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Reviews Written by
KaleHawkwood (York UK)

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Dvd ~ Margaret Sullavan
Offered by sodamifeel_DVD
Price: £4.45

5.0 out of 5 stars A small bittersweet masterpiece, 11 Feb. 2016
Hollywood had, and has, many faults (eg. why did Carty Grant or Robert Mitchum never win an acting Oscar?) but they got it right so many times, and seldom so right as here.
This is a gem, a little masterpiece that masquerades as a comedy set in and around a Budapest shop, but contains real pain and real people.
Stewart is on peak form, Margaret Sullavan is just perfect. The supporting cast, including Frank Morgan - the Wizard of Oz himself! - as the shop owner, are never merely support, but add immeasurably to the charm and wonder of this miraculous marvel by director Ernst Lubitsch - his famed 'touch' working its magic on overtime.
Made in 1940, though with a distinctly thirties feel, this is one of the delights of 'Golden Age' Hollywood cinema for the people. Everyone should see it at least twice - once to see it, another time to revel in it. Then watch it weave its spell again and again...


Room [DVD] [2016]
Room [DVD] [2016]
Dvd ~ Brie Larson
Price: £9.99

5.0 out of 5 stars The world inside, 10 Feb. 2016
This review is from: Room [DVD] [2016] (DVD)
At the heart of this near-perfect drama is a performance by Jacob Tremblay, who was all of six when he made it, that beggars belief. These days, child actors tend to be much better than they once were (whether we're talking about Freddie Bartholomew or Ron Howard) but this is something else again.
He plays Jack, son of a woman we only know as Ma. They are kept hostage in 'Room' (never a/the room) by a man who brings them the bare necessities, and has his way with Jack's ma whenever he likes. Remind you of anything...?
The first section of this tremendously good film shows their life in Room, in minute and endlessly fascinating, if horrifying, detail. The remarkable editing by Nathan Nugent and photography by Danny Cohen, and of course Lenny Abrahamson's alert direction, are worth the awards I hope they reap.
The unintrusive music by Stephen Rennicks is exactly right too.
Brie Larson (whom I freely admit I'd barely heard of a few months ago) is stunning as Ma, matching her young co-star moment for moment, but it's really the interaction throughout between Larson/Ma and Tremblay/Jack that is so affecting, moving, and at times heartbreaking.
Other roles - Ma's mother, her estranged father (his odd behaviour never really explained, unless I missed something), and her mother's new husband Leo, are all superbly acted, by Joan Allen, William H. Macy, and Tom McCamus. And Sean Bridgers as the dour, shadowy 'Old Nick' who keeps them hostage hits just the right note.
I didn't know what to expect with this film, unprepared to be so affected, and so riveted. I hadn't read the novel by Emma Donoghue from which she has herself expertly adapted the screenplay, and I'm very glad I didn't know what would happen to these two sad, ill-used people, a mother and her beloved, infinitely lovable son.
Some of the most moving scenes are when Jack (who also acts as our narrator at times) is simply naming the things he can see in Room, knowing nothing of a world outside, only inside himself and their small Room-world.

A wonderful film, lovingly made. Do see it.

Thea Musgrave - Turbulent Landscapes
Thea Musgrave - Turbulent Landscapes
Price: £13.78

5.0 out of 5 stars A Musgrave medley, 9 Feb. 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I bought this purely on the strength of hearing one day, on Radio 3, Lisa Milne's singing of Thea Musgrave's settings of poems by Burns, Songs For a Winter's Evening. The soprano sings with such impassioned beauty of tone that I was almost overwhelmed. I had to have this disc.
Fortunately, it also includes her titular tone poems inspired by six Turner paintings (why has no composer thought of this before?) which slip down painlessly, and Two's Company, a three-movement duo for percussion and oboe - oh, happy combination - performed by the great Evelyn Glennie and oboist Nicholas Daniel.
The two conductors are Osmo Vanska (the Turner and Burns) and Jiri Belohlavek (for Two's Company). You may need to turn up the volume a little, since all the music is recorded rather quietly, but once you do, I'm confident you'll be playing this hugely enjoyable 2009 live Proms recording many times.
I wish I'd heard more of this very likable composer much earlier. Her music deserves to be heard and admired more than it is.
The booklet contains full notes, track listings, and artist biographies.


