Gravitation

This is the first manga series I read!  Inspired by an article in the New Statesman magazine, I searched out the first volume and then read through to the twelfth and last.  Written and illustrated by Maki Murakami, it tells the story of Shuichi Shindo and his band as they rise to stardom.  Shuichi is in love with the romance novelist Eiri Yuki.  The two men form a relationship which is odd since the aloof Yuki is hard to like.  Their first meeting came when Shuichi’s lyrics blew out of his hand in a park and were picked up by the writer.  His response that the work was rubbish hurt the aspiring singer but the enigmatic figure intrigued him enough for him to pursue him, a decision that led to their relationship.

The story of the ups and downs of living together is told across the twelve volumes along with the complementary plot of the success of the band which Shuichi formed with his best friend Hiroshi Nakano.  As with most of the manga and anime that feature late teenagers, the parental presence is reduced so that decisions about moving in with a famous romance novelist can be made without reference to parents.

The manga was a lot of fun, especially in the early episodes.  Later stories stretched the patience somewhat but, having started, I was determined to finish.  ‘Gravitation’ led me to explore other manga series and anime so it has a special place in my hinterland as the starting point for the further discoveries.

 

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Alan Turing

In Manchester so I went to find the statue of Alan Turing which acts as a memorial to the great man who was instrumental in the Bletchley Park code breaking programme in the second world war and the development of computers.  He worked at Manchester University after the war and it was while living in the city that he was arrested for gross indecency since he was homosexual at a time when it was against the law.

His statue is in Sackville Park near Canal Street, the centre of Manchester’s gay village.  It is fitting that he is here.  The artist Glyn Hughes shows him sitting on a bench in a slightly ill-fitting suit.  He is eating an apple, a significant addition since he committed suicide by eating an apple laced with cyanide in 1954 just before his 42nd birthday.  His conviction in 1952 resulted in chemical castration as an alternative to imprisonment.

So, here his memorial sits.  It is possible to sit next to him, should you choose.  It isn’t possible to undo the harm done by unjust laws.  The Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, issued an apology on behalf of the British Government in 2009 for the way Alan Turing was treated.  His conviction must have seemed harsh to a man who is credited for playing a significant part in the allied victory of World War Two.

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Centre of My World

Central to this film version of Andreas Steinhofel’s amazing novel is the theme of identity.  Phil has a gap in his knowledge of himself since his mother, called Glass by everyone, refuses to reveal the name of his father.  Phil and his twin Diane grow up in an unconventional way with a mother who is something of a free spirit in a large house that is remarkable because of its bohemian look.  The rest of the town may look down on them because of their unorthodox lifestyle but they don’t care because they have each other.

I declare the following:  I thought the book was amazing.  I loved it when I first read it which was when it first appeared in English, translated from German.  I also love the work of Andreas Steinhofel.  I did not love this film but I liked it!

Phil is gay so when he meets Nicholas and is smitten he is thrilled to have his feelings returned.  The relationship becomes a sexual one and Phil finds himself accepted by somebody outside his family which is just as well as this is the moment when conflict between Diane and Glass threatens their unit.  Things are made worse by the fact that neither sister nor mother will tell him why they are in dispute.

Phil retreats into his relationship and appears to have found love.  There is even room for Phil’s best and long term friend Kat and the three become friends.  Glass may reject lovers after just a short while but Phil is different.  So when the betrayal comes, of friend Kat and boyfriend Nicholas, the pain is acute.  When the truth of the rift between Diane and Glass is revealed Phil questions his place in the family.

The film has reduced aspects of the book, how could it do otherwise and stay within a reasonable theatrical showing duration?  Yet, for me, although the relationship between the two boys is well portrayed and the pain shown by Phil when he realises Kat has betrayed him is poignant, many of the other characters lose their fullness and come across as self- centred or immature, as in the case of Kat and Glass, or are not well developed at all, as in the case of Diane.

Louis Hofmann is brilliant as Phil.  ‘Centre of My World’ enters my hinterland but mostly so it can sit alongside the book which remains a true artistic expression of young love.

