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KaleHawkwood (York UK)

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Carol [DVD]
Carol [DVD]
Dvd ~ Cate Blanchett
Price: £19.41

5.0 out of 5 stars Love of a woman, 27 Nov. 2015
This review is from: Carol [DVD] (DVD)
If you're casting the powerful dynamo that is Cate Blanchett in your movie, then you need to surround her with actors who'll match her and not let her act you off the screen. Woody Allen knew it - allowing Sally Hawkins and Bobby Cannavale to give the performances of their careers opposite CB in Blue Jasmine - as, quite obviously, did Todd Haynes when he assembled the cast for this adaptation of Patricia Highsmith's semi-autobiographical novel The Price of Salt.
Rooney Mara as Carol's enamorata Therese is astonishing (it was she, not CB, who won Best Actress at Cannes) and Kyle Chandler as Carol's oddly named husband Harge is brilliant too. CB has an uncanny ability to play characters that you don't much like half the time, but root for all the same. Her Carol is an rather snobby upper-class woman 'with a past' along with an estranged husband and an adored little daughter. When she and Therese meet, in the department store where the latter works at the toy counter, it seems to be love - with a dash of lust - at first sight. Carol has previous form (hence the disgruntled husband) but for Therese dormant feelings are awakened - and that's about all I should divulge of the plot, such as it is.
What begins as a love story between an older and a younger woman takes to the road, all of it photographed with a claustrophobic sense of fate being tempted, and with a subtle attention to detail, in particular the faces of the two central characters.
I must mention here Rooney Mara's face: she not only has lovely eyes but they can gaze and stare in the most insinuating fashion, while her mouth is like that of no other actress I can think of - not quite a pout, more of a natural expressiveness of the lips that is both hypnotic and unnerving. With the right roles, Mara will amaze us more the older she gets.
A word about Sarah Paulson as Carol's long-time friend Abby. This is a superb supporting performance, full of delicate grace notes, and I hope she gets an Oscar nomination in that category, as I'm confident Blanchett & Mara will in theirs.
Blanchett is pitch-perfect as the Manhattan woman-about-town who is at once protective and also faintly manipulative of Therese. She's like - ooh, a lipsticked giraffe nuzzling a bushbaby? All angles and severe curves. Mara's Therese is a softer creature, though with steel of her own. You get the feeling, dependent as she is, that she'd make out all right.
Blanchett is mesmerising in a late scene in a lawyer's office, proving, as if it needed proof, what a stunning actress she truly is.
Todd Haynes directed the wonderful Far From Heaven, with Julianne Moore married to tortured gay husband Dennis Quaid, and here he gives us an honest, dignified, unapologetic tale of love between women in fifties New York, with its dangers and decorum, though on the verge of a more liberated decade.
There are times when it all 'looks like a film' rather than real life, but this is a mere quibble, and Todd Haynes is a very cinematically aware director, who likes his films to look their best while telling these tales of an earlier, more 'innocent' era in America's history.
The love scenes pack an erotic charge - as does much of the film - without being all that explicit, which I consider another achievement of this long overdue movie.
There's love, pain, desire, fear, longing, rage, duplicity and fallibility here - just like life, in fact.

Highly recommended.

Birthday Girl [DVD] [2002]
Birthday Girl [DVD] [2002]
Dvd ~ Nicole Kidman
Price: £2.67

3.0 out of 5 stars All tied up, 26 Nov. 2015
This review is from: Birthday Girl [DVD] [2002] (DVD)
There's so much to like about this otherwise slight tale of Russian mail-order bride 'Nadia' (Kidman) arriving at the suburban house of bank clerk John (Chaplin) where she quickly shows him many delights and wins him over - which is of course exactly what she wants, for purposes which I won't divulge.
Kidman is wonderful, and very believable as the young opportunistic Russian woman - vulnerable one moment, voracious the next, sweet and innocent yet impulsive and impish when necessary. She's almost matched by Ben Chaplin, who's always good at wide-eyed surprise hiding a less than innocent inner life.
There are two other pivotal performances by Vincent Cassel (at his threatening best) and Mattieu Kassovitz, as Nadia's 'friend' and cousin, who are obviously up to no good...
Made in 2001, this was Jez Butterworth's second (and so far most recent) film, and is a qualified success. Too many scenes seem to fizzle out, and there are a few too many irrelevant cameos from the likes of Stephen Mangan, Alexander Armstrong, and the League of Gentlemen trio, so that it becomes too much like a 'jobs-for-the-boys' British romp at times. But Kidman is its concentrated centre, and she shows why she is still one of contemporary cinema's most intriguing and unpredictable actresses. Her Russian accent is virtually impeccable, her every expression and gesture credible and underplayed to just the right extent. There is another, deeper film to be made about Nadia.
There are touching scenes, sexy ones, scary ones, and somewhat silly ones, but overall this is at least something a bit different, with a central cast you couldn't make up.

