July 27, 2015

Going undercover

The Imitation Game (Morten Tyldum, 2014). Magnificent and sensitive work from Benedict Cumberbatch, playing code-breaking mathematician Alan Turing as though he had Asperger’s Syndrome, suggesting that the human social code is tougher to crack and that much more cruelly enforced, and casting an ambivalent light on the title. Everything else is the routine simplifications, convenient fictions and prestigious production values of the historic biopic. The impersonation game. 

July 20, 2015

Passed upon the stair

Cobain: Montage of Heck (Brett Morgen, 2015). It’s a pity Nick Broomfield used Kurt and Courtney as the title of his notorious conspiracy doco because it would have been a perfect fit for this mess, which is voyeuristic when it shows us its big prize, Cobain and Love’s junkie home movies, with the obnoxious Love already acting for posterity, always conscious of her legendary status, and merely exploitative when it shows us touching Super 8 footage and drawings from Cobain’s childhood, presumably stored for all those years by the family who didn’t want to know him when he was a teenager. Music comes a distant third, which is a problem because it was only within music that Cobain’s sense of humour and subversiveness were really on show (we’ve seen and heard enough of the Sid-and-Nancy doom stuff to last any number of lifetimes, and the punk rock notebook doodles and animations add little). Nirvana bass player Krist Novoselic talks far too briefly and, amazingly, Brett Morgen passed on including Dave Grohl. Buzz Osbourne has already talked about what he sees as the errors (“Cobain was a master of jerking your chain,” he says here) and other important contemporaries, such as Dylan Carlson, are missing. We’re at the 20-years-on phase of the myth-and-afterlife now, almost exactly the same point in the cycle that the Doors were at when Oliver Stone made his Jim Morrison movie. And that’s a sobering thought. 

July 18, 2015

Hippies, whales, epiphanies

On the Greenpeace documentary, How to Change the World, directed by Jerry Rothwell. Pictured: Walrus Oakenbough. 

July 17, 2015

Dreamed streets

The Man Who Knew Too Much (Alfred Hitchcock, 1956). Empty, dreamed streets in London. Vertigo’s green light (it meant death) seen on the porch of a hotel in Marrakech. Dream scene: a small group watches you as you make an important telephone call. Doubles, mistaken identity, repeats. The ghoulish assassin with a mummified face. The sense that being abroad could easily slip into some kind of terror.