John P. Harvey
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.
The output of director Richard Loncraine (Wimbledon, My One and Only, 5 Flights Up), though intermittent, has consistently attracted outstanding acting talent. And in finding your Feet, his most recent, he’d done so again with his stellar leads.
When Sandra (Staunton), who has acquired snobbery along with a title by marriage to a lord, discovers her husband of thirty years in the arms of her best friend, she packs herself up and lands herself on her bohemian sister, Bif (Imrie). Initially treating everyone she meets, including Bif and her friend Charlie (Spall), as social inferiors, Sandra finds herself in relationships depending less on social status than on character, sensitivity, and being real.
Sandra joins her sister in a dance class; Charlie, who treated her initial pomposity with the indifference it deserved, finds himself partnering her, and the class itself, after a brave flashmob performance, receives (if one suspends disbelief just a little) an international performance opportunity. And from there, the lives of all take a new turn.
There’s a lot to this tale and how subtly it’s enacted. This is no American hit-em-over-the-head-with-it-all. But even without violence, car chases, anything very illegal, melodrama, or even strong language, the tale is compelling, because its leads let us see so well into their inner lives and struggles. Its events are less explicitly transactional than implicitly transformative. Absorption of its underlying meaning requires the blotting-paper texture of experience that only life, hardship, and maturation can bring to the viewer’s soul; with that caveat, it’s a movie that the discerning viewer will savour for some time.
Directed by Richard Loncraine
Starring Imelda Staunton, Celia Imrie, Timothy Spall, Joanna Lumley
Palace Electric cinemas
John P. Harvey
John is a well-established film and play critic. He has penned reviews (somewhere over 160 reviews of stage performances) for Stage Whispers since 2005, and occasionally writes for BMA magazine
The Weight of Light is a song cycle taking the form of a lightly staged opera using a sole male singer to play several roles. The daringly avant-garde score accounts for the four years that composer James Humberstone spent on the work: it is, to say the least, demandingly complex. Though the lyrics comprise plain prose, musically most of the pieces are relentlessly atonal and without notable rhythmic predictability; require various techniques for producing notes and other sounds from a piano; and feature a range of dissonances that challenge the ear more used to consonance.
The pitch of the voice part was frequently (though less so in the final few songs) so utterly at odds with the notes of the piano as to alienate the two instruments, and this succeeded well in conveying musically the anguish that the lyrics express more explicitly. Whereas such conflicts between instruments had an effect that earlier ages might have perceived as cacophonous, dissonances within the piano part (which, though dissonant, sounded faultless) were less challenging and, to this ear at least, still made harmonic sense, rendering them more interesting rather than less. For this reason, the several instrumental pieces, “lacunas”, interspersed among the 14 songs were easier than many of the songs for the musical ear to recognise as music.
Using the one singer throughout the performance of pieces with little variation in pace or mood could have been visually dull, but staging offered non-verbal clues to what was going on, and the singer interacted with a combination of strong (if minimalist) set design and exacting lighting design that maintained intrigue throughout.
The Weight of Light
Music: James Humberstone
Words: Nigel Featherstone
Director: Caroline Stacey
Voice: Michael Lampard
Piano: Alan Hicks
The Street Theatre, Canberra, 3–4 March 2018
Goulburn Regional Conservatorium, 10 March 2018
John P. Harvey
John is a well-established film and play critic. He has penned reviews (somewhere over 160 reviews of stage performances) for Stage Whispers since 2005, and occasionally writes for BMA magazine.
Director Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread offers a steady-paced partial revelation of the increasingly evident strangeness in the relationship between a self-absorbed dress designer, Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis); his sister, Cyril (Lesley Manville); and his latest conquest, Alma (Vicky Krieps).
Day-Lewis’s character, Woodcock, is, as ever, a complex one, in this case intriguing and compelling but untouchable. His design and dressmaking standards are high indeed, but characterise a general rigidity of character that his sister has till now indulged. Nonetheless, the success of his dress-design house, with its staff of a dozen highly skilled dressmakers, shows in his upper-crust clientele. The house itself (along with the film’s several other chief venues) is sumptuous; perfect cinematography, with a natural vibrancy, adds visual variety and interest without intruding into the viewer’s awareness.
At two hours ten minutes, the movie is a good length; relatively quiet, it nonetheless holds your attention throughout by its visual richness, arresting acting, and subtle intrigues concerning its characters’ inner lives. And, delightfully, it exhibited remarkable authenticity, from social behaviour, language, and modes of dress to such details as the dinnerware and menus. Most remarkable of all was its attention to detail in portraying the techniques that premium dressmakers use, including using tapes and bindings to ensure that hems, linings, fastenings, and collars stayed where they belonged, protecting the fabrics with large sheets of clean paper, and folding them just so in order to preserve their shape.
Some enigmas remaining unanswered, a sequel — despite Day-Lewis’s avowed intent to finish his film career on this film — could easily take the tale further.
Seen at Palace Electric Cinema, Canberra