Hotel Mumbai


Films about atrocities have to follow certain formulas and tick various boxes, while hopefully delivering entertainment in what amounts to a kind of societal scab-picking. The victims must be humanised, while being represented as innocent as possible. At the same time the perpetrators must have their motivations made as clear as possible – though understanding should not eclipse the evil of their actions. There should be heroism on the side of the underdog victims, balancing the perception of power between “good” and ”evil”. This, it is commonly thought, will generate suspense. It does.

Such films must stay slavishly close to the facts, since any potential audience will have been bombarded repetitively with the true story, as it happened and will be primed to a high level of ‘nit-pickerdom’ before the film version has even started. It was certainly that way with me. And the Taj Hotel in Mumbai – a week of almost 24 hour coverage at the time it happened – gave the whole film a strange sense of resonant deja vu.

“Hotel Mumbai” takes all these “rules” of atrocity films and sticks to them so assiduously that I felt that the film was ticking check boxes as it went along. This is no criticism, after all anyone seeing a film on this subject must already be something of a cynic and will (even if only subconsciously) expect it to follow the “rules” and appear unbiased (since the potential Muslim) viewing audience is vast and best not alienated, as events surrounding “Charli Hebdoe” show all too clearly.
Despite all the constraints loaded onto “HotelMumbai” before it even starts, it is a remarkably successful film. The whole audience does know the ending before the film starts; But still looks like its been hit by a bus as it exits the theatre. Throughout the last third of the film I could hear my companion grinding her teeth because it made her “so angry.” Make no mistake, “Hotel Mumbai” is a good film, if not a great one- just don’t expect it all to end with a big Indian wedding- or a “Dance off” with the Terrorists; But you already knew it wasn’t that kind of film, didn’t you?
Review (c) Alex Rieneck 2019 All Rights Reserved*

Mary Queen of Scots

Mary, Queen of Scots

I was almost loathe to see this film because when I thought about I I realised that I’d forgotten just about everything I’d ever learnt on the subject . I mean I knew it hinged on idiotic doctrinal hair splitting between Catholics and Ptotestants and that Mary came to a sticky end, but that was about it. Oh, that and I had a a razor -sharp recollection of a Monty Python sketch called “The Death of Mary Queen of Scots.” Which was no help at all, except to make me laugh all over again decades after I’d seen it.

Anyway I decided that my buggered up memory would still help me spot things like a Chinese Elizabeth and thatI was probably ahead on knowledge over the average punter anyway, and being an arrogant git, check the facts after I’d seen the film. So that’s what I did. And, largely innocent of the story- line, I sat back and let the film be a film and entertain me, and lo and behold – it did! The script was something of a wonder, it took a plethora of complex characters, clarified them, set them against each other and let the nastiness flow. As you’d expect the peacetime concept of Christianity “saviour Jesus meek and mild” gets short shrift when thrown to a gang of powered- crazed sociopathic religious zealots. Before long there is a civil war in England and everybody is slaughtering everybody else for the most completely idiotic of reasons (as is usual with wars.)
Mary, the Catholic, loses and is taken captive and locked up in some nasty black hole. Over time, in a series of very well acted and conceived scenes, Elizabeth comes to show a grudging respect, if not affection for Mary since under the various bullshit constraints of religion, politics and social mores, they actually have a lot in common. Sadly however, over the period of Mary’s incarceration the country has become more politically and religiously extreme. Attempting to appeal to their Protestant monarch, certain unpleasant element simply go barking mad. Crazy rumours of imaginary Catholic plots abound, and the conspiracy theorists line up to point the finger at Mary who, they theorise must be behind all the plots, presumably pulling all the strings by mobile phone from her dungeon. I made that last bit up by the way, partially to show how little the human race has changed since 1590-or-so. So Elizabeth, get her steely-eyed look on and tells Mary that although
“she doesn’t want to” the rumours are proving destabilising to the kingdom since the longer Mary stays alive the weaker Elizabeth looks as a monarch.
And we can’t have that- so Mary has a date with the headsman. For which she wears a lovely red dress so the blood won’t show, And the psychopathic Elizabeth goes on to be the Empress Elizabeth I who establishes the British Empire across the Globe and shifts the economy from an agrarian one with occasional forays into profitable wars on the continent, to one wholly founded on piracy, war and pillage One which, I might add, Britain is still living on the proceeds of So finally, “Mary Queen of Scots is a fine film, a good solid entertainment for a generation raised on the complexities of “Game of Thrones” which is itself closely modelled on (albeit earlier) British history, and the lack of dragons is more than made up for by the verisimilitude of the plotting. I found the ending to be far more emotionally confronting than I was expecting, even though by that time my memory had caught up and I was expecting it. I wanted to cry, but I was too emotionally wiped out by it. I left the theatre mumbling the [epilog of Kubrick’s “Barry Lyndon]” to myself for the arid comfort it gives.

