Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Jack, l'Eventreur de Whitechapel at Théâtre de Trévise, Paris 9th arrdt

Expensive productions at fancy venues are not by definition first-rate, any more than moderate plays at simpler playhouses are automatically average in quality. Hidden gems do exist.

Most of the time, though, limited means lead to limited quality, as was pretty much the case in this musical about Jack the Ripper. Historically, it felt rather accurate - at least to the novice I am - and the overall quality was generally OK, so what it resulted in was an efficient history-lesson for the gore-loving teenager I had with me.  

The Years - Virginia Woolf

Although far from the text-wringing of her more experimental works (her short stories or 'To The Lighthouse') this is still Virginia Woolf and in accordance requires a certain focus.

In classic epic family drama style, the narrative revisits members of the same family throughout a period ranging from 1880 to "present day' (the book was published in 1937).
In classic Woolf style, it doesn't follow fluid narrative with clearly defined focalizer characters, but rather pounces on various family members at seemingly haphazard moments of their lives, keeping the reader on his/her toes, continually guessing through whose eyes we are now seeing, feeling and thinking.

Brilliant, of course! Albeit a tad exhausting.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

DMX Ryders - DMX

So this may not be the most sophisticated album to have been released last year - the video reminds me slightly of Ghost in so far that watching is, as my teenagers say, a cringeworthy experience - and it does not reach the heights of 2003 classic 'X Gon Give It To You'

However, should you share my soft spot for gangsta rap then this is for you. 
A belated Christmas present.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Grace and Frankie, s 4

So I know I said I wasn't going to move on to season 4. But evidently I am weak. 
And what got me in this case was my soft spot for groundbreaking TV (elderly leading ladies talking of and having sex, Bechdel-test passed with colours so flying they are actually a rainbow + spot-on Marta Kauffman-esque dialogue). 
And it did look up after season three, albeit not to season one-heights. Still; fun TV!

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

My Brief History - Stephen Hawking

I truly wish I were the sort of cultivated person able to take an interest in subjects as far removed from my own as cosmology and black holes. Sadly, I'm not.

However, as long as Hawking speaks of himself and his personal life I took a definite interest in this mémoir, which was globally a fascinating and easy read. 

As regarding his studies, the one things I appreciated and/or actually understood (which I believe to be very much the same thing in this case) was the Grandfather Paradox (if you travel in time and kill your grandfather so you won't be born, then what?) and Hawkings's reason to why time travel most likely is and will remain impossible (because otherwise we'd already be flooded by tourists from the future).

Good one, and admirably concise!

Monday, February 12, 2018

TED Talks Radio Hour

The meaning of the TED acronym - Technology, Entertainment, Design - encompasses pretty much everything between heaven and earth, and sure enough, the TED talks can be about anything between heaven and earth, including abstractions.

I haven't watched any of the videos, as I confess I lack time and patience for videos. I reckon I'm probably too old (I'm not into Youtubers) or too young (When I retire, then..!) so I can't compare the TED videos to these edited radio-versions. 

The podcasts are well-designed and  all, but have a distinctly American ring to them. Reasonings, habits and opinions are in no way all universal. For instance, a school headmaster assuring her students every day that she loves them and always will may be a winning concept in Chicago (I believe it was) yet I am extremely doubtful as to whether anyone would appreciate it in France. 

Other subjects feel so obvious I almost feel taken for a fool.
Not convinced, therefore.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Mothering Sunday - Graham Swifth

Seasoned blogreaders will know I am not normally prone to poetic effusions, and yet here goes :
Reading this book was very similar to uncovering a hidden gem in a particularly unexpected place! The low-expectations principle no doubt helped; I had never heard of Swift before.

This concise narrative of a life-defining day in the life of a young maid in the English post-war countryside - not wholly unlike 'Atonement' in atmosphere - was : enchanting, meta-literary, subtle, piquant and (sigh) simply wonderful. 

Plus, a modest 150 pages long. I love an artist capable of killing his/her darlings.


Thursday, February 8, 2018

Man of The Woods - Justin Timberlake

Despite our - slight! - age difference, JT and I patently have similar tastes in music. 
Though I don't share his new love of country, I have spent years shaking my hips to James Ingram, Philip Bailey and Marvin Gaye. So, quite obviously, has Timberlake.

That he should want to reproduce these underrated artists is perfectly fine by me!
I do, however, regret that he doesn't seem to possess quite enough talent to pull off the addition of a new element - country or whatever else - which is essential if you want to do anything else but pay homage.

As it it, the Weeknd does this way better. 


Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Etre Moderne : le Moma à Paris, at Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris 16th arrdt

The New York Museum of Modern Art is undergoing extensive renovation which is excellent news for Europeans as the artworks are meanwhile being sent on a European holiday. 
As a consequence, it is currently possible to marvel at a whole heap of modern art masterpieces without disbursing any major financial contribution to Trump America (you may laugh but the US presidency has definitely had me rethink my holiday destination). 

Frida Kahlo, Edward Hopper, Paul Cézanne, Diane Arbus, Andy Warhol and more are exhibited in a pared-down environment, titles and names of the artists displayed at some distance from the artwork. I was doubtful at first but it turned out to allow for a lot more focus on the work itself.

As I'm not so hot for contemporary art, I clearly preferred the first rooms. 
Considering the impressive number of artworks exhibited, it was actually no bad thing to simply breeze through some of the galleries.  

As for the very recent building itself, it was very particular of course. Not wholly unattractive, surrounded by water, air and forest, but like the Eiffel Tower you do best to admire it from a distance. 

Sunday, February 4, 2018

In The Heart of the Sea - R. Howard 2015

As we 'Moby-Dick'-rereaders are well aware of, any adaptation is bound to add on a certain amount of action to compensate for the inevitable removal of the numerous chapters on cetology and the many various abstractions ("The Whiteness of the Whale"). 

Howard has bolstered the whale hunt with a prolonged shipwreck and a dogged bloodthirst in the poor white whale which reminds me more of 'Jaws' than of Melville. 
Plus, a hideous yellowish filter probably intended to confer an oil-painting feel, but which made everything look jaundiced.

Particularly bad, even - or especially - for a Ron Howard-movie.

Vox Low

Lo(w) and behold, the 1980s are back! And however little I generally appreciate previously fashionable stuff the second time around, I realize I must have missed the Sisters of Mercy more than I had thought.

As an additional bonus, this is a Parisian band! Much to my amazement, I seem to have become as jingoistic as any other Frenchman and so whenever I come across French music that I actually enjoy I tend to exclaim a delighted 'Cocorico!' (Cock-a-doodle-doo for the French cock.) (No way I can ever say that in English and keep a straight face.) 


Friday, February 2, 2018

The Danish Girl - T. Hooper 2015

Transgender is a tricky issue even now in 21st century Europe, so to place it in a historical context and view it from a couple's perspective clearly makes for something both complicated and sad.

That said, Hopper pulls this off marvellously, aided by skilled actors and stunning art déco settings and costumes. Beautiful and moving!

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Cabaret at Norrbottensteatern, Luleå (Sweden)

As far as I remember (I haven't seen the film in a while) this stage version stuck rather close to Bob Fosse's classic masterpiece.

As it is a compelling plot and beautiful songs, here enhanced by talented artists and a simple yet efficient set, this was a very pleasurable outing! Not at all what you'd expect from a small-country, small-town theatre troup.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Darkest Hour - J. Wright 2017

Never one for biopics, I must still say Wright got most of it right in this one; it focuses on a very limited time of space in Churchill's life (May 1940), it displays artistic ambitions, it tells the 'Dunkirk' story from the opposite coast and above all it chiefly resists the temptation of sprucing up the narrative to please the masses. 
It remains a political drama and was enjoyable as such.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

The ABC Murders - Agatha Christie

I am in no way implying Agatha Christie novels should necessarily contain the usual ingredients (delicate secretaries, superannuated manors, oriental daggers, elderly businessmen, Victorian libraries and a dash of arsenic).

What I am, however, saying is that the ABC-type of anonymous serial-killer, even with the final plot twist, is not Christie's forte.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Sisters - J. Moore 2015

Half the SNL crew including Tina Fey and Amy Poehler + Bechdel test passed with honors = This should really have been a hilarious laughfest and not the cringeworthy raspberry candidate it was.

What went wrong? Direction? What??

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Irving Penn Exhibition at Grand Palais, Paris

If truth be told, I am no true lover of photography, with the notable exception of 1940/50s fashion photos. Although as I do see the genius in Penn's work, I was still rather dismayed at wandering through room after room of cigarette butts, flowers, nudes, workers and street signs for a modest room or two of exquisite Vogue pictures and iconic portraits.

In the end I think I actually took more pleasure in leafing through the fashion books in the gift shop than I did in the exhibition.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Travels With My Father s1

The concept is a well-used classic : The particularly odd couple (hip young Fresh Meat actor teaming up with his stuffy old-England dad, dutifully playing his part) act as fish out of the bowl, viz backpacking in Asia.

