Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Dressed As A Girl.

Colin Rothbart, a London based producer and director has made TV documentaries for various TV stations and has now made his debut feature film documentary. Dressed As A Girl (2015) tells the story of six years in the life of the most celebrated of London’s East End drag artists. It successfully sets out to give an insight into the fragile, some times sad, sometime hilarious, lives of these artists.
Jonny Woo


We get to see their outrages on-stage antics as well as an in-depth look at their personnel lives when we witness the sometimes-dark side of their existence. The main focus is on six of these alternative performers. Kent born Jonny Woo is the 'ringmaster' and best known of the group. Honing his craft in New York he went on to co-found the popular Gay Bingo a new approach to bingo calling and was instrumental in Glastonbury's first queer tent. He also co-owns The Glory a notorious East London pub where he regularly performs. The youngest of the group is East Londoner Scottee whose 'brash and obnoxious approach left audiences confused’. After getting over some personal issues he has become a regular presenter to BBC Radio 4's Loose Ends and tours with his one man show Burger Queen. Known as the 'Tranny with the Fanny' Holestar is an openly queer woman and an ex-soldier who challenges the perceptions of her gender by being a female drag queen and in 2015 become the first woman to win Best Drag Act at London’s Cabaret Awards. We follow the outrageous pop star and model Amber who becomes a transgender woman and we get to witness her fathers reaction when he realises that his son Dean has become a woman in all respects bar none. When the DJ and domestic goddess, Jon Sizzle is not performing he can be found stuffing pouffes at his local church. The saddest of the performers is Pia Arber a transgendered girl who describes herself as a member of the third sex. She works as a building labourer by day and showgirl by night. She can also be found repairing bicycles.

Amber Waze in a scene from her music video.
Amber Waze.

Described as a frockumentary this is an affectionate look at an alternative cultural experience that I'm sure most people, other than the small-minded variety, will enjoy. As I've said its often very funny and entertaining but does demonstrate that a drag artist life is not all laughs and when you remove the make up, wigs and frocks underneath we find people that have to overcome their personnel struggles which as we witness is not always easy.

Jon Sizzle.

Pia Arber and The Third Sex.

Monday, 5 December 2016

Shepherds and Butchers.

Award winning South African film director and screenwriter Oliver Schmitz was in attendance at the 2016 Edinburgh International Film Festival to introduce his latest feature film which originally got its World Premiere at the Berlin International Film Festival in February 2016 and was being shown as part of EIFF's World Perspective Strand, which is designed to include movies "that will impress, beguile and challenge in equal measure" and Shepherds and Butchers (2016) did just that.

Certainly more than your standard courtroom conflict, although the courtroom does act as the hub for the drama that unfolds. The movie begins with a murder, in fact seven murders; we follow prison guard Leon Labuschagne (Garion Downs) as he drives his car along the rain soaked highway on his way home from work. An incident takes place between Labuschagne's vehicle and a mini bus transporting seven black members of a local youth football team. Both vehicles stop, everyone gets out, the shouting starts and then the prison guard opens fire with an automatic pistol and kills all seven occupants of the mini bus. Hired to defend Labuschagne Johan Webber (another great role for Steve Coogan, who I believe is a better actor than comedian) he can't get the accused to reveal his motive for the cold-blooded execution of the young football players. Initially unable to build an adequate defence to defy the State Prosecutor Kathleen Marais (Andrea Riseborough) that will avoid his client getting the death penalty, Webber has to build a case that for this brutal crime would almost amount to an impossible task.
The Defendant.

The Defence.

The Prosecusion. 

