The barbershop from Eastern Promises

Regular readers will know that David Cronenberg's new film Eastern Promises is currently my film of the year despite Julian Schnabel's The Diving Bell and the Butterfly's best efforts to dislodge it. I was probably swayed by the fact that Cronenberg came across very well in the Radio 4 interview with Mark Lawson (no longer available on listen again) and Schnabel didn't when I saw him Q&Aed at Bafta. I found his name-dropping irritating but only because of his failure having mentioned Marty (Scorsese) or Harvey (Keitel) or David (Bowie) to delivery an interesting anecdote about them. Schnabel's a name-dropping celebrity cock-tease.

The worst bits of Eastern Promises are pure B movie (which isn't such a bad thing to be in my book) but the good bits are jaw-droppingly good. Both movies are flawed: the resolution in Promises isn't all it could be and the last third of Diving Bell drags a bit but both are definite ones to see.

Anyway, the point of this post was that the barbershop in the opening scene of Eastern Promises is the barbershop on Broadway market where I get my hair cut (£8.50). When I went in yesterday the nice barber pointed out some of the things they'd done to his shop for the filming including painting the sign you can see here which he's left on the window. And at the time I just thought he'd redecorated.


Louise Bourgeois: Le Suicide Threat

Louise Bourgeois at Tate Modern, October 2007. This one's called "Le Suicide Threat" and it's one of my favourite pieces in what is an excellent show. The show covers Bourgeois's painting, drawing, sculpture and installations in a career that covers most of the 20th century. Bourgeois's like Picasso but more relevant and less celebrated.


The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (Le Scaphandre et le papillon): Hot ladies and the rest

Went to a screening of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Julian Schnabel's adaptation of the autobiographical book of the same title by Jean-Dominique Bauby which recounts his life after suffering a stroke that left him almost totally paralysed. "The guy who dictated his book by blinking his eyelid" is how everyone refers to him and while that in itself is a remarkable achievement, what's best in the film is the simple but visually stunning way that Bauby's experience of locked-in syndrome is recounted. By all accounts the book is quite something (I haven't read it) and gives fuller rein to Bauby's attempts to deal with his state through humour (according to my wife). The film is definitely worth seeing and the opening 15 minutes or so are pure cinema, the story seen quite literally from Bauby's point of view as he first comes round out of his coma post-stroke. (All the effects were done in camera, often using a movable back on the camera resulting in the blurring of the action). There are some nice quirks to the film that made me smile not least the fact that this being a French movie all the women in it from the girl-friend and mistress to the speech therapist are all really hot (and not just Emmanuelle Seigner).

There are a couple clips on YouTube of Schnabel talking about the film:
Reasons to make the film (including fact that Johnny depp was in line for part of Bauby originally)
Biographical aspects of the film

Schnabel did a Q&A after the Bafta screening where he gave TimeOut magazine's film editor Dave Calhoun the runaround and generally came across as a bit of a prick. I like to think that the YouTube clips above are more indicative of what he's like in real life (but he's still an inveterate name-dropper).


Spectrum Art Auction: specialist autistic care and support

Following the charity art auction for Bethan's Fund that I helped out with a while ago I've been asked by the organisers of the Spectrum art auction if I can mention it here. Below there's the blurb from the website about the charity's work but the first thing I noticed is the fantastic range of artists who've donated work to the auction which includes the piece by Stella Vine here, a signed book from Damien Hirst, pieces by Eine, Paul Insect, Chris Levine, Immodesty Blaize, Katiejane Garside, Gary Lucas, Gerald Laing, D*Face, James Jessops, Lucy Mclauchlan, Cher, David Arquette, Architects such as Lord Norman Foster, Sir Nicholas Grimshaw and Top LA Architect Matthew Stokes. There's a full list here. Some of the work is being auctioned online and some at an event on 3 November. All the details are on the website.

From the Spectrum website:
"Spectrum is a provider of specialist residential, respite and educational services based in Cornwall, UK. From the small beginnings of a residential service at St. Erme, Truro, Cornwall, for ten young adults cared for by seven members of staff in 1982, Spectrum has developed into a recognised leader in the field of specialist autistic care and support. Currently nearly 100 service users referred from all over the UK are cared for by 350 staff in 23 homes and a small special school situated in the beautiful county of Cornwall on the south west peninsula of the UK."


