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Monthly Archives: January 2008

HonkWatch #026: The Death Of YugoslaviaCroat TV cartoon from 1990 making light of the secessionist Serb ‘Log Revolution’ in Krajina… (Taken from The Death Of Yugoslavia.)

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HonkWatch #025: Between The Lines (S3E7)

Between The Lines, JC Wilsher’s cop drama about barrelfuls of rotten apples, was one of my favourite series in the 90s. You can’t really fault the primary cast of Neil Pearson, Siobhan Redmond, Tom Georgeson and Tony Doyle, and any programme which portrays coppers as mostly indolent, ignorant, crooked arseholes (now that’s got to hurt…) has to be a winner.

Of course, it suffers from the in-the-headlines plot disease most dramas succumb to at one point or another, and the wacky, spook-heavy third series (‘Tony Clark goes freelance’) does hark back to the regrettable end days of Bergerac; but overall, it’s sterling work.

Anyway, here we have the opening scene from the Marconi deaths-influenced third series episode ‘Unknown Soldier’, in which a defence industry scientist is found dead under his car in the garage. Everyone bar his distraught wife seems keen to have it marked down as a tragic suicide, so she pulls in Clark and co to find out what really happened…

HonkWatch #024: TumbledownSaltemarsh goes into convulsions, receives mouth-to-mouth, pukes into the gob of Lieutenant Robert Lawrence. Classy, but you expect little else from the Scots Guards.

I saw Tumbledown when it was first broadcast, back in 1988. I remember there was a hullabaloo about it. I remember buying the Radio Times that week, because there was a cover story on the programme. I remember talking about it a lot on my primary’s fourth year school journey, and drawing a picture of Lawrence getting shot in the head on the cover of my journey diary. But apart from that, I can recall very little of the content of the drama, except that Colin Firth as Lawrence was very cold, unlikable even, and very unlike the ‘heroes’ of my war comics.

So it was interesting to watch it for the second time, and only the first in nineteen years. It’s pretty good, and doesn’t try to prettify war.

HonkWatch #023: A Fatal InversionJust a quickie: Well-to-do yuppie Adam (Douglas Hodge) gets up close and personal with the wash basin after corpses are dug up at the country pile he spent the summer in a decade earlier… From A Fatal Inversion, one of a brief spurt of rather good BBC adaptation’s of Barbara Vine (aka Ruth Rendell) psychological thrillers (see also Gallowglass and A Dark Adapted Eye).

‘Road’ title screenOkay, so the Alan Clarke season continues… Most recently I watched the Jim Cartwright-scribed Road for the first time. Bit of an oddity, really. Seems to be shot on location in and around a condemned street of back-to-backs somewhere grim and up north (IMDb says it’s Lancashire), where various people – individuals, pairs, groups – wander in and out of situations, delivering monologues and soliloquies. Much of it is about the pain of being poor, of being jobless, of having no future. Uplifting stuff, really 😐 Oh, and music plays across much of it, in a casual kind of way – tunes being sung by characters, hummed, songs on the stereo, that sort of thing.

It starts off with Brink (Neil Dudgeon), a young man in a cheap suit, walking down a street; then we cut to the interior of a spartan house. Here Louise (Jane Horrocks) is getting ready to go out for the night, but frustrated in her efforts by her brother, who seems to be fixing his motorcycle in the near-empty front room.

Next we move into another, similarly vacant-looking (but different) house. Eddie (William Armstrong) is also putting on his glad rags, preening himself, dancing along to Sheena Easton on the radio. A knock at the door – it’s Brink. They leave the house, walk up the road.

Cut to Jerry (Alan David), an older man, in a third house, talking to himself in the mirror, talking of simpler times, something of a lament. He seems cheerful, but… He too dresses himself up to go out.

Cut to Carole (Mossie Smith) in house number four, a rather Rubenesque girl in her skivvies arguing with her mum, who demands money from her. Louise arrives, Carole finishes getting dressed, argues with her mother some more, and together the girls leave, clip-clopping up the street in cheap heels, short skirts and bad hair. They banter, and music plays over the top.

Cut to Clare (Moya Brady) banging on the door of a fifth house. After a while, Joey (David Thewlis) opens the door to let her in. We see it is a completely derelict house. Helen asks Joey why he has stopped eating; they talk about not having jobs, but they seem not to be talking about it in the same way.

And so it goes on… About halfway in, many of the characters have come together in an approximation of a pub or social club – basically though it’s just a larger derelict building. It is a collection of ordinary people, old and young, and they are drinking and dancing to Bananarama. There is a bearded fire eater. Dimpled mugs are in abundance. Several times eyes meet across the dancefloor, and the coupling begins: Brink and Eddie and Carole and Louise, middle-aged Helen (Susan Brown) and a squaddie in uniform (Tim Dantay).

Then we leave the party, and watch Valerie (Lesley Sharp), a woman who looks barely out of her teens, but middle-aged with the burdens of life, deliver an astounding four minute address as she tramps the streets, wild-eyed and so sad, but with hope, of her jobless husband and his clumsy big hands, of how she resents him but feels sorry for him…

HonkWatch #022: RoadWe move back to Helen and her soldier boy, and along the road they saunter, her talking constantly, pausing only to eat chips, him completely silent and barely able to walk, till they stop outside an empty house so he can puke (HonkWatch alert!). Then she takes him into the derelict house and she tries to have sex with him, taking his drunken inability to speak for charisma. After a few fumblings she realises it’s not going to work. She is sad.

