Friday, 28 May 2010

Sex and The City 2

Even though i enjoyed Sex and The City 2 in the main, and there were some genuine laughing, gasping and shock moments, it left me feeling a bit depressed, it has to be said. Of course it was always going to be fun to watch, but it feels a bit desperate. everything that was originally sparky and cool about each of the characters has been transmuted into caricature - played out with zero subtlety or originality. they are parodies of themselves. Neuroses, sexual voracity, ambition become cardboard cut out characters, and it grates. it's not that I'm being a kill joy - it's just genuinely annoying. It's panto, which is fine in one way i suppose, but the reason the series was so great was that it was nuanced, wryly observed. i wanted to stand up and shout - God! not all women are like this, believe me! it just felt a bit cheap, tacky, heavy handed, with some casual racism thrown in for bad measure. some bits i literally couldn't watch i was so embarrassed. it was pun-tastic - worse than a Kathy Lette novel where you fall over several puns in every sentence. some puns in this were genius. some fell so flat you could hear them smack to the floor.
then there are the costumes. the fifth star. ludicrous doesn't cover it. it's like every scene is set up so they can have multiple costume changes and can make wow entrances a quatre. what begins as familiarly fabulous, swiftly slides in to the ridiculous. ballgowns in souks and stilettos in sand don't rock - it reeks of look-at-me desperation.
funnily enough, the stand out one of the four leads is Miranda, whose wardrobe is the most stylishly eccentric without being garishly outre and whose character has the most fun - grabbing the holiday spirit by both hands, refraining from leering at the conveniently placed man-candy, and who evolves in a way that's surprising and rewarding.
Obviously I'm longing to talk about the plot - but i won't spoil it by revealing anything.
One last point - the series is called Sex and the City. The city was seriously overlooked, and missed, in this film.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Grace Kelly

There are some lovely dresses in the V&A's Grace Kelly exhibition, there's no doubt, but I'm not sure anything (apart from some extraordinary headpieces she wore for the lavish costume balls she revived as a fixture on Monaco's social calendar) really wows. The collection on show takes key items from her wardrobe as an actress, both on screen and off, and charts her sartorial evolution into a princess - via her wedding, trousseau, pregnancies, state events and grand parties. Accompanying pictures show her looking undeniably amazing in the dresses, it's true, but she wears the dresses, not they her. The fashion houses of Madame Gres, Givenchy, Christian Dior all feature, but there's nothing stand out showstopping - you're never left slack jawed with awe at any single outfit. She favoured fairly demure, simple dresses, with devil in the detail so that her beauty was the main event. The dresses alone seem quite ordinary without her bringing them to life.

She did, however, seem to have a sense of playfulness which she unleashed in her accessories - imaginative hats and fabulous turbans, colourful glasses and giant sunglasses (she was one of the first to pioneer glasses as fashion accessory, being very shortsighted and keen on being able to actually see, and wanting to accessorise her glasses with her outfits) surprisingly eccentric brooches and curiously patterned shoes. and then there's the bag. the 'it' bag to end all 'it' bags, which is a legacy in itself. I say no more...

Monday, 24 May 2010

Zebra Finches

I waited exactly in the queue for exactly 2 hours and three minutes to see CĂ©leste Boursier-Mougenot's exhibition featuring Zebra Finches at The Barbican. and spent approx 15 minutes in the exhibition, which wasn't exactly ideal. Still, i absolutely loved it. I had a feeling i would - hence my desperation see it before it came off yesterday.
You enter the gallery via a darkened space; film reels of fingers playing guitar strings are projected on a grand scale on the walls - the contrast is so great the film looks like chalk drawn animation - lines in pink, white and blue. but the sound is muted; all you hear instead is the whirring of the projector slides which sounds like the crackling of wind at the sea side. the space then curves and opens up into the light, where the artist has filled the final third of the gallery space with an assortment of cymbals and electric guitars and a flock of zebra finches. zebra finches turn out to be incredibly cute and inquisitive little black and white birds with electric orange beaks, who swoop and dive about with dynamism and alacrity - no fear or concern about their gawping, intrusive audience. of course the point is that their landing on the instruments means they inadvertently 'play' them, resulting in bursts of random music, if you can call it that. I'd say you can, in fact, because it definitely feels like music rather than noise - even though it's quite plinky plonky. because the musical bursts are sporadic and vary in length, some of the more punchy 'tunes' result in impromptu rounds of applause. well, at least i initiated some - hang what everyone else did during their visits.
It's a weird experience - it's feels very dramatic and yet also elicits a childlike glee as the birds zoom about, and land on you from time to time. you can't have any expectations as there's no official performance, but it does feel like a show. crossed with feeding time at the zoo. the overall effect is magical. you'd have to be a complete android with the sensitivity of a lamppost not to like it.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Why Don't You Love Me?

It is quite impossible to say HOW MUCH I LOVE BEYONCE'S LATEST VIDEO, Why Don't You Love Me? How could you not, indeed, love her in that get up, which pretty much epitomises how I'd like to dress if i a) had a hairdresser and stylist to hand to primp, preen and curl me every morning b) had the legs. in the unfortunate absence of either, i make a not inconsiderable nod to the 1940s and 1950s (high waisted sailor trousers and scarves in my hair the latest obsession) - but clearly i have some catching up to do on the underwear front. strangely enough, Tesco, yes Tesco, are doing a range of 1950s siren-inspired underwear this summer - screamingly cheap and insanely stylish - think big pants with printed front panels (colourful leopard print, a rose motif), and bra tops which have serious support and extend down reaching somewhere between the waist and the usual body strap of a bra, with matching printed panels. sound heinous, look deliciously sexy, trust me. basically exactly like Miss Knowles is sporting here, a la Betty Page. Available from June, they promise me.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

You, Me and Everybody Else

I find portraits funny things, really. They can present perspectives of people that telescope into private emotion, personal drama or specific context - but they can also reflect back the universal; a macrocosm of emotions, social comment, human tragedy or wonder. It's hard to say what makes me connect with one, and why others leave me cold. i always think buying portraits of people I don't know is a weird one, and yet i do it all the time - you sort of have to have a very intimate relationship with someone to invest in a picture of them, and yet you don't know them. but i guess that's the thing about a portrait; it can leave a searing impression - visually and emotionally - the connection is there, even without knowing the subject.