Anyway, you need to watch it if only to find out Nadia's real name...

Mr. Love Pants
Mr. Love Pants
Price: £9.57

5.0 out of 5 stars Mash it up Ian, 26 Nov. 2015
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This review is from: Mr. Love Pants (Audio CD)
I love this 1998 album as much if not more than any other by the much-missed Ian Dury, a lyricist of genius who had a band as good as any around at the time.
There's a tropical feel to some of this one, for example the mid-tempo Honeysuckle Highway, during which I can imagine girls in grass skirts sultrily swaying. The words are brilliant and often hilarious:

You wore a bandana, I wore navy blue
We met in Havana at quarter past two
Across the savannah and down to the beach
You munched a banana, I nibbled a peach

You played a small solo, I muffled a drum
You offered a polo, I stuck with my gum
I danced a light polka, you threw a few hoops
I was Oscar Homolka, you were Marjorie Proops


The colourfully titled opener is a typical Dury virtuoso lyrical tour de force, with sundry Blockheads exchanging the ruefully angry lines with him.
Mash it Up Harry, the last track (or is it? Arf Arf!) manages to be both touching and rousing, and a perfect way to end this marvellous album.
The rest of it is a joy. If you love this unique, unlikely man, and you haven't heard this late entry in the Dury/Blockheads saga, do not hesitate.


Handel: Belshazzar (Les Arts Florissants/Christie)
Handel: Belshazzar (Les Arts Florissants/Christie)
Price: £28.00

5.0 out of 5 stars The writing on the wall, 26 Nov. 2015
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Recorded in 2013, on their own label, by the impeccable Les Arts Florissants under their visionary France-based American conductor William Christie, with an intriguing cast, this is a near-perfect three-disc reading of Handel's beautiful oratorio.
For me, Rosemary Joshua is almost a guarantee of quality, and she shines here as the title character's mother Nitocris. (Handel's excellent librettist Charles Jennens used not only the biblical story in the book of Daniel, but also plundered Herodotus to eke out the tale and its background.)
Counter-tenor Iestyn Davies is suitably smooth-toned as Daniel, with Allan Clayton superbly insightful as Belshazzar. The choral passages are gloriously sung and the playing is as sensitive and subtle as most recordings from this source.
I thought Caitlin Hulcup, the Australian mezzo, starts off rather underpowered as Cyrus, as if the musicians are drowning out her not particularly forceful voice, and I wasn't too sure either about the bass of Jonathan Lemalu as Gobrias, which sounds at first slightly uncertain and fails to make its mark as it should. However, these quibbles faded into irrelevance the more I listened, since this cast really do sound like a team - Christie must be an inspiring conductor. In the end, all are singing wonderfully, despite any 'false starts'.
The packaging, including two booklets of various notes, photos, biographies and synopsis, is exemplary, and is worth an extra star in itself.
I do have Handel recordings by other forces, but I often find myself plumping for Christie and his hand-picked Arts Florissants, whose performances seem to have something extra that others miss: not too 'period' and not at all heavy or old-fashioned, with the singers given plenty of breathing-space, as it were, to flourish and give of their best.

Highly recommended.


5.0 out of 5 stars Unravelling, 21 Nov. 2015
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This review is from: Homogenic (Audio CD)
This is the kind of Bjork I love and revere most. Ethereal yet passionate, using electronic programming creatively rather than to supply a droning metronomic beat, building a world that's strange but oddly welcoming, with Bjork's customary sense of playfulness.
Homogenic is a set of songs to listen to in one go, allowing the music to envelop and caress you.
If Bjork didn't exist, it would have been essential to invent her - from the boilings of an Icelandic geyser, a field of deep white snow, and a vast starlit sky.

One of Bjork's best.

