Film review: Snowden — ‘Hagiography’

Oliver Stone gets clattered by both the left and the proper. He was attacked by the very first for Nixon and W — also type to Tricky Dick and George Dubya — and is now being attacked by the second for Snowden. Also sort to the traitor who sprayed US surveillance secrets about the globe. They have a point. Partiality is the heel in this Achilles film even though to this Achilles film’s credit, it also outruns, as storytelling, the tortoise forebodings we might have had about a accurate-life plot so cerebral and cyber-centric.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Edward Snowden with a passable physical likeness, a skilful vocal one and the puppyish alertness of a college swot all of a sudden shot — self-shot — to the leading of the globe notoriety class.

For the film’s initial half he’s sweet, effectively-which means and in really like (with Shailene Allegiant Woodley, swapping YA kitsch for true-life morality drama). He’s schooled in CIA and NSA craft by sinister whisperers — Rhys Ifans, doing Clint Eastwood, and Scott Eastwood, carrying out (surprise) ditto — before conscience coaxes him to rebellion. A clever graphics sequence, mid-movie, presents US snooping as a pattern of whizzy, sparkling trajectories circling most of Cosmos Earth.

It is correct: who can doubt it? But then those, as well, could have truth on their side who accused Snowden of carelessness in risking lives by blowing covers — and of thoughtlessness about who may well benefit from this information spill, among states hostile to freedom. (In one of which he now lives.)

The Snowden antagonists do not get a voice in the movie. Stone could know how to reduce among time-zones and land-zones: we shuttle cleverly among a Hong Kong “present”, with Ed holed in the Mira Hotel alongside reporter Glenn Greenwald (Zachary Quinto) and documentarist Laura Poitras (Melissa Leo), and a US previous that pieces itself collectively in extended flashback. The director also cuts cannily amongst moods: the intimate music of Snowden’s adore life in fugal counterpoint with the Snoop-topia fever dreams of Langley and Washington.

But the film has no idea, or no inclination, when it comes to cutting between pro-Ed and anti-Ed. Snowden ends up as hagiography, pure and dimpled. It even gets Ed himself to fill the screen at the finish with a glowing smirk, as if to say: “Yup, I changed history.” He may possibly have. He might even have enhanced it. Then once more, he may possibly have hazarded others’ security to generate a planet in which future leaders will sustain Snoop-topia with an even a lot more fanatical care that leakers do not leak and the wicked (to them) do not Wiki.

Section: Arts

Finish of the Road Festival, Larmer Tree Gardens, Wiltshire/Dorset, UK — review

Jehnny Beth of Savages at the End of the Road Festival © Richard Gray/EMPICS Entertainment

All the speak was of the climate. We knew that rain would arrive, but when? In the occasion, the precipitation arrived in earnest on Saturday, but it was not enough seriously to dampen spirits at a bijou three-day occasion that has become a single of the jewels in the festival calendar. Ask Finish of the Road regulars why they maintain coming back and you are probably to hear the very same answer: it is all just so effortless. The environment is pretty, also: peacocks roam the grounds, pausing to pose for photographs, and there’s space to pitch your tent with out becoming also intimate with your neighbours’ breathing patterns.

Crucially, End of the Road is also extremely nicely curated. This year’s gave an exceptionally broad sweep of music, with a welcome emphasis on female performers. The opening day, for instance, provided Anna Meredith. Meredith is mostly a classical composer but here she presented a cross­over project with a band that included drums, guitar, tuba, two cellos, and her own keyboards and clarinet. Crescendos, chromatic scales, the repetitive patterns of minimalism: these components coalesced to form some thing complicated, layered and bold, with hints of Meredith’s native Scotland in the chiming guitars and chords. And the sight of this infectiously enthusiastic performer banging on a drum with the energy of a schoolchild was invigorating.

So too — even though in a quite various way — have been Savages, the UK-based band who performed on the major stage in the early evening. The black-clad all-female band roused the crowd with a bracing blast of precision-tooled noise and hollering. Savages are frequently described as “punk” or “post-punk”, but here they showed that they owe a debt to heavy metal also, with their alterations of pace and churning, cathartic riffs. Rabble-rousing French-born singer Jehnny Beth went walkabout on the shoulders of the crowd — obligingly removing her vertiginously higher-heeled footwear beforehand.

