strange_complex: (Dracula 1958 cloak)
This was the first film of a double-bill which I went to see a couple of weekends ago in Manchester with [ profile] ms_siobhan and [ profile] planet_andy. Since I have watched it in some form or another about a gazillion times, including seeing the BFI's restored print on the big screen in 2008, and watching the newly-released version complete with once-censored footage on DVD only this May, I blithely assumed in the car on the way across the Pennines that this one would be a bit of a formality. You know, the pretty-enjoyable-but-not-that-exciting film which I would sit through while we waited for the second half of the screening: Night of the Demon, which I hadn't seen before but had always wanted to.

WRONG! Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong.

Honestly, how had I managed to forget just how blown away I was by the restored big-screen experience of this film at Bradford only five years ago? Or how iconic just about every single scene within the darned film is; or how beautifully it is shot; or how powerful and atmospheric the music is; or how utterly amazing Christopher Lee is as at once the most dignified, intelligent, enigmatic, dangerous, darkly sexual, frighteningly otherworldly and yet still somehow strangely sympathy-inducing Count Dracula ever to grace our screens? Oh, foolish child I was that ever I could err so.

Besides, this screening was not just of the restored print which I already saw on the big screen in 2008. It included the newly-replaced censored scenes as well, so it had something to offer me which I had seen only once before in any form, and never at all on the big screen. Only a few precious seconds of footage, but as I said in relation to the DVD version in May, they do make quite a difference to the film. In fact, of course, they constitute a small but significant increase in the proportion of screen-time which Christopher Lee gets, since it was inevitably his most Draculaesque scenes which attracted the censor's attentions in the first place. Given that, if I could make one complaint about this film, it would be that Dracula doesn't get enough screen-time (even though I appreciate he would quickly lose his mystique if he did), that's quite an important factor for me.

Meanwhile, because I have seen this film so many times, I have flagrantly over-thought almost every possible aspect of its plot, characterisation and world-building, so that every time I watch it now, a familiar list of nagging questions present themselves in my mind. Last time, the one that nagged the loudest was "who the actual fuck is Tania?" (real-world answer, probably scripted at one point as Arthur and Mina's child and at another point as Gerda's, without the clash between the two ever being entirely resolved; in-story answer, either Gerda's child but treated like part of Arthur and Mina's family or perhaps someone's secret love-child whose status genuinely is as ambiguous as the script suggests). This time, it was What is Dracula's real motive in inviting Jonathan Harker to his castle? )

As for those other questions regarding why he wants his library sorted out, and how he went about hiring Harker, those go beyond what the film as screened can tell us, and I would have to start writing back-story type fanfiction if I really wanted to answer them. Though I have dabbled with drabble in the past, long-form fanfiction belongs on my list of things which are doubtless pleasant but which life is too short to do (though I'll often while away the time on bus journeys or while drifting off to sleep telling similar stories to myself, which provides the requisite satisfaction without the tedious trouble of having to write anything down). I have found the time since watching this film, though, to indulge over the course of a few evenings in front of the telly in another fannish activity - the making of new livejournal icons. One, taken directly from this film, makes its first appearance at the head of this post. The others will follow as I review some of the sequels which watching this film has prompted me to revisit since.

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strange_complex: (True Blood Eric wink)
I've been having a pretty lazy, undemanding weekend - much needed after the last month and a half of zipping around the place and being intensively driven and intellectual all the time. I slept in till midday today and yesterday, and have been spending most of my waking hours lying on the sofa in my dressing-gown, drinking coffee, reading the internet and watching the snooker (which is throwing up a lot of surprises this year - but mainly nice ones as far as I'm concerned).

The only thing I can be said to have 'achieved' this weekend is to make the attached icon, which took me through quite a steep learning-curve with Adobe ImageReady (it's only the second animated icon I have ever made), but which I am now really proud of and very slightly in love with. I believe I have tipped over in this last week from thinking that True Blood is a pretty cool show which I'm careful never to miss an episode of, into full-blown squeeing fandom of the type which causes one to join fan communities ([ profile] trueblood_lj seems to be the main one round these parts) and conceive crushes on regular characters.

