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w/e 2019-08-25

Hello, happy bank holiday, some of you.

I didn’t listen to one thing more than others this week but I enjoyed listening to one of Spotify’s algorithmically-generated genre-based playlists, Intro to Twee Pop, much of which was familiar, and I was extra happy hearing Hefner’s The Hymn for the Cigarettes come up:

§   This week included the shoot day for the advert I had a part in, which was a fascinating experience. I thought I had some idea but it’s amazing how many people are involved in so much organisation and planning during the weeks beforehand, in order to ensure that everyone and everything is in place so that this one day runs smoothly, to shoot 30 seconds or so of advert.

And then the day itself involves so many people working together. There must have been several dozen crew members: filming; positioning lights; organising props; setting up blackout screens; dressing actors; applying, adjusting and removing makeup; organising transport; cooking and serving food; ensuring people and equipment will be ready for their next moment; approving shots; preparing things “for social”; guarding the location; recording sound; preparing effects… plus everything that happens before and after that day.

As an actor — and with no lines to learn and not much interaction with other actors — I felt I had it pretty easy. Hopefully it all went OK.

§   We finished watching Fosse/Verdon which was very, very good and well worth watching. I’ll give anything a go if Michelle Williams is in it and she was, as usual, great. But it wasn’t until about half-way through the series that I realised I hadn’t even thought about Sam Rockwell for ages. He’d so disappeared into Bob Fosse that for ages I’d forgotten this was a character played by a famous actor. Neither main character is particularly likeable but they’re fascinating and absorbing to watch.

I’d have been happy to see more non-naturalistic moments — there are a bunch of blipvert-style flashbacks, and an fantastical Dennis Potter-style song-and-dance number or two — because I’m quite desperate to see TV dramas that even slightly experiment with how to portray memories, emotions, potential futures, etc. But that’s a tiny lack and it’s all good.

§   This tweet from William Gibson kept rattling round my head this week:

Any festival in 2019 that had much at all in common with how Woodstock actually was would be rated a spectacular disaster.

(He was there.) That hadn’t occurred to me before. Imagine the photos of the terrible conditions and the tweets about how badly prepared everything is. It’d be like Fyre Festival. But, it turned out, that despite everyone there complaining about how awful it was, from outside it was, and has been, viewed as an amazing event.

§   Today I finished reading The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin which I enjoyed. And that’s a relief; her work is so praised that I felt under some pressure to like it. It took me some time to warm to the book, partly because I’m rarely very interested in science fiction that’s set on alien worlds. I increasingly think that I don’t like much science fiction unless it’s set on (or maybe around) Earth, and only in the very near future.

I’m also not wild about science fiction that comes across like a parable and The Dispossessed sometimes felt like that. “In this society everyone shares everything and everyone’s equal and it’s all great… Do you see, it’s perhaps a bit like Communism! But, aahhhh, look they’re not actually all happy after all! Do you see? And then this other society looks great but, ahahhhh, it’s like capitalism…” Alright, alright, I get it.

Thankfully there wasn’t too much of this and the main character’s narrative, and its structure, slowly gripped me more and more, and by the end I liked it a lot. Phew.

§   I went to see Transit which I was looking forward to after reading this New York Review of Books article (subscribers only unfortunately) about it and the director Christian Petzold, several of whose films I’ve enjoyed. It wasn’t quite as good as I hoped but still fine.

It’s a nice idea: it’s based on a novel from 1944 set in France as the Germans invade, but the film is set in the modern day, albeit a modern day with no mobile phones or visible computers. There’s a war further east, Germans are invading, and the country is filling with refugees trying to escape to the Americas while militaristic police are rounding people up. I almost wanted a bit more of that alternate-present, not-quite-future-fiction feel, but it was good.

You know if you ever stay to sit through a film’s end credits there’s usually a moment where the music that’s playing ends and another piece starts, to make up the time until the credits have finished rolling? I always dislike that. The two pieces of music so rarely seem to fit well and, rightly or not, I get the feeling that the point at which the tunes change is the point at which anyone involved in the film has stopped caring about it.

Transit does credits music right: it has a single piece of music, a well-known song, which finishes when the credits end. I mean, it fits perfectly: the final notes sound as the copyright notices scroll upwards and “TRANSIT” appears, and the notes fade away just as that title disappears off the screen. A thing of beauty.

§   That’s all. Enjoy your holiday if you have one or your normal Monday and week if you don’t.

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