Posts Tagged ‘film’

How we beat Margaret Thatcher – What the 1980’s were really like


This post follows a discussion at lunch and two films which are being shown at the moment. One, Pride, which seems to have been on release since I returned from working in the UK in the middle of September, I saw it on 21 st September as I thought it might not be on much longer. (My local UGC cinema says it is on for the 5th week which would fit. Trailer below).

The other film is one which has just started at the cinema this week and is called “White Bird” here in France but is known as “White Bird in a Blizzard” elsewhere. (Trailer below)

Both films are set in the 1980’s but there the similarity ends. Whilst Pride is about the efforts of members of the gay community to provide support and solidarity to members of the mining community during a long struggle against a right of centre government in the UK in the 1980’s, White Bird is a kind of coming of age of a teenager film set in the USA set against the backdrop of the disappearance of a girl’s mother.

I tried not to like Pride. I am fed up with heartwarming tales of overcoming the nastiness of the Margaret Thatcher government and imgres-1people on the left coming out victorious. At the time it didn’t feel that we ever won. It is a retelling of history that everyone was against the government of Margaret Thatcher. They weren’t. She won three elections. She beat the Miners. She introduced Section 28 which fostered a climate that was anti-Gay, Lesbian and Transgender people as a time when the start of AIDs and HIV meant we should be working together. As an example of the climate that was fostered at the time, ten years after the film I was an elected councillor in Reading and was one of a number on a committee that gave out grants to voluntary bodies. The local Gay and Lesbian helpline had applied for a grant of less than £1,000 to provide a telephone helpline to people in the area. Not a large amount for a committee that gave out much larger annual grants like that of over £150,000 to the local Council for Race Equality. The Tory spokesperson (Now an MP for the area, pictured right)images-3 on the committee, in line with their then ideology, challenged the grant on the basis it was illegal in view of Section 28. Section 28 outlawed the promotion of homosexuality to school children. How does awarding a grant to phone helpline comprise promotion to schoolchildren? Anyway, people were so scared of the prevaling climate that we had to get legal advice and face down the Tory attempt, supported by some people for questionable motives in the Labour Party. (One of whom went on to be a Labour MP, pictured leftimgres-2.) So, I was minded to dislike the attempt at re-writing history. However, it such a well-made film and heartwarming story that it is not possible not to like and enjoy the film.

Leaving the film the colleague who had seen the film with JTO commented that it isn’t really possible for a film to capture just how bad things were for people on the left in the 1980’s. Especially I guess for something that is being made for entertainment.

When I went to see White Bird I hadn’t really known what it was about apart from it being about a teenage girl’s loss of her mother. I hadn’t knowingly seen any other films by the same director. I must also confess that part of the reason I went is that I’ve had something of a thing about Eva Green since seeing her in Casino Royale and particularly liked what I saw of her in Sin City II.

The correctness of the reflection of the late 1980’s and early 1990’s was also the subject of our discussion of the the ‘White Bird’. The soundtrack was written by Robin Guthrie, at the time a member of the Cocteau Twins and sometimes of This Mortal Coil, whose songs open the film and are the third of the 16 songs to feature. I liked the type of music that featured in the film at the time. (In fact I made a spotify playlist of the songs here.) Most of the 16 songs I own on vinyl. The thing about the 16 songs is that they are being played in the film, whether, for example, on a walkman, at an ‘alternative’ disco or just when hanging out. Some of them were from before the time the film was set, but then we all play songs from the past. The music is what an American 17 year old high school student and 21 year old university undergraduate might have listened to at that time. In late 1988 what became know as ‘Madchester‘ bloomed and brought with it clothes different from those of the early 1980’s, baggy trousers and tops. By 1991 though in the UK the music and clothes would have been different. But did those things cross the pond? Would someone who liked UK alternative music in 1988 developed and gone with the changes which took place in the UK too, or stayed frozen with what they liked in 1988. It was something I found unconvincing in the film. Although I enjoyed it.

So, the 1980’s reflected in films has become a story we tell about the time. Plucky, heartwarming leftists overcome nasty, brutish rightists and win, er when they don’t. A teenager who likes UK music and clothes in 1988 doesn’t notice any change in UK music and clothes by 1991 when there has been a massive change. Anyway all that depends upon my memory and how reliable is that?