And on and on it rumbles, till the climax – Brink and Eddie and Carole and Louise in yet another tatty, unfurnished husk of a house. The boys have brought back lots of booze, and they try to cop off with the girls, but they’re having none of it. The boys get tetchy, there’s arguing, more drinking, then Eddie plays ‘Try A Little Tenderness’ on a ghettoblaster. All four listen in silence. It seems to send Carole in particular off into a world far off. Afterwards Eddie delivers a spittle-flecked, atavistic cri de coeur. Brink follows him with his own statement of self. Then Carole explains how she wants more… More than this. “Poverty? Poverty wants me! He’s in me hair and me clothes, he comes dust in me knickers, I can’t scrape him off!”

Finally we come to Louise, seemingly the quietest, simplest of the four. What she has to say resonates with them all, though. There are tears in her eyes. “Why’s the world so tough?” she asks.

It’s like walking through meat in high heels. Nothing gets shared outright. Money, love… I’m a quiet person, me. People think I’m deaf and dumb. I want to say things… But it hard.

I have big wishes, you know. I want me life to be all shinied up. It’s so dull, everything’s so dull! When that man sings on that record there, you put the flags up, because he reminds you them feelings you keep forgetting, the important ones. Once you wrap them up and put them away there’s nothing left but profit and loss, and who shot who…

But it’s so hard, life. So hard. Nothing’s interesting. Everything’s been made ordinary in our eyes. I want magic… And miracles… I want a Jesus to come and change things again, and show the invisible, and not let us keep forgetting, forging it in everything, kicking everyone, I want the surface open off, and all the gold and jewels and like… Out on the pavements… I-I-…

I never spoke such a speech in me life! And I’m glad I have. If I keep shouting somehow, just somehow, I might escape…

And slowly, quietly, they each take up the chant: Somehow, just somehow, I might escape.

A fine film, if totally off its noggin. Not sure it would get commissioned, made or broadcast on telly these days. Excellent performances, creatively produced, provocatively written. If you can track it down, worth seeing (and if you find a decent quality copy, let me know – I found it as a very scratchy home VHS rip…)

HonkWatch #020: The Acid HouseWatched The Acid House the other night. It’s a portmanteau adaptation of three stories from Irvine Welsh’s 1994 collection of short stories (and one novella), directed by Paul McGuigan, who subsequently did Gangster No.1.

It’s also not really very good. It’s got the visual glow that Trainspotting had, but not much beyond that. There’s some (and I mean some) nice performances, some interesting camera work, but overall it feels too superficial. The accents are mostly terrible, there’s little fluency with Welsh’s words, and besides which, the book the three films in this collection are taken from is one of Welsh’s slightest, with the least to say. So what’s the point?

The three stories are also rather too varied, and nothing really connects them. Aside from the stylistic continuity – and Maurice Roëves, who plays an essentially different character in each segment – it doesn’t really hold together as a film. It’s like watching three one-off TV dramas in one go. The first one is also the weakest, which doesn’t really bode well – ‘The Granton Star Cause’, about a lazy no-hoper, Boab, who is dropped from his football team, thrown out by his parents, dropped by his girlfriend, sacked by his boss and turned into a fly by god, all in one day. It plays like a film student’s first film with working actors, and seems woefully uncommitted. Too broad to be taken straight, not broad enough to be funny. The fly effects are moderately diverting. Jenny McCrindle, as Boab’s (ex) girlfriend Evelyn takes her top off, for no earthly reason, except maybe to get you to keep watching, even though it’s so mediocre, or less than mediocre. Stephen McCole – who I remember being so good in Peter Mullan’s Orphans – is awful as the feckless Boab. Basic visual elements are flubbed (the strap-on up Boab’s dad’s arse is barely visible, for instance). Very disappointing. But there is a brief HonkWatch-worthy moment, when Evelyn and her new boyfriend Tambo start coughing lumps after eating cold curry Boab’s laced with dogshit.

Then there’s the best, or at least the most interesting, segment, ‘A Soft Touch’. In it Kevin McKidd is cuckolded husband Johnny, whose new upstairs neighbour Larry (Garry McCormack), having identified how weak-willed he is, ends up stealing not just his wife but also his electricity, his TV and his dignity. Both turn in good performances, and Michelle Gomez as the skanky Catriona is excellent. But it’s so different in tone to the first piece, you wonder why it’s been lumped in with it.

Then there’s the closing segment, ‘The Acid House’ itself. In it Ewen Bremner is a slightly less sappy version of Spud, the raver/casual Coco, who drops some acid, gets struck by lightning, and finds his soul swapped with that of a baby born just as the ambulance its pregnant mother is giving birth in is also struck by lightning. Cue Look Who’s Talking-type adult-voice-of-baby stuff, ‘with hilarious results’. Well, not really hilarious. Bremner’s okay, as is Arlene Cockburn as his girlfriend. Jemma Redgrave as the middle class mum landed with a foul-mouthed bairn seems uncomfortable. There’s a stunt breast for the (one hopes deliberately) unconvincing baby puppet to suck on. And talking of tits, Martin Clunes plays a foppish new age dad.

The end.