Friday 2 June 2017

Some film chat, a veritable cornucopia of art, some classic cinema and a healthy dose of ROCK!...

22nd May - 29th May 2017

Quite a busy and varied week this one, partly due to the extended bank holiday weekend, so...

Mark Kermode In 3D

We were back again on Monday night for May's instalment of Mark Kermode's monthly film chat/info show.

Structured in it's usual guise of audience/Twitter questions, a couple of guests from the film world, a top ten list and a guest presenting their guilty pleasure movie.

The film guests this month were director Mike Figgis, probably best known for the Nicolas Cage vehicle 'Leaving Las Vegas' and director Hope Dickson Leach whose debut feature 'The Levelling' has just been released to generally good reviews.

Figgis was there discussing his new book 'The Thirty-Six Dramatic Situations' which breaks down how stories are created, by taking a different view of story plot threads of which Figgis has identified what he sees as the thirty-six different types and offers insights into ways to assemble stories using those subjects/themes to create unique stories and forms of storytelling.

It all sounds a lot more complex than it should as described here, but it was enlightening to see how Figgis, as a story teller himself, could take a basic plot but offer various angles to approach it, some more abstract than others, to create something new.

The next guest Hope Dickson Leach was there to speak about her film 'The Levelling', a British film centred on a woman returning home to her family farm in Somerset after the sudden death of her brother and her re-connection with her father in the aftermath of the tragedy.

Leach spoke of her journey to finally getting her first full length feature made and the reception she's received, whilst also highlighting her work to help other female filmmakers to overcome the challenges of working in the industry whilst also raising a family.

The final guest of the night was Michael Smiley, known to a generation as the clubbing obsessed courier Tyres O'Flaherty in 'Spaced' and most recently in the film 'Free Fire'.

He was there to present his guilty pleasure, a British film 'No Surrender' about the chaotic antics during a night at a social club in Liverpool, and the various cabaret acts, including a punk band and a magician.

Mark Kermode and Hope Dickson Leach...

We've never seen it, (and probably won't be remedying that any time soon to be honest from the looks of it), however Smiley highlighted some of his favourite aspects of the film, including a quite cringe worthy turn by Elvis Costello as one of the many reasons he's a fan, but also acutely aware of its many shortcomings.

As a guest he was also highly entertaining when speaking about some of his recent work, and also when justifying his selection for the feature.

Again Kermode presented another interesting, humorous and enlightening show which is still a highly original and entertaining night out with a difference for film fans.


On Friday night Mr C headed over to Tate Modern to catch the new Giacometti retrospective, one of the big shows at the Tate this year, which would finally afford the opportunity to see of his iconic sculptures and hopefully much more besides.

Since hitting the headlines for the record auction sales of 'Walking Man I', (of which a version is included in the show), and 'Pointing Man', (which is also in the show as the Tate own one), Swiss-born Giacometti has become most widely known for his bronze figure sculptures, however this exhibition also puts the spotlight on his 'busts', drawings and paintings which are just as impressive.

The opening room focuses purely on a election of heads made by Giacometti throughout his life, some as early as 1917, up to the 50s and 60s, in different materials and all different shapes and sizes, the smallest quite tiny at about two centimetres.

Modelled mainly from clay or his preferred plaster, and shaped by hand the heads initially seem to be devoid of the finest details of facial features, however upon closer inspection the ridges and impressions created by Giacometti's hands actually instill the pieces with surprisingly intricate features, really showcasing his skill and deftness of hand when sculpting.

The exhibition then moves on to showcase some of Giacometti's more abstract works, still within the field of human forms and heads, however very reminiscent of much of Picasso's abstract portraits and figures, along with several smaller intricate symbolic works such as 'Caught Hand' incorporating other materials such as wood and wire.

Some of his decorative works are also seen here, along with notebooks and sketches, which meant we get to see his constant striving for accurate representation of human forms, albeit through his own artistic lens. His drawings of Egyptian statues show his skill with drawing especially.

There's another room which surrounds the viewer with more heads and a couple of smaller human forms, all in a cabinet running around the room in a horseshoe shape, which exhibit the fascinating eye he had for perspective and detail within his work, the squeezed elongated heads at first appear slightly exaggerated, however as you walk up to them the effect means that they become quite striking and naturalistic.

The next room contains some of his most familiar works, bronze and plaster elongated stick figures, created after the war and gained him the fame he so rightly deserves.

Again his skill at instilling a sculpture with detail which at first seems absent is evident as the initially simplistic figures begin to reveal their striking details and personalities.

Later in the exhibition a section of video shows Giacometti at work painting somebody and the adeptness of hand that he displays is incredible as the facial features are built up from simple lines to a fully featured image.

The exhibition is a real treat and allows his genius to really come across whilst also affording an opportunity to see more of his output, not just the much lauded, (and rightly so), bronze figures.

It's open until the 10th of September and is a must see.

