Archive for Danny Boyle

Here comes Johnny Yen again

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on August 29, 2018 by dcairns

Finally caught up with T2: TRAINSPOTTING (funny title!) — I’d had mixed feelings about the original, though Danny Boyle and company did do a lot to break Scottish cinema away from pure social realism, for which I’m grateful. I would say that both movies energize social commentary with black comedy, gross-out gags, surreal images, and an appetite for style at all costs. (I met some Spanish filmmakers who could quote reams of dialogue from the original by heart. “It’s shite being Scottish,” really meant something to them.) They take place in an unreal conurbation of Glagow and Edinburgh, evincing a merry contempt for geography as well as law and order. As realism they frequently stumble badly, being quite willing to contrive situations the mind rebels against —

Renton (Ewan McGregor) returns to Edingow after twenty years, decides randomly to visit his old friend Spud (Ewen Bremner), arriving, by staggering coincidence, just as he’s about to die of asphyxiation in a suicide attempt. The movie has a tendency to “redeem” itself at these moments by offering something entertainingly horrid: here, Spud throws up in the plastic bag he has on his head, transforming it into a mucky orange sphere which he rips apart in order to be “reborn,” slathered in puke, into the ghastly world of bodily functions he was trying to escape.

Or: Renton and Sick Boy (Jonny Lee Miller) rob an Orange Lodge pub in Glasburgh, swiping wallets from coats that have been hung up. Which is silly: people keep their wallets on them in pubs, so they can buy drinks. But then the aging boys get caught and are forced to improvise a sectarian song on stage to prove they belong, which is pretty funny, and then they use the punters’ stolen bank cards, which all have 1690 as their PIN number — the date of the Battle of the Boyne. A grand joke that kinda justifies the ripping apart of the fabric of reality necessary to get to it.

John Hodge is on script again, creating much of the plot from whole cloth while patching together bits of Irvine Welsh’s follow-up novel Porno with a bit of the original novel, which allows him to finally explain the title. Ah, the derelict Leith Central Railway Station (now demolished for a supermarket — only a bit of wall remains in the car park. I crawled through the gaping fence gap as a teenager, but never saw any junkies, or another living soul. It was a big, eerie expanse with incomprehensible stone age graffiti (a towering humanoid figure in rusty dried blood hue) and an aura of hushed sorrow.

Shot by Anthony Dod Mantle in saturated shades of neon and acid stained glass, the movie looks lovely, though ADM brings his penchant for meaningless line-crossing and confused jumping around, showcased in his Von Trier joints. Which I hate, you can probably tell. I think Boyle and his editor have embraced this hopped-up jerk-off style in an effort to look young and vigorous, and like all such efforts, it comes off a bit strained and sad. This viewer, rather than feel like an invisible observer in the scene, following the action with insight and a strange ability to also be in the right place to see what I’d like to see, felt like I was being wantonly teleported about the room, an instantaneous pinball with no control, the resulting disorientation a poor substitute for involvement in the drama.

I enjoyed all the actors. Kelly Macdonald gets, basically, nothing to do (there’s more on the cutting room floor, apparently), and Shirley Henderson is photographed looking glum at a distance, a horrible waste of her massive talent. Anjela Nedyalkova provides the movie’s injection of actual youth, so of course she’s the leading lady.

MacGregor still has his boyish charm, which acquires a kind of pathos as we see how little his character’s changed (not entirely a good thing when you’re a junkie and crook); Bremner still has funny bones, and having failed to escape the shadow of Spud (please, someone, find a showstopping role for this demigod) he dives back into it with jittery glee; Miller’s now-cadaverous features glower with malevolence and pique and I realise I’ve missed him (I don’t watch Elementary). Robert Carlyle’s Begbie is morphing, somehow, into Fulton Mackay, seeming a generation older than his mates (there’s a line to explain this — he was held back at school, making him at most a couple of years older. Jokes about him being stabbed in the liver and OD-ing on Viagra, both promising body-horror gross-outs, go nowhere. But it’s all about energy, eh? And Carlyle exerts a furious force that turbo-charges the movie through some second-act doldrums.

I do kind of like the way the script splits up aspects of Welsh’s post-Trainspotting life among the cast, with one character hanging out in Amsterdam, one becoming a writer… Welsh has become a filmmaker himself, and I suppose Sick Boy is making moves in that direction when we first encounter him as a blackmailer… Welsh himself appears, as is his wont. Cannae act.

 

Hodge’s scripts tend to plunge from wild flights of fancy back into conventional genre tropes at the end (all those bags of money), and this one does the same in a new way, combining a fight in a gutted pub with a reprise of the original’s betrayal twist, which makes things feel a little bit less than you hoped for. But it’s still somewhat satisfying, and has the best closing shot I’ve seen in a while. Let’s do this again in twenty years.

Quigley Down Under

Posted in Dance, FILM, Science with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on April 5, 2013 by dcairns

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Rosario Dawson: has vagina.

One aspect of Danny Boyle’s new film TRANCE (a remake of a feature by screenwriter Joe Ahearne) which doesn’t seem to have excited as much comment as one might expect, is the cameo appearance by Rosario Dawson’s vagina. It seems odd to me, since that was all we were talking about as we left the cinema. “Did you get a load of that vagina?” we said, or words to that effect. “What kind of man puts his girlfriend’s shaven genitals in his film?” asked our friend Ali. “A middle-aged film director with a very hot girlfriend,” was all I could suggest. “Look what I have to come home to!” seemed to be the thought Mr Boyle wanted us to grasp.

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Linnea Quigley: as smooth and featureless as a young Harry Langdon.

And so we turn our attention, as every film blog must, to scream queen Linnea Quigley’s genitals. In fact, I have some hopes that this article will prove to be the definitive cinematic study of scream queen Linnea Quigley’s genitals.

Not that scream queen Linnea Quigley’s genitals have ever appeared in a film, to my knowledge. In that respect, and perhaps in others, the genitals resemble Gummo Marx. In a sense, however, scream queen Linnea Quigley’s genitals haunt 80s horror cinema as a kind of defining absence, and it is this unseen influence, this mute testimony, which I will attempt to address here.

The key text in the off-screen career of scream queen Linnea Quigley’s genitals is surely RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD, an at-times rather witty sort-of-sequel to George Romero’s more celebrated and, let’s face it, classier NIGHT OTLD. One of the aspects of Dan O’Bannon’s follow-up that arguably robs it of some of its predecessor’s gravitas is Quigley’s graveyard striptease. I don’t say that a graveyard striptease would automatically render a film unworthy of respect. If somebody stripped during the graveyard trip scene of EASY RIDER, and my memory is unclear as to whether in fact they do or don’t, I’m not sure it would make any difference to that film’s claim to capturing the zeitgeist. The film would still be largely tiresome, incoherent and self-indulgent, but it wouldn’t be any worse for a graveyard striptease.

Somehow, though, Linnea Quigley, as punk rocker Trash, manages to lower the tone a little. Her wanton denuding somehow plants a seed of doubt in the viewer’s mind: are the filmmakers of this zombie teen comedy-horror somehow guilty of pandering to their audience? The doubt is arguably intensified by the fact that Trash, having become naked, remains naked for the rest of the film. All attempts to cover her up are stymied by the whims of fate, and those splintered ends of broken banisters that can so easily snag the corner of a blanket.

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However, scream queen Linnea Quigley’s nakedness is not at issue. What we are interested in is her genitals, or lack thereof. As it was described to me by somebody who probably knew nothing about it, the filmmakers initially thought they could get away with full frontal nudity by shaving scream queen Linnea Quigley’s naked genitals. Pubic hair seemed to distress the censor, and so doing away with said hair appeared to offer a solution. But to the filmmakers’ shock — and one must suppose them naive and inexperienced fellows if this is true — they discovered that in fact removing pubic hair does not make the genitals disappear. In fact, more like the opposite.

And so a prosthetic covering had to be created, something to cup and conceal scream queen Linnea Quigley’s genitals and turn her into a sexless Barbie doll. The idea seems to have been that nobody would notice the lack of genitals, because everybody would be looking at her lovely face. Except for the censor, who gets paid to look at genitals. Blue pencil raised in readiness, he would be forced to let it fall, unused, when he discerned that the full-frontally nude woman was equipped only with R-rated body parts.

Here, I hoped to mention that scream queen Linnea Quigley subsequently married a makeup effects artist. In the words of Donald Sutherland in LITTLE MURDERS, “That marriage did not last.” But in fact the effects artist she married was not one of those employed on RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD, though I think he did work on NIGHT OF THE DEMONS, where, if memory serves, Linnea Quigley’s breast swallows a lipstick. Yes, you read that right. After having a prosthetic lipstick-swallowing nipple created by him, reader, she married him. That marriage did not last.

Incidentally — very, very incidentally — I know of one makeup artist whose first major job was casting Kate Winslet’s genitals so she could give birth explicitly in Michael Winterbottom’s JUDE, by the way. Welcome to showbiz! And I note that Winterbottom’s defining trait as filmmaker is a puerile explicitness whenever it comes to pigs being slaughtered, women giving birth, and bloody beatings. This is a sad thing. Those three forms of entertainment have nothing in common except that filmmakers featuring them in close-up will be called “unflinching.” I like filmmakers who flinch before I do.

(After Michael Winterbottom comes Michael Springbottom. Before Michael Winterbottom comes Michael Autumnbottom.)

