Thursday, 28 February 2013

GFF 2013: Caesar Must Die

A large portion of Caesar Must Die’s impact stems from its concept: a production of Julius Caesar performed by the inmates of the high-security wing of Rome’s Rebibbia Prison. We are introduced to the cast first through their audition tapes – a humorous montage of over-acting studded with shreds of raw talent – and then via their rap sheets: drug trafficking, Mafioso connections, murder. Though not to be mistaken for documentary (the fly-on-the-wall rehearsals are evidently as staged as the final performance), this combination of real-life criminality and theatrical skulduggery exerts a galvanic fascination.

Even in its heavily abridged form, Shakespeare’s tragedy remains a gripping study of power and honour, with talk of justice acquiring added ironic inflections in the mouths of such a notorious troupe. On occasion, a maladroit heavy-handedness creeps in (“since I got to know art, this cell has become a prison” laments one actor), but Caesar Must Die otherwise delivers a compelling and considered take on immemorial themes.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

GFF Festival Diary #3: Final Day!

From a personal point of view, there’s a slightly bittersweet feel to the final day of the film festival. Very soon, I realise, tough quandaries like whether to watch a movie at a barn dance or an empty underground station will seem but a distant memory. As a result, even before the red carpet’s rolled away I’m in a reflective mood, with several films standing out from the sea of celluloid consumed in the last 10 days. There’s no space here to do all justice, so I’ll extend salutes to just a handful. Having missed opening gala Populaire, the following afternoon’s showing of Beyond the Hills was my first screening of the festival, and it set a formidably high benchmark for everything that followed. Of the handful that approached its brilliance, two eponymously titled tales with impressive greenhorn leads deserve mention: Wadjda, which acquired interest via its notable production context but kept it by virtue of director Haifaa al-Mansour’s lightness of touch and 10-year-old Waad Mohammed’s cocksure central performance; and the haunting Lore, an unsettling portrait of a young girl coming to terms with her Nazi upbringing amidst the terrible (often sexual) violence of the Second World War’s closing act. But in the end, it took a religious drama of a very different denomination to replace Beyond the Hills’s orthodox convent drama as my festival highlight, with the Cathedral screening of The Passion of Joan of Arc already celebrated at length in a previous blog piece. To recap: it was really, really good.

I begin the closing day with Blancanieves – a silent, black and white telling of the Snow White story set in 1920s Spain, which bolsters copious style with some genuine substance. Despite its crowd-pleasing sense of humour and √° la mode pastiche aesthetic (not to mention a huge haul of Goya awards and a scene-stealing, bandana-wearing rooster by the name of Pepe), this quirky take on Grimm material has somehow yet to secure UK distribution – a state of affairs we hope is remedied soon, even if it did lend a frisson of added exclusivity to this one-off sold-out showing.

My next selection – glossy UK crime thriller Welcome to the Punch has no such distribution issues, with moody posters advertising its impending release already emblazoning buses. The sense of occasion this time comes from seeing it first, with this afternoon’s screening constituting a world premiere. After a short foreword from producer Rory Aitken in which he swiftly thanks the project’s 'jigsaw puzzle of financers' (including an exec role for Ridley Scott), director Eran Creevy bounds front-of-screen to introduce his London-set take on the Hong Kong action thrillers he’d grown up obsessing over. As well as the likes of Ringo Lam and John Woo, a closer-to-home inspiration is singled out and paid tribute, with ‘what would Tony Scott do?’ apparently the crew’s on-set doctrine. These flashy influences shine through in the end result, which trots out every clich√© in the book – maverick cop on the edge, criminal with a conscience – but does so with enough flair and tension that it’s hard not to forgive its trespasses. The opening Canary Wharf set-piece, in which James McAvoy’s hardnosed bobby pursues Mark Strong’s sharp-suited thief and winds up shot, is particularly impressive, establishing the film’s slick visual appeal and charged pace. In the Q&A session that follows, Aitken explains the difficulties in getting access to London’s financial district, noting that the last time the powers-that-be granted such permissions, the film in question was Basic Instinct 2, 'and they weren’t thrilled with the outcome'. Luckily for Aitken, Welcome to the Punch’s 'aspirational' high-style and patent ambition helped secure two days of closed-off filming, applying an extra layer of polish to the film’s gleaming vision of the capital. Peter Mullan – who plays Strong’s right-hand man – joins Aitken and Creevy for the post-film discussion, expressing delight at the audience’s response to a particular improvised line ('I’ve always wanted to say that in a film!') and praising his director for his enthusiasm and openness to ideas. He’s not kidding about Creevy’s enthusiasm, the director breathlessly detailing sequel ideas, naming Trading Places his desert island flick and putting his hat in the ring for the next Batman reboot, all with a giddying but likeable degree of earnestness.

