Running to keep up

117. Apostasy (film, dir. Daniel Kokotajlo, 2017)
118. The Apparition (film, dir. Xavier Giannoli, 2018)
119. Summer 1993 (film, dir. Carla Simón, 2017)
120. Hearts Beat Loud (film, dir. Brett Haley, 2018)
121. Tangerine Dream, Ricochet (album, 1975)
122. Tangerine Dream, Cyclone (album, 1978)
123. The Negotiator (film, dir. Brad Anderson, 2018)
124. Maurice (film, dir. James Ivory, 1987)
125. June Tabor & Oysterband, Ragged Kingdom (album, 2011)
126. The Great Dictator (film, dir. Charlie Chaplin, 1940)

...And that's us caught up, I think. A couple of albums short - there was a very long car journey with a prog enthusiast in the driver's seat, and I'm pretty sure we went through the collected works of Tangerine Dream, 1974-1978 (they didn't let up, did they?! That's a discography to make your eyes water), but those were the ones where I was paying attention. It's like jazz, in the sense that I enjoy it while it's there, but I really have no idea what the hell I'm talking about.

I remember when Ragged Kingdom came out. I deliberately didn't listen to it, because June Tabor's voice gives me feelings. I always thought a collaboration with Oysterband would be a very strange combination; I think they're at their best when they're being exuberant, but that's because I have no sense of subtlety. Ragged Kingdom is the sort of album I want to bathe in.

I'm not going to go into too much depth about the films: Apostasy and The Apparition were both religiously focused and both great; you should see them if you get the chance. The Apparition is French, about a guy investigating the claims of an eighteen-year-old girl to have had a vision of the Virgin Mary, and it was grossly mismarketed - it's way more interesting than any of the promotional material makes out. Summer 1993 was a slow-burner about a little girl moving in with her aunt and uncle after her parents die; I was underwhelmed until the last half hour and now I can't stop thinking about it. Hearts Beat Loud is a 90-min advert for Spotify, the sort of thing best watched in the background while you're doing something else. I wouldn't be surprised if it was actually designed for that.

The Great Dictator is very obviously made early on in the Second World War. Chaplin is a master of physical comedy, of course, and of visual puns, and of musicality. Chop off that scenery-chewing last speech, however; I want to say it's dated badly, but I don't think it has, and that's worse. Apparently Chaplin said later that he wouldn't have made The Great Dictator (which came out in 1940) if he'd known then what the concentration camps were really like. It's a snapshot from the past, then, isn't it? That brief moment of freefall, the only time a thing like that could get made. Five years ago, I would have said that The Great Dictator reads as naive. Today, with global politics being as they are, I'm torn. How easily naivete becomes normalising when you're in a world like this one.

The Negotiator (or Beirut if you're in any country other than the UK), followed by Maurice, is the second weirdest double bill I've inadvertently seen recently (after the Wilde biopic and 2001: A Space Odyssey). It's interesting to see how American foreign policy!thrillers have changed in the last decade - there's an essay to be written comparing The Negotiator with, I dunno, Argo or something. I'm sure we will look back in a few years and see how the concept of American-ness has changed, just like Britishness is changing. Pair that with Maurice, the extraordinarily beautiful story of a young gay man in the Cambridge and London of the early twentieth century, and what you have is a recipe for whiplash. It's based on an E. M Forster book - I'd mentally written off Forster as a little too achingly Bloomsbury for me to handle, also because life is too short for books about sad Oxbridge boys (looking at you, Evelyn Waugh). But Maurice has a happy ending. And I was wrong about it. And if this means it turns out I would have liked A Room with a View all along I'll be hopping mad.

This is what you get from teaching yourself English Literature, I suppose. Nobody makes you read anything, so you end up prematurely writing stuff off.

There is too much to read in the world. I am always playing catch up.

Other stuff I've seen/heard/read lately: John Buchan, who you may best know as the writer of The Thirty-Nine Steps but who I am convinced would have been my best friend in the world had I been born a century ago, wrote a volume called A Book of Escapes and Hurried Journeys. I found it in the way the best things are found, which is to say, accidentally going down the wrong aisle in the library. It is basically Buchan telling stories from history: there's Bonnie Prince Charlie going over the sea to Skye, there's Charles II hiding in a tree while the Roundheads go by, there's "The Great Montrose" (bless you, John) who he refers to as "the paladin of Scottish history". He's interested in the same bits of history as I am, and when I'm writing it, I aspire to making it that level of engaging.