I end with a quote from Remembering and Forgetting Milan Kundera by Aaron Retica published in the New York Times on April 18, 2011:

“It isn’t simply that “the struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting,” as the novel’s most famous line has it. Kundera was showing us not only how one major event sweeps away another, but just how hard it is to remember at all, how disorienting to our own point of view and sense of time it is to try to follow what is going on around us. I get paid to do it and I can barely manage, and events often seem to me to happen in the wrong order, like spasms from an earlier history we thought we’d left behind or from a future we weren’t expecting so soon.”

A Top of the Pops


I was asked in December to take part, with a group of other people, in getting together lists of the best of 2012. I took too long to reply and, in a way, I’m pleased because four albums which I’ve grown to like, that were produced last year, I hadn’t heard at that point. If I’d taken part I would not have included them. I know it’s a bit late into this year to be looking back at the last year, but ‘what the hell’ I’m going to do it anyway.


Amazon did a top 100 of the year, NPR Music did a top 50, as did NME. I wrote in November about Piccadilly Records doing one at the end of November. I only got 14 new albums during the year, and 4 of those were over Christmas so dividing them into a top 10 and ranking them seems a bit superfluous. It was heartening as someone who turns 50 in less than a month to see Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan return with strong new albums and I have grown to love the John Cale very much. I would strongly recommend any of the ones from this list:

  • Old Ideas – Leonard Cohen
  • Tempest – Bob Dylan
  • Blunderbuss – Jack White
  • Sun – Cat Power
  • Sonic Kicks – Paul Weller
  • Island Fire – Gemma Ray
  • Not Your Kind of People – Garbage
  • Standing at the Sky’s Edge – Richard Hawley
  • Come of Age – The Vaccines
  • Co-Exist – The XX
  • Born to Die – Lana Del Rey
  • Carrington Street – Adele & Glenn
  • Shifty Adventures in Nookie Wood – John Cale
  • One Day I’m Going to Soar – Dexys


I saw more films than I bought and listened to music. Special mention goes the ‘The Guard’ ‘The Separation’, The Descendants’, ‘Millennium’, ‘Margin Call’. ‘Ruby Sparks’, ‘Ides of March’ and ‘Skyfall’. I was blown away by ‘Life of Pi’ and I can see why people said it could no be filmed, and without special effects it could not have been, and a an extra special mention for ‘Moonrise Kingdom’ which was charming. Special opprobrium for Sherlock Holmes which was rubbish and I only went to see it because the first minute or so was filmed here in Strasbourg.

  • The Guard
  • J Edgar Hoover
  • The Separation
  • The Descendants
  • Mrs Henderson Presents
  • Sherlock Homes & Games of Shadows
  • Millennium
  • Iron Lady
  • Margin Call
  • W.E.
  • Ruby Sparks
  • Paperboy
  • Ides of March
  • 3 Days of the Condor
  • Skyfall
  • Life of Pi
  • Moonrise Kingdom


In terms of number I read slightly fewer books than films I watched but more than albums I bought and listened to. However, signing up to Goodreads in June means it was easy to track what I read in the last year and to rank them. As I gave five stars to the autobiography of Madeline Albright, the fourth instalment of Robert Caro’s biography of LBJ and to Stonemouth by Ian Banks they were obviously the top three with a one, two, three in the order I mentioned them.

  • Priors Garden – Jane Griffiths
  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
  • The Unfinished Revolution – Phillip Gould
  • I An Actor – Nicholas Craig
  • A View from the Foothills – Chris Mullin
  • Back to Blood – Tom Woolfe
  • Sweet Tooth – Ian McEwan
  • Master of the Senate – Robert Caro
  • Stonemouth – Iain Banks
  • NW – Zadie Smith
  • Transition – Iain Banks
  • Vanished Kingdoms: The History of Half Forgotten Europe – Norman Davies
  • Lionel Asbo: State of England
  • Prague Winter: A personal Story of Remembrance and War – Madeleine Albright
  • Love Me Do – Michael Braun
  • The Human Factor – Graham Greene

Film 2013


I’ve never been one for doing reviews of films, never really thought people would be interested 20135961.jpg-r_160_240-b_1_D6D6D6-f_jpg-q_x-xxyxxin what I had to say about them. However. Last month I just managed to catch up on two films that were being shown as part of a Télérama (Radio Times but more intellectual) catch up on the best films of last year, Holy Motors and The Deep Blue Sea.(Links to trailers for the films) The first showed someone working throughout Paris at night and the second showed a Judge’s wife falling for a former Battle of Britain airman. Both were really good and enjoyable. The former with the added bonus of an appearance of Kylie! I was really sorry to miss out on The Master but I did.

