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* 45 Years – Andrew Haig Patronising, Depressing Stereotypes




star    45 Years – Andrew Haig  * (Beware – semi-spoiler alert)

“I think it needs a new ballcock”.  If there is a film that can survive giving space to this deathless line – 45 Years isn’t it.  In one if their periodic moments of collective lunacy, UK critics have unanimously awarded 5 stars to this insufferably patronising, depressing study in tedium which exploits every stereotypical view of older people in the book.

The saving grace of Charlotte Rampling’s Herculean failure to make something of the ill-conceived and badly written part of Kate, is its triumph of instinct over technique.  Rampling’s natural authority, intelligence and strength of personality refuses to be buried by the intentionally pathetic, wimpy, wishy washy woman that writer/Director Andrew Haig has conceived and written.  This is Alan Bennett country: devoid of his insight or wit. Witless pretty much captures the essence of this twaddle.

Courtney struggles manfully, but he can’t breathe any life into the wet, emotionally stunted twerp that is Geoff; obsessing throughout 45 years of marriage to a real, intelligent, passionate woman; over a youthful lover he hardly knew whose eternal appeal rests on having fallen to her death up a very big Swiss mountain and down a very deep hole, watched by an inept but hunky Swiss guide of whom gormless Geoff was, and remains, passively jealous. Oops. Strewth.

Oh Charlotte; Oh Tom; didn’t you read this meretricious pap?  Both of you are as competent and assured in your art as you have ever been; still vital and powerfully expressive: whatever possessed you to try to breathe life into two such cardboard characters?    It’s not that Geoff and Kate are horrible: it is that they are so insufferably nice: sans passion, sans willpower, sans balls!   And is it really beyond the artistic creativity and invention of excellent actors and a serious Director to portray the sexual expression of love between a couple who have been together for 45 years and know each other’s bodies and needs literally intimately, with more positive conviction than the excruciatingly embarrassing, apologetic sequence we have to endure, squirming in our seats, in this film?

Geoff and Kate have ‘enjured’ – neither wholly enjoyed nor fully endured – a childless 45 year liaison; (one hesitates to say marriage as they talk to each other like they’re a scratch partnership at Bridge); aided of course by the de rigeur doggie surrogate.  Surrounded by a group of teeth-grindingly Middle Class friends you wouldn’t wish on your own worst enemy, they parse out their personal and social lives in a Norfolk rural idyll to die in, not for.

With all the spontaneous enthusiasm of lambs strolling down to the abattoir; Geoff and Kate meekly bow to the inexorable pressure of bourgeois convention by marking, hardly celebrating, their long-service marriage medals with a party neither wants; highlighted by a speech from Geoff of such stupefying crassness that one prays for divine (feminine) retribution.  And this moment, dear reader is the whole rationale for this manipulative confection: the closing shot of Kate, long-suffering and redolent with pathos.  Critics seem to have bought into this without question.  Sorry folks but I’m far more inclined to kick Ms Rampling, as Kate, up her still very sexy bum and say “C’mon Katie get a grip and a life – you’re not dead yet.’

The philosophical subtext of Haig’s film is that both Geoff and Kate are victims, because of their age; and Kate doubly so, because she is a woman. Give me strength: how does the critical community swallow this bullsh*t so wholeheartedly?

Why am I so hostile?   Our culture has long ‘buried’ death in euphemisms to avoid dealing with the one great certainty of existence.  But at least the dead are beyond harm.  What Mr Haig and Co are doing is to try to entomb the Chronologically Gifted before they’re even dead.  The generation who fought and won a World War against naked evil and many brutal conflicts since; have confronted more personal, social revolutionary change than any human beings in history; have created and disseminated a renaissance in music and drama, in film-making and Art; are now portrayed as Bingo-fodder, beings to pity, patronize and ‘pathosogize’. It is a miracle that Mr Haig eschewed the stock character of almost every modern narrative about people of honourable age – the Alzheimer sufferer.  Of course human beings are more prone to illness and ill-health the older they get: but disease and sickness are a tragedies of the human condition as such; not of age.