Eastern Promises: My new film of the year

So Control only got to be my film of the year for a few weeks (like buses, there's dross for months and then two great films come along in a matter of weeks) to be replaced by David Cronenberg's new thriller, Eastern Promises, which is set amongst the Russian gangster class of contemporary London. Excitingly (for me at least) a lot of the exteriors were shot round Hackney with the opening shot featuring the Joy Tandoori, our local curry house, on fashionable Broadway market. By way of a warning to the squimish it does feature several scenes of extreme visceral violence (which are quite amazing) but if you liked A History of Violence then you're in for a real treat and yet again Viggo Mortensen is outstanding.


Banned Brands no. 1: Vauxhall

Having just watched France beat New Zealand in a very exciting Rugby World Cup quarter-final (which would have been better if we had more than a very rudimentary understanding of the sport) we then were assaulted by one of the most annoying adverts around: the one for the Vauxhall Zafira where the two fat kids act like the parents and say pompous po-faced shit. Yes, it's been around for a while but I've decided to keep a list of so-called banned brands - brands whose marketing is so offensive that I refuse to buy any of their products. So Vauxhall is entry number one on our Banned Brands list. This was swiftly followed by BT broadband for the fuck-awful one where the wife has lost her files and folders on the laptop (including the pics of her kids when they were little) and the bloke says "It's OK we can make another one" and she makes weird "I'm not sure what to think" eyes to camera until he says "It's all backed up so we'll just make another folder".

She looks mightily relieved at not having to shag this obvious nonce who's only with her to get near her kids. I digress somewhat but I notice on YouTube that there are many spoofs of the Vauxhall ads. They all seem to be done by teenagers and are of varying degrees of funny. I've chosen this one mainly because it doesn't have the racist overtones of the re-dubbed version of the asian family moving in next door (also to be found on YouTube) and its implications that they're drug-smuggling bombers.

Another Control entry

One of the comments for this YouTube Joy Division video - about John Cooper Clarke ("Who the fuck is the prick talking about 'bloody queues' at the beginning?") - reminded me about something that happened at the screening we went to the other night. Yol pops out of the cinema just before the film starts and the 20-something barmaid asks her what's on. Yol says 'Control'. The woman looks blank. 'A film about Joy Division,' says Yol. 'Ian Curtis?' The woman shakes her head more blankly, the words passing over her head meaninglessly. Young people, eh? They know nothing, happy to wallow in their ignorance.


The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw agrees with me: Control is the film of the year

Not so much about Control not being The Commitments part 2 (that was all my work), but about being the best film so far. I also noticed that sneaky Peter Bradshaw (one of the best film writers around) has upgraded his star rating for Control (Four stars at Cannes in May, five out of five for the UK release).


Ugly Betty Returns

Ugly Betty returns to Channel 4 this Friday with each episode TXing a week after it's aired in the States. I'm not sure how much of an anti-piracy move this is but ultimately TV distribution will move towards a cinema model with simultaneous world wide releases. The upside is that we won't find ourselves watching Christmas specials in late-July. You can also watch Ugly Betty for free on the now award-winning 4oD service.


AVOD and TVOD: I'm so wasted in this job

I get an email littered with the terms AVOD and TVOD. Nothing on Google. So to help out the rest of you:

AVOD: Advertising-funded Video-on-demand
TVOD: Transaction-funded Video-on-demand

There you have it. TVOD=PPV; AVOD=free with ads


Control: it's not 'The Commitments II"

It's probably the best film I've seen so far this year with excellent performances by Sam Riley, Sam Morton and pretty much all the cast. I wasn't expecting a huge amount from the film as I'm always suspicious about most films made of true stories, particularly music biopics, but this was the honourable exception and succeeds in making the telling of Ian Curtis's short life hugely resonant and deeply touching. Yol said she found the look of the film too dour and oppressive. I pointed out that she'd spent the years in question in London and that Birmingham at least pretty much looked and felt like that. Other good things include the cinemascope, the understated camerawork (it would have been easy to mimic director Anton Cobijn's photographic style that was such a defining part of the look of the early 'eighties NME), the quality of the music (the original plan had been for the band to mime but they actually play while Riley sings and it's wholly convincing), John Cooper Clarke now playing himself 28 years ago, and my favourite bit - Joy Division's manager Rob Gretton (Toby Kebell) offering Crispy Ambulance's singer twenty quid to go on stage to sing vocals to a hostile crowd after a depressed Curtis has been unable to go on.