Monday, 20 January 2014

Kelly + Victor - Film Review

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Starring: Antonia Campbell-Hughes and Julian Morris.


After a chance meeting in a nightclub in their hometown Liverpool, strangers Kelly and Victor are instantly drawn together in a drug fueled haze. A one night stand sparks an intense dynamic between the two - one that shocks Victor yet inexplicably keeps him hooked. With their relationship darkly masochistic, Victor - discontent with the illegal exploits of friends around him - ironically becomes attached to the destructive bond he shares with Kelly. Likewise Kelly, who is largely isolated from the world, develops a brutal intimacy with Victor - yet it is one which is still hidden from anyone outside of the couple.

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A lot is left to be desired with regards to the character of Kelly. Perhaps intended as an enigma, she's depicted as possessing a timid, ethereal quality that attracts the grounded Victor. Drawing him in with vague allusions to their match based on horoscopes, there's little insight into where her violent, masochistic inclinations come from. Matching this against a scene where she expresses reluctance to act as an accomplice to a fantasy game with a prostitute friend, the film seems driven to portray Kelly as a conflicted individual, with only the faintest allusions to her past.

Victor on the other hand is depicted as the weaker link. A grounded family man at heart, he is relatively more at home with societal convention, portrayed in more straightforward scenes of familial duty with his young nephew. There's a degree of inner turmoil as he tries to reconcile this life with the darker, closeted one he shares with Kelly. The implications aren't lost on the two, with Victor in particular conflicted by how grossly conspicuous and taboo their relationship is to conventional society. This ultimately reaches its inevitable breaking point with destructive results.

I would have liked a deeper psychological slant to the film but perhaps leaving it to the audience's imagination made it all the more unsettling. The relationship is closed off to the rest of the world, set to the cloistered backdrops of Kelly's claustrophobic flat or the quiet confines of an art gallery. With sparse dialogue and little character background, Julian Morris and Antonia Campbell-Hughes complement each other well. Morris's earthy characterisation against Campbell-Hughes' tenuous one dramatically highlights the self destructive element of their relationship.

Cinematography-wise, Kelly + Victor celebrates the quiet beauty of Liverpool. There's an emphasis on the simplicity and tranquility of nature where Victor feels most at peace, which only heightens the extremities of Kelly. Her scenes are eerily quiet, with the barest of details in the background, or else in extreme settings of hazy nightclubs and scenes of brutality and violence. With the addition of the brooding Bill Ryder-Jones score providing the ominous overtones, the theme of danger and taboo is apparent throughout much of the film.

A unique look at the dynamics of a deeply dysfunctional relationship. Kelly+ Victor is an intimate, yet uncomfortable portrait of two individuals drawn together in an intense addiction for masochistic gratification.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Dear Lupin - Letters to a Wayward Son - Book Review

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"Dear Lupin" is the collection of delightfully witty and wry letters sent to Mortimer Jr. from his ever exasperated father Roger, a racing pundit for the Sunday Times. Chronicling the various scrapes and escapades Charlie finds himself in, Roger is always a source of sound advice, humorous anecdotes and world weary remonstrations in the vain attempt to keep his errant son in check.

 Much of this stems from the generation gap between father and son, with Charlie more at leisure to peruse the fruits of life more flagrantly than his father would like. Holidaying with deplorable friends or else dabbling in drink and drugs is at odds with the more mundane chagrins of Roger's life, including dull acquaintances at dinner parties, the excessive drinking habits of Charlie's' mother and the ever salient fact of growing old. 

"I had a bad and painful attack of gout last week and now I have a throat infection and am partially deaf. Getting old is revolting and I hate it."

  Roger Mortimer's letters never failed to make me grin with delight as he litters his correspondence with random digressions and stories of oddball relatives, the exploits of a family pet or the death count of a nearby car accident. Despite the numerous allusions to his disappointment towards Charlie's foibles and shortcomings, including many a failed (or lack thereof) attempt at respectability, Roger's affection for his son is never in doubt. As Charlie flits erractically from one job to the other, Roger is the steadfast guardian, never failing to be the constant in his son's life.

Surprisingly, Dear Lupin doesn't include replies from Charlie (or Lupin, the moniker handed to him by his father after the erstwhile son in Diary of a Nobody). Instead Charlie provides small footnotes letting us know what points in his life Roger is alluding to. These too are a small source of laughter, as Charlie plays the part of the hapless, wayward son with real life panache. The collection also incorporates a handy go to list of people and places mentioned throughout the correspondence.

Dear Lupin is a unique, heartwarming vignette of the relationship between a father and son spanning from the late 1960s onwards. Not only are we granted an intimate look at one family's idiosyncratic life, but also the social context in general. Roger Mortimer has a wonderfully acerbic and eloquent way of writing, infusing Dear Lupin with a sepia toned melancholy for the lost art of letter writing.

Note: Dear Lupin is just one of three collections of letters from Roger Mortimer, with Dear Jane: My Father's Life and Letters and Dear Lumpy: Letters to a Disobedient Daughter the two remaining installments in this familial saga of correspondence.