The Goalkeepers Fear of the Penalty (1972)

Goalkeepers Fear

One of those late 70’s films I was watching on BBC 2 till 1 in the morning.  A film about German goalkeepers. Saving, or not saving, penalties. Got to be good.

I don’t know about good. It was odd. It still is odd.

I was up for a bit of odd, back them, when I was an odd, at variance with everything, 19 year old. I associated oddness with otherness. And I was looking for ways of being anything ‘other’ than the boring ordinary I was.

Now, 40 years on, I still see how oddly ‘other’ this film is. But not in a good way. It’s an oddbodball of a film. Gloomily nihilistic. Coldly alienating and estranging. Not especially special of anything. Tediously underwhelming.

The goalkeeping sequence at the beginning is badly botched, well, faked up. Goalkeeper is sent off. He’s so upset at being sent off he has to go off and murder somebody; like the pretty cashier he’s picked up and slept with. Only, he’s not upset. And there’s no ‘has to’ about it. He’s not compelled to do it. He just chokes her off as arbitrarily as he’s fucked her. Doesn’t, didn’t, seem to mean a thing (the fucking, or the murdering). No change of expression. No visible affect or emotion.

And then he’s off to visit an ex living in a village on the Austrian border. Pesters her for the rest of the film. Doesn’t appear that he wants to, or is about to, kill anybody else. He listlessly wanders about swigging bottles of beer and fiddling with jukeboxes. Nothing about him, about his outer demeanour, gives anything away. And we aren’t going to be given privileged access to his thoughts, feelings, motivations. He doesn’t appear to be suffering inner torment or turmoil re the murder he’s committed.

He’s blanked off. A characterless colourless individual caught up in a perfunctory performance of sterile stasis. Kind of like a goalkeeper with nothing to do, no penalty kicks or shots to save. The vital action all happening in the other half, at the other side. He’s left guarding his desultory goal, passively observing the play from this redundant other end, marginalised, unnecessary, a spectator.

Yes, the experience of watching this film is like spectating a dull null game. A nil-nil draw. The main protagonist – the goalkeeper – removed from essential action, a mere passive spectator of unexciting nondescript none in-play events.

It was monotonous watching this goalkeeper doing nothing, saying nothing, feeling nothing, expressing nothing. A dislocated, disconnected, disengaged, existence. Could feel nothing for him. Because he was feeling nothing. Couldn’t even feel revulsion at the murder he’d done. Actually, I did start to feel something towards him: irritation at how irritating he was; boredom with how boring he was.

There’s a tune blowing throughout, a little 2 note refrain played by a brass band, its jaunty motif dislocates the gloom of existential ennui even further.

It was a gloom of existential ennui I was seeing, being meaninglessly subjected to. If I’d watched this film then – back in the 70’s – with the more aware awareness I have now, I’d have probably switched it off after 20 minutes, and gone to bed.

Dir: Wim Wenders, Germany

4/10

Footnote: About the title. It’s a snappy title. I’ve seen it translated as ‘The Goalkeepers Anxiety at the Penalty Kick’, But the better sounding translation is ‘The Goalkeepers Fear of the Penalty’. However, its a misnomer. It isn’t goalkeepers who fear penalties, its penalty takers. The expectation is on the taker to score; if he misses he disappoints; therefore he incurs greater risk, greater penalty, greater anxiety. There is much less expectation on the goalkeeper to keep the penalty out; if he saves it he’s defied the odds. Surely every goalkeeper must therefore relish, not fear, the award of a penalty; for it gives him the opportunity to become an instant savour, a rescuer, a hero.

The Comedy of Errors (1983)

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The Comedy of Errors is one of William Shakespeare’s early plays. It is his shortest and one of his most farcical comedies, with a major part of the humour coming from slapstick and mistaken identity, in addition to puns and word play.

So says Wikipedia.