Finally, we come to Much Ado about Nothing, which caused so much ado upon announcement that its principal GFT screening is long sold out and we’re forced to settle for the back-up showing at Cineworld. Every pair of digits in the room is firmly crossed that director Joss Whedon will pop along Renfrew Street and grace us with his presence, but sadly it’s not to be. Still, his bardic home movie is a satisfying finale in and of itself, with a cast of Whedonverse favourites having fun with one of Shakespeare’s frothier yarns. There’s something intrinsically appealing about a commercially ascendant filmmaker following a billion-grossing tentpole with something so low budget, but what’s truly impressive is that the film never feels slipshod or indulgent (well, not overly so at least). The acting is first rate, making you wonder why some of these people get relatively little film work from other sources, with Nathan Fillian’s bloated Dogberry snagging the loudest titters and Sean Maher’s reptilian Don John just about eclipsing memories of a dungeon-dwelling, leather-trousered Keanu Reeves. Alas, rumours of a post-credit sequence in which Hamlet, Falstaff and Oberon turn up to recruit Benedick to do battle against evil forces are, it transpires, absolute poppycock.

And with that, we bid the festival adieu, and start counting down the days to the general release of Spring Breakers, so we can find out first-hand what all the blooming fuss is about.

Monday, 25 February 2013

GFF Festival Diary #2: The Passion of Joan of Arc

Despite multiple opportunities and a strong desire to do so, I’ve somehow never got round to watching The Passion of Joan of Arc before now – an omission in part down to its formidable reputation. Like its saintly protagonist, Carl Theodor Dreyer’s landmark film has long been canonised, and this universal reverence, coupled with its renowned emotional intensity, have meant the film always felt deserving of something more than a casual rental. But excuses aside, the distressing fact remains: I’ve made time in my life to see all three Diary of a Wimpy Kid films and every Saw, yet never experienced what US critic Jonathan Rosenbaum described as 'the pinnacle of silent cinema – and perhaps of the cinema itself'. Talk about cardinal sins…

Yet tonight, seated under the vaulted ceilings of Glasgow Cathedral, it feels less like a grievous oversight and more like a sagacious effort to ensure my first viewing is an unforgettable one. The cathedral’s gothic architecture, imposing stone pillars and faintly glowing stained glass leave a pronounced impression whatever your creed, and with the projector literally atop the altar, the interlinking of awes both religious and cinematic is potent. Even before the film begins, I can feel the goosebumps rise (though whether that’s from wonderment or chilliness it’s hard to say: impressive it may be, but the cathedral is far from cosy, and jackets stay firmly on throughout).

As the audience adjusts in tightly-packed pews, GFF co-director Allan Hunter takes to the pulpit to deliver his introduction. Special thanks are extended both to the Cathedral’s custodians for graciously hosting the evening, and to Cork French Film Festival curator Paul Callanan, who originally commissioned the event last year, and who will invite it back to Cork next month for a performance at Saint Fin Barre’s. A potted overview of the film’s exulted status follows, with Sight & Sound’s decennial critic’s poll (in which Passion… consistently charts high) evoked as a broad barometer of the enduring admiration it attracts, and director Dreyer venerated as one of several early filmmakers to alter perceptions of cinema’s capabilities: not merely a sideshow novelty or 'cheap entertainment for the masses', but a medium with latent artistic, poetic and spiritual possibilities. Hunter goes on to note Dreyer’s technical innovations, and reserves special praise (as is customary) for Maria Falconetti’s sublime central performance. In order to elicit a genuine sense of suffering, Hunter recounts, Dreyer instructed Falconetti to kneel on concrete for extended periods – a behind-the-scenes tit-bit that puts any minor grumblings about the hardness of the cathedral’s seating in perspective…

The film itself is every bit as resplendent as years of eulogising have led me to expect. Falconetti’s face sears itself on brain and conscience, her expressively wide eyes conveying acute torment during every close-up, her iconic framing augmented tonight by the screen’s grand surroundings. Less expected qualities include the sheer terror of the torture chamber sequence and the horrific final execution, which have a visceral impact that stays fixed in mind well into the following day. Composer Irene Buckley’s new score proves a hauntingly dramatic accompaniment to these onscreen revelations, contrasting ambient electronics with sonorous organ (courtesy of the distinguished James McVinnie), and utilising sudden silences to devastating effect. As pounding tom drums reverberate through the cathedral’s sanctuary, it becomes difficult for a newcomer enthusiast like myself to imagine the film divorced from so apt a soundtrack. Also excellent is soprano Gemma Nash, whose choral masses punctuate proceedings beautifully; while I can’t claim to have any significant experience or frame of reference for the recital style, it sounds pretty perfect from where I’m seated.

