Teesside Snog Monster (jiggery_pokery) wrote,
Teesside Snog Monster

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Dark and colourful

Whitby is a sleepy seaside town of about 30,000 people in the north-east of England. Its main claim to fame was that it was one of the settings of Bram Stoker's Dracula. For the last ten years, though, originally once a year, recently twice a year, it has become a gathering point for goths from Britain and abroad who enjoy the music, the culture, the lifestyle and animal welfare. The tenth anniversary Whitby Goth Weekend from Thursday to Sunday is another iteration in the cycle; you can see the lineup of music, shopping and games.

The town is about 40 miles south-east from here - the other side of the North Yorkshire Moors, which are what pass for hills around here, peaking at an altitude of a whopping thousand feet. Whitby is hard to reach by public transport; you have to take a nice fast East Coast main line train from London to Darlington, which will cover 210 miles in about two and a third hours. Then you need to take an awful little local train to Middlesbrough (15 miles in 25 minutes), have a dreadfully dull connection bereft of even the most rudimentary conveniences on Middlesbrough train station's platform two, and then take another local train from Middlesbrough to Whitby (40 miles in about 90 minutes - lovely scenery but very stop-start). So the last 20% of the journey takes close to 50% of the time.

I shall go on record as putting out a standing invitation to meet anyone from my friends list who is going to Whitby by train; I will try to liven up the no-fun-whatsoever 20-minute layover at Middlesbrough train station. Today I met lnr and her seven travelling companions (ewx, marnameow plus five) in just that way and gave them the grand tour of platform two. (Better than it sounds... slightly.) It was a very goth platform, but entertainingly there were some mundanes there who were neither forewarned nor forearmed. (Rather smoky, alas, being between a 30-minute no-smoking train journey and a 90-minute no-smoking train journey.) Eventually the local train operator will learn that Whitby Goth Weekend trains need more carriages than those at other times of the year, I hope.

Lovely to see them all there - I can think of a few others who go to Whitby from time to time. Perhaps next time I can meet up with more of you, should you stop by.

From a platform of dark and colourful clothing to a cinema of dark and colourful film; for three nights only, the Middlesbrough UGC have been showing Secretary, notorious for its presentation of a sado-masochistic lifestyle relationship. In short, I enjoyed it considerably and would like to see it again, finding it a very well-made but slightly problematic film. It's not disturbing by the traditional way the adjective is applied to films, but I've been to bed for half an hour and couldn't get to sleep due to thinking about the film, so this discussion may hopefully clear my mind.

Fair use quoting the IMDB plot outline, A young woman, recently released from a mental hospital, gets a job as a secretary to a demanding lawyer, where their employer-employee relationship turns into a sexual, sadomasochistic one.. The last 15 minutes of the movie wrap up the relationship established in the first 90 minutes. The main problem for me is that I'm not convinced that the two parts mesh that well together. The first 90 minutes are a slow-burn chiller, the final 15 minutes a romance movie. The nature of the relationship in the last fifteen minutes is very different from that in the first 90; while there are elements of commonality in the physical relationship, the mental thought processes involved are very different indeed. I find it difficult to buy that the relationship really could jump from one to the other.

I also have a problem with the background that was given to the submissive secretary - a history of self-harm, a failed suicide attempt and a stay in a mental health institute. I'm sure that there are people who take such a background into a sado-masochistic lifestyle relationship, but I'm also sure there are many more people who enter into such relationships with completely different backgrounds. This is overtly an adult film, so one can only hope that the interested but ill-informed will be mature enough not leap to conclusions about the motivations of all those who might choose to enter into the submissive part of such a relationship by extrapolation from the one example in this film, but I'm not convinced. On the other hand, perhaps the crew are better-informed than I am and such a background is relatively common after all. I'd be interested to know about any research on the subject.

Yet the reason why this film is such a success is a standout performance by Maggie Gyllenhaal in the title role. She has an unattractively waif-thin body and a remarkably childlike collection of facial expressions. The script lets her find moments of intense happiness, though, which she portrays blissfully well. There are explicit and graphic sex scenes, but they came across as being primarily for the participants' enjoyment rather than for the viewers' enjoyment - they were there as an inherent and logical part of the story rather than as pure smut. (With about, I would say, four glorious seconds of exception.) Perhaps the DVD might have some extended scenes for titilation purposes, but it would be a noticeable deviation from the tone of the rest of the film if it did. I'm curious to know if there were any cuts in versions around the world which attracted a significantly lower certificate.

It's not just a one-woman show: Jeremy Davies plays his minor role in such a way as it's easy to generate a lot of sympathy; James Spader doesn't come across as being at all loving in his actions for the majority of the film, which leads me to wonder whether or not I Just Don't Get It. (It really doesn't help that he looks much like Big Brother's "Nasty" Nick Bateman - a face typecast as dodgy from frame one.) There are some gently humorous touches in there, but a rom-com this isn't. Despite my qualms about the plausibility of the change in the relationship, the first 90 minutes of the script are paced extremely well; the familiar trick of a scene being repeated has the impact that you would hope for. Beautiful camerawork, too; picklepuss, should you read this some day, I recognised what you had taught me to be a kittywampus and thought of you. Lots of symbolism with the aquatic scenes, but I'm not sure what they're supposed to represent, so perhaps they should be deemed to be attractive yet unsuccessful.

Lastly, this was a great film for audience-watching. I would estimate something like 20 of the 200 seats in the theatre were taken, mostly by couples. (One m/m couple and one f/f couple, too! You never know...) I had to wonder what the pair who stayed even longer through the credits than I did were up to; they had chosen a very unusual and secluded place to sit just above the exit passage. Also interesting to note there was one solo spectator firmly of what might reasonably be considered a suspicious appearance. Without wishing to imply blame and hoping all is well, perhaps he (like me) had planned to attend as part of a larger group only for the rest of the group not to turn up? Ah, who's to say.

Despite the problems I have with the film, I'd happily watch it again to follow Ms. Gyllenhaal along her journey. (I note she was also in Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, though I don't remember who Debbie - the character she played - was.) About the only thing which would have made it better would have been Dale Winton (US cultural equivalent: Richard Simmons) surprising us with a "No wanking, please, ladies and gentlemen" public announcement just before the usual "turn your mobile phone off" one. That would have unsettled the audience very nicelee.

Oh, and a very dark, colourful and happy birthday to scat0324!
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