strange_complex: (Vampira)
Basically, I loved this episode, except for some reservations about the way the black characters were handled. Because unfortunately both of them succumbed to a spoilery racist trope )

Other than that quite serious flaw, though, it was a really good story )

The story as a historical )

The Doctor )

More on the handling of Earth history )

Amy and Rory )

The plot arc )

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strange_complex: (Sleeping Hermaphrodite)
I didn't post about this last weekend, because I was too busy attending [livejournal.com profile] swisstone's wedding, and I haven't since because I was more concerned with painting my kitchen and following the election. So I'm way behind the times now, and can't really add much that hasn't already been covered on [livejournal.com profile] doctorwho and elsewhere. (If you don't follow these matters but are mildly interested all the same, I would draw your attention in particular to [livejournal.com profile] cavalorn's theory about time-travel and the Doctor's jacket, which I think is very likely to be correct).

I do like to make sure I post an entry on each episode as they come out, though, so here's just a few notes on my own reaction before I forget all about it.

Overall, it's a great episode )

Changing the Angels )

The effects of the Time Crack )

River Song )

The seduction scene )

So, seems I had more to say than I thought, huh? Looking forward to tonight's episode - vampires plus time travel plus Venice = WIN! And, although the plot clearly won't be the same, I'm also rather glad that one of the small handful of Big Finish audios I have heard happens to be The Stones of Venice. I'll be interested to hear what resonances, if any, there might be between the two - especially since I see that I've noticed the fairytale feel of the Big Finish story in my review of it, and that is clearly a major theme of the current season of Doctor Who as well. One hour to go!

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strange_complex: (Penny Gadget)
I know I am several years late to the party on this one. I did actually try to see this film when it first came out, but hadn't booked ahead and couldn't manage to get into a showing. So, what with one thing and another, this is the first I've seen of Daniel Craig's Bond.

It's definitely quite a change in direction. I liked how the chase straight after the opening sequence was on foot - it signalled the 'back to basics' approach, but also still made me gasp with awe at the clever use of gymnastics and props. And I like the way some of the old paradigms were inverted - like seeing Daniel Craig emerge dripping from the sea in his bathing trunks, in place of the classic old-school image of Ursula Andress in Dr. No.

I can't say I followed the plot terribly well, despite having read the novel as a teenager, mainly because I actually watched this film in two halves with several months in between them (all to do with a cock-up in setting the recorder for it in the first place). But it didn't really matter - I don't ask for Bond films to be anything much more than a series of impossibly-exotic characters floating through a succession of spectacular set-pieces anyway. And the set-pieces certainly delivered - particular the destruction of the Venetian palazzo at the end of the film, which was absolutely breath-taking.

I did find the portrayal of Le Chiffre's asthma slightly annoying - it's often mis-portrayed in film and TV, and I do wish actors and producers would bother investing five minutes in learning how inhalers are actually meant to be used before trying to portray it on screen. Still, then again, I don't suppose many people really go around bleeding continually from their left eye or re-joining poker games minutes after experiencing cardiac arrest either, so maybe I shouldn't be too picky.

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strange_complex: (Sebastian boozes)
Watched on DVD from Lovefilm.

This is my second Visconti film in the last month, and like Il Gattopardo it is again very slow-paced. The technicolor look of the earlier film has largely been left behind in favour of a more neutral colour palette, which is partly imposed by the stones of the Venetian setting anyway, but also suits the sombre, washed-up mood of the main character. But there are also flashes of bright colours - vases of flowers, bowls of fruits, hats, swimming-costumes and the red hair of the street musician. Since the main theme of the film is the search for beauty, and the near-impossibility of identifying it or attaining it, I think these are mainly intended to represent a) transience (especially the flowers and fruit) and b) the brashness which often masquerades as beauty.

The direction is again theatrical, and the landscape serves as a backdrop to the characters rather than playing a role of its own. Most of Venice is glimpsed only over Gustav von Aschenbach's shoulders as he moves around the city, and even St. Mark's square appears only in fragments viewed between columns in the surrounding portico. There is also very little incidental music. It is used only occasionally at moments of significant development, and the majority of the music in the film is instead diegetic (i.e. in-story music such as a character playing the piano). On top of this, the dialogue is quite limited - Aschenbach simply has few people to speak to in Venice, so that a lot of the film shows him moving around on his own, watching the people around him but not interacting with them. Together with the absence of music and wide shots, it makes for a very desolate atmosphere, emphasising Aschenbach's isolation and the emptiness of his life.

And this is all very clever and effective, I'm sure. But I found it hard to really like the film, because I just found Gustav von Aschenbach so repulsive. I don't think we are meant to like him - he is explicitly shown as narrow-minded, staid and intolerant. But I presume we are meant to feel some sympathy for him, being rejected by audiences back home in Munich and discovering in Venice that he can see what real artistry consists of but will never be able to reach or connect with it. Perhaps we are supposed to recognise the universal tragedy of the human condition in his journey through the film. But instead, when he sat there on the lido having his final heart-attack, his grotesque death-mask make-up dripping down his face while he reached out hopelessly for the distant figure of Tadzio paddling in the water, I was sitting there thinking "Oh, for heaven's sake get on and die already, and leave the pretty Polish boy alone!"

