Book Review: Visitation by Jenny Erpenbeck

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The following review is of Visitation, by German writer Jenny Erpenbeck. Erpenbeck, who shot to literary prominence with her late 90s debut novel, The Old Child.

When it comes to Visitation, I found the book to be short and sweet, spanning only 150 pages, and easily read in a concentrated sitting. Interpretations of the piece differ from critic to critic, I found the piece to be rather bittersweet, unique, extremely calculated and well written with the coldness of the writer’s pen conveyed to us, the readers.

For me, upon learning of the background of the book, and which the house, featured in the book was representing time when Germany were at War, with Erpenbeck being born while the Berlin Wall was still in it’s early day, and with the writer’s background to add, the overall tone and the book took on a whole new meaning, with another level of emotion to add.

A fascinating and evoking read, whether you love it or not.

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Factory Of Tears

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This following review will be of the poetry collection, entitled Factory Of Tears by Valzhyna Mort.

I was intrigued to read the collection, having looked into the author Mort’s background. Born in Belarus in 1981, in it’s capital city of Minsk, formerly part of the Soviet Union and all the struggles of all that comes with it, after the USSR had consumed the Belarusian culture, and with Mort’s writing she attempts to try and reclaim her own country’s language and heritage, as well as trying to find beauty anywhere she can in her writing, something which may of effected Mort early on, as Belarus became independent in 1991, possibly influencing her from a young age.

I found her writing style to be extremely interesting and evoking both thoughts and feelings, sometimes such as rage and anger, all whilst pouring it’s heart out at Belarus itself, for seemingly ‘abandoning itself’, with this most apparent in the collection of Belarusian II, and goes to ‘war’ with words. I particularly enjoyed the title piece poem. In reading Mort’s work, including her first publication I’m As Thin As Your Eyelashes, I have began to feel more weary of how my own environment, culture and heritage has influenced my own writing and I has expanded my knowledge, perspective and view point of my own work, as a reader and as a writer.

I’d highly recommend this collection, either for established fans of poetry, or newcomers, there’s something in these pages for you to find.

Short film review: ‘Ark’

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Ark is the award winning animation of Polish production from Grzegorz Jonkajtys. I found to be fascinating, the intricate level of detail in the design was incredible. The strong plot of a world on the brink of ending from a disease, forcing mankind to set sail in skyscraper like ships, in search for new uninhabited lands, but with those on board who then fall ill, are then expected to take a ladder to the roof of the ship, and to commit suicide.

Despite no dialogue throughout the piece, the short film’s overall feeling and meaning was portrayed well enough, simply through facial expressions and character actions, with a fantastic ending, with the run time of seven and a half minutes simply flying by, leaving you with more questions than answers and an ending to interpret in a million different ways. By far one of the best short films I’ve seen.

View here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_y6Hz-IDJw0

Short film review: ‘Sniffer’

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Sniffer, is a 2006 Norwegian short film production, directed and written by the visionary Bobbie Peers.

I enjoyed Sniffer, in which the characters are living in a seemingly controlled world, full of rules, and are shackled to the ground, literally and metaphorically. With it’s atmospheric soundtrack, creates a disturbing ambience and is full of loud, seemingly orchestrated industrial noises, from car engines, to heavy machinery to the shackles on their feet and a whistle which provokes thoughts of military like precision and the lined up test subjects resembling an army barracks.

A pigeon is featured half way through the film and provides the only natural sound in the short film, serving as a representation of the main character, with it’s freedom of flight he is envious, until it seemingly commits suicide, prompting the main character to then question his own life and his existence in a world full of grey, where everyone dresses alike and are the same, a possible reflection on our own lives, chained to a world of conformity.

Sniffer, in it’s ten minute run time is an interesting watch, with everything and everyone seemingly law abiding in a miserable and bleak world and with a great ending, with a shift to a white light and a floating, lighter soundtrack, helps to make you really make you think on.

View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FJviDuHF64Q

Last Evenings On Earth

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Roberto Bolano’s collection of short stories, entitled Last Evenings On Earth.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading through the short stories, with their Cuban and Spanish heritage influences, something in my reading I had yet to come across. I particularly enjoyed ‘The Grub’ and ‘Gomez Palacio’ in which a poet takes an interesting car journey with his new boss at his new job in a school, highlighting the cultures are a stand out here.. 

My stand out piece I found was ‘A Literary Adventure’ in which one author, named Author B, has reviewed another character, Author A’s book in a not too positive light, and is surprised at the Author A’s positive review of his book.

I enjoyed the ambiguity of the character names, therefore leaving the audience to attribute the character names themselves. In the lesson we discussed our favourite pieces of the book, many of my classmates were agreeing on different possible meanings of Bolano’s work. I also enjoyed learning more about the author and hearing some of his work read aloud, and I think to find out the full meanings of Bolano’s work, as an audience I would encourage anyone to read more into Bolano’s life and his past work.    

Waiting For Godot

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Waiting For Godot by Samuel Beckett.

The masterfully written play, centered around the character Vladimir and Estragon, as they await the arrival of ‘Godot’. 

Unlike most plays, Waiting For Godot is uneventful, with even the characters telling us at one point that ‘Nothing happens. Nobody comes, nobody goes, it’s awful!’ with the play relying only on the razor sharp and at times witty dialogue to convey emotion and feeling, and at times pathos underlined with wit. The only events of the play are that of passerby’s on the road our lead characters wait upon. 

With some lack of punctuation in some of the character monologues, leave us as tired as the characters in the play must be. 

