Sunday, February 26, 2023

Genre Defying (Part II)

 Last week I wrote a little bit about how I'd taken to watching subtitled series on Netflix (that way I don't get distracted and have to concentrate), and that had led me to experience some amazing series like Bad and Crazy, and Alchemy of Souls.

So many other series I want to mention to continue this, but I've just finished watching The Uncanny Counter, and again loved every minute of it.

Promotional Image of The Uncanny Counter

Based on a webtoon, the story focuses on So Mun (Jo Byung-gyu), the son of a pair of police officers who are brutally murdered for threatening to uncover the corruption in the police, government, and business, and the poisoning of the water in the area due to illegal dumping. Now grown, So Mun becomes the host to a 'good spirit', joining three other 'Counters' who use their enhanced powers and strength to hunt evil spirits that are inhabiting wicked people. They don't kill them, they exorcise the spirit and turn the wicked host over to the police.

Again, it's just brilliant. The perfect balance of action, drama, humour, romance, and more. The villains are truly evil, ranging from the horrible gang of school bullies who pick on So Mun's friends, to the mayor who wants to become president. The cast are awesome as well, my favourite being Ga Mo-Tak, played by the fantastic Yoo Jun-sang, who played Park Jin in Alchemy of Souls. Yoo Jun-sang is quickly becoming one of my favourite actors in Korean TV, though a couple of years younger than me he's really showing up my unfitness for my age.

Just like the other series we've been watching, it manages to finish the story perfectly. The villains are defeated, the emotional moments are incredibly emotional (not a dry eye in this house), and yet it manages to wrap things up with the optimistic feeling of more to come, more for the Counters to do. 

Maybe it's just that I really love these paranormal action series. 

Another one that I really enjoyed was Sell Your Haunted House, another cool paranormal series that was about exorcist Hong Ji-ah (Jang Na-ra) whose business is in real estate. 

Promotional image - Sell Your Haunted House

You go to her company when you can't sell your house due to ghosts haunting the place. She goes in with her psychic sidekick who deliberately gets possessed by the spirit, so that she can dispel it from the property, then sell the house for its full value. Her regular psychic is injured, and she teams up with con-man Oh In-beom (Jung Yong-hwa) who normally cons people out of money for exorcising ghosts that aren't really there. The two hit it off, there's romance, horror, hauntings, punch-ups, corrupt landowners, murderers, and the mystery of the lead characters' backstories - have they met before, and are their fates tied to their parents?

Like the other series we've watched, it packs every genre in. It's funny, heartbreaking, exciting, and just great fun. By the end, everything is perfectly wrapped up, with the potential for more. Is it a spooky paranormal series? Yes. Is it a romance? Yes. Is it a comedy? Yes. Just like the other series I've mentioned, why be pigeon-holed into one when you can do everything?  

Sunday, February 19, 2023

Genre Defying

Contrary to belief, I do watch other things other than just The X-Files on constant loop. As I mentioned before on this blog, I've been having difficulty focussing and concentrating on TV, books, etc. Probably a side effect of the lack of sleep I've been getting, combined with the usual stress and anxiety.

To combat the lack of concentration I've been watching a lot of import series on Netflix, so that I have to rely on the subtitles to understand what is going on. If I have to read subtitles, I can't get distracted with my phone, or something.

Last night we finished watching the South Korean series "Bad and Crazy", and much like other K-dramas I've watched recently it has been a complete revelation.

Promotional image of 'Bad and Crazy'

No spoilers, but Bad and Crazy tells the story of Ryu Su-yeol (played by Lee Dong-Wook) - a pretty corrupt cop in the 'Anti-Corruption' unit. He's not a good guy, but recently, when he tries to do something corrupt or selfish, the mysterious K (played by Wi Ha-Joon) shows up and beats the crap out of him. Sure, it's a bit violent, but K is played as a mischievous rogue fighting for justice and what's right. They get caught up in a case of a missing mother, a corrupt politician, a couple of drug gangs, more murder, and psychological manipulation.

As the story progresses, Ryu becomes less and less corrupt, fighting for the good guys, and K helps whenever he's in a sticky situation. 

[Minor spoiler for very early episodes]

When you discover that K is actually another personality in Ryu's head, and it's just Ryu doing everything all along in true Tyler Durden fashion, it's not a surprise, but perfectly executed. The trauma that caused K's existence is utterly heartbreaking, but not as heartbreaking as the depiction of his adoptive family, with a 'brother' who means well but can be a bit useless, and Ryu's adoptive mother suffering from early stages of dementia.

This all sounds really grim and depressing doesn't it? 

Wrong. It's action packed, with romance, fights, and some utterly hilarious moments that are so brilliantly executed it just got me thinking.

When we watch a series in the West, there's usually a genre attached. Heck, pull up Netflix or Disney+ and you get "Action series", "Comedy series", "Drama", "Horror", etc. Yet this is another series I've watched that basically asks the question - 'Why can't it be all?'

