Friday, 30 April 2010
Monday, 26 April 2010
Gordon's exhibition at this festival is an update of his 24 Hour Psycho which is showing at the Tramway until the 3rd of May. If you've never heard of this piece it is exactly as it sounds, Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho slowed down to two frames per second rather than the normal 24, stretching the running time of the film to 24 hours. So, if you time your visit precisely, you can luxuriate in your favourite parts of the film such as the 'mother reveal', the brilliant ending, and, of course, that shower scene. Here's a brief clip of that very scene done in the Gordon style:
You may think 'what's the point', and if you do then I'm not going to try and convince you here, but if you're around Glasgow over the next week give something in the festival a go. No medium gets as much stick as modern or visual art, but like any other form there will be things you like and things you cannot stand. Some will make you think, others simply smile, and others perhaps provoke anger, but you don't know which is which unless you sample widely. If you're still unconvinced that there is anything for you at this festival I'll leave you with one of David Shrigley's sculptures that will surely change your mind:
Thursday, 22 April 2010
Trembling Bells made one of the best records of last year with Carbeth, and at first they may appear a more straightforward prospect than Sparrow and the Workshop. Actually, their brand of folk music is a more challenging proposition. This is traditional folk music with only the most restrained production applied (congratulations are due to John Cavanagh and Stevie Jackson, who obviously borrowed Belle and Sebastian's 'horns' for this record. No bad thing) and this allows Trembling Bells individual talents to shine through. Lavinia Blackwall's vocals are from an earlier time. If not quite a madri-gal, at least influenced by singers from the seventies such as June Tabor, Sandy Denny and Linda Thompson.
The band's playing comes across like medieval jazz. What at first listen seems simply old-fashioned and quaint is actually complex and involving. It all comes together for a wonderful and surprising album. We aren't used to listening to music like this anymore. It's Steeleye Span, Trees, Fairport Convention and any other number of, usually English, folk bands that were thought to have been consigned to history. This is authentic stuff. I love both of these new releases, but whereas Sparrow and the Workshop are completely contemporary, Trembling Bells feel out of time. This is Adieu England:
Saturday, 17 April 2010
But it reminded me that I recently saw, for only the second time, his most successful attempt at straight acting. In 1999 The Debt Collector, an Edinburgh set thriller, saw Connolly play Nicky Dryden a thinly veiled on screen version of Jimmy Boyle. (Very) closely based on the later life of the convict turned artist, the film was accused of being overly violent but is a film that asks interesting questions about revenge, second chances and Scotland’s strange and harmful obsession with, and glamorisation of, the ‘Hard Man’. It is has unfairly been forgotten as it is one of the best Scottish films of the 1990s.
Alongside Connolly there are great performances from Francesca Annis, Ian Robertson and has a couple of 'look who it is' cameos from Ronnie Ancona and Ford Kiernan. But it is Ken Stott who steals the film. If Brian Cox is Scotland's greatest living film actor, Stott is his TV counterpart. Perhaps best known today as Rankin's Rebus, wiping out the memories of John Hannah's attempt (one of the most spectacularly examples of mis-casting this side of John Wayne as Genghis Kahn), Stott is superb as the bitter policeman Gary Keltie who arrested Dryden, and devotes his life to ruining Dryden's apparently idyllic new life post prison.
Over the years Connolly has quietly built himself a quirky, diverse and fairly impressive film CV. Starting out in Peter McDougall plays such as Just Another Saturday and The Elephant's Graveyard it wasn't until he had his own US sitcom in 1990, simply called Billy, that he began to get regular work. Even the films that were not successful, such as Still Crazy, The Man who Sued God and Timeline, were of interest, but films like Mrs Brown, The Boondock Saints, The Impostors and, of course, Muppet Treasure Island, would look good on any one's filmography.
One of the latest addition to this list is the recently released on DVD zombie comedy Fido. Connolly takes on the title role as the Robinson family's 'pet' zombie. Set in an alternative 1950's America the film is just one of the glut of zombie movies around if you like that sort of thing. But if you only watch one zombie film this year, make it Fido. See trailer below for what to expect:
Monday, 12 April 2010
I love all films that start with rain:
rain, braiding a windowpane
or darkening a hung-out dress
or streaming down her upturned face;
one big thundering downpour
right through the empty script and score
before the act, before the blame
before the lens pulls through the frame
to where the woman sits alone
beside a silent telephone
or the dress lies ruined on the grass
or the girl walks off the overpass
and all things flow out from that source
along their fatal watercourse.
However bad or overlong
such a film can do no wrong,
so when his native twang shows through
or when the boom dips into view
or when her speech starts to betray
its adaptation from the play
I think to when we opened cold
on a starlit gutter, running gold
with the neon of a drugstore sign
and I’d read into its blazing line
forget the ink, the milk, the blood
— all was washed clean with the flood
we rose up from the falling waters
the fallen rain’s own sons and daughters
and none of this, none of this matters
Like Morgan and Leonard his work is accessible, wears its intelligence lightly, and can be amusing and deeply moving. I often feel like I don't allow enough poetry into my life. If you have a similar inkling then try some Don Paterson, either his poetry, or his collections of aphorisms The Book of Shadows, The Blind Eye and Best Thought, Worst Thought which also come with high recommendation. Below is a clip of the man reading at Book Slam:
Friday, 9 April 2010
Produced by the much maligned, and often rightly so, Comedy Unit, Burnistoun is the world of Robert Florence and Iain Connell. These two have been working together for some time on easily forgotten shows such as the Gregor Fisher and Billy Boyd vehicle Empty, the situation 'comedy' Legit and The Karen Dunbar Show as well as the more successful Chewin' the Fat. Florence was also involved with the short-lived but fondly remembered gaming review show Videogaiden.
It seems that Florence and Connell had been given the time to write enough strong material to fill six episodes, something that has obviously not always been the case with Comedy Unit productions. Burnistoun manages to be both new and familiar. As with all sketch shows it has some misses, although to be fair it has a higher than normal hit rate. I can only hope that it will get another series, but at least Scotland is slowly gathering a sizeable group of comedy writers who write what they consider funny, not to some generic idea of what Scottish comedy is meant to be. You can still catch the full series here if you're quick, but by the time you read this it should all be up on YouTube. Below are a few of my favourite sketches:
Monday, 5 April 2010
This also applies to missing scenes that are central to the characterisation of the individuals involved. We have a better understanding of Franco Begbie's 'nutter' persona when we meet his alcoholic down and out dad in 'Trainspotting at Leith Central Station', and Renton's 'heroic' status is challenged further than it ever is on screen, particularly in the chapter 'Bang to Rites'.
It may be a terrible cliche, but this book is not only better, but braver than a film version could ever be. It's also great fun to read as Welsh's language is his real triumph.
Next month's column will look at Louise Welsh's The Cutting Room. If you've read it you know what a good book it is, if you haven't you should give it a go. You won't be disappointed.
The next 5 novels under discussion are: