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Romeo and Juliet (Arkangel Complete Shakespeare)
Romeo and Juliet (Arkangel Complete Shakespeare)
by William Shakespeare
Edition: Audio CD

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A few things you should know about Arkangel's 'Romeo and Juliet', 23 Feb 2010
Whatever else you say about it, 'Romeo and Juliet' is certainly one of Shakespeare's most vivid plays, and here it is movingly brought to life. Romeo (Joseph Fiennes) is sensitive and poetic, without being effeminate, and Juliet (Maria Miles, in a beautiful performance) is shy and modest, yet full of strong emotion. Clive Swift, better known as Hyacinth Bucket's henpecked husband, does a good job as Friar Laurance. Words are enunciated clearly, bringing Shakespeare's meanings out to the fullest, in a performance outstanding even for Arkangel.


White Diamond [DVD] [2005] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
White Diamond [DVD] [2005] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Dvd ~ Werner Herzog

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A few things you should know about 'White Diamond', 22 Feb 2010
Beginning with some great film footage of the early age of flight, including the explosion of the Hindenburg Zeppelin, this documentary then turns to modern day airship fanatic Dr. Graham Dorrington. It gradually emerges that Dorrington's friend Dieter Plage was killed flying a similar airship ten years earlier, and it is clear that Dorrington feels a certain degree of guilt over the death. Despite this, he persists in his quest to fly an airship over remote jungle in Guyana. The airship itself has a bit of a 'steampunk' look about it, and reminds me of Lee Scoresby's balloon in 'The Golden Compass'. With the help of this contraption, Dorrington aims to film the rainforest canopy - one the richest biospheres on earth.

The human element in this film is not so intense as with other Herzog documentaries, yet it does contain some amazing cinematography, such as the swifts flying madly into a waterfall, their secret kingdom. Perhaps the film would have been better if cut in length (it's not often you can say that about a Herzog film), or perhaps more footage of the rainforest canopy and less of the crew arguing. It's still worth watching, however.


Hlidskjalf
Hlidskjalf

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A few things you should know about 'Hlidskjalf', 20 Feb 2010
This review is from: Hlidskjalf (Audio CD)
The second of Varg's two prison albums is richer and more textured than its minimalist predecessor 'Dauši Baldrs', but it feels more confused, not as purposeful. Darker too. Rather than the promise of rebirth implicit in 'Dauši Baldrs', here one feels only a grim sense of foreboding, of violence to come. The whole album seems watchful, and in the distance is a hedgerow of shields and shining spears, the only 'light' to be seen in a landscape otherwise harsh and obscure. Doom music, for awakening warriors.


Hlioskjalf
Hlioskjalf

4.0 out of 5 stars A few things you should know about 'Hlidskjalf', 20 Feb 2010
This review is from: Hlioskjalf (Audio CD)
The second of Varg's two prison albums is richer and more textured than its minimalist predecessor 'Dauši Baldrs', but it feels more confused, not as purposeful. Darker too. Rather than the promise of rebirth implicit in 'Dauši Baldrs', here one feels only a grim sense of foreboding, of violence to come. The whole album seems watchful, and in the distance is a hedgerow of shields and shining spears, the only 'light' to be seen in a landscape otherwise harsh and obscure. Doom music, for awakening warriors.


Soulside Journey
Soulside Journey
Offered by hachehache
Price: £8.77

4.0 out of 5 stars A few things you should know about 'Soulside Journey', 20 Feb 2010
This review is from: Soulside Journey (Audio CD)
The first time I heard Darkthrone's debut album I felt I was "soaring through damp air", over old crypts and dolmen-studded hillsides. There was something mystical at work that distinguished it from the vast majority of death metal at the time. In the days when 'black metal' referred to lyrical content rather than a musical 'sound', Darkthrone were one of the few death metal bands with a spiritual imprint to their music. Even the song titles were mysterious and evocative: 'Sunrise Over Locus Mortis', 'Iconoclasm Sweeps Cappadocia', 'The Watchtower'. If more death metal had been of this caliber, then it might not have stagnated into the robotic technical phenomenon it later became.

Not that there is any shortage of technical skill to be found on 'Soulside Journey', where Fenriz's drumming in particular changes pattern nearly every second bar. But technicality in itself means nothing without atmosphere or emotional intensity, and the atmospheres of 'Soulside Journey' are still enticing today. Haunting, impressionist lyrics and cold, autumnal guitar elevates this far above the herd of 90s death metal, and points the way to the revolutionary black metal of their next album 'A Blaze in the Northern Sky'.