It was dark, with some seriously messed up themes in there, but retained its humour without compromising the subject matter. Absolutely brilliant.

Thinking about how the genres were completely thrown out of the window reminded me of Alchemy of Souls, another amazing K-Drama that blew me away.

Alchemy of Souls promo image (season 1)

Alchemy of Souls is like magic wielding Game of Thrones. Four powerful families, a strange fictional land, and one of the most complicated stories for a couple of lead characters you could imagine. Cutting it down to basics, Jang Uk (played by Lee Jae-wook) is lazy and spoiled, but his father was one of the most powerful mages. Jang Uk has had his power restricted for fear of him becoming too powerful and overthrowing the king. He meets Mu-Deok (played by Jung So-min), who physically may be the missing daughter of one of the powerful families, but her body is inhabited by Nak-su, one of the most deadly assassins who has vowed to destroy the mages after she uses the forbidden 'Alchemy of Souls' - magic that allows people to swap souls into different bodies, but they run the risk of 'going wild' and feeding off of the lifeforce of others.

The whole series is simply beautiful to look at, and at its heart is a powerful love story between the two leads. If Nak-su is revealed, she'll be killed by the mages, and Jang Uk eventually trains to become a mage. The action is fantastic, there is intrigue, manipulation, subterfuge and deception on a Game of Thrones level, and yet it is filled with beauty, romance, and above all, moments of complete hilarity. It's really funny in places, and some of the side characters are just adorable. 

Yet again, it may be a fantasy series, but it's got action, horror, humour, romance... all perfectly balanced.

Next post, I'll rant about how brilliant Sell Your Haunted House is, and how the ending to Alice in Borderland did what Lost couldn't do. 

Sunday, February 12, 2023

Maybe there's hope

Over the last year, my head's been a bit all over the place, but I've managed to keep my brain in gear by returning to simple comforts.

Photo of Scully and Mulder from The X-Files

I've written about The X-Files on my blog on a few occasions in the past, but it's really one of those shows that has got me through a lot over the years. I have fond memories of hearing the buzz about the series from the States, though we had to wait a bit longer before it aired on the BBC in the UK. I was at University when that first episode aired, and I think Debs and I were around at a friend's house for the evening especially hyped up ready for that first episode. Snacks at the ready, that opening text saying "The following story is inspired by actual documented accounts." had me gripped, and by the time the light from the UFO shone down, and the leaves were spinning around, I was absolutely hooked.

As I mentioned before, there have been a few series on TV that I have become completely obsessed with, starting with Moonlighting, then Twin Peaks, and on to The X-Files, Lost, and Buffy. But up there, at the top of the list sit two of those series - Twin Peaks and The X-Files. Twin Peaks I love for its weirdness, David Lynch's ability to just go with it and do things how he wants, and Mark Frost's perfect encapsulation of a small town gripped with an evil paranormal presence. I was so obsessed with Twin Peaks, and I still love it. 

Sharing the top spot of my favourite TV series is The X-Files, which took some of my favourite elements of Twin Peaks (FBI agents investigating weirdness) and created an amazing series that spanned 200+ episodes and two movies. 

I was just as obsessed. I bought magazines, the action figures, t-shirts, the video games. Heck I bought the series on VHS, I bought the VHS Evidence box collections, and when the series was released on DVD I bought it again in those numbered limited edition sets. And then, when a magazine partwork started up for the series, I bought it again on DVD so I could have the magazine. I'd been watching it on Disney+ and lamenting not purchasing the BluRay set of all 11 seasons when it first came out as it sank into unavailability, but luckily they did a reprint and my lovely wife bought me the set for Christmas, allowing me to finish off the last few series in glorious HD with heaps of extras.

Heck, while I was a student, I didn't have a TV except for a little black and white portable in the rented room I was in, but a friend used to record the series from Sky and loan me the VHS tapes, and I watched them in the University library on the VCRs they had in there on my lunch hours. I couldn't wait for the BBC showings that were months and months after Sky.

When I graduated, another friend knew of my obsession with The X-Files and recommended a roleplaying game with similar themes called Conspiracy X, which lead to me eventually writing for the publisher (Eden Studios), writing a new edition of Conspiracy X, and really launching my roleplaying game writing career - it's all down the The X-Files.

Over a year ago, I started a rewatch of The X-Files, and over more recent months it has been the highlight of my week. Whenever things got tough mentally, or I felt stressed, I knew I had another episode of The X-Files I could pop on in my rewatch to distract me from the world.

Maybe There's Hope print by Easyqueenie
This morning, however, I reached the end. 

My Struggle IV, the last episode of Season 11. And my rewatch was done. I know people complain about the last series, but I really enjoyed it. And watching it all in quick succession made the themes of the series really fit together as a whole.

Would I like to see more? Heck yes!!

I want to discover Skinner is alive. I want to see Miller and Einstein become the new agents in the office, with Mulder becoming their 'deep throat' contact, alerting them to cases. Or even two new agents completely. Shake it up a little. Let Mulder and Scully have some peace, stepping in for the big episodes if necessary.

