Boris Godunov – Opera

The Royal Opera House

Music Director – Sir Antonio Pappano

Director of Opera – Kasper Holten

Boris Godunov – Opera In Seven Scenes (Original Version) ( Борис Годунов)

Music – Modest Petrovich Musorgsky (Модест Петрович Мусоргский)

Libretto – Modest Petrovich Musorgsky adapted from the historical tragedy by Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin (Алекса́ндр Серге́евич Пу́шкин)

The edition of Boris Godunov used in the performances is published by Verlagsgruppe Hermann, edited by Michael Rot.

Performed by arrangement with Alkor-Edition Kassel and Faber Music Ltd, London.


Conductor – Antonio Pappano

Director – Richard Jones

Set Designer – Miriam Buether

Costume Designer – Nicky Gillibrand

Lighting Designer – Mimi Jordan Sherin

Movement Director – Ben Wright

Associate Director – Elaine Kidd


Royal Opera Chorus

Chorus Director – Renato Balsadonna

Orchestra of the Royal Opera House

Concert master – Peter Manning

Directed for the Screen by Jonathan Haswell


Live from the Royal Opera House:

Monday 21 March 2016, 7.15PM

(Lottery Funded)

(Supported using the public funding by Arts Council England)


Synopsis

After the death of Ivan the Terrible the boyar Boris Godunov was appointed regent – Ivan’s older son, Tsar Fyodor, was physically and mentally frail, and his younger son Dmitry was an infant. Dmitry died mysteriously at the age of eight; many believed Boris had arranged his murder. Now Fyodor is dead, and with no direct heir to the throne, Boris is the most likely candidate to be the next Tsar.

Scene 1

Boris has retreated to a monastry. A crowd gather outside and entreat him to accept the throne. Shchelkalov, clerk of the Boyar’s Council, tells the crowd that Boris is reluctant to rule.

Scene 2

Boris is crowned Tsar in the Kremlin and his coronation is hailed by the people.

Years pass. Boris proves to be a good and wise ruler, and a devoted father. Under his rule Russia prospers. Then, unexpectedly, the country is visited by dreadful famines. The superstitious believe this is a divine punishment, visited on Boris for the murder of the Tsarevich Dmitry.

Scene 3

In the monastery within the Kremlin, the monk Pimen is interrupted by the young novice Grigory, who has had a nightmare. Grigory asks Pimen to talk about Russia’s past. Pimen talks of Ivan the Terrible, of the saintliness of Ivan’s son Fyodor, and of the murder of the Tsarevich Dmitry. On hearing that Dmitry resembles him and was about the same age, Grigory formulates a plan to impersonate the Tsarevich, and stir up rebellion.

Scene 4

Grigory (now in secular clothes) comes to an inn near the Lithuanian border, with the monks Varlaam and Missail. The Frontier Guard arrives, searching for Grigory, and carrying an edict for his arrest. Grigory realizes that the Guard cannot read and doesn’t know what he looks like, and so reads out the edict, describing the monk as resembling Varlaam, rather than himself. Varlaam protests his innocence and reads the edict correctly. Grigory escapes.

Scene 5

In the Tsar’s apartments, Xenia laments the early death of her fiance, while her brother Fyodor studies a map of Russia. Boris meditates on what he has achieved since he came to power. Prince Shuisky arrives with news that a pretender, calling himself the Tsarevich Dmitry, has appeared in Lithuania. Boris orders Shuisky to seal the border, and demands reassurance that Dmitry really did die. Shuisky describes Dmitry’s murder, but hints that the Tsarevich’s dead body may have miraculous powers. Boris, frightened, orders Shuisky to leave and, giving way to guilt and remorse, hallucinates that he can see the dead Dmitry.

Scene 6

Outside St Basil’s Cathedral, the crowd are talking about the pretender Grishka (Grigory) Otrepiev. A holy Fool sings a nonsensical song, and some urchins steal a penny [kopeck] from him. Boris and his retinue leave the Cathedral, and the hungry crowd beg for bread. The Holy Fool suggests that Boris should order the murder of the thieving urchins, just as he ordered the murder of the Tsarevich Dmitiry. Shuisky demands that the Holy Fool be arrested, but Boris instead asks the Holy Fool to pray for him. The Holy Fool refuses to pray for ‘Tsar Herod’ and laments the fate of Russia.

Scene 7

At the Kremlin, the Boyar’s Council agree that Grigory and his followers should be executed. Shuisky reports that Boris claims to have seen the dead Tsarevich Dmitry and is deeply troubled. Boris appears, still in the grip of his hallucination. Pimen enters and tells Boris that the Tsarevich Dmitry has become a saint from beyond the grave and cured an old man’s blindness. Boris collapses in a seizure. He calls for his son Fyodor, bids the boy farewell and calls for God’s blessing on his children. He names Fyodor the heir to the throne, begs forgiveness and dies.