Soulside Journey
Soulside Journey
Price: £9.04

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A few things you should know about 'Soulside Journey', 20 Feb 2010
This review is from: Soulside Journey (Audio CD)
The first time I heard Darkthrone's debut album I felt I was "soaring through damp air", over old crypts and dolmen-studded hillsides. There was something mystical at work that distinguished it from the vast majority of death metal at the time. In the days when 'black metal' referred to lyrical content rather than a musical 'sound', Darkthrone were one of the few death metal bands with a spiritual imprint to their music. Even the song titles were mysterious and evocative: 'Sunrise Over Locus Mortis', 'Iconoclasm Sweeps Cappadocia', 'The Watchtower'. If more death metal had been of this caliber, then it might not have stagnated into the robotic technical phenomenon it later became.

Not that there is any shortage of technical skill to be found on 'Soulside Journey', where Fenriz's drumming in particular changes pattern nearly every second bar. But technicality in itself means nothing without atmosphere or emotional intensity, and the atmospheres of 'Soulside Journey' are still enticing today. Haunting, impressionist lyrics and cold, autumnal guitar elevates this far above the herd of 90s death metal, and points the way to the revolutionary black metal of their next album 'A Blaze in the Northern Sky'.


Blackadder 4 - Blackadder Goes Forth - The Entire Historic Fourth Series [1989] [DVD]
Blackadder 4 - Blackadder Goes Forth - The Entire Historic Fourth Series [1989] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Rowan Atkinson
Price: £9.99

12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A few things you should know about 'Blackadder Goes Forth', 19 Feb 2010
This is the last and greatest series of a brilliant British comedy. Set in the trenches of World War One, it features everything that made the first three seasons so great, but refines things to a new level of hilarity.

Nearly all the regular actors from earlier seasons crop up. Besides the obvious - Blackadder (now a Captain), and Baldrick (a private) - Melchett reappears as a General, and Tim McInnery who played Percy in the second series crops up as the obnoxious Captain Darling. Hugh Laurie reprises his role as the dimwitted George (now a Lieutenant) and is even funnier than in series three. Miranda Richardson plays a nurse, and even Rik Mayall makes a hilarious comeback as conceited fighter ace Lord Flashheart (with Adrian Edmundson playing his rival the Red Baron).

All the episodes are good, with standouts being 'Corporal Punishment', where Blackadder is court-martialled for shooting General Melchett's favourite pidgeon; 'Major Star', where George is convinced to go drag as the 'leading lady' in a variety show, which presents problems when the General develops a crush on him/her; and Private Plane, where the aforementioned Rik Mayall appears as the outrageous Lord Flashheart.

The final episode 'Goodbyeee' goes beyond comedy in its ending, giving a poignant reminder of the utter waste of World War One, a fratricidal conflict that should never have happened. Blackadder's character has developed to the point that, even though he is a selfish prick, we feel genuinely sorry for him when he is ordered 'over the top' by the bureaucrats in charge of the war.

'Blackadder Goes Forth' is the perfect ending to a classic comedy, which far from making fun of British and European history, actually pays tribute to it, and in a most entertaining way.


Grizzly Man [2005] [DVD]
Grizzly Man [2005] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Werner Herzog
Offered by Market garys Dvd's
Price: £7.90

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A few things you should know about 'Grizzly Man', 18 Feb 2010
This review is from: Grizzly Man [2005] [DVD] (DVD)
This is Werner Herzog's tribute to Timothy Treadwell, the grizzly bear enthusiast who was torn apart and eaten by the creatures he loved in 2003. It consists mainly of footage shot by Treadwell himself in the wilds of Alaska. The film can be very tense to watch, especially the scenes near the start where Treadwell is touching the bears, and you are constantly waiting for them to knock the camera from his hand and decapitate him.

In some ways Treadwell reminds of the late Steve Irwin, both in his manic demenaour, and the fact that he died at the hands of the wildlife he sought to protect. He also reminds slightly in his mannerisms of the comedic actor Jim Carrey, making the footage shot just hours before his death seem all the more eerie.

One friend of Treadwell's has criticised this documentary for portraying Treadwell as a man with a death wish, while not focussing on the fact that he spent 35,000 hours living in direct contact with the bears before he was finally killed - an amazing feat. But the film is actually fairly even handed, and interviews both Treadwell's admirers and his unsparing critics (including one man who claims "he got what he was asking for"). Herzog himself defends Treadwell not as an ecologist but as a filmmaker, and truly some of the footage he captured moves into the realm of art.

The difference between Herzog and Treadwell is that Treadwell saw bears as his 'friends', whereas Herzog looks into the bear's eyes and sees "only the vast indifference of nature." Neither is quite right in my opinion. Treadwell was wrong in thinking the bears would ever consider him one of their own, yet Herzog ignores the research showing that cats are capable of friendship, and that magpies lay wreathes for their dead. Konrad Lorenz wrote movingly about swans and geese, who mate for life and show clear signs of mourning when their partner dies.

