Ferry To The Mersey

As well as being a film blogger and ardent movie-goer, I am also a huge music fan and sometime musician. So when I was offered a car-cation to Liverpool – the home of The Beatles –  courtesy of Stena Line, I couldn’t say no! The timing couldn’t have been better as not only is Stena Line celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, but it’s also 50 years since the formation of The Beatles as we know them today.

The ferry at Belfast Port

We set out for Belfast to catch the 10.30am ferry to Liverpool. As it’s an 8 hour crossing, I was delighted that we had a nice little cabin to relax in. We also had access to the Stena Plus Lounge, where we could avail of free snacks, wine and soft drinks as we kicked back to enjoy the journey.  Being a movie buff, I was excited to check out the onboard cinema, which was showing a couple of recent releases, and which was a great way to pass some sailing time!

The onboard Cinema

Pretty soon the Liverpool skyline appeared in the distance and it was time to bid the boat goodbye. We were staying at the Beatle-themed Hard Day’s Night Hotel, which is only a 10 minute drive from the port, and is a must for any Beatles fan. The hotel is housed in a Grade II listed building in the heart of the “Beatles Quarter”, right around the corner from Matthew Street, home of the famous Cavern Club. As well as the photo’s and murals which adorn the hotel walls, each room features a unique Beatles artwork, while non-stop Beatles music plays in the bar and restaurant. It’s fair to say I was smiling like a Cheshire cat the whole time!

“It’s been a Hard Day’s Night”…The Beatle-themed Hotel in Liverpool

Give Sleep a Chance! John Lennon artwork in hotel room

“Roll up for the Mystery Tour” – The Magical Mystery Tour Bus

The hotel package we availed of for our stay was The Magical Mystery Package, which includes tickets for the Magical Mystery Tour and The Beatles Story – two fantastic tours not to be missed. The Magical Mystery Tour takes you down to all the places associated with the Fab Four and their songs; it was an amazing experience to stand in Penny Lane, to look through the gates of Strawberry Field and to see Woolton Village where Lennon made his first public appearance with the Quarrymen! We also took in the childhood homes of John, Paul and Ringo (George’s being unavailable that day) and finished up at The Cavern where we were treated to live renditions of Beatles hits over a Beatle drink or two. The Beatles Story is an interactive journey through the bands’ history, which features great sets and memorabilia throughout.

Blue Plaque on the front of Mendips, where John Lennon lived with his Aunt Mimi

20 Forthlin Road – Paul McCartney’s childhood home

To give ourselves a little break from our Beatles activities, we took a stroll down to the Albert Dock. Situated in the heart of the city, Albert Dock is a wonderful area to browse around, as it houses lots of great shops, bars and restaurants. Grouped around the Marina, this is a lovely location to stop for a drink and it even has its own Yellow Submarine! A short walk from the Dock we took a well-earned break with a rooftop dinner and drinks, overlooking Liverpool’s iconic Liver Building.

Rooftop view of the Liver Building

Sadly, our time in Liverpool was drawing to a close. After saying our goodbyes at the hotel, we headed back to port to catch the evening ferry home. On the way, we decided to take a short drive out to see Anthony Gormley’s installation, Another Place, which is situated on Crosby Beach, about a 15 minute drive from Liverpool city centre. It was a beautiful evening and as the sun was beginning to set, we took in the mysterious figures staring out to sea. This was a perfect way to end our trip; the figures invite contemplation as they stand looking at the horizon, and the view of these cast-iron men dotted along the coastline left me with a sense of peace and calm, as my thoughts turned to our journey home.

Nowhere Man – “Another Place”

Well, it had been a hard day’s night and we would be sleeping like logs courtesy of our cabin onboard, but how can I sum up my first car-cation? Easily –

I was a guest of Stena Line, who provided ferry travel and hotel accommodation on this trip. All opinions expressed in this blog are my own. Photographs courtesy of Ronan Loughman. Many thanks to Stena Line employees Bernadette and Jimmy, who made our outward and return journeys so enjoyable.