Tivoli Gardens
Tivoli Gardens
Price: £15.82

5.0 out of 5 stars There was a Frenchman, an American & a Dane, 16 Nov. 2015
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This review is from: Tivoli Gardens (Audio CD)
There are few more uplifting musical sounds than the great Stefane Grappelli on form, with or without his old sparring partner Django. Well, by the time he recorded this joyous live album from Copenhagen's Tivoli Gardens in 1979, Django was long dead, and his sidekicks were two of the best: bassist Niels-Henning Orsted Pederson and guitar veteran Joe Pass.
Pederson plays a muscular, plucky bass, and there are some tasty, nicely bluesy solos from Pass - try How Deep Is The Ocean, on which these two really shine.
The rest of the time Grappelli plays fast and loose with one's expectations to produce sounds and sliding notes that seem to defy gravity, as it were. For example, following the lovely intro by Pass on I'll Remember April, he plays an improvisatory solo that has a bittersweet Central European tang to it, then we're into the number proper, as things get very uptempo.
The remastered recording is excellent, and I only wish I could have been there that summer evening in wonderful Copenhagen to hear this beautifully matched trio playing around with these five standards.


Leave Her To Heaven [DVD]
Leave Her To Heaven [DVD]
Dvd ~ Cornel Wilde

5.0 out of 5 stars Daddy's girl, 13 Nov. 2015
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This review is from: Leave Her To Heaven [DVD] (DVD)
Although Leon Shamroy won a deserved Oscar for his cinematography, let's not forget that the divine Gene Tierney was nominated too for her pitiable father-fixated young woman whom Cornel Wilde happens to meet on a train. She's reading a book he's written, they fall in love - or at least appear to, since little can be taken for granted in this almost uncategorisable 1945 drama, a kind of al fresco film noir, despite its briskly bright colours. In truth, it's more like one of those fifties melodramas that used to star Liz Taylor or Kim Novak.
What starts out as a slightly tense romance gradually becomes darker, even as the colour photography remains as bright as day. Locations change giddyingly (and sometimes confusingly, it must be said) between New Mexico, an interlude in Georgia, and the hero's large cabin on a lake in Maine.
Remember that lake: it has depths, and plays a pivotal part in proceedings.
Gene Tierney actively sought the role of troubled, selfish Ellen - which says a lot for her willingness to experiment and play diverse parts in her fascinating, if fairly brief, career. She's terrific, almost matched by a selfless, sincere performance by cartoonishly handsome Cornel Wilde as Richard, the writer who falls under her spell.
Vincent Price (who wouldn't quite relax on film until he met Roger Corman fifteen years later) is dynamic as Ellen's ex-lawyer-beau, the rarely seen Mary Phillips (once married to Bogart!) is very effective as Ellen's adoptive mother, and Jeanne Crain nicely understated as her younger sister, who comes to play an important part in the drama as it unfolds.
Even though this is in its way a pretty shocking tale, director John M. Stahl never hurries anything, giving characters and events time to develop, while we watch in mounting concern and nail-biting tension as the reality of what's really happening dawns on us. (I envy anyone seeing this for the first time.) In fact, Douglas Sirk could have directed it, though he would no doubt have given it a more cynical edge.
Gene Tierney has too often, despite the justifiably iconic Laura, been neglected when we talk of the great actresses of her era (the forties into the fifties) but I for one rarely tire of her subtly shaded, honest portrayals in films such as this, Laura, Where the Sidewalk Ends, or later The Ghost and Mrs Muir, for example, or Advise and Consent. She was a class act.
But this was arguably her best and most radical role. I wonder how Ellen would have got on with Laura...

A superb film, unmissable.

Brooklyn [DVD]
Brooklyn [DVD]
Dvd ~ Saoirse Ronan
Price: £9.99

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Atlantic crossings, 11 Nov. 2015
This review is from: Brooklyn [DVD] (DVD)
At least one critic has pointed out that this is that rare thing, a film in which almost all the characters are basically decent and good. But don't get the idea that, as a movie, it's a pushover, or yet another English (or in this case Irish) heritage 'feelgood' wallow - though, unless you've a heart of stone, you're going to need a good few tissues.
With her face like a wild young sea-bird, Saoirse Ronan is utterly perfect as tender-tough Ellis Lacey, a girl whose personal horizons stretch further than the small town in early fifties Ireland in which she lives and has begun to suffocate. So she emigrates to the States, where she lodges with a good-hearted if necessarily strict Irish landlady Mrs Kehoe (played with wit and sharp precision by Julie Walters, in one of her least overbearing roles for years) and her fellow emigrees, a clutch of funny, waspish girls who are either man-hungry or plain and stolidly religious.
The inevitable happens and she meets an American guy - in fact an Italian-American - personified by Emory Cohen (an actor new to me) in an almost James Dean style, which in fact works well, particularly playing off Ronan's often quite deadpan style - though this wonderful actress, so good in/as Hanna, can and does make the slightest expression or gesture speak volumes.
Matters come to a head, as they must, and she returns home to Ireland...and more of the plot I dare not divulge, other than that she has a seemingly very difficult choice to make.
Busy actor Domhnall Gleeson (unrecognisable from his psychopathic prisoner in Calvary) is excellent as her Irish suitor, Brid Brennan sharply cutting as her early employer, and good old Jim Broadbent crops up effectively in a few scenes as her local Stateside Irish priest.
This near-perfect film is indeed a rare thing, and packs a quiet punch while smiling through its tears - and mine, I don't mind admitting. It's already won a handful of awards, and I'd be amazed if it doesn't win a few of the Big Ones in the new year - for director John Crowley, Nick Hornby's sensitive adaptation of Colm Toibin's beautifully written novel, and especially for the luminous Saoirse Ronan, who is the heart and soul it all. (She's playing Nina in a new film of The Seagull next, opposite Annette Bening and Brian Dennehy, so there's no stopping the girl!)
Do see it.

