Movies: Goltzius and the Pelican Company
The first time I remember being full-on stunned by the visual effect of a film was in 1989, in the old Light House cinema on Abbey Street in Dublin, at a screening of The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover. The film's creator, Peter Greenaway, who was there that night, has long held that cinema is too wordy, that it's primarily a visual medium. Yet his latest creation, Goltzius and the Pelican Company, while as visually exquisite as Greenaway's work always is, is perhaps his wordiest to date. Indeed, the accented English is subtitled so we won't miss any words.
Goltzius was a Dutch engraver in the late 16th Century, and in this dramatisation Greenaway has Goltzius (a brilliant Ramsey Nasr) narrate the time he took his troop of actors to Italy to persuade the Margrave (F. Murray Abraham, also very good) to fund the purchase and upkeep of a printing press.
In the name of biblical analysis they re-enact, as graphically as possible, assorted old testament sins, including incest, seduction of the young and prostitution, for, as Goltzius says, "New technology must get into bed with lechery." He refers to printing, but the point is true of all media.
The level of nudity and sex is almost a parody of Greenaway's previous work, but while it sometimes, over its two-hour running time, gets obtuse, it makes some strong arguments about sex and religion and free speech. I really enjoyed what is an excellent, and beautiful, serving of what is admittedly an acquired taste.
Pudsey the Dog: The Movie
It may be two years since he won Britain's Got Talent, but on the evidence of Pudsey the Dog: The Movie, this cuddly crossbreed remains, as the pre-publicity puts it, a bona fido, sorry, a "bona fide" star.
Directed by Nick Moore, and voiced impressively by David Walliams, the movie opens as Pudsey is about to throw a doggy-diva strop on the set of a movie he's working on. We learn that Pudsey is a bit of a loner, but crossing paths with a single-parent family about to leave London for a life of bucolic bliss gives him paws, sorry, pause to reflect.
Siblings Molly (Izzy Meikle Small), George (Spike White) and Tommy (Malachy Knights) are immediately captivated by this loveable stray; but new landlord, the soon to be dastardly Mr Thorne (John Sessions) has issued a strictly no dogs diktat. No prizes for guessing what happens next. The family arrive in the sleepy village of Chuffington to discover that Pudsey is the type of pooch that doesn't take no for an answer. Single mom Gail (Jessica White) is eventually won over.
Troubles loom, however, as the now dastardly Mr Thorne is hatching a plan to build a massive shopping mall against the wishes of the local Morris dancing yokels. Can Pudsey thwart the bitter and twisted designs of this wannabe tycoon and his cat Faustus?
Complete with bright and breezy production values and a move-over-Lassie style central performance, Pudsey can't be said to be lacking in bow-wow factor.
Opens July 18
I Am Divine
Deceased American drag icon Harris Glenn Milstead may have been better known by his stage name Divine, but it was his insatiable appetite for the depraved that provides much of the fascination in Jeffrey Schwarz's compelling documentary, I Am Divine.
Told in typical documentary style, the story begins in 1980s Baltimore at the world premiere of Hairspray, the John Waters-directed movie that seemed destined to catapult Divine to the global renown he so craved. A part in a hit sitcom was also on the cards but within months this diva of decadence was dead from a massive heart attack.
Divine grew up in an upper middle-class family at a time in the 1950s when it was "illegal" to be gay in the US and the closest anyone got to a counterculture was at the local convenience store. Badly bullied at school, Divine yearned to be a movie star but it only started to happen for him when he encountered fellow Baltimore resident and aspiring filmmaker, John Waters.
Waters's modus operandi at the time was to make the "trashiest motion pictures in cinema history", and in Divine he had met the muse that was destined to light his fuse. He joined Waters's Dreamlanders acting troupe and a host of cult classics such as Female Trouble and Pink Flamingoes followed.
Time has not been kind to these shockathons, but they provided this ascerbic sultan of sarcasm with the stepping stone required for progress. Divine's capacity to make a virtue out of vice soon resulted in cult underground status and a reputation for delightfully deranged excess.
Interviews with contemporaries, however, confirm the sense of a figure that was ultimately tragic and doomed to fight a losing battle with his many demons. Easy to recommend for those drawn to edgy, left of left-field fare.
Opens LightHouse July 18
Mr Morgan's Last Love
One of the minor mysteries of life has to be why anyone would cast Michael Caine as an American. Apart from his quintessential Cockneyness, his American accent is really rubbish and serves as a distraction. Unfortunately, there are more fault lines in Mr Morgan's Last Love than Michael Caine's dodgy vowels.
Matthew Morgan (Caine) has continued to live in Paris since the death, three years before, of his wife. He echoes through the apartment they shared, chatting to her, and a little lost. Pauline (Clemence Poesy) is a yong woman lost in her own way who takes a shine to Matthew and they strike up a friendship that warms his solitary heart.
When he ends up in hospital, and his children (Gillian Anderson and Justin Kirk) arrive from the US, they take a dim view of the friendship between their wealthy octogenarian father and the gorgeous 20-something dance teacher.
Sandra Nettelback directs this story based on Francoise Dorner's novel. Matthew's attachment to Pauline is easy to understand: he is grieving, knows few people and doesn't speak the language. Pauline's attachment to Matthew however, while there is an attempt to explain it, feels tenuous. In fact, any of the character's motivations are not well outlined and this serves to undermine the whole film because it leaves an unsatisfying echo of "Why?" This is the kind of thing a book can do but a film can often struggle with.
His horrible accent notwithstanding, Caine gives a good performance, he is always enjoyable to watch. Gillian Anderson's character offers a great piece of sharpness with which to cut all the sweetness and there is a nice enough, if well trodden, father-son dynamic. It means well but is ultimately unsatisfying.