Archive for The Guardian

(Un)forgettable Ruins

Posted in FILM, MUSIC, Mythology with tags , , , , , on October 10, 2011 by dcairns

A panoply of ridiculously beautiful and talented people.

The Edinburgh-born musician Bert Jansch died this week — I didn’t really know anything about him, but by one of these weird coincidences that have been piling up around me lately, I’d been listening to the soundtrack for Roddy McDowell’s TAM LIN right before I saw his name as a trending topic on Twitter (anytime you see your name trending on Twitter, get your pulse checked because it probably means you’re dead). And I discovered only then that Jansch was a founding member of Pentangle who did the memorable, eerie, folky music for that odd film.

The country house is Traquair, not far from Edinburgh. So the movie relates to Jansch both musically and geographically.

I wrote about TAM LIN here.

And here are the Edinburgh bits of the film.

Alva Street, a Georgian New Town area… South Queensferry, with the Forth Bridge (as seen in Hitchcock’s THE THIRTY-NINE STEPS)…

Jansch is a fantastically influential guitarist, ripped off by all and sundry (but especially Jimmy Page). This article in The Guardian fills in useful backstory.

A Pentangle collection: Light Flight – The Anthology

The Guardian does it again

Posted in FILM with tags , , on October 22, 2010 by dcairns

I generally like The Guardian. It’s my paper of choice. But for some reason, a good proportion of its film coverage is written by people who don’t know or care anything about films. The assumption would seem to be that the readers don’t know or care about films either, but if that were true, why would they be reading?

Check this out, if you feel like getting cross. Feel free to weigh in with comments. My own favourite moment is right at the start:  “There are lots of reasons to love Hitchcock, of course: the style, the guile, the pace, the pitch – I realised that afresh when watching a box set of all his films, in preparation for a talk at the Southbank Centre on Sunday.” Of course, there is no box set of Hitchcock’s 52 surviving feature films, because that would be a very large box set indeed. So the author apparently doesn’t know how many films the director actually made… which is not particularly hard information to uncover, in this day of space tubes and computerized brain cups.

The fact that the author, Bidisha, (yes) is going to be taking part in a discussion about Hitchcock on the stage at the Southbank Centre is just terrifying.

Worst best or best worst?

Posted in FILM with tags , , , on July 24, 2009 by dcairns


An article in todays’ Guardian by Tim Lott seeks to question the quality of some of cinema’s sacred cows, dissing DEATH IN VENICE, JULES ET JIM, THE SEARCHERS, LA DOLCE VITA and SCHINDLER’S LIST, with secondary side-swipes at Kieslowski’s THREE COLOURS trilogy, SOLARIS, GREED (Lott appears to have seen a ten-hour cut of this, the lucky fellow), LES ENFANTS DU PARADIS, LA REGLE DE JEU, NIGHT OF THE HUNTER and ON THE WATERFRONT.

Making the highly original point that one man’s meat is another man’s poison, Lott basically fails in a potentially interesting task, maybe because he hasn’t enough space to consider even one of these films in the space it deserves, but partly because he squanders the space with profligate cheap shots and non-points. Saying “DEATH IN VENICE’s beautiful cinematography doesn’t make it a great film” does not really address the many ways in which it could still be a great film, and nobody to my knowledge ever claimed it was a great film just because it was well photographed anyway. Straw man argument, how are you?

It all gets to be pretty much like Leslie Halliwell’s reviews — a guide to the personal prejudices of Tim Lott that’s perhaps quite useful to the friends and family of Tim Lott, but perhaps less so to Guardian readers. So films are dismissed as “campy” (the Visconti) or “melodramatic” (the Laughton) or “French” (Carne), as if that were enough to stop them being great. If we can’t have camp, melodrama or Frenchness, one suspects we’re on the way to a rather dreary list of alternative great films. And so we are.

Lott champions THE PAWNBROKER, THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, KOYAANISQATSI (“one of the most original movies of the last thirty years”), SOUTH PACIFIC and THE RAPTURE. I’m with him on some of his other choices, but these aren’t films I’m in a hurry to see again. They’re not terrible, you understand, but I’m not sure there’s even much you can say about them.

It’s an amusing and well enough written piece, but not only does it not demonstrate that any of these films might not deserve their reputation, which would be pretty hard to do, it doesn’t really address why they do have their reputations. Part of the problem is I can agree with many of Lott’s criticisms, without feeling that they particularly matter in the case of the films he’s on about. In the comments section you can read everyone else getting in on the act, and very unedifying it is too — opinion really is the least interesting aspect of criticism, and sadly it’s come to dominate. Pieces like this foster the entirely false belief that simply saying “THE GODFATHER? Overrated,” counts as a statement worthy of anybody’s attention.


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