Friday’s headliners had been an odd bunch: Animal Collective are the Baltimore electronic experimentalists whose music veers from squelchy avant-gardism to bubbly dance-pop. Right here, on a stage decorated by three grotesque giant sculptural heads and accompanied by a hyperactive frenzy of lights and projections, the shadowy foursome presented a coherent, expertly segued 90 minutes of music the like of which no a single else is at present generating: burbly, elastic, chattery, skittish, danceable, undanceable, listenable, practically unlistenable, and with weirdly overlapping nerdy vocals.

After, for a joyous couple of minutes, the crowd were dancing and singing to “Flori-Dada” largely, this was music for the head as much as the legs. Strange, and memorable.

Swedish band Goat on stage at the End of the Road Festival © Richard Gray/ EMPICS Entertainment

Considerably of my very first afternoon was occupied with attempting — and failing — to get to see Stewart Lee on the comedy stage. The stewards told these waiting in the huge queues that we had no hope of getting in but still we queued — a phenomenon that this caustic comedian would certainly have had something to say about. On the comedy stage on Sunday, though, I saw Josie Long, who delivered a beautifully crafted piece which veered — inevitably, provided Long’s political leanings — towards Brexit. She discovered fertile ground among this predominantly middle-class audience for her despair over the vote, but also posited the importance of hope and reconciliation. Extended is a classy comedian she can “do” the silly voices, she can “do” the gags, but essentially she is a teller of really funny, thoughtful and nicely-crafted stories.

Saturday’s highlight — and maybe of the weekend — was a set from Sam Beam and Jesca Hoop. Beam is the US singer who otherwise goes by the name of Iron and Wine Hoop is the California-born singer and songwriter who recently collaborated with Beam on an album, Adore Letter for Fire. Their duets had been exquisite factors, their voices dovetailing immaculately, their harmonies close and unexpected they sang songs of love while the wind blew a parting in Beam’s beard and parrots flying overhead deposited “gifts” on the audience.

Beam and Hoop sang two startling cover versions: “Islands in the Stream”, in a minor crucial, and Eurythmics’ “Love Is a Stranger”. They have been funny, too. “Sorry about the rain,” said Beam. “It’s your fault for living right here.”

Goat are a Swedish collective who preserve anonymity behind exotic masks and play music that is tribal and hypnotic. Afrobeat, west African highlife and psychedelia combine in an intoxicating brew. The two frontwomen in their robes and masks sang and danced themselves into oblivion, shamanic go-go dancers surrounded by thumpingly very good musicians.

Bat for Lashes at the Finish of the Road Festival © Richard Gray/EMPICS Entertainment

Saturday’s headliner was Bat for Lashes, the singer otherwise recognized as Natasha Khan, performing right here in a wedding dress and bridal veil in maintaining with her recent album The Bride — the sorry tale of a woman who is about to get married when her groom dies in a car crash. A lot of her set was sparse and rather bleak but Khan redressed the balance with a far more cheerful concluding half-hour, which includes a touching cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Gypsy”. Her set also featured a heart-warming on-stage marriage proposal from a pal of Khan’s (“I consider we’re alone now,” he mentioned to his partner as thousands cheered she accepted).

On Sunday, the Malian/Algerian Tuareg band Imarhan got the crowd moving with their hypnotic, churning desert grooves, powered by a deliciously dirty guitar sound, circular vocals and insistent rhythms. A a lot appreciated early-afternoon sharpener.

Later the identical day, the Thurston Moore Group showed just what can be achieved with six metal strings and a plank of wood. Assisted by his ensemble, the former Sonic Youth player wrestled all manner of sounds and noises from his guitar, from delicate harmonics to buzzsaw growls. He is a excellent guitarist, but not in the tradition of Eric Clapton or Jeff Beck his skill lies in exploring the textures of the instrument, the way guitars mesh, clash and spiral on tracks such as the beautiful “Aphrodite”. Their set, although, ended abruptly right after 45 minutes. I’d been expecting, and anticipating, far more.

Section: Arts

The Neon Demon — film review: ‘Surreal derangement’

“Are you meals or are you sex?” the Los Angeles model asks the young fashion-planet wannabe (Elle Fanning) close to the commence of The Neon Demon. It is the story’s ice breaker count on crash and carnage quickly. We have been right here before in Nicolas Winding Refn’s operate. Controlled delirium moving in on surreal derangement. This Danish director made Pusher, Valhalla Rising and Only God Forgives. In a typical Refn film there will be blood, death, violence, torture, madness and God, even though not necessarily in that order.

Even by Refn’s standard, the new film requires the blood pudding. It is like a Jacqueline Susann novel place via a meat grinder. Teenager Elle comes to LA, hoping for a career in the city of fleshpots and crackpots. But beware what you dream of. “Friends” she quickly meets incorporate Sapphic makeup artist Jena Malone, seedy motelier Keanu Reeves (making you believe of the Bates Motel in a complete new upscale light) and two leggy predator-bimbos who like to, let’s say, “do stuff” to the things they love.

