Posts Tagged ‘review’

From the very beginning of Nick Murphy’s period thriller, it seems that the awakening of Florence Cathcart (a plucky yet vulnerable Rebecca Hall) has already taken place. An enlightened young woman by 1920s standards, she is (Cambridge) university educated, a scientist, a published author, an inferred atheist and, most shockingly of her time, wearer of trousers while barking orders at men.

A professional myth buster, exposing fraudulent mediums feeding off the fear and grief in the aftermath of the First World War and influenza pandemic, she is called upon to investigate reported ghost sightings at a mansion turned boarding school- having been the scene of a long forgotten murder of course. Not only does she have to battle the myth and superstition of the paranormal but the prejudices of an early 19th Century patriarchal society which she does with a single-minded fervour.

However, her hardest battle is with her own sanity, which she seems to lose as the film progresses. Through a series of unexplained events and drastic, violin screeching cut-tos , the director takes us through the supposed haunted passages of the house as well as the troubled mind of Florence. Aided by a supporting cast of physically and mentally scarred war veteran turned schoolmaster, Robert Mallory (Dominic West); matron and ardent fan of Florence’s work, Maud Hill (Imelda Staunton) and frightened child (Isaac Hempstead Wright), Florence closes her eyes tightly to her previously enlightened state and awakes in a world of apparitions, superstitions and acute awareness of her own loneliness. Ironically each character’s solitude and sadness draws them closer together but leaving them more mentally isolated.

The ending to the film is far less shocking than saddening. Reminiscent of other costume thrillers, the viewer is thrown a few red herrings before being treated to a retrospective glance at explanatory scenes. The truth, once exposed, is far more jarring than the  scattering of eerie moments throughout the last 100 minutes, showing that the evil perpetrated by the human mind and body is far more incomprehensible than any perceived spectral presence. This dissection and degradation of the human psyche  is certainly explored in the film but is lost in a supernatural fug of ghostly set ups and thriller-by-numbers moments. The paradox, however, is that both aspects could not sustain the film on their own. Once the real horrors are known, they resolve to be one and the same, showing us that however scared we are of the darkness of the truth, we still shut our mind’s eye tight, even though this makes the truth even darker.

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”]Live at Sneaky Pete's, Edinburgh 2011“We’re not a big band,” said one half of Ugly Duckling’s MC taskforce, Andy Cooper, “We don’t have guitars, drums, basses, trombones or a full orchestra: only the skill of our DJ Young Einstein and some janky ass turntables”. Along with Dizzy Dustin, another master of wordplay, these three hip-hop aficionados were bigger than the sum of their parts and owned the stage as well as the crowd at the exclusive and intimate Sneaky Pete’s on a humid Halloween in the ancient city of Edinburgh.

UD's MC

Young Einstein at the janky ass decks

The gig warmed up with Young Einstein, sipping Irn-Bru, casually playing and mixing a couple of classic soul records, before the MCs meandered onto stage and started working the crowd. Backed up by the turntable wizardry and split-second timing of the DJ’s funky beats, the 2 MCs rapped an introduction to the gig before bullet-training into their set. Never have I seen a band with as much audience interaction on and off the stage: very shy and unassuming off it and brimming with bravado and confidence on it. The music makes them come alive and they bring the audience along with them.  The music certainly does that on its own anyway, being full of witty, fresh lyrics and saturated with South American funky rhythms.

MC powerhouse

Dizzy Dustin: The Man in Black with the bottle of Jack

Hip-hop like this is very accessible, if only people would open their ears and discover the untapped genius of Ugly Duckling. There is no whiff of negativity in any of their songs: nothing about guns, ‘ho’s, beeyatches, or anything “Gangsta” related.  The unveiling of Einstein’s chunky jewellery is a major event in the show, leading into Eye on the Gold Chain satirising the bling-bling decadence of some of the rap industry’s main proponents. Another highlight is when a willing young lady is plucked from the audience to be subjected to a rendition of Pick Up Line.  Lesser known songs from their recently released LP, Moving at Breakneck Speed are just as enthusiastically received by the fervent crowd, even singing along to the chorus of Elevation.

MC in abundance

Andy Cooper: the MC who packs a punch

With Ugly Duckling, you are guaranteed a jumping night out with a skilled bunch of audience baiters. My only complaint was that I never wanted their set to finish, but I wouldn’t begrudge them a rest after almost an hour and a half of non-stop grooving and hand swaying. Afterwards, they were more than happy to spend time talking with fans, their soft spoken and seemingly sheepish nature incongruous with their onstage presence. Surely they should have had more arrogance and swagger after a performance like that.  I am, however, glad to see that one of the hardest working bands in hip-hop not succumbing to the deserved adulation of their dedicated fans.

Click here for the official Ugly Duckling website