Moby Dick by Herman Melville

Moby Dick by Herman Melville

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The early chapters were great – especially the introduction of Queequeg and the description of the whaling port and the ships financiers, as well as the intrigue surrounding Ahab. As soon as they put to sea the book became incredibly boring and has put me to sleep on many occasions reading in the evening! I struggled through the tedious middle in the hope of an exciting finale. Nothing much happened – Although there is a bit of action at the very end where they meet Moby Dick. I found the writing very opaque and difficult to get into.

Illustration source an amazing set of Moby Dick illustrations by Rockwell Kent,

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Christopher and his kind by Christopher Isherwood

Christopher and his kind by Christopher Isherwood

(The image is from the BBC tv adaptation starring Matt Smith.)

I really liked this book and thought that Christopher Isherwood comes across as a generous, warm, funny and self-depreciating character. His love for his friends shines through despite the odd bitchy argument.

He is much more interesting character here than in either of his fictional versions of the period (Mr Norris Changes Trains or Berlin Stories). As he says himself, when he wrote those he was much more guarded about the gay aspects of himself and his characters and here he is more open about it.

That is a strong reflection of the different eras in which the books were written – by the time this was published in the seventies it was the beginning of the gay liberation movement. Also interestingly Christopher mentions the film Cabaret – in which his character is bisexual and the play I am Camera in which his character was straight. The recent adaptation for the BBC of Christopher And His Friends which used scenes from this and The Berlin Novels was very explicitly gay – more so than the book. So all these versions go to show how acceptance has changed over the years.

The truer versions of the characters sexuality also helps make the characters more rounded than the earlier books. Though I would still recommend reading those first as he quotes chunks of them here.

He writes beautifully about this period just before the war and gives an account of the tribulations and the happiness that he encountered in Berlin and England and Europe during these tumultuous times.

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Cave of Forgotten Dreams

Cave of Forgotten Dreams

CaveOfForgottenDreams

Cave of Forgotten Dreams is the new documentary by Werner Herzog.  He gained exclusive access to film inside the Chauvet caves of Southern France, capturing the oldest known pictorial creations of humankind in their astonishing natural setting.

The cave painting were  discovered in the nineties by three hikers, they are in mint condition as a collapsed cliff trapped the cave entrance 5000 years ago creating the hidden underground cavern, trapping the paintings and also the perfect footprints and hands prints of the men and wild animals that used the cave. The paintings themselves date from about 30,000 years ago!

The film is beautifully shot in 3D. In the flickering lamplight the camera tracks around the walls and floors of the cave and across contours of rock on which the pictures appear, evoking a magical movement of the drawings. A spirited aliveness – that the early homosapiens must have felt they possessed. Werner Herzog calls the drawings a form of proto cinema. They even evoke animation – changing as the camera moves round the rock, with some of them drawn with multiple legs to suggest movement.

The space is like a mythic cathedral from another time, and a beautiful soundtrack of cello music and choral vocals really set this off perfectly. Herzog’s poetic narration muses on the beauty of the cave and the spiritual and religious possibilities of the drawings, but also the unknowable gulf between these – our ancestors and ourselves. He sees the cave as evidence of the first awakenings of the human soul. The paintings as a testament to pure flowing creativity.

Herzog really captures the sense of wonder around the drawings as well as the awe-inspiring local landscape. Plus his trademark poetic storytelling interviewees – all scientists involved with the cave. He has said in the past he sometimes scripts lines for his interviewees and again here there was one interview in particular that just seemed too Herzog to be true (in a good way). He also manages to get some albino alligators in at the end. Plus a flying camera shot of the landscape and the crew. At many moments juxtaposing the creativity and storytelling of film with the creativity and storytelling of the ancient paintings. He ends on the brilliantly cryptic line – “We are like crocodiles looking back into the abyss of the past.”

A truly fantastic documentary. It made me think of The Song Lines by Bruce Chatwin – it’s ideas of Dreamtime and once again of Riddley Walker. The past and future connected by these hand to mouth stories, with a life of their own. The people creating them not even really knowing their purpose or longevity.

To me it is just amazing how art, stories and creativity have always been in us, part of our very primitive make-up at a time even when such things may have seemed a ‘luxury’ and yet there they are, flowing across ancient stone walls. Such creativity is deeply imbedded in our subconscious much like the cave embedded in the hill. It flow’s through us at a deep level and maybe we are just a conduit for it not it’s owner.

Submarine

Submarine
Submarine landscape poster
Submarine

 

Submarine is the directorial debut of Richard Ayoade ( who plays Moss the one with the hair in the IT crowd). It’s a classic coming of age story, set I would guess at the start of the nineties, although it has that non specific production design spanning 1970 to 1990.

Oliver Tate ( Craig Roberts) a bookish pseudo intellectual who is constantly imagining the film of his life, is infatuated with  his classmate the boisterous and  bolshy Jordana (Yasmin Page). One day she takes him under the railway bridge and kisses him. The next she agrees that they can go out. Oliver’s strange parents are going through difficulties. His dad (Noah Taylor) is depressed amd sits around in his dressing gown all day but still manages to give Oliver tips about girls. His no nonsense mum (Sally Hawkins) may or may not be having and affair with the new age healer who lives next door ( Paddy Considine, hilariously over the top.)

Like many teenagers, Oliver often lives  in the third person fantasising about how others see him and  making up movie scenarios around events of his life. This suits the style of the film which pastiches, French New Wave, specifically Jena Luc Godard, Truffaut – Four Hundred Blows and it’s running on the beach ending, Don’t Look Now and probably loads of other stuff I’m not aware of. Oliver’s character reminded me also of Max from Rushmore in his attempts to act as he imagines grown ups might. This creates some hilarious cringe making moments. Gags which are set up, timed and edited perfectly.

Despite the fact that it  has many familiar features of other coming of age movies. I really liked the film and the quirky character of Oliver. It is great fun to watch, with brilliant comic performances.