Wolfgang Tillmans : 2017

After leaving the Giacometti exhibition I decided to pop across to the side of level three and catch the Wolfgang Tillman exhibition before it closes, (the beauty of membership means not having to pay so it's worth checking out almost all exhibitions), however not only was it at the other end of the floor to Giacometti, it was unfortunately to my eyes also at the other end of the art spectrum too.

Now I don't have any qualifications or education in the visual arts, I just like what I like and vice versa, but this just seemed to be nowhere the level of exhibition I would expect to see in a major institution, certainly not one where you had to pay to see it.

Tillmans is primarily a photographer, and what little I knew of his work was mainly his photographs which focused on the everyday things around us but looked at them usually in greater detail and on a larger scale, (a theme which is a part of this exhibition, and is slightly expounded upon to include political current events), for instance his larger scale photograph of a television displaying snowy static or the close up of a car headlight, all taken with high resolution digital cameras which Tillman has been using for the last few years.

Firstly the photographs then, nothing is displayed in a frame, the pictures are either stuck to the wall or tacked up with bulldog clips, nothing wrong with that, quite common is some of the more contemporary shows I've seen at smaller, usually free, galleries such as the Saatchi Gallery or the White Cube perhaps, however here, with the grand scale of the building and vast number of rooms given over to the show, (fourteen, compared to ten for Giacometti!), all displayed with no text as that's how Tillmans decided to structure the show, so all the context and info is in the free accompanying guide.

And some pictures are nice, particularly one of some quite violent white water, which is incredibly detailed and quite hypnotic to look at, or the dismantled photocopier, however they just made me think of photos by the likes of Andreas Gursky, which always just come across more grand and suited to large display spaces.

The main part of the exhibition which I found puzzling was the 'truth study center' work, which are a series of tables which display newspaper clippings, objects, sketches and images laid out on certain subjects, (such as WMDs), and purport to gather all the information presented by media outlets and display the gaps in the information provided to people which could provide areas of doubt.

However it all looked a little sixth form school project and was surrounded by a variety of images on the walls, either photos or images created directly onto photographic paper in a dark room or by passing them through a dirty developing machine. Completely unrelated, with no overall thematic context.

I'll be honest by this point in the show, about room six, it was all a little hard work and I was completely disengaged, maybe a smaller more focused show might have served some of the material better but the photographs from then on haven't lingered long in the memory.

Don't get me wrong I've read a couple of glowing reviews, however also a fair few with some of the same niggles, and one with even an exact same view of the 'truth study center' works, written by a real critic and everything, (disclaimer, I hadn't read anything about the show before seeing it)...

So suffice to say if Tillmans floats your boat, then knock yourself out, if not, maybe read up first as £12.50 is not cheap to see something you may not enjoy, if you're a member give it a shot you never know, I discovered Kusama and Boetti for instance that way and enjoyed them! It's on until the 11th of June.

Mat Collishaw - The Centrifugal Soul

On Saturday I happened to be passing Blain Southern in Hanover Square and popped in the see the latest show by YBA Mat Collishaw.

The show comprises two new large scale works, (one of which is the piece for which the show is named), and a collection of paintings.

The show is entirely unlit except for spotlights on the paintings and the lights within the two large installations themselves.

The first thing you see as you enter is a large installation called 'Albion' and is a laser scanned slowly rotating image of the Major Oak in Sherwood Forest, replete with the scaffolding which hold up the major branches of the tree and has done since the Victorian era, the image is projected on a glass panel held at 45 degrees and reflected from the floor of the gallery, (you can see it in the photo below).


It really is quite stunning to behold and really conveys the illusion of life represented by the tree.

Surrounding the piece are a series of paintings of wild birds, against a background of graffitied and tagged walls, which impede the birds abilities to allow their plumage to stand out a readily as it should in the will to attract attention potential mates. The paintings themselves are incredibly detailed and can also be seen as modern updates on such paintings animals in more subdued settings allowing their beauty to take centre stage.

The final piece in the show, 'The Centrifugal Soul', was developed in conjunction with an evolutionary psychologist called Geoffrey Miller and continues to explore the notion of standing out in nature to allow species to evolve and breed by attracting mates and surviving other predatory threats.

It is a large scale zoetrope and features exotic birds and flowers on a rotating base all in a slightly different stages of movement surrounded by strobe lighting, so as it powers up and spins at speed the flashing lights allow the viewer to see the opening and closing flowers and hovering birds moving in a stop-motion style.

'The Centrifugal Soul'

It's a very accomplished evolution of a largely forgotten technology and provides a quite stunning effect.

Collishaw's work has proven itself to be quite diverse yet again, and this was another visually entertaining project. Unfortunately it closed on the 27th of May, although hopefully the works will appear elsewhere at some point as they really need to be seen in person to appreciate the scale and detail.

Iron Maiden

Saturday night's excursion was to The O2 to see the mighty Iron Maiden, having listened to them for years since my impressionable teenage years, this was the first opportunity I'd taken to see them in action live, accompanied by Big Bro and my Best Man.

This was the first of two nights here marking the end of their European leg of the Book Of Souls tour, and from previous reports promised to be as big and theatrical a show as Maiden are known for.

