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Friday, 26 July 2013

DVD - Lore - directed by Cate Shortland

Star rating - 7/10

It's unusual to tell a story from the point of view of Nazi sympathisers, but in Lore, that is exactly what director Cate Shortland does. The film, based on a book by Rachel Seifert, begins as Hitler has just committed suicide, and so ended the hopes and dreams of world domination by his followers. Specifically, this film explores the point of view of the children of Nazis, innocents to a degree, but who have become imbibed with the dogma and prejudice of their parents. 

Hannelore, the Lore of the title, is left to cope as her father and mother have fled to avoid capture by the Allied forces sweeping through Germany. She struggles against all odds to lead her younger brothers and sisters to her grandmother's house in Hamburg. Saskia Rosendahl gives a tremendous performance as the young girl, with so much responsibility put on her shoulders, including a baby brother whose constant cries for food are heart wrenching. 

She is saved from capture by the benevolent intervention of a Jewish boy, played by Kai Malina, who pretends they are his family. It is fascinating viewing to see Lore struggle with her deep seated contempt and loathing for Jewish people, but her bond with the boy grows in spite of this.

Lore is a dark and brooding film, with no easy answers or glib happy endings. It is not exactly an easy watch, but definitely worth it for the strong performances of the young central characters. 

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Gig/Film - Mogwai/Zidane- A 21st Century Portrait - Manchester International Festival

Star rating - 9/10

Zinédine Zidane  has never looked so majestic and imperious as he did on a giant screen in a packed Albert Hall with Mogwai playing their eerie soundtrack to this engrossing film live beneath his feet. 

It's a brilliant concept from directors Douglas Gordon and Philippe Parreno - to follow one footballer on and off the ball for 90 minutes of a game. And it becomes a totally mesmerising and intense experience. On a practical football level, it proves once again just what a superb player Zidane was. Giving everything he has for the whole match. Talisman-like he leads by example and spurs his Real Madrid galactico team mates, including a youthful looking David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo, to give nothing but their best.

But more than this, the experience of watching him in this particularly beautiful Wesleyan chapel setting, up large and towering above the band, was sensational. He becomes more than a footballer - something more balletic like Nureyev, crossed with the amazing athleticism of a thoroughbred racehorse. Some of his own thoughts on football and life are flashed across the screen during the match. He gives everything he has - brooding and menacing for the match's entirety, he smiles only once. 

And of course we all must have had in the back of our minds that infamous sending off in the World Cup Final match that shocked the football world not long after this one. Especially as he manages to get himself red carded too towards the end of this match, although in much more inauspicious circumstances. The atmospheric swirling music of Mogwai, rising to crescendos, then falling away to nothing in parts, fits the film perfectly. 

This was undoubtedly another Manchester International Festival triumph, and my last MIF event for another two years. What a brilliant festival it has been, possibly the best so far. MIF15 will certainly have some work to if it is to better this fabulous showcase for our wonderful city, with its hidden gems of venues, and ability to attract world class performers, and thousands of visitors, to our international cultural carnival. Thank you MIF for a wonderful fortnight - it's been a blast. 

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Films - The Deep - directed by Baltasar Kormákur

Star rating - 7/10

If there is one surefire antidote to the tremendous heat were are currently experiencing, then it is The Deep - a film about a fishing boat capsizing in the freezing North Atlantic sea off the coat of Iceland. In some ways not a lot happens in director Baltasar Kormákur's watery offering. Based on a true story, a close knit group of fishermen from a small village leave one unremarkable night for a regular fishing trip in a battered old trawler.

But when their nets become tangled up on rocks, and their boat disappears beneath the stormy seas, one of their number, Gulli, finds himself alone and miles from shore or help. He manages to defy all odds and swim miles to find land, his spirits kept from flagging by a circling sea gull who keeps him company. And this normal, slightly obese guy, finds himself the focus of scientific tests to find out just how he managed to survive.

The scenery and dramatic seascapes captured in the film are wonderful. And Ólafur Darri Ólafsson is impressive as Gulli, who doesn't want any fuss or special treatment, just to be left alone to grieve his dead colleagues. 

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Poetry - The Masque of Anarchy - The Albert Hall, Manchester International Festival

Star rating - 8/10

There were three real stars of this brief but impressive event - Shelley's original poem, written as an immediate response to the horrific Peterloo Massacre of 1819; Maxine Peake, pouring emotion and anger into her recital of the verse; and the venue itself, a fabulous Grade II listed Wesleyan chapel opened to the public now for the first time in four decades.

And the fact that The Albert Hall is literally a stone's throw from the site of the actual massacre made it all the more poignant. Shelley was so moved to verse when a peaceful protest of men, women, and children for parliamentary reform , was brutally butchered by armed cavalry riders, resulting in the deaths of 15 people, with hundreds more injured. And Peake's dramatic retelling of it, dressed all in white against a backdrop of hundreds of candles lighting the huge organ by the former altar, made it sound still urgent.

To be honest I might have preferred it she did read from a script, if only to stop me focussing on how on earth she was remembering the 30 minutes of fabulous verse. There was one minor blip, which she corrected in a heartbeat without a flinch.  The Manchester International Festival is to be applauded for staging events of this kind, more's the pity that she only gave performances over four days of this event as part of it.

Shelley's call to arms sounded just as relevant today as when he wrote it. We went home with his final call to arms ringing in our ears:

'Rise like Lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number -
Shake your chains to earth like dew
Which in sleep had fallen on you -
Ye are many - they are few.'