I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be liking this.
And sure enough, I didn’t.
Didn’t like the farcical or the slapstickical. Didn’t get the punnery or word playery. Didn’t like the miming. Didn’t like the artificial stage set. Didn’t like the story. It’s a load of trite.

Silliest silly bugger is Roger Daltry as a Cockney chappie manservant/fool ‘Dromio’.

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‘I’ll break that sconce of yours‘ says Michael Kitchen. Yes, go on, slap his cheeky chops. The curly headed moppet.
Slap!
This is about the best thing in the play; seeing Roger Daltry getting his face slapped. Frequently.

The other best bit is seeing the voluptuous lusty lady of Hammer Horror, Ingrid Pitt

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Getting her best bits out as a sexy courtesan.

After about half an hour I was baffled, bemused, lost.

You’ve got 2 Michael Kitchens and 2 Roger Daltry’s. Playing 2 sets of identical twins. And you never really know who they are either, or both, meant to be. They wear identical costumes. With identical identities. I haven’t got a clue who is who. Can I be bothered to be working out which one is which? No.

One Roger Daltry would be bad enough. But two Daltry’s is a Roger too far. His comedic ability consists of imbecilic gazing, goofing, and gurning off. No wonder Micheal Kitchen is slapping him all the time.

By half way I’ve become way too hopelessly confused by all this mistakening and misunderstanding malarkying about to continue paying proper attention. The coincidences and contrivances have stretched way beyond their, and my, breaking point.

Too tiresome. This is too contrived to be making any effort with. I’ve checked out. Given up caring. Given up watching.

I fast forward through the last 45 minutes. It’s pointless doing that really to Shakespeare. But the play, or this production of the play, seem to encourage pointlessness as a legitimate viewing response.

A comedy null on laughs, but far too proned on errors (of the ‘what a load of nonsense’ variety).

“What a silly play this is”, the director Cellan Jones exclaimed at the end of editing.

Yes, I agree. It is. Too silly for words.

Dir: James Cellan Jones, UK

2/10

I’ve got to stop watching these Shakespearean so called ‘comedies’ for a while. I’ve seen 4 in the last couple of weeks, and each one has got progressively worse.

I’ll switch to the Henry’s for a bit. Get into something less inconsequential and trite.

One Fine Day (1979)

Dave-Allen-makes-his-television-debut

An Alan Bennett play from 1979 with Dave Allen.
It was broadcast in Feb 1979. I would have watched it in my bedroom on my little b/w portable telly. Wouldn’t have appealed to my mom and dad.

This wasn’t the funny Dave Allen they knew. This was Dave Allen as a straight actor. Playing an unfunny, rather melancholic estate agent.

This play has significance for me, which is probably why I remember it, and want to watch it again.
Yes, it’s coming back as I watch why this would have appealed to me back then.
It’s Allen’s melancholy. It’s the character he plays. Somebody estranged from his job (like I was), his family (like I was). Somebody yearning for something better, longing for release, escape (like I was), needing to be transformed out, and away, from his workaday humdrum life (like I did)

His means of seeking release was akin to mine: sticking headphones on and shutting out the world, retreating into a cut-off interior world.

And he finds peace and quiet, some necessary solitude in the way I did: up on that empty top floor, away from it all; just like I was on my solitary Saturday afternoons in the post office – such blessed relief to have the space and the solitude to be simply, and merely, me.

Dave Allen puts in an anti-acting performance, understated and unshow offy; not a funny face or gag anywhere.
There seems a simmering pissed offness going on within, that he can’t give voice to. His undisclosed yearnings are expressed through Puccini arias and rooftop panoramas.

He’s getting away from his dull duty, his obligations, and disappearing off up to that vacant top floor tower, take some time out to be alone, unencumbered, unattached.

That’s what I would do. That’s what I did.

