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Kafka-ish: Kafka @Finborough

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In offering proof that Kafka is everything to everyone - writer-performer Jack Klaff plays various roles, including the man himself in what is a part tour, part immersion and part legend of Franz Kafka. He is a writer who achieved fame after his life was cut short due to succumbing to tuberculosis at the age of forty. He is probably better known for his reputation and the Kafkaesque style attributed to his writing than his life. But after this piece, you’re left curious to learn more about the man and his works. And that has to be the best theatrical tribute you could give a writer, even for a writer who stipulated that his works be destroyed upon his death. It’s currently playing at the Finborough Theatre . Franz Kafka was born in Prague in 1883. In 1901, he was admitted to a university and began studying law. While studying, he met Max Brod, who would become his best friend and eventual literary executor. Brod would posthumously publish many of his works and writings. Kafka’s life co

Movies: Nine

Back in London, a good cure for jet-lag is a movie... Although watching the movie musical Nine was probably not the best option... Only curiosity to see if it would get any worse kept me awake. The fatal flaw of this movie is to cast Daniel Day Lewis - a creepy actor at the best of times (as the above interview junket for the film shows) - in a role that required the audience to have some element of sympathy for him. It also doesn't help that in between the musical numbers there is some absolutely dire dialogue mostly set in hotel rooms spoken by actors with outraaaaeegeeshly leeedicrious accents. Best (or should that be worst) is Nicole Kidman's which varies from eeetaylian to okker Aussie mid sentence. It was hilarious even if her screen time was brief. There are some nice numbers sung by women in various types of pantyhose but after the best number in the movie - A Call From the Vatican - you feel like you could be Penelope Cruz's gynaecologist. Director Rob Marshall ma

Movies: Sweeney Todd

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Sweeney Todd , originally uploaded by fairytalecinema . Rather than wait until next Friday for it to come out, I went with Fraser and Mark to see Sweeney Todd Sunday evening in preview. Neither of them knew what to expect but felt somewhat reassured by the large number of gay men in the audience (or perhaps they were just cruising I couldn't tell once the lights went down). Sweeney Todd is a great musical. It is so well written and a great mix of comedy and horror. I have seen it at least twice including the recent John Doyle production (which seemed to somewhat influence the above poster artwork). None of the productions I have seen however were gory enough for my taste. So I was somewhat relived to be thoroughly disturbed by the blood and gore in this show. In fact, I can't remember ever seeing such a movie when you were rooting for a serial killer to stick it to the victim one more time... Blood flies, bodies crunch, it is disgusting, but in the context it all feels so sa

Movie: I'm Not There

Since Christmas it has been a chance to drink loads of champagne, sleep in and do very little. However before the holidays came to an end I did manage to catch the Bob Dylan movie I'm Not There . The film directed by Todd Haynes uses a number of actors to depict different periods of Dylan's life. Watching it and not knowing a great deal about Dylan's life except for that period where he went electric probably doesn't help, but it is a fascinating movie that probably gets better with repeated viewings. Cate Blanchett as Jude Quinn (electric / druggy Dylan) was particularly entertaining and who would have thought her hair was a perfect match for him at that period (even if it was not a wig)?

Movies: Rendition

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One of the most interesting things about my visit to Australia over the summer was how a man was locked up for the entire duration of my stay without charge in Brisbane while I was there. This sort of drama wasn't on my mind when I strongly suggested that Rendition would make an excellent Sunday evening film, rather it was the fact Jake Gyllenhaal was in it. The premise of the film is that an Egyptian national (and scientist) living in America and married to Reese Witherspoon is suspected of aiding terrorists, so on a flight back to Chicago from Cape Town disappears and is whisked off to an unnamed North African country to get interrogated. The aim of this extraordinary rendition is to try and find out what he knows about a series of suicide bombings that have recently become more sophisticated. Meanwhile, the lead interrogator is trying to find out more information about a failed suicide bombing mission where he was the target. But to the main story, once Meryl Streep (who plays