Then last week I went to Zero Dark Thirty. I had been concerned at the first half being about how intelligence about the search for the head of Al Qaeda and the operation to take him out. Enthralling cinema.

trailersThen this weekend and a veritable cinema feast. First up was Silver Linings Playbook.(Happiness Therapy in France) I had received a lot of encouragement from the best blogger in Reading, and he won’t like this, but the positive encouragement was added to by Stephen Fry on the Danny Baker Show where he talked about the subtlety of this film. From the performances of the male and female lead through to the shades in the OCD of Robert De Niro. It is a fantastic life-affirming film, go and see it now!

Then I went to see Django Unchained. I had expected to see a Tarantino blood-fest, which I did not think it was so much. I also thought it had much more of a story than his recent films, a lot of wit and a good story. It also had, as legal blogger David Allen Green pointed out, thought-provoking moments with regard to the law.

The last film of the weekend was a visit to see Lincoln last night. imgres-1This was the most disappointing film of the last four.  It was a fine performance from Daniel-Day Lewis and Shirley Field. I thought the film was dull, too much of a reflection of the Iraq-all-war-is-nonsense hokum and, as someone with experience of Parliamentary maneuvers and knowledge of the working of the US system through reading the fantastic Robert Caro books on Lyndon Johnson, suffered from the double problem of being too long and not dramatic enough.

Well, three fantastic films and one  worthwhile story that could have been told better, that still leaves Sugar Man, Hitchcock and Shadow Dancer on show. I hope the remaining months are as good as February seems to be.

You know what this has to end with:

Eleanor Fuller Presents Sooo British


As part of the Strasbourg So British promotion, which I previously wrote about here and here, this evening I am going to see the film “Mrs Henderson Presents” at the Odysée cinema gratuit, free, nichts, for nothing. Not bad eh?

It is part of a retrospective season of Stephen Frears films which includes; ChériThe Queen, Mrs Henderson Presents, Mary ReillyPrick Up Your EarsDangerous LiaisonsThe Hit and Tamara Drewe. We are getting to see tonights showing free courtesy of the Permanent Representative of the United Kingdom Delegation to the Council of Europe. It is the first time in four and a half years living here  that I have had any contact with the local representatives of the British government.

Earlier this month there was a season of films by David Lean at the Star cinema and there will be a season of Ken Loach films at the  Odysée in April and May. I leave this post here in order to properly follow the events with the England cricket team in the desert.

UPSATE: Here is a photo from before the film started where the two hosts for the evening, the manager of the cinema and the UK Representative, are introducing the film. There was a good audience and the people I talked to enjoyed the film. It was good to sit in an old fashioned theatre style cinema, it has been in use as such since 1913.

Dog days of Christmas


I had thought one use of the dog days between Christmas and New Year would be to catch up on some films that are on but I had not got round to seeing. Having more time on my hands than I anticipated I ended up seeing more films in the last three days than I imagined I would. The two closest cinemas running a special offer of € 5 a visit made it possible.

The first film was one that JTO saw a long time ago and raved about but I had not had either the time or money to see. Subsequently I had read others raving about it and now I can see what they saw in the Artist. A silent film in black and white? Yep, though I wonder if it would work as anything other than an homage to the silent black and white films? A very enjoyable film with a good story that is well acted. I can see why it has made so many lists of best films of the year.

After a little walk around in the daylight, including a visit to my favourite place in Strasbourg, I walked to the Star cinema to see my first Michael Fassbender film of the period, Shame. A lot of the pre-publicity for the film was about the full-frontal nudity. There is also a lot of sex thought it doesn’t seem very sexy rather the arrival of his sister to stay with him and the failure to be able to relate to another human results in his life spiralling out of control. An interesting study of the commodification of everyday life where anything to satisfy any need is available all the time and addiction.