He isn’t being given very much to say. A character prone to ponder. Not giving away much. Somewhat withheld. Taciturn (a rather wry irony given how Allen the comedian, was always known for his garrulous verbosity)

It’s the being up in the air, remote, observing but unobserved. Abstractly abstracted from all the life you’ve know, and are known for – to become unknown and unknowable, to disappear into a dreamworld of airy invisibility.

Yes, I’m still identifying with all of this. This is as good as I remember it being.

The play (ITV), the writing (Alan Bennett), the direction (Stephen Frears), and Dave Allen’s performance – are all quietly, and unassumingly, brilliant.

Dir: Stephen Frears, UK

8/10

As You Like It (1978)

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Yet more Hey Nonny No – NO! nonsense. As evidenced by those hats. Actually, they’re more than hats. They’re uber-hats. They’re maiden headpieces. They’re impressively preposterous.

Nothing else about this production is as impressive. Or as preposterous. In fact proceedings remain doggedly, and dogmatically, and determinedly, unpreposterous throughout. It’s as dull as dead dog on a wet weekend in Tetbury is As You Like It circa 1978.

This should be renamed ‘As You, or They, or Them, or I, Don’t Like It’. There seems to be a fair few people who Didn’t, or Don’t, Like It. Of which I am one.

Some people who Didn’t Like It accuse it of being an ‘Appallingly unfunny meandering production of what can be a very meandering play’.

Some people who Didn’t Like It think “As You Like It” ‘Has one of Shakespeare’s lamest plots, with poor characterizations, perfunctory incidents and sloppy story resolution’.

Well, it seems to me, Shakespeares plots do have a tendency to be lame. By lame I mean ludicrous. By ludicrous I mean convoluted. By convoluted/ludicrous/lame I mean: fabricated, factitious, implausible, unbelievable.

Most of this BBC production involves aimless ambling around outside saying stuff for the sake of saying stuff.

I didn’t see sparkle or wit or magic or even any charm about it.

It’s watches like something Made for Schools (which it was) used to punish bored O level students into disliking Shakespeare even more. I know I would.

Several welcome breaks were necessary to relieve the tedium, to go do something more interesting. Like brush my teeth.

Helen Mirren as the lad Gannymede; sticks her curly hair in a little hat, wears a tunic and breeches. But its still too blatantly bloody obvious that she’s not a boy. More effort required to effect a convincing disguise cum deception. She’s not that great as Rosalind either. Her words get blown away with the wind. She’s sucked in by too much outside. Her performance seems more contingently circumstantial than compellingly centrifugal

Brian Stirner as romantic lead Orlando is about as charismatic as a boring background bass player in a 70’s prog rock band. No sweet Rosalind or sexy Helen would fall for such a scrawny adolescent.
James Bolam. Friggin James Bolam. He’s irritating. As Touchstone. As James Bolam. I’ve had enough of James Bolam for one lifetime.
Victoria Plunkett as buxom country maid Phebe plunks her oo-aargh west country accent into the river Severn.

Richard Pasco as Jacques is about the best thing in it, giving good world weary to the ‘All the worlds a stage’ soliloquy. I liked his little turn about Melancholy also.

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The more this has gone on the more I keep thinking there must be better versions than this lame duck of dog. Its like watching a Songs of Praise Elizabethan Enactment group. ‘Hey nonny no no…..hey ding a ding a ding’. NO – please enough.

Some people who Didn’t Like It thought that ‘From the awful beginning to the cringe worthy ending, this is possibly the worst film of Shakespeare I have ever seen’.

Some people who Didn’t Like It found it so ‘Awful it will make you never want to see the play again, never mind this production’.

Which I don’t. Ever want to see the play again. Or this production.

Dir: Basil Coleman, UK

3/10

This Charming Girl (2004)

This Charming Girl 1

I watched this 2 or 3 years ago. It’s appeal:
Girl working in a post office as a postal clerk.
I was a boy working in a post office as a postal clerk once.
Only I wasn’t pretty. I wasn’t charming.

