Change Your Image
Upload An Image
Crop And Save
Yozgat Blues (2013)
Poignant Study of Loneliness in a Turkish Small Town
To understand YOZGAT BLUES, viewers should understand that Yozgat is a small town in central Anatolia where not much happens; there is one club Delila, where physician Yavuz (Ercan Kesal) and his ex-student Nese (Ayca Damgaci) are engaged to perform a nightly cabaret. As immigrants from the metropolis of Istanbul, both find it necessary to role-play; Yavuz tries to play the world-weary performer, while Nese uses clothes and make-up to cover up her essential nervousness. As Mahmut Fazil Coskun's film unfolds, however, so the basic flaws in the two characters are exposed. Yavuz turns out to be a small-time performer desperate to make something of his life, even if it means working for nothing. The fact that he wears a wig draws our attention to his role-playing. Nese realizes that performing is not for her, but love offers a more attractive prospect, even if it means falling in love with would-be hairdressing shop owner Kamil (Kadir Saribacak), who in his own way is as much of an actor as the other two protagonists. The narrative concentrates on how all three characters cope with their disillusionment: Yavuz bravely carries on singing, in the belief that he is supporting Nese, but finds that his style of singing (old French ballads) is infinitely less popular with the customers than Turkish arabesk music. Nese tries out a new flaming red costume, but realizes by the end that her ambitions are not so grandiose: perhaps marriage is a suitable way of protecting herself against disappointment. Kamil's business venture looks doomed from the start (he has little or no stylistic sense when it comes to decorating his shop), but at least he has found a source of moral and physical support. The film is full of achingly long close-ups of the characters staring blankly into space, as if trying to cope with loneliness in a small, but unfriendly town: no one seems particularly interested in them. The narrative is slow, but comes to a poignant ending, as everyone ends up happy, except Yavuz, who promises to return to Istanbul by bus, but cannot board the bus when it arrives at the station. He is left alone, looking into space, his wig perched awry on his head, symbolizing his disturbed nature.
Short Term 12 (2013)
Something of a Missed Opportunity
Much-lauded on its original release by critics and viewers alike, SHORT TERM 12 is a powerful drama set in a foster home, where twentysomething carer Grace (Brie Larson), and her fellow-workers Mason (John Gallagher Jr) and Nate (Rami Melek) spend their lives looking after disturbed or abused teenagers, including Marcus (Keith Stanfield), Jayden (Kaitlyn Dever), and Sammy (Alex Calloway). Their job certainly isn't easy: many of these teenagers have had difficult lives, and find it very difficult to talk about their experiences. Sometimes Grace gets into conflict with her superior Jack (Frantz Turner), in the belief that not enough attention has been paid by the so-called professionals towards the teenagers' plight. However Grace herself is not without problems: we learn that she has had a disturbed childhood - so disturbed, in fact, that she cannot even talk about it to Mason. The prospect of her father being released on probation from prison fills her with horror. Destin Daniel Cretton's production contains some powerful performances, notable from Larson and Dever, whose characters develop a bond with one another, despite their difficulties. However the script is marred by some obvious implausibilities: if Grace has had such a disturbed past, one wonders why she has been put in a position of such responsibility at the foster home. In one sequence she is shown entering Jayden's house, while Jayden is at home, using the front door key concealed under the doormat. One wonders why the key is kept there when the family are at home. Jayden and Grace smash up Jayden's father's car with a baseball bat, but no one - not even the police - visits the foster home to investigate what has happened. There is a happy ending, but it seems rather contrived, as the director wanted above all to show that these kids - Grace included - could be redeemed, so long as people made the effort to understand them. SHORT TERM 12 represents something of a missed opportunity, despite its subject-matter.
Highly Satisfying Murder Mystery
Regularly aired with subtitles on BBC Four, INSPECTOR MONTALBANO offers the kind of pleasures often absent from British examples of the genre. The plot zips along at a cracking pace, while taking time out to examine the eponymous hero's (Luca Zingaretti's) complicated personal life. The Sicilian locations are a decided bonus, not only in visual but also in sonic terms; it's satisfying to hear the sound of the waves in the background as Montalbano tries to make sense of a complicated case involving the murder of a young woman (Alessia Merz) while in the act of making love. The plot is full of twists and turns, involving an eccentric violinist (Sergio Fantoni), a shady-looking antiques dealer from Bologna (Giovanni Vetorazzo), and a best friend (Biancamaria D'Amato) who may or may not be on the level with Montalbano. There is frequent comic relief provided by an incompetent police officer (Angelo Russo), who continually mispronounces people's names, and a satisfyingly aggressive confrontation sequence between Montalbano and his boss (Peppino Mazzotta) whom he can't stand. Zingaretti is thoroughly convincing as the inspector, while director Alberto Sironi frequently uses close-ups of his side profile to suggest a man of hidden depths who sometimes represses his feelings in favor of solving a particular case.
