Phew, a month since my last update (a review of On The Road). I’m busy with a personal project I’ll be sharing soon, but I did manage to find the time for a couple weeks in Europe. I didn’t take much photography, just some shots around Milan. The set’s available on Flickr here.
It works. Any film that adapts Jack Kerouac’s novel is always going to prove a difficult endeavour. It’s a winding tale of freedom, drink, drugs and blended sexuality which when put to film, risks losing the essence it commands. By packaging freedom on screen, you risk missing the book’s message, but as a factual realisation goes, it’s close to what it needs to be.
Full of strong performances and sweeping vistas, the film bounces around America with raw energy. Racing through the states, high on pot, life and promiscuous behaviour, its director has at least bottled some of the Beat spirit.
It was always going to be a troublesome film. Society is supposedly free from archaic traditionalism, but in some ways it’s as conservative as it’s ever been. The film isn’t for the faint hearted – sexuality is presented in its clearest form – a humanist love, male or female. Recreational drug use seems romantic, creative and right. Whether it’s bombing along at suicidal speeds in a stolen car or pilfering gas, breaking the law is merely a way to make it further down the road.
Amid the Proust, jazz, Benzedrine, orgies and sheer, unadulterated freedom, On The Road presents both sides of Post-War America – the era’s romanticism and also the Beat Generation’s destiny to fail as a cultural ethos.
Fans will be proud of the cinematography, scoring, acting and flittering narrative that cuts across America with exhaustive indifference. Travel and nomadic wandering is a way of life, not a six month break.
You either have it in your blood or you see a different film. Kerouac, Ginsberg and Neal Cassady (the true heroes) realised this before On The Road became the manifesto it was set to be.
On The Road is better reviewed not as a film, but more a way of life captured on screen. This is undeniably achieved in a clear, enthralling manner.
Infectious, wind-in-your-hair indifference to the world’s problems is the message here. When the road calls you it’s impossible to ignore. As Moriarty shows, boredom is the biggest devil here and while his end is lonesome sadness, like all those who pushed the counterculture existence, it’s more about the journey and the thrill that comes with it than the destination.
Dig it, from start to finish.
It’s safe to say the only bad thing ever to come out of Barcelona was Iniesta’s strike against Chelsea several years ago, (although who’s laughing now). Everything else about the Catalan city is perfect. Yes, Las Ramblas is known for pickpockets (word of advice, get some street smarts and you’ll be fine), and at the moment the whole of Spain is suffering from a horrific unemployment rate, but aside from that, the city chugs along offering sun, sea, fantastic food, beautiful women and good times.
Last week was the fifth time I’d visited. Thanks to a family connection in nearby Sant Cugat, I have an obvious reason to keep returning. Then again, even if I didn’t know anyone living there, the result would’ve been the same.
Unlike Madrid which parties as though the very activity is going out of fashion, Barcelona is a lot more laidback. In fact, so many books, articles, travelogues and TV shows have been written about the city that there’s not really much for me to say.
Arguably it has everything – very few things are missing from its repertoire. It’s rare for a city to live up to its hype. Often you’ll be unlucky with meals, hit a bad run of weather or just fail to click with the people. Barcelona seems to have a supernatural power to avoid all of these issues.
The only thing I’d not done before my latest visit was experience its nightlife. The first three times I came were for family reasons. We saw sights, but I was a lot younger so I wasn’t keen on taking in what I saw. When I came in January I managed to tick some of its impressive activities off my list.
The reason for not going out was because I was staying with family to keep costs down. This time, fresh from my success in Madrid, I went for a hostel (San Jordi Sagrada Familia) in an effort to meet people and to enjoy the city at night.
Friends’ recommendations are the best kind, and Phil’s hostel suggestion proved perfect. Much like the Madrid version, San Jordi runs club nights every evening. I say evening, but early mornings is a more accurate description (Barcelona is notorious for starting at around 12pm and that’s considered early).
Having now experienced a fair few sunrises, I can definitely say, like everything Barcelona-related, its nightlife lives up to the high standards the city sets itself. It might’ve been off season, but bars downtown were full of people and the main stretch of clubs, conveniently positioned on the beachfront, are a mix of super trendy and cheaper dancehalls.
What every club has in common is good atmosphere. In England I’ve really gone off nightclubs – the majority focus on getting people as drunk as possible, are filled with vile people and play commercial crap that must drive DJs insane.
People go out in Barcelona to have fun. Sure, there’s alcohol, especially when there are so many tourists involved, but overall it’s an experience that leaves you fulfilled, not questioning why you put yourself through a night like that.
I could go on, but I’d be veering into thoughts that don’t strengthen this argument. I think the best thing about Barcelona, even when I’m working, is that I feel totally relaxed. I’ve always waxed lyrical about the importance of the sun and how happy it makes people.
I’m a firm believer in the theory that if England was subject to the weather of the Mediterranean, its national traits wouldn’t be self-depreciative moaning and constantly talking about the weather. Instead we’d all just be happy and welcoming to everyone we see. There certainly wouldn’t be any page three Metro stories about whether we’ve got a week of good weather on the way.
It’s been a while since I’ve updated this. I went to London Zoo again and took some great photos last week. There’s not too much else to tell. I’ve just got back from Alton Towers which was fun. The above shot was taken there (with Instagram) on my phone. It’s a pretty decent photo. Say what you will about iPhone filter photography. It makes a great photo.
Merely recommending you see The Imposter isn’t enough praise.
There are so many ways The Imposter’s director, Bart Layton, could have approached the true (it definitely is) story. However, by setting it in the mould of a thriller drama you end up forgetting you’re watching actual real people recounting historical life events.
Obviously the source material’s peculiarity, surrealism and downright ludicrous qualities means it’s not difficult to get wrapped up in everything as we’re led deeper down the rabbit hole. In fact, The Imposter is so unbelievable that you’ll end up questioning whether it’s all one big joke or a social experiment like ‘is-it-real’ social media drama-mentary, Catfish.
To summarise and to avoid spoilers, Layton’s filmmaking recounts the story of tragic missing child, Nicholas Barclay, in San Antonio, Texas. Three years later he’s supposedly resurfaced in Spain. Except he hasn’t. The long-lost son is in fact a French adult who ends up convincing the Spanish authorities, boy’s family and ultimately, the FBI, he is Nicholas.
It is, of course, utterly crazy and you’ll often question how so many people could be duped by a 23 year old posing as a 16 year old who looks nothing like his intended subject.
Obviously losing a child is arguably the most tragic thing to happen to a family, but as fake-Nicholas is interviewed, it isn’t that surprising considering the grief involved that he got so far. It’s also delightful to see his motives and recounting of his journey, even if a bit sinister.
What follows is a winding adventure from every perspective, interjected with subtle reproduction that leaves you guessing who’s telling the truth thanks to a constant deluge of curve balls. Just when you think you’ve cracked the mystery, something new comes up and leaves you guessing all over again.
To go into any more detail will ruin the documentary’s power; it’s better to just see it. Ultimately it reminds me of, and this is an odd comparison, Inside Job – the credit crunch exposé (another fantastic documentary). It’s like witnessing a car crash in slow motion.
Utterly essential cinema.