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Biography

24 Hour Party People

dir: Michael Winterbottom
[img_assist|nid=1047|title=I remember what it used to be like, going to gigs *sigh*|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=400|height=300]
It's like this film was based on a book written by a Kurt Vonnegut born in the sixties who got to see the glorious birth of punk first hand. It's a fractured, glorious shambles of a film. It doesn't always work, and I had major issues with the second half of the film, but, Jesus, what a ride.

Steve Coogan had made a career out of playing a character that Tony Wilson was the template for way before this film was ever conceived of. Anyone who's ever seen any episodes of Knowing Me Knowing
You with Alan Partridge
would know the only real difference between Alan Partridge and Tony Wilson is the wig. It seems fittingly appropriate that he end up playing him for real. You have to ask yourself whether the film is about what it purports to be about: Manchester and the incredible importance it played in the growth of two major scenes in contemporary music.

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Pollock

Pollock

Geniuses and their abject shittiness to other people

dir: Ed Harris

2000

Only recently did I have the honour of catching Ed Harris’ Pollock on DVD, at a time where it seems I’ve been watching a lot of biopic ‘prestige’ movies. You know the ones: labour of love projects produced, directed by and/or starring relatively Big Name Hollywood personages where they wish to be permanently associated with some famous artist from the recent or distant past and hopefully net themselves critical and Oscar worthy acclaim. I mean films like The Hours (at least the part with Nicole Kidman in it as Virginia Woolf), Frida (where Salma Hayek showed she had at least a little bit more to offer than just her splendid figure, but not that much), and this here pearl cast before us swine.

No, the film isn’t anti-Polish propaganda. It is about the life and times of Jackson Pollock, arguably one of the most important American artists of the last fifty years. Possibly, I don’t know how these things are measured. Especially considering the fact that most people look at his paintings and say shit like “My five year old could do a better finger painting than that!” The fact is that what is considered influential and important art isn’t always accessible to and by the purported ‘public’ that is the rest of us. I know enough about his painting and his life to know the context of his work as an abstract expressionist, but not the nitty gritty aspects of his life that motivated him, that drove him. After watching the film I’m still really left none the wiser.

Abstract expressionism is a form of art in which the artist expresses themselves purely through the use of form and color. It is form of non-representational, or non-objective, art, which means that there are no concrete objects represented. Of course none of that matters, really, because this isn’t a documentary. It’s a film, about a guy who would have lived and died a rotten life in misery and obscurity had he not been a great artist.

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Mirror (Zerkalo)

Zerkalo

I have no idea what's going on here either

dir: Andrei Tarkovsky

1975

On the back of my last Tarkovsky review, which was ye oldie Russkie version of Solaris, which I didn’t like, I watched the next film in his catalogue, which was the semi-auto-partly biographical Mirror.

And I was pretty impressed. The funniest thing is that I could just as easily say the same kinds of things I said in the Solaris review, but here those points are positives and enhance the film, such as it is.

As to what exactly the film is about, I’ve got close to fuck-all idea. Honestly, it’s about everything and nothing at the same time. It’s a tribute to his father and mother and a dreamlike, nostalgic re-rendering of Tarkovsky’s childhood and adulthood and there’s some Spanish people in there and the conflict between a husband who abandons his family after the war who is then young and being trained incompetently in the war and then the mother is someone’s girlfriend instead and and and…

I’ve got no idea. Tarkovky’s father’s poetry makes some appearances, and he was a famous and respected writer in his time, so maybe its purpose (since it’s dedicated to him) is to honour him. Tarkvosky’s younger sister Marina has stated on the record that Tarkovsky used many snaps from the family photo albums to summon up much of the incredible imagery and scenes in this non-linear, multi-dimensional, chaotically coherent film.

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Lenny

Lenny

No, not Lenny! He's a war hero

dir: Bob Fosse

1974

The film is not about Lenny Kravitz; it’s not about Lenny from The Simpsons. It is about the Lenny who lords over all other Lennys; the Lenny who took on the Establishment and lost. Lenny Bruce was doing his part for free speech and revealing American society’s hypocrisy back when the majority of American comics were still doing mother in law jokes and that gag about “I just flew in from Chicago, and boy are my arms tired”.

Lenny was swearing on stage at a time when saying the word ‘cocksucker’ in public was a jailable offence. He was tearing strips off the government for its involvement in Vietnam, and the double standards of a Puritanical nation that celebrated violence but went berserk over nudity and sex before it was cool or safe. He was working without a net, and paid the price for it.

This biopic beautifully captures the mercurial essence, the sacred fire that made Lenny Bruce so important in his time and so crucial to those who would follow. Dustin Hoffman, an actor who usually stands out most clearly in any role by reminding you what a ham Dustin Hoffman is, subsumes himself in the role so that you forget you’re watching one of Hollywood’s most recognisable actors. As well, this being the 70s, Hoffman puts in a powerhouse performance that almost makes up for the coasting he’s down for the last couple of decades.

If you know nothing about Bruce, it’s a great introduction. If you’re lucky enough to have heard some of his performances or read his hilarious autobiography How To Talk Dirty and Influence People, you’d see that the film hews closely to Bruce’s actual life and performances, in some cases replicating them almost verbatim. Whilst Hoffman carries and embodies the film with his performance, the other crucial role belongs to Valerie Perrine as Bruce’s wife Honey, who puts in sterling work as well. Their scenes together have an ease and chemistry that enhances the believability of their relationship, and gives the film its backbone.

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