Just because CSM was shot (multiple times) does that mean the conspiracy's plans are halted? Was the virus still going to go ahead? (The X-Files once again predicting real events...)

Will there be any more? I don't know. But as Scully said at the end of Season Nine - 'Maybe there's hope.'

What next for me? I mentioned online that I was going to watch The Lone Gunmen series again (my wife's just bought me the series on DVD as my original boxed set was the wrong region and we don't have a multiregion player anymore). After The Lone Gunmen I mentioned starting a rewatch of The X-Files again, and someone commented that I could watch something else? I do watch other things, a LOT of other things, but don't you have that favourite movie you watch when you're feeling down, or a favourite book you reread every summer? For me, The X-Files is that comfort watch. 

Saturday, February 4, 2023

February is a time for cards...


The Vertigo Tarot deck

Following on from last week's post about my doubts and anxieties, and how I was unsure of the best course of actions, I turned to the cards. I know it's weird, but as I wrote about on this blog many times in the past, I've always had a bit of a fascination with the tarot. My dad had a deck, I created a deck that got me into art college for my graphic design degree, and I designed another deck for the WILD RPG that was illustrated by the awesome Gareth Sleightholme. 

I used to do a lot of tarot readings for people in art college, and then turned to doing them myself every now and then when I was unsure of the future.

Beginning of a year is as good a time as any - so I cracked open the ol' Vertigo tarot, my favourite deck, and shuffled, asking what I was supposed to do next. In traditional Celtic Cross layout, I got the following.

  1.  Eight of Wands - this represents me, and tells me that I'm coming to a realisation or conclusion, that I need to choose between a number of possibilities. I mean, that's kinda why I was doing a reading in the first place.
  2. The Hermit - this represents what's holding me back, my immediate obstacles. The Hermit is supposed to represent withdrawing, acting alone, seeking wisdom, and having a difficulty in connecting to people. Well, this is right again - I like hiding in my little house, singing Paramore to myself ("This is why I don't leave the house..."), and yes, I do find it hard to connect to people most of the time. 
  3. Ace of Pentacles (Reversed) - This is my past, and what is the basis of my current situation. The Ace (reversed) is supposed to represent an imbalance, and a need to focus on one thing or one area. That'd be nice. It'd be especially nice if I could focus on something I really like or am passionate about as well...
  4. Ten of Swords - Again, more of my past, and more recently what's behind me. The Ten of Swords is all about intellect, abstraction, detachment of emotion or from daily worries. I guess recently I have had to think less about what I'm emotional about, and just get on with it.
  5. Six of Wands - This is supposed to be my present, how things are now. The card represents optimism (that's right, I'm hoping for something cool to happen), belief (I want to believe), and a flurry of activity on many projects (again, that's right - I have so many projects on right now, I'm looking forward to some of them getting completed so I can focus on something).
  6. Justice (Reversed) - This is the future. And a reversed Justice isn't great. It represents being dishonest to myself, an unfair outcome or situation. So that's something to look forward to, the future is unfair, and I'm going to lie to myself about how great everything is.
  7. Five of Wands (Reversed) - Up the side of the Celtic Cross reading are another four cards, this being the first and it represents my attitude. Attitude? I don't have an attitude do I? Ha! Anyway, this is another reversed one, and this card when it's upside-down means conflict, anger, feeling betrayed. Is that what I'm feeling right now? I don't know...
  8. Four of Wands (Reversed) - the second of the cards up the 'staff' is all about my environment, and what is around me in my current situation. I mean, besides some book cases and a sofa. This is upside-down again, so it's probably not going to be great. Tension, or people having trouble working together. That can't be right, can it? 
  9. Eight of Cups - at last, a card the right way up again. This is supposed to be about my hopes and dreams. The card is supposed to represent a change in my situation, and flashes of excitement and movement. That's nice. I think?
  10. Knight of Swords (Reversed) - the last card is supposed to represent my outcome, but it's also a Court Card. Some people read this is a person that is going to have some sort of impact in my life, whereas some read it as this is the reader and what they are going to do or become. The Knight of Swords (Reversed) can be read that I'm making rash decisions, pulling others down with me. That I'm impatient, or that a big opportunity is about to come my way. It could also represent someone with some sort of privilege who can help. It could also be telling me that I need to be assertive, pursue my dreams, but I shouldn't rush things.
Did it help? No, but it did kinda tell me things I already knew. 

Oh well. Patience, Jedi... 

Sunday, January 29, 2023

Different Year, Same Anxieties


Image of Calendar Page turning...

There's a strange thing that happens with the start of a new year - you have that feeling that something is going to have to change. It's a new year - new you, and all that. Last year may have been a disaster, but this year, this is the year it all changes. The start of the new year is filled with hope and optimism, and by the time you get to the end of January there's the massive slump.