I am reminded of the appalling film Hilary and Jackie (1998) which spent most of its dreadful 2 hours ignoring the breath-taking, inspirational artistry of a sublime musician (Jacqueline Du Pre) to obsess about whether she did or didn’t sleep with her brother-in-law.

Our culture, across the Arts: Drama, Film, Television etc; de facto promotes an ethos obsessed with the idea that either the only, or the most important aspects of the lives of those with a few decades of living, of experience, of achievement, behind them; are their ailments, disappointments and loss of will, potency and relevance.

The prevailing zeitgeist of ‘age’ dominating our contemporary artistic culture is as victimhood: physical, psychological, emotional and spiritual.  It is tempting to believe that an unconscious fear drives this widespread conviction – that of today’s young of becoming old.  The hard-earned life-wisdom of an older generation commonly denied, dismissed and frequently mocked; has no authoritative artistic ‘voice’.  This systematic, prejudiced, distortion of the truth surpasses even the justifiable complaints of feminists of similar injustice in the treatment of women.  Women in effect suffer a double whammy – for they are half of the patronized older citizens as well.

Age is a number: ‘Old’ is an attitude.  Youth isn’t a quality or an achievement: it is a ‘gift’.  We deserve no credit for our gifts: only what we make of them.  In that sense Age is perhaps one of the greatest gifts of all and likewise therefore – judge those with most of their journey behind them not on where they’ve been with the gift of youth; but where they’re going with the gift of Age.

I’ll leave the last word with a great Italian Film Director (Antonioni I believe) who, when in his 80’s was asked how old he was, replied (in wonderfully expressive Italian of course):

“I have my heart, my mind and my balls – who cares how old I am?”

DOMINION – Poem Sousse




It is time, in all conscience
Human conscience
Not to pray. In God’s name deny
Next world promises
Man-made lethal lies
Of a Man-imagined paradise
Heaven’s rivers in spate with hate
run red with human blood

Murderous metaphysics multiply
Myriad-worded menus
Without a scrap of food
And blood for wine
Sustain Man’s brute addiction
To religious power, might, and death
Not in our names
Despairing, weeping Gods decry

Only in the form of absence
May we love unbound
For us the only absolute
Is life: this life, not some future lie
This wondrous, sacred gift of now
Fragile finite transient
Our sole duty to preserve
This end all means must serve

The gods are in despair today
jesus weeps: mohammad mourns
yahweh Job recalls
Their creation, Man, now loves hate
His hate of love ascends
women, givers of life He rapes unheard
What a piece of work is Man
Death His dominion now.


Jurassic World – email to BBFC 26th June 2015

Jurassic world



Email to British Board of Film Censors – 26th June 2015

JURASSIC WORLD  –  Colin Trevorrow

I have just watched a performance of this film in a crowded cinema at Cineworld Stevenage.

I see around 3/4 movies a week and have written over 400 reviews at my blog www.zettelfilmreviews.co.uk and posted to the writers’ website – www.writewords.org.uk.

I have a generally liberal attitude towards classification and absolutely no instinct for strengthening censorship.

However I was deeply disturbed to watch this very graphic, frightening film with a significant number of very young children present: at least one of whom was so small (and perhaps frightened) that he/she watched the whole film in its mother’s arms.

There were a very substantial number of very young children, albeit accompanied by adults, so small it is hard to believe they were not less than 10 years–old.  At least one was so tiny I would assess her age at around 7-8. (I am the father of 2 with a grandchild so I have some sense of age).

I know the 12A classification gives the cinema no authority to refuse admission at any age as long as accompanied by an adult.  I applaud the liberal sentiment behind this principle and as a parent accept that my wife and I should be the final arbiters of what our children are allowed to see.  Ours are now grown up but we have had moments of soul-searching over the years especially with highly publicized films pitched at a broad market to include children, often generating a very significant ‘peer pressure’ effect.

As JW is rapidly becoming one of the fastest and largest-grossing pictures of all time, this hyped and highly publicized sequel to a 20 year-old classic, generates all kinds of pressure on parents and children alike of the kind mentioned above.

As an adult I found the film exciting, tense, thrilling and at times very effectively scary and frightening – indeed at times terrifying. As an adult I did not find it unduly excessive in any particular respect. However my experience of the film was deeply disturbing, taking place within an audience including such a large number of very young people – some alarmingly young.  My adult experience of watching the film was seriously spoilt by my realization of the, in my view entirely inappropriate youthfulness of so many of the audience.

