A Tale of two Cities

Good Vibrations and Spike Island at the London Film Festival

I had great plans for the London film festival, with many press screenings marked out on my diary.  Unfortunately timing was against me, as it turned out to be a very busy period in my other two jobs (acting and teaching), and apart from “A Liar’s Autobiography,” which got cancelled (read the article here), I actually only ended up at two screenings.  But they were good ones.

Good Vibrations

My regular readers (if there are such people) will be aware that I enjoy a bit of music from the 1980s, so I was in a positive frame of mind when I turned up to see Good Vibrations – The Story of Terri Hooley.

For every Richard Branson, there are probably hundreds of Terri Hooleys.  Known as the Godfather of Ulster Punk, Terri was the owner of Good Vibrations record shop and label, was responsible for discovering the Undertones, and encouraged punk and alternative music to flourish during a dark time in Northern Ireland’s history.  I imagine that there were people like him in towns and cities all over the UK and Ireland during the 70s and 80s; running record shops, managing and/or playing in bands, and organising events.  Do these people ever make a profit in the long run or do their charming mix of naivety and idealism work against them in the end?  Good Vibrations never released a top 40 record, and Terri sold the rights to “Teenage Kicks” for £500 and a signed photo of The Shangri Las (which he never got.)  But that isn’t the point, as this film shows: Terri Hooley made a lot of people very happy, which was in itself no mean feat in Belfast at the height of the troubles.

This was a highly enjoyable film from start to finish.  Richard Dormer made an excellent Terri, and I particularly enjoyed Jodie Whittaker’s performance as his wife.  It’s hard to pick out anyone else as cast lists are not given out at press screening, but everyone performed very well.  It would have been nice to have a few more female characters – maybe some girls who hung around the record shop for instance – but apart from that I completely loved it.  One particularly memorable scene is when an RUC officer is hassling a girl in a bar for suspected underage drinking and Terri comes over and tells him he’d like to report a civil war.  Scenes like these show the bravery of the character as well as the naivety and idealism.

Of course, being a film about music, the soundtrack is a major part of the experience.  Set in a fertile time for Northern Irish music, the tracks chosen add to the energy and exuberance of the story, as obviously does the setting with its air of menace just under the surface.

Go and see this if you’re interested in music, Belfast, or just plain enjoy a good film.

Spike Island

Good Vibrations is a true story about a real man, with a real record shop/label, and the punk scene in Belfast, whereas Spike Island, my second choice of film, is a coming of age drama set in Manchester in the 1990s with the music of the Stone Roses providing more of a secondary theme.  As such it worked well, and the soundtrack (a mix of the Roses and the characters own band, Shadow Caster) added greatly to the ambience and power of the film.  The characters did seem to blend into each other a bit at points, and some of what could have been more potent moments could have been better explained (I was never sure why one boy joined the army for instance).  Having more female characters would have added more variety, and this film does not have the excuse of being a true story as a reason for not doing so.  Teenagers since the 1960s or 1970s onwards generally tend to hang around in groups of both sexes (I did) and the whole male bonding theme seemed to me a little old-fashioned.

That said, the music really lifts everything up, and the festival atmosphere of Spike Island and young love is captured perfectly (leaving aside the dubious morality of deserting your father on his deathbed to go to a Stone Roses concert that you don’t even have tickets for!)

Once again, I am hampered by a lack of a cast list, however everyone concerned gave a very competent performance, with Emilia Clarke standing out in particular.

Go and see this film if you enjoy a good coming of age drama with an excellent soundtrack, or want to recapture your youth!

Mary Tynan

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A Liar’s Autobiography

Anyone who knows me reasonably well will be aware of my penchant for Python (almost to the point of annoyance sometimes to those who don’t share my sense of humour), so, as you can imagine, I was looking forward to this film enormously.  Unfortunately, I am still looking forward to it!  Due to technical hitches with both the 3D and 2D versions, the press screening failed to take place at the allotted time, and the press conference went ahead with the majority of journalists present (myself included) not having seen the film.  Which could be described as just a little bit silly …..

Director Bill Jones described Graham Chapman’s memorial service as the first time he got drunk, and spoke of the film as a way of celebrating Chapman’s life and achievements.  Terry Jones spoke of Graham as a complex individual who didn’t really understand himself and who was looking for who he was.  Michael Palin described the film as a homage to Graham, and confirmed that it was as close to a Python reunion as we were ever likely to get.  Both spoke of Graham’s sense of stillness, and described him as their leading actor.  As the press hadn’t seen the film yet, a lot of the questions from the floor were more generally about the Python oeuvre than specifically about the film in question, which led to some interesting reminiscing such as Terry Jones describing smuggling the tapes of Series I out of the BBC to copy on a Phillips VCR before they were destroyed.

The screening has been rescheduled for 4pm this afternoon, but unfortunately one of my other jobs prevents my attending (plug for The Castle at the Lord Stanley in Camden, opening tonight:) but I can tell you that the film uses audio recordings of Graham’s reading of his book, subtitled The Untrue Story of Monty Python’s Graham Chapman, combined with different styles of animation to reflect the different styles of humour, with fourteen different animation studios being involved in the production.  Not having seen it yet, I cannot give an informed opinion as to it’s watchability, but with John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Michael Palin and Terry Jones all involved (Terry Jones plays Graham’s mother, apparently), not to mention the late Graham Chapman (as himself) I know I definitely will be giving it a viewing as soon as I get the chance.

And now for something completely different.

A Liar’s Autobiography is showing tonight at 9pm at Leiceister Square Empire and on Friday at VUE West End at 3pm as part of the London Film Festival.

Mary Tynan

Let’s Hear it for the Boys!

Let’s Hear it for the Boys!

Boylexe, Shadow Lounge, 26 September 2012

Having thoroughly enjoyed Burlexe earlier this year, I was delighted to be invited to the first performance of Howard Wilmot’s latest creation, Boylexe, and see how the boys measured up (so to speak) against the girls.

A 1980s soundtrack is always guaranteed to put a smile on my face, and the resident DJ played us in with some favourites from that decade whilst some of the performers threw shapes to the music (Devoh Bobbie impressed me from the start with his infectious enthusiasm), and when Kele le Roc opened the show with ELO’s hit, Xanadu, I knew I was onto a winner.  Phil Dzwonkiewicz gave us a teasing taste of what was to come, followed by Randolph Hott, whose suit and tie were soon removed in the first dance of the evening.  We then heard the story of Babette, a boy who ran away to the circus, before Devoh Bobbie took to the stage to the tune of Madonna’s Vogue.  Bobbie’s dancing and acting are both excellent, and his shy-but-cheeky boy act was very well received.

There were many wonderful moments in this show: Mr Mistress’ reverse strip was hilarious, as was Nine Bob Rob’s Playstation, and Phil Dzwonkiewicz made a marvellous transformation from suave to geek.  The monologues tended to be on the humourous side without the edginess that was evident in Burlexe, keeping the mood of the show on a constant upbeat level.  Kele Le Roc was a fantastic hostess, and also showed her acting talent as a drag queen who was, in her own words, “only one nose job away from Janet Jackson.”  Performances from Phil Bedwell, Rob Pryor and Patric Deony also added to the evening’s enjoyment.

So Burlexe or Boylexe?  The boys were funnier, but the girls were sexier.  I’d personally like to see a combined boys and girls show.  Who knows – they may even now be working on it.

Picture by Magnus Arrevad.  For more information about Boylexe, visit www.boylexe.co.uk.

Mary Tynan