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Mooch (Manchester, England)

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Terra Amata (Penguin Modern Classics)
Terra Amata (Penguin Modern Classics)
by J.M.G. Le Clézio
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.99

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The eternal novel, 21 May 2009
Just like the main character studying the insects in his childhood garden at the beginning of this book, Le Clezio here shows us a human life through a cosmic magnifying glass. Breathlessly written with passion and excitement, this novel is basically a series of short impressions from different stages of one ordinary man's ordinary existence. The author very effectively conveys the insignificance of one man-animal in the grand scheme of things, while writing with powerful lust-for-life feeling straight from the beating heart of his avatar. It's not one to go for if you don't like to risk things being pretentious - it might be said to be "very French" - but I loved it and now I'm dying to read more by him. So to speak.

Up a Tree in the Park at Night with a Hedgehog
Up a Tree in the Park at Night with a Hedgehog
by Paul Robert Smith
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Waste of time, 20 May 2009
Attractive cover art and an emphatic endorsement from Douglas Coupland led me to giving this one a go. It was an utter waste of time. Luckily not much time, as it fair breezes by - very simply written and even shorter than it looks through being padded out generously by paragraph breaks. I didn't think it was offensively bad and I could see my 14 year old self liking it - it might also be ok if you are on a journey and feeling unable to concentrate on something more consequential. But then I didn't have to shell out £8 for it. Basically in a nutshell it reads like the author made it all up on the spot, has no particular talent for writing and took little more time over it than it takes to read the thing. It manages to almost think about threatening to face less than 180 degress away from the direction of vaguely not unhumorous once or twice, but most of the time the jokes are very lame shtick, very old hat. Having said that, there is something sort of likeable - well, perhaps "harmless" is the better word - about it. It's just a bit baffling why it exists.

Synecdoche, New York [DVD] [2008]
Synecdoche, New York [DVD] [2008]
Dvd ~ Philip Seymour Hoffman
Offered by Digizoneuk
Price: £19.98

40 of 52 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The end of Charlie Kaufman., 16 May 2009
This movie is insane. More insane than usual, more insane than you would expect or imagine. It is properly insane. Certainly do not ever think about watching this if you can't hack strange films - this is simply nothing to do with normal. Some people will "love" it because they are pseuds, some people will hate it because, reasonably enough, they have some basic requirements of each film they watch - such as it being comprehensible, categorisable and entertaining - lots of other people will love or hate it for every reason under the sun. To be honest the act of recommemding it is laughable.

What I love about it is that this movie is the raw feed. The original, unexpurgated data stream from a creative lunatic. It would be correct to say that it is indulgent, over-long, flabby, in need of a brutal editor/director/someone to act as a counterbalancing force to reign in Charlie Kaufman's excesses, but that would be to judge this work on conventional terms when the pleasure of it is in its unconventionality, that very excess; just revel in the breathtaking ambition/madness that has somehow, invigoratingly, been allowed to take full form. It is beautifully crazy that this exists and it represents the full-stop at the end of Charlie Kaufman.

It reminds me of Peter Biskind's book Easy Riders, Raging Bulls about buzz directors in the Seventies being given carte-blanche for a tiny window of time after their initial success and how many of them blew it extravagantly. Since reading that book I've been intrigued about (but still know little about) Dennis Hopper's The Last Movie, imagining what a film called The Last Movie might be like. What an apt title for Synecdoche, New York that would have been. Just as the film revolves around Caden Cotard (Philip Seymour Hoffman) receiving a "genius grant" to mount his life's great work, Kaufman's kudos, buzz and oscar have afforded him one opportunity to do whatever he wants, and has taken it. This film is the total, full-on, utterly gone-for-it culmination of the Charlie Kaufman project. He will surely never be able to tackle topics and themes bigger - or more grandly - than he does here. Life, love, death, art; He's not holding anything back for the next one, it's like those insects that die at the climax of sex; it's the end. To plenty of people too it will represent Kaufman getting lost up his own end. His career from this point will likely diminsh - a $3 million US box office from a $21 million budget will undoubtedly mean that his visions are not given this kind of freedom in the future. It's Kaufman's Gate.

I guess I haven't said anything about what happens in the film or anything specific about what it is like. But I'm not sure what you would really want or need to know beyond the fact that you should steer well clear if you don't like weird. "Insanity; did Caden Cotard a state-sized miserydome decree..." I'm sure you know the story outline if you are this far down the Amazon page. It is frequently hilarious, frequently depressing, always disturbing, possessed by nightmarish images; characters; moments; like fever-dreams directly spliced into the reels: a terrifying therapist, bizarre German interludes, the entire end sequence etc etc. How he got such fine actors to play these hallucinatory scenes (and in various states of heavy make-up or undress) is anyone's guess. It is Bunuel's Phantom of Liberty & Discreet Charm of the Borgeousie & Lynch's INLAND EMPIRE gothically rolled into one and smoked by Jorge Luis Borges. The whole film is like watching one of those bits in a movie where the evil shape-shifting demon dies and in its throes it manifests all the various guises from its subconscious. All the world's a stage, the play's The Thing.

It is one of those fertile films that gives you a mountain of ideas and leaves you with a dense mass of questions, big and small. What of the lack of an audience for Caden's play? Is the guy who has been "following" Caden meant to represent Kaufman's imitators? The movie seems ruthlessly to take the piss out of creative people - does he hate actors? He seems to ignore writers - but is it all in fact about writing, a post-modern Tempest? The house that is permanently on fire: suggesting Caden's own life is a play directed by someone else and staged on a set?; Meant to denote an irreverent attitude to cinematic "reality"?; Supposed to be an in-joke about the cinematography in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind?; Satire of consumerism? Just being silly?

It is yet another Philip Seymour Hoffman film that makes me want to eat more fruit and this time I think I might.

Also, one of the lessons this film tries to teach is probably to spend less time writing or reading these reviews.
Comment Comments (6) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 19, 2010 11:04 PM BST

State Of Play [DVD]
State Of Play [DVD]
Dvd ~ Russell Crowe
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £2.74

22 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Worthy Addition To The Newspaper-Movie Canon, 27 April 2009
This review is from: State Of Play [DVD] (DVD)
At the time of writing there are 2 reviews of this film posted here, a 1-star and a 2-star. I must protest! I loved this movie. I found it to be that rarity: a wholly satisfying grown-up thriller. The story moves along at a fair clip, the characters are highly likeable (whilst having more in common with real people than the usual movie types), the acting is good all round and the cinematography is beautifully effective - grimy streets, austere corridors of power and lots of deep, dark blacks like it's a lost 70s Gordon Willis paranoia film. I haven't seen the original series yet, didn't like the director's last film, thought the trailer looked rubbish and don't usually like Russell Crowe but I came out of the theatre thinking this is one of the best 2 films of the year so far (okay, we're only 4 months in at this point but I'm including all those oscar films from Jan/Feb). For me, amidst all the intrigue, suspense and bursts of action, it is the surprisingly likeable, laid-back Crowe performance coupled with the seductive, romantic portrayal of classic journalism that truly makes this film. State Of Play deserves a place in the canon of great newspaperman noir thrillers - it's not quite up there with All The President's Men or Zodiac, but it comfortably holds its own alongside The Parallax View (overrated), Foreign Correspondent (ditto), Capricorn One, Call Northside 777 and The Paper (a very underrated film in my opinion).

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