Thursday afternoon started with Snowtown. I hadn’t heard much about the film but had seen it included in some people’s best of the year films so I thought I would take a look. I misread the information about the film and thought it was about the Australian mafia. I was still waiting for the story to develop into that after more than ten minutes. I nearly left several times. It is a harrowing film to watch with abuse, rape and then brutality and murder. It was an ordeal to sit all the way through, not a fun film about a serial killer, but then not a fun subject. The way it portrays a young man who seeks an escape from the violence and hopelessness that surrounds him, thinks he has found it only to be sucked into a gang of murders is enthralling.

Afterwards I had to get out of the cinema and get some fresh air and some light.  I ran into a friend and chatted and felt returned to normality in time to catch my second installment of Michael Fassbender in A Dangerous Method. The most traditional of the five films I saw, the blurb for it said it concerned:

“the turbulent relationships between fledgling psychiatrist Carl Jung, his mentor Sigmund Freud and Sabina Spielrein, the beautiful but disturbed young woman who comes between them. Sensuality, ambition and deceit set the scene for the pivotal moment when Jung, Freud and Sabina come together and split apart, forever changing the face of modern thought.”

To start with I found Keira Knightly a bit over-mannered in her acting but an interesting story told well, though not exceptionally.

After walking around the market in Place Kleber and looking at the books and maps for sale in the L’Aubette, where I saw the wonderful decoration of part of the building for the first time, I went back to the Star to see a digital film in 3D, my first 3D film. The Mill and the Cross was the most powerful and life affirming, even though it features the death of Christ. It is based upon the painting The Way To Calvary by Peter Beugel and imagines the lives of twelve of the hundreds of subject in the painting and what happened to them before and after they featured in the painting. At the same time giving an explanation for the themes, meanings and history behind the painting.

The Queen’s website and shame on First Post


I was talking to someone about the film ‘The King’s Speech‘ today and became unsure about who was the monarch before Edward VIII and, as a result, whether his brother and successor was George V or George VI.  I googled the royal family and came up with their website.  From there I was able to find a page where I could download a family tree and establish that the father of Edward VIII was George V and the subject of the film, and father of the current British monarch, was George VI.

OK, so what?  I thought it interesting that down the side there was a section headed ‘History of Current Reign’ and the three people pictured and named to highlight the history of the current reign are all dead.  What does that say about the author of the website’s view of the current reign?

Then I read about the horrific attack on CBS journalist Lara Logan on the First Post website and was quite shocked with the picture they chose to go with a story about a journalist being attacked whilst going about their work. I bet that is not the outfit that Ms Logan was wearing on the streets of Cairo when she was attacked.  What were they trying to say about a sexual attack upon a woman by accompanying it with a photo of someone clearly dressed up for a special occasion?  The picture accompanying the story on the CBS news site taken just before she was attacked shows she was not dressed like this, so why have this website chosen this picture?  What are they saying about the attack?  It’s not like there were no other pictures available because the Daily Beast has the picture below.  Shame on you First Post.


Ville de Bergues – Bienvenue chez les Ch’tis


There are a couple of things I had been meaning to write about but I had not started because they were both quite big pieces.  I had not worked out how to write pieces that were not inordinately long, and just getting down to write them outfaced me.  Then help came to hand from the self-proclaimed ‘Reading’s Premier HumouristTM’ Mr London Street who wrote some pieces as two part items.  Why not I thought?  So here is part 1 of a two-part post.

Bienvenue chez les Ch’tis

I have already written about the trip JTO and I took to Dunkerque last month to celebrate our wedding anniversary on 11th September.(Yes how were we to know in 1999 the globally significant event which was to happen only two years later on the same day?)  We were inspired to go by the film Bienvenue chez les Ch’tis (film site):