You, Me and Everybody Else is a group show with work by six women - Linda Brownlee, Annie Collinge, Tara Darby, Anna Leader, Jo Metson Scott and Charlotte Player. Walking between the six collections of portraits, your impressions and emotions zoom in and out, refocusing on groups of images which have a very different emotional and visual resonance... tender, bizarre, bewildered, moving, unsettling, curious... my favourite were the portraits of an East End family - met over the garden fence - a strangely intimate series of images that managed to convey the vim and vigour of the characters in the family, yet without being showy or brash, the closeness and personalities conveyed through a natural and subtle composition. Annie Collinge's images of a New York eccentric (below), were both sad and wonderful - strange and empowering, utterly unsettling in a brilliant, provocative way. Anna Leader's series of self-portraits showing the pregnant artist donning quasi ironic warrior garb (above) left an indelible impression - beautifully exploring the fear, the wonder, the strangeness, the power, the weakness, the humour, the ridiculousness, the confusion and the clarity of being pregnant.

‘You Me and Everybody Else’ runs from the 7th – 26th of May at The Print Space Gallery on Kingsland Road.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

High Tide

Apparently not quite satisfied with cramming as much theatre as i can afford/make time for in my working week, I went up to Halesworth, Suffolk for the annual High Tide theatre festival this Bank Holiday weekend, a festival that trailblazingly provides a platform for emerging theatrical talent, especially for dramatists.
This year saw three plays being performed, alongside associated talks, free film screenings and rehearsed readings. The two plays i saw were outstanding (the third, Ditch, I'm seeing at its London transfer in a few weeks). Admittedly I'm biased about one, Moscow Live, as it was written by my friend Serge Cartwright, but I've never been one to wax enthusiastic about things i loathed, and I'm not about to start anytime soon. The play is set in the news room of TV station Moscow Live, a State-run, English-speaking 24hour news station staffed rather unevenly by over-paid young British ex-pats and idiosyncratic Russians - a team who spend most of their time twiddling their thumbs and the rest of the time drip feeding hilariously bizarre fluff features and regurgitated headlines to negligible viewers. Things are suddenly shaken up by the death of Slobodan Milosevic (in UN custody awaiting trial for crimes against humanity at the time of his death); an event of clear international significance but which the Moscow Live staff fail to notice while busy playing word games, and to which they are only alerted to via CNN and BBC headlines. it's furious action stations but then a crisis: how exactly to report the death? How to cast the central character, Milosevic, when the state funds the news report, but the report is written by Westerners, and ill-informed ones at that? Western villain or victim of the West? as arguments rage, staff relationships and personal interests come to influence decision making, journalistic integrity bristling against personal agendas and private grievances. Creating a narrative proves a personal quest as well as a problem in terms of news reportage - how the central characters cast themselves and each other in their own stories proves as pivotal to events and the impact of teh play as how they chose to vilify, victimise or canonise global historical figures. What begins as a lightweight comedy develops into play with a meaty dramatic thrust, where provocative questions that resonate on a multitude of levels (personal and political) are coaxed from the central narrative premise with a deftness that never feels forced or heavy-handed and leaves you questioning, questioning, questioning - long after the applause fades.
I had spotted the rather elegant playwright Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig slinking around Halesworth as she was wearing the most chic yellow Oriental-inspired quilted jacked; i was in awe of her even before i had seen the jaw-droppingly spectacular Lidless (which she wrote) - a play that i had feared might be eye-stabbingly heavy-going as it was about Guantanamo, but which was anything but. A role reversal of the relationships central to films like the Night Porter (which was showing for free at the festival), the play saw the reunion of a female interrogator at Guantanamo and male detainee, a Pakistani Muslim picked up in Afghanistan. Fifteen years after she shamelessly used her feminine wiles as a weapon, her detainee tracks her down to Texas to claim half her liver - he is dying and wants her to save him. She, however, has taken pills to forget her time at Guantanamo and remembers nothing. This premise is merely the beginning of a play that is onion-like in the myriad layers it peels away and explores. Performed in a white-washed bunker-like building, with the actors wearing black and white - there's only a fleeting pop of bright orange (in the form of a 'Gitmo' suit and sari), lighting that varies between spotlights, hanging industrial lights and strip garish bulbs, and being staged in the round, the effect is stark to say the least. you can't look away - you are forced to digest all of the unsavory events as they unfurl. it's an incredibly intense experience; just as you register one thunderclap of information, another rumbles behind - it's like being slapped constantly round the face, and you sit there, palms sweaty, mouth agog, virtually unable to digest the emotional weight of everything that's being thrown at you. if there is one criticism, it would be that there could have been a little more fluff, some downtime to let the dust settle before the next dramatic revelation or development. but this it to make it sound too much, which it certainly wasn't, it was brilliant - clear and powerful; complex without being complicated. You emerge feeling wrung out, wholly spent, but it's worth it. If you're going to the Edinburgh festival YOU MUST SEE IT. for everyone else, it's sure to get a London transfer, so book early.