Crusade and other delights for Belltable season

I’ve been meaning to do a post on the Belltable Arts Centre’s autumn line-up so here is a preview of what’s coming. The programme for the next two months includes film, theatre, music and visual art.

Tomorrow, Wednesday August 29, the Belltable Youth Musical Project will preview Crusade. Crusade “is the epic musical story of the ‘Children’s Crusade’ which took place in medieval France in the early part of the 13th century. This factual and remarkable episode in history takes us into the world of medieval France, into the innocence and naivety of blind faith, into the treachery and darkness that lives in the minds of men, as the Crusade explores the power and survival of the human spirit against all odds. It is a journey of hope!”

Crusade is an Irish premiere and has a cast of 30—most of them young actors—and was produced by Richie Ryan (a well known figure in local theatre, who is also the director) and Michael Young. It will run from August 30 to September 8 at 7.30pm nightly.

Film is prevalent with screenings on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. The Cine-Club includes some interesting offerings such as Wes Anderson’s new film, Moonrise Kingdom, and David Cronenberg’s adaptation of Don DeLillo’s novel, Cosmopolis and more. There are some tie-ins with Limerick Writers’ Centre with documentaries, Barbaric Genius and We Are Poets as well as three films from the Southern Mediterranean region in association with Access Cinema.

Bottom Dog Theatre Company will do rehearsed readings of four new plays—one on each of the first four Sundays in September. On Saturday 22, Blood in the Alley will present Woman and Scarecrow by Marina Carr. From September 28, Breda Cashe presents a stage version of Mitch Albom’s sob-fest, Tuesdays With Morrie. Surefire Productions is giving Stephen King’s disturbing tome of fan obsession, Misery, an airing from October 4. Fawlty Towers: The Dining Experience is back by popular demand on October 9 and 10.

All the music events are jazz themed to tie in with the Limerick Jazz Festival in September. On September 13, the Joshua Redman Trio will perform and as part of the actual festival, Crisis Point will play on September 30. On Culture Night (September 21), the Belltable will host a jazz photo exhibition, film screening, performance and a talk.

The visual art exhibitions are: Regia, featuring artists, Patrick Corcoran, Carl Doran, Maurice Foley and Laurence Weiner, which runs until October 13. Painter, Magdalena Jitrik’s International Lantern, will run from October 19 until November 24.

It’s good to see that there is a new youth musical project to complement the in-house community theatre project. The Belltable has given the stage over to Limerick Youth Theatre already this season with its successful production of The Miser. Leading local company, Bottom Dog, will do a series of rehearsed readings with new work to the forefront. The emphasis on jazz for September is a good idea too.

I can’t help thinking that the venue is playing it safe by showing a lot of film. Cinema screenings are cheap to run. On the plus side, they seem to be drawing a crowd. The theatre selection errs on the careful side too with three popular literary/TV adaptations. But is it better to be safe than sorry in this economic climate? This programme is obviously trying to strike a balance and I hope it pays dividends in the box office. As always, I would encourage people to attend as many events as they can. Audience support is vital to all branches of the arts.

Stuff to occupy ya in Limerick this week, Feb 21 to 26

There’s a lot on this week, so I’lltry to give a brief run down…

The Belltable Arts Centre has averitable cultural feast this week hosting film, theatre and literary events.

 

Fillums

The Cine Club is on tomorrow (Tuesday Feb 21) at 8pmwith The Deep Blue Sea starring Rachel Weisz and Tom Hiddleston. The film is based on a play by Terence Rattigan where the wife of a judge lives a pampered but lonely life. She turns to her husband’s younger friend for comfort and the affair spurs a drastic change. The film deals with forbidden love, suppressed desires and the fear of being alone. On Saturday 25 at 8pm, it will screen Stella Days starring Martin Sheen and Stephen Rea. It is the story of a man whose love is the church and whose passion is the cinema. Set in the rural community of Borrisokane, County Tipperary in the mid 1950s – it views a world on the cusp of the modern era, a time stimulating both excitement and apprehension. Tickets for films are €8.50/6.50 (Special season ticket; 5 films for the price of 4 @ €34. Get one screening free).