[ profile] lefaym made an excellent post a few weeks ago pointing out some of the many things which True Blood is getting right - well-realised characters; complex situations without simple solutions; and prominent black, female, queer and working-class characters whose lives and experiences are taken seriously and explored without the suggestion that they should somehow be ashamed or self-loathing about their under-privileged identities. I can't really improve upon [ profile] lefaym's analysis, but I will also add that another big draw for me is the dialogue. It's sometimes very powerful, it does a brilliant job at revealing character and pushing on the plot without ever feeling forced, but most of all it regularly manages to be crackingly laugh-out-loud funny. There are a few quotations here, but TBH they don't really work out of context. They work because they all fit so well in the mouths of the characters they come out of, and in the structure of the scenes where they occur - and that is precisely why this is such a good show and so satisfying to watch.

Anyway, I did manage to get myself up off the sofa and dressed and over to Manchester yesterday evening for [ profile] glitzfrau and [ profile] biascut's house-warming party. It was lovely to see them all set up and bright and cosy in there. I last saw the house on their first day in it, when it was mainly all boxes and make-shift furniture, but they have already made a massive difference to it in only two months, and it feels properly like their own glorious domain now. Filling it up with bright, interesting people and food and wine last night was the icing on the cake, really - as a house-warming should be.

It was also nice to discover that the trains between Leeds and Manchester really do mean that I can breeze out of the house on a summer evening with nothing but a little money and my house-keys in my pocket, sail over the Pennines in fading sunshine, spend a decent evening with fine people on the north edge of the city centre, and still be back safely curled up in my own bed by 1 in the morning. I've not really tried doing that before, but it opens up new social opportunities now that I know how easy it is.

Now it's about time I watched my recording of last night's Doctor Who so that I can find out what everyone's posts and comments about River Song's identity and Amy's developing character actually mean. Oh, it's a hard life...

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strange_complex: (Claudia Cardinale fan)
IMDb page here. Watched on DVD from Lovefilm.

This is a long, slow epic of a film; large and grandiose, but with a great deal of small detail and personal intimacy, too.

I watched it partly because one of the main characters is played by the delectable Claudia Cardinale. Indeed, many moons ago I made this icon of her character holding a fan to use when registering my appreciation of LJ posts which I sincerely liked but did not have anything specific to say about in a comment. (It fulfils, of course, the same role now served by the 'Like' button on Facebook - and oh I do wish they would get on and implement something similar for LJ!). But I also watched it because it deals with one of my favourite periods of Italian history, the Risorgimento, here seen specifically from the point of view of a noble Sicilian family.

The head of that family, Don Fabrizio - the 'leopard' of the title, somewhat surprisingly but very powerfully played by Burt Lancaster - takes a sanguine view of matters. He speaks a great deal about the antiquity of Sicily, very much focussing on the longue durée, and fundamentally believes that the unification of Italy will make little difference to the everyday experiences of the Sicilian people. But at the same time a clear contrast is drawn between the old ways which he represents and the new ways of his nephew Tancredi - an energetic and passionate young man, who fights actively for the revolution and willingly throws himself into the politics of the new regime. By the end of the film, Tancredi is deeply in love with Angelica (Claudia Cardinale's character), who is vital and spirited but distinctly ignoble. There is a frisson of attraction between Angelica and Don Fabrizio, too - but ultimately it is something which cannot be pursued. While she and Tancredi swirl ardently together at the ball which forms the climax of the film, Don Fabrizio, now tired and somewhat dejected, walks out into the streets of the small town beyond, finally disappearing from sight altogether into a dark archway. He has done his bit - but the future belongs to Tancredi and Angelica.

The cinematography and direction of the film are very typical of the 1960s. The colour palette revolves around Glorious Technicolor, while the direction is very much theatrical. This has its own charms, but I felt that the landscape of Sicily perhaps wasn't shown off to its best advantage as a result. A modern director would have given us lots of aerial shots of the landscape, capturing the rolling shapes of the hills and coastlines by flying over the scenery. Visconti, though, treats the landscape above all as a backdrop, always static behind scenes of human action. Perhaps that is what he wanted to capture - a sense of Sicily as still and unchanging while its people act out their small-scale human dramas. But I felt that something of its potential majesty was lost as a result.