 

Seat in Shadow

This 2016 film from director Henry Coombes only made it into my hinterland because the part of Albert, played by co-writer David Sillars, is so engaging and entertaining.  He plays an older gay man in semi- retirement who is called upon by an old friend to help her grandson with his depression.  Albert, once a Jungian counsellor, now spends most of his time in his dirty apartment painting.  He does not welcome distractions but agrees to help out his old friend.

Ben, the grandson who arrives for his sessions, is sweet enough but in a relationship with a boyfriend so unpleasant that you sort of get the feeling that ditching him might be all the advice he needs from Albert.

The film works only because of the central performance of Sillars who is great when conducting counselling sessions and when dancing in the gay club.  He carries the film and this does weaken the whole enterprise as, when he isn’t on screen, the story is less powerful.  Power to the elbow of Henry Coombes for trying, though.  The film is never less than interesting!

Handsome Devil

Some films rise above cliché, or rather they take the clichés and make the most of them!  This film, like ‘Dead Poets Society’, has some moments that steer close to sentimentality without overdoing it.  The effect is uplifting and within the realms of realism.

This is another film set in the confining spaces of a private school.  This one, in Ireland, is ruled by rugby.  The boys who are good at sport are the top dogs and the misfits, like Ned, have to live with the taunts and insults; the biggest insult of all is to be called ‘gay’.  Into this world comes Conor, a star rugby player from another school.  His reputation precedes him as a great sportsman and a boy who fights all who annoy him.  He aims to keep his head down but this is a school that desperately wants to win the title and they see Conor as the answer to their prayers.

Ned and Conor are made to share a room.  The others sympathise that Conor must share with Ned but are then wrong footed when the two become friends.  Ned is abused for being gay and Conor is actually gay.  As the film progresses we see Conor deal with this identity conflict.

Add to the mix another ‘Dead Poets Society’ touch with an English teacher who inspires (some of) the pupils.  Connor sees in him something of himself and tries to seek his help.

Andrew Scott plays the teacher and Nicholas Galitzine plays Conor.  Fionn O’Shea plays Ned in this John Butler directed film. It is the type of movie that is feelgood without playing for easy laughs or simplistic endings.  Ultimately, the film is about identity and acceptance and we can never have too many films that tackle homophobia.

 

Plan B

This gentle film from director Marco Berger covers an unusual angle in a relationship.  Bruno’s girlfriend ends their affair because she has met Pablo.  His plan to split the couple and get revenge on Pablo does not go well for Bruno.  First, when he sleeps with Laura again this does  not bring about the desired result.  Instead, he decides to pretend to have feelings for Pablo himself and lure him into a position where he can expose him as gay.

Bruno befriends Pablo as part of this plan B only to find that he actually does like him.  The more time they spend together, the more they discover they like each other and then, of course, they reach a point of questioning their own sexuality.

The film meanders to the point where their feelings are revealed but it is the better for this slow pace.  It handles well the point of disbelief when two men have to admit to themselves that what they are experiencing is love.

‘Plan B’ by Marco Berger is in my hinterland.  What’s in yours?

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The End of Eddy

This autobiographical novel is from young French novelist Edouard Louis.  It tells the hard hitting story of growing up as an outsider in poor circumstances in northern France.  Young Edouard knows he is different; the signs are in the reactions to him from everyone else.  Edouard is an effeminate ten year old boy when we first meet him.  His persona annoys his peer group and worries his parents.

His childhood is a story of learning that survival will depend heavily on regulating how he comes across.  What is surprising, and moving, is that the boy does not blame others for their reactions to him.  He accepts as normal that his manner and his attitudes (and later his sexuality) place him very low on life’s hierarchy.  At the top are the physically tough, his father and cousins among them.  These are the men who dominate his village. Hard physical jobs just to survive turn out tough, physical men whose attitudes to, and treatment of, women are shocking.  Their view of effeminate boys is equally as clear cut.

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There is a sense of triumph to the book, if only because the relating of the childhood experiences suggest survival, if nothing else.  Escape to the city must have provided the author with a second act where he was validated. How else would he have written a book that despite its grim subject is written with such beauty?

‘The End of Eddy’ is in my hinterland.  What’s in yours?