Theatre
The fantastic play, Tom Crean: Antarctic Explorer, is on Wednesday 22nd and Thursday 23 at 8pm. Aidan Dooley’s multi award winning one-man play tells theheroic tale of Tom Crean—the intrepid, Irish Antarctic explorer. This play is truly moving and uplifting withan amazing true story. It’s so epic I’ve been to see it twice! The ticketsare €18/22. www.belltable.ie

Kate O’Brien Weekend
From Friday 24 to Sunday 26, the annual Kate O’Brien Weekend is on—the first two days in the Belltable and on Sunday, the venue is the Lime Tree Theatre in Mary Immaculate College.The event is a celebration of Irish writing in honour of Limerick novelist, Kate O’Brien and will include recitals, discussions and lectures on the theme of ‘Tell it slant’. Speakers include the poet, Seamus Heaney;novelist, John Boyne and Irish Times columnist, Frank McNally and a host of others. For more info, see
www.kateobrienweekend.com.

TAN! Theatre at The Loft

Promising local company, Wildebeest Theatre, will present a new comedy, TAN, at The Loft venue at 8pmin the Locke Bar Thursday Feb 23 to 26. It is written and performed by Ann Blake and Marie Boylan and directed by Myles Breen. Join Aisling and Siobhán, two Limerick girls, as they get ready for a night on the town. Putting on their make-up, discussing the ‘lads’, ordering the taxi,straightening the hair, then backcombing the hair, drinking the vodka, eyeing-up the Munster team, bitching about their other friends and applying that all important fake TAN! Tickets: €10 and booking is on 085-1462364.

Jazz and comedy at Dolan’s 

Dolan’s Upstairs on the Dock Road plays host to the Limerick Jazz Society’s first gig of its spring season on Wednesday Feb 22 with the Louis Stewart Quartet taking to the stage at 9.15pm. Guitarist, Louis Stewart, is a bit of a jazz legend and he plays with Len McCarthy on sax, Peter Hanagan on bass and John Daly on drums. Tickets are €13/10. Comedian and keyboard enthusiast, David O’Doherty, also performs at Dolan’s Warehouse on Thursday 23. I’ve seen him doing stand-up before and he’s excellent. The show is billed at 7.30pm and tickets are €16. www.dolans.ie

Music at Bourke’s Bar

The great, free music gigs on Thursday Nights @ Bourke’s will continue on Feb 23 with a doubleheader—Squarehead and Grand Pocket Orchestra—with doors at 9pm.

Concerts, conferences and readings at UL

The Irish World Academy of Music and Dance in UL have three events this week—two concerts and a seminar. On Tuesday Feb 21, there will be a free traditional music performance from some of Ireland’s best traditional musicians from 1.15-2pmin Theatre 2 (the building is on the Clare campus, over the bridge; big dark wood and gold yoke).  On Wednesday Feb 22, there’s a seminar on performance/text/context there. If you’d like more information about this event, contact Ruadh Duggan (ruadh.duggan@ul.ie).On Thursday Feb 23, there’s another lunchtime concert (1.15-2pm) with pianist, Fionnuala Moynihan, playing two piano sonatas by Hadyn. www.irishworldacademy.ie

As part of the Millstream Writers Series at UL, the Belfast poet Ciaran Carson will read from his published work in the Millstream Common Room on Friday Feb 24.  The free event will begin with a wine reception at 6.30pm and the reading by Ciaran Carson will be at 7pm.  Parking will be available in the car park adjacent to the University Concert Hall. For further details contact Linda Stevens on 061-202433 or email linda.stevens@ul.ie. All welcome.