 

Cast

Boris Godunov – Bryn Terfyl

Andrey Shchelkov (Clerk of the Boyar’s Council) – Kostas Smoriginas

Nikitich (A Police Officer) – Jeremy White

Mityukha (A Peasant) – Adrian Clarke

Prince Vasily Ivanovich Shuisky – John Graham-Hall

Pimen (A Monk and Chronicler) – Ain Anger

Grigory Otrepiev (Later ‘The False Dmitry) – David Butt Philip

Hostess of the Inn – Rebecca De Pont Davies

Varlaam (Monk) – John Tomlinson

Missail (Monk) – Harry Nicoll

Frontier Guard – James Platt

Xenia’s Nurse – Sarah Pring

Fyodor (Boris Godunov’s Son) – Ben Knight

Boyar – Nicholas Sales

Yorodivy (Holy Fool) – Andrew Tortise

Russian populace, Boyars, Soldiers, Pilgrims – Ensemble


The opera lasts approximately two hours, ten minutes.

There is no interval.

The production ‘realistically’ depicts and revisits the murder of the young crown prince (Tsarevich) Dmitry. They advise that it is not suitable for children under the age of 12 years old.


Above is the information, with a few alterations, you are provided at a cinema screening.


Review:

Staging: The stage is divided into two halves. on the upper level is the golden prayer/coronation chamber. This is also where the murder occurs. The lower, darker grey, level is where most events occur and has some large mobile scenery which can be moved in and out to change scenes.

boris godunov stage loayout

There are to the rear three moving raised platforms used by the chorus when they are dressed in traditional robes during the coronation scene and on one or two other parts. The smaller props include a yellow painted chair to represent the Imperial Throne, a bar set used during the inn scene and two manuscript scenery pieces which were very impressive. The first is during scene 3 where we see the manuscript Pimen has been writing with large illustrations of the previous Tsars. Watching this in cinema you get a close up view of the areas where they wipe the paint/ink clean after each performance where Pimen writes in Cyrillic during this scene.

The backgrounds for the upper section consist of 3 windows with are back lit. They display, depending on the scene, three bells for the monastery scenes or are unlit for those in the Imperial palace. This was minimal, but very effective, to allow an economy of staging. My only crticism would be that this upper part, unlike the lower level, seemed to have no depth and so the Boyars who walk back and forth seem very cramped and almost like characters from a 2D computer game marching back and forth during some scenes. Perhaps this area is meant to represent Boris’ inner mindscape as the murder of Dmitry is repeated her a number of times but I can only imagine the issues this alcove causes for any audiences who do not have a clear line of sight to it in the theatre.

On the lower section, after Boris’ coronation any interior scenes have the background host a line of icons of the Tsar otherwise the background is unlit and in the case of Scene 3 light is projected through the right doorway to indicate the low lighting of the monastery’s interior. On the provided simple illustration I indicate the door ways with green lines to either side of the staging. There is also a rail on the upper level and at one point one of the performers holds it with such force it rattles which was amusing but also a safety concern.

Costume: This to me was the weakest point by far. There is an odd mix of traditional clothing and more modern clothing but is set in the sixteenth and first few years of the seventeenth century. I wish they had gone in one direction or the other. Of course you have the detailed golden robes of the coronation but throughout the rest of the production you have modern clothing hinting at tradition which feels ill at ease e.g. ‘grandfather collared shirts and women in headscarves, patterns on material which is distinctly Slavic contrasting with Boyars dressed in burgundy trousers with grey blazers which distinctly are no earlier than the mid twentieth century in design.

Accessibility: This is a very good opera but also very dense to the point the fourth scene feels almost completely out of place in its efforts to offer some small effort towards a respite from the intensity. As you might have noted this is Mussorgsky’s original version and although I have not seen the adjustments by Rimsky-Korsakov, to amend perceived weaknesses, might have served to make it more palatable to a general audience those the variations have fallen out of favour so Mussorgsky’s individual harmonic style and orchestration can be valued for their originality. The music is very heavy so I would suggest anyone who like the works of composers like Puccini and have not experienced ‘heavier’ orchestrations best listen to some pieces on YouTube to see if it would be to their taste. Anyone familiar with Wagner will probably be fine. For those familiar with Rimsky-Korsakov’s alterations I would be interested to hear how you view this original draft of the opera – especially in comparison to his own works. Mussorgsky has other, unfinished works, and I would like to hear them but I am of a mind that perhaps he found the form of opera something very troublesome and despite his best efforts never truly felt at ease with it.