For all its lack of originality, it does, nevertheless, function extremely well, in so far that it makes for some hearty, light entertainment all the while serving as a travel documentary. Probably it works extra well if you are a sucker for British tongue-in-cheek humour.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Macbeth - J. Kurzel, 2015

Despite what you might expect, there are a few common aspects to Shakespeare's tragedies and comedies. For instance, even the darkest of tragedies frequently offer some wordplay, often bawdy, and the women are generally very perceptive characters.

This version of 'Macbeth', however, comes practically as far as it is possible to go from the average comedy. Indeed, it was was more dark, stern and forbidding than most I have seen, culminating in a bloody finale preceded by two hours of Macbeth's ominous brooding and his Lady's vicious hissing (until his newly awakened bloodthirst shuts her down, clearsighted as she is) (or becomes).  

In all, it was a well-made, intimate drama though gloomy. Beautiful but gloomy.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018


A host interviewing two learned guests on their common specialization, ranging from climate change to more or less obscure historical persons : Definitely a winning concept, albeit one that demands a minimum of focus from the listener. 

Also, depending on your personal ambition, a concept to use on wakeful nights to fall asleep to. Works most of the time. (Sorry, you interviewees! It's not that you are at all uninteresting - it's just that despite the occasional insomnia, nights are simply made to sleep.)

Monday, January 15, 2018

Top of the Lake s2 China Girl

Noir only begins to describe this independent sequel to last year's excellent six-episode series but there is much more to it than that. 

It is also strangely innovative and classic at the same time - a little like 'Pulp Fiction', showing the same old things for the umpteenth time, somehow making you feel it's a first.
This is a whodunit detective story but focusing in equal amount on parenthood, on so many levels it nearly made my head spin.
Moreover, it its finely tuned and well-played, which are generally the signs of clever writing and directing.

Never a Campion connoisseur, I am now beginning to wonder whether I shouldn't, in fact, have been. (And whether or not it is too late?)

Friday, January 12, 2018

Bright - D. Ayer 2017

Will Smith is acting a very classic tough-guy cop in a very classic buddy-cop movie set in a very classic futuristic Los Angeles, surrounded - finally! something out of the ordinary! - by creatures from the Tolkien bestiary; elves and orchs mainly.

This combo did not exactly made my mouth water. Rather, I was prepared to sit this one out ("take one for the team" as I believe they say) as generally I do when the others watch superheroes or any action films.

It was a pleasant surprise, therefore, to find the beginning of the film much more interesting than I had anticipated! I watched almost all of it. Once the classic cop-hunt was on, however, it all turned into the same film you have all seen a hundred times before and so I took up my reading again. It didn't take much concentration to follow the plot.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Moby-Dick - Herman Melville

The story of the obsessive captain Ahab and his nemesis, the white whale is an integrated part of our collective Western culture despite the fact that relatively few have actually read the book - and considering its length and meandering style, there is really no wonder.

You might, therefore, be justified in wondering why some goofballs consider a re-read necessary, especially as there are so many new books around to delve into. 
I have no proper answer to that, except that I don't regret more than a perhaps a couple of minutes of my re-read. 

(The trick to getting through this book : Small bites! Just as you would if you were to eat the whale. A couple of pages at the time.)

Just like Ellis's 'American Psycho' (no other parallels between the two!) the narrative wanders off in long, detailed digressions on obscure topics such as 18th century cetology, Nantucket, boat anatomy, the colour white, whaling as an activity... The first whale appears 200 pages in. Be forewarned.

To conclude, it is way too long, but still! The plot is powerful. The narrative voice is charming (Call him Ishmael). There is something undefinable, poetic about this novel, which is perceptible even without literary analysis.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

François 1er et l'Art des Pays Bas at the Louvre, Paris 1er

Information on François and his links to Dutch art was modest, as opposed to the religious artworks which were presented in abundance. The Dutch art exhibited was not always top-notch, although admittedly many of the lesser paintings of the Golden Age are still masterpieces.

In all, this was interesting and beautiful yet a bit frustrating, as it was also clearly not as fascinating as it could / should / would have been. (Wonder at the difficulty of applying that low-expectations principle, which would save me from a lot of disappointment...)

Sunday, January 7, 2018

San Andreas - B. Peyton 2015

When stereotypes, conventions and excesses are patent even to my thirteen-year-olds, then they are way, way too far over the top for me, even considering this is a Hollywood disaster movie.

That said, a script at this level of nonsensical predictability can be strangely satisfying.
It was actually rather entertaining to point out exactly what was going to happen a good while before it happened. 
A bit like 'Battleship' except without Taylor Kitsch the charm.

Other than that, this was pathetic.