Maybe that is partly how we are supposed to feel, and then be horrified by our own reactions. But maybe I didn't care.

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strange_complex: (Room with a View kiss)
Seen last night with [livejournal.com profile] big_daz at The Light.

I haven't read the book of Brideshead, but I fairly regularly catch bits of the classic Granada TV adaptation on ITV3. In fact, over the last couple of weekends, I've been watching it systematically, since - in a fairly obvious scheduling move - they have been re-broadcasting it from the beginning on Sunday afternoons to coincide with the release of the film.

Pretty much every review of the film I've seen has said the same thing, and I can't help but agree - it's slavishly indebted to the TV series, but doesn't manage to improve upon it. Sebastian in particular seemed the weak link to me - whereas in the TV series, he comes across as complex and tragic and fantastically enticing, here he just seemed like your average petulant teenager. Perhaps because the development of their relationship wasn't given sufficient screen-time, it was hard to understand why Charles Ryder was particularly interested in him; and despite the fact that they actually kiss on screen, the chemistry between them remained far less homoerotically-charged than the one which Jeremy Irons and Anthony Andrews created.

Still, that said, Emma Thompson and Michael Gambon as respective matriarch and patriarch of the Flyte dynasty did an excellent job - as, indeed, did Diana Quick (oops!) Hayley Attwell as a self-possessed yet vulnerable Julia. And as for the location footage! Between Oxford, Venice and Castle Howard, the only place I hadn't visited was whatever anonymous London street they used to house the Ryders of Paddington - and really, I have walked down enough London streets to get the general picture. It was like a tour of some of the richest and most cherished parts of my life.

Tom Wolfe famously dubbed the Granada TV series (along with Upstairs Downstairs) 'sheer plutography', but it seems to me that this is only true on a superficial level. Fundamentally, the story of Brideshead is about a (relatively) normal person becoming fascinated and seduced by a close-knit group of individuals who are utterly different from him, and whom he can never quite connect to or integrate with, no matter how hard he tries. The divisions between him and them in this case happen to be wealth and Catholicism - but they could equally well be poverty and Judaism, or any other combination of strong social identifiers. The story, and the tragedy, would be the same.

Consider the book to have moved up a notch on my 'to read' list.

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strange_complex: (Room with a View kiss)
I finally finished painting the back bedroom just in time for [livejournal.com profile] redkitty23 and Vincent's visit last weekend, and I must say it looks very splendid now. It is the only room in the house that's actually in a colour-scheme I have chosen, although I will gradually be moving more of them in the same direction as time goes on. The previous owners were clearly a lot keener on blues and greens than I am, whereas I think that creams, biscuits and mushrooms are more the way to go for a house like this (a view forged mainly via extensive watching of Poirot and Jeeves and Wooster). So that is what I have done, and I find it much more warm and inviting now.

Anyway, while finishing the job, I notched up one more Eighth Doctor audio. I'd heard the last two episodes of this one previously on Radio 7 and been impressed, so it was nice to come back and fill in the rest.

Eighth Doctor: The Stones of Venice )

strange_complex: (Sleeping Hermaphrodite)
I'm back from Verona. Very tired, but I had a brilliant time. In theory, I've gone all the way back through LJ to where I left off before I flew out, but it meant going back to skip=260, so it was very much skim-reading.

I'll post a proper report tomorrow, but in essence, after the initial flight cancellation tedium, it was all good. Students fine, my opposite number in Verona a real sweet-heart and very enthusiastic host, Verona wonderful, hotel welcoming, food excellent, and I have been to Venice! Wow.

In all honesty, I'd rather still be there than back in Britannia. But the good news is that the weather there is exactly as horrid as it is here, so I do not need to feel I am missing the sunshine. Only the warm internal glow of Italy and its people. :-(

I have many pictures, but for now you just get my favourite two:

My little friend from the theatre in Verona )

Have you hugged a tetrarch today? )

strange_complex: (Purple and black phone)
What a brilliant day. Shown around Venice by my own private cicerone (Prof Mastrocinque). He was born there, so knew about everything.

strange_complex: (Christ Church Mercury)
I am back from Bristol now, and it was great! However, it was so great that I am totally cream-crackered, and not remotely up to doing it justice in a post. So, instead, I am going to rewind to Thursday evening, and a garden party which I attended with Fleur WINOLJ.

The event took place in the Cathedral Gardens in Christ Church: particularly special for us, what with us both being former members of the House. They are reputedly the gardens on which C.S. Lewis (oops!) Lewis Carroll drew for Alice in Wonderland, and are usually out of bounds to mere student scum. Although Fleur had been in them before (to perform as the Queen of Hearts in a play of the same), I never had in my life, so I could very much sympathise with Alice's long quest to get there.

The goal of the evening was to Save Venice by raising lots of lovely money. So we set to work, content in the knowledge that the more we drank, the safer Venice would be. The evening went on until gone midnight (although we decamped from ChCh to Corpus Christi gardens with Fleur's friend Michael around 10ish), and it was so warm I didn't even think of putting my shirt on until gone 11. Along the way, we drank Bellinis, ate strange fennel-flavoured biscuity things, bitched a lot about other people's dress sense, and took these photos:

Fleur and I revisit the old Alma Mater )

Fleur enjoying her Bellini )

Me, communing with nature )

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