This girl is South Korean. She’s very pretty. Perhaps a bit too photogenic to be totally credible. The actress Kim su Ji (as Jung-hye) gives a captivatingly composed performance. She’s not having to do that much, or show many emotions, other than variations on the sad-shy-sensitive spectrum.

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She’s a single girl living on her own. A loner. An introvert. Films about quiet introverts appeal to me – being one myself.
Is she going to have some quirkily idiosyncratic inner life to feel engaged by, and with? Turns out, bit by bit, that the quirks of idiosyncrasy in her character have been inflicted upon her from the outside, against her will.

Shes crunching her kimchi, watching her big telly. Lying around listless. She needs a companion. To feel for. Like a little lost kitten mewling.

Its all nicely nuanced this. The minutiae of life lived in a minor melancholy key. Sat there on the floor watching her telly, her hand distractedly searching for life of its own, collecting together the dust crumbs.

Its a small safe life, regulated by clocks, alarms, and little everyday routines.

Here comes her kitten companion. That will be nice. Charming girl meets cute kitten. All the women in the audience go ‘Awww!’

I’m going along with this film because its so small, so modest. It’s sweet, but not too sugary to make you sick of or with it. It isn’t getting out of 3nd gear. It chugs quietly, slowly, along, being prosaically everyday mundane.
But leaking in, are disturbing flashbacks, breaking into the becalmed composed surface.
Shyly some romantic interest is slowly simmered in.
But this is not a romantic drama at heart.
At heart its about her heart in shock, her heart made too vulnerable too soon.

The film becomes quieter and quieter, more and more subdued.
The outer chatter and talk becomes less, the internal space deepens.

Her shy sensitivity, dreamy otherness. is labelled mentally disturbed.

She’s letting her little kitten go. She’s intending one last final act of revenge on the uncle who did it to her as a child.
Got a knife in her bag to do the job.
He sits next to her silently in the park, seemingly waiting to be killed.
She slides the knife out of her bag intending to – but she can’t.
Follows a full 3 minutes of her sobbingly uncontrollably in the bathroom
Got to run back and find that kitten.

Was she a charming girl?
She was a pretty girl. ‘This Very Pretty Girl’ it could be called.
Or perhaps ‘This Vulnerable Girl’ or ‘This Violated Girl’.
This ‘charming’ girl doesn’t quite fit to the complexity of what has been revealed.

Dir: Yoon Ki Lee, South Korea

8/10

The Merry Wives of Windsor (1982)

Mistresses Ford and Page

I’ve seen this play once in the theatre; but I’ve no recollection of where or when. Nor do I remember anything about the play. Probably because it was rubbish.

The Merry Wives of Windsor is a Shakesperean stinker. Described as a rollicking farce. Do I like rollicking farces? No.

Is it funny? No. All the jackanapes and prates, pribbles, and prabbles, the jesting and jolly rollicking seem like they’re following some kind of in-joke illogicality.
Mercilessly mirthless it is.

What to make of Ben Kingsley as jealous husband Frank Ford?
He overeggs his fruitcakery into something close to unbearable to watch.
Merry Wives 7
Squeaking and squealing like Robin Williams on a bad gurn day.
Progressively sounding, and looking, like a retard.

‘Let us not be laughing stocks to other mens humours’
Just about every man in this play seems to have be made, been put, into laughing stocks.

Merry Wives 2

Richard Griffiths sat on the left there as Sir John Falstaff fails to be rumbustiously comic or engaging sympathetic. Sat on the right hidden inside a ludicrous costume and beard is Alan Bennett (as Justice Shallow) He also fails to be anything other than mildly irritating.

