Wednesday, 29 February 2012

The sylphs and ondines and the sea-kings and queens

Tonight is my very last night in Germany, the first of my trains home leaves in about 8 hours. Unfortunately however I'm a real night owl so being sensible and asleep right now isn't really an option. Still, at least it gives me time to discover some gorgeous vintage photographs like the ones below. They show what London would be like if it were built like Venice, and it does look beautiful! What I find especially fascinating about these is that they appeared in a magazine in 1899, well over a century ago. Shows how imaginative and creative people can be even without modern technology :)

Sunday, 26 February 2012

The Tree of Life

"The nuns taught us there are two ways through life. The way of nature, and the way of grace. You have to choose which one you'll follow. Grace doesn't try to please itself, accepts being slighted, forgotten, disliked, accepts insults and injuries. Nature only wants to please itself. Get others to please it too, likes to lord it over them, to have its own way. It finds reasons to be unhappy when all the world is shining around it, and love is smiling through all things."

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Midnight in Paris

"This is unbelievable! Look at this - there's no city like this in the world. There never was." Thus begins Midnight in Paris, Woody Allen's charming new film and his love letter to the city of lights. It begins much the same way as many of his other films - depicting the complex, humorous relationships between characters set to the background of a gorgeous city (the images of the city from Vicky Cristina Barcelona still haunt me), yet takes a sharp surreal turn as the main character Gil (Owen Wilson) finds himself swept into the Paris of the past, namely the roaring 20s. Midnight in Paris explores the idea of nostalgia and that wistful hankering after a different, better time than one's own. Wilson's character seems stuck in a rut, he feels creatively stifled, is constantly misunderstood and unfulfilled by the people surrounding him and doesn't seem to fit in his own time period. When he finds himself flung back into 20s Paris, it seems just the break he needs, yet despite portraying this era as such a beautiful one, Allen takes care not to fetishise it, instead choosing to explore both the seductions and pitfalls of nostalgic thinking.

The theme of art and culture is also explored through the famous authors, poets, artists and musicians that Gil Pender meets. Indeed the film is dotted with famous faces and celebrities, but in this case it is two fold - both the actors and the characters they portray are familiar and awe-inspiring. And while perhaps (well, almost certainly) it is unrealistic to bump into another artiste at every other corner of a Parisian street, the concept of such a close knit community of creative individuals is just bewitching, and their highbrow artistic abstract thoughts are often contrasted comically with Pender's slight bumbling down-to-earth responses. All in all, this is a witty, beautiful and charming film, and certainly a high point in the cinema of 2011.

Paris in the morning is beautiful

Paris in the afternoon is charming

Paris in the evening is enchanting

But Paris after magic

"A man in love with a woman from a different era. I see a photograph!"
"I see a film!"
"I see an insurmountable problem."
"I see a rhinoceros!"

Monday, 13 February 2012

An unexpected journey

I cannot believe I haven't posted this yet. To be honest I don't think my excitement can really be expressed...

Friday, 10 February 2012

Third star on the right and straight on 'til morning

I stumbled across the trailer for Third Star many months ago and was immediately desperate to watch it. Unfortunately, it turned out to be one of these small film festival types which are barely released anywhere, meaning I had to wait impatiently for the DVD release. And luckily in Germany, I've had all the time in the world to catch up on films and TV shows, so finally got around to seeing it. And I rather enjoyed it. A small independent British film, Third Star tells the story of James (Benedict Cumberbatch), a 29 year old cancer sufferer, who decides to take an ill-advised trip around the English and Welsh countryside with three of his closest friends. Although the premise sounds tragic at first, Third Star is actually a rather touching comedy drama which explores the ideas of friendship and love against a looming backdrop of suffering and loss.

The story may sound a little too familiar - and in a way it has been done quite often before - and although I certainly did not see the ending coming (I can be a little slow sometimes though...), the journey it took to get there sometimes felt a little repetitive and the characters perhaps a little too typical and underdeveloped. However what the film lacks in originality (and, I have to say, pace) it more than makes up for in the performances of its wonderfully strong cast. Benedict Cumberbatch in particular shines as James, perfectly capturing his frustrations and anger, yet also his moments of happiness and peace. The hugely underrated JJ Feild, who I have loved ever since Northanger Abbey, is perfect as the jaded and unstable, yet ultimately caring best friend and Tom Burke and Adam Robertson give similarly strong performances. We may have seen this situation many times before, but thanks to a strong band of actors, it still resonates and emotes, and features several moments of pure brilliance. Shot absolutely beautifully in the wild English countryside (God, I miss England) this film is well worth a look.

"So I raise a morphine toast to you all. And if you should happen to remember it's the anniversary of my birth, remember that you were loved by me and that you made my life a happy one. And there is no tragedy in that."

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Oh we dream a life

My very lovely friend back home sent these to me, how adorable are these illustrations by this talented lady here? They play about with fashion in various runway shows, don't you find it wonderful how creativity in one person can inspire creativity in another?
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