A beautiful, genuinely moving film.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 13, 2015 11:08 AM GMT

Holiday [DVD]
Holiday [DVD]
Dvd ~ Cary Grant
Offered by babsbargains *** WORLDWIDE SHIPPING ***
Price: £18.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Up in the games room, 10 Nov. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Holiday [DVD] (DVD)
As film critic supreme David Thomson has pointed out, Cary Grant was always a more inspiring co-star for Katharine Hepburn than Spencer Tracy was. They'd made the classic Bringing Up Baby, went on to star in the immortal The Philadelphia Story (as Thomson says: 'the wrong man got the Oscar') but between these now famous films was this neglected masterpiece of thirties cinema directed by George Cukor, with Hepburn, Grant, Doris Nolan, Lew Ayres, Edward Everett Horton and Jean Dixon giving performances most of them never bettered.
On a vacation, Grant has fallen for Nolan, a brisk, severely pretty and, as it turns out, wealthy young lady, who has an idealistic sister (Hepburn) and a seemingly weak, alcoholic brother, played brilliantly and touchingly by Ayres. Grant's friends are the merry, cheerfully zany couple played perfectly by Horton & Dixon, who act as a kind of Greek Chorus throughout.
Grant and Nolan are planning their wedding, with the help and hindrance of her materialistic, tetchy, very rich father (Henry Kolker, excellent) but Grant (who had rarely been so engaging - or so acrobatic!) wants to test himself with an extended work-free holiday before putting down any roots, which alarms both his fiancee and her father.
Meanwhile Katy Hepburn (who's both delightful and lovely) spends more and more time in the games room on one of the many floors of their opulent town mansion, where most who enter seem to become children again, or at least get to express their innocence and sense of fun.
Unlike the two films that bookended this one, it's not really a screwball comedy, though there are elements of both. There's something more serious going on, a questioning of the whole American Dream, or at least some of its chief Dreamers. It's also very droll at times, as well as oddly moving.
Holiday is a film I could watch again and again - and indeed do. It's one of those near-perfect movies from the era that not only makes you feel good to be alive (if only so you can see it) but makes you realise how fragile life can be, and how the integrity of one's own feelings and behaviour really do matter.
In the end, I think this is a finer achievement than the far better known Philadelphia Story. It isn't as funny (it has no Roland Young as Uncle Willie in it) but it's less brazen, and in TPS its only Oscar winner James Stewart could be said to overact at times, and it's more stagy too, however great a film it admittedly is.
In this one, everything comes together, like a clockwork toy that gives pleasure every time you play with it. And Lew Ayres, as the sad brother never without a drink in his hand, is a revelation.

Holiday is a gem of a film - and dig those backflips!

Taverner: Missa Gloria tibi Trinitas
Taverner: Missa Gloria tibi Trinitas
Price: £8.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Glorious, 8 Nov. 2015
There's something about The Sixteen. They tend to make ravishing music even more so, glorious music the more spilling over with glory for their warmly close singing.
This early recording from 1984 of a mass and a shorter work by the great John Taverner (c1490-1545) is reissued on Hyperion's enterprising Helios budget-price label, and is a bargain indeed. Both works are of an aspiring sublimity, spiritually enriching rather than overly penitential, in the main exultant rather than austere.
The mass is appropriately glorious (no other word will do) while the four-minute Audivi vocem de coelo ('I heard a voice from heaven') is cooler, less vocally rapt, though equally lovely. In fact this brief, bracing work is a fine counterweight to the lavish qualities of what has gone before.
The whole disc is 45 minutes long, but any listener is unlikely to feel short-changed.

Lovely music, beautifully sung.

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