Archive for July, 2006

Geisha

A day ill in bed let me consume ‘Memoirs of a Geisha‘ in under three days. The downside to such intense reading whilst under the weather was a night of half-waking dreams fuelled by 1930’s Kyoto intrigue. This book is mostly excellent, and very compelling. The closing tenth is rather too much of an easy resolution, in my opinion, with difficult situations left unclosed and key characters dropped. But don’t let that stop you reading and enjoying it.

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Cooling by the river

A whole week of evenings by and in the river. What better way to end a hot sweaty day than by swimming in and sunbathing by the river, without a stitch on? I just hope the river swimming wasn’t the cause of my day in bed on Saturday, feeling nauseous and achey.

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Tideland

This alarming film affected me too much to write about it straight away, and in the same vein I wanted to digest it internally afterwards and couldn’t face staying for the Q&A with Terry Gilliam. My considered verdict: thought provoking and haunting and worth seeing, although I doubt I’ll watch it again. The lead performance from 11 year old Jodelle Ferland as Jeliza-Rose was stunning, and the cinematography excellent. A film that will make an impression.

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Fantastic

Yesterday morning we went into town to collect my 40th birthday present from Graham. It’s a limited edition print of the Mathematical Bridge at Queens’ by Alison Neville.

The style, treatment of the subject and the colouring are super, and it’s a substantial size which looks great in pride of place in our living room.

Graham, thank you very much! I’m a very lucky and very happy boy.

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Close Range

What a beautiful day! We spent all afternoon at the Riverbank, giving me the opportunity to finish Annie Proulx’s superb collection of short stories, Close Range: Brokeback Mountain and Other Stories. Unremittingly bleak but shot through with human strength. My favourites included A Lonely Ghost, The Governors of Wyoming and Brokeback Mountain.

The latter is very moving, much more concise than the film of course, but I think the film captures the spirit of the story and of the Wyoming depicted in the whole collection.

Reality’s never been of much use out here – Retired Wyoming rancher

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A Scanner Darkly

Saturday’s festival film for us was A Scanner Darkly, based on work by Philip K. Dick. Animated on top of live action and featuring a star cast, the film has a great look and suitably paranoid atmosphere, but my attention wandered in the middle and the developments at the climax seemed compressed.

Later we went to Parker’s Piece to catch the end of The Big Day Out, especially the acrobatic theatre piece by exponential, The House of Sleeping Souls. It started too slowly for some of the audience – some of whom seemed to have been drinking all afternoon – but developed into a very exciting combination of video, movement, live and recorded song, and excellent acrobatics.

The fireworks followed as soon as the performance had ended, to finish the evening and the lovely sunny day.

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La Science des Rêves

Another night, another film: this time The Science of Sleep directed by Michel Gondry and starring the wonderful pairing of Gael García Bernal and Charlotte Gainsbourg.

Bernal plays a character caught up in his own dreams, realised in the film as a mixture of cardboard props and lovely large-stitch soft toy renditions of typewriters and telephones. He falls in love with his neighbour, played by Gainsbourg.

Very inventive, very funny, and super performances. My favourite so far.

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Un jour d’été

Our weekend film festival marathon started yesterday with A Summer’s Day, which is summarised fairly accurately in the Festival Programme. Baptiste Bertin was very convincing as the central teenager, but the film was full of strands and points of view. all presented in a restrained and highly effective manner. I thought it was tres bon.

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England & Germany

Another interesting tasting at Cambridge Wine Merchants on Mill Road.

Chapel Down NV Sparkling Wine
Very dry, sherbet and fruit with good acid. A fine alternative to the French equivalent, although somewhat pricy at £13.99.
Foundation Estate 2003 Riesling Kabinett, Trabener Würzgarten
The first bottle was faulty! It smelled of poor sherry and tasted oxidised, flat and yucky. I got Allison to try it, and she rejected it straight away. Our glasses got passed around to let everyone see the stark difference, as became apparent when a new bottle was opened. Very fresh, loads of acid, reasonable fruit. This was a QmP wine, so in theory of higher quality (and price – £7.99) than…
Carl Schmitt-Wagner 2004 Riesling Longuicher Maximer Herrenberg
A gorgeous young Riesling, with loads of fruit and acid balancing each other. Better than the previous wine even though only a QbA, and excellent value at £6.50. Graham bought us two bottles.
Burger Wendelstück Spätlese 1992 Weingut Berner Müller Pension
No botrytis on this one, but definite hints of petrol and raisin, and plenty of acid even after 14 years in the bottle. Maybe I should get a couple to keep for a year or two?
Burger Hahnenschrittchen 1973 Auslese Berner Müller
Apparently ‘Hahnenschrittchen’ means ‘chicken step’. An amazing 33 years old, and sadly starting to get a bit fragile. The first bottle had a very mouldy cork top, and a mushroomy nose. On the palate it was gorgeous but hard to enjoy with that whiff. The second bottle opened (apparently) with a sulferous nose, which cleared, but wasn’t quite as full and honeyed on the palate. This would have been a fantastic wine year or two ago, especially at under £20.
Carl Schmitt-Wagner 1996 Auslese
Brought in at the last minute as a replacement for the over-the-hill chicken step wine. Only (!) ten years old, a lovely honey and beeswax nose with good flavours in the mouth and plenty of fresh acid. Another potential keeper.
Chapel Down Pinot Blanc 2004
We moved back to the English wines for the second half. This Pinot Blanc was searingly acid, but I really enjoyed its hints of grapefruit, and I think it would go well with spicy food or rich pate. As with all the English wines, expensive at £10.99.
Chapel Down Schönburger 2004
Very interesting and very tasty. A peachy nose, and a fruity and spicy flavour with bitter peaches coming through in the mouth, good acid and quite a long finish. Apparently the Schönburger produces better wine in England than in Germany, where it can be flabby. This definitely wasn’t, so Graham got two at £8.99 each.
Chapel Down Pinot Noir 2004
Eek! £19.99 a bottle. A brave attempt at an English Burgundy, and the nose and structure were heading in the right direction, but just too austere and thin overall.
Foundation Estate Riesling Eiswein 2003 Waldracher Laurentiusberg
Mmm. Heaven in a glass. I could have sniffed the gorgeous nose all night. My notes got a bit carried away: “rich raisiny nose, hints of solvent. Rich but deliciously acid mouth, buttery and biscuity”. Being naughty, Graham got us two bottles. Yum.

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Gallery

My gallery is now online at http://www.michaelgray.org.uk/gallery/
– now all I need to do is upload more photos.

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