Released in 2008 and the biggest box office success in France, the film is a comedic look at the regional stereotypes of France, pitting the sun-drenched idyll of the South against the North with its drunken, wife-beating, grimy industry, including mining, and filthy weather.(The people of the North, Ch’tis from the sh sound they make when talking giving the film its title.)  It is now reportedly being remade by Hollywood.  We took the train from Dunkerque and arrived in time to have lunch before starting the tour in P1040511front of the belfry on the town square, both of which play a part in the film.  Our guide, pictured left, wore the hat, yellow shirt and waistcoat of a post office worker as featured in the film.  Whilst walking around he told us anecdotes from the three and a half weeks the film was being made in the town, like how every business received a P1040514signed photo from the Director Danny Boon as a thank you for putting up with the inconvenience.  On the right is the building used as the post-office in the film.  It took so long to get any answer from the post office over whether it would be possible to film in the actual post-office in the town that this building was mocked up to look like P1040517the post-office.  It was so realistic that people in the town kept leaving mail in the mailbox on the wall of it during filming.  The picture on the left is taken looking across the canal at the spot where the two leading characters stop during a tour of the village delivering the mail, which includes calling at every house for a drink, to relieve P1040521themselves.  Then we came to another iconic picture from the film, the window of a women’s underwear shop one of the male characters looks intently into to avoid another character before he fully realises the nature of the shop he is looking at so intently.   After the tour we went up the belfry which played an important part in the P1040538film.  Our guide, like the character played by the Director and well-known comedian Danny Boon, was the person who plays the keyboard which plays the bells.  In the top right you can see the town hall which is where the wedding in the film takes place.  Next to it is the genuine post-office and next to it the cafe where the day delivering the mail ends with the manager crashing his bike into it, which for the film was renamed.  In the square also was the  van selling chips which is where the initial bonding between the new manager of the post office and his staff takes place.  These views will be well familiar to anyone who has seen what is a very enjoyable and entertaining film about France.  If you do not know the film I hope you have enjoyed some views of small-town France and do see the film, even with sub-titles it is well worth it.

Dans le Nord


On 11th September most people think and talk about what happened eight years ago, 11th September 2001.  For me and JTO, however, more important is what happened 10 years ago 11th September 1999.  It was the warmest day of the year, far too hot to be dressed up in finery in order  to get married but that’s what we did, especially as my suit was made from gabardine.  A couple of large gin and tonics took the edge off my nervousness.  I had forgotten the three pounds you have to pay on the day but fortunately my brother had it and everyone settled in the town hall in Reading before JTO entered in Jasper Conran to Bob Dylan looking gorgeous.  With friends there were then readings and the ceremony before we headed out to Frank Sinatra.  Photos and one incident where someone tried to join in when photos were being taken in the local park before the wedding breakfast in our favourite local Portuguese restaurant, Eduardos.  The evening do was back in the town hall and is remembered because my father was the fight having taken umbrage with the music policy of the DJ’s, who were only playing what we’d asked them.  We left to spend the night at an old inn nearby, not having stayed in hotels in Reading as I’d lived there all my life choosing one to stay in had been hit and miss although it was certainly a hit for our wedding night.  We had a relaxed rise the next morning and had brunch reading the papers in a nearby hostelry before leaving for the airport and honeymoon in the Maldives.  I’d chosen to travel in my wedding suit and it wasn’t really suitable for the weather in the Maldives either but it did feel good taking my boots off and walking through the sand to our cabin where we spent a wonderful time relaxing, swimming, reading and eating, as well as seeing some of the islands.

So that’s what happened ten years ago, but that’s a long ways off from the ‘le nord’.  No, because to celebrate ten wonderful years we went to the Nord-pas-de-Calais, to be more precise Dunkerque.  The reason for choosing the area was to get some of the atmosphere and see some of the sights of the biggest ever French film, ‘Bienvenue chez les Ch’tis‘. (Film website here)  Below is the P1040447beffroi for Dunkerque on the left with the church, eglise St Eloi, on the right, they were separated in the 18th Century.  In the background is the town hall which also has a beffroi (belfry) and we were assured that Dunkerque is the only place with two World Heritage belfries.  As you can go up the belfry to see how the P1040472clocher works and to get a great view of Dunkerque.  The picture on the right shows me with JTO and the town hall then the sea of the English Channel behind us.  We caught the train the short distance to the amazing walled town/village of Bergues, which is where the film was P1040570shot, and after a very nice lunch spent Saturday afternoon on a tour of the village looking at the places in the film and going up their bell tower.  But that is for another post.  I  leave with a picture of a beach-hut and people playing football on the beach at the Ch’ti-side.