And that's something I'm feeling right now. All that hope of the new year has dwindled, and now I'm in a right funk as they say. And not the good kind. 

I still have hopes for this year, they just seem almost impossibly far away. 

So much I want to do both work wise, and in my spare time, but sometimes it feels like walking through molasses and my free days and evenings I'm just struggling to even get out of bed. 

Maybe it's just the way my brain works. There have been a couple of times over the last four or five years that I've signed up for mindfulness courses (through our wonderful NHS) and seminars on overcoming stress and anxiety. Luckily I still have the mp3s of the mindfulness sessions. Maybe that'll mean I can get to sleep before 2am, rather than spending a couple of hours staring at the ceiling wondering if I could have done something differently or said something that would have changed things.

So much for weekly blogposts, eh? 

Maybe next month...

Until then, keep safe, and look after yourselves and yours. 

Thursday, December 29, 2022

2022 - A year in the rearview


Sunset over the street - photo by Debra Chapman

We're getting to the end of the year, and it's time for my usual review of what's happened. Another year I'm glad to see diminish into the rearview mirror. 

What actually happened? 


This is where it gets tricky. Work-wise, I'm bound by lots of NDAs, but needless to say lots of things happened, there was lots of writing, approvals, checking, more approvals, and my line at Cubicle 7 put out some cool Doctor Who related stuff, including a Starter Set, a book of connected adventures, a guide to planets and alien worlds, and we did what was assumed to be impossible - convert Doctor Who for 5e Dungeons & Dragons, allowing non-violent conflict and encounters to really shine in 5e. When "Doctors and Daleks" was announced there was so much backlash it was ridiculous. Nearly half of the comments were "why don't you use another system?" - there already is one! Doctor Who: The Roleplaying Game has been around for nearly 13 years.

Social Media

Comments like that nearly drove me off the internet entirely, and I tried to avoid social media for a bit. Of course, with the purchase of a certain large social media platform by another idiot with more money than sense, last month I finally pulled the plug on my Twitter account. 

It's been weird without it. I still have the twitching urge to sit and doomscroll, but I've deleted my account and the app, so maybe my need to constantly do something else while I'm watching stuff on TV will subside eventually. Sometimes I just can't switch my brain off...


Still of Scully and Mulder from The X-Files

As mentioned before, I find it really hard to concentrate on TV and movies. I need to keep my computer/phone/ipad away from me and actually force myself to sit and watch something. There have been two exceptions to this - one has been my rewatch of The X-Files. I started rewatching it a while ago when we got Disney+, and I've been really enjoying rewatching one of my favourite series ever (The X-Files is up there at joint number 1, sharing the position with Twin Peaks). I'm currently in the middle of Season Eight, and my lovely wife has bought me the bluray collection so it's even shinier than the Disney+ streaming rate (I don't think our X-Box does it justice) and there are loads of extras to immerse myself in. When I finish Season Eleven, I may start again, only going through all the extras as well, or watching episodes with commentary. 

Sell Your Haunted House

The other exception has been watching loads of cool series that require subtitles. That really means I can't get distracted with social media, and have to concentrate on the TV to take in the story. It has opened my eyes to a whole world of amazing series. I really enjoyed 1899, from the makers of another great favourite of mine, DARK. And I've been watching loads of fantastic South Korean series, such as Alchemy of Souls, Hotel Del Luna, and the fantastic Sell Your Haunted House


When it comes to games, I kinda just mean tabletop roleplaying games. I've discovered I'm awful and very, VERY, out of practice when it comes to video games. And I mean real video games. Sure, I play things like Hogwarts Mystery on my phone, but when it comes to console games, I'm pretty crap. I tried playing Star Wars: Fallen Empire for the first time yesterday and I died a dozen times on the first level while it was trying to teach me how to play. And that was on 'Medium' difficulty...

On the TTRPG front, outside of some playtesting at work, I guess I've been mostly playing The One Ring. Okay, I have a confession to make - I'm not really one for 'fantasy' RPGs, though I still play D&D on a monthly basis with my old gaming group. The One Ring (we're playing Free League's 2nd Edition) has been fairly epic, but we're frequently getting killed in it and have recently started with a new set of characters after a stream of disastrous rolls lead to another TPK. It's been okay. I don't feel quite as invested as the Tales from the Loop games or the Star Wars ones have been, but it's been fun and we'll see how it progresses. There are some epic plots going on in the background we keep touching upon (though when we get close, I usually roll really badly and get my ass kicked). 

Very interested to actually play Blade Runner to experience the investigation side of it first-hand... 


Otherwise, it's been okay. I still dream of moving out of the city (it's too busy for a country boy like me). I'm still very reluctant to leave the house... there are scary people out there! I'm still convinced that the guys who fixed our roof were scammers who ripped me off, and I shouldn't keep reading the local news.

I did leave the house this year though, and in May I took to the air again for the first time in seven years, flying to Dublin to visit Cubicle 7's head office. I have to say, for someone who doesn't like being around large groups of people, Stanstead Airport is not a great place to be. 