When the screen fades to black, there is a hesitant hush before the enthusiastic and prolonged applause commences. I can’t be the only one there who uses that moment to reflect on how special the event has been: a highlight of the entire festival – indeed, any festival – and a profound reminder of just how mesmerising and stimulating cinema can be. And you don’t get that with Diary of a Wimpy Kid 2: Rodrick Rules, let me assure you.

[written for the Glasgow Film Festival blog]

Sunday, 24 February 2013

GFF Festival Diary #1: Dead Calm

As well as writing features and reviews for the Cineskinny, I've been penning a trio of diary reports for the festival itself: here's the first...

As the Festival reaches its final weekend, we reflect on the diversity of programming we’ve had the good fortune of attending thus far. From prison-set Shakespeare productions to convent exorcisms, remote Inuit villages to Argentinian slums, the variety has been marked and welcome. But the films we’ve seen all had one thing in common: shown in cinemas, one and all. What’s with that? Sure, the pews of Glasgow’s picture-houses are comfortable, their screens sizable and their sound veritably surrounding. But by this phase of the festival we’ve got a hankering for something less conventionally staged, for which Dead Calm at the Tall Ship neatly fits the bill.

Admittedly, the naval novelty of spending an evening in a boat’s cargo hold loses a little of its appeal in the run up to the event, thanks to our decision to watch A Hijacking (an intense drama in which a Danish freighter is held ransom for several fraught months) the day before. But while the memory of despondent and terrified hostages cowering below deck creates some unpleasant associations in our mind, we steel our resolve by remembering a couple of salient facts: a) Somali pirates tend to focus on open-water shipping vessels rather than Clydeside tourist attractions; b) in contrast to A Hijacking’s captives, we’re unlikely to have to relieve ourselves in buckets, what with tonight’s event lasting 96 minutes rather than 130-odd days.

A plan to walk to the evening’s floating venue very nearly backfires when we arrive at what we thought was the location of the Tall Ship, only to find the area Tall Ship-less (say what you like about bricks and mortar cinemas; at least they stay put…).  With only a few minutes to spare, we use the handful of clues at our disposal to cleverly track down the errant barque: a solid description (a ship, of above average height), and some pretty unequivocal signage that points us in the direction of the Glenlee’s new home at the Riverside Museum (we say ‘new’: we later discover it’s been docked there since 2011, and make a mental note to pay more attention to, well, everything).

A friendly crew welcomes the audience on-board and guides us down into the hold – an agreeably atmospheric environment for a film that, for all its daftness, still musters up a fair bit of sticky-palmed tension. Dead Calm is one of four nautical flicks to be shown at the Tall Ship, the others being animated kids favourite Peter Pan, Hebridean plunder-com Whisky Galore and taut proto-blockbuster Jaws. With several of the other screenings having sold out well in advance, it’s a slight surprise to find attendance for tonight’s showing relatively light – almost as if Disney, Ealing and Spielberg have a wider appeal than a wild-eyed Billy Zane. Zane chews kraken-sized portions of ham as an adrift amateur sailor with a (literally) fishy tale, intruding on a grieving couple’s quiet oceanic getaway with claims that his ship’s crew have all carked it from eating dodgy tinned salmon. A galley full of dismembered corpses indicates a somewhat more violent cause of death for the sadistic seaman’s erstwhile cabin mates, and before long he’s dropped the innocent act and commenced menacing his new victims. A young Nicole Kidman spends most of her time running from one end of the yacht to the other, while an increasingly manic Zane rants and glowers before finally eating a flare. Subtlety is not, it’s fair to say, amongst the film’s finer qualities, but there’s fun to be had in its overwrought company. Particularly striking is Graeme Revell’s score, a mix of ominous orchestral swells and percussive breathing that proves an effective tension-builder (even if it’s not best served by the Glenlee’s non-optimum acoustics). The open ocean setting, meanwhile, is superbly claustrophobic, its vastness creating a stifling sense of isolation. But all that pales next to the true star of the show: a door-opening dog with an unfortunately strong fetching instinct, whose unjustly ignominious demise prompts a ripple of sniggers.