Many critics allure the character of ‘Godot’ as that of ‘God’ and that the two characters are awaiting God’s arrival. Though you’ll have to read and decide for yourself.. Overall an interesting piece of work, perhaps best portrayed on a stage with credible actors, such as Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart, who have occupied the roles a number of times on the theatre stage.

 

Norwegian Wood

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This weeks review is of Norwegian Wood, a text by the Japanese author Haruki Murakami. The book was published in 

I found the book extremely interesting, having been the first book I’ve read that has been translated from Japanese into English. I found the book to be an extremely thought provoking text through it’s themes of youth, sex, emotional instability and suicide, set against the backdrop of political protest in 1960s Tokyo.

The book follows Toru Watanabe, as he arrives in Germany, and hears the titular Beatles song of the book, and revisits his memories of his teenage and university years and both the friendships and the relationships that have formed his life, such as his friend Kizuki and his girlfriend Naoko, which is the films first plot point, igniting after Kizuki’s suicide and Watanabe’s subsequent relationships with the now unstable Naoko and the outgoing, exciting Midori. The book takes us through various parts of Japan, places both familiar and enigmatic.   

 

Having not had any experience in reading any Japanese texts before, I found the culture to be fascinating, even more so after a viewing of Lost In Translation, which had given me a picture of what Tokyo was like. I quickly found this image to change having read Norwegian Wood. The evoking language make the text an uneasy read at times, but at other times endearing and honest and true. 

A must read. 

Life Is Beautiful (“La vita è bella”)

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This Italian foreign language film I found to be extremely well written and performed, mostly by auteur Roberto Benigni; who directed, wrote and starred in the picture.

I found the film perfectly mixes both the highs of witty, smartly written comedy which occupies the first half of the film, following a Jewish waiter, Guido, as he attempts to woo the girl of his dreams, Dora, through the means of a series of coincidences matching with riddles he’s set before hand, forcing the two to cross paths a number of times.

The second half of the film follows the now married Jewish/Italian family, now with a young son named Joshua, and living in late 30s/early 40s Italy, where the Nazi’s have slowly started to invade and forcing Jews to mark their homes and places of work. Soon, on Joshua’s birthday, the family are siezed and sent to a Concentration Camp.

The second half of the film shifts into a sombre and heart aching moments throughout in which a Father tries his best to hide the atrocities of a Nazi concentration camp from his young impressionable son, as Guido pretends they are simply playing a game.

The film does extremely well and luring the audience in with a soft lighthearted first half of the film, making you fall in love with the very likeable and interesting characters, and slowly the bubble begins to burst. The Nazi’s enter the frame as the film wares on, and the second half, now having the audience emotionally invested in the characters, leaves you gripped to the film for the remainder of the film and for some time afterwards.

The film was beautifully shot and brilliantly written from start to finish, and I would highly recommend to anyone. Having been a fan of foreign films from France, Japan and Hong Kong, this was my first Italian foreign film I’ve watched and I thoroughly believe it deserved it’s Academy Awards nominations and subsequent wins, and rightfully deserves to be a part of the acclaimed iMDB Top 250 films of all time list.

Interview with Mike Murphy (The Wicked Whispers), Live reviews, gig previews, latest releases and more…

my blog for Electone Records.

CP   by Chris Parkes ( @rocknrollparksy )

Welcome to the Electone Records blog. For those who are new to the blog I have been asked by Electone to do a round up of exciting gigs, new releases and a look at new talent around Merseyside and beyond along with some label picks and features.

Kicking things off we have something different this time around as I sat down with Electone Records label dwellers, The Wicked Whispers and had a brief chat with frontman Mike Murphy about him producing the bands debut album which is promising to be one of the most exciting Liverpool debut albums in some time.

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La Haine (1995) Review

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La Haine
(1995)
Mathieu Kassovitz

La Haine, which translates from French as ‘Hate’, shows the gritty underground of Paris, in the midst of riots against the police, who have brutalised a friend of three rebelling and frustrated youths; Vinz, Said, and Hubert, who spend their days smoking dope, petty thieving from stores, robbing cars, amidst of low key run in’s with the police, or as they commonly refer to them as ‘pigs’.

In the French world of cinema the world are mostly familiar with, the usual ‘la belle dame’ and the handsome chain smoking rugged detective or the bad guy you end up rooting for who drinks only fine wines and wears even finer suits, as seen in ‘Breathless’, or whether it be the delightful beauty of Amelie and it’s star Audrey Tatou, La Haine scratches beneath the surface, and is much much more.

When we as an audience consider Paris, we visualize iconic land marks and places such the Eiffel Tower, Arc De Triomphe, the River Seine, the Louve and so forth, we have this image of beauty, but La Haine scratches beneath that world, which is presented as a curtain to mask the real Paris, with the film showing just how flawed and just how ugly Paris can be for the real Parisians and not just loved up weekend tourists dressed in their ironic berets and striped tops with a bottle of red wine in one hand and a baguette under the other.

Stylised in black and white, with elements of American cinema and homages to the infamous Taxi Driver mirror scene and nods to Scarface quotes, the film is littered with references and appearances of American hip hop music, usually being popular amongst the rebellious youth, and reflects on them as they can relate with themes of Police brutality, gang violence, weapons, rioting and racism and the film is really an eye opener.

The film follows the three friends through a series of mis-adventures and comings across with a number of strange and interesting characters, some friendly, some psychopaths. La Haine is a classic, playing against the usual popular conventions of French cinema and a stand out performance from Vincent Cassell as Vinz is truly incredible, who then went on to join the Hollywood elite in Ocean’s Twelve & Thirteen and Black Swan.