Apichatpong Weerasethakul At The IFI

The Palme D’or winning Thai film director visits the Irish Film Institute tomorrow, July 23rd, for a public interview and Q+A with Dr Maeve Connolly of Dun Laoighre Institute of Art, Design and Technology.

This appearance is part of a film retrospective currently showing at the IFI, which will be followed in August by an exhibition by the filmmaker at the Irish Musuem of Modern Art. Weerasethakul’s films are playful, elliptical, funny, mesmerising and strange – so this public interview to discuss his work, and his working methods, is sure to be interesting. The event is free to attend, but you must pick up a ticket in advance from the IFI box-office.

To get you in the mood, here’s a clip from his 2006 film, Syndromes and a Century –

Bad Movie Mothers

Mommie Dearest?

Ok – so, inspired by Angela Lansbury’s powerhouse performance of a power-hungry manipulative Mum in The Manchurian Candidate, which I blogged about yesterday, I got to thinking of my favourite on-screen bad mothers. I was struck by how few I could recall. Certainly there have been multitudes of Mums portrayed on-screen, but how many really BAD mothers can you think of?

 

Here’s my list, in no particular order:

 

1. Anthony Perkins – Psycho

2. Angela Lansbury – The Manchurian Candidate

3. Faye Dunaway – Mommie Dearest

4. Piper Laurie – Carrie

5. Angelica Huston – The Grifters

6. Mo’Nique – Precious (I haven’t seen this movie, but I’ve seen the trailer a few times – that’s close enough!)

Who have I missed?

Apocalypse Again and America’s Other Heart of Darkness

I’m very excited about seeing the Francis Ford Coppola-approved new digital restoration of his 1979 masterpiece, Apocalypse Now, which opens today in the IFI. There’s probably very little left to say about this movie, but an opportunity to see it on the big screen should certainly not be missed.

Also at the IFI, beginnning June 1st, is a season of Classic American conspiracy thrillers, set in the era of Watergate and Vietnam. Some highlights for me are The Manchurian Candidate, The Conversation, Chinatown and Klute. Also featured are some rarely seen films such as Winter Kills and Rollover, and the season ends with Costa-Gavras’ Missing, starring Jack Lemmon and Sissy Spacek. Check out this link for more details.

Malick’s Tree of Life Comes to Fruition

Cannes seems to be buzzing with somewhat mixed reports, after the screening of Terence Malick’s Tree of Life. No, of course I’m not there silly, but it seems it was greeted by boo’s as well as cheers, according to this Guardian report. It’s fair to say that this is one of the most widely anticipated films of 2011. It was due to premier at Cannes last year, but wasn’t ready in time; unsurprisingly perhaps as controversy seems to have dogged the film, what with release dates being scheduled and then cancelled at short notice.  It was initially slated to open in cinema’s before Cannes!

Apparently Malick first conceived the idea after he’d made Days of Heaven back in 1973, and this is only his fifth picture since that film. Old Terry’s not known for his speedy work rate. Anyway, his latest opus is finally with us, although a release date for UK / Ireland still seems uncertain. I hope it’s soon, ’cause it looks great!

Eyes Without A Face (Georges Franju, 1960)

This is a film I’ve wanted to see for a long time, as not only is it thought of as a classic of the Horror Genre, but it now holds an esteemed place in auteurist cinema, as marking the moment when Georges Franju first truly earned the auteurist tag.  However, on its release in 1960, Eyes Without A Face (Les Yeux Sans Visage)  was pretty much villified and garnered widespread bad reviews. Its status only came to be re-evaluated in the mid 1980s, after a number of re-releases in France and the United Kingdom saw it reach new audiences and critics began to re-appraise Franju’s work; placing it in a new, more auteurist, context.