The terms of the excessively loosely defined ’12A’ certificate offers the cinema absolutely no authority to refuse admission to a child of any age, however young, as long as they are accompanied by an adult.

I would ask you to seriously consider the following complaints/observations.

1.    THREAT

The only reliable (commercially untainted) protection offered parents from taking children to such an entirely inappropriate film, are the guidelines from your BBFCinsight.  In my view you have let parents down badly and culpably, with your reasoning and classification of this film.

Your reasoning seriously glosses and understates the level, graphic-ness and dramatic threat the film delivers.  You describe the many violently graphic sequences in this film as follows:

“Several sequences of moderate threat include humans being chased by dinosaurs, or hiding when aggressive dinosaurs are nearby. Some children are shown being scared and upset, but they reassure each other and are not harmed.”

This is so culpably bland and understated it is virtually fatuous.  It totally fails to give a parent seeking advice any serious indication of the genuinely terrifying nature of many sequences: some of which would compare in dramatic shock and terror terms with scenes eg from Jaws!

2.    INJURY DETAIL – you say

“Occasional bloody moments feature, without any strong detail or clear focus on injuries.”

The Pterodactyl sequence alone makes these remarks shamefully complacent. Human beings, including at least 1 child, are grasped in talons and lifted into the sky.  In a terrifying extended sequence, very reminiscent of the very first shark attack in Jaws, the Park PA assigned to look after the 2 children is first clutched in talons and lifted to a great height; then as one Pterodactyl drops her, another ‘playfully’ catches her in mid-air – like cats ‘playing’ with a mouse.  Eventually she is dropped into the water, recaptured by the Pterodactyl which then flies with her, by now clearly knowing her horrible death is imminent, up straight towards the camera when the massive sea-dinosaur earlier presaged in a shocking anticipatory gobble of a large fish leaps from the depths.  Pterodactyl and female PA are then literally gobbled up by the massively-lethally-toothed creature.

Of course there’s no blood! This unfortunate woman is simply swallowed whole.  This is a fearsomely graphic sequence, indelibly projected into the mind and we cannot help but share the utter terror throughout the whole sequence of the victim’s total awareness of the horrific death she is about to suffer, indeed is suffering.  This makes your assessors’ comments shamefully inadequate. Precisely what works for adults, to terrify them, may very well be questionable for children.

3.    As an aside: both in the incident above and elsewhere throughout the film all, the many human ‘canapes’ ripped and wrenched to death before being swallowed whole; are all ‘unlikeable’, ‘alien’ or anonymous characters – they’re fat, unpleasant or non-caucasian.  Are we, are the children present, really supposed to be indifferent to these disposable human beings’ fates just because they aren’t likable or ‘like’ us?

4.    I am deeply suspicious of your facile classification of this film which at the very least should be a 12 not a 12A.  But then, even a 12 certificate would seriously reduce the box office wouldn’t it?  A 15 certification would probably as much as halve the box office.  In my view the makers of JW have with great precision and care, intentionally structured this profoundly manipulative product to slip it under your demonstrably weak surveillance, into a 12A certificate – precisely to maximize its box office.  The rather feeble attempts at creating a ‘jokey’ tone at various points may pander to your criteria but they are utterly, grotesquely out of synch with the horrific reality of the tone and action of the rest of what is being portrayed.

This film strikes me as a cynically pitched and carefully crafted product, subtly structured to maximize profits through the box-office gold of a 12A certificate.

I have for over 50 years, been a cinema-goer, movie-lover and devotee of film as the popular art form of at least the last century. I have occasionally differed from your view of classification but have always been able to see and to some extent accept the rationale for your certification decision. I have never been moved to write or protest before: but this one frankly stinks.  You should, as an organization, watch it again,  properly,  and if you can’t now change the classification, then publicize your serious concern at the number of very young children who appear to be seeing it thanks to the ignorance or ill-informed foolishness of their parents.