At the airport, looking at a RyanAir plane

Compared to the 18-hour flight to Australia, this was thankfully short, and certainly a lot more cramped. But, I made it both ways. I think I have a similar trip to look forward to in the New Year, but at least I know what to expect this time around.

Looking Ahead...

With another trip looming on the horizon, what else can I expect from the new year? I have no idea. Only thing I can be certain of is that I'm going to try to host #RPGaDAY again in August - it's 10th year and we should hopefully do something cool for the anniversary. Don't know what yet.

I'm doubting the name of my various pages/handles, using Autocratik. I'd originally used the name when I wanted to do things for myself, and it began as a play on the REM album "Automatic for the People" when I published as "Autocratik for the Masses". But now I'm doubting it. A rebrand may be coming... 

I want to draw more. I started an autobiographical graphic novel... three times I've started that now... one day I may actually be happy with what I draw. Mostly, I think it sucks.

I want to get off of social media, and stop relying on it for everything - but on the other hand I want to return to blogging on here more. But does anyone actually read this? 

Above all, I want the fighting to stop. I want the rich to use their money for good for a change. I want people to care about each other, and the world they live in. 

And I want you all to have a peaceful, prosperous, and a healthy 2023.

Stay safe everyone, and stay multi-classy.

Sunday, November 27, 2022

Not so Social Media


It's been a long time since I posted on here, and things are definitely going to change. 

Why? Well... social media... 

Over the last few months I've realised something about social media - it can be a wonderful place to share stories, gain news, spread the word of some great new product you have coming out. But it can also be a complete dumpster-fire of hate, and there have been times when I've looked on Twitter to discover my heartrate has increased, and I'm getting angry at the world. Yes, I am that "Old man shouts at cloud" guy. 

With the takeover of Twitter by that megalomanic billionaire, I've realised the best thing I can do is just delete Twitter. I mean, how many movies or TV shows have you watched at home and found yourself only really half watching it while one eye is doomscrolling through Twitter? 

Possibly why I've been watching so many subtitled series these days to actually make me get off of the phone or tablet, and actually concentrate on the series I'm watching. And wow have I been watching some brilliant series thanks to this - Alchemy of Souls, Sell Your Haunted House, All of Us Are Dead, Hotel Del Luna... amazing. 

So, at the end of this month (November) I'm deleting my Twitter account. A bit of a shocker after twelve years, and it could be interesting for #RPGaDAY next year, but I think I'll be better off without it. 

Means I can get back to posting on this blog instead!

Meanwhile, you can keep up to date by following this blog, or liking my Facebook page ( /autocratik ) 

Stay safe.

Saturday, September 17, 2022

Jean-Luc Godard - Alphaville

The final movie in that Godard bluray set I reviewed way back in 2016 for the old Geekologists blog was Alphaville. For the last few days I've been republishing the reviews after the legendary director died earlier in the week. If you've never watched any of Godard's work, I've heartily suggest Breathless or Alphaville as your starting points...

(Originally published February 2016)

Today, the 1st February 2016, STUDIOCANAL is releasing a boxed set of films by the legendary director Jean-Luc Godard on blu-ray. Over the last few weeks I’ve been reviewing the disks one at a time, and this week I turn my attentions to the final movie in the set, 1965’s “Alphaville”.

After the bright colours of the previous movies, Godard returns to black and white again with this film-noir set in a strange and distant city across the galaxies called Alphaville. Eddie Constantine plays Lemmy Caution, an American private-eye that originated in a series of books from the 30’s and 40’s, sent to Alphaville with a number of missions. He arrives under the alias of Ivan Johnson, a journalist for Figaro-Pravda, and quickly discovers that the city is under the control of a massive computer - Alpha 60, created by Professor von Braun.

The computer has outlawed emotion and love, in favour of logic and control. Those who show emotion are executed. Bibles in the hotel rooms are replaced with dictionaries, constantly updated as words are outlawed and replaced with authorised ones. 

Lemmy Caution meets Natacha von Braun (the wonderful Anna Karina again), daughter of the man who created the computer, hoping to gain access to the Professor in order to either capture or kill the Professor and destroy the Alpha 60 computer. However, he falls for Natacha, and she starts to show feelings for him - a criminal offence that could lead to her execution.

Alphaville is a stunningly clever bit of science fiction, carefully presented as a classy film noir. Godard uses his experimental eye again with the use of negative film, and some amazing tracking shots, following the actors into elevators and filming from another elevator through the glass as they travel. Fantastic cinematography, especially for 1965. 

The city of Alphaville was filmed in Paris, focusing on the new architecture and building that is a long cry from the loving portrayal of the city in Breathless, and in black and white it really can feel like an alien city at times. But it is the portrayals of Caution and Natacha that once again make this film. Constantine looks like he’s been pulled straight from the novels that inspired his character, and Karina once again brings sensitivity and emotion to a place and movie that is otherwise devoid of these things.