“It was in the time of (X)
That the aforesaid personages lived and quarrelled,
Good or Bad,Handsome or ugly rich or poor
They are all equal now.”

I liked this film. I’m looking forward to seeing it again.

ERRATA:
Since seeing “Mary Queen of Scots” my historical research on the subject, while it has existed, has been rather rubbish; But to give me my due, I am at least admitting that, rather than just grasping at a (catholic) God-given opportunity to bullshit.
I am assured that Mary and Elizabeth never met, their communication being constrained to a fairly long series of letters (which have presumably survived and which, at a guess, form the backbone of a very impressive script. ( one which has a grasp of the language of the time reminiscent of the work ofEthan Coen)

Points For (I’m overtired )
+The film does not have Katherine Hepburn or Lucille Ball playing anybody
+You actually care about the characters, something far beyond the reach of high- school history teachers

Maria, by Callas

“Maria, by Callas”
Perfect title. Minimal advertising needed. The title alone sells the ticket to the audience. I can attest to that. I saw the title online, I saw the film at a morning session that same day.

On the other hand though, I suppose that there are people out there who do not know who Maria Callas was, and is; but while this film would serve as a perfect education on the subject, my native cynicism suggests that a late- life crash course in the subject may prove counterproductive. A person brought up on “Maroon Five”, “the X factor” and similar product might actually find the music produced by the immortal Callas’ unique vocal instrument to not suit their pre-indoctrinated notions of music. Its a hard old world; horrible, really, and I feel sorry for them. That said the morning session I was at was half-full, and they all seemed to like it, so there may be hope for the world ,after all.
For whatever.

For those who may not know but who have read this far anyway, Maria Callas was born in NewYork City in 1923 to Greek parents, and as a teenager, enrolled with a singing teacher when it was seen that she might have talent in that direction. To those who knew her at that time she is remembered as extremely motivated, almost driven. “The first to arrive, the last to leave. She would watch everyone else sing, the sopranos, the coloratura-everyone.” To hear her tell it, she was herded into the school by her mother and badgered into trying hard. She was the victim, forced into success against her will – almost overnight she became the prima operatic soprano in the world. But sadly the world at her feet proved to be manacles around her ankles. She was trapped by her success, rather than empowered by it. In a later time she might have taken to some form of anaesthesia – Whitney Houston, in a very similar situation took to cocaine and imploded, Callas stayed clean, lasted longer, and got gossiped about. But, like all public personalities she had a private side.

