Archive for September 20th, 2006

The Black Dahlia

Whenever interviewed, James Ellroy insists that LA Confidential was a fluke and that you will never see another film based on one of my books. Oh, if only it were so…

Now, I’ve always felt that The Black Dahlia sits strangely as part of the LA Quartet (but complain when they published a compendium of only three of them) because it’s very much a bridge between his earlier work and the really incendiary stuff. As such it’s a much straighter work in both format and style. So, IMO, it would seem a pretty easy candidate for screen adaptation.

Brian De Palma has a very patchy track record. But, when he hits top form it can be near genius. And, thankfully, his work has a streak of pulp sleaziness and (debatable) misogyny that puts him in position of near heaven-made match for this. So why is it so godawfully bad?

OK, some good points. It looks amazing. The production design is glorious. Also in the same vein is Scarlett Johansson. De Palma loves her. There’s not an opportunity missed to have her look up and pout in soft focus. Shame they didn’t spend as much time actually giving her a character to play.

Sorry. Good points. There are points throughout where we see footage of Betty Short – the titular flower (look it up yourself, I’m not going to bother filling in the plot – if the film makers can’t be bothered…) having a screen test. She is chatting to an off screen director (De Palma himself). The five minutes or so of the film taken up by this shows more of a grasp of character an narrative than the rest of it. It’s the only part that really feels properly rounded. It’s a wonderful cameo (correct usage) performance from Mia Kirshner. What does that tell you about the film? Best performance in it is from the dead girl.

There has been some thought here. It’s fairly apparent that they are trying for a real pulp feel to the piece. To try and capture a sense of the movies at the time. It’s just that they are waaaaay off the mark. Part of it veer towards the kind of parody you’d find in a BBC christmas special. Albeit one with a big budget. In fact, by the time Fiona Shaw turns up – both barrels gurning – I really am expecting Dawn French in a maids outfit to walk on an pratfall. Although, that would’ve been a vast improvement.

I laughed very loudly, quite a few times, through this film. This was not, I suspect, the desired effect. (But, no, it”s not even worth it for that value.)

God, it’s dreadful.


Written by Tony Kiernan

20 September 2006 at 2:44 pm

Posted in Film

BBC Proms In The Park – Glasgow Green (9 September 2006)

On the back of having such a good time last year, we vowed to make 2006 our year of culture. We would make sure we went to a few orchestral recitals. We would catch a ballet. We’d even make sure we took in a opera. So, as this years BBC Proms In The Park rolled around we’d done zip. Not through any real lack of trying, mind (well, maybe the orchestra). It’s just that I don’t seem to frequent those places online where you are constantly being bombarded with orchestras spamming you about their gigs. And, the listings available are at best confusing at worst non-existent. What’s the score? (Arf!)

And, to top it all, Seb Hunter has followed up his last book with the brilliantly titled Rock Me Amadeus: Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love Handel wherein he undertakes kinda what ‘we’ had in mind – to learn all about this classical music malarkey coz it’s dead good for your intellect and soul. Although, he does go at it in a considerably more dedicated (wandering ruined churches in desolate areas of Germany to get a handle on Hildegard Of Bingen), considerably more harebrained (strapping himself into a chair and having the whole Ring Cycle blasted at him in a oner) and much more focused (no pop music for the whole period – *shudder*). Not only was this one of the most genuinely laugh-out-loud books I’ve read in some time (ask the flat mate, he’s sick of me trying to explain why I had tears streaming down my cheeks) but also pretty damn informative for the level I’d see myself at. (I’m sure them in the know would regard is as vulgar and ill-informed. But, it mirrors a lot of my experience/reactions to this stuff. Accessibility, folks. That’s the whole point.) He’s doing the hard work so we don’t have to. Highly recommended.

So, fired up on that, I’m kinda gagging for this when it comes (finally) along. This time, though, we’re park proms veterans and know to bring along the whole picnic caboodle. What we Glaswegians laughingly call ‘summer’ has decided to make one last appearance over the parapets of drawing-in nights. It all feels very civilised.

As usual, central are the Scottish Symphony Orchestra. I don’t know anything about whether this lot are world renowned or anything. And, much more to the point, I dunno whether they are any good. This is where the ignorance is writ big. They sound like an orchestra. And, that’s a wonderful sound. Maybe I should set myself the task of trying to identify a decent one from a mediocre one for next year. In the meantime, you can just assume that everything is played with a deftness of touch and the requisite lushness. I’ll deal with the soloists/guests and material. Or more specifically my reactions to them.

