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Features Live Action Movies

The Servant

Director – Joseph Losey – 1963 – UK – Cert. 12 – 115m

*****

A highly capable working class manservant slowly takes control of his foppish, upper class master’s life – out in cinemas on Friday, September 10th

Barrett (Dirk Bogarde) enters the curiously unlocked Chelsea house of Tony (James Fox) to interview for the position of manservant. He finds the unkempt Tony asleep in a chair. He seems to fit Tony’s bill and gets the job. Tony got the house very cheap, although it’s in need of repair and decoration. Barrett has any number of useful suggestions, but Tony overrides one or two of them. A servant should know their place, after all.

At a club Tony tells his date Susan (Wendy Craig) that he’s involved in clearing jungle to build three cities. When he brings her back to the house, she finds her attempts at both romantic intimacy and imposing her ideas on his home consistently thwarted by Barrett’s intrusions.

Barrett secures a job for his “sister” Vera (Sarah Miles) as a maid. She is actually his lover. And she sets about seducing Tony. All of this will come to a head, with Tony throwing the pair of them out.… Read the rest

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Animation Documentary Movies Music Shorts

Stationary Peaceful Protest

Directors – Xhosa Cole, Shiyi Li – 2021 – UK – cert. 15 tbc – 11m

*****

Sax player Xhosa Cole recounts a #blacklivesmatter rally in Birmingham while Shiyi Li provides incredible animated images – from Sheffield DocFest 2021

There doesn’t seem to be a lot of animation at Sheffield DocFest – maybe there is and I’ve yet to find it –  but there IS this terrific little short. The soundtrack is sax player Xhosa Cole’s monologue about driving to Birmingham for a Black Lives Matter rally which people of black, white and numerous other skin hues are attending. Beforehand, he debates whether to take his horn, and does so. At the rally, he runs into his old sax teacher and the pair improvise a duet, defusing a confrontation between a black woman and a black policewoman the details of which he never knows, showing great respect for both parties.

Set against the earnest voice-over are representational images of the narrative veering towards the abstract: Shiyi Li’s kinetic coloured shapes swirl around in a manner worthy of pioneering experimental animator Len Lye, who likewise often set his visuals against jazz music. Li’s imagery flirts with infographic iconography – for example, a walk on foot into the venue traverses a carpet which is also an arrow conveying a purpose, a sense of direction.… Read the rest

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Music

vs Amp

Colin Webster: baritone saxophone, Fender Twin Reverb and Bassman Amps.

All tracks recorded live. No overdubs, effects or edits.

Raw Tonk Records RT050 / 2021

LP + DL

*****

Remarkable. With no overdubs or other studio trickery, Webster manages to make his sax sound variously like a weird electronic effect, a duck, a didgeridoo, a fog horn, the engine of a prop aircraft, a lawn mower and, in the final moments of the last track, the sound of water disappearing down a plug hole. And that’s just side one!!!

The opening of side two sounds like a double bass (but it’s Colin’s sax). At another point, I could swear I was listening to the mating call of a walrus or the much lighter in tone song of some species of bird.

I realise what I’m writing here is probably open to misinterpretation, so just to clarify, this album is really, really impressive. To my ears, at least.

Buy on Bandcamp.

Note: This review started life as a review on my Bandcamp page after I bought the album. Their allowed word count was too small. I didn’t want to cut it as what I’d written would have lost something.

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Shirley

Director – Josephine Decker – 2020 – US – Cert. 15 – 107m

****

Notorious author Shirley Jackson and her professor husband are seen through the eyes of a young couple invited to stay in their house – in cinemas and on Curzon Home Cinema from Friday, October 30th

The real life Shirley Jackson was an author who wrote fiction. She’s known to cinemagoers for the book The Haunting Of Hill House (1959) that was filmed twice for the movies as The Haunting, once brilliantly (Robert Wise, 1963) and once killed dead by an overabundance of gratuitous special effects (Jan de Bont, 1999) and more recently was turned into a Netflix TV series (Mike Flanagan, 2018). That book may not be mentioned here, but the piece of her writing that does get a mention is The Lottery, her notorious short story which appeared in 1948 in The New Yorker Magazine, where she published much of her fiction.

This new film adapts Susan Scarf Merrell’s comparatively recent, fictional book Shirley: A Novel (2016) in which she examines Shirley Jackson and her academic professor husband Stanley Edgar Hyman through the eyes of a young, pregnant woman who moves into their household along with her husband who is hoping to secure an assistant literature professor’s post at the local college in Bennington, Vermont under Stanley.… Read the rest

Categories
Documentary Features Live Action Movies Music

Bill Frisell: A Portrait

Director – Emma Franz – 2017 – US – 118m

*****

Jazz guitarist Bill Frisell is a unique talent, a shy man and an extraordinary individual about whom fellow musician turned director Franz has made a remarkable film – now on DVD, BD and VoD

This extraordinary character study of one of the most significant jazz guitarists of modern times is remarkable not only for the portrait it paints of Frisell himself but also for the noteworthy list of names it interviews in passing. The newcomer with little knowledge of who’s who in jazz could take a notebook and and acquaint themselves with a remarkable number of incredible musicians of one sort or another, from the late drummer Paul Motian through more familiar, popular stars like singer Paul Simon and guitarist Bonnie Raitt to big band orchestra leader and composer Michael Gibbs. Indeed, the latter’s 2009 concert at London’s Barbican Centre featuring Frisell bookends the film allowing Franz to close on ‘Throughout’, the first of Frisell’s self-composed tunes the guitarist ever recorded. And that’s just one reason why you should watch Bill Frisell: A Portrait.

Australian independent director Franz worked for a while as a musician herself, which means that her director’s eyes and ears are attuned to what musicians do in composition and performance as well as how their minds work.… Read the rest