tale of a human guinea pig in a fantastic experiment, 26 Jan. 2011
Charlie Gordon, severely retarded, barely able to read and write, becomes gradually more intelligent thanks to a new experimental procedure. His progress journal reveals the difficulties he faces as he comes to terms with the changes in himself. The advancement in his writing abilities is a well-handled stylistic progression that lends to the charm of the portrait of a once-naive man learning about the foibles, even cruelty, of the people around him.

Charlie has much catching up to do emotionally, so, in many respects, Charlie's progress is like an accelerated trip through adolescence into adulthood, but Charlie is a unique individual, and herein is much of the charm of the book: There is much that is common to us all, but seen from an original perspective.

A real strength of the book is that Keyes allows his character to recover an inner dignity in the face of his difficulties even when by surface appearances he is in undignified situations. Complementing that, heroic choices do not stand in isolation but are made in the context of all too human frailty, even -on occasions- tantrums. Charlie is, then, very much a flesh and blood hero.

Most of the other characters are just bit parts, including his love interest who never quite seems as real she could, but Charlie's story is nonetheless engaging and a heartwarmingly individual one.

Alphaville [DVD]
Alphaville [DVD]
Dvd ~ Eddie Constantine
Price: £9.50

3.0 out of 5 stars Stylish but lacks substance, 26 Jan. 2011
This review is from: Alphaville [DVD] (DVD)
Alphaville has a noir atmosphere that sustains it and keeps you watching. The use of nothing more than the most modern parts of sixties Paris to suggest a futuristic world is expertly done, through use of camera angles, lighting and other techniques. However, the message of the film is somewhat facile. It is mainly a simplistic anti-technology fable which wrongheadedly opposes (the) poetry (of life) and science.

Extracts from the poetic work "City of Sorrow" are used in the film to represent an emotional world that hi-tech Alphaville cannot grasp, but in isolation these fragments become merely pretentious claims to emotional depth. The technicians of Alphaville are meant to be soulless but there is never any motivation for their actions. What is set up as the controlling computer Alpha60's cold logic is no logic at all, neither computer logic nor fascist logic.

Then there are Alpha60's philosophical meditations, which are empty and soulless, yes, because they are confused ramblings. It's as if the computer decides to be a drunken existentialist for a few minutes, which doesn't fit with the rest of the film at all.

You can't help but be reminded by the novel 1984 when watching this film, but whereas 1984 is a nightmare with its own inescapable logic, Alphaville just hints at fascism and hangs together loosely at best.

For noir, for Sci-Fi, for French New Wave poetic existentialism, there are many better films than Alphaville.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 1, 2013 10:16 PM BST

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