Most of this play has simply passing me by in a fug of pun and word wackery. Much gobble is gooked throughout:
‘I will make a prief of it in my note- book; and we will afterwards ork upon the cause’
‘She lives a very frampold life with him’
‘She is a fartous, civil wife’
‘I will knock his urinals about his knaves costard’
‘This same scury cogging companion
‘I will smite his noddles’
‘Look how you drumble
‘I’d rather be bowled to death with turnips’
‘I’ll no pullet sperm in my brewage’
‘Stinking clothes that fretted in their own grease
‘He is a good sprag memory’
‘They would melt me out of my fat drop by drop and liquor fishermens boots with me’
‘He’ll speak like an Anthropophaginian unto thee’
‘Send me a cool rut-time, Jove, else who can blame me to piss my tallow?
‘Let the sky rain potatoes….hail kissing-comfits and snow eringoes’

The accents of most of the ensemble slip slide into absurdity. Sounding like a West Country Wurzel seems to be the intended destination. Judy Davis and Prunella Scales as the 2 Merry Wives have relocated from Windsor to Shepton Mallett.

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They’re both laughing at the pickle they’ve plunked Sir John Falstaff in.

Scenes with Ron Cook as Peter Simple and Elizabeth Spriggs as Mistress Quickly are at least something to smile about
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At times Spriggsy goes, like Kingsley, into a florid torrent of gurning tics; but she’s better value than him, less grandstandingly histrionic.

Merry Wives 6

By jove, I’m glad I won’t have to watch this again.

Why would grown ups, rational self respecting adults, want to take part in this hey nonny no nonsense?

Because its Shakespeare. You can get away with anything if you call it Shakespeare.

Dir: David Hugh Jones, UK

3.5/10

Still Life (2013)

Still Life 1

That’s Mr May. Looking decidedly sad. He does a lot of looking decidedly sad in this film.

He can look like this, which is sad edging towards unfathomable distress with an extra dollop of downbeat dreariness.

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His distress may be related to a recently deceased person he’s diligently doing his duty of care for. Or it might be concern about whether he can peel his afternoon apple in one go.

And here is Mr May peeling the said afternoon apple (in one go)

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A lot of concentration required there. It’s a very serious thing to peel an apple. Without breaking your concentration. Without breaking the peel.

Here is Mr May contemplating mortality.  Or possibly regretfully reflecting on all the life he’s never lived. But more than likely his look is reflecting worrisome worms concerning what he’s going to have for his tea tonight.

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Well, we know what he’s going to have for his tea tonight. He’ll have what he always has: tuna (tinned) on toast (dry) With a mug of milkless tea. And a drab apple (again)

After he’s partaken of his tuna (tinned) and his toast (dry) and peeled his drab apple, he must sit at his desk looking considerably concentrated again. He is about to be perusing a scrapbook containing photos of all the dead clients he has collected.

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Considerably concentrated edging towards constipated concern, freighted within severe self-censure perhaps? Or maybe he’s run out of milk for his late evening beverage.

Mr May is not a ‘Happy to be Alive’ kind of person. Mr May is a Minor-key Miserablist.  He doesn’t indulge in misery. He inhales it like a stale vapour.

Mr May does not wish to live life with delight. He’s an unpleasured sort of chap. He can even give a look of pained poignancy to a pork pie. And look here how he’s cogitating the potential doom and gloom contained within this cup of hot chocolate.

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The cup of hot chocolate appears to be worrying Mr May considerably. Possibly because it’s having the audacity to not be his usual cup of tea. Possibly because it might have the undesired effect of cheering him up.

Mr May does not want to be cheered up. Life is a serious and solemn business, a low lonely suffering towards hopeless decease.

Mr May wishes merely to serve the hopelessly deceaseds. To be a most loyal servant of the loneliest deads. He takes it as his solemn duty of care to care for them most dutifully.

To which end he will lurk about behind trees like your local pervert

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Spying on burials to make sure the dead are getting a good mourning.

He will be frequently found hanging about in cemeteries looking suitably cemetorial.

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You see there how perfectly unenjoying this is for Mr May.

The attending of sad little funerals in his statutory capacity of official mourner is what Mr May does best, is what his morosest mean mien was meant for.

