In 1993, writer Irvine Welsh shook the literary world to it’s core with his debut novel Trainspotting, a frank depiction of a group of individuals in Leith, Edinburgh who are engaged in recreational drug activity (most specifically heroin) and addictive behaviour. It was on the longlist for the 1993 Booker Prize, but was purportedly rejected from the shortlist for “offending the sensibilities of two judges.” In 1996, following on from their previous film Shallow Grave, a low-budget sleeper hit, director Danny Boyle, producer Andrew Macdonald and writer John Hodge took to adapting Welsh’s book in a fashion true to the spirit of the original source material. Delivering an incredible breakout performance, Shallow Grave’s Ewan McGregor is cast in the lead role of Mark Renton, and a perfect line up is assembled to round out the rest of the gang. Ewen Bremner, Jonny Lee Miller, Robert Carlyle, Kelly Macdonald, Peter Mullan and Welsh himself all play their parts superbly. For all of the squalor and legitimately provocative things it has say about drug addiction, urban poverty and the existential crisis’ in the psyche of the disaffected youth in this particular period of time, the film is incredibly entertaining. At around the ninety minute mark, this is an endlessly re-watchable picture that despite containing some horrific moments, is also outrageously funny and contains an extraordinary degree of dexterity. When it was released, it was a runaway success, the equivalent of a Molotov cocktail to the establishment, both in terms of the film industry and society as a whole. All done to a rousing soundtrack, this was an energetic, heart-pumping pop culture phenomenon the likes of which had never been seen before and perhaps will never be seen again. It captures a particular and unique moment in our history, our zeitgeist, and the universal connection that many of us have to this film is a testament to its lasting strength and power.
Friday, 31 March 2017
Upon its initial release in 1998, The Big Lebowski, Joel and Ethan Coen’s follow-up to the critical and financial success of 1996’s Fargo, was met with mixed reviews and a disappointing take at the box-office. However, since then the film’s reputation and status has grown exponentially, being seen by many as a quintessential cult classic. The film features the offbeat, often surreal humour that we have come to associate with the Coens, a collection of strange and wonderful characters played by the likes of regular collaborators John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, John Turturro, Peter Stormare and many more (namely Jeff Bridges iconic Jeffrey ‘The Dude’ Lebowski), an eclectic soundtrack and a convoluted story that weaves together the weird, the zany and a little mix of classic Hollywood noir. This is among the strangest of strange detective stories, with our hapless, laid-back stoner protagonist getting caught in all manner of shenanigans. Other collaborators such as Carter Burwell and Roger Deakins each contribute greatly to the overall creative process. It is a film whose lore and culture have emerged almost as an entity in it’s own right. Beginning in Louisville, Kentucky in 2002, Lebowski Fest, an annual festival devoted to the film, involves screenings of the picture, contests involving trivia and costumes, musical performances and, of course, bowling. The religion Dudeism was founded in 2005, devoted to spreading the philosophy and lifestyle of the film’s main character. Indeed, I myself am one who can counted among the over two-hundred thousand strong officially ordained priests in The Church Of The Latter-Day Dude. It is a phenomenon that can ultimately be attributed to the construction of a wonderful, self-contained universe of infinite possibilities. This is what a work of true labor, love and respect looks like. The Dude Abides, man…
Despite being musically-trained in Russia, master composer and songwriter Dmitri Tiomkin was once described by Gig Young in a 1956 television interview as having written “the most American-sounding tunes you and I have ever heard.” Indeed, in the case of High Noon (one of the many Westerns under his belt, along with the likes of Duel In The Sun, Giant, Rio Bravo and The Alamo), he is largely credited with saving the film. After the picture was poorly received at preview screenings, Tiomkin purchased the rights to the theme song, The Ballad Of High Noon, which, released as a single with singer Frankie Laine would become a worldwide hit, precipitating the film’s successful release and later canonisation into the pantheon of classic Westerns. Tiomkin would also enjoy associations with directors such as Frank Capra, King Vidor and Alfred Hitchcock. Lauded for his ability to weave his orchestral scores to fit the story, themes and visual presentation of a picture, Tiomkin is rightfully considered one of the great film composers.