Her version of the story everyone thought they knew, this is where “Maria, by Callas” shines. For example, I knew that she got divorced to marry Aristotle Onassis and that he was a rotter who seduced her while she and her husband were his guests on his yacht the “Christina.” Over the years I had encountered the story of this scandal multiple times always illustrated with pictures of the billionaire’s huge yacht and pictures of the billionaire as a ghastly old man, pictures taken easily twenty years after the time in question. The film really opened my eyes, at the time, “Ari” was ravishingly handsome, and it is easy to hear the love in the aged recording of Maria’s voice, and in the love, the true Maria, the probably rather simple girl who was eaten by the vast talent that was truly a blessing to the world and simultaneously a curse to her. “Maria, by Callas” is the telling of a true modern-day Greek tragedy. Be aware though, even for real fans the film is very like a “Best of Callas” album or playlist- a bombardment of the best arias from a wonderful career played in the order that appealed to the shape of the story being told rather than the operas the arias are extracted from. This makes it easy to become fatigued by the most beautiful voice in history- and to become crotchety at being dragged back to the “real” world by the story.
In any event “Maria, by Callas” is bloody marvellous and recommended to all, neophyte and fan alike. Wallow while the wallowing is good.

Apocalyptica

(C) Alex Rieneck 2019 All Rights Reserved

The new one was different, he could tell. She already had more than the fingers of his hand, lying in a pile on the rock floor, howling, always hungry, but still they’d find something to push out of their bodies. He’d eaten the first one, it was the way. Swung it into the wall, thrown it on the fire to crisp. It was the way, eat the first one, or wait for it to eat you. That too was the way.
It had been one of the best meals he’d ever had, but the Gods were still harsh. The snow and ice was still as deep as his hips, too soft to walk on, a misery to walk through. He’d die out there sometime, that was obvious. A mist would come or something, he wouldn’t be able to find his way back to the hole. It wouldn’t take long, he was usually halfway dead when he got back with the bucket of snow and ice to be melted on the fire for drinking water.

He looked at the new one again, looked closely. It didn’t have a name. No-one had names now. The wind had blown through the world and taken all the names away with it. There was just him, and her, and the pile of wrigglers. He remembered where he’d started, picked up the new one and started examining it. Her made a noise of protest, grabbed at it, her eyes wild. He twisted it away from her, grunting deep. It started howling, which started off a couple on the floor. She‘d had half of the other one. What did she think?

The thing was different. The blue bits of its eyes covered the whole eye, lid to lid. Its hands were different too; Its fingers were pointed, had no nails and wriggled like the insides of an open body. It writhes around in his hands, an unsegmented worm, reached up to grasp the hard amulet that hung around his neck, the colour of the night sun, the shape of the night sun. He’d found it in the other hole where the others were. He liked it. He killed the them her and took it. It was his.

The wriggler’s fingers wrapped themselves around the amulet. tightly. Its head fell back into his palm and its mouth sagged open limply. The wrigglers pointed teeth were the same colour that the amulet had been before it started running out between its fingers as a jewelled, oily liquid. The thing mewled with pleasure

Maria by Callas

“Maria, by Callas”
Perfect title. Minimal advertising needed. The title alone sells the ticket to the audience. I can attest to that. I saw the title online, I saw the film at a morning session that same day.

On the other hand though, I suppose that there are people out there who do not know who Maria Callas was, and is; but while this film would serve as a perfect education on the subject, my native cynicism suggests that a late life crash course in the subject may prove counterproductive. A person brought up on “Maroon Five”, “the X factor” and similar product might actually find the music produced by the immortal Callas’ unique vocal instrument to not suit their pre-indoctrinated notions of music. Its a hard old world; horrible, really, and I feel sorry for them. That said the morning session I was at was half-full, and they all seemed to like it, so there may be hope for the world ,after all.
For whatever.

For those who may not know but who have read this far anyway, Maria Callas was born in NewYork City in 1923 to Greek parents, and as a teenager, enrolled with a singing teacher when it was seen that she might have talent in that direction. To those who knew her at that time she is remembered as extremely motivated, almost driven. “The first to arrive, the last to leave. She would watch everyone else sing, the sopranos, the coloratura-everyone.” To hear her tell it, she was herded into the school by her mother and badgered into trying hard. She was the victim, forced into success against her will – almost overnight she became the prima operatic soprano in the world. But sadly the world at her feet proved to be manacles around her ankles. She was trapped by her success, rather than empowered by it. In a later time she might have taken to some form of anaesthesia – Whitney Houston, in a very similar situation took to cocaine and imploded, Callas stayed clean, lasted longer, and got gossiped about. But, like all public personalities she had a private side.