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What a valiant little council officer officiator he is. The sole and silent witnesser.  An honour to his mourning calling he is.

And yet Mr May is to receive some shocking news. Dispirited is not the word.

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Summarily sacked. That’s all the thanks you get for 22 years selfless service. working for the sodding council. Heartless wankards they are.

No wonder Mr May is looking a little miffed, a little mugged off. Or possibly even a little murderous.

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But anyway, this isn’t going to end well.

Well, it will end well.

Mr May will get his unjust deserts.

His last look. Just before the bus.

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Killed him.

@@

As you can probably tell, I’ve not warmed to Eddie Marsan’s Mr May.

I don’t really buy into his performance. It’s all of one note, in one key. He looks too severe. He seems perpetually pissed off. There’s frowning – and then there’s frowning ala Eddie Marsan: the kind of frown that would frighten little children into wetting their beds. He’s like a member of the walking dead (which I assume is intentionally meant) Too much dead-eyed staring into space. He doesn’t exude caring, kindness, warmth. He’s soullessly cold, hollowly indifferent. Just ‘Doing my job’. Making sure you dead are all properly dead. I’m not seeing compassion. Mr May (aka Eddie Marsan) isn’t compassionate. He’s scared. Frightened to death (which I assume is intentionally meant)

Eddie Marsan (aka Mr May) gave me the creeps. Mr May (aka Eddie Marsan) is not somebody to willingly invite into your life: not to your birthday, your barbie, or your burial.

Dir: Uberto Pasolini, UK/Italy

6/10

The Two Gentlemen of Verona (1983)

Two Gentlemen of Verona 1

I wasn’t expecting much from this 1983 BBC TV version at all.

Firstly, because The Two Gentlemen of Verona is rarely performed; it’s ranking in the Shakespeare Premier League is right down in the bottom three (along with ‘Pericles’, and The Merry Wives of Windsor’) seen as a relegation zone candidate.

Secondly, because the ending is by all accounts an absurdly distasteful cop out.

Thirdly, because reviews of this BBC effort rate it ‘irredeemably tame’, ‘shallow’, ‘ awful’, ‘to be avoided’.

But it’s not too bad. I didn’t find it terrible. More mediocre than awful. Not a dog anyway.

It’s actually got a dog in it. That’s it’s USP: the Shakespearean play with the dog in it.

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The dog is called Crab and the joke is he’s supposed to be a crabby sour-natured cur, but is actually an endearingly sweet muffled moggie (as you can see in that pic)

I saw this Two Gents in conjunction with watching the 2014 online transmission live from the RSC. That had the fizz and energy that this anodyne Beeb lacked.

This was directed by Don Taylor as part of the BBC attempt to produce a definitive TV archive of all Shakespeare’s plays. By ‘definitive’ here is meant a safe treatment of, and orthodox reading of, the plays as straight to mouth texts. And that’s how this play ‘plays’: fairly conventional, pretty, but pretty tame, dramatically dull.

The studio settings are theatrically staged (the whole 36 play cycle was produced on a shoestring budget) conceived as a ‘Garden of Courtly Love’ in which the various lovers could conduct their trysts.

This Romeo and Juiletish balcony scene of Proteus singing his sexy socks off up to Silvia exemplifies how sensitively, and minimally, created the production is. I couldn’t understand very clearly what was being meant, but at least it looked pretty.

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Not understanding what the hell is going on, is an occupational hazard of any  non-knowing Shakesperean numpty (like me) And I struggled to comprehend predictably, and frequently, watching this. The lines were rat a tatted like a loco motive, being rapidly recited rather than vibrantly embodied or engagingly enacted. And despite the addition of subtitled text at the bottom of the screen, it was difficult to unravel what was being said exactly, or meant specifically. Far too fast. Way too static. This is just the kind of obtruse heady textual reading of the play that has put me off Shakespeare for the last 40 years.

