The cultured teenager

the best of literature, film and music, shown through my rather short-sighted eyes

Monthly Archives: September 2011

Must see film #1: Control

I’ve decided I’ll start this piece, as this is how I would describe most films I am rambling about anyway. The first film I am writing about is one I saw the first time only recently though instantly was in awe. Just brilliant. One of the key reasons for my satisfaction from this film was because of it’s musical element, so please listen to this whilst reading my review. Here is “Love will tear us apart” by Joy Division.

I knew I’d love this from the moment I find out about its existence; its morose and sardonic, but mostly because its main premise revolves around quality music. I was unsure of how the film would appear though, as biopics should be cast well or not be made at all; Sam Riley in the role of Joy Division lead singer Ian Curtis is brilliantly cast as not only does he brilliantly display the side of Curtis I was aware of, i.e. some wonderfully erratic dancing, but also has a skillfully emotive performance when showing Curtis’s epilepsy, depression and his damaged mental state leading to his untimely death. Anton Corbijn has thoughtfully considered every aspect of this, as it as much a film of Deborah Curtis’ story as it is a biopic of Ian Curtis, Corbijn basing this on her book rather than the public side of the singer. Slightly ironically, Corbijn gives this film a freshness through the use of black-and-white, moving from the expected vivid, psychedelic images of the tormented artist, this therefore showing Manchester as one of the world’s most depressing places, showing Curtis’ view of the world as drug-hazed rather than ‘rock-and-roll’. The story envelopes the short life of Curtis and Joy Division, but also, as it is based on Touching from a Distance, narrates through the rocky relationship between Ian and Deborah, and her sorrow before and after his death. The situation is made all the more difficult due to Ian’s affair with Belgian writer Annik; Curtis chose to escape his own personal turmoil, and as is so often with musicians, his work has lived on, however short-lived his life was. This film is a stylistic triumph, obviously aided by the striking black-and-white, but also through the use of Joy Division’s depressing and harrowing soundtrack. There are numerous effortlessly perfect performances which make this film truly great, Sam Riley who mirrors the exact mannerisms and demeanor astoundingly well, Samantha Morton is almost unrecognisable early on and shows the turmoil Curtis’ implosion caused upon the people he loves, with skill. My personal favourite performance and character is Rob Gretton, played by Toby Kebbell, who is witty and sardonic, and stresses on how few other laughs come from this achingly depressing, yet also great film, coming out with such wit as, after Curtis has an epileptic fit on stage, “It could be worse. You could be in The Fall”. I really cannot converse how brilliant this film is, so please watch it and enjoy. Regards ๐Ÿ™‚

‘Great’ is the right word

I am embarking upon reading more novels in the way of classics, as teachers often bark at you to do. I am doing this by my own choice, though it is, more or less, preparation for what I will be engulfed by as I enter a new school year. I have therefore read ‘The Great Gatsby’, an American Classic which I think me and my fellow students will be studying, and much to my relief, I found it surprisingly enjoyable.

Ernest Hemingway, a writer of American Classics himself, once said, ‘Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know’. Very true. This novel completely confounds this truth, the intellectuals never appearing happy, though they live in an utterly hedonistic lifestyle, however this is only enjoyed by the rather less intelligent guests. Although Gatsby is aย  likeable character, as shown through Nick Carraway’s narration, his life and the lives of those around him are corrupted with greed and incredibly sad and unfulfilled. Carraway is obviously sympathetic to Gatsby, who he befriends, and is cleverly used to narrate by Fitzgerald, constantly moving between his own traditional society and the indulgent extravagance of Gatsby; Fitzgerald here showing the difference between western and eastern values in America at this period of time. Gatsby lives in what many would see as a perfect world, nothing but hedonism, however he is dissatisfied by this, as it was all an attempt to get closer to Daisy Buchanan, whom he had desperately loved for numerous years. Nick is then used to connect the pair, and arrange a meeting between, submerging Carraway into their affairs, which soon becomes a rekindled affair. Not only is Gatsby dissatisfied by his life but as is Daisy, in a loveless relationship with Tom, whom is also having a secret affair. Unsurprisingly this does not lead to a happy ending, not that I will spoil it for you if you are going to read the novel. Gatsby is not the hedonistic, millionaire playboy we expect, merely in love, however his emotions are based on rotten values, and the ending could be therefore seen as retribution against these values.

I really enjoyed this book, and am more than happy to be studying, however it doesn’t leave me begging for more. Its definitely worth reading and definitely worth appreciating so read if it sounds your cup of earl grey. Regards ๐Ÿ™‚

Back in Blighty

However sad it is, I am ever so glad to have arrived back in England just to procrastinate using my laptop and actually find out about the rest of civilization rather than the small campsite in France where I spent my past week. Honestly, it was a very nice campsite, and an excellent holiday, made all the more relaxed by the vast amounts of cheap wine and even cheaper, even more dubious, French beer. Although Britain is obviously superior overall, I must admit that France does some things better; obviously including the cheap beer and wine. The first on my lists is markets; the French variation has rotund men holding wicker baskets filled with wheels of cheese and olives, whereas British markets consists of tarpaulin sheets tied together, upon which are, tea towels, what was left over from a car-boot sale, and an intemperate amount of jars of jam. Another is their knowledge of the English language, where British people make bold efforts to speak French but really understand very little, French people on the other hand act how we ought to, either they can speak the language excellently or not at all. At a vineyard we came across theย  man selling the wine and attempted to speak French upon purchasing the rather delightful bottle of wine, he therefore acted like we could speak the language, didn’t even consider speaking English and watched our pathetic attempts to utter anything other than Franglais, apart from the odd bit of German. He may have just been lazy, but it was more likely a marketing ploy to get the customer in a position where they have no idea what they are buying.

I am therefore going to write a homage to the french language through one of my favourite foreign films, ‘A Prophet’. Again similarly to the markets and booze, gritty crime dramas are another thing that foreign countries are far superior than England in the field of. This is one of the darkest, heaviest and consuming films I have ever watched, I would therefore advise anyone of a mild disposition, is xenophobic or just a bit soft to not watch this film. I loved it though. It powerful from the first few moments, Jacques Audiard’s intent and confidence is instantly announced through the striking images of Malik (Tahar Rahim) entering the prison. An object of immense vulnerability, he caught the eye of corsican mobster Cesar (played by the very French sounding Niels Arestrup) leading Malik to the prison-cliche position, of ‘kill or be killed’. The realism of Malik’s ordeal, pain and bewilderment creates an utterly intense setting for the grotseque, grim murder of Reyeb, hiding a razorblade in his mouth, before slashing Reyeb’s throat, and the vast flow of blood which followed. Psychologically, this is relentlessly brutal not only for the characters but for the audience as well, this film doesn’t follow the usual pattern of a weak prisoner escaping the pain and brutallity of prison, rather the opposite. You watch Malik’s desires for greater power and self-betterment, improving (if that is the right word) his criminal mind rather than rehabilitating it. A truly excellent film, though unimaginably dark and intense. If you’re into your films, this is a must see. Regards ๐Ÿ™‚