A Hard Day's Night (1964)
A Valuable Representation of Mid-Sixties London
Looked at in the cold light of day, A HARD DAY'S NIGHT has dated badly. Many of the gags fall flat on their face, while the visual style seems artificially jumpy, as director Richard Lester makes a labored attempt to emphasize the Beatles' liberated life. In terms of film history, however, the film occupies a seminal position; not only does it provide a record of the Beatles in performance, but it makes a conscious attempt to explain the Beatlemania phenomenon. The Fab Four not only introduced different musical styles into the Britpop world, but they were representatives of a new, swinging way of life that contrasted starkly with what had gone before. They were happy-go-lucky, free, not frightened to express themselves, and hedonistic - as seen, for instance, in the "Can't Buy Me Love" sequence where they gambol about on a school playing-field, shot from above by director Lester. In historical terms, the film offers a valuable portrait of mid-Sixties London, especially the contrast between 'old' and 'new' values. In one sequence the Beatles get into an argument with a city gent (Richard Vernon), who tries to stop them playing their transistor radio in the belief that, as a regular traveler on the train, he is somehow superior to them. Needless to say John Lennon immediately exposes the stupidity of such claims. The film is full of experimental visual styles, from the speeded-up chase sequence as the Fab Four are pursued by the London constabulary, to the rapid intercutting between the Beatles in performance and their adoring fans in the audience screaming themselves hoarse, And then there are the songs, which remain as fresh and original half a century on as they did when they were premiered. A HARD DAY'S NIGHT demands to be watched by anyone interested in social and popular music history, as well as Beatles fans young and old.
Pool of London (1951)
Vivid Documentary-Style Representation of Early Fifties London
Conceived as a crime thriller set in London's now-vanished docklands around the Tower Bridge area, POOL OF London is both tautly directed (by Basil Dearden) and ably performed by an ensemble cast including Bonar Colleano (in a rare leading role), Earl Cameron, Renee Asherson and James Robertson Justice. But perhaps its chief merit lies in its documentary realism: Dearden locates the action in the bomb-damaged streets of the City of London, where even the famous landmarks such as St. Paul's Cathedral seem shabby. The interior sequences take place in a tatty variety theater (even in the early Fifties the music-hall survived, although attracting tiny audiences), smoky bars and a doubtful-looking after-hours club full of crooks and a good-time girl (Rowena Gregory). Many of the characters are 'on the make' - such as downtrodden acrobat Charlie Vernon (Max Adrian), who teams up with a shady gang of crooks including safe-cracker Alf (Alfie Bass) to initiate a diamond-robbery. In a London whose people have to survive on very little money and continuing rationing, any get-rich-quick scheme will be readily embraced. POOL OF London also communicates some of the casual racism dominating British society at that time - in spite of his upstanding nature, Johnny Lambert (Cameron) is almost inevitably considered a shady character or potential crook on account of his skin-color. Pat (Susan Shaw), an attractive young white woman who keeps him company while he is ashore, is likewise considered aberrant for choosing to be seen in public with him. The society depicted in POOL OF London is both small-minded and desperate, trying to make ends meet yet refusing to acknowledge some of the profound social changes taking place around it. Perhaps Johnny makes the right decision in choosing to return to his ship, with the intention not to return to London in the foreseeable future.
Slightly Disappointing Evocation of a Long-Forgotten Era
The Thirties and the Forties were the golden age of the British dance bands, where leaders such as Roy Fox, Anbrose and Jack Hylton earned fantastic sums of money, and vocalists/crooners such as Al Bowlly sold millions of shellac 78 rpm records. STRICTLY COME DANCING's Len Goodman leads us on a nostalgic tour of that era, with help from modern- day enthusiasts as well as the usual troupe of 'experts' on musical history and stylistics. British dance-band music was very different from its American counterpart, even though acknowledging an undeniable influence. However some of it was too much for the then-staid BBC under Sir John Reith, who found the crooning and the 'hot' band music too entertaining and not sufficiently edifying for his fledgling service. The documentary is very good in depicting the struggles between the dance band leaders and the BBC, who were terribly frightened of artistes plugging their new songs on a supposedly public service network. The dance-band era also witnessed significant social changes: listeners not only had the chance to use the radio, but they could invest £6 10s (£6.50) on a new gramophone and buy the latest disks. Music was now becoming commercial as well as a form of mass entertainment. The program is less convincing when it suggests that dance band music somehow died out with the onset of World War II. While Bowlly was killed early on in the conflict, other singers prospered - notably Vera Lynn - while Henry Hall, Roy Fox and other dance-band leaders enjoyed regular work touring the country as well as broadcasting on the BBC. It was only with the advent of new musical influences from America - notably jitterbug - that dance band music began to seem outmoded, and that process was not to happen until the mid-Forties at least. LEN GOODMAN'S DANCE BAND DAYS is diverting entertainment, but could have done without the spurious reaction shots of Goodman grinning in assent at many of the points the 'experts' are making.
