Archive for Riddley Walker

Pg. 17, #12

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 20, 2020 by dcairns

Some one asked Georgette to dance, and I went over to the bar. It was really very hot and the accordion music was pleasant in the hot night. I drank a beer, standing in the doorway and getting the cool breath of wind from the street. Two taxis were coming down the steep street. They both stopped in front of the Bal. A crowd of young men, some in shirtsleeves, got out. I could see their hands, and newly washed, wavy hair in the light from the door. The policeman standing by the door looked at me and smiled. They came in. As they went in under the light I saw hands, wavy hair, white faces, grimacing, gesturing, talking. With them was Brett. She looked very lovely and she was very much with them.

*

It is difficult for a modern writer to summarize the medieval Christian view of the demons. To judge from the literature it seems that there is nothing that the demons cannot do in their attempt to bring the world to chaos. If one can imagine all the different powers and terrors ascribed to the demons in all the previous cultures which have contributed to the growth of our Western civilization lumped into one awesome and awful personification, then this is the Devil of Krämer and Sprenger in their Hexenhammer. The Lucifer of Dante, set in his lake of ice, is a pussycat in comparison with the tiger that these two Dominicans set loose on the world. Fortunately, however, it is not within the brief of this book to look into the witchcraft literature, for all it is replete with a complex and often horrendous demonism.

*

More than seven hundred years ago, at Dan-no-ura, in the Straits of Shimonoseki, was fought the last battle of the long contest between the Heike, or Taira clan, and the Genji, or Minamoto clan. There the Heike perished utterly, with their women and children, and they infant emperor likewise — now remembered as Antoku Tenno. And that sea and shore have been haunted for seven hundred years . . . Elsewhere I told you about the strange crabs found there, called Heike crabs, which have human faces on their backs, and are said to be the spirits of the Heike warriors. But there are many strange things to be seen and heard along that coast. On dark nights thousands of ghostly fires hover about the beach, or flit above the waves — pale lights which the fishermen call Oni-bi, or demon-fires; and, whenever the winds are up, a sound of great shouting comes from the sea, like a clamour of battle.

*

Seven churches with open belfries stood direct in the wind’s path from Wapping: St Bride’s, St Jude’s, St Mary’s, St Peter’s, St Michael’s, and St Michael’s-on-the-Hill’s. Through each of them it flew, making the black bells shift and shudder and sound unnatural hours. The very ghosts of chimes and the phantoms of departed hours. Twenty-eight o’clock gone and never to return. What a knell for the dying year!

*

Statistics for burglary, arson, robbery with violence and rape rose to astronomical heights and it was not safe, either physically or metaphysically, to leave one’s room at night although one was not particularly safe if one stayed at home either. There had been two cases of suspected plague. By the beginning of the second year we received no news at all from the outside world for Dr. Hoffman blocked all the radio waves. Slowly the city acquired a majestic solitude. There grew in it, or it grew into, a desolate beauty, the beauty of the hopeless, a beauty which caught the heart and made the tears come. One would never have believed it possible for this city to be beautiful.

*

Every thing has a shape and so does the nite only you cant see the shape of nite nor you cant think it. If you put your self right you can know it. Not with knowing in your head but with the 1st knowing. Where the number creaper grows on dead stoans and the groun is sour for 3 days digging the nite stil knows the shape of its self tho we dont. Some times the nite is the shape of a ear only it aint a ear we know the shape of. Lissening back for all the souns whatre gone from us. The hummering of the dead towns and the voyces befor the towns ben there. Befor the iron ben and fire ben only littl. Lissening for whats coming as wel.

*

“But if you would believe the unholy truth — then Time is an agony of Now, and so it will always be.” — The Dreaming city. Do Not Analyse.

*

Seven passages from seven page seventeens — night, and the city, and a mighty wind.

Fiesta: The Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway; Dictionary of Demons, by Fred Gettings; Oriental Ghost Stories, by Lafcadio Hearn; Mr Corbett’s Ghost & other stories, by Leon Garfield; The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman, by Angela Carter; Riddley Walker, by Russell Hoban; The Lives and Times of Jerry Cornelius, by Michael Moorcock.