But I suppose after a while, after about an hour, I got ground down into the grind of the rhythm of it. My ears gradually acclimatized to the tune of it. Or maybe I simply gave up trying to concentrate too hard to understand everything and let the general sense of it wash over me like lutey music.

And the music is quite pleasant, quite pleasing in a way. It sounds sweet. It feels melodious. Yes, I”l let it wash over me like a sprinkly fountain. I’ll stop trying to apply common-sense, common-place, everyday, levels of comprehension to any of this.

I said earlier that I didn’t think the words were being engagingly embodied and enacted. But that doesn’t mean there wasn’t ‘acting’ going on. There was quite a bit of theatrical acting of the declamatory style going on. In particular, this clown, sorry I meant to say ‘actor’, Frank Barrie, gave Sir Eglamour some serious thespian welly.

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It was theatrical eyebrows and absurd gurns all the way with Frank. Entertaining, with possibly unintentional, but highly advertent, comic value of the farcical kind. In other words, he hammed it up like a good old old-school Old Vic luvvie pro.

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Most of the cast didn’t do much for me. I’d never heard, or seen, the 2 pale male leads before: Tyler Butterworth (Proteus) and John Hudson (Valentino) I suppose as Two Gentlemen is considered second-rate Shakespeare you get second division actors to fill in. Paul Daneman did good disdain as the Duke of Milan; Tony Haygarth seemed suitably paunchily cast as Launce, although his childish side-kick Speed (Nicholas Kaby) was positively irritating. The comedy was lame, the sexual innuendo limp. Probably due to commercial considerations; the intention being to give a seriously straight-laced and straightforward rendition of the play suitable for sell on to schools and colleges.

Tessa Peake-Jones as Julie gave the most affectingly moving performance.

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I sympathized with her because she suffers the most injustice, the most hurt. Proteus dumps her. And then she has to be the silent witness to all his monkeyboy machinations with the brand new love of his life (Sylvia)

Proteus is a shit. A conniving self-serving shit. He dumps Julia. He betrays his so called best friend Valentino. And then he wants to rape Sylvia. And yet Tyler Butterworth doesn’t really make Proteus seem shitty enough. He’s played too pleasingly pleasant. Not enough nasty bastard in him. Maybe that’s the problem; if you go all out to portray Proteus as the nasty shit he is, you can’t then reel him back in the final scene; if he’s gone way beyond the pale, he’s beyond sympathy, beyond forgiveness, he’s irredeemable.

The all too easy reconciliation in the final scene, where Valentino is offering his woman (Sylvia) to his mate, the mate that has just tried to rape her, is inexplicable (to our modern sensibilities) And the quick turn around and get back together of Proteus with Julia just makes you go Ugh? Eh?. Why would she have him back? Is she merely a passive dupe, a dopey doormat? This isn’t love – it’s co-dependent victim behaviour. He’s an arsehole, stop needing him, get rid. (We all want to say. I do)

Yes, the final scene brings this whole play down. And fatally ruins it. I can see why its tricky, and possibly impossible, to redeem it. The 2 Gentlemen of Verona aren’t gallant courtly lovers. They’re a pair of immature misogynists.

So there you have it. A seriously stolid production of the play. Pretty, but pallid. Something that pales in the memory as lacking energy, vibrancy, fizz, pizzazz. It’s hardly, barely, amusing.

The most memorable thing about it is the dog. Woof! Woof!

So begins my long journey through all 36 plays of Shakespeare. Many films will be from this cycle the BBC dutifully produced between 1978-1984. The quality, apparently, is variable. There’s a ‘definitive’ and distinctly stale air of stuffy orthodoxy and bland conservatism about the whole enterprise; of which this pallid production is a stultifying example. Fortunately, I’ve got other filmed versions of the plays to do some compare and contrast evaluation.  These ‘faithful’ faith-bound BBC readings or renderings, are all too predictably approaching Shakespeare as a sacrosanct holy text, to be undeviated from, and to be spoken in the reverential tones of the all too easily converted.