A Second Installment of Roth's Fascinating Life
If the first program in this two-part series concentrated on Roth the novelist, the second program looks at his public persona. It seems as if he was - and remains - a difficult person to live with. Although more than willing to appear on various media, he finds it difficult to talk frankly about himself. Despite several long-term relationships, notably with the actress Claire Bloom, he has seldom committed himself. The only way he can successfully communicate is through the written word - and even then (as the first program demonstrated), readers have no way of knowing whether what they read is 'really' what Roth thinks. As a result he comes across as a protean figure, someone who appears perfectly amenable to answer presenter Alan Yentob's questions, but at the same time reluctant to disclose much. The program includes several testimonies by Roth's friends and colleagues, notably the novelist Edna O'Brien, but such testimonies do not help us much in getting to understand the novelist and the way he thinks and feels. Perhaps that's just how he likes it, even though it remains a frustrating experience for viewers.
Comprehensive Survey of a Great Author's Life and Work
Although now officially retired from novel-writing, Philip Roth can lay claim to be one of America's greatest living novelists. Throughout his long career he has experimented both with the content and form of the novel, to such an extent that the overarching themes of his oeuvre are very difficult to identify. He remains a protean figure, often writing autobiographically (using his alter ego Nathan Zuckerman), but seldom revealing too much about himself. This public persona remains much the same in Alan Yentob's documentary - although willingly consenting to be interviewed, he reveals little about himself, even though he seems ready and willing to talk about his work. This program (the first in a two- parter) focuses especially on Roth's Jewishness, and how it has colored much of his work: at once an insider and an outsider, he has rarely felt part of the New York society he has mostly inhabited. Most of his novels are about alienation, whether physical or mental; and how the protagonists learn to cope - or not to cope - with it. While critics have often represented him as a 'shocking' novelist (especially after the publication of PORTNOY'S COMPLAINT), Roth himself rejects that construction, preferring instead to concentrate on his experiments with the novelistic form.
Unsentimental Celebration of a Great Comedy Team
Alan Yentob's program is to be congratulated for its resolutely unsentimental approach to its subjects. It would have been too easy to wallow in nostalgia, while claiming - in clichéd fashion - that the Pythons embodied the satiric spirit of the late Sixties, where anarchic comedy superseded the more staid (or "cozy") style of humor associated with the previous decade. While AND NOW FOR SOMETHING RATHER SIMILAR pays tribute to the Pythons' work, with archive footage of some of their most celebrated sketches, Yentob is far more interested in seeing what the members of the team are doing now: John Cleese tours a one-person show round various venues; Terry Jones is directing a film; Michael Palin is working on yet another television show; while Eric Idle enjoys himself perambulating around Hollywood. The program is designed to celebrate the Pythons' series of reunion concerns - the first for over three decades - that took place at London's O2 Arena. Some critics found the sight of five seventy-plus-year-old men performing on stage rather ludicrous (there is a wonderful quote from the London DAILY MAIL discussed in the program), but the idea is not a new one. In 1972 the Goons reunited for THE LAST GOON SHOW OF ALL; the Pythons have done precisely the same thing. Whether you like their humor or not, you have to admire them for the way they have kept going for nearly five decades now: none of them show any desire to retire, which is something definitely worth celebrating.
A Liberal-Minded Documentary That Turns Out to be Quite Conservative in Tone
Martin Scorsese and David Tedeschi's documentary looks at the 50-year run of the NEW YORK REVIEW OF BOOKS. With Robert Silvers at the helm, the magazine has established itself as a vehicle for liberal-minded, independent thinking; it has never shied away from controversy. This is chiefly due to Silvers' policy of encouraging the best writers to contribute, irrespective of their socio-political views. The cast-list of contributors reads like a litany of great writers over the past five decades, including Gore Vidal, Norman Mailer, James Baldwin, Colm Toibin, Robert Lowell, Derek Walcott, Noam Chomsky, Mary McCarthy and Timothy Garton Ash. The film includes extracts from several articles, attesting to the quality of the writing, as well as archive footage of interviews with many of the writers involved; there is a particularly juicy sequence from THE DICK CAVETT SHOW in which Mailer and Vidal go head-to-head over the issues of sexism and feminism. And yet there is a strong sense in which the magazine's commitment to liberal values is actually quite conservative in orientation: most of the writers originate from the Anglo-American literary and cultural traditions, and, while they are critical of certain issues, there is always a sense that they are in some way wise after the event. They seldom seem to engage in political or social issues, but remain on the outside, distilling their impressions for a bourgeois, middle-class readership. What THE NEW YORK REVİEW OF BOOKS OFFERS is a safe, comforting construction of liberalism designed for western audiences, based on consensus and peaceful protest. The fact that such values might not be shared by members of other cultures is not actively considered. While the documentary pays tribute to the work of many of its writers, its theme becomes rather repetitive. Perhaps the time has come for a change of editor, if only to introduce alternative - and perhaps antiliberal voices - into the magazine's literary conversations.