Her version of the story everyone thought they knew, this is where “Maria, by Callas” shines. For example, I knew that she got divorced to marry Aristotle Onassis and that he was a rotter who seduced her while she and her husband were his guests on his yacht the “Christina.” Over the years I had encountered the story of this scandal multiple times always illustrated with pictures of the billionaire’s huge yacht and pictures of the billionaire as a ghastly old man, taken easily twenty years after the time in question. The film really opened my eyes, at the time, “Ari” was ravishingly handsome, and it is easy to hear the love in the aged recording of Maria’s voice, and in the love, the true Maria, the probably rather simple girl who was eaten by the vast talent that was truly a blessing to the world and simultaneously a curse to her. “Maria, by Callas” is the telling of a true modern-day Greek tragedy. Be aware though, even for real fans the film is very like a “Best of Callas” album or playlist- a bombardment of the best arias from a wonderful career played in the order that appealed to the shape of the story being told rather than the operas the arias are extracted from. This makes it easy to become fatigued by the most beautiful voice in history- and to become crotchety at being dragged back to the “real” world by the story.
In any event “Maria, by Callas” is bloody marvellous and recommended to all, neophyte and fan alike. Wallow while the wallowing is good.

Review(c) Alex Rieneck 2019

The Thing in The Kitchen

The Thing in The Kitchen.

He knew something was wrong almost before he’d closed the front door and moved past the glass- fronted knick- knack cupboards the stairs. The house was silent, but that was to be expected. She was not given to undue noise. He’d peeked into the sitting room. The sofa seemed empty in the dim light from the mostly closed curtains. The Screen, always on, was off. The room smelt slightly of dust
“Grandma?”
Something definitely was wrong. She was tiny, but his voice would have reflected from her if had she been in the house. She wasn’t in the breakfast room. She wasn’t in either of the two bedrooms upstairs, the one she shared with Grandpa or the guest bedroom. For that matter she wasn’t in the dining room or the small cupboard under the stairs either. His sense of disquiet increased that he’d even looked there, still wasn’t it possible? Then again, she wasn’t. She wasn’t in the big linen cupboard, almost a room in its own right, or in the Laundry, so he took a few seconds to stare at the back yard, *so green* to calm his nerves by perhaps divining some message in the pattern of the scattered coloured clothes-pegs on the green grass and the disconsolate drips of rain on the wires of the Hills hoist.

He turned away from the window with a small inarticulate noise and entered the kitchen by the back door. The kitchen as it was, was effectively a small dog-leg corridor between the breakfast room at one end and the laundry and backdoor into the yard at the other, with the kitchen-related apparatus, stoves, ovens, the fridge and so on pressed almost haphazardly against the walls where they were less in the way if the area was a corridor and inconvenient to use. If it was a kitchen.

Gran had never been much interested in housekeeping. The ancient gas cooker appeared to have been built entirely from hardened brown stains built up over the decades into an increasingly limply mottled brown surface in places as thick as the skin of a dinosaur and so hard that millions of cockroaches had broken their teeth trying to chew it. The floor was so thick in places you could lift the shit in sheets with a paint scraper. He knew, he’d done a small area near the front right hand leg of the stove once and the back of his throat rippled with at the memory. She watched, for his exposure of almost half a square metre of dark slimy concrete. Almost embarrassingly grateful; but the contrition and shame were harder for him to bear. He’d tried to hug her quiet, she was shorter than he but she kept talking into the hollow of his armpit, rapidly, half English, the other half her almost impenetrable native Gaelic, he shushed her repeatedly. It was alright, it didn’t matter. He’d been glad to help. When she told him that she was a sloven and he could feel the hot damp of her tears soaking his shirt. He told her the truth in the best approximation of Gaelic that he could manage after all the lessons. He truly didn’t give a shit. She started laughing almost instantly but he couldn’t tell whether the laughter was at the sentiment or at his pronunciation of the words. He’d carried her into the breakfast room, planted her on a chair and gave her a choice between tea and instant coffee; She chose cigarettes, and back then, he’d been able to join her. Her filthy filterless “Navy Cut” king size would take the taste of anything out of your mouth. Soon, through the head-spin and clouds of smoke, he could barely see her.