Subject matter: If you are not familiar with Russian history you best read the brief synopsis of the scenes so you can keep up with what is happening as there are some big jumps in time at the start.

It is best to bear in mind that this opera is based upon Pushkin’s tragedy.

Pushkin wrote of his play:

“The study of Shakespeare, Karamzin, and our old chronicles gave me the idea of clothing in dramatic forms one of the most dramatic epochs of our history. Not disturbed by any other influence, I imitated Shakespeare in his broad and free depictions of characters, in the simple and careless combination of plots; I followed Karamzin in the clear development of events; I tried to guess the way of thinking and the language of the time from the chronicles. Rich sources! Whether I was able to make the best use of them, I don’t know — but at least my labors were zealous and conscientious.”

So in context what we are watching is heavily influenced by the writers of each period assimilating and adapting the works of others. Therefore with each stage comes a divergence from reality and an embrace of the romaticised notion of a historical figure. With the mention of Shakespeare there is too obvious a comparison to made here. This opera is the equivalent of an operatic version of Shakespeare’s ‘Richard III’. The central character does not realistically represent the historical figure but a caricature. No more obvious is the parable like nature of this work than when the Holy Fool, Yorodivy, tells Boris he cannot pray for him as that would make the Virgin Mary sad. In Russia there is the fairy tale figure of Ivan the Fool (Иван-дурак or diminutive Иванушка-дурачок). The moral of these stories is that Ivan The Fool is rarely the fool, he is merely perceived as such by others owing to his simple nature and joviality. It is by being a fool, in this tradition, Yorodivy alone is allowed to state what others may not and is ultimately the final nail confirming to Boris his guilt is not only his own but one endorsed by society’s perception of him.

Despite Russia prospering under his rule he is only judged by one act: the sin of murder. He was a good ruler for the country as a whole but for its people he is a figure or fear – a man who would go so far to have power he would murder an innocent child. He is a tragic figure for whom repentance has been denied.

The murder of Dmitry is reprised a few times during the play. This consists of a short actor in an oversized papermache head having a knife drawn across his throat by three assassins and he smears a blood packet across his chest to denote the murder. If you watch this in cinema you will see it up close and it begins to look more comical the more they reprise it. That is not intentional. Part of me wishes they had just had Boris’ son play this role also as it seems this productions intention to mirror the two roles to indicate how, now with a son on his own, Boris feels greater guilt than ever for the murder. The murder is in and of itself not visceral but i understand why they have been cautious enough, in these days where even a ‘U’ rated film has to carry warning of ‘mild peril’ why they have included the warning about the graphic nature of the murder.

Conclusion: This is not an ‘introductory level’ opera. If you want something easy to follow then go check out Puccini or Bizet. If you have dealt with composers like Mahler or Wagner then try it but realise it has its awkward moments. The entire cast does well. There are a number of very impressive performances here but Ain Anger as Pimen steals every scene he is in, Rebecca De Pont Davies is a one act wonder with her bug eyed performance as the Hostess of the Inn and the solos provided by members of the ensemble each stand on their own. If I had one criticism, apart from the costume designs, it is that the preamble VT featured Bryn Terfyl talking about, as a Welsh speaker from North Wales, he finds it hard to do a Russian ‘L’ sound and for the rest of the performance that is all I could focus on with him. It reminded me of a time when  I read an Oxford Press foreword for Turgenev’s ‘Father and Sons’ where Richard Freeborn in his introductory essay gave away major plot points including which characters died and so I couldn’t bring myself to read it. It was just to big a distraction. This is a heavy opera but if you are willing to stay with it you might find it to be a tour de force and something very different from the yearly repeated performances of lighter works.


Comment, like or follow – All are welcome 🙂

http://www.roh.org.uk/productions/boris-godunov-by-richard-jones

 

 

 

 

Eko Eko Azarak 2: Birth of the Wizard (1996)

A prequel to ‘Wizard of Darkness’, covered yesterday, telling us how Misa Kuroi, Magical Occult Girl of Apathy, became the milquetoast badass we know and… look upon her with indifference as everyone else is cooler.

In today’s film instead of wandering around a school of occult enthuisiasts repeatedly saying ‘I’m a witch’, in the same way Yosser Hughes from ‘Boys from the Black Stuff’ walked around trying to get a job or Groot said ‘I am Groot’, is instead today is a damsel in distress being dragged around a town by her carer as zombified people (but only one pursues them at a time so maybe it’s a demon possessing people’s corpses) slowly follow after them. It’s classic low budget ‘within the speed limit’ hi-octane action with a shot of Diazepam just in case it blows your mind!

