Here Comes Johnny Yen Again


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Iggy Pop: Lust For Life

British cinema wasn’t in a good place in the mid 1990s. D’you remember highly touted films like Sarah and Jack? Blue Juice? Shopping? Just imagine, a time of such utter mediocrity that some critics actually hailed Sadie Frost as the country’s most promising young actress.

Or what about The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain? It was still officially a hill by the time I’d fled the Glasgow Film Theatre and hotfooted it to the nearest bar, believe me.

Then along came Trainspotting and, what’s more, not a dreary social realist version of what remains Irvine Welsh’s finest novel but an inventive, stylish, visceral and fantastically funny take on it.

You watched Ken Loach’s Ladybird, Ladybird feeling equally bored and depressed but you stepped out of Trainspotting, feeling, well, a lust for life.

Trainspotting is here

One of the best things about the movie was, of course, its soundtrack.

Like Tarantino and Scorcese, Danny Boyle is one of those directors that possess a near perfect knack of combining sound and visuals perfectly to lift a movie.

Just think of that frenetic opening of Trainspotting. Renton and Spud being chased down Edinburgh’s Princes Street by a couple of security guards while we hear the famous ‘Choose Life’ voice-over, accompanied by Iggy Pop’s searing uber-classic Lust For Life.

Renton and Spud on Princes Street

I’d read snippets of Welsh’s novel in several of the Scottish litzines that began springing up in the first half of the 1990s and Scream, If You Want To Go Faster, the ninth installment of the annual New Writing Scotland anthology series. I obviously read the novel too when it was first published and, later, went to see Welsh give a reading at the Paisley Arts Centre. I was also lucky enough to nab a ticket for Harry Gibson’s adaptation at the Citizens Theatre in the Gorbals.

Guess what? I dearly wanted the movie to succeed and by the time Boyle freeze-framed on Renton as he a grins at the horrified man who has just run him over, I was confident that this would be the single most exciting Scottish film I had ever seen. And we were only thirty seconds into the action.

I still can’t hear Lust For Life without thinking of that scene, the combination of the two, in all likelihood, will always be indelibly linked in my head, although usually that hyperactive opening rather than the 5-a-side match, the cooking up and injecting the junk in Mother Superior’s or the friends and family decrying heroin while Iggy’s song surges on, still sounding sensational.

From the album Lust For Life, here it is, one of the very finest tracks ever recorded, with the single greatest drum intro ever, ever, ever – the equivalent of a pitbull on steroids straining at a particularly tight leash – and those pounding, primal drums brilliantly balanced by a stunning, stalking Motown bassline from Tony Sales and some itchy yet glistening guitar work from the genuis that is Carlos Alomar and Scotland’s very own Ricky Gardiner. Not forgetting James Newell Osterberg, Jr crooning his Burroughs inspired badass surrealism and his pal David Robert Jones helping out with the backing vocals:

Instead of putting out Lust For Life on 45, RCA in Britain decided to choose Success, another track from the album. With The Passenger somehow relegated to B-side status.

The reasoning behind this decision remains a mystery to me. Not as big a mystery as why around 100,000 folks thought it was a good idea to watch Chris Martin and his bed wetting brethren in Coldplay headline the main stage of Glastonbury on Sunday night, but a mystery all the same.

I obviously didn’t bother watching this myself but it sounds like it just might have been the cosiest ever moment in rock history, the polar opposite of the days when the Ig would goad biker gangs in his audience, snort angel dust and lacerate his bare chest with broken bottles.* I’m sure the numpty readers of Heat and OK! would have lapped up Martin’s antics though. OMG! Apple & Moses r up onstage @ Glasto 2 sing! Awesome!


Iggy has recently released another album, Post Pop Depression, which the New York Times has claimed: ‘picks up where Lust For Life left off.’ I wouldn’t go that far myself but it really is worth seeking out. From it, this is American Valhalla.

For more on Iggy: http://iggypop.com/

* Okay, none of these things are in reality very big or very clever but you’ll see where I’m coming from.



Filth Ad

2013 – UK – 97 min – Certificate: 18

‘What the fuck was that just jumped off my back?’ Irvine Welsh asked in a tweet earlier in the year after a seeing a final cut of Filth. Answer: ‘Ah, it’s you Trainspotting monkey!’

Welsh is obviously chuffed to bits about the adaptation of his third novel and has been talking up the film at just about every opportunity ever since; he’s even been actively encouraging comparisons with Danny Boyle’s take on Trainspotting; in fact, he’s watched both films back to back and is unable to favour one over the other. And he is very proud of Trainspotting.

