Since my last update, I’ve been to the cinema twice.
Last Night in Soho
First on Halloween weekend was Last Night in Soho, which I thought from the trailer was going to be a thriller all about 1960s vice and conmen. I sort of gathered that there was a modern day strand to the movie too, but not anything about it. That trailer was very misleading – it’s a proper horror film! Eloise, a ’60s obsessed fashion student from Devon has a bad time fitting in at the uni halls in London, so moves out to a top-floor bedsit in Soho in a house with a slightly mysterious old landlady. She starts having really vivid dreams in which she goes back to the 1960s and through the mirror she sees a young woman who’s desperate to become a singer like Cilla. The ’60s woman gets an agent who lies to her and ends up in girlie shows and you know where that leads to…. The dreams of Ellie in the present day strand get worse and worse, and I won’t say any more as that would spoil the horror! Anya Taylor-Joy and Matt Smith as the agent excel in the 1960s strand, and Dame Diana Rigg (to whom the film is dedicated) steals the show in her scenes–it was her last role. Two other ’60s icons support in the current day thread: Terence Stamp is a mysterious man who knows things in the bar round the corner, and Rita Tushingham is Ellie’s gran. Edgar Wright’s 1960s Soho is marvellously recreated, the soundtrack is amazing–but that misleading trailer–be warned. Luckily I can usually take some horror. Glorious to look at, I really enjoyed it.
The House of Gucci
I went gaga for Lady Gaga in Ridley Scott’s latest film – based on a book about the true story of the murder of Maurizio Gucci in 1995. She plays Patrizia Reggiani, an ambitious young woman who marries into the Gucci family in the late 1970s, meeting and charming the bookish young lawyer Maurizio (Adam Driver) at a party. Maurizio and his father Rodolfo (Jeremy Irons) don’t see eye to eye on the family company which is shared 50/50 between the two Gucci brothers. The other brother, Aldo (Al Pacino) also has one son, Paolo (Jared Leto, virtually unrecognisable). Having wormed her way into the family, Patrizia works on getting Aldo and Paolo out – with terrible consequences. Salma Hayek as Patrizia’s fortune-telling friend steals all her scenes, but otherwise Gaga rules! I loved this film, but a friend of mine was bored stiff.
The cast speak with Italian accents throughout (mostly, (but not quite always) good). The Italian locations are glorious, and Scott lets the film tell its story in a leisurely way for the first two-thirds, which allows us to really get into the characters of Patrizia and Maurizio. When Paolo becomes an obstacle to Patrizia it picks up the pace, leading to the denouement. The Gucci family no longer owns Gucci, and didn’t approve. But for me, this was a superb entertainment.
The Prince of Egypt
I also went to the theatre for the first time since Covid began. It was a school trip to London to the Dominion Theatre to see The Prince of Egypt, which was adapted and expanded musically from the 1998 Dreamworks animated film. I was prepared to be disappointed, but instead was totally enraptured by it, holding back the tears!
You know the story – it goes from Moses in the bulrushes to parting the Red Sea to take the Hebrews to safety. It concentrates on the relationship between the adopted Moses, and Pharoah’s true heir Rameses, and presents a balanced view of both. You had to cheer though, when Moses had led the cast off the stage up through the Red Sea of the audience leaving the Egyptian soldiers to fall off the edge into the orchestra pit below (the entire yellow bit tilted up – very cleverly done).
The music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz (Godspell, Wicked) were super, with a couple of blockbuster memorable numbers and the gorgeous Jewish lullaby that runs throughout the score. As you can see, the stage is bare, and the staging was so clever, using a cast of amazing dancers to be walls, rivers, the burning bush and more – the choreography was innovative and added so much, just fantastic to see the dancers. (and we were at the matinee – they had to do it all again that evening!)
Unfortunately, the musical was only booked until January – another show is coming in, so its run has been severely curtailed by Covid. If you want a recommendation for a trip to London this Christmas – this musical is superb – on until Jan 9.
The Beatles! Get Back
Last weekend I spent a large chunk of time (8hrs) watching the three part series about The Beatles’ penultimate album, Let it Be, leading up to that performance on the roof of Apple Corps building. Peter Jackson edited over sixty hours of footage and more of audio, filmed and recorded back in 1969, and colorised parts too.
It was absolutely fascinating. The first act convenes at Twickenham studios where they are to rehearse new songs and prepare for their first live show in ages. At the heart of things is the relationship between Paul and John – which goes up and down like a yo-yo. Since the death of Brian Epstein, the Beatles had lost their rudder, and Paul became rather dominant and as the key arranger, this put the others off. Yoko is just glued to John, sitting just inches from him at all times. Ringo is Ringo, sweet but bored; George is mostly ignored – and towards the end of part one, he ‘leaves’ the Beatles.
This leads to some telling conversations between Paul and John, who make up, and George is lured back, this time to the Beatles new recording studio in the basement of the Apple Corps building in London’s Savile Row. This second episode was fantastic – we get to see the creative process really on fire as they all work on ‘Get Back’. I’d not warmed to John at the beginning, but after Paul is gracious about him and Yoko “They just want to be near each other,” he says, I warmed to him again, and the two working together properly was super.
The third part is the iconic concert which nearly never happened. They couldn’t decide on a venue, and were calling the whole thing off to just concentrate on making the album, when someone had an idea…
Beatles completists have had access to the recordings etc for years, but although I have loved the Beatles ever since I discovered my mum’s original single of ‘She Loves You’ in the record cabinet as a child, I’m not that kind of fan. This documentary though was perfect – absolutely gripping and I had to binge it. It’s so rare that you get to see the creative process at work and to see the four men doing it was amazing, and I finished with a new respect for them all. I could have done without Yoko’s wailing though when they were letting off steam, improvising. The original 1970 documentary, Let it Be, directed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg, hasn’t been available since the 1980s. As both use some of the same footage, it’ll be interesting to compare and contrast when it is inevitably remastered and rereleased.
A lavish and heavy coffee table book has been compiled to accompany the documentary (left), and I was lucky to receive a copy from the publishers – thank you! Its glossy, and after introductory essays by Peter Jackson and Hanif Kureshi, is full of photos, some by Linda, and snippets of the recorded conversations throughout the film. A condensed version if you will.
The Beatles: Get Back – Callaway Publishing – hardback, 240pp. BUY at Blackwell’s via my affiliate link (free UK P&P).