As we exit over the gangplank, we overhear* plans for next year’s slate: Hitchcock’s Lifeboat, during which a strict no-talking policy will be enforced by threats of being rounded on and prodded overboard; an ambitious joint collaboration with Blair Drummond Safari Park that promises a Life of Pi screening to remember; and finally, a deliberate scuttling designed to bring a wet-toed realism to a rereleased The African Queen. See you there!

 * make up

Saturday, 23 February 2013

GFF 2013: Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me

Nothing Can Hurt Me tells the story of power pop icons Big Star in a very conventional music-doc manner, with all the expected genre hallmarks: musician fans pop up to sing the band’s praises (with talking heads including REM’s Mike Mills and Hot Chip’s Alexis Taylor); archive footage strives to give a sense of why so many still care so deeply; and those party to events (including members Jody Stephens and the late Andy Hummel) offer first-hand testimonials that together build a portrait of the band’s successes and failures. 

But while the format is routine, the execution is first rate, skirting hagiography and comprehensively essaying not only Big Star’s all-too-brief existence, but also the band’s extended family tree – from Alex Chilton’s time in the Box Tops through to his avant garde solo ventures; from Chris Bell’s early steerage to posthumous masterpiece I am the Cosmos. The results should satisfy both long-term acolytes and those newly curious of Big Star’s timeless artistry.

Friday, 22 February 2013

GFF 2013: Location, Location, Location

Over the course of this year’s festival, the cargo hold of the Glenlee hosts a quartet of movies with maritime themes: Alexander McKendrick’s evergreen Ealing comedy Whisky Galore!; tense Aussie slasher Dead Calm; Disney’s take on JM Barrie’s piratical tale Peter Pan; and, naturally, the film that taught a generation to fear ocean paddling, the definitive nautical horror flick, the taut and terrific Piranha 3DD… er, I mean Jaws. With such a fine selection of sea-linked fare attracting land-lubbing cinebuffs from near and far, the folks at the Tall Ship are quite possibly going to need a bigger boat (sorry). Imagination sparked, we consider four more themed pairings of movie and place that we’d like to see…

Dawn of the Dead (dir. George A. Romero, 1978)
The location: Braehead shopping centre

With high street stores already displaying some rather zombie-like behaviour (what else do you call HMV’s recent back-from-the-dead reprieve?), Romero’s masterful synthesis of commerce and corpses feels fresher than ever. Set up a screen after closing time and you’ve got the perfect locale for a right good frightening.

Underground (dir. Emir Kusturica, 1995)
The location: The Arches

First off, the venue already has a close relationship with the fest, with events like last week’s Sonic Cineplex pushing the silver screen in innovative directions. Second, its cavernous vaults would make the perfect setting for this brilliant (albeit controversial) Balkan satire, in which an arms manufacturer keeps his workers subterranean for decades by convincing them that World War 2 still rages overhead. Add booze and runaway brass bands for extra atmosphere.

The Angels’ Share (dir. Ken Loach, 2012)
The Location: Auchentoshan distillery

Speaking of booze, a wee trip west to Glasgow’s closest distillery seems a fitting place to revisit Ken Loach’s charming comedy. Best of all, drinks are on the house – provided you time your distraction well and bring your own hosepipe and glass cheque decanter…

The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (dir. Joseph Sargent, 1974)
The Location: A between-stations carriage on the Glasgow Underground (Secret Subway 2 anyone?)

OK, the close confines of the clockwork orange aren’t best suited for comfortable reclining, but what better way to put an audience on the edge of its seat than by giving them no room to do otherwise? Just be sure not to screen the daft and dreadful Washington/Travolta remake or you’ll have despairing punters hot-footing it down the tracks to safety before you can say 'gesundheit'.

Dead Calm: 22 Feb – The Tall Ship @ 18.15
Jaws: 22 Feb – The Tall Ship @ 20.20

Thursday, 21 February 2013

GFF 2013: Shooting Star

Tonight, Sheffield electronica duo Animat furnish cult sci-fi Dark Star with a fresh soundtrack as part of the Glasgow Film Festival. We revisit the film's creaky corridors and find its lustre undimmed...