So we begin with little Misa being put through an occult ceremony to indoctrinate her into the lifestyle. Her carer is a pretty boy with make up on. There are lots of baritone voices and hooded robes and because of the first film you might suspect these are all teenage girls they make sure to show the old men’s faces. Misa is scared because this is ‘bad satanic’ occult magic and she is all about that good ‘dark protection’ magic involving occult pentagrams of protection. Or maybe the old men just scare her as they’re probably going commando under those robes. We never find out…

Years pass and the pretty boy now looks older. Those with their genre savvy Spidey-sense tingling already know he is going to die at some point in a melodramatic sacrificial way. Maybe to protect Misa, maybe as part of an occult ceremony which motivates her… you;ll just have to keep reading to find out.

There is a fat, bald guy stalking them pretending he is a robotic zombie. He isn’t a pretty boy so obviously he must be evil according to movie logic. Actually he is just a random guy possessed and made to chase Misa and the carer silently. Or is he? Dun Dun Durr…

At some point a police captain gets possessed and shoots his subordinates in a small police hut office as the carer and Misa pass through.

‘Taicho-sama, I’ve looked up to you ever since I was a boy! Ever since I played with my friends on the street and saw you patrolling. Taicho-sama! I remember your smile as you watched us play in the park. Taicho-sama! Taicho-sama it’s because of you I wanted to be a police officer! Taicho-sama! Taicho-sama! I lov-“

Bang.

Bang, bang, bang… Bang.

Bang.

Character development. Just like the teenage girls from the first film.We never see any consequences of this ever again. It’s comical in a way and reminded me of the following skit.

Then we have a long flash back of exposition. Misa (Kimika Yoshino) is the messiah of the occult, intended as a sacrifice or something like that. Who knows? Who cares? It’s a chase film like Terminator. The flashback gets overly whimsical as if this is meant to be a different genre of movie. Actually this might have been when the starting bit was and we only saw a glimpse at the start. It makes no difference – it’s all in the past now.

Fight.

Fat man go boom.

End of the fake out antagonist… or is it? Dun dun durr…

Now a pig-tail haired girl, who was one of Misa’s friends during the time when she was hiding out in the open by going to a normal high school… under her real name… because apparently they underestimated the thing trying to kill them, is the new stalker acting like a zombie robot. The drama has suddenly intensified! Will Misa have the strength of character to kill her friend? Oh no pigtails-chan we hardly had time to care for you before you went evil! And because you are ‘cute’ we as the audience must feel this is far worse a tagedy that an overweight, middle aged, adult being possessed and blown up unceremoniously. We will never forget how you used to giggle with your friends and… um… uh… let me think a second… hmm… okay… yup…umm.. yeah, that’s it I guess… “Character development”.

Misa starts reading some mystical script and the room shakes. Cool ‘old guy’ carer, because anyone over 25 is immediately deemed old and over the hill according to Japanese drama, tells her not to do that. Stern face… Stern pout to camera to make the housewives’ knees tremble. She has her locket from the first film. They keep showing it. Oh good is she going to be saved by another ex-machina? Her guardian loses faith. ‘No Sempai don’t lose faith’! They kiss. Well that was kind of awkward. He is definitely a dead man walking now according to movie logic. He tells her he loved her mother. Okay now that is really awkward…

This is no ‘long running TV soap opera’ drama that’s run out of original storylines and needs to get a ratings boost! Wee need less emotion, more action! Cue random battle in the long grass!

(Cue Pokemon battle music)

  • Carer-kun uses ‘Crush Grip’.
  • It’s successful! Carer-kun tears off Stalker-chan’s arm!
  • Stalker-chan uses ‘Bounce’ and does so around the room while also using ‘Flail’!
  • It has little effect…
  • Carer-kun uses the move ‘Cut’!
  • Carer-Kun cuts Stalker-chan in half!
  • It’s super effective!
  • Stalker-chan is defeated!
  • Carer-kun gains some EXP!

(Cue Pokemon battle victory music).

But shock revelation! He is now vunerable to the robot stalker spirit possession having used the last of his strength for a needlessly dramatic kamikaze attack to defeat Stalker-chan! Oh what dramatic irony! the over protective ally is now the unstoppable purser of Misa who so far has done nothing by herself! We definitely didn’t see that coming…

No not at all…

Honestly…

None of us has ever seen that similar sort of bait and switch in a film ever…

Definitely, off the top of you’re head, you could name three films that pull that trope…

Within a minute Misa runs into the circular lecture theatre with a pentagram drawn on the floor and corpses strewn everywhere. She is trapped.

… why is there a lecture theatre with a pentagram already drawn on the floor? Don’t ask questions. It’ll only lead to more…

Suddenly, without precedent, Stalker Carer-Kun pulls a sword out of his forehead. No he didn’t get stabbed in the head by Misa – that would have our protagonist actually actively doing something and that is ridiculous – nor did he ever allude to this technique. No he just pulls a big old sword out of his third eye chakra. Out of the blue…

But don’t worry! Because Misa does the power speak like she’s Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings (but obviously based on the books or the Ralph Bakshi animated film as this movie was made back in teh 90s long before the Peter Jackson series…) making the world around her shudder!