It had taken her a matter of months to return the patch of floor to what appeared to be its natural ghastly state, but neither of them had really noticed since the accretion of shit was too gradual to be followed on a normal clock speed. The shit built up. He looked at it now and nothing gave any hint that it had ever been any different; in fact, it looked archeological. The graves of Inca kings might be beneath it.

That was when he saw the notice stuck to the door of the fridge. It was a A4-size piece of official colour printed flexible shiny plastic. Across the top, in large red letters in a red oblong box it said “ATTENTION”. He pulled it off the fridge and brought to smaller print close enough to read.

“To whom it may concern; be it known that Mrs Marianne Stapldon, having reached the age of seventy years and not presented herself to an office of the bureau of ageing, has been detained under the terms of the ageing act and sentence to twenty years in an official facility, in this case room twenty six tier four Wormwood Scrubs Aged Hospice. Relatives and friends are welcome to visit between the hours of twelve noon and four PM, but will of course be subject to standard age protocols. Check the bureau website for more details.(signed)
KKL6577aXX subset II (Supervisor)
Bureau of Ageing (Swindon HQ)

His arm dropped limply to his side, the plastic page protested at what it apparently considered rough treatment.

It had finally happened. He’d been expecting it, one way and another, almost all his life. He’d been twelve or thirteen when they’d passed the law and they’d heard about it together, as a matter of co-incidence, in this very kitchen, back then it seemed to him the floor had been immaculate and the sun had streamed in the window like a bath of warm life that gilded everything it touched. The BBC newsreaders voice had been firm, unarguable, each word as solid as a brick in a wall. The act would become active in ten years, to allow those affected to adjust to its implications and to allow GovCorp time to renovate the newly repurposed prisons. Almost as an afterthought the same bulletin announced that the definition of offences subject to the death penalty would be greatly broadened, and the change would be applied retrospectively in keeping with pre-existing judicial rulings. The change to the act now meant that any prisoner presently serving a sentence of longer than five years for any offence, civil, criminal, political or religious would be put to death as a matter of urgency; in the prison they were incarcerated in’s pre-existing death chamber, or in the cell by travelling squads of religious police.

The news bulletin had rather sapped the joy out of the afternoon sun, until Grandma had laughed and said “Well! I won’t have to worry about that for years! Decades!” At the time she had seemed quite happy

The Thing in the Kitchen

The Thing in The Kitchen.

He knew something was wrong almost before he’d closed the front door and moved past the glass- fronted knick- knack cupboards the stairs. The house was silent, but that was to be expected. She was not given to undue noise. He’d peeked into the sitting room. The sofa seemed empty in the dim light from the mostly closed curtains. The Screen, always on, was off. The room smelt slightly of dust
“Grandma?”
Something definitely was wrong. She was tiny, but his voice would have reflected from her if had she been in the house. She wasn’t in the breakfast room. She wasn’t in either of the two bedrooms upstairs, the one she shared with Grandpa or the guest bedroom. For that matter she wasn’t in the dining room or the small cupboard under the stairs either. His sense of disquiet increased that he’d even looked there, still wasn’t it possible? Then again, she wasn’t. She wasn’t in the big linen cupboard, almost a room in its own right, or in the Laundry, so he took a few seconds to stare at the back yard, *so green* to calm his nerves by perhaps divining some message in the pattern of the scattered coloured clothes-pegs on the green grass and the disconsolate drips of rain on the wires of the Hills hoist.