A long time ago on a university campus far, far away, John Carpenter and Dan O’Bannon started work on a small-scale student flick by the name of Dark Star. Their budget was shoestring and their progress slow, piecing together the initial cut over the course of three years. But with wit, invention and a vital wellspring of filmmaking chutzpah, the duo worked alchemy. Beach balls became aliens, baking trays were repurposed as space suits, and an hour-long student film became a full-length feature with lasting cult appeal. A sharp satire with a goofy sensibility, Dark Star combines slapstick humour with Cartesian philosophy; the destruction of planets with the monotony of long-term isolation; existentialism with gags about toilet paper. It roughed up the pristine visions of a then freshly popular genre (thanks to Kubrick’s 2001), and launched its creators’ careers in the process.

Carpenter and O’Bannon met while enrolled in the University of Southern California’s School of Cinema-Television – by then already boasting at least one poster-boy alumnus in the form of George Lucas (whose feature debut THX 1138 was based on an earlier USC short). Both Carpenter and O’Bannon donned multiple creative hats to make Dark Star a reality: as well as directing and producing, Carpenter provided its iconic score and co-wrote with O’Bannon; in addition to scripting, O’Bannon’s credits include production design and editing, plus a role in front of the camera playing Sgt. Pinback. And, as comprehensive making-of doc Let There Be Light makes clear, the list of unofficial roles extended further still. With zero ventilation in the astronauts’ helmets (made, as they were, of toys and tape), breathing was tricky. Therefore, the scene in which Doolittle (Brian Narelle) teaches phenomenology to a bomb was filmed one line of dialogue at a time, with O’Bannon on hand to help recuperate wilting actor Brian Narelle the moment Carpenter called ‘cut’. This can-do DIY approach is a big part of the end result’s abundant charm: while you can see the frayed edges and corner-cutting, it’s all the richer for it. The aforementioned inflatable extra-terrestrial is a case in point: flagrantly cheap, but endearingly memorable.

Viewed forty years on, Dark Star seems very much a product of its origins (both in terms of its 70s counter-culture tropes and its microbudget aesthetic) but it has dated gracefully. Even if it hadn’t, it would retain a prominent place in the chronicles of cinematic sci-fi by virtue of its progeny alone. Carpenter’s subsequent successes need little elaboration, with the likes of Escape from New York and The Thing establishing him as a genre titan (even if the crown has since slipped). The late O’Bannon enjoyed a comparatively less feted career, but one nonetheless studded with gold: Dark Stars beach-ball chase became the basis for Alien’s stalking xenomorph; further script work included the original Total Recall and Tobe Hooper’s Invaders from Mars remake; and in 1985 he received his first director’s credit, for seminal shocker Return of the Living Dead. Meanwhile, Dark Star’s DNA cropped up again and again – from the Millennium Falcon’s hyperspace blur to the galactic misadventures aboard Red Dwarf’s eponymous mining ship – establishing an enduring legacy for this most unorthodox of space odysseys.

21 Feb – CCA Theatre @ 21.30

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

GFF 2013: Men at Lunch

There’s no doubt ‘Lunch atop a Skyscraper’ is a potent photograph, securely stitched into New York’s rich iconography. The oft-reproduced shot of eleven steelworkers posing precariously above the city’s streets continues to exert a queasy fascination for even the most mildly acrophobic, while its wider contextual significance – symbolic of modern New York’s very formation, capturing a moment when both its skyline and melting pot population were still works in progress – would seem to offer great potential for documentary analysis. 

Unfortunately, the potential goes unrealised in Men at Lunch, which drowns its subject in sentimentality and hyperbole. A florid voiceover delivers a mix of overstatements (tourists visiting the building’s observatory are “drawn by one of Manhattan’s greatest legends” apparently – as opposed to, say, simply seeking an impressive view) and banal conclusions (the mostly anonymous workers are everymen; “they are all of us”), and while some interviewees proffer genuine insights worth pondering, these can’t balance the film’s wayward focus and runaway aggrandisement.

20 Feb GFT 2 @ 15:50
21 Feb GFT 2 @ 15:50

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

GFF 2013: Village at the End of the World

Many small-town teens dream of moving to the big city, but few experience as profound an isolation as sixteen-year-old Lars. Living in the remote Inuit settlement of Niaqornat in northern Greenland, peers are few and options limited. “We don’t have internet cafes, hotels or restaurants,” he explains. “We only have the shop” – a small convenience store serving the settlement’s 59 residents, and one of the few employers left in a village facing an uncertain future due to its ever-dwindling population.