Back bollocking


Well that’s some absence, more than a month since the last post. Not good for building a readership I’m told. You have to post frequently so people know to come back. I know it true. But my response is a bit of cussed obstinacy , It’s my blog and I’ll write it when I want to. There’s also the ambivalence about claiming not to want an audience, but then my pleasure on getting comments shows that I do. Anyway I didn’t write for a month and now I am again.

In the last month work has gone crazy at the same time as there were visits to Andorra, Toulouse and Lyon and then another week in Madeira. We’ve had the Easter, Workers Day and Anniversary of the end of the Second Wold War holidays, which allowed a lot of the traveling to happen. I’ve seen Bob Dylan, Zaho and Gregoire in very good concerts, Manchester City are out of European competition and have two games to try and get back for next season. Le Racing are second and still on course for promotion back to League 1. The cricket season has started and has gone comparitvely well for Lancashire. We’ve had some wonderful weather. The last weekend saw a visit to Germany for the holiday to celebrate the end of WWII, Saturday afternoon spent with my cricket team teaching cricket to the Fench and then the film ‘the Rocking Boat’ on Sunday. Last night was the first semi-final of the Eurovision, tomorrow is the second before we have the joy of the final on Saturday. Before that there is a long walk in the Vosges on Saturday and afterwards is an early departure for the train to Stuttgart then a flight back to Belgrade. Not to repeat the visit from February in better weather but in order to catch the sleeper train to Skopje to get another capital and then to visit Pristina, although it isn’t really yet a European capital just tocover allour bases, in case anyone might want to say anything about our not having visited it in the future. That’ll do for my return.

From Gardens where we feel secure


An article in today’s Times about the growth in allotments set me thinking.  p1000277Previously when I lived for  a few years in a house with a garden, I had no time to do anything with it, even cutting the grass got to be too much at times and the neighbours were not happy.  In all honesty I’m not much of a one for ‘green fingers’. So when I moved here I did not think at all about any form of gardening, especially as we live in a first floor flat.p1000273 Then last year I bought JTO some window boxes for her birthday as she always had been so much more of a gardener and had grown some veg in our garden when we had one and grown things on our balcony when we had one of those.  Then in the summer last year whilst exploring Strasbourg in the area where I live I found a wonderful place to escape the heatp1000275, the former ramparts of the  city’s defences.  The river running through it and the tree gave a shade and a cool.  I loved also all the allotments, or Jardins Familiauxas they’re called here.(So much better than the allotment with the impression that its something your kindly being allowed to have.)  The sites are also better than I remember the English ones, a bigger size and each one with a shed and water supply and each is fenced off from the other and from people.  I also saw people using them like gardens with chairs and tables, friends joining them for a drink etc.  The entrance to the site I particularly like, Fosse des Remparts, can be seen in the first photograph together with a municipal shed – people do add awnings and other extensions to them if they want.  Well now I have an application in for one and the division of work will be the same as in the article.  The title is from this 1980’s album I enjoyed greatly at the time.

Manchester United ruined my life

On the eve of, probably, our most important European games for some time it was interesting to read this list in the Times of the 50 greatest players for Manchester City.  It shows the highs and lows of the more than fohnmeprghdty years I have been following them with some players part of cup, league and European honour winning teams and others who shone during the dark days of our demise, drop down to and return from what was then the English Third Division.  Progress tonight into the last sixteen of the UEFA Cup will help banish the memories of the taunts from people that City stood for Conference in two years.  The title of this piece comes from this book about the experience of a fellow Manchester City fan.

Every girls dream….

….to be a mermaid, apparently.  There are no few men with fantasies about mermaids, I’m told.  Well, here’s a woman in New Zealand who had both legs amputated who had a nice bunch of people make it possible to be a mermaid.

Downfall of Grammar

I’ve wondered at the imagination of the people who have adapted scenes from the film Downfall to all sorts of uses.  One particular scene seems to have been used a lot with Hitler in his bunker with senior officers, then kicks most out and there is the scene inside and reactions outside.  It even got me to buy the film itself.  Well here’s a version that appealed to the English teacher in me:

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