Seven years in development and three years to get it on screen it was adapted by Brian Cox from a novel by Chris Marnewich which itself is based on true events that took place in South Africa in 1986 at a time when apartheid still had eight years to run. The director admitted that he could not make film at that time.  It's a film that deals with the effect that South Africa's penal system, its death penalty and the inhuman hangings had on those that worked on death row. Don't be mistaken, this is not a straightforward story - this is in fact a harrowing and hard watch about legalised state killing. As the story unfolds we get to witness treatment of human beings that is totally against their human rights as well as offending common decency. Credit where credits due Oliver Schmitz does not hold back on the graphic details and one can't help feeling that South Africa's White ruling elite had an awful lot to answer for, an elite that upheld SA’s brutal regime. Those that carried out these death penalties will be locked in a bubble of violence for the rest of their lives. Unfortunately there still does not appear to be a UK release date but when it does finally gets a release go and see this film,  it will make you realise what could happen to any of us if we were put in the same position as Leon Labuschagne.

Sunday, 4 December 2016

All Neat in Black Stockings.

Victor Henry was described as a rising star when he made All Neat in Black Stockings in 1969 which he followed by some television work in the same year and then went on to make a couple of appearances in Thirty Minute Theatre. He also acted in a selection of stage work before his premature death at the age of 42 in November 1985. His death occurred when he was walking down a street when a car crashed into a lamppost that fell on his head. He was in hospital for over a year without gaining consciousness.

If the Christopher Morahan directed movie was anything to go by then this cross between a late sixties sex romp and a kitchen sink drama was not a very good example of Henry's acting skills. In the movie he plays Ginger a randy window cleaner who thinks he's Gods gift to women but is happy to share his conquests with his equally randy mate Dwyer played by Jack Shepherd in his debut movie. The main centre of attention is Jill played by the sultry Susan George in an early role.

For some reason that's beyond me the Network release on DVD is described as a cult classic, which it certainly is not. Taken from a Jane Gaskell novel who also co-wrote the screenplay, an author who was best known for writing fantasy, which is probable the best way to describe this nonsense.

Friday, 2 December 2016

Secret In Their Eyes.

It must have been difficult to remake a film that had deservedly won an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film at the 2009 Academy Awards, and one which I would personal rate very highly. 

Billy Ray's 2015 remake of Secret In Their Eyes has a grand cast which includes  Movie Ramble favourite Nicole Kidman, English actor Chiwetel Ejiofor and Julia Roberts but hopelessly fails to reach the heights of  the original. The story revolves around a tight knit team of crime fighters who are torn apart when Jess's (Roberts) teenage daughter is brutally and inexplicably murdered. Finally after unsuccessfully searching for the killer for thirteen years Ray (Ejiofor) finally uncovers a new lead that he is certain will resolve the case. Although the story is somewhat different from the original film it still has that twist at the end. But please don’t expect the same level of quality or story line that the original movie offered.

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Miles Ahead.

 Don Cheadle's biographical movie about Miles Davis takes its title from Davis's 1957 album Miles Ahead, an album that was one of the most famous recordings of the music genre known as Third Stream a term coined in 1957 by American composer Gunther Schuller described as "a new genre of music located about halfway between jazz and classical music'. Cheadle stars as Davis in the movie but also directed, produced and co-wrote both the story and screenplay.

Make no mistake the best thing about this movie is the music which is taken from various albums including Kind of Blue, released in 1959 and considered to be the best selling jazz album of all time, its 1960 follow up album Sketches of Spain and the rock influenced Bitches Brew, Davis's first gold record released in 1970.

The timeframe for the movie follows the period 1975 to 1979 when Davis virtually withdrew from public eye during health problems including drug addiction, ulcer related hospitalisation, diagnosis of a hernia and exhaustion. The story depicts the musicians attempts to get his career back on track and his troubled marriage to Frances Taylor (Emayatzy Corinealdi) the dancer who can be seen on the cover of the Davis album Someday My Prince Will Come (1961), along side some fictional nonsense about a journalist Dave Braden (Ewan McGregor) who wants to profile him and recover a lost music tape.

Although an enjoyable movie, mainly down to Cheadle’s performance, to a certain extent it’s a wasted opportunity. As an admirer of Miles Davis work I would have liked the movie to be more of an in depth look at his life and demons and completely dispense with McGregor’s character. But do try to catch the movie on DVD if for no other reason than to listen to some great music.