Filmed over an 18-month period, director Sarah Gavron focuses in on a handful of those that remain, piecing together an absorbing documentary portrait of everyday life in an extreme environment. The community’s attempts to kick-start their prospects by purchasing an abandoned fish factory provide a kind of overarching narrative, but it’s the vignettes proffered along the way – from whale butchery to springtime celebrations – that make Gavron’s film so fascinating. Beautifully-shot and purposely unsentimental, Village… is an insightful study of lives in transition.

19 Feb - Cineworld 17 @ 18.45
20 Feb - Cineworld 17 @ 16.30 

Monday, 18 February 2013

GFF 2013: Out in the Cold - Sarah Gavron on Village at the End of the World

Best known for her works of fiction – from BAFTA-winning TV drama This Little Life to 2007’s Brick LaneVillage at the End of the World sees director Sarah Gavron take on the role of documentarian, filming the inhabitants of a tiny Inuit community in northern Greenland as they try to restore their economic fortunes and halt the outflux of villagers seeking work elsewhere. We spoke to Gavron about the project’s origins, and the complexities involved in bringing the community’s story to screen.

Where did the initial idea to film in remote Greenland come from?
Well, my husband [cinematographer David Katznelson] is Danish, and he’d been to Greenland and made a documentary there some years ago [Arctic Crime and Punishment (2002)]. He was really keen for me to go there with him, so we went there on an adventure with half an eye on making a film together. We ended up visiting a few tiny hamlets, and I was immediately drawn to them – it was just a world apart from anything I’d ever encountered before. When we went to Niaqornat, which is the village that we focus on, we were greeted by Illannguaq [the sewage collector in the film] who was the only one who spoke English. He was really our way in – he explained the whole mechanics of the village, and we spent time there and were made welcome. So after that first trip we thought 'perhaps there is a story here – one that tells of a traditional way of life fighting for survival, which will connect, perhaps, with a global narrative of small communities all over the world fighting for their existence’.

What was the shoot like?
Well, it was all about going back and forth and spending quite a lot of time there. It was a very tiny crew – there was me doing sound and directing, and David looking through the camera. Sometimes I had to stand back and it was just him with the camera and mic, alone – it sort of depended on the situation. So it was a very reduced crew, and quite difficult circumstances – you know, filming in the dark because they have perpetual darkness in winter, [and] filming in very freezing conditions…

How long did the editing take?
It took an enormous amount of time. Something that I hadn’t really anticipated is that if you film in a foreign language, which I’d never done, then you’ve got the added job of translating – and [it’s] a language that no one in England speaks, so it wasn’t like we could find a translator here! There were people in Copenhagen who came across and sat in the edit suite and went through [the footage with us], and that was enormously time-consuming, finding the little nuggets within the interviews.

Do you think that your work as a fiction filmmaker has influenced the documentary’s style?
I think as a fiction director I find it very important to constantly observe the real world and life around you, because in a way you’re trying to create truth – you know, what would someone do if they’re told that piece of news, how will they respond, will they cry, will they laugh. So I’m really obsessed with observing how people respond to things… And I suppose in documentaries you’ve got the truth laid before you, so you’re just capturing what’s there. In documentaries, if someone shows emotion, you obviously believe them, [whereas] in fiction you have to work hard to create those moments. So it’s kind of a different muscle in lots of ways, but obviously one does feed into the other.

Village at the End of the World plays the Glasgow Film Festival:

19 Feb - Cineworld 17 @ 18.45
20 Feb - Cineworld 17 @ 16.30

Saturday, 16 February 2013

february playlist

1. yo la tengo - ohm
2. crocodiles - mirrors
3. ingenting - hallelujah
4. electrelane - to the east
5. the war on drugs - baby missiles
6. la bien querida - arenas movedizas
7. stereolab - super electric
8. the magnetic fields - when my boy walks down the street
9. here we go magic - make up your mind
10. patti smith - gloria
11. liz brady - bas les pattes
12. christie laume - rouge rouge
13. marnie stern - transformer
14. my bloody valentine - feed me with your kiss
15. the ramones - baby i love you
16. robyn - konichiwa bitches
17. depeche mode - everything counts
18. purity ring - grammy
19. david bowie - young americans
20. surfer blood - weird shapes
21. paws - bloodline
22. pavement - unfair
23. the postal service - such great heights
24. yeah yeah yeahs - honeybear
25. elastica - vaseline
26. bleached - think of you
27. suede - barriers
28. stevie nicks - edge of seventeen
29. nirvana - sliver
30. the velvet underground - waiting for the man
31. veronica falls - teenager
32 ida maria - i like you so much better when you're naked
33. kenickie - punka
34. jazzy jeff and the fresh prince - boom! shake the room
35. the beastie boys - intergalactic
36. wugazi - sweet release
37. mansun - being a girl
38. super furry animals - torra fy ngwallt yn hir
39. james brown - think
40. gloria jones - tainted love
41. stevie wonder - for once in my life
42. jackie wilson - higher
43. chuck berry - you never can tell
44. the cars - hello again
45. the go gos - we got the beat
46. lene lovich - lucky number
47. bow wow wow - aphrodisiac
48. spencer davis group - i'm a man
49. the stone roses - she bangs the drums
50. the zombies - she's not there
51. talking heads - psycho killer
52. teenage fanclub - discolite
53. fleetwood mac - the chain
54. the shadows -
55. the lovin spoonful - do you believe in magic?
56. the only ones - another girl, another planet
57. the doors - break on through
58. the stooges - i wanna be your dog
59. the breeders - cannonball
60. nena - 99 luftballoons
61. billy idol - rebel yell
62. michael jackson - the way you make you feel
63. lcd soundsystem - jump into the fire

Friday, 15 February 2013

desaparecidos @ the arches,15th february

With their vaudevillian flair as abundant as ever, We are the Physics are on fine, frenetic form this evening. Wise-cracking and Orinoco Flow-ing through tight riffs and non-sequitur mantras, their welcome is, however, surprisingly reserved – though perhaps that’s only because many opt to conserve energy for the main event.

Ten years is a hell of a build-up, so it’s no surprise that Desaparecidos debut Scottish gig provokes an intense reaction. Opening with the crunching guitars of Greater Omaha, they sound louder and more impassioned than on record, with the two-prong vocals from Conor Oberst and bassist Landon Hedges scraping together into a single, fervent howl matched by contributions from the crowd. Read Music/Speak Spanish is played in full, and the response is consistent: lyrics are chanted back from the floor, air is punched, and the grins breaking out amongst the band suggest the electricity is felt onstage as well as off. But while those with a decade-long infatuation get the biggest payoff tonight, the show offers all involved far more than nostalgia. Politically-charged new tracks update the lyrical themes – Arizona border policy, the Occupy movement – but convey the same energy and fire, and the overall impression isn’t of a late-stage curtain call, but a fresh start for a band with plenty left to say and plenty willing to hear it.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

GFF 2013: Lore

The Glasgow Film Festival kicks off today - go see this:

Adapted from Rachel Seiffert’s 2001 novel The Dark Room, Lore presents the dissolution of the Third Reich through the eyes of a teenage girl raised in its midst, her family’s pro-Nazi world view capsized by defeat. The titular protagonist (impressively played by Saskia Rosendahl in her screen debut) is a complex creation – too young to share her parents’ complicity, but having assimilated their anti-Semitic values nonetheless. This mix of innocence and ignominy creates a keen dramatic tension, keeping audience sympathies tentative and in flux.

Tasked with looking after her younger siblings following her parents’ arrest, the plot follows Lore’s journey through occupied Germany – a tumult of grief, guilt and denial pervaded by terrible suffering. With careful poetry, director and co-writer Cate Shortland builds an immersive narrative from vivid, sensory details, lingering on the crunch of eggshells underfoot or the revulsive intimacy of ants crawling on corpses. The result is a stimulating portrayal of an under-examined aspect of Nazism’s terrible legacy.

15 Feb – GFT 1 @ 18.00
16 Feb – Cineworld 18 @ 19.00

Tuesday, 12 February 2013


come and have a dance to THESE:

(where: nice n sleazy)

(when: 15th feb, 11:30pm)

(why: cos it'll be GRRRRREAT)

Monday, 11 February 2013

gig review: the history of apple pie @ the art school, 5th february

With debut Out of View doing brisk business (impressively nestled at number two in the midweek record stores chart), The History of Apple Pie should, by rights, be pretty unstoppable tonight. Yet their welcome to Glasgow is mostly muted, for reasons not entirely attributable to their performance.

During songs like Mallory, their infectious aesthetic sparkles and pops, as sugar-sweet melodies and thick fuzz build a beautiful noise filled with endorphins and distortion. With three guitars and a whole lotta effects pedals at their disposal, their indie-pop has real clout, with vocal harmonies cutting through the cosy din like rays of sunshine. But while this London outfit understand the importance of portion control (their short, sharp set never in danger of dragging things out unnaturally), a lack of enthusiasm on both sides of the stage ultimately stifles the night’s chances of tipping into the higher register that the band otherwise seem destined to reach.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

february skinny...