I wouldn't recommend this film to everyone - it is slow-paced, and assumes a pre-existing interest in the circumstances of the characters rather than seeking to establish one. But if you happen to like 19th-century Italy, 1960s cinematography or indeed Claudia Cardinale, Burt Lancaster or Alain Delon (who plays Tancredi), it is definitely a fine example of its kind.

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strange_complex: (Miss Pettigrew)
Watched this afternoon, all curled up on the sofa as part of my weekend of indulgence. I've seen it before, and indeed reviewed it before, but that doesn't mean I don't have new stuff to say about it, especially because I've also read the book since.

It seemed shorter than I remembered, but I suppose that's natural enough when you've seen a film before, and therefore know where you are in the story and how much remains at any given point. Now that I've read the book, I'm also less keen than I was before on the way the character of Edythe Dubarry is depicted in the film. In the book, she is a strong and self-possessed business-woman, who is nothing but supportive of both Miss LaFosse and Miss Pettigrew. But in the film she has been made into Miss Pettigrew's rival - the one who knows her secret, uses this as a hold over her, and has cynically entrapped lovely, honest, Ciarán Hinds-Joe purely for the sake of his professional status. It all makes her both more bitchy and more weedy than she is in the book - and definitely a lot less feminist.

Apart from that, though, I still absolutely love the film - both in its own right and as an adaptation of the book. I especially liked the way it is made so much clearer in the film how similar Delysia LaFosse's situation really is to Miss Pettigrew's, beneath all the glitz and glamour. This is touched on in the book, when we hear that her real name is Sarah Grubb, but the film makes it much more explicit by extending the name-confession scene to reveal that she also barely has any possessions that are really her own, and could be out on the streets herself in the blink of an eye. There's also a lot of good mileage got out of the impending outbreak of the Second World War, which adds a dark undertone to the otherwise-glamorous proceedings; and a running theme about Miss Pettigrew getting nothing to eat and no sleep for almost 48 hours over the course of the film, which has humour value and also helps to underline the severity of her position.

And of course, the film has all the benefits of sumptuous sets, costumes and cinematography, all of which are used extremely intelligently. Since I now own the DVD, I was able to cap a couple of my favourite scenes for your delectation )

ETA: further thoughts on the deleted scenes included on the DVD release now posted here.

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Icon meme

Thursday, 8 January 2009 10:13
strange_complex: (Clone Army)
I haven't done a meme for an awfully long time, but I feel I deserve one. This one is taken from [ profile] pickwick and based on code by elfflame - but I changed the way the table displayed so that it would be legible on a wider range of journal layouts, including mine!

Icon table under here )

IF YOU COULD BUY SPACE FOR MORE, WOULD YOU: I might have done before all permanent account holders were suddenly given a whacking 45 extra icon spaces a month or so back. Now, I don't think I need to.
DO YOUR ICONS MAKE A STATEMENT: Kind of. I mean, not a terribly profound one, but I am very strict about making them all myself, so each one individually is very personal expression of my interests. Collectively I like to think they add up to a sort of cheerful enthusiasm.
WHAT FANDOM DO YOU HAVE THE MOST ICONS OF: If Rome and the Romans count as a 'fandom', then that is the out and out winner with c. 30 icons (depending on how far you're prepared to push the theme to include Classical receptions). If not, Doctor Who is next with seven...
AND THE SECOND MOST: ...followed by 6 for various incarnations of Stephen Fry and 5 each for Severus Snape and The Wicker Man.
WHAT SHIP DO YOU HAVE THE MOST ICONS OF: Jooster, apparently, by dint of having two. I'm not a massive shipper.
DO YOU MAKE ICONS: Yes. I make all my own icons, and very occasionally make them for friends or the general public, too.
ARE THEY ANY GOOD: These days, actually, they're not too shabby. And I even have an award to prove it. That's the result of several months spent observing other people's work, reading tutorials (there's a great starter set here) and entering challenges on [ profile] dw_icontest. Alas, that community seems to have ground to a halt now, but I've reaped the benefits of it, and am now able to make much better icons. The problem with that, though, is that I now actually think about 90% of my own, older icons are dreadful, including some of the ones I've put in the table above. :-( My ongoing project is to revamp them, so that they're the same basic icons but better executed. However, the time available for doing that just never seems to materialise, and besides I no longer have the original source images for some of them. Oh well, there's no rush.
ANIMATED ICONS ARE: Basically annoying. I know I have one (the Tom Baker one above), and use it whenever I get the chance, but that's partly because I wanted to find out how to make them, and partly because he is just TOO SEXAH, and there was no way I was ever going to convey that and get the whole quotation I wanted into one still 100x100 pixel image. One exception amongst 146 is excusable though - what I can't understand is people who have whole collections of almost nothing but animated icons. Especially when they scroll so fast that you can't even tell what is meant to be going on. Sometimes, I actually have to put my hand up to the screen to cover whatever annoying icon is blinking and flashing at me, in order to be able to concentrate on reading the post it's attached to. Gah! Rant over.