You might think I’m seizing on TRANCE as a sort of topical hook upon which to dangle these musings, but the connection goes deeper. In a willful bit of “only-if-it-were-essential-to-the-plot” conspiracy, TRANCE works very hard to make Rosario Dawson’s pubic region a vital part of the film’s narrative architecture. This includes a clue (art book with missing page — Goya’s The Naked Maja, the first painted nude with scandalous pubic hair) and a speech about how artists regularly left out the pubes to deny biology and make the female form more perfect. (Yet, like Linnea Quigley, these nudes did not display what should have lain concealed near the curly undergrowth so beloved of the late Jesus Franco — they were “smooth right round the bend” as Stanley Tweedle says in odd Canadia-German sci-fi show Lexx upon encountering a similarly vaginaless lady. Suggesting that the reticence of the artist had far less to do with some debatable perfectionism and more to do with censorship and/or anxiety about the female body.)

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Anyway, RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD has had four sequels (the living dead KEEP returning, it’s one of their defining traits) but neither addressed the presence of a woman without genitals running around in the first film. Is it time for RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD VI: WHY SCREAM QUEEN LINNEA QUIGLEY HAD NO GENITALS?

A Night at the Olympics

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , on July 30, 2012 by dcairns

Look, I hate sport, let’s get that clear. All forms of organized, competitive excercise exercise — a word I use so rarely I’ve literally forgotten how to spell it — are basically spectacles from the deepest, trident-jabbing bowels of Hell, somehow excreted up onto the earth’s surface by some repulsive subterranean eruption of fecal urgency.

“There’s the swimming,” suggests a friend. But I hate the swimming too. I don’t like the sounds it makes — echoing, splashing and yelling. If you close your eyes during the swimming, you will immediately picture yourself in Godard’s ALPHAVILLE, watching hi-tech executions. All sports either sound bad, look bad, are monumentally boring, are outbursts of vile nationalistic/territorial (or sectarian) aggression, or are just naff.

So I haven’t been looking forward to the Olympics. Still, they have a certain cinematic tradition (although I recommend the Ichikawa TOKYO OLYMPIAD far more highly that the Riefenstahl) — and I take seriously Richard Lester’s comments about the surge in filmmaking brio in Britain in the sixties being partly down to the high spirits occasioned by England’s winning the world cup. There can be a cultural crossover, just as winning the war led to a few years of dynamic, imaginative and confident cinema culminating in the glorious year of 1948.

Back when New Labour won the general election under Tony Blair, before we had to face what that actually meant, there seemed to be a similar upsurge in creative confidence, but it was manifested purely in the world of pop music. I mean, most of the lottery-subsidised cinema of the era was crap, as useless, pointless and confused as the Millennium Dome.

So whether the Olympics will do anything for Britain, apart from sucking money out of other areas, is something I’m a bit skeptical about. But still, grumbling is something we Brits do well, so I did decide to watch Danny Boyle’s Olympics opening ceremony, if only to moan at it.

There was plenty to moan at, and a certain amount to enjoy. Boyle’s everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach meant there was always plenty going on, even if the BBC camera teams couldn’t always find it. An opening countdown with numbered balloons bursting, went all random on us as the editing rendered it as SIX… FOUR… THREE… ONE… I’m not saying I could vision-mix a live event as complicated as this and do any better, or even as well. I’m just saying it didn’t work.

Likewise, the entrance of a thousand furiously drumming drummers in near silence was a strange choice, if it was a choice, although when the volume got tweaked they made a suitably big noise.

Niggles aside, what of the overall concept? At first it seemed like a bag of bits, a typically incoherent vision of what Britain is (cricket! suffragettes! Chelsea pensioners!), starting from an arbitrary historical point that had nothing to do with the timeline of the Olympics (which might have added some rational structure). I can’t see why, if you’re chucking in a nod to both world wars, James Bond, Mr Bean, the Queen (with corgis rendered digitally jittery like the victims of Rage in 28 DAYS LATER) and a statue of WInston Churchill that comes to life, like Kali in THE GOLDEN VOYAGE OF SINBAD, you can’t also have Robin Hood and King Arthur. But you can, it seems, have Kenneth Branagh dressed as Isambard Kingdom Brunel reciting a speech from The Tempest. For no reason.

Ken was actually a good choice for this kind of thing, though. He’s not one of those actors who can look as if he’s not acting, but if the occasion demands it he can, like Tod Slaughter, look like he’s acting his socks off and enjoying every minute of it.

And the bit where all the curious industrial revolution imagery (an event which falls in between the original Greek Olympics and the event’s modern revival) paid off with the big glowing rings forged in the furnaces of Hell the industrial revolution rising into the air was colourful and striking. And the cutaways of Boyle’s non-professional performers looking up at it with genuine, if perhaps unnameable, emotion, were oddly powerful.

Boyle’s problem is he can’t simplify, I’d say. Which is why his Mr Bean skit was over-edited and merely gestured towards laughs it hadn’t a hope of getting, and why there was always so much going on. It would have been a relief for all the activity to stop more often and allow us to FOCUS.

Still, muddled, busy, tacky and bloated as it was, the spectacle was oddly pleasing. Or not too infuriating, anyway. I can now retreat to a darkened room and watch movies until the whole nasty affair is over.