Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Wetlands, Charlotte Roche

I'm not sure why I wanted to read Wetlands - I'm a very squeamish and repressed person when it comes down to it, so it might not seem like the most sensible choice of reading matter for my daily commute. The Mail described it as 'profoundly unsettling'(but to be fair the Mail sees most things this way) while the Guardian reviewer wrote 'if you ever wondered what you'd be like if you weren't shy, polite, tolerant, modest, sexually repressed, logical and constrained by modern standards of hygiene, this may be the book for you.' That's a slightly crude description of what I think is a clever text, but it does give you a good frame of reference if you haven't read it.

The protagonist and anti-hero Helen Memel is completely without the sense of shame with which most women inhabit their bodies. We often talk about people who dare to say what we're all thinking, but Helen takes it further and says and does things that most women don't even dare think, because of the attitudes we have about our bodies, what it is to be female and about cleanliness and purity. Helen has none of these taboos. No bodily function or discharge is strange or unpleasant to her. (I shuddered just writing the word 'discharge' by the way.)

Roche says that in Wetlands, she wanted to 'write about the ugly parts of the human body. The smelly order to tell that story, I created a heroine that has a totally creative attitude to her body'. To me, it seems like in Helen, Roche has created a character to play with the biblical archetype of Eve. Helen is simultaneously both without sin and full of sin; she breaks every female taboo in the European-Christian tradition. Her lack of shame seems like something from before the Fall - she has the kind of understanding of and appreciation for her body and sexuality that women might have were it not for so many years of society shaping how we all imagine what it is to be female, based on the idea of Eve as the mother of all sin.

There's something distinctly rabble rousing about Wetlands it gets you angry and fired up at how we've become strangers to ourselves. It's seductive even as it repels you. At times you can't believe what Helen is doing/thinking/ saying and you screw up your face in disgust, but you simultaneously wish that you could be even a fraction as at ease with her body as she is.
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Friday, 4 September 2009

Can't imagine Pete Postlethwaite as a gangster, but still excited... #brighton rock

Pegg in a hole

Simon Pegg will play one of the graverobbers in John Landis's new version of Burke and Hare. The veteran comedy director begins shooting in London and Edinburgh this autumn and told me he's thrilled to be working with Pegg. "He's a fabulous comic actor and he immediately 'got' the script and what we're trying to do - a black British comedy in the Ealing tradition of Kind Hearts and Coronets, laughs with poison in them." Although unconfirmed, I understand it's possible that Pegg will reteam with his Shaun of the Dead co-star and former flatmate Nick Frost. Their self-styled zom-rom-com was a success in America as well as being an instant classic here, one that made it into the Observer's list of the best 25 British films of the last 25 years, as revealed in our Film Quarterly magazine today. Landis meanwhile is preparing a surprise for the audience at tonight's FrightFest - the director will world premiere a Leicester Square screening of a new HD print of Michael Jackson's Thriller video, and a "making of" doc.

Brighton rockers

As a new film version gets under way, Graham Greene's Brighton Rock will be updated to 1964 and set among the famous seaside battles between mods and rockers. Originally filmed, by John Boulting, in 1947 with Richard Attenborough as teenager Pinkie Brown and no mods or rockers, Greene's 1938 novel is receiving the modern make-over "to refresh the story". According to director Rowan Joffe: "We're making it as contemporary as possible because it feels so modern. It's too vibrant, too alive, to be contained in the late 1930s." As I revealed in my Cannes column earlier this year, Joffe has signed up actor Sam Riley to recreate Pinkie, one of Lord Attenborough's signature roles. Riley was a charismatic Ian Curtis, lead singer of Joy Division in the biopic Control. Sam will be joined by rising star Andrea Riseborough - see her in Sam Taylor-Wood's short Love You More - as well as Helen Mirren and Pete Postlethwaite, who will play Brighton gangster Phil Corkery.

Turgoose on the telly

News of another British classic (also appearing on the Observer's Top 25 list): Shane Meadows is making the sequel to This Is England - as a four-part television series. The show will move the action on four years from the end of the film and bring back many of the main characters, including Thomas Turgoose as wannabe skinhead Shaun. Entitled We Were Faces, the series will be set in 1986 and finds Shaun preparing to leave school and enter the grown-up world.

It will be co-written by Meadows with Jack Thorne, who penned The Scouting Book For Boys, which has just been filmed with Turgoose in a major role. Meadows revealed his plans for the project while promoting his latest low-budget film, Le Donk & Scor-zay-zee, a mockumentary starring Paddy Considine. This Is England of course, suffered from an 18 certification, due to some racist swearing and violence. The certification angered Meadows as he believed it prevented many young people, for whom the film might have contained useful lessons, from seeing it. The TV sequel will thus open the characters and themes up to an even wider audience.

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