Sex, sadism and, yes, cannibalism. In a painterly, even dazzling way, Refn splurges it across the screen. He’s the Jacques-Louis David of shocking spectacle. The film is either a sick dark joke or a multicoloured hoot, based on your opinion. The only certainty: when in doubt Refn will have a character vomit up an eyeball. Or for bored variety he may try some thing cool and pre-Raphaelitish like the scene of Jena Malone lying topless in a shallow grave surrounded by roses. (Why?) Or — back to enormity — he will stage an extended adore scene in a morgue amongst a major character and a naked corpse.

I do not mind I’m an amoral film critic. I carry in my thoughts only Jean Cocteau’s dictum, that the issue that matters in cinema is “Etonnez-nous!” But I start to suspect there are unseen shallows in Refn’s cinema for all its higher-res sensationalism not to say a San Andreas Fault of molten dramatic voids lying beneath this Los Angeles of larky surfeit.

Section: Arts

Mona Hatoum, Tate Modern day, London, review — ‘Triumphant’

Mona Hatoum's 'Light Sentence' (1992). Photo: Philippe Migeat©Philippe Migeat

Mona Hatoum’s ‘Light Sentence’ (1992). Photo: Philippe Migeat

Before there was Warsan Shire, there was Mona Hatoum. Shire’s poem “Home”, which opened with the lines “No a single leaves house unless/house is the mouth of a shark,” has made her the 21st-century cantor for exodus. However the Somali-British poet is heir to a lineage of artists who have wrenched lyricism out of relocation.

As Tate Modern’s triumphant new show demonstrates, no one has expressed the terrible beauty of unbelonging greater than Mona Hatoum. Born in Beirut in 1952, the artist seasoned a double exile. Her Palestinian family members were obliged to leave Israel in 1948 and “existed with a sense of dislocation”, Hatoum has stated. Then, in 1975, Hatoum discovered herself stranded in London when civil war broke out in Lebanon. She completed art college in the British capital and now divides her time in between London and Berlin, though a nomadic gene sees her accept residencies all through the planet.


IN Visual Arts

Despite her private trauma, Hatoum is far from a confessional artist. Tate’s exhibition opens with “Socle du Monde” (“Base of the world”), a cube covered in black iron filings which cling to hidden magnets, which is named right after a 1961 sculpture by Piero Manzoni.

The intellectual jester of conceptualism, Manzoni placed a plinth upside down to suggest that our complete planet was displayed on its surface. In a smooth metal which anticipated minimalism, Manzoni’s function echoed the Duchampian credo that all the world’s an artwork waiting for a museum to place it on show. Hatoum keeps the hermetic geometry, thereby declaring herself an artist who has no intention of letting her feelings overwhelm her type, however her tactile pelt whispers of uncanny forces caged within, as if Carl Andre had been reimagined by Steven King’s Carrie.

By the time she created “Socle du Monde” in 1992-93, Hatoum had adopted minimalist form as her primary grammar. However the initial rooms remind us that her early language was overall performance. A black and white photograph of Hatoum’s bare feet tied to a pair of Doc Martens (footwear of decision for fashionable skinheads) as she trudges by way of Brixton is the legacy of a film — on screen in a later area — entitled “Roadworks” (1985) that sprang out of her anger at the era’s race riots.

A layer-cake of imagery assembled from make contact with sheets and grainy footage, “Don’t smile, you are on camera” (1980), creates the illusion that male bodies are getting surreptitiously stripped by a prying lens. The unsettling sleight of eye speaks of an artist revenging herself — for this violating gaze is hers — on an art establishment which has denuded girls for centuries.

Taking her cue from a generation of feminist artists just before her, Hatoum saw performance as a “revolutionary medium”. But by the 1990s she had outgrown its innate melodrama. Made in 1992, “Light Sentence” is 1 of her earliest installations. Consisting of two rows of wire-mesh lockers in amongst which hangs a single, swaying lightbulb, it envelops the spectator in an infinite grid of silky, fluctuating, wolf-grey shadows. At after prison cell, interrogation chamber and battery cage, yet also astoundingly, autonomously lovely, it has an specifically strong resonance in a gallery where Agnes Martin, topic of a Tate retrospective final year, was a current resident.