Striking Down the Unroadworthy

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 1, 2016 by dcairns

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Wrote this last year after enjoying MAD MAX: FURY ROAD — we watched all the previous MAXES, I wrote this, and then forgot to publish it. Now I’m thoroughly sick of staring at it in my Drafts section, I’ll finally punt it out there.

***

So, we finally watched all the MAD MAX films, in the wrong order. Fiona hadn’t seen any, and I had seen MAD MAX II: THE ROAD WARRIOR on VHS and the first film at my school film society when I was 17. FURY ROAD got us all pumped up and fuel-injected and we thought it was time to catch up. Oddly enough, my teenage self hadn’t been all that taken with the first film, so we left it to last. But in the interests of clarity, I’ll take them in order here.

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MAD MAX — first seen at my school film society — has all the strengths and weaknesses in position already. The action is hairy and scary and impressive and the ruthlessness is total. The movie menaces a child in the first reel and kills one to motivate the last-act carnage. Max’s wife isn’t killed, just horribly wounded, and then allowed to completely disappear from the movie, and the series. Maybe he likes Charlize Theron in the latest film because she reminds him of his wife’s missing arm?

Throughout the action the movie contrasts Max’s heteronormative family values with the rampaging psychopathic polyamorous biker gang led by Toecutter (Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall Keays-Byrne) who are equal-opportunities rapists. “A woman! My favourite!” remarks one. Director/doctor George Miller takes a bully’s gloating delight in their depravity and laughs along with their jokes, which I think is what I disliked about the film first time.

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Max and his sex-sax-playing wife actually play at Tarzan-and-Jane, and like that previous screen couple, they have an unimaginative way with baby names: their’s is called Sprog.

I don’t remember the cartoonish eyeball-bulge moment, played twice in the film. Either it was censored from our UK print or it went by so fast I convinced myself it never happened. Or I suppressed the memory and Miller should start paying my therapist bills.

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The second film is an exponential leap in budgetary terms, and also in bringing in the self-consciously mythic aspect of the series. The ending is particularly fine in this respect, unearned by the preceding action — the Gyro Captain’s going to make a terrible tribal leader, obviously. The weird lack of continuity between films — no series save THE PINK PANTHER has survived so much surreal garbling — already creeps in, but is less overt. Miller’s skill with actors seems to have actually regressed, with this movie brimming with lousy supporting players cast for their appearance. Emil Minty as the Feral Kid is good though.

Isn’t he YOUNG? Mel Gibson is actually too boyish in the first film, struggling to appear bad-ass enough or convincingly tormented until his descent into nemesis mode at the end. He has just enough gravitas by the time of the second.

Once more, though, the film is far more in love with its bad guys, and can’t quite bring itself to give the hero much to do or say — only at the climax is there a clear imperative to get his arse in gear.

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The third film is probably the most dated, since its budget now allowed Miller and his co-George to really indulge themselves, so we get more sex-sax, Tina Turner, some dubious hair for Max, and a bit of a Frankie Goes To Hollywood vibe. Everything at Thunderdome is a bit confused, with baddies who aren’t bad enough, fighting other baddies, and Max stuck in between without a clear role. Once we get to the “Jesus in leather” part, the high concept that made the film worth making to Miller, with Max as messiah leading a tribe of semi-feral children from the wilderness, things pick up. The Riddley Walker devolved dialect of the kids is inspired, and it’s only when you start picking at it that you realize the whole thing makes no sense at all — how long have these kids been here?

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So the third film is the least satisfying and most naff, but also has a lot of the best bits of the series, with the epic, mythic ending of film 2 extrapolated out so as to occupy considerable screen time. In the first film it’s a really cool grace note at the end of a silly, nasty romp. Here, it’s almost substantial. The post-apocalyptic poetic is a major thing in literary sci-fi, but rarely gets a look-in at the movies. Surprising that the most brutal, comic-book and nonsensical post-apoc flicks should also approach the sublime most nearly.