Coding can be found here

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strange_complex: (Sebastian boozes)
This year, I watched most of the ITV series, saw the movie and visited the set of both, not to mention reading the author's first novel. So it seemed like about time I sat down and read the book.

It's brilliant. Every line of it resonates with a profound love of the English language - and it's a testimony to the way the ITV series made use of this that as I read, I heard not only the lines they actually used in Jeremy Irons' voice, but those they did not as well.

I did find the prologue hard going because of all its military jargon. There were several sentences I had to read twice before I could even guess at what they meant. I'm pretty sure the same would have been true of some of the Oxford sections, too, if I hadn't happened to have been there - and indeed specifically to Christ Church - myself. Otherwise, though, it is seductively easy reading; suffused with the sunshine and passion and luxury which make up the story. I only wish I had known about this site, which would have helped me significantly in the military sections.

My view of the plot hasn't changed significantly since I commented on it after watching the film, although I'm more fully aware of the changes they made for the cinema now - and all the more baffled by them, too. I also find almost all of the characters fuller and more complex now, and generally feel greater sympathy for them too. I should note that I actually read the revised version published in 1960, in the preface of which Waugh states that the book is "re-issued with many small additions and some substantial cuts", so that I will have received a slightly different impression of the whole than I would from the original edition (some notes on the sorts of changes that were made are here).

Brideshead probably isn't a very good guide to the general tenor of Waugh's novels - it's certainly far more self-consciously epic and weighty than Decline and Fall, and I enjoyed it more probably for those very reasons. (And enough to devote one of my new icon-spaces to it, too!) Waugh himself appears to have been somewhat ambiguous about it, considering it to be both his greatest achievement and something of an embarrassment at different times. But, in their different ways, I've heartily enjoyed both of his books that I've read this year, and intend to come back for more.

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strange_complex: (Tom Baker)
At least two people on my friends list have posted over the last week or so to recommend Being Human, the pilot episode of which has now been shown twice on BBC3. Having just watched it, I can now say that they were definitely right - it's a very promising little piece, which I'd love to see more of. Basically, you have a vampire, a werewolf and a ghost, who are in all other respects really very normal twenty-somethings trying to get along and make sense of life. It's not over-stated, it addresses the usual clichés without going over the top about it, and it's basically exactly what British cult TV does best. And I discovered to my delight when I watched it this evening that it's also set in Bristol, which brought back a lot of nostalgic studenty memories for me - especially when I saw the shabby, scabby little flat the three of them moved into.

Alas, for the present, it's a pilot only, so if this sort of television floats your boat and you haven't seen it yet, then I can only recommend you get yourself along to iPlayer and check it out (within the next five days). Then, if you like it, there's a petition you can sign to persuade BBC3 to commission more. Actually, I can't help but suspect the whole "We'll only show you one episode and then make you beg for more" set-up is a big publicity stunt - but if that's what it takes, I'm voting anyway.

In other news, I made my first ever animated icon! I don't intend to make a habit of this, because quite frankly they usually rather annoy me. But there was no way I was going to get all the text and images I wanted into one 100x100 frame in this particular case, and I wanted to learn how anyway. Pity about the reduction in picture quality you get when you turn things into gifs, but other than that I'm fairly happy with it.