Movies: Hairspray

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"Hairspray" movie poster , originally uploaded by knoopie . To get over jetlag, I thought that an early session of Hairspray would do the trick. It did. There was so much energy on screen that it was impossible to fall asleep. And besides the prospect of seeing a movie with Michelle Pfieffer singing (and in a conga line), John Travolta dancing as a woman, Queen Latifah as a blond and Christopher Walken as a lovestruck husband was simply too good to sleep through. All the musical numbers were pretty impressive showstoppers and pulled off with enough homage to John Waters to avoid it being a sanitised version of his original movie. It seemed so appropriate that Waters has a cameo as the flasher in the opening number as well. And while at times the story seems a little earnest, it was clear that the movie had its heart in the right place. It has already had the biggest weekend opening of a musical, I hope it kicks Grease off its pedestal as the most successful movie music

Film: The Lives of Others

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Ulrich Muhe in Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck's "The Lives of Others." Photo by Hagen Keller (image from film) I caught The Lives of Others this week. Set in the early eighties, it is a creepy drama-meets-thriller about a Stasi operative who spies on a famous writer for reasons that are less to do with state security and more to do with a woman and a jealous rival. The movie beautifully recreates the banality and subtle horror of a totalitarian regime before its fall. You get a sense that Formica has never been photographed so lovely. The story unfolds like a thriller but it is a little more than that, and its interest in human frailty is really what makes it stand out. Seeing it with M, I had to explain the history of East Germany as much as possible without annoying the other cinema-goers so it does help to have some understanding about post-war Germany before seeing it... And there I was thinking that everyone had seen Gotcha! so that would explain enough... Anywa

Movies: Sunshine

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Murphy looking all wistful... With all the flat hunting that has been taking up my time in the past few weeks I have not had the chance to see any theatre. Such a shame as everytime I write something about the theatre I get at least an extra person reading this site. And I have been informed that my site ranks up there on Google when you type in Elaine Paige's Tits so that gives me good theatre cred surely... Anyway, I did manage to catch the film Sunshine on Saturday. It is part 2001 A Space Odyssey, part Alien and part Stargate. But anyway, Cillian Murphy even looks a bit like Sigourney Weaver (and conjures up a little of Jaye Davidson as Ra in Stargate too). The plot involves a mission to restore the dying sun. It starts off slowly and maintains this pace throughout. Some people have told me they felt the film was boring, pretentious rubbish but anything that plays homage to 2001, while throwing in some strange weirdo alien being that has had a bit too much sun can't be

Film: Wrestling with Angels

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Tony Kushner and composer Jeanine Tesori Earlier this week I caught the documentary Wrestling With Angels which was a brilliant snapshot of the life of one of America's great living playwrights and liberal political activists. It captures the period of Kushner's life from September 11 2001 through to the presidential elections in 2004. During this period it traces the filming of his major work Angels in America (by HBO), a book with Maurice Sendak, an opera and the musical Caroline, Or Change. The film ends with Kushner's attempts on election day to ensure that people get to the polling both. You leave the movie with a sense of wanting to go out and do something to change the world. Although given the outcome of the 2004 election, you are inclined to wonder what is the point... Definitely the best movie I caught at the film festival . One to look out for on the film festival circuit...

Movies: Le Long Weekend

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Scene from "Eating Out 2". That is Adrian in the centre... Guy from American Idol and Rebekah Kochan are either side... All has been quiet over the past few days as I have been taking a few days off work and just enjoying springtime in London. I have also caught a couple of screenings at the London Lesbian and Gay Film Fest at the newly refurbished BFI Southbank On Sunday it was a collection of shorts filmed in Britain, but it really should have been called Made in London. Most interesting of the films was one called Le Weekend which featured an irritating and sexually ambivalent Frenchman (is that a tautology?) who also is a film maker. The premise is that he comes to London to do a film school assignment and ends up wandering around central London with the help of a friendly (and rather fit) local. It all ends in tears (sort of) but in the meantime there are some great locations of Soho and surrounding areas. On Monday it was a charming film called Eating Out 2: Sloppy S