The plot concerns a brilliant surgeon, Professor Genessier, who devotes himself to trying to replace the face of his daughter Christiane, after she is horribly disfigured in a car accident. Christiane’s face is hidden behind a ghostly white mask, which she must wear at all times, as she is kept virtual prisoner in her father’s home. Genessier is helped by his assistant Louise (Alida Valli), whose face he successfully transplanted after she too was disfigured in the same accident. His remorse is compounded by the fact that he was the driver, so he works tirelessly to restore Christiane’s beautiful face and thus give her back her life. The problem is that he needs “donors”; and so must resort to sending Louise out to pick up suitable young women to lure back to his basement operating theatre.

Eyes Without A Face is notable for several striking scenes; such as a visit to a morgue early in the story, Christiane wandering the rooms of her father’s house (where portraits of her as she was are kept covered) and the final sequence; as  the Professor’s horrifying work is undone, we see Christiane emerging from the hidden operating theatre flanked by the dogs her father kept for experimenting on, as a white dove sits on her shoulder.

Associated as it is with the Horror genre and Grand Guignol, this is a film that goes beyond those limiting tags, and repays repeated viewings.  Franju serves up a multi-faceted shocker that is not easy to pin down, and is still an odd but essential film.

Meek’s Cutoff (Kelly Reichardt, 2010)

Anyone coming to this film expecting to sit back and be indulged in classic western vista’s and panoramic views of 1800’s Oregon will be sorely disappointed. While most certainly slotting into the Western genre, Kelly Reichardt’s vision in “Meek’s Cutoff”  is much more hemmed in; as limited and boxy as those covered wagons snaking across the dusty, dry plains.

Set in 1845, the story concerns a party of emigrants on the Oregon Trail, who decide to break away from the main stem of the wagon train to take a shortcut. Guided by fur trapper and explorer Stephen Meek, the party believed Indians might try to attack them in the Blue Mountains; so Meek offered an alternate route which had not been tracked before.  Reichardt uses this small party, made up of three couples; one of whom is expecting a baby, and another with a young boy, to stand in for the original 200-300 or so who made the original journey.  At the point at which we join them, sunny optimism and the excited hope of finding a new Eden have evaporated and the party are stumbling through dry brush and punishing temperatures, making little headway. Our attention is focussed on the numbing daily chores, which have to be endured, such as lighting fires, making breakfast and repairing damaged wagon wheels.

Amongst the pioneering couples are the young Thomas and Millie Gately (Paul Dano and Zoe Kazan), devout scripture readers William and Glory White (Neal Huff and Shirley Henderson) and the older Solomon Tetherow (Will Patton) accompanied by his younger, second wife Emily (Michelle Williams), who harbours her own misgivings about Meek and his ability to lead them.  It’s apparent from the off that the men make all the decisions; they gather and talk quietly amongst themselves, away from the women who are left out of earshot, straining to catch what bits of talk they can. The men are unhappy with Meek’s guidance, thinking he has led them astray for his own unknown purpose; and in fact in an early scene we see Thomas Gately (Dano) scratching the word “lost”  into a tree stump. Meek constantly refutes their objections and says himself at one point, “we’re not lost, we’re just finding our way”. Along the way the party are followed by an Indian, whom the men subsequently capture, in the hope that he may lead them to water, as their own supplies dwindle perilously. Tension grows amongst the party as Emily (Michelle Williams) feeds the indian and later repairs his shoe, in the hope that this might persuade him to help them.

What Reichardt gives us here is a de-mythologised Wild West,  far away from the bar brawls and shoot-outs we’ve come to expect from the genre. She chose to show the film in what’s called Academy Ratio, that is, a squared off frame that limits what we see, like the women in their bonnets and the covered wagons, that blocks out any grand widescreen views. This puts us in the frame, literally, with the characters; we become part of their journey, at times nestling over the shoulder of protagonists as they trundle along. This keeps us with them, makes us part of their experience, hems us in too. There is no room for the big skies or epic scenery of the mythic West here, we’re rooted, along with these weary travellers, in the deadening now, pushing forever on.