Yes, I am still watching a lot of Classic Who...

strange_complex: (TARDIS)
Fourth Doctor: Genesis of the Daleks )

Fourth Doctor: Terror of the Zygons )

Still, OK on the whole, and it has furnished me with the splendid new icon I'm using here. This comes from the end of the last episode, when the Doctor is about to depart, and the moment I saw the shot I knew I had to have it. It captures the essence of both Tom Baker and the Doctor / TARDIS relationship perfectly, and begs the viewer to follow, speaking of promise and adventure. I had to make it out of a YouTube capture, so it could be a little sharper, but I don't care - just looking at that image fills me with joy. It'll now be my 'generic Who' icon, to replace the 'TARDIS in space' image I had before.

Hmm - I was also going to include some non-episode specific observations about Classic Who here, but I'm pretty tired now, and I really need to put in a solid day's work tomorrow. I think I'll have to save those for some other time.


Sunday, 4 March 2007 13:05
strange_complex: (Pompeii sundial)
I've been filling in the latest two icon slots that LJ has bestowed on permanent users. Now at last I have an icon about time - and it manages to combine Apollo, Pompeii and a line from one of my favourite Siouxsie and the Banshees tracks as well, all in one big cross-overy love-fest! Hooray.

I do wish I'd bothered to go out and look at the lunar eclipse last night, now I've seen everyone's photos of it this morning. I was vaguely aware of it, but didn't quite register that it was actually going to be a total eclipse, at a perfectly civilised hour of the evening. Oh well - your photos were good, anyway, all of you.

This morning I saw the episode of Angel from season five where just in case... and there are House spoilers under here, too )

Right. Now I am going to spend the rest of the day catching up with my Italian. We're supposed to hand in homework every couple of weeks, but I think I've done so about twice so far over the whole course. Bad Penny!

strange_complex: (Leeds owl)
...keeping me up all night!

Actually, they aren't really owls, but apparently some openings in the roofing of the flats where I live, which make hooting sounds exactly like owls when the wind blows through them. Which was most of last night. Still, it gives me a great opportunity to introduce my latest icon (man, I just love the way us permies get yet another new one every few months!).

This particular owl may be found outside Leeds' Civic Hall, where he and a feathery friend stand as proud emblems of the city - whose patron goddess must therefore logically be Minerva. Now that I actually live in Leeds, I felt the need for a 'Leeds - town' icon to supplement the 'Leeds - gown' aspect represented by my Parkinson building one. So that's his job. Meanwhile, in the background, is Shelley's rendering of the Homeric hymn to his mistress, the first few lines of which run thus:

I sing the glorious Power with azure eyes... )

Hooting aside, I am having a very lovely weekend, which so far has included:
  • Going shopping and buying a very lovely fifties-esque dark purple party frock for upcoming Christmas dos
  • Getting the flat properly clean and tidy
  • Painting my toe-nails
  • Dying my hair (that one's happening right now)
  • Doing some very fruitful and rewarding Alessandro Moreschi research
  • Making lots of interesting notes (so far in English) for the Italian presentation I have to give on Tuesday
  • Some cracking lie-ins
Later on, [ profile] my_mundane_life will be coming to stay over en route to an interview she has here tomorrow, and we will be going out for dinner with [ profile] hieroglyphe. And in the meantime, I'd better get this dye off my hair and start turning those notes into an actual presentation, that's actually in Italian...

strange_complex: (Clone Army)
Question meme from [ profile] kkjxx:

1. Elaborate on your default icon.
Essentially, it's me doing something I love in spite of the weather, on a particularly significant New Year's Day. The full story is here.

2. What's your current relationship status?
Single and with no desire to change that.

3. Ever have a near-death experience?
No, and I don't think I've ever really been in serious danger of dying, either. I've been pretty ill a couple of times, including one quite dramatic entry into hospital, but that's all.

4. Name an obvious quality you have.
Not doing too badly in the brains department.

5. What's the name of the song that's stuck in your head right now?
Er, not too sure. I think it's an instrumental section from something by Handel, but I only really have one tiny phrase in my head - not enough to work out the rest of it.