Film: The Good German

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The Good German poster , originally uploaded by Daryl Van Horne . At one point during The Good German I turned to Ad and said to him, "Forget it Jake it's Potsdam". There was a hint of Chinatown about this movie. The only difference was it wasn't as well acted, directed or with an intelligible story. But there was plenty of confusion as Clooney plays a character called Jake who spends most of the film chasing Lena (Cate Blanchett) all over the American and Russian sectors of 1945 Berlin. Why he pursues a woman with such a badly fitting wig is anyone's guess. She spends most of the movie pouting and talking in slow, low and deliberate voice. Her line "Yuu shud naht huv cum bahk to Berlin" evoked memories of Meryl Streep as Karen Blixen in Out of Africa "Yuu have mede me barrhen"... Tobey Maguire also has a role. He gets to say very non film noir words such as "fuck" and "cunt" in an unusually high pitched voice. Fortun

Film: Belle Du Jour

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Rather than catch a university revue while I was in Cambridge, there was a new print of Belle Du Jour playing at the local cinema, so I had to see that. Last time I saw the film I didn't quite appreciate the boredom of Deneuve's character with her perfect life. With the new print it (along with those cable-knit jumpers) all seemed to be much clearer...

Film: The Science of Sleep

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Thursday evening while trying to get over some weird head cold I picked up this week I caught The Science of Sleep went with Mandy, who also had a cold. It was a bit of a trippy film that we both wondered whether we should have been under the influence of something stronger than pseudoephedrine hydrochloride to enjoy it. At various points we looked at each other in the film and asked whether the characters were on drugs. Still it was quite an enjoyable and fun tale, with some very imaginative set pieces with the two leads. There was also full frontal nudity of Gael García Bernal which is always good for the punters... I also appreciated his bad haircut and quirky beanies, even if I wasn't convinced that he was supposed to be this timid dreamer (he is too charismatic for that)...

Film: Dreamgirls

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DREAMGIRLS , originally uploaded by 浮躁 . Finally caught a preview of Dreamgirls on Sunday (which opens in the UK this Friday officially). I managed to drag Ad, F and S to see it with me based on what was probably about six months of hype that I had been drip feeding (including various podcasts, news updates and songs). Seeing it was closure more than anything else for all of us I am sure. I thought it was two hours and ten minutes of great entertainment. Ad, F and S were not so keen on musicals it turns out. At one point they were exasperating at yet another song. While I wasn't surprised with their objections, these guys really should have their pink cards revoked. Dreamgirls the show has been a cult, a hit and lost musical in the 25 years since it first premiered. The songs from it and the original Broadway soundtrack have been a staple in drag performances, dance clubs, and it even garnered mentions in episodes of Will and Grace. It's a story about black women made by g

Film: Babel

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Babel , originally uploaded by stef_install . Thursday evening I caught Babel . All three hours of it. Sitting there for that long you run through various thoughts such as, "can this drag on for any longer?" or "why is nobody wearing makeup?" "how much blood can Cate loose?". It aims to be a sprawling global story connecting everyone through a single moment but it really boils down to depressing and pretentious story. I can see why Americans may take to it as it is full of angst about Americas place in the world, but it is seriously undermined by really poor characterisations and a never ending stream of unbelievable events. Not all the actors have much to do in this flick either. Before Cate gets shot she just looks sullen and Brad Pitt looks very old and dusty throughout most of the film. If there was a makeup artist present, you wouldn't know it. It all seemed a bit depressing, but I left the movie feeling that the central message of the film wa

Film: Last King of Scotland

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Idi Amin gives a speech to his people. , originally uploaded by foxsearchlightphotos . Some people like rom-coms, some people like dramas, some people like political thrillers. I like 'em all, but I did have to lie to get F (who dragged me to that Holiday film) to attend this. Since he knew nothing about the film or Idi Amin I told him The Last King of Scotland was a comedy. A comedy it ain't but a great blend of fiction and fact with an incredible performance by Forrest Whitaker as Amin. Ok Whitaker has been around for years, but this is going to be a performance to be remembered... The fictional part of the story involves a young doctor ending up going to Uganda and ending up as Amin's personal physician. Against this is the real story of Amin's erratic rule and reign of terror. You don't see much violence in the film until towards the end. It is enough to want to make you throw up in a popcorn bucket, but a worthy experience all the same. The film looks grea

