It’s that time when I look back at my cultural highlights from the previous month!
My reading this month has been focused on finishing my 20 Books of Summer challenge, so extra reading has been minimal. In keeping with my attempt to read more poetry this year, I did manage to read My Darling From the Lions by Rachel Long.
Rachel Long was nominated for the Forward Prize for this, her debut collection, and it is easy to see why. The collection is striking and razor sharp, creating short dramatic narratives that contain uncomfortable truths about growing up in London as a mixed-race girl and young woman. Exploring emerging sexuality, family, blackness and legacy, this collection is intimate and accessible without sacrificing depth or technique.
The corners of my eyes have been stitched into my hairline.
All the sheep’s wool they love to touch and say eww to at school
has been harvested into rows at the top of my head;
black crown or web.
‘Mum, my scalp burns!’
‘Ungrateful! Look at you, beautiful as Winnie Mandela!’
I don’t know who this is,
but it doesn’t sound like someone Ben Clark will fancy.from ‘Jail Letter
We have been on a bit of a horror kick in our house this last month, which has been unintentional, but very enjoyable.
I’m a big fan of Ben Wheatley’s work, particularly Kill List and High Rise, but would say that A Field in England is probably his most inaccessible film, yet is no less enjoyable for that. Set during the English Civil War of the 17th century and shot in black and white, A Field in England is about a diviner (Reese Shearsmith) and a group of deserters who are captured and forced to aid the enigmatic necromancer O’Neil (Michael Smiley) in his search for gold, which he is sure is buried in one particular field. That’s about as coherent as the film gets as the men take mushrooms, dig for gold and pose stock still in ‘tableux’ at certain points throughout the film. It didn’t make much sense to me, but the performances, subversive imagery and stunning cinematography made it completely fascinating.
I’ll be very interested to see what Wheatley does with his Netflix adaptation of Rebecca, which feels like the last movie I would expect him to direct.
The actor Alice Lowe has worked with Ben Wheatley before, co-writing and starring in his film Sightseers. Prevenge is her directorial debut, which she wrote, directed and starred in while 7 months pregnant! A pitch black, wryly funny revenge thriller, Prevenge follows pregnant widow Ruth as she avenges the death of her husband, spurred on by her unborn daughter. Like Rosemary’s Baby, Prevenge plays on the fears and anxieties that arise from pregnancy – the lack of control and the need to put the needs of the baby before those of the mother at all times. Surprisingly funny despite the tension and the gore, Prevenge is a striking debut.
I’m a big fan of zombie movies this month we caught up with Brad Pitt vehicle World War Z which featured impressive special effects, but a plodding script and lacklustre performances which drained it of any scares. Much more impressive was Korean zombie flick Train to Busan which features, as you would expect, zombies on a train. It’s tightly focused and frenetically paced, with a surprising emotional depth, and benefits from some genuinely frightening moments.
Train to Busan is one of the best zombie movies I’ve seen and I look forward to watching the sequel Train to Busan: Peninsula when it is released later this year.
This month I have been mostly listening to the gorgeous new album Voices by Max Richter, one of my favourite composers. His new work is based on the ground-breaking Universal Declaration of Human Rights, established in 1948. Richter has brought together recordings of people in over 70 countries reading the document against the backdrop of his luminous orchestral arrangements. Beautiful, moving and timely.
So, those are my cultural highlights from August – what have you been reading, watching and listening to this month?
I am a 40 something book buying addict trying to reduce the backlog one book at a time!