Boom he is down for the count!

The end…

…Oh but wait what is this? PLOT TWIST! A space flea out of nowhere? I think it might be!

A girl in an occult robe and using a man’s voice (which is obviously a fetish of this film series) appears!

She summons a very nice looking dragon – ghost – demon – thing…

…Which instantly kills her.

Um… okay… yeah… The big bad of the film, who I never saw before, just got wasted within a minute of being introduced. Bye, bye Prototype Cult-chan at least you died a little less ridiculously than your chronological successor.

Misa walks away from the scene. Goes to the apartment she had been living in while in hiding and sees all her friends corpses. She says a Wiccan chant and we are straight into the credits with an inappropriate pop song playing.

The end.


fuoVSap

Review

Compare what the cover of the manga looks like and what the film looks like. This series had clear budget constraints. Again I watched it without subtitles so maybe Prototype Cult-chan was mentioned, or was one of Misa’s close freinds (again) but really these films have been far better just soaking it in without wasting time on needless context. Again a low budget film where most of it went on the, admittedly astonishingly good for the era, CGI of the summoned creature at the end. A bit of a change from the first film but again Misa, our ‘cool badass protagonist’, does nothing. In the 90s Japan really had a thing for these kind of ‘heroes’ who are in situations where they rely on everyone around them to be the active participants. Just look at Shinji Ikari from Neon Genesis Evangelion or the main couple from Battle Royale. It lets the side characters develop more but these are not ensemble films so instead you just have a blank character being processed from one scene to the next while all the more interesting potential is, quite literally in some cases, sacrificed along the way.

It’s a silly film. Watch at double speed and enjoy the silliness because even by the TV budget standards of Japan back then this seems to have been done on a shoe-string budget.


 

There is a third film but I didn’t bother to watch it. I hope you enjoyed this irreverent review.

For some reason the spacing of the first first paragraphs refused to space properly despite toying with it.

What appears next on this blog? That is a mystery.

Comment, like or follow if you want to.

Uploads will remain sporadic.

Eko Eko Azarak: Wizard of Darkness (1995)

Occult girl Misa Kuroi goes to a new high school to prevent the summoning of the devil by a mysterious cult. She makes no effort to hide she is a witch. Everyone in the school loves the occult thus she becomes very popular despite the fact her only line in the entire film could be ‘I am a witch’ in the manner of Groot from Guardians of the Galaxy and nothing of her characterisation would be lost…

She is what would be later considered a Mary Sue. Really she has no personality but as usual this is explained as her being ‘tacit’ or ‘stoic’ or some other excuse for ‘blank slate of acharacter the audience can project themselves onto. She is just used as a familiar ‘attractive’ face to connect a series of individual stories that wouldn’t be able to stand on their own in the minds of those the writer answers to.
Really the truth is they’ve just hired someone for her looks who cannot act a.k.a. Kamika Yoshino a gravure idol (i.e. lots of videos and photoshoots of her posing in her bra and knickers). The logic the aundience must accept: She is pretty therefore she is the good guy. End of discussion… Always… In every film, book or story that has mass appeal because that what the punters want.
In the manga apparently she has a cloak, sword and a funky looking pentagram belt. Sadly that’s a bit too exciting for this film and would have driven the budget up by another 1000 yen (£6.40/$8.91) almost doubling the budget!

Eko Eko Azarak 19

All the students in this school, who already know way too much about the occult, have figured out the mystery before Misa’s arrival! The series of recent murders (the last of which opens this film in a lazy rehash of the priest’s death from ‘The Omen’) are all at georgraphical sites which, when connected, form a giant pentagram meant to summon the devil and that their high school is the nexus!

With these sort of deduction skills maybe we don’t need the Scooby gang, let alone ‘Occult Girl Misa: Magical Soldier of Indifference’, to come to the rescue…

The skinny boy/tool of the devil is apparently handsome, in that androgynous way the Japanese have loved ever since the Heian era, and due to this seems excused for being overly aggressive and shouting at the female characters constantly. This is something I often see in films – as long as a guy is handsome it is acceptable for him to treat women like dirt and not be judged for it. Although he is not the protagonist I often see this behaviour in Japanese films set in high schools.

The girls in this film seem to just let themselves be killed under the pretence of ‘oh but he’s so handsome and I have a crush on him. He would never do something like this!’ Cue the girl tripping over her own feet and being stabbed or bludgeoned to death. In fairness he was possessed but nonetheless you would think common sense, even in horror films, would suggest they run away from him. They, of course, don’t run nor do they fight back to defend themselves and thus all are posthumously given Darwin awards.