Movie: The Holiday

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I didn't particularly want to see this romcom or chickflick... But F dragged me to it on the guise that it was funny and that it was at the Canary Wharf cinemas where he could sign up to this new movie deal where you pay £14 a month for 12 months and you could see as many movies you like. You do have to provide a bank statement and in this day and age of electronic banking who the hell has one of them? I also find this chain of cinemas to have the worst cinemas in London. They are usually dirty and smell like a toilet. While the Canary Wharf cinemas were clean, the toilets were flooding so I figured that was keeping consistent with their standard. As for the film, it wasn't as bad as I was expecting. I did like the idea that Kate Winslet's character walks from her job along Albert Embankment to possibly Clapham Junction railway station. It is such a long walk that the exercise no doubt kept her trim and looking gorgeous. She then has a gorgeous little countryside cottage i

Film: Shortbus

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Monday I caught the film Shortbus which is an ensemble piece about the sex lives of a group of New Yorkers and directed by John Cameron Mitchell. There is the sex therapist who can't orgasm, the lonely dominatrix, the gay couple who want a third for different reasons, and a carnival of other characters that pop in and out of this sex club called Shortbus. There are some very interesting scenes in this film which were enough to keep one awake after a long night of new years festivities. The sex scenes (and there were plenty of them) weren't particularly sexy but I suspect that was the point... It all ends with a big production number complete with brass band around a New York blackout. The power of the black out to focus people on other things has been somewhat diminished over the last year thanks to some very irritating adds from a mobile phone company that seem to use the New York blackout of 2003 as the basis for telling you to switch off your mobile phone... It seems to be

Movie: Miss Potter

Saturday night I caught a preview of the new Renée Zelweger flick Miss Potter . It is about the life of Beatrix Potter which for the first half of the film was as jolly and upbeat as one of her books. The second half things get a little grim but then they sort things out and the film ends as briskly as one of her books. After the film I was discussing how disappointingly short the film is. At ninety minutes it seemed like it could have gone into more about the creative process behind her stories or the influence of the Lakes District on her. Particularly since in the case of the latter its preservation is part of her legacy. They could ave even read one of her stories in full to pad it out, although that might have felt like a sketch from Little Britain... Still the acting was great and it was a very watchable film. Even if Renée and Ewan weren't photographed nicely, the story was too short and there were a lot of things they could have expanded upon. Although it was a preview it

Film: Flags of our Fathers

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Wednesday night I caught Flags of our Fathers which is Clint Eastwood's film about the story behind the taking of the famous photograph of American soldiers placing a flag on Iwo Jima, and how it became a crucial photo in helping the war effort back home. The battle of Iwo Jima is less important here than the story three of the soldiers in the photo who survived the battle and went back to the US to help the war bond effort. It has the basis for an interesting movie on the power of perception and a single image. Unfortunately like the film Saving Private Ryan it had some pretty awful narrative, including throwing in the son of one of the men two thirds through the movie as someone trying to "piece together the story" for a book. Cue interviews with old and limbless men with grave faces and Paul wondering who the hell these people were. Still at over two hours it moves pretty quickly and is still an interesting enough film. Given the small audience I suspect it won't

DVD: Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut

I have spent the last couple of days watching Superman II: The Richard Donner cut. For reasons that are too involved to explain (but rely a lot on the power of internet nerds) an almost complete (there is one screen test to substitute the film) second version of a sequel to a movie made thirty years ago has been released on DVD. This clip includes previously lost footage of Marlon Brando, Christopher Reeve and Margot Kidder and has some significantly different scenes. The YouTube clip above explains some of the differences. In all almost half this film did not appear in the original theatrical version that was credited to another director... Alas having seen what is now a rare extended cut on Australian television (which supplemented the original version with footage shot by Donner) neither this version nor the deleted scenes includes the great campy lines such as Ursa played by Sarah Douglas , screaming "MEN! TO KILL!" Perhaps one day all the lost footage can be found... Un