The 12A ‘fudge’ is in my view actively permitting potential real harm short and perhaps even long-term, to impressionable young minds thanks to the ignorance or plain daft indulgence of parents who ought to know better.  If, even subliminally, your classification has taken the easy, non-confrontational route because of actual or applied commercial, political pressure from an exceptionally well-organized Hollywood pressure group – then shame on you even more.  The public in general and parents in particular, need your integrity and objectivity to properly manage the queasily dubious 12A classification.

I would argue that any, sensible, liberal and open-minded adult watching Jurassic World (and I watched it in 2D – God help us if young children were in 3D and I-Max 3D showings) could not, in all conscience, want almost any under 12 to watch it; and to be literally horrified at the thought that the transparently weak 12A classification permits a child of any age to see it: they just need an adult who has taken leave of their moral, parental senses to go with them.

Mr Turner – Mike Leigh Over-rated, over-praised






Mr Turner – Mike Leigh

Probably the most over-praised, over-rated film of the year. Despite a languidly and tediously long-drawn out 150 minutes, Mike Leigh manages virtually no insights, no illumination of Turner the artist or his Art. A clunking, almost unplayably self-conscious ‘literary’ script serves a misconceived effort to ‘recreate’ with obsessional ‘authenticity’ the language and mores of the period. As a result poor Mr Spall (excellent actor though he is) is trapped into the conceit of ‘inhabiting’ (ie inventing) a Turner who becomes a grunting grotesque with nothing interesting, or convincing to say about himself or, unforgivably, his art.

William Goldman once observed that one should never try to be faithful to a book of which one makes a film: but that one must always be faithful to the spirit of the book. The same is true of the past: we know the facts of the 19th century setting of this film but knows what it was really like tolive it. Leigh’s film is inhabited by exaggerated Dickensian caricatures.

The past is infinitely more alien than another country. Mike Leigh seems to have settled for an obsessional, false, ‘verisimilitude’ at the expense of an artistic vision of the spirit of the man, his painting and his times. Turner’s art,  his iconic and iconoclastic innovative paintings are reduced in Leigh’s film to pretty window-dressing. We learn nothing about the passion that motivated them, the passion they reflected and the mind and sensibility that first conceived, then created them.

<strong>Not since Arnand Tucker’s execrable Hilary and Jackie (about Jacquleine Du Pre)assumed that the most interesting thing about one of the most gifted, mesmeric musicians of her time, was whether she had slept with her brother-in-law, has an artist been so ill-served by a film ostensibly made to celebrate great art. I see no reason to think, and Leigh certainly doesn’t provide one, that a graphic portrayal of a grunting, piggish brute with the sexual sensibility of a dog on heat, has anything at all to do with the creation of several of the most transcendent paintings of not just their time, but any time. And an oddly inappropriate atonal, distancing score doesn’t improve things one jot.

Such a disappointment: and a precious lost opportunity. And the usual unjustified ‘Britfilm’ hype won’t kid anyone for long.

Lord Melvyn Bragg – Q & A at Curzon for Sky Arts South Bank Originals





Lord Melvyn Bragg – Q & A at Curzon for Sky Arts South Bank Originals

We are used to hearing Melvyn, Lord Bragg, interviewing others. Over the 50 years or more of his presence on our screens and airwaves he has informed, educated, entertained and at times enthralled us by sharing the results of his own passionate curiosity and down-to-earth, no-nonsense love of the Arts in all their forms.

For once a series of excellent questions from the audience freed him to expand on deep felt insights, affectionately telling and funny anecdotes from a lifetime of meeting and sharing ideas with an extraordinary range of supremely talented people: from Dolly Parton to Francis Bacon; Barushnikov to McCartney. His indomitable enthusiasm and searching curiosity renders even the esoteric and perplexing accessible to anyone with a willingly open mind and a desire to understand.

To use a much overused and often undeserved term: the Right Honourable The Lord Melvyn Bragg is a genuine National Treasure who carries his distinction lightly with a sublimely English self-deprecation which marks a genuine humility without a hint of what the Welsh call ‘side’.

Melvyn rocks!

The new series of South Bank Original on Sky Arts, although using 1000s of hours of peviously aired interviews etc is a completely new, re-examination of a particular subject or artist over many years. The two shown here on Dolly Parton and Mikhail  Baryshnikov were insightful, poignant and beautifully observed.