Although man can never 'return to nature' like Treadwell wished, and although the human and natural world are separate in many ways, they still intersect and interact. Both are necessary. Nature is necessary to man, so that he may know himself. And man himself is necessary - to shine the light of consciousness into the dark unconscious that is nature.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 17, 2011 2:53 AM GMT


The Journal of a Ghosthunter: In Search of the Undead from Ireland to Transylvania
The Journal of a Ghosthunter: In Search of the Undead from Ireland to Transylvania
by Simon Marsden
Edition: Hardcover

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A few things you should know about 'Journal of a Ghosthunter', 17 Feb 2010
'Journal of a Ghosthunter' is surely one of the most beautiful photographic works ever published. Marsden expresses disdain for the materialist worldview in his introduction, announcing that his aim is to capture the spiritual in photographs. He writes: "The witches of old would sleep alone and naked in the depths of the dark forest, in the belief that by enduring this trial of fear, they would gain great power over other mere mortals." Marsden aims to replicate this stripping away of mundane reality in his photographic work, and succeeds uncannily.

The book is divided geographically into five sections, and each begins with suitable words by a poet from that particular land (e.g. Yeats for Ireland, Goethe for Germany...although Romania is represented by a quote from Bram Stoker's 'Dracula').

Marsden writes with poetic insight about each place he visits, and his writing and photography complement one another perfectly. From the Burren to the Pyrénées, from Versailles to Transylvania, Marsden takes us on a pilgrimage through the haunted soul of Europe.


Wagner's "Ring": Turning the Sky Around, An Introduction to The Ring of the Nibelung
Wagner's "Ring": Turning the Sky Around, An Introduction to The Ring of the Nibelung
by M. Owen Lee
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.72

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A few things you should know about 'Turning the Sky Round', 16 Feb 2010
This well known and fascinating little book by M. Owen Lee contains a wealth of thought-provoking insights into Wagner's 'Ring', perhaps the most monumental work of art in human history. As Lee observes, 'The Ring' uses "external nature to tell us about our inner selves...it takes place outside of time, in the human imagination and memory. On the landscape of your soul, as you listen." It is about evolution, writes Lee, but is "as far in advance of Darwin's theory than myth has always been in advance of science."

To give an example of Lee's insight, he points out the similarities between the opening scene of 'Das Rhinegold' and the 'Forest Murmurs' scene from 'Siegfried', with the forest taking the place of the water as a symbol of the unconscious. The song of the woodbird even echoes the same melody as that of the Rhine Maidens. I must have been blind not to see this before Lee pointed it out! It's so obvious!

Lee is to be congratulated for writing such a deep and philosophical, yet highly accessible book. From reading reviews of opera DVDs on Amazon, it would appear that most lovers of classical music these days no longer wish to understand music with their blood. To them it is just beautiful, highly sophisticated sound, but with no deeper meaning. Wagner would have despised these soulless cretins, or 'cultured philistines' as Nietzsche called them.

Although Lee's interpretation of Wagner becomes too 'psychological' at times, rather than spiritual (even stooping to Freudian theories in a couple of places), it IS fasincating to learn that Siegfried's maturation process matches EXACTLY the three archetypal forces Jung held that a male must face before achieving wholeness (i.e. the attainment of the Self - and after Siegfried has faced these forces, he must then confront Wotan, who tells him "I am your Self").

All of the musical Leitmotifs in the Ring can be divided into two categories: those connected with unconscious nature, and those connected with conscious man. The opening song of the Rhine maidens ("Weia, Waga! Woge du Welle," etc.) can be seen as a kind of 'baby talk', where consciousness arises from the depths and learns to order things for the first time. The Rhinegold itself is the light of consciousness, hidden in the dark waters of the unconscious. With the light of consciousness comes the free choice between what is good and what Father Lee calls 'evil', although Nietzscheans may prefer 'degenerative' or some similar word. Alberich "steals away the golden eye and uses it for evil", yet "a noble, unforgettable theme" sounds when he does so. Lee thinks this is because although "the wresting of consciousness from nature is associated with guilt, the step had to be taken if the human race was to break its bond with mothering nature, the bond that kept it unaware, unthinking, merely intuitive like the animals." This breaking away brought with it knowledge, but also the awareness of death.

In Lee's interpretation Wotan's sacrifice of an eye gives him perfect outward vision, but means he can't see inwardly into his own soul. This is where Brünnhilde comes in. The ending signifies "the transformation of Brünnhilde, Wotan's Wiile (will), into what the whole of Wagner's Ring is striving to create - a new world. It is Wotan's will that the world of Wille (will) be destroyed and transformed into something newer and purer."

The ending of the Ring is not a "return to the beginning", it is a transformation. If it was a return, then Wagner would have brought it back to its original key of E flat, but instead after "a series of awe-inspiring chord progressions", it ends in D flat. So the consciousness of Wotan yields to "the next evolutionary development in human nature." As to what that development will be, Lee's guess is as good as yours or mine.

No Wagnerian should miss out on this book, which also contains an annotated list of further reading, and transcriptions of the most significant musical motifs in the cycle.


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