Visual art exhibitions–Object/ive Obsession and Bit Symphony

The exhibition, Object/ive Obsession, continues at the Limerick Printmakers Studio & Gallery on Sarsfield Street until March 3. Obsession is the domination of one’s thoughts or feelings by a persistent idea or image, at Valentines we can easily relate it to obsessive love but for this exhibition we have invited artists to share what are their obsessions relating to their work. Each artist was given gallery space to display their chosen objects and obsessions.Then, several printmakers made a print in response to these pieces. The artists involved in this project are: Jacob Stack, Dawn West, Eoin Barry, Des Farrell, Alan Crowley, Catherine O Brien, Marie Connole, Brian O Shea, Carl Doran and Paraic Leahy. The printers are: Des McMahon, Dan Kenny, Pamela Dunne, Suzannah O Reilly, Emily Doyle, Fiona Quill and Gary Dempsey. www.limerickprintmakers.com

In celebration of the purchase of the neighbouring Opera Centre site by Limerick City Council, Ormston House on Patrick Street is presenting Bit Symphony, a solo exhibition by Liam O’Callaghan, which will also run until March 3. The show is an audio-visual installation consisting of an assemblage of turntables, amplifiers and speakers, reconfigured and manipulated so as to autonomously perform a complex musical composition of looping records. Liam O’Callaghan creates the sound by forcing loops, changing speeds, warping and physically scratching records, fading volume in and out and altering tones. Through these simple techniques the original sound is altered to be unrecognisable from its source and transformed into something new entirely: a series of unique sonic/music compositions.
www.ormstonhouse.com/

Silent but deadly: Film review of The Artist

When I heard the hype about The Artist—a black and whitesilent film about the silent film era—it had ‘gimmick’ written all over it. Butthe reality is a romantic comedy which proves that you don’t need dialogue inthe face of a charming story.
The film starts in 1927, when dashing silent movie actor, GeorgeValentin, is at the pinnacle of his career. Young actress, Peppy Miller, istrying to break into the industry. She idolises George and he gives herinvaluable advice but the age of ‘talkies’ intervenes. George’s popularitywanes because of his reluctance to embrace the change where Peppy’s star isonly ascending. The film then follows their respective fortunes.     
Firstly, it’s bizarre to watch a film with no speech but thescore is fantastic. It conveys the mood perfectly. Following the structure of asilent film, the sporadic dialogue in subtitles appears after the actors speakso that adds an element of suspense along with the plot points. The plot has afew twists to keep things interesting so the novelty of the format never wearsoff and the running time isn’t too long. The film also has a brilliant, self deprecating humour. It reminded me mostof Charlie Chaplin’s work but it has nods to all the genres that excelled in celluloidsilence i.e. romance and adventure. George’s second name is surely a referenceto actor, Rudolph Valentino; one of George’s films has actual footage of aDouglas Fairbanks swashbuckler and Peppy even utters one of Greta Garbo’sfamous lines “I want to be alone”. It struck me as a fond homage to that eraand classic Hollywood glamour.  
French writer and director, MichelHazanavicius, is obviously very clever, and not just for having theballs to make a silent film in the age defined by acronyms like CGI and 3D.Without dialogue, the direction hinges on visual cues. To this end, there areshots of George passing in front of a sign/storefront saying ‘Lonely Star’ orlooking at his reflection ‘dressed’ in a tuxedo in the window display of amenswear shop or the swift cutting together of Peppy rushing to save Georgefrom himself ending in the climactic “BANG!” I don’t want to spoil anything butone of the best scenes is an excellent dream sequence. He does it all with theenviable flair associated with French cinema. The cinematography and productiondesign were exceptional too.
The cast deserves the highestpraise; while they are forced to over-act—exaggerating gestures andexpressions—the performances don’t seem forced. Jean Dujardin, as George, lookslike he could have been a silent film star; it must the moustache and/or the teeth. He’s funny, ‘mugging’ for thecamera, but still brings depth to the role in the moments of despair and rage.Bérénice Bejo is instantly likeable and gives a lively, passionate performance.Jack the dog, mainly played by a talented pooch called Uggie, is an outrageousscene-stealer. No joke; the dog is amazing! He’s cuter than ALL the cat videoson Youtube combined. The strong supporting cast includes John Goodman and JamesCromwell.
The Artist is being touted for abig haul at the Oscars next month after its recent success at the GoldenGlobes. When the nominations are announced later this week, I would besurprised if it doesn’t get nominations for Best Film, Best Director, BestOriginal Screenplay, Best Score and Best Actor at least (along with a few ofthe technical awards). I reckon it’ll do well because it’s different and takes risks.The Academy love those traits in a film. The Artist made me feel like I waswatching something 90 years ago, when pure entertainment ruled and there was agenuine frisson of possibility. It gives an insight into a lost art and asimpler time. It’s not the kind of film that’ll change your life but it’s very enjoyableand the ideal remedy to the January blues.
PS: Aside from the film, thehighlight of the night was the ticket seller in the Omniplex in Limericktelling us that the film is silent. “D’uh, we know!,” we said. Oh, how welaughed BUT apparently people have been coming out complaining that there wassomething wrong with the sound and demanding their money back when told thefilm was all silent. The cinema is planning to put up a sign to avoid futureconfusion. He didn’t see the funny side when my friend approached him after thefilm to ask for a refund…
PPS: Did I mention The Artist is a silent movie? Well, it is.  