The Soul of the Orient
The Soul of the Orient
Offered by SKYETORI
Price: £8.33

4.0 out of 5 stars Japan, ancient & modern, 9 Feb. 2016
This review is from: The Soul of the Orient (Audio CD)
This is advertised - above and on the CD itself - as 'Tranquil Japanese music'. It's a disingenuous claim at best, since at least one or two of the tracks are not remotely tranquil. Try track 6, featuring a gagaku orchestra on a fascinatingly modernistic piece called Gosharaku - from the 17th century! I think it's terrific, stirring and relentless, but it sure isn't serene or tranquil.
The recordings are superb, the sound always clear, allowing these distinctive instruments to shine. Mostly we hear the 13-stringed koto (a sound I've always loved), the three-stringed shamisen, and flutes, with an occasional gong, and brief singing on one track.
The music itself is sometimes very lovely, occasionally abrasive (see track 6!) and often intricate. Some pieces are devotional, others describing the natural world - like so much Japanese poetry tends to do.
All in all, I enjoy each of these nine numbers on their own terms, tranquil or otherwise.
Sonically & musically an easy five stars, but docked one for somewhat inaccurate content description!


Woman Of The Dunes [1964] [DVD]
Woman Of The Dunes [1964] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Hiroshi Teshigahara
Offered by Home Entertainment Online
Price: £6.84

5.0 out of 5 stars Falling into sand, 9 Feb. 2016
I'd waited years to see this famous Japanese film by Teshigahara from 1964, and I am so glad to have finally experienced a cinematic marvel that is like no other before or since.
I was expecting an oblique, non-linear, perhaps tough-going art film, but it's really none of those things. It tells an admittedly strange story, but one that engages and enthrals from the first shots of teacher and entomologist Junpei Niki (Eiji Okada, superb) wandering in vast dunes looking for insects, to the last unexpected scene of serene acceptance over two hours later.
He's abducted by a gang of 'villagers' (this is like no village you've ever seen) and deposited in a deep dune where there is a small sand-enclosed hut in which lives a young widow. The latter is played by Kyoko Kishida in a performance of such sly, subtle brilliance that it's easy to forget she's acting. She affects to be shy, elusive, fatalistic, but we see her change as the film develops, and her relationship with the frustrated, frequently enraged man - who had literally just dropped in, after all - becomes more physical. The sexual scenes are incredible. Bodies become deserts, a tender body-wash becomes something more...nothing is explicit, but it's startlingly erotic just the same.
The direction and photography - in beautiful black & white - are an astonishing achievement, with even the blatant symbolism of sliding sands or shaking sand-hills blending in with the whole, never seeming too obvious or hackneyed. All concerned rarely put a foot wrong, save perhaps in an extended 'rape' scene which, arguably, doesn't quite come off. However, this is a minor quibble in a film which repays more than one viewing, and will probably haunt you forever.
{NB. I have reviewed the BFI edition, which is the full 141-min version.}

A masterpiece.


