Trips to the cinema: 9
Books read: 2
Albums purchased/acquired: 1
4 stars – Weiner
3 stars – Elvis and Nixon
Notes On Blindness
The Neon Demon
The Secret Life of Pets
2 stars – Chevalier
Queen of Earth
A pretty “meh” month for films this month, with just one stand out title. With the emphasis on the “stand out” *ahem*….
There is something terribly, horribly Shakespearean about Anthony Wiener, the anti-hero of this debut feature from Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg. Three years on from a political downfall of his own making in a sex scandal, Wiener seeks nomination for the race for New York Mayor. At the start of the film, he’s doing well in the polls, but this tale of potential redemption turns quickly sour as we learn that his appetite for self-destruction has not been quenched.
But this is a more complex tale than just the sending of inappropriate text messages. It’s one where real tragedy and comedy (and, wow, did I laugh) can be found in equal measure. We cringe when Wiener unexpectedly explodes in public at one of his constituents, only to discover later that he had understandable reasons for doing so. We can’t help but admire the passion and substance of his arguments at a local hustings when a howling mob demand that he leave. He is a brilliant but flawed man.
Ultimately it is impossible to understand Wiener’s motivations and self-destructive actions. That isn’t a failure of the filmmakers. At the end of the film when Wiener’s humiliation (and rejection by the voters) appears to be complete, yet he still allows the camera crew to remain to capture it all, Kriegman asks “Why are you still letting me film this?” A shrug of the shoulders is all Wiener – and we – have to offer.
Two very special musical highlights to report this month – and it’s hard to think that they couldn’t be any more different…
The only previous time I saw Saul Williams play live was as support to Nine Inch Nails at the Glasgow Barrowlands on 7 July 2005, the evening of the London bombings. For this and other reasons (like this being the first time NIN had played Glasgow in 11 years, and on the back of their first album release in 6), the atmosphere in the hall was like nothing else I’d ever experienced then or since. And then Saul Williams walked out on stage on his own, and with a mix of heavy electronic beats, part-rap, part-spoken word performance he achieved something I’ve never seen from a support act – he got the attention of just about everyone in the crowd. Personally, I was mesmerised, this was raw, brave and impassioned stuff. It remains the best support performance I’ve ever watched.
Four albums and eleven years on, almost to the day, and I finally got to see Williams as the main act (at a gig in the O2 ABC2). His formula hasn’t changed much, perhaps he veers more towards spoken word performance than hip-hop now, but the intensity was still the same. And then I witnessed one of the most extraordinary moments in all my years of going to concerts: as the music began to fade out on one track, Williams continued to rap unaccompanied, and then he jumps from the stage into the audience and continues to perform and then… We all suddenly became conscious of the fact that he had dropped his mic. All you could hear was his powerful voice and the hum of the bar fridges. It’s spine-tingling even now just recalling that unique moment.
I didn’t think I would ever pay a visit to the Royal Opera House. Until, that is, Pet Shop Boys set up a four-day residency there under the title Inner Sanctum. I made a fairly late decision to get a ticket so I was stuck up in the gods but, in the end, lost nothing of the splendour and joy of the evening. A perfect mix of old classics, obscure gems and tunes from their latest two albums, Electric and Super, served up in the most splendid of auditoria. Although maybe I had an issue with the order in which certain tracks appeared – West End Girls played so early on, really?
With set designer – and frequent PSB collaborator – Es Devlin at the helm, a motif of circles, balls and globes (in keeping with the cover of Super) constantly featured – from the opening section that looked like it had been copied from the set of The Prisoner to the most incredible laser display of concentric circles. That’s the key to what made this such a great show – all was all spectacle, without pretension and just a lot of fun. The sight of 40-odd dancers suddenly emerging in inflatable lycra suits to accompany the closing Left To My Own Devices and Go West surely emphasised to everyone that the focus here was on fun, not art. Even then, none of it look out of place – even if the ROH has never before seen such a laser show or been shaken by such volume and heavy bass. All in all, brilliant but bonkers.
TO BE CONTINUED…..