6. Name a celebrity you would marry:
I think Stephen Fry definitely fits the bill there! I'm pretty sure it would be a non-sexual relationship by mutual agreement, but just generally getting to live with him and spend lots of time talking with him would be ace.

7. Who will cut and paste this first?
I'm not sure anyone will. Maybe [ profile] captainlucy?

8. Has anyone ever said you look like a celebrity?
I was once compared to Siouxsie of 'The Banshees' fame - although that was ages ago, and I had black back-combed hair and was wearing black and purple PVC at the time. Then again, I've also been compared to Charles Hawtree... :-( If anyone has any more up-to-date / flattering suggestions, I'm listening!

9. Do you wear a watch? What kind?
Yes, a beautiful sparkly one covered in Swarovski crystals, which a lot of people don't realise is a watch at first, and think is a pretty bracelet instead. It looks like this, except that the crystals inside each link are lilac instead of clear.

10. Do you have anything pierced?
Yes - three holes in one ear, four in the other and one in my belly button.

11. Do you have any tattoos?
No, and don't want one. There's just no one symbol that means so much to me that I want it permanently engraved on my body - especially given that even the best tattoos do look kinda dodgy after 20 years or so.

12. Do you like pain?
Not for its own sake, no.

13. Do you like to shop?
I like the things I get by shopping, but don't particularly enjoy the actual process.

14. What was the last thing you paid for with cash?
An orange juice while out shopping on Saturday afternoon with Cie.

15. What was the last thing you paid for with your credit card?
My shopping in Sainsbury's this morning. Although strictly, that was a debit card - I don't actually have a credit card, because it's an extortionate way to borrow money, and a debit card offers the same convenience.

16. Who was the last person you spoke to on the phone?
Dad yesterday afternoon, about flat-buying stuff.

17. What is on your desktop background?
Lord Summerisle, speaking his "A heathen conceivably, but not, I hope, an unenlightened one" line in The Wicker Man.

18. What is the background on your cell phone?
Alessandro Moreschi, aged c. 25 - the second picture from the left on my colour bar, except not orange.

19. Do you like redheads?
Well, yes - if they're nice people. Not just because their hair is red, though.

20. Do you know any twins?
Er, I can't think of any just now. I've a vague idea that I know someone who has a twin, but I don't really know the twin. Obviously it's not had much impact on me, though, since I can't even be sure who that person might be.

21. Do you have any weird relatives?
Not outrageously weird - just normal-human-being weird.

22. What was the last movie you watched?
Farinelli: il Castrato, which BBC4 showed recently in connection with their documentary on the castrati. I'd seen it years ago and remembered it being dreadful, but thought I'd give it another try now that I know so much more about both Farinelli and Handel (who appears as a character in the film). My verdict? What a pile of unadulterated tripe - I was right about it first time round!

23. What was the last book you read?
A Short History of The British School At Rome by Peter Wiseman. Excellent book, really enjoyed it.
strange_complex: (Fred Astaire flying)
Last night I attended the joint birthday party of [ profile] my_mundane_life and [ profile] byrnsey_b, held in the Errigle Inn. We had lots of dancing, to a pretty surreal set of music: everything from Rage Against the Machine to Bananarama. And I got the chance to take the dark purple shiny dress I bought recently at the Rusty Zip on its maiden outing. Thanks to both [ profile] my_mundane_life and [ profile] byrnsey_b for a lovely evening!

When I got home, I wasn't quite ready to go to sleep, so I watched the pilot episode of House, M.D., which I'd taped from Channel 5 while I was out. I thought it was OK, and will give it a few more episodes, but I didn't think it was as wonderful as some people on communities such as [ profile] indeedsir had given me to expect. The characters all seem a bit two-dimensional at the moment. Still, they're only just being established at the moment, so we'll see.

Today, I have awarded myself a day off work, because of being out last night and also because I've had a cold all week and could really do with some recuperation time. I've spent it so far Making Icons, and very enjoyable it is too. You can expect large numbers of Gratuitous Icon Posts (a bit like this one!) over the next few weeks.


strange_complex: (Default)

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