But the American painter declared that her lines have been “innocent as trees” — private, transcendent expressions of her outer world. Hatoum puts her matrices to more pointed use. She know that with out the grid there can be no cage, no prison cell, no bed, no electric power and no map, all of which are recurring tropes in her oeuvre. (Tate’s show, sensibly, does not adhere to chronology and therefore maintains the cyclical elegance of Hatoum’s material repetitions and recalibrations.) As such, Hatoum is in the vanguard of a skein of political artists, such as Cornelia Parker, Nadia Kaabi-Linke and Hajra Waheed, who use the foundation stone of geometric abstraction to temper overt emotion.

Nonetheless, Hatoum also sieves her sensibility through a surrealist filter. She frequently uses organic substances — hair, blood, urine — and has a predilection for household objects which tends to make her the daughter of Meret Oppenheim and Louise Bourgeois, feminist artists who also turned the tools of their oppression into weapons.

Mona Hatoum's 'Grater Divide' (2002). Photo: Iain Dickens, courtesy White Cube©Iain Dickens

Mona Hatoum’s ‘Grater Divide’ (2002). Photo: Iain Dickens, courtesy White Cube

At Tate, a gigantic cheese grater is blown up to resemble a hazardous daybed. A French garden chair (“Jardin Public”, 1993) sprouts a triangle of pubic hair from the holes in its seat. The unsettling menace is intensified by the whine of “Homebound” (2000), an installation of objects — colanders, child’s cot, hamster cage, assorted lightbulbs and furnishings — electrically wired with each other so that they buzz, dim and flare with ominous indifference to our presence.

Time and again these Plath-like howls of fury are quietened by Hatoum’s rationalist architecture. “Homebound”, for example, is framed by a colony of exquisitely pared-down works which includes “Present Tense” (1996), a rectangle of golden soap bars which bears the faint tracing of a map of Palestinian territories as drawn up in the Oslo peace accords. On the wall, swatches of burnt toilet paper (“Untitled”, 1989) have been burnt with tiny perforations that type stuttering, singed rows suggestive of an indecipherable morse code.

Mona Hatoum's 'Hot Spot' (2009). Photo: Agostino Osio, courtesy Fondazione Querini Stampalia Onlus, Venice©Agostino Osio

Mona Hatoum’s ‘Hot Spot’ (2009). Photo: Agostino Osio, courtesy Fondazione Querini Stampalia Onlus, Venice

These diminutive interventions balance out the brutal violence that simmers in Hatoum’s monumental installations. The second half of this show introduces us to “Quarters” (1996), four metal beds with bare mattress frames stacked five higher and arranged in the panopticon shape that, thanks to its capacity for surveillance, produced for ideal Victorian prisons. Nearby is “Hot Spot” (2013), a stainless steel globe with the continents outlined in red neon as if the entire planet was in flames. Just as it is all getting as well apocalyptic, we have “Projection” (2006), an additional map traced in flocks of cotton on a white ground which imagines our planet as a pillowy, utopian phantom, the alter ego of these bleak, ascetic bunks.

As a songstress of residence, clearly Hatoum is no Martha Stewart. Yet, in spite of essential attempts to pigeonhole her, she also is not the visual equivalent of Edward Stated. Although Mentioned, the pre-eminent witness to the Palestinian displacement, wrote a gorgeous essay about her perform in 2000, reproduced in Tate’s catalogue, Hatoum’s concerns venture additional. The plight of her parents’ birthplace is always on her radar. But she’s also telling us that domesticity is death to female empowerment. And that handful of of us, regardless of gender, ever actually uncover a refuge.

The show closes with “Undercurrent (red)” (2008), a scarlet mat whose tight weave loosens into tentacles plugged into lightbulbs, their intermittent glow reminding us just how much blood there is on everybody’s carpet these days. It’s a robust piece, reminiscent however not derivative of the Aids-connected light operates of Cuban-American artist Félix González-Torres.

A a lot more subtle coup de foudre would have been delivered by “Measures of Distance”, which sits halfway by way of the exhibition. Produced in 1988, this video is a palimpsest of sound and image, showing Hatoum’s mother as she takes a shower, her physique barely discernible behind a curtain of Arabic writing. Fluid as a river, spiky as barbed wire, as inspired a grid as Hatoum ever devised, the calligraphy tends to make a perfect formal container for the sadness in Hatoum’s voice as she reads aloud the letters her mother wrote to her throughout their separation.

As lines such as “Dear Mona, I have not been in a position to send you any letters since the regional post workplace was destroyed by a auto bomb . . . ” echo by means of the rooms just before and beyond, we intuit that this exhibition will disrupt our own homecoming.