It is a slow and brooding piece of cinema that is not for everyone, but is hauntingly mesmerising and presented in a restored blu-ray that maintains the the gorgeous black and whites, and keeps the cool grain of its source. The only let down is the lack of extras on this disc compared to the massive amount on the other discs in the set. We have the introduction by Colin McCabe, a trailer, some poster images, and a new interview with Anna Karina (under 5mins). 

However, with the other four movies in the set that I’ve reviewed over the last five weeks (Breathless, Une femme est une femme, Le Mépris, and Pierrot le Fou), the Essential Godard collection blu-ray is exactly that, essential. A perfect way to add some class, some beauty and a whole lot of cool to your blu-ray collection. 

Friday, September 16, 2022

Jean-Luc Godard - Pierrot le Fou

This week I've been reprinting the reviews I wrote back in 2016 of the bluray boxed set of movies by the late, great, and legendary director, Jean-Luc Godard. The fourth film in the set, and the fourth movie in my reviews, is for 1965's 'Pierrot le Fou'.

(review originally published in January 2016)

On the 1st February 2016, STUDIOCANAL is releasing a new boxed set of films of the legendary director Jean-Luc Godard on blu-ray. Over the last few weeks I’ve reviewed the first three discs in the set - now it’s time to look at 1965’s “Pierrot le Fou”.

After the attempt at a big budget “Hollywood” movie with “Contempt”, Godard returns to his simpler roots with a familiar tale of a criminal couple on the run, discussing the meaning of life and art, while on an unstoppable course for self-destruction.

Jean-Paul Belmondo, one of Godard’s regulars, plays Ferdinand Griffon, a former TV writer whose marriage to a wealthy Italian wife bores him. At a party designed to introduce him to a potential employer, he realises he is surrounded by idiots. The party-goers dialogue sounds like fake television commercials and everyone is so dull, compared to Ferdinand who spends his time reading, looking at art, and thinking about life.

He leaves the party early, and runs off with his babysitter - a former lover, Marianne, played by another Godard favourite (and wife at the time), Anna Karina. At her apartment filled with guns and a dead man killed with a pair of scissors, he discovers she is gun running and being chased by gangsters involved in the Algerian war. They steal the dead man’s car and drive off to the country.

Marianne quickly gets bored of hiding in the idilic countryside, and the gangsters soon catch up with them, but it will eventually be their own self destruction that will end their relationship.

Pierrot le Fou is typical Godard. Beautifully filmed, with striking colours, with a feel of “make it up as we go along” that has become so synonymous with his movies. Sequences are shown out of chronological order, and characters break the fourth wall repeatedly - there is a great moment where the leads are driving, and Ferdinand turns to the camera to talk over his shoulder. Marianne asks who he’s talking to - “The audience!” is his reply. Obviously! 

Continuing the feel of Contempt, this one is not a cheery film. It has its moments of surreality and humour, and even a couple of almost musical numbers. But in the end, the feel is that of loss, betrayal and dislocation. Of wanting more from life, to truly experience one’s feelings, but finding a lack of sense. 

It also hammers home some political messages in a less than subtle way - not in the least when they put on a “play” to raise money from tourists that depicts the Vietnam war.

A moving and cerebral film that will stick with you long after the dramatic ending.

The blu-ray is suitably gorgeous, as you can imagine, bringing out all of Godard’s colour use beautifully. The audio is clean and cool as well. 

Extras include a 50+ minute documentary (Godard, Love and Poetry), and introduction by Colin McCabe, a subtitled “commentary” of the entire film by Jean-Bernard Pouy analysing the film, and an interview with Anna Karina.

Godard: The Essential Collection Blu Ray is released on the 1st February 2016, and I’ll be reviewing the final disc in the set, Alphaville, next week.

Thursday, September 15, 2022

Jean-Luc Godard - Contempt

Continuing my week of reposting the reviews I did of the late Jean-Luc Godard's movies for the old Geekologists blog, the third movie in the bluray boxed set I was sent to review thanks to the lovely folk at STUDIOCANAL is 'Contempt'.

(Originally published January 2016)

On the 1st February 2016, STUDIOCANAL is releasing a boxed set of films by the legendary director Jean-Luc Godard on blu-ray. Over the last few weeks I’ve been reviewing the disks one at a time, and this week I turn my attentions to the third movie in the set, 1963’s “Le Mépris”, aka “Contempt”.

The previous film, “A Woman is a Woman” was Godard embracing colour and cinemascope in a tale of woman wanting a child, and the conflict with her partner over that.

In stark contrast, “Contempt” tackles another couple falling out, but instead of the playful fun of the previous film, we’re presented with the harsh frustrations of a couple failing to communicate. Failed playwright Paul (Michel Piccoli) is hired to rewrite a movie of The Odyssey, currently being filmed by the one and only Fritz Lang (played by himself). Paul brings his wife, former typist Camille (the legendary Brigitte Bardot), who catches the eye of the film’s producer, Prokosch (Jack Palance). 