PPPS: Seriously, that means no spoken dialogue/sound effects bar music for the vast majority of the film. You have been warned! :)

Interesting film screenings/deadlines for Fresh Film Festival

For all you film buffs out there…
The Belltable CineClub 2012 season kicks off tonight, Tuesday January 10, at 8pm with Woody Allen’s romantic comedy, Midnight in Paris.I loved the film (review here) so if you’re at a loose end, tickets areavailable from the Belltable’s box office and www.belltable.ie. The special Cine Club Ticket (5 tickets for theprice of 4 for €34) is also available on request. 
The Cine Club has some brilliant stuff on in the comingweeks including the adaptation of Lionel Shriver’s brilliant book, We need to talk about Kevin, on January 17; anotherliterary adaptation, Wuthering Heights, on January 24 and French family drama, The Well Digger’sDaughter on January 31. I’ll outline the February screenings in a few weeks.
Tomorrow, Wednesday January 11 at 8pm at Friar’s Gate Theatre, the documentary Congo–An Irish Affair will be presented in association with Access Cinema. Thefilm is “a penetrating and poignant study of theIrish-led 1961 UN peacekeeping mission to Katanga, a province that wanted tobreak-away from the newly independent Congo and the two Irishmen who were keydecision makers in the country during that time, Gen. Seán McKeown, commanderof the UN military force and Irish diplomat, Conor Cruise O’Brien, the UN’scivil representative in Katanga”. Tickets are €7; www.friarsgate.iefor more details.  
Fresh Film Festival
For young filmmakers, the Fresh Film Festival deadlines are fastapproaching. If you are under 18 and havean idea for a film or have a ready-made film that you would like to havescreened, you can enter the search for Ireland’s Young Filmmaker 2012. You have to fill in anapplication and enter your film(s) to the festival by Friday January 27 (from Ireland) or Friday February 3 (from other countries). 

See www.freshfilmfestival.netfor more information. The festival is on in Limerick from March 26-30.