To August 21,

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Section: Arts

Anomalisa — film review: ‘Wonderful, haunting’

'Anomalisa' features the voices of David Thewlis as Michael Stone and Jennifer Jason Leigh as Lisa Hesselman

‘Anomalisa’ functions the voices of David Thewlis as Michael Stone and Jennifer Jason Leigh as Lisa Hesselman

It should have seemed, to any person very first listening, the most doomed concept in function film history. Properly, to virtually any individual. Kickstarter subscribers had been clearly an exception they made the project possible. Laptop Rockefellers? Reckless net chancers? Yes, they might co-fund a forlornly seriocomical puppet-animation movie primarily based on an original play by a renowned/infamous Hollywood oddball. The film’s unlikely hero is a middle-aged self-support author possessing a one particular-night stand in a dowdily pricey Cincinnati hotel, on the eve of a conference. The film’s title is even significantly less promising: no a single, on a 1st sighting, will recognize it — Anomalisa.

Picture the pitch, if there had been one particular. “We’ll be producing the film with computer-printed puppets. Most of the female characters are dubbed with male voices.” (We understand why at some point.) “And the themes are despair, loneliness and Fregoli syndrome.” That is the condition in which you think absolutely everyone else is the exact same person in different guises. “Fregoli” is also the name offered to the hotel.

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Nigel Andrews

But yes — by now you are ahead of me — the film is superb, haunting, indelible, outstanding. Co-directed by Charlie Kaufman, screenwriter of Getting John Malkovich and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Thoughts (and author of that supply stage/radio play), with animator Duke Johnson, it is an inspired miniature with unstrung (in practically every sense) marionettes. It’s about madness, male menopause and the redemptive possibilities of really like. And it’s set in a globe hilariously precise and horrific: a hotel that ticks all the jet-age alienation boxes and resembles Hell remade for a Thunderbirds convention.

Why is Anomalisa so funny-tragic? Simply because it catches our off-guard selves. Voiced with an anxiousness-edged northern English burr by David Thewlis, “Michael Stone” is an Everyperson every person can determine with, at least in — say — the mutely screaming hours of early morning insomnia or the quiet but ineluctable panic of advancing age. Comfy sufficient, prosperous enough, acclaimed enough, Michael is walking towards a void in his life as large as a pothole.

Kaufman and Johnson’s puppets are quaint yet spooky, rudimentary but lifelike. In early scenes they arrive as if on a conveyor belt of crafted satirical idiosyncrasy: the yappy taxi driver, the reception clerk on social autopilot, the deluxe catatonia of the cocktail lounge. But then Michael meets Lisa (Jennifer Jason Leigh), a kooky brunette as needy as he. Cue the one-evening romance. Cue the melody of mated hearts.

It is absurdly touching, this dark/light night of the soul, up to and including the puppet sex scene that — with apologies (or none) to Group America — goes beyond the zany-incongruous to find a tender, delicate, picayune poignancy. The final scenes restore us to a world exactly where nightmare reigns, not least in a sinisterly staffed hotel basement that out-Kafkas Kafka. But our hero may now have located the important to coping. It’s the skeleton essential enjoy often supplies: the a single displaying us that every person we had been afraid of just before is only, like us, a lost soul hoping to locate himself, just when or briefly, just before time’s final tolling.

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Section: Arts

Snoopy and Charlie Brown: The Peanuts Film — film review: ‘Loving fidelity’

'The Peanuts Movie'

‘The Peanuts Movie’

They defy animation, these startled, pixilated tiny hieroglyphs in black and white. The sweet-and-doleful minimalism of the Peanuts comic strips is/was their joy. We even laugh quietly: a guffaw might blow them away.

The “good news, undesirable news” story in Snoopy and Charlie Brown: The Peanuts Movie (apart from its boasting the worst rolling-stock title of the year) is that the drawing is fabulous and the script and path are a fright. Steve Martino — not, alas, Steve Martin with cod-Latin sobriquet — presses the accelerator on an already over-busy screenplay by, among other people, Craig and Bryan Schulz. They are Peanuts creator Charles M. Schulz’s son and grandson and should know greater. The comic strip was by no means about helter-skelter comedy. It was about non-sequitur, inanity, spooked entrancement. (And it by no means had accompanying songs.)

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Nigel Andrews

The very good news? The characters are sketched, even in motion, with a loving fidelity. Shut your eyes and ears to the story overkill and you could be there in the funny pages with Lucy, Charlie, Marcie and Co. Even enabling — and we will — for colour and 3D.

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Section: Arts