Prokosch wants to make the movie more of an action Hollywood movie, but Lang wants to make an art film. However, when Paul allows Prokosch to drive his wife home, Camille changes. Thinking Paul has offered her up as some form of payment to get his job on the film, she finds Paul utterly contemptible (hence the title of the film) and their relationship breaks down.

The whole film can be read on many levels. It could be that the lead characters are mirroring the Odyssey, with Paul and Prokosch as Odysseus and Poseidon, and it can also be taken as a mirror of real life (with Paul as Godard, Camille as Godard’s wife, Anna Karina). The parallels between the movie and the making of the movie is also seen in the way that the producers want a big budget Hollywood movie, demanding more action and nudity, when Godard wanted to make art. The opening shot of Brigitte Bardot’s naked (but not explicit) body was not in the version Godard wanted to make, but the producers insisted, claiming he couldn’t make a film with Bardot without a nude scene.

The film itself is gorgeous as you’d expect. Filled with colour, beauty and lush cinematography. In fact, the cinemascopic widescreen is utilised in true Godard fashion for a protracted argument scene. In “A Woman is a Woman”, and to some extent, “Breathless” before it, Godard had a lengthy apartment scene, letting the characters communicate their feelings, their motivations, and argue. In “A Woman is a Woman” this argument was fun, witty and clever, with a humorous take by using book titles to express their words when they were not talking to each other. In “Contempt” words are the characters downfall, and the widescreen pans slowly between the characters, often in different rooms, emphasising the distance growing between them. 

Like “A Woman is a Woman”, I’d not seen this one before, and it is heralded as a masterpiece of cinema. The film is gorgeous, looks fantastic, and is beautifully made. But the film isn’t a happy watch, filled with frustrations, lack of communications that ultimately ends in tragedy. Godard was making a big budget Hollywood-esque film, with most of the budget being spent on one of the biggest actresses at the time. Godard was intrigued about making a big budget movie, and this really wasn’t one he enjoyed. After this, he’d go back to the movies he enjoyed making.

The blu-ray is simply gorgeous, with a marvellous and pristine presentation, keeping the beautiful colour. Included on the disk is an introduction, as well as two hour long documentaries (“Once upon a time there was… Contempt” and “The dinosaurs and the baby” - a discussion between Godard and Fritz Lang) and a half hour making-off “Contempt-Tenderly”, as well as a conversation with Fritz Lang and a trailer (that blows the ending of the film, so don’t watch it first!)

Definitely worth watching, but not as much fun as “A Woman is a Woman”. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Jean-Luc Godard - A Woman Is a Woman

Yesterday I posted a review of Breathless I wrote back when STUDIOCANAL released a five movie bluray set of Jean-Luc Godard's work, as the news had just hit of the legendary director's passing. 

Today, I'm continuing the reposting of those reviews from the long gone blog, this one of the movie "A Woman Is A Woman".

(Originally posted Jan 2016)

On the 1st February 2016, STUDIOCANAL is releasing a boxed set of films by the legendary director Jean-Luc Godard on blu-ray. Last week, I had a look at the first film in the box, the stunning and ultra-cool “Breathless” (À Bout De Souffle). This week, I turn my attentions to Godard’s first work in Cinemascope and colour, “A Woman is a Woman” (Une femme est une femme).

Still oozing in cool, Godard embraces colour and cinemascope and feels like it is paying tribute to the big budget, colour musicals of Hollywood. But it still retains its originality, its playfulness with the medium and film language, to make it unmistakably Godard’s, and genuinely wonderful.

I’d not seen the film before, but reading the synopsis it sounds horribly dark. Angela, an exotic dancer in a strip club is in a relationship with Émile. She wants to have a baby, but he doesn’t, fearing it’ll tie him down and stop his chauvinistic galavanting. She turns to his friend Alfred, who is in love with her, and threatens to sleep with him to get what she wants.

It could be seen as a dark, and slightly depressing story of a love that has gone cold. A relationship coming to an end, and Angela’s desperation to have a child. But it’s not. Far, far from it. 

Instead the film is bright, colourful, filled with humour and music that feels more like a modern independent romantic comedy, like “(500) Days of Summer”. It’s no surprise that “A Woman is a Woman” is one of Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s favourite films. 

Anna Karina plays Angela with such vibrancy and humour, she is absolutely mesmerising. You wonder why the cold Émile, played by Jean-Claude Brialy, isn’t worshipping the ground under her feet. They have a strange relationship, and most of the film they are arguing, but not in a horrible way. There have been films where couples argue or hate each other (“War of the Roses”, “The Breakup”) which I have absolutely hated, coming out of the film feeling depressed. This, the arguing is sweet and amusing. There are segments where they refuse to talk to each other, highlighting words from book covers to insult each other. But in between her arguing and telling Émile that she hates him, she looks to the camera, breaks the fourth wall, and tells the audience that she really loves him.