5.0 out of 5 stars Trusting the breeze, 7 Feb. 2016
This review is from: 1/2 (Audio CD)
This is worth pretty much what anyone's asking for it, being the original 1995 CD release of Tim Hardin's first two - and easily best - LPs for the Verve label, which he recorded in 1966/67.
The fact that I tend to skip the two or three rather forgettable, throwaway r'nb tracks shouldn't detract from the utter shimmering, agonised beauty of the rest of these unique songs. (Leonard Cohen even mentions Tim by name in an early poem.)
On both 1 & 2 are songs so tenderly lovely as to beggar belief that they are not far better known. A few of them have been recorded by other artists, most notably Bobby Darin (an early champion/copier), Scott Walker (some decent versions of key songs such as Black Sheep Boy and Lady Came From Baltimore), Rod Stewart (his good, if unsubtle, Reason to Believe), and many others, his rueful song Misty Roses being a favourite of some jazz singers. Tim did them all definitively - after all, he wrote them.
Favourites of mine are the opener Don't Make Promises, the gorgeous It'll Never Happen Again, the wonderful Never Too Far and Part of the Wind, the delicately sad Hang On To a Dream, the sensitively orchestrated Black Sheep Boy, and the musically inspired It's Hard to Believe in Love For Long.
If I Were a Carpenter is his most famous song, and his own version eclipses all others. It's an enigmatic number, but then most of Tim's songs have an oblique aura about them, which is a large part of their charm.
Few of these songs last more than two to two-and-a-half minutes, some barely grazing even that. Hardin liked to record quickly, and not outstay his welcome. He certainly leaves you wanting more.
In truth, this represents the best of Tim Hardin, his drug addictions and personal quirks later getting the better of him too much and too often. But if I'd written only half a dozen of these miraculous songs I'd be over the moon.

Fortune falling with my heart
Luck be trusted in time
Trusting the breeze to be mine
Hoping you will be part of the wind

Price: £17.91

5.0 out of 5 stars A spreading smile, 6 Feb. 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Smile (Audio CD)
This one from the late great Laura Nyro took a while to get to me, but when it did I smiled too.
It's far less overtly dramatic and dynamic than the early albums that made her name, with a more relaxed groove, and an appropriately sunnier feel. It was recorded in 1976 after Gonna Take a Miracle, and before Nested and her final two albums, before her sad death in 1997 at the far too early age of 49.
One highlight for me is the six-minute I Am the Blues, a song that I didn't want to end. Another in a similar vein, at half the length, is the evocative Midnight Blue:

Smile all you want but you know
That I'm fine in the warm hands of
Midnight blue

The title track is lovely, with Japanese koto helping to flesh out a lightly lush musical landscape, including George Young (of the Manhattan Jazz Quintet) on eloquent flute and sax.
The extra, pared down demo tracks are a welcome addition to an all too brief album.
On the first few hearings I would have given this four stars at most, but now I find I love it the more I listen to it. It may not have the immediacy and drama of New York Tendaberry or Christmas and the Beads of Sweat, but instead it has a shimmering, delicate beauty all its own that grows on you like soft dew-flecked moss on the roots of an old tree...


The Jimmy Giuffre Clarinet
The Jimmy Giuffre Clarinet
Price: £5.67

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Permutations, 5 Feb. 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Texan-born multi-reed musician Jimmy Giuffre (pronounced something like Juffrey) died in 2008 two days short of his 87th birthday, and this sublimely beautiful album was recorded in 1956 when he was 34. It's ageless, timeless music.
He'd gathered together a selection of jazz musicians, with whom he plays each of these eight numbers in different permutations, with himself on clarinet throughout.
The fellow musicians include Harry 'Sweets' Edison, Shorty Rogers, Bob Cooper, Buddy Collette, Bud Shank, Jimmy Rowles, Ralph Pena, and Shelly Manne.
I was alerted to this wonderful record by hearing The Sheepherder - a lovely blend of Giuffre & Collette on bass and alto clarinets and Henry Klee on bass flute - on a Radio 3 jazz programme. (Why did I have to chance hearing it played once in a blue moon on a specialist radio show? But that's another story, and another sticking point.) All these tracks reward the listener who's got an ear and a heart for lyrical but unsentimental jazz. A trio of standards are given the once-over: Deep Purple, My Funny Valentine, and Fascinatin' Rhythm. They meld easily with the remaining Giuffre compositions. At times, for example on My Funny Valentine, the group's textures approach that of chamber music - which of course is exactly what this is.
The recording is excellent, all play empathetically, and I can truthfully say that this is a gem in my now extensive collection of jazz CDs. I play it often, it can be both soothing and uplifting, or both.

Happily recommended.