The lesbian teacher and the student she is grooming are pointless side characters used for fan service. They serve as examples of social deviants and, yes, both die. However not before the teacher is revealed as a cult member (shocking don’t you agree! Adults in teen focused dramas are not trustworthy!) and the groomed student is sacrificed to the devil.

My favourite moment of theirs is when the class are doing a test and the teacher takes the student outside for some frisky time. I watched this thinking ‘everyone would notice that and in reality would have been gossiping about the pair long before they became this blatant about it’. When will the girl do the test? Perhaps hitting sensei’s G-spot gets you an A grade?

Kuroi’s new best friend (Miho Kanno) walks up to her saying ‘wow you’re so cool’ at the start and hangs around her most of the film to basically tell anyone unfamiliar with the manga (i.e. basically all foreigners but also people with a life in Japan) that this is the heroine of the story and she is so fantastic and so stoic that it makes everyone fall in love with her instantly for being so undeniably cool. This goes on for most of the film with her playing the sidekick role overreacting to everything.

Guess what? She is the big bad villain of the piece. This wasn’t a surprise really as, by this point in the film, everyone else in the school was dead. What I found hilarious during the film is that all the cult members, when hooded, have deep baritone masculine voiceovers but as soon as the hoods are lowered it’s young women with those high pitch voices that Japanese apparently find ‘cute’. I guess the male voices were to hide the revelation that the cult was comprised of women? Hilarious nonetheless in how inane it was when revealed.

So we reach the denouement. The possessed boy is dead – how I can’t remember but considering how the murders were done via ‘no handsome-kun you’re too handsome to be evil! Then the victim girl falls over squealing before being killed by him (also squealing in her death throws) and he then wanders off, covered in blood, to find the next girl to kill’ I really couldn’t care less how he came to his end.

Teenage cult leader-chan has revealed herself and has finalised the ceremony to summon the devil. Misa can do nothing to stop it and is unceremoniously turned to ash. Yes the hero who didn’t very little just got killed. But this is based on a Japanese shonen manga so there will be some insane way she comes back.

Cult-chan summons the devil. The CGI, for the time, is admittedly really impressive as the devil looms over the school… and then Cult-chan face gets her face ripped off immediately and her innards fly up into the sky. Why? She couldn’t contain the power? The devil decided ‘nope don’t like look of your face’ and ‘tore up’ the contract via her flesh? Who knows… who cares? The devil disappears unceremoniously bringing and end to proceedings.

Disaster is avoided without the protagonist actively doing anything. If she hadn’t turned up it would have ended up exactly the same way. Misa gets resurrected by some hair she kept in the locket she wears. It was been featured earlier in the film but considering what a deus ex-machina it was I omitted mentioning it before so you could get a sense of how out of leftfield this comes.

Misa melodramatically cries over the loss of her new best friend/devil summoning Cult-chan who was the only person who could understand her. Music plays and the next thing we see is Misa walking off to the next school to solve the next occult incident at a new school…

Misa your so cool in that ‘I just happened to be there and survive despite everything going on’ way. Men want her, women want to be her…


 

Review: 90s Japanese film fodder starring a Gravure Idol. It’s hilarious in how bad it is. Give it a watch just to see how low budget it is. The effects for the devil were admittedly the stand out bit where most of the budget must have gone.

Did I watch this without subtitles? Damn right! Did I miss any subtleties? Well probably the cookie cutter character archetypes and some details that would be forgotten ten minutes later but this is as generic as it gets so no, no, I didn’t. If anything it improved the experience – especially when I made it move at double the speed.

I had known of this film’s existance for two decades and never got around to watching it. It was amusing but low budget, as many Japanese films tend to be as they are more of a ‘television series’ watching kind of nation. Go in expecting little of the film and you will enjoy. Go in expecting something with the budget of an American film and you will be sorely disappointed. Just remember this was based on an old manga which inevitably was popular during the 1970s occult fad Japan had during that decade and everything will be okay.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eko_Eko_Azarak:_Wizard_of_Darkness

 

Oh and some fun news if you want more of Misa’s adventures but updated: There was a recent TV series and at least a few of the early episodes are available on YouTube if you decide to look them up.


 

Not what you were expecting? Well it was hopefully fun to read this more irreverent kind of review…

Comment, like or follow – all welcome.

Blog Update, the BBC’s War and Peace Adaption and a Polish Charity Page

Hi,

I had to take a break the past few months to recuperate. Updates will be sporadic for a while.