Hopes for Filth are almost ridiculously high and have been ever since a genuine buzz emerged as filming started in 2011 and now just prior to its release, its star James McAvoy and director Jon S. Baird seem every bit as upbeat as Welsh about the movie.

Sometimes, though, I prefer seeing a film without these levels of expectation. Indeed, a good example of why this is Danny Boyle’s Trance which actually also starred McAvoy, a very decent effort but which struck me as slightly disappointing after the blaze of hype that preceded it.

Several other nagging doubts remained before I set out to Cineworld last night to see the first Glasgow preview screening. Baird’s only film before this had escaped my notice up till now and hadn’t been lauded by those who did see it, and while I certainly enjoyed the novel Filth, I don’t rate it as highly as some of Welsh’s other work.

The ensemble cast is unquestionably top flight, including (in addition to McAvoy) Jamie Bell, Eddie Marsan, Imogen Poots, Jim Broadbent, Shirley Henderson, Joanne Froggatt, Iain De Caestecker, Martin Compston and Kate Dickie but McAvoy in the central role of Bruce Robertson just didn’t strike me as the right choice, just like when John Hannah was chosen to portray another fictional Edinburgh cop in the original series of Rebus.

Maybe it’s because I saw Filth performed as a one man play over a decade ago in a cramped tiny studio space in the Citizens Theatre with a tour de force performance from Tam Dean Burn that made me suspect McAvoy was too fresh faced and young, too small and too good looking for the role of Robertson. Baird and Welsh both apparently had big reservations too over his suitability but these vanished the moment the Glasgow born actor began his audition. He was offered the part that same day.

McAvoy has described taking on the part as the riskiest thing he’s ever done.

The risk though has paid off.

He’s a revelation. And I would never make a casting editor.

Cops onscreen are often mavericks, too fond of bevvy, willing to break the odd rule and usually at odds with their superiors but Bruce is something else, something way beyond that, Bruce is Edinburgh’s outrageously Bad Leiutenent – Bad Detective Sergeant actually – utterly corrupt, sociopathic, and racist, sexist and homophobic too, in fact, the misanthropic Bruce doesn’t really like anybody, and even his fellow Mason and supposed best buddy Bladesey (Eddie Marsan), who accompanies him on a three day walk on the wild side in Hamburg, isn’t immune from his bullying and grotesque scheming.

How does he treat his mate? Well, for starters, Bruce makes sinister, sexual prank calls anonymously to Bladesey’s wife Bunty (Shirley Hendson), putting on a Frank Sidebottom. Before taking things further.

I didn’t mention that Bruce exhibits all the tell-tale signs being a sex addict, did I? A sex addict who is also a heavy drinker and even heavier drug user with a penchant for wreaking havoc on everyone around him.

Dixon of Dock Green he is most definitely not. Although importantly, he is, very occasionally, also capable of doing the right thing.

Filth draws the viewer in quickly. The script is very pacey, relentless even at times and as you may have already worked out, there’s depravity a-plenty on display. Filth is completely in yer face, or maybe since it’s set in Scotland that should be ‘in yer coupon’ and like Trainspotting it’s absolutely hilarious at times.

The plot?

Our anti-hero is hoping for a promotion, which he is convinced would help him win back his departed glamorous wife Carole (Shauna Macdonald) and daughter, Stacey.

He’s enlisted to solve the brutal murder of a Japanese student in an Edinburgh underpass, the solving of which would make him heavy favourite to make the step up to Detective Inspector but rather than concentrating his efforts into the investigation, Robbo spends the bulk of his time ruining the promotion chances of his rivals such as his younger sidekick Ray (Jamie Bell), Gus (Gary Lewis, Bell’s dad in Billy Elliott), Peter (Emun Elliott), Dougie (Brian McCardie) and perhaps his main threat, the very capable and by the book cop, Amanda (Imogen Poots).

Initially his Machiavellian plots go to plan but Bruce’s spiralling wildly out of control addictions aren’t his only problems and very soon surreal hallucinations make an appearance and a disintegrating Bruce, increasingly haunted by personal demons, becomes more erratic by the hour.

Robertson is obviously fast becoming a one man disaster area but is he beyond repair?

I’ll not reveal the answer to that question and I definitely won’t give away the ending – which is the way I believe the film inevitably had to go out on but I will just fully recommend you see Filth and see it on the big screen in a cinema full with others laughing and squirming as the increasingly splenetic and desperate cop finds himself drawn further and further into his outrageous webs of deceit.

Is Filth as good as Trainspotting? As much as I liked it I don’t think it is