Monday, 25 January 2010

Ystad of mind

Unfortunately they're no longer on BBC iPlayer, but I did want to celebrate the BBC's latest series of Wallander, based on the celebrated books by Henning Mankell. The last episode was especially strong - certainly the best of this second series, which has been slightly bogged down by the police inspector's shame over killing a(n armed) suspect.

The Fifth Woman stood out thanks to Aisling Walsh's direction; I'd be intrigued to learn why several shots were filmed through windows. The usual implication when this happens is that someone is watching the subject but that wasn't the case here. Unnerving as it was, was the implication that Wallander felt he was being watched or that we the viewers were seeing something that we normally weren't privy to (or that there was nowhere else to put the camera)?

Kenneth Branagh's Wallander seems to spend much of each episode alone in his car. It may be a practical necessity to cover Skane County for his work, but here Walsh emphasised his isolation. And as she let takes hang as long as they poetically could, she would prick the scene's serenity with his inescapable, ridiculous, phone ringtone.

Branagh's achievement has been to carry this wonderful series; by contrast, his counterpart in the Swedish version, Krister Henriksson, acts as a catalyst for those around him, notably his daughter, Linda. It will be interesting to see where the makers of the British version (notably writer Richard Cottan) go with her character if and when she joins her father in the police.

To me, the Swedish version is played as a black comedy, notably in the interaction between Wallander and his forensics expert, Nyberg. There was a neat crossover between the two versions in the first episode of the latest British series, where Wallander shot a neo-fascist played by the same man who plays ever loyal police office Svartman in Sweden. You may have noticed, too, that anything written in the British version (police signs, book dedications) is in Swedish, making the show simple to dub into any language for coproducers and buyers while retaining its sense of place.

Update: the first two BBC series are now available together on DVD.

Friday, 15 January 2010

Lies lies lies

The death of Eric Rohmer reminded me that I'm lucky enough to have once interviewed another great French film director, Bertrand Tavernier. Unfortunately, we only spoke by phone but, like Rohmer, his vision of cinema came through in every word of our conversation, alongside his incredible enthusiasm for the art, and knowledge of it. Utterly winningly, he added as we said goodbye: You have my number, call whenever you like. Of course, I haven't.

While I'm tagging that old article from Little White Lies, I'd like to mention a (phone) interview I did with another very driven man, this time in the field of music. Ramin Sadighi runs his own record label in Iran and, despite having to contend with the country's notorious 'red lines' (censorship), still creates a world-class catalogue, which includes an association with Abbas Kiarostami.

Unleashing Pandemonium

On 15 February, Pet Shop Boys are set to release Pandemonium Live, The O2 Arena, London, less than two months after the event. It's a canny move. Last year's tour confirmed that the Boys seem to have refound themselves. Who would ever have predicted that New Order, those other great stalwarts of '80s pop, would now be supporting PSB - in the form of Bad Lieutenant - rather than the other way around?

Barely scraping the Top 40 with their hugely enjoyable Christmas EP would have been a disappointment for PSB, but what better way to see out 2009 than by closing the year with a hugely entertaining show at the 23,000-capacity O2. Chris Lowe and Neil Tennant seemed in their element; Lowe performing a little jig of pleasure after a short keyboard interlude, while rarely can a performer have looked as happy and relaxed as Tennant throughout a two-hour set.

The evening packed in so many hits that the audience felt slightly exhausted only 40 minutes in; a fiftysomething male singer, another chap behind a keyboard and four dancers kept the place spellbound (with a wonderful set and projections). As well as every hit you could hope to hear (though no So hard, unfortunately), there were a number of tracks from Please, their 25-year-old first album, remodelled to sound completely fresh, and even a b-side, the lovely Do I have to? (If you get a chance, it's worth digging up Inga Humpe's version, produced by Trevor Horn, on her 1990 album Planet Oz, which is available on iTunes.)

As well as the support from Bad Lieutenant, there were other hints of the '80s here: the blue and red-clad dancers who appeared for opener Heart were reminiscent of the battling figures in New Order's True Faith video, while Tennant's crown and robes for Coldplay cover Viva la vida could only recall Anton Corbijn's equally celebrated promo for Enjoy the Silence by Depeche Mode. Just replace the umbrella with a deckchair to complete the look.

It's common for French music stars to alternate albums of new material with a recording of the subsequent tour. When you're largely limited to the French-speaking world, it's a common-sense way to increase your revenue. I wonder if Pet Shop Boys have taken this model for the forthcoming DVD/CD release, and decided to maximise their fan appeal. As a band who seem to have rediscovered their time, you can't blame them.

Thanks, Jen, for the pic.