The support act were american band Shinedown, we weren't that familiar with their stuff, but they were pretty entertaining, damn loud, and certainly got the capacity crowd going, however the main act was what everyone was waiting for.

We had seat in one of the lower blocks just to the left of the stage so had a pretty good, close view and you could see from the little bit of stage that Shinedown had to work with that there was something pretty big hidden under some tarpaulins.

The show started with a CGI intro on the screens of Iron Maiden's 'mascot' Eddie, which gave way to a spotlighted Bruce Dickinson crouched over a smoking cauldron atop a Mayan ruin inspired stage set, backed by the intro to new album opener 'If Eternity Should Fall' the rest of the band appeared and from there the show didn't let up.

Again it was loud, but how else to enjoy a show like this?

At a shade under sixty you'd think the band would be taking it a bit easier, however this wasn't the case, Dickinson was running all over the stage and climbing the set, whilst bassist Steve Harris and guitarists, Adrian Smith, Neil Murray and Janick Gers also traversed the stage and never stopped moving. Drummer Nicko McBrain also didn't let up for the entire two hours either.

The setlist featured six songs from the new album and the rest were classic Maiden tracks from throughout their career, and they did not disappoint, the full setlist was:

If Eternity Should Fall
Speed Of Light
Children Of The Damned
Death Or Glory
The Red And The Black
The Trooper
The Great Unknown
The Book Of Souls
Fear Of The Dark
Iron Maiden


The Number Of The Beast
Blood Brothers
Wasted Years

The appearance of Eddie did not disappoint, appearing on stage at about twelve foot in his current Book Of Souls guise he stalked the stage and attacking the band, whilst a huge Eddie head appeared at the back of the set later in the show too. A large horned goat devil character also appeared during 'The Number Of The Best' naturally.

Dickinson was as entertaining as ever donning a tunic and waving a tattered Union Jack during 'The Trooper' and at other points donning a mask and 'interfering' with his bandmates.

They closed with the epic 'Wasted Years' having held the entire crowd in their hands for whole show. They certainly lived up to expectations, and we'll definitely be back for more on the next tour.

Night Train To Munich

Bank holiday Monday saw us taking in a matinee of the 1940 espionage film 'Night Train To Munich' at the BFI Southbank.

Directed by Carol Reed, ('The Third Man'), and starring Margaret Lockwood and Rex Harrison, this was a comedy tinged thriller in the same vein as Alfred Hitchcock's 'The Lady Vanishes'.

The plot concerns a Czech scientist who escapes from the Nazi's when they invade Prague, his daughter Anna, (Margaret Lockwood), however is captured and sent to a concentration camp, she escapes to England with the help of a double agent who is setting her up to get her father back under the Nazi's control.

Harrison plays a British agent who undertakes getting them back by going undercover and pulling them out of Germany before the inevitable war is declared.

Along the way they encounter a couple of British gentlemen of the stereotypical stiff-upper-lip variety, called Charters and Caldicot, (a pair of characters who also appear in 'The Lady Vanishes' in no less comic inflected scenes).

The film was made as part of a string of 'propaganda' pictures designed to rally spirits and portray the Nazi's ion a rightfully bad light with the British once again triumphing over evil.

That doesn't make it any less entertaining though, it's a fast paced thriller with plenty of comic touches which never lets up and passes ninety-five minutes in fine fashion, if you get a chance it's well worth catching, especially if you're partial to Hitchcock pictures of the era as it has a lot in common with those too.

On The Town

The opening show of this year's season at the fantastic Regent's Park Open Air Theatre is a production of On The Town, the most famous version being the 1949 film version starring Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly.

The plot focuses on three sailors on leave for twenty four hours in New York city, and their search for a girl, which ends up leading them through various encounters and escapades throughout.

It's a musical in the most traditional sense with a rousing Leonard Bernstein score, adapted this time with a healthy dose of dance too choreographed by Drew McOnie, who also directs.

The marquee name for this one is Danny Mac as Gabey, (ex-Hollyoaks and a finalist on Strictly Come Dancing), along with Jacob Maynard as Chip and Samuel Edwards as Ozzie rounding out the trio of sailors, and three fantastic lead performances by their love interests, Sienna Kelly as Miss Turnstile herself Ivy, (the object of Gabey's mission), whose dancing is superb, Lizzy Connolly as cabbie Hildy, whose comic timing is fantastic along with her singing and Miriam Teak-Lee as Claire whose voice is truly beautiful, however the whole ensemble acquits themselves well, handling the impressive dance scenes and songs with aplomb, always seeming to be having a whale of a time.

The plot is slight, but this doesn't detract from the enjoyment as we see go through the various comical, dramatic and romantic situations experienced by the leads.

Overall it's a proper return to the classic musical format, and the setting of Regent's Park, as ever, is a wonder, especially as the light fades and the stage comes alive with the lighting and neon of New York's nightlife.

The live orchestra also adds to the authenticity of it all with their jazz inflected sound.

For an evening of old school theatre this can't be beat. It's on until the 1st of July.

That's it for this week, next week sees some more classic rock and a few theatrical outings..

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