This is the latest issue of the Skinny, and these are the articles i wrote (just album reviews this month):

- Galoshins - 'EP1/EP2' album review (read here!)
- Dawn McCarthy & Bonnie 'Prince' Billy - 'What the Brothers Sang' album review (read here!)
- Fuzzy Lights - 'Rule of Twelfths' album review (read here!)
- Thao and the Get Down Stay Down - 'We The Common' album review (read here!)
- Caitlin Rose - 'The Stand In' album review
- Universal Sex Arena - 'Women Will Be Girls' album review (read here!)
- The Soft Hills - 'Chromatisms' album review (read here!)

Saturday, 9 February 2013

cmere you

[mike, tell the good readers why they should come to bottle rocket next week...]

Hey lovers.

This month's BR follows hot on the heels St Val-wedon'tsellmanycardsinfebruary's Day. In many ways the 15th of Feb is the best day of the year, as it represents the furthest possible distance from next year's 14th of Feb, the day Bottle Rocket usually spends sobbing in the hallway cupboard, listening to Nilsson's "Without You" on repeat and eating granola straight from the box. Dry. But the 15th of Feb is a whole 364 days away from that undignified spectacle! Come and celebrate with us!

Here are the vitals:

11:30PM - 3PM!

If there's anything you'd like to hear, stick it below.
DISCLAIMER: If we don't play something you asked for, it's almost certainly because we've forgotten. Damn beer. Really sorry, keep reminding us though

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

reviews: universal sex arena, the soft hills, al lewis

Universal Sex Arena - Women Will Be Girls (***)

Look beyond the sleazy triumvirate of band name, album title and cover art (a kitsch bunga bunga fantasy in pen and watercolour), and the debut album from Italy’s Universal Sex Arena has plenty to recommend it. With archetypal psychedelia, garage rock and twanging surf guitar setting solid foundations, the sextet rattle out rambunctious, urgent variations on a vintage theme, without ever sounding antiquated or phony.

They do, however, sound like a band in need of an editor, with Women Will Be Girls’ 15-track, 53-minute bulk in definite want of a trim, its palette too narrow to warrant such sprawl. Admittedly, some of the album’s slighter offerings earn a place by injecting diversity (for instance, Kill You’s lo-fi acoustic interlude) but others, like Brain Ferry or Slow Down, just drag. Ignore the bloat, however, and Universal Sex Arena do themselves proud – let’s just hope they don’t last even longer on their second go.

Out 11th February

The Soft Hills - Chromatisms (***)

A year since last album The Bird is Coming Down to Earth, Seattle’s The Soft Hills return sounding slightly less pastoral and a tad more cosmic, successfully expanding their horizons without quite managing to consistently turn ‘good’ to ‘great.’ The echoing, fragile Payroll is one of the few tracks to emphatically earn the latter epithet, its sparse crawl and satellite bleeps constituting the album’s chilly peak.

The most recurrent reference point for The Soft Hills’ sprawling sound remains Midlake, partly due to some obvious shared influences; Garrett Hobba’s high, slightly reedy vocals, for example, owe a definite debt to Neil Young, particularly on tracks like closing country ballad Desert Rose. When the band’s touchstone inspirations are parlayed well, the results flirt with brilliance. But elsewhere, Chromatism’s unswervingly downbeat tone robs individual songs of impact, meaning that, for the time being at least, excellence is the exception rather than the rule.

Out 11th February

Al Lewis - Battles (***)

There’s little to discover on Welsh songwriter Al Lewis’s second English-language album, but that’s not to say there’s nothing to enjoy. Lewis’s acoustic balladry may constitute a particularly conservative take on the contemporary singer-songwriter genre, but despite its deeply ingrained predictability, the results are always pleasant.

The setup and execution of tracks like Treading Water is simple but effective: over a bed of acoustic guitar and harmonica, mellow vocals flutter and glide, with Lewis’s gentle croon accentuated by long-term collaborator Sarah Howells’ mellifluous harmonies. Deviations to the formula occasionally creep in; the Bread-tinged sway of Don’t Believe in Magic, for instance, is a gorgeous mid-album highlight, and its moments like this that ensure Battles offsets tedium despite its familiarity.
This is coffee shop music to its core – always nice, never surprising – yet within its narrow boundaries, Battles conveys enough personality to elevate Lewis a couple of notches above the median standard.

Out 18th February