Forthcoming posts in the next few weeks will be:

  • Netochka Nezvarovna by Dostoyevsky
  • South of Hell: episode/series synopsis and review
  • A few film reviews.

Maybe a series review of BBC’s recent adaption of War and Peace. In brief: It has good, if anachronistic in its gowns, costume design and well framed scenes but the overall series feels as if it proceeds at a break neck pace. It has pointless nudity for the most part (including showing Natalia full frontal nude in the first episode when she is meant to be only 13 years old which is morally awkward even if the actress is obviously in her twenties) and inevitably, as with other productions, has to skip over all of Tolstoy’s social commentary. My favourite character in the end was Marya Bolkonskaya (loyal and moral to a fault) although I felt that the treatment of Sonya Rostova who is considered a ‘sterile flower’ feels tragic considering how others get a happy ending while she is expected to be satisfied with self-sacrifice. On the whole there is great scenery to entertain the eyes but it works better as a ‘dramatic highlights’ version of the story, useful for focused discussions about particular scenes, than a satisfying dramatic adaption of the novel. A good modern style adaption of the overarching narrative ,where everything has been sexed up to appeal to a younger audience, but may leave those more familiar with the novel, or seeking its social commentary on Tsarist Russian society, unfulfilled.

Tom Burke, as Fedya Dolokhov, stole every scene he was in and reminded me of Rik Mayall’s portrayl of Lord Flashheart in BlackAdder II. Due to how fast the narrative proceeds from his introduction to his seduction of Helena and the inevitable duel with Pierre it feels as if they were intentionally trying to portray Dolokhov as the Russian Flashheart.

… actually maybe I won’t cover War and Peace as that is a concise enough summary. We will see. Tell me if you would be interested in a longer commentary.

In other news: I received this link asking for donations towards the upkeep of a Polish girl called Laura who suffers from congenital bone fragility. The site shows photos of her performances, diplomas of her achievements, a blog, etc. They are appealing for donations as the costs of her treatment and rehabilitation exceed the financial ability of her parents to support her on their own. Contact details are on the ‘Jak pomóc’ (How to help) page

http://www.pomozlaurze.org/

Check it out if you want. There is no obligation.


 

I don’t have access to Word at the moment so WordPress saving a draft every minute or so is a nice feature though I prefer to type it out first then copy/paste into the post drafting part.

What is Boxing Day?

Boxing Day is a holiday traditionally celebrated the day following Christmas Day, when servants and tradespeople would receive gifts, known as a “Christmas box”, from their bosses or employers, in the United Kingdom, Barbados, Canada, Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand, Kenya, South Africa, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica and other former British colonies. Today, Boxing Day is the bank holiday that generally takes place on 26 December.

In South Africa, Boxing Day was renamed Day of Goodwill in 1994. Due to the Roman Catholic Church’s liturgical calendar, the day is known as St. Stephen’s Day to Catholics, and in Italy, Finland along with Alsace and Moselle in France. It is also known as both St. Stephen’s Day and the Day of the Wren or Wren’s Day in Ireland. In many European countries, including notably Germany, Poland, the Netherlands and those in Scandinavia, 26 December is celebrated as the Second Christmas Day.

Various competing theories for the origins of the term boxing day circulate in popular culture, none of which is definitive. However, the Oxford English Dictionary gives the earliest attestations of the term as being from England in the 1830s, defining it as

The first week-day after Christmas-day, observed as a holiday on which post-men, errand-boys, and servants of various kinds expect to receive a Christmas-box.

The term Christmas-box, meanwhile, dates back to the seventeenth century, and amongst other things meant

A present or gratuity given at Christmas: in Great Britain, usually confined to gratuities given to those who are supposed to have a vague claim upon the donor for services rendered to him as one of the general public by whom they are employed and paid, or as a customer of their legal employer; the undefined theory being that as they have done offices for this person, for which he has not directly paid them, some direct acknowledgement is becoming at Christmas.

The European tradition, which has long included giving money and other gifts to those who were needy and in service positions, has been dated to the Middle Ages, but the exact origin is unknown. It is believed to be in reference to the Alms Box placed in places of worship to collect donations to the poor. Also, it may come from a custom in the late Roman/early Christian era, wherein metal boxes placed outside churches were used to collect special offerings tied to the Feast of Saint Stephen, which in the Western Church falls on the same day as Boxing Day.

In Britain, it was a custom for tradespeople to collect “Christmas boxes” of money or presents on the first weekday after Christmas as thanks for good service throughout the year. This is mentioned in Samuel Pepys‘ diary entry for 19 December 1663. This custom is linked to an older English tradition: since they would have to wait on their masters on Christmas Day, the servants of the wealthy were allowed the next day to visit their families. The employers would give each servant a box to take home containing gifts and bonuses, and sometimes leftover food.