Film review: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Remaking a film in English when a perfectly good foreignlanguage version already exists is a gamble but like all bets, sometimes itpays off. This is the case with David Fincher’s adaptation of the Stieg Larssonnovel, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
The books are superb crime fiction (Dragon Tattoo is onlythe first of the ‘Millenium Trilogy’) and I would highly recommend them. I thought the three Swedish films didtheir native Larsson proud. I was sceptical when the remake wasannounced—thinking it was surely an indulgence for dimwits who complain aboutsubtitles. Annywayyyyy, what a difference a director makes. Not to take awayfrom Niels Arden Oplev’sskills but the man behind Seven, Fight Club and The Social Network takes DragonTattoo to another level. The Bond film-esque opening title sequence with apounding cover of Led Zeppelin’s Immigrant Song by Karen O (singer with theYeah, Yeah, Yeahs) was a sign of good things to come.
The story is the same. A disgraced journalist, MikaelBlomkvist is hired by a wealthy industrialist to investigate a 40 year oldfamily mystery. The case of Harriet Vanger’s disappearance has Blomkvisttearing skeletons out of closets so he has to enlist the help of LisbethSalander. Salander is a unique investigator—an anti-social computer hacker—butcan she and Blomkvist catch the killer?
The book’s plot is convoluted because of its multiplecharacter arcs but the film has two and a half hours to tie it all together,which it does well. The script makes minor adjustments i.e. the location of onemajor plot point at the end is adjusted drastically BUT it simplifies oneaspect of a complicated ending. Steve Zaillian, whose previous writing creditsinclude Schindler’s List, adds some punchy and shocking dialogue as well as welcome lighter moments to break the tension. Healso glosses over anything too Swedish i.e. cultural references, which mightalienate the (American?) viewer. The Swedish films are more loyal to the detailin the books but I’m not sure that’s the most important thing. Novel and film are asdifferent as languages as English and Swedish. 
Fincher thinks outside the box in terms of perspective. Iremember watching Panic Room and thinking that the shots of the inner workingsof locks/walls etc were clever. He has touches like this again i.e. whenBlomkvist has his head in a plastic bag and he shows his laboured breathingfrom inside the bag. The whole film just screams ‘Cool!’ It’s a long film butnicely paced with a few adrenaline pumping scenes at all the right moments. Thereare graphic sexual and violent scenes, which tells us Fincher isn’t one to shyaway from reality. The chilling revenge scenes illustrate the book’s originaltitle: Men Who Hate Women.
The acting was good all round but Rooney Mara as Lisbeth Salander is a revelation. As a relative unknown, she was a bold choice. She looks more like Lisbeth as described in the books and underwent an extreme physical transformation to do so. In the Swedish films, Noomi Rapace is amazing but Mara is more convincing. She has to endure horrible things, which is probably why she’s cold, distrustful and hostile when provoked. She’s also highly intelligent, moralistic and loyal. Salander is an unlikely heroine but you can’t help admiring her spikiness. I suppose you’d call her feisty…at the risk of her kicking the living sh*t out of you.

Daniel Craig is easy on the eye as noble hack Blomkvist. Iimagine Craig enjoyed playing the anti-James Bond because in comparison to Salander,he’s a wimp. The chemistry between him and Mara is slow-burning but they seem to complement each other very well. Stellan Skarsgård plays the secretiveMartin Vanger subtly; Christopher Plummer, Robin Wright and JoelyRichardson are adequate in their supporting roles. The rest of the cast areonly bit players in the Salander/Blomkvist show. Mara recently got a GoldenGlobe nomination and I’d say she’ll get an Oscar nod too. 
Two more noteworthy aspects of Dragon Tattoo are: overallproduction design and soundtrack. It was shot in Swedenand is a tourism advert for the beauty of the country. The sets arestraight out of an Ikea catalogue and the costumes look great (not a surpriseH&M have launched a Lisbeth-inspired fashion line). My one argument wouldbe that journalists rarely have such opulent houses and lead such interestinglives *lol* so they slipped up on the facts there! Trent Reznor (of band, Nine Inch Nails) and Atticus Ross have provided a perfect score—industrial and spartan for the most part. 
The director said he wantedto make a mature, ‘grown-up’ film and he has achieved that, in content as wellas complexity. It’s not one for the faint-hearted but it was in my top threefilms of 2011. Not that the Swedish ones weren’t good but I can’t wait for theremakes of books two and three of the trilogy. To paraphrase Casablanca, I think Fincher and Larsson have begun a beautifulfriendship, not to mind Salander and Blomkvist…