We have a transport theme going on this year. It’s not really explained why, so why not? This means we get a rattle through The Ride Of the Valkyries to get us warmed up. And, pretty smashing it is too. Strangely, though, if Wagner‘s the heavy metal composer he keeps stuffing too many fiddly bits in there. Everyone knows we’re only here for the riff. Cue much talk of Charles and his beachcombing habits.

The first guest soloist appears to be Harry Hill, although it transpires that he is, in fact, Christian Lindberg – Scandinavian trombonist in excelsis. We get a very lovely, and very familiar, trot through Moz‘s Hornbone Concerto No 4 (heh-heh they said horn….and, bone). Then we get a piece specifically composed for him. The finale of Jan Sandström‘s Motorbike Odyssey, wherein the bike apparently ascends into heaven (hey! Meatloaf!). This is completely insane. Almost literally barking. It’s dense, impressionistic, complex and thoroughly exciting. (There was a time when I used to play trombone – mainly to get out of English classes – so feel I can comment on this.) The dude can play! Wow. A recording of the whole thing shall be sought.

Next up, two pieces by Lumbye (nope, me neither). Copenhagen Steam Railway Galop is one of those things where the orchestra tries to ‘evoke’ a journey. All gimmicky whistles, steam pistons and an actual beat. Y’know a cringingly naff concept. Annoyingly, it really is ratherexhilaratingg and quite beautiful. As is the jaunty polka for two violins that they follow it up with.

Next big guest: Inverclyde Junior Schools’ Choir. Good. I was beginning to get a bit desperate, time to try out the loos. Due to the length of the queue, I end up catching the choir anyway. And, I’m pretty glad I did. Even my black cynical heart found them quite ‘nice’. Thehordess of mums, dads, aunts, uncles etc are a little more moved, and I begin to feel nasty for not being in floods of tears like everyone else seems to be. Choral music, not really my thing. And, again, what do I know about choirs to be able to tell you if they were any good or not. All I know is they managed to pull off a credible version of How Much Is That Doggy In The Window?. Seriously.

Following the interval, they set the tone for the second half with a blast though some Bernstein and Gershwin. The former seems to be about three seconds long and the latter an overture (from Girl Crazy) of tunes that you know. Yes, you do.

We are then joined by the gloriously named soprano Measha Brueggergosman (go on, try and sayitt out loud). For both Gershwin’s this time (yup, Porgy & Bess) and a traditional spiritual. The girl has some pair of lungs on her (ahem). This was another point at which I was expecting to feel the need to wander, but she held me enthralled throughout. I’m even considering hunting recordings of her. Which, considering I came in with the general wish they’d cut out all the singing, must be some sort of commendation.

The orchestra then get to nip off for a fag, and on comes a band (basically most of Capercaillie and James Grant) for “Ceilidh Mania”. And, in between the ‘haunting’ song bits, it’s fairly rousing.

Then it all gets very Last Night-ish. We link up with all the other park sites (as we’ve done at various stages) and, of course, the Albert Hall. Yes we get all the embarrassing crap; the hornpipe (heh-heh) with all those twats bobbing up and down out of time and honking claxtons, the poor attempts at humour from the conductor (and, his brief rant about flight restrictions) and the horrendous jingoism of Land Of Hope & Glory. (Annoyingly we don’t get Jerusalem – I like that.) To be honest, we’re so full of the spirit of the event by this time (not to mention the cabernet shiraz) that we don’t need the concentrate on the live link ups – isn’t it amazing that they can play in time back-up plan.

just time for a bit of tartanisation and the opportunity for compere Jamie McDougall to sing (as you can tell he’s been dying to all night) Auld Lang Syne (not enough of Measha, IMO), and it’s all over for another year. We know what the Herald would say, and this time we concur.

But, hey, this year’s not over yet. There’s still time to try and find more of this stuff.

BTW. Apparently 20,000 tickets were issued for this. Assuming that we were about average (three folk cried off) in using 50% of our allocation then that would put the crowd at 10,000. In which case, the police do talk crap when they give you estimates of crowd size at protests.

Written by Tony Kiernan

20 September 2006 at 1:13 pm

Posted in Gigs