In the UK, Canada, and some states of Australia, Boxing Day is primarily known as a shopping holiday, much like Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving in America). Boxing Day sales are common in Canada. It is a time where shops have sales, often with dramatic price reductions. For many merchants, Boxing Day has become the day of the year with the greatest amount of returns. In the UK in 2009 it was estimated that up to 12 million shoppers appeared at the sales (a rise of almost 20% compared to 2008, although this was also affected by the fact that the VAT was about to revert to 17.5% from 1 January, following the temporary reduction to 15%).

Many retailers open very early (typically 5 am or even earlier) and offer doorbuster deals and loss leaders to draw people to their stores. It is not uncommon for long queues to form early in the morning of 26 December, hours before the opening of shops holding the big sales, especially at big-box consumer electronics retailers. Many stores have a limited quantity of big draw or deeply discounted items. Because of the shoulder-to-shoulder crowds, many choose to stay home and avoid the hectic shopping experience. The local media often cover the event, mentioning how early the shoppers began queuing up, providing video of shoppers queuing and later leaving with their purchased items. Many retailers have implemented practices aimed at managing large numbers of shoppers. They may limit entrances, restrict the number of patrons in a store at a time, provide tickets to people at the head of the queue to guarantee them a hot ticket item or canvass queued-up shoppers to inform them of inventory limitations.

… and now you know.

Emerging from the Sea of Anonymity

Inevitably the first attempt at anything will be done falteringly like the stumbling belly slaps of a fish on the riverside silt having just evolved lungs. It discovers it can breathe air but can only throw itself forward on the terrain with its frail fins, eyes adjusting to the clear light of day and mouthing vacantly at no one in particular. That is how blogging feels right now. I have nothing of value to contribute yet and may never do. No doubt at some point soon after this initial venture a preying bird, which has been waiting diligently at the riverside to cease the opportunity, will swooped down and devour me alive having itself existed in this enviroment long enough not only to have adapted but thrive within it. So it is with any process of learning how to do something effectively… ‘practise makes perfect’.

This post already is certifiably terrible with the opening paragraph but I take heart that it will not be as bad as when a teenager in 2008, whose father (or close relative) was a senior journalist a the Guardian newspaper, was given a blog with a readymade national, if not international, readership and then provided the following insights into the prospect of travelling abroad:

http://www.theguardian.com/travel/blog/2008/feb/14/skinsblog

It was apparently his first and last ever post which, even now, I remember reading the comments section of when he posted it back in 2008. Oh what a feeding frenzy day it was by those disdainful of nepotism and the clichéd, self-righteously, opinionated… However let me follow his lead and, now we are in 2014 where the on-line world has evolved for better or worse, do a Hollywood like ‘reboot’ of his original post taking its core grammar and structure and modifying it to more contemporary tastes. Let me address you then, the audience of late 2014, in the manner we now expect of today’s on-line public communications and tell you a little about myself.

Hello. I’m [REDACTED]. I’m [REDACTED] and live [REDACTED].
At the minute, I’m working in [REDACTED] with [REDACTED] people; writing [REDACTED]; writing [REDACTED]; spending any sort of money I earn on [REDACTED] and [REDACTED], and drinking [REDACTED] to [REDACTED] to [REDACTED] and [REDACTED]. Clichéd I know, but clichés are there for a reason.

I’m kinda [REDACTING] myself about [REDACTION]. Well not so much the [REDACTABLE] part. It’s [REDACTING] that scares me. The [REDACTABLE], the [REDACTING], the [REDACTIVE], [REDACTOR]. Don’t get me [REDACTED], I’m [REDACTABLE]. But [REDACTING] myself. And I just know [REDACTABLY] when I step off that [REDACTABLE] and into the [REDACTED] – well, actually, I don’t know [REDACTION].

(n.b. I copy/pasted the entry from Word without first seeing what options there were in the editing tool bar and discovered there was an option to strikethrough text making my efforts ironically redactable…)

The intentions for this blog are commenting on various current television or cinema, writing about things in my home town (though how much is truth and how much is fantasy I will leave for you to decide) and various miscellany. It is more of a post-by-post blog just to force myself to practise my writing and shouldn’t be taken seriously. I will try to update at least once a week but like anyone taking up a new pastime I will no doubt post a bit more often than I should initially and soon hit a rut if I do so. Once we are past the ‘3 month wall’, where apparently most people give up, it should all become a gradually evolving, maintainable, activity. Hopefully I have hit every possible cliché of starting a blog here and will rarely do so again without reason.
So let us end this first Quixotic endevour and quote the end of the first part of Mikhail Bulgakov’s ‘The Master and Margarita’:

“… it has come time for us to go on to the second part of this truthful narrative. Follow me, reader!”