I'm Gonna Be A Country Girl Again
I'm Gonna Be A Country Girl Again
Price: £8.97

5.0 out of 5 stars A soulful shade of blue, 3 Feb. 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Buffy has had an odd assortment of singers cover her songs, from the many who recorded Until It's Time For You To Go to Donovan's big hit with Universal Soldier, and the Indigo Girls' version of Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. But one of the strangest is, with a change of gender, Noel "Windmills of Your Mind" Harrison's politely wooden reading of the title track of this fifth album by Buffy, made in 1968. Her original is celebratory, upbeat, informal, a coming home to country roots.
Unlike her previous four LPs, most of the songs are by Buffy, save two traditional romps, Uncle Joe and They Gotta Quit Kickin' My Dawg. There are also new versions of three of her classic songs, the angry Now That the Buffalo's Gone, and a lovely flowing Sometimes When I Get To Thinkin', perhaps even better than the earlier version two albums back. I didn't need a new Piney Wood Hills, since the original from Many a Mile is unimprovable, but it fits into the country mode of this album like a glove.
The brand new songs are a delight.
He's a Pretty Good Man If You Ask Me is one of Buffy's happy love songs (she was recently married to her surfer boy) as is the gorgeous Soulful Shade of Blue - describing a dress - which she sings beautifully. Just listen to her voice at the end, rising into the air...

Make it a soulful shade of blue with a ribbon at the hem
A ribbon white for loyalty to show that I remember when
A soulful shade of blue looked into my eyes
And tell him, I want him back again

It's one of Buffy's sweetest and most disarming songs.
The Love of a Good Man is another loved-up number, and there's an astonishing, haunting song of the kind this unique singer often lays on her unsuspecting listeners, called Tall Trees in Georgia, underscored by a brooding rhythm guitar. It's a virtuoso performance of a stunning song.
Buffy went to - where else? - Nashville for this one, and so we get the great Floyd Cramer on typically tasteful piano, as well as other musical veterans of the city, plus the Jordanaires, on loan from Elvis - and they really are a plus.
Her next album was the equally wondrous, though very different She Used to Wanna Be a Ballerina (on which she happily discovered Cohen and Neil Young) but this was and is a gentle detour into a style of music she loved and took to with evident ease.

Oh yes, I'm gonna be a country girl again
With an old brown dog and a big front porch and rabbits in the pen
I tell you, all the lights on Broadway
Don't amount to an acre of green
Yes, I'm gonna be a country girl again

Fire & Fleet & Candlelight
Fire & Fleet & Candlelight
Price: £9.32

5.0 out of 5 stars Your lips will know my songs, 3 Feb. 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Exactly half of these tracks are Buffy originals, the rest are either traditional or versions of songs by Joni Mitchell, two of them in fact - The Circle Game given an upbeat slant, and Song to a Seagull a more dramatic reading. Both are equal to the precise brilliance of Joni's songwriting genius.
But what of Buffy's? I love the way she would place her own compositions among traditional songs and the occasional contemporary cover.
Summer Boy, The Carousel, and Hey Little Bird are three of her happiest songs, while The Wedding Song is a tender, hopeful betrothal in words.
The boisterous, sexy 97 Men in This Here Town...opens what would have been Side Two of this wonderful album, followed by her devastating reading of the old song Lord Randall. Her hair-raising versions of Reynardine (with only her own mouthbow accompaniment) and the shiveringly haunting Lake Wyke Dirge are unforgettable.
Almost as a bonus there's her most famous song Until It's Time For You To Go in French, as T'es Pas Un Autre.
After her first three more obviously folky - though no less musically and vocally radical - LPs, this one from 1967 heard Buffy branching out, with more confidence and a spring in her step. By now she was in love with a surfer, married him in '68 - hence The Wedding Song - and wrote a sunlit song about him simply called The Surfer, which appeared on her next album but one.
I can think of few sixties singers whose early albums were so full of originality and promise and who just got better and better. This great lady is still singing up a storm - her voice even more tremulous, though no less vibrant, with age - and it's so good to have her whole back catalogue now on CD. This is one of the best of them.

And my smile will know your joy, my love
And my eyes will know your tears
And your name through my heart will throb
And your life through my years

And my lips will know your songs, my love
And your hands will know my fire
And my need in your strength will dwell
And my sleep within your sigh

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