Poem – ‘I’






I am happy – and sad
sometimes good
and yes, sometimes bad

I am who I am
but have a duty
to he who I might be
I am tethered – yet free
I am me

I am loved – and love
know unrest – but am still blessed

I am curious – and perplexed
troubled, and at peace
my madness makes me sane
and my sanity makes me mad

I am father – and son
husband, lover, friend
endless possibilities
and yet all are one

I am blood, tissue, cell
body and brain
but consciousness as well
Somewhere in the hinterland
of synapse, nerve and cause
the person, the self – the ‘I’
thinks and feels, plans and acts – wills
bound but not determined
by careless Nature’s Laws

I am a million inchoate fragments
of feeling, sense and hope
ordered on memory’s fragile thread
contradictions side by side
resigned by Human Nature
to forget destination
and perhaps deserve the ride

I am sacred – and profane
driven by desire and will
terrified by freedom
and the duty to fulfil
to become all I can be
No one can lift the burden or the thrill
of a shared humanity
no prophets, Gods or masters
through obedience reward or fear
excuse my deeds but me
Rebellion not quiescence
dissent not conformity
pave the road the ‘I’ must travel
to reach its destiny

Another Spring – Poem




Another Spring

Age is like
a non-returning Spring
full of passion
that will not be satisfied
full of hope
that will not be fulfilled
full of love
that will not be returned
full of life
that will not be survived

And full of longing
for another Summer, Autumn, Winter
and yes, oh yes
another Spring

The Amazing Spiderman 2 – second rate computer game without the interactivity






The Amazing Spiderman 2 – Marc Webb


Dramatic tension, suspense depends on imperilment, uncertainty of outcomes. The flaw in the super-hero genre which this Spiderman suffers from more than most, is that because the impossible can be convincingly depicted, outcomes are either certain, therefore predictable; or unconvincingly plotted to tidy up a poorly conceived, lazily developed and badly written narrative.

The other essential component of suspense is cadence: dramatic sequences must build towards a climax with at least some element of uncertainty, doubt as to successful outcome. The action sequences in Spiderman are breathtaking in their technical expertise and utterly vapid in their contribution to narrative cadence or dramatic tension: one is gobsmacked at the frentic, one-speed (super-fast) pace. But gobsmacked fatigue soon sets in as the law of diminishing returns inexorably unwinds – very quickly.

This Spiderman is nothing more than a second rate video-game without the merit of interactivity. Zero chemistry between Stone and Garfield at least generates the right result.

A waste of time, money and hype.

Thoughts On A Son’s 30th Birthday




Thoughts On A Son’s 30th Birthday

Our children are the best of us
as theirs one day will be too
their task is to surpass us
ours to love them when they do

Like sparks adrift in a darkling sky
we blaze, and burn, then glow
a flame of life and love eternal
to touch, to feel, to know

The thief of time beguiles us
with then, and now, and soon
shared life and love slip by
’til a finite midnight usurps an endless noon

But we can steal back precious moments
for passion is not bound by measured time
shared fragments of love eternal
a sense of life transcendent and sublime

These priceless, timeless moments of eternity
like the river’s rush, the oceans’ tides
although ever-flowing, ever-changing
are proof undoubting that love abides

Our children are the best of us
our love drives their dreams not ours
with truth and honour, like us, as their guide
their lives will not be measured in mere years, or months, or hours

Pete Seeger: 1919 – 2014 RIP


Seeger and Dylan

Seeger and Dylan


Pete Seeger

Pete Seeger


If I had a hammer

Where Have all the flowers gone?

We Shall Overcome


Pete Seeger

A fine soul passed today
returning to the earth
he loved and graced
He hammered out freedom
He hammered out justice
no guns just roses
this gentle gentleman

We are the better
for his life
his melody lives on
champion of simple folk
of music and of song
we know where one flower has gone
as still his truth rings out loud
rings out long

(Pete Seeger: 1919 – 2014. RIP)

Buffy Sainte-Marie – January 2014 of Pete Seeger

“Justice and humanitarian issues, kindness, effectiveness and humility, all wrapped around a banjo. He was a real angel on earth”.