He turned away from the window with a small inarticulate noise and entered the kitchen by the back door. The kitchen as it was, was effectively a small dog-leg corridor between the breakfast room at one end and the laundry and backdoor into the yard at the other, with the kitchen-related apparatus, stoves, ovens, the fridge and so on pressed almost haphazardly against the walls where they were less in the way if the area was a corridor and inconvenient to use. If it was a kitchen.

Gran had never been much interested in housekeeping. The ancient gas cooker appeared to have been built entirely from hardened brown stains built up over the decades into an increasingly limply mottled brown surface in places as thick as the skin of a dinosaur and so hard that millions of cockroaches had broken their teeth trying to chew it. The floor was so thick in places you could lift the shit in sheets with a paint scraper. He knew, he’d done a small area near the front right hand leg of the stove once and the back of his throat rippled with at the memory. She watched, for his exposure of almost half a square metre of dark slimy concrete. Almost embarrassingly grateful; but the contrition and shame were harder for him to bear. He’d tried to hug her quiet, she was shorter than he but she kept talking into the hollow of his armpit, rapidly, half English, the other half her almost impenetrable native Gaelic, he shushed her repeatedly. It was alright, it didn’t matter. He’d been glad to help. When she told him that she was a sloven and he could feel the hot damp of her tears soaking his shirt. He told her the truth in the best approximation of Gaelic that he could manage after all the lessons. He truly didn’t give a shit. She started laughing almost instantly but he couldn’t tell whether the laughter was at the sentiment or at his pronunciation of the words. He’d carried her into the breakfast room, planted her on a chair and gave her a choice between tea and instant coffee; She chose cigarettes, and back then, he’d been able to join her. Her filthy filterless “Navy Cut” king size would take the taste of anything out of your mouth. Soon, through the head-spin and clouds of smoke, he could barely see her.

It had taken her a matter of months to return the patch of floor to what appeared to be its natural ghastly state, but neither of them had really noticed since the accretion of shit was too gradual to be followed on a normal clock speed. The shit built up. He looked at it now and nothing gave any hint that it had ever been any different; in fact, it looked archeological. The graves of Inca kings might be beneath it.

That was when he saw the notice stuck to the door of the fridge. It was a A4-size piece of official colour printed flexible shiny plastic. Across the top, in large red letters in a red oblong box it said “ATTENTION”. He pulled it off the fridge and brought to smaller print close enough to read.

“To whom it may concern; be it known that Mrs Marianne Stapldon, having reached the age of seventy years and not presented herself to an office of the bureau of ageing, has been detained under the terms of the ageing act and sentence to twenty years in an official facility, in this case room twenty six tier four Wormwood Scrubs Aged Hospice. Relatives and friends are welcome to visit between the hours of twelve noon and four PM, but will of course be subject to standard age protocols. Check the bureau website for more details.(signed)
KKL6577aXX subset II (Supervisor)
Bureau of Ageing (Swindon HQ)

His arm dropped limply to his side, the plastic page protested at what it apparently considered rough treatment.

It had finally happened. He’d been expecting it, one way and another, almost all his life. He’d been twelve or thirteen when they’d passed the law and they’d heard about it together, as a matter of co-incidence, in this very kitchen, back then it seemed to him the floor had been immaculate and the sun had streamed in the window like a bath of warm life that gilded everything it touched. The BBC newsreaders voice had been firm, unarguable, each word as solid as a brick in a wall. The act would become active in ten years, to allow those affected to adjust to its implications and to allow GovCorp time to renovate the newly repurposed prisons. Almost as an afterthought the same bulletin announced that the definition of offences subject to the death penalty would be greatly broadened, and the change would be applied retrospectively in keeping with pre-existing judicial rulings. The change to the act now meant that any prisoner presently serving a sentence of longer than five years for any offence, civil, criminal, political or religious would be put to death as a matter of urgency; in the prison they were incarcerated in’s pre-existing death chamber, or in the cell by travelling squads of religious police.

The news bulletin had rather sapped the joy out of the afternoon sun, until Grandma had laughed and said “Well! I won’t have to worry about that for years! Decades!” At the time she had seemed quite happy