The other man in her life, Alfred, is played by Breathless superstar Jean-Paul Belmondo. Playing it cool and rogue-like again, but in a more subtle way that before, and showing a real affection for Angela. 

I won’t tell you how the film is resolved, it seriously should be seen. It has lovely quirks - like Angela going to answer a phonecall, throwing a frying egg up into the air, answering the call, coming back to catch the egg - and plays with Godard’s signature jump-cuts perfectly - one of Angela’s dancer friends changes clothes by simply walking behind a post. Add fourth wall breaking, cycling around an apartment, and captions on screen to add to the mix, and you’re presented with a wonderful treat that has already become a favourite in my books.

The blu-ray is suitably gorgeous, though the music track seemed a lot louder than the rest of the film (probably more a problem with my TV set up than the film). Extras on the disc include an introduction, and an interview with Anna Karina. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Jean-Luc Godard - Breathless

Many moons ago I used to write movie reviews and go to press conferences and all those exciting things. I was in the room with 95% of the Avengers, the Guardians of the Galaxy, the cast of Antman, and more. When doing those movie reviews, I was given the opportunity to review a new BluRay set of Jean-Luc Godard movies that came out in 2016, and I leapt at the chance.

I have fond memories of my A-level Film Studies class, being told how Godard filmed almost ad-lib and composed the story in edits. How the iconic jump-cuts worked, and the super-hip style of the movies. I was mesmerised. It was like a whole new door of movies was opened to me, and I eagerly watched as many movies of his as I could. 

With his passing this week, I thought I'd republish the reviews of that boxed set as the site they were written for has long since gone, starting with the first Godard movie I saw - Breathless.

(Review from 2016)

On the 1st February 2016, STUDIOCANAL is releasing a new boxed set of films of the legendary director Jean-Luc Godard on blu-ray. When the lovely people at STUDIOCANAL offered to send an advanced review copy of the set, my thoughts flew back to my dim and distant youth - sat in my film studies class and being shown Breathless (À Bout De Souffle) for the first time, mesmerised by the freedom, the cool and the style.

The chance to see it again and review it? I couldn’t pass it up.

Breathless is simple, underground, and the very height of cool. Made in 1959, using new lightweight cameras, Godard went out into the streets of Paris to film without the baggage of a huge film crew, or even permission to film. Writing the script usually on the morning of each day’s filming, the movie is a true guerrilla film-maker’s dream. 

The story follows relative newcomer Jean Paul Belmondo as Michel Poiccard, a gangster and criminal who returns to Paris after shooting a cop. There he reunites with a beautiful young American, Patricia Franchini (played by the wonderful Jean Seberg), and he tries to convince her to run away with him to Italy. He just needs to get the money owed to him before the police track him down.

A simple plot that frames a love story that is so beautifully played with such natural ease, you cannot help but be mesmerised by the performances. 

Breathless is often heralded as the birth of the French New Wave, the “Nouvelle Vague” movement of the 60’s. Movies were created with little or no script, sometimes completely redubbed with new dialogue to make a plot in editing. The jump-cuts quickly feel natural and while an audience brought up with purely Hollywood movies will be shocked at the sudden cuts and odd continuity, the freedom this style brings infused cinema with a fresh breath of creativity and cool that remains just as smooth today.

The blu-ray has been lovingly restored, overseen by the film’s cinematographer, Raoul Coutard, and given a gorgeous enhancement that retains the grain of the original film. While it may not be the super-crisp picture you’re used to with modern movies, this looks just like the film was intended and how it would have looked when first shown. (Though there are some missing frames that could not be restored).

The disc also includes a host of extras, including an introduction to the film, a 50min documentary about Godard’s influence on American directors, an 80min documentary (Room 12: Hotel de suede) looking at the making of the film, as well as a feature on Godard and one on Jean Seberg. 

All I can say is it’s incredibly cool, and I’ve still got four discs to review! It may not be your average geekdom for this site, but it’s well worth checking out if you’re interested in film.

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

#RPGaDay2022 - Day 31: When did you first take part in #RPGaDay?


Quite an easy question for me today, as I first took part in #RPGaDay when it started nine years ago.

However, I'd like to take this opportunity in this final day's post in #RPGaDay2022 to thank everyone for getting involved this year, and in previous years. It's great to see so many people share cool stories and positivity about tabletop gaming. Thank you for your support.

Big thanks to those who translate the posts into other languages for me, it is greatly appreciated.

And especially big thanks to Anthony Boyd who created most of the questions this year.

Thank you all. 

Until next year!

Stay multi-classy!!

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

#RPGaDay2022 - Day 30: What should #RPGaDay do for its 10th Anniversary next year?


This is quite a big question really, and one that could have quite an impact on next year. As you know, this is the 9th #RPGaDay, so for its 10th Anniversary next year I felt we should do something cool. But what?

Different format? Charity fundraiser? An award a day? 

Suggestions will be logged, and we'll see what we can do to make next year's celebration of positivity even better.