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Two films and a folk club [Feb. 5th, 2018|05:35 pm]
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The first film of the year was The Post: the story of how once upon a time in the USA the courts upheld the right of newspapers to publish documents which the government would prefer to keep secret, relying on the First Amendment to rule that the press is there to serve the governed, not the government. This was long, long ago, in that past that is a foreign country where they do things differently, and the props department had a wonderful time decorating the set with telephones and ashtrays and other signifiers of the period. And a printing press: where did they find a press to show the drama of the Post's last minute decision to go ahead, with hot metal and all? Or was it all stock footage?

Also on display was a carefully in-period dismissal of women: actually, rather too self-consciously displayed. I felt that although the attitudes were authentically 1970s, they were presented with tangible twentyfirst century disapproval. So the suspense, such as it is (because there is no real doubt of the outcome), is twofold. Will Meryl Streep, playing the cite>Post</cite>'s proprietor, Katherine Graham, gain the confidence to make her own decisions, even if her various "advisors" disagree? And will she put the paper at risk by deciding to publish? Yes, and yes. Luckily, her ability to stand up to editor Ben Bradlee is never put to the test, possibly because his artistic and perceptive wife is there to advise him. Meryl Streep is good, of course (though I found her shift from indecision to conviction a little abrupt), and Tom Hanks is fine (though Ben Bradlee will always be Jason Robards to me).

I realise this comes across more than a little snarky, and really that's not fair: I found The Post very solid, for both good and bad, maybe a bit well-upholstered but entirely enjoyable.

On Sunday we went to South Shields Folk Club to see Will Finn and Rosie Calvert. On other occasions we have seen them as half of The Teacups vocal quartet, and as if to underline the difference, they turned up with large, look-at-me instruments. Rosie Calvert plays a steel hemisphere which looks like a piece of barbecue equipment: I tried to be polite and not refer to it as a 'steel pan', but that turns out to be its real name. "It's a very recent invention as musical instruments go," explains Will Finn (it's about a hundred years old, which must make it older than his Roland keyboard). It sounds a bit like a xylophone, percussive but melodic, but the high notes have a squeaky feedback quality which I found distracting. These are details: it was a fun evening, with a good variety of material, I'd go to see them again (I still prefer the Teacups, but that can't be helped). The club was fine, and while I probably wouldn't go all the way to South Shields for the floor singers, I'd happily go there again for a guest night.

Which might happen, too. We had tickets for Jim Causley at the Old Cinema Launderette on Wednesday, but it was cancelled at the last minute (I don't know why). We overcame our disappointment, and went to the pub quiz instead; but I see Jim Causley is playing South Shields Folk Club in December (he's also at the Davy Lamp in August, so who knows...)

Only February 1st, and we were at the second film of the year (not much by most standards, but better than our recent average), Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri. What it has in common with The Post is two strong central performances, and maybe something to say about what those two characters tell you about the differences between being a man and being a woman. Other than that - no, that's it. I certainly didn't at any point know how it would turn out, or what was going to happen next. Having read enough reviews to have some idea of the subject matter, I didn't expect it to be so funny - and I say that as someone with a very high resistance to comedies which ask me to suspend disbelief for the sake of a joke. Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri doesn't ask me to suspend disbelief, it embraces my disbelief. It invites me to laugh with (yes, mostly with, I think, rather than at) to understand, even to sympathise with its characters, but it doesn't ask me to endorse what they do. Which is not comfortable, but it is exhilarating. That's my reading of it, anyway, though not everyone sees it that way.

I'm less sure of my ground when it comes to the geographical significance of the setting. One of the joys of McDonagh's earlier In Bruges is that it is very definitely filmed in Bruges, and makes incongruous use of that beautiful setting. Ebbing, Missouri, as far as I can see, is a fictitious town (it doesn't help that my mind keeps offering me Three Billboards outside Hibbing, Minnesota, which is not the same thing); Missouri is real enough, but if the intention is to tell me something about that place, why film in North Carolina? Other than that it is very pretty, the eponymous billboards bold red rectangles against the green curves of the hills. Thoughts gratefully received.

This entry cross-posted from Dreamwidth: comments always welcome, at either location.