Dir: Don Taylor, UK

It gets a rather tepid 5/10

Leviathan (2014)

Leviathan Kolya

I watched this film a year ago and I can’t remember much about it. Other than it was good enough to watch again.

Now I’m remembering.  One of those sombre sullen Russian films, cold and grey, moodily oppressive, gloomily grim. wintered in melancholy.

Corrupt politicians, corrupt church, corrupt police, corrupt bureaucracy.

Fat mayor Vadim (Roman Madyanov) wants to grab hothead Kolya’s (Aleksey Serebryakov in above pic) land and property. He turns up for a confrontation one night looking like this

Leviathan Vadim Mayor

That’s no pretend sozzled. He looks genuinely blottoed.
Everybody swigs back bottles of vodka like it was water. There’s so much boozy blotto going on you almost feel sick.

Leviathan vodka drinking

Every arsehole is drowning in shit. ‘Everything is everyones fault’. Everybody has got everybody ‘by the balls’.

‘There are lots of arseholes at the bottom of hills’ (funny, but there’s not a lot to be funny about in this relentlessly, mercilessly, depressing film)

Got to put the squeeze on that fat little prick Vadim, deliver him his dirt.

But something tragic is waiting at the bottom of this film, that we are hopelessly falling towards, and down into.

Here is Kolyas wife Lilya (Elena Lyadova) stood out on the edge, about to be falling down, and into.

Leviathan looking out to sea

As a State of Russia Indictment this is all so horribly convincing. This is how it is. Russia is an inebriated nasty shithole. Where you drink yourself senseless. Where as one of the weak, of which there are too many, you get no justice. Where you get fucked helplessly into hopelessness.

‘Man is the most dangerous animal’. Truth enough. We are.

Is this film going to let the loathsome mayor get away with it? I suppose he has to if we’re following the savagely indifferent dictums of the ugly life this purports to be. But could not some filmic justice, like a heart attack, be administered to the fat little prick Vadim? Please!

No it can’t (do justice), and no he won’t (go die) and yes he will (get away with it)

A devastatingly assured, accomplished, film. An immersively impressive film. But two watches is enough. Otherwise I’m going to have to go get me a big bottle of Smirnoff.

Dir: Andrei Zvyagintsev, Russia

7.5/10

Bronco Bulldog (1969)

Bronco 2

a five bob b/w ‘cult’ film from 1969.

posh chaps (Barney-Platts-Mills) take on delinquent ragamuffinry in the east-end of london.

a bunch of amateurs. can’t act or won’t act.
the worst acted kickins an thumpins in a film ever.

“suedeheads” in cardigans, sta-prests, doc martens, crombies, scruffy long hair.

del (Walkers) wide shovelshape mug of face, his cheeky charlie del boy walk. like harvey keitel crossed with ray parlour.

Bronco 1

cant afford pictures in west end. go for a burger in a coffee bar instead.

wots irene gonna do when she leaves school? “a typist or summink”.
“wot in an hoffice? aint much isit? borin””

irenes mom wants to smack her face.
dels dad wants to give him smack round the ear.

“i just wonna be wiv er wen i want” says del.
only he can’t. it’s doomed.

no place to go. nothing to do. wander around. borin.
lets get off on the bike. down to essex to stay with the uncle.

Bronco 4

that don’t work.
back to bronco’s.
smack a copper.
leg it.

Bronco 3

we know we’re acting naff. only innit for a larf.

“bladdy borin ainit?” says mate to del.

yeah.

Dir: Barney Platts-Mills, UK

6.5/10

Postcript:
Whatever happened to del & co?
Anne Gooding (Irene) is dead (“died on the dancefloor”)
Del Walker is a grandfather on the Isle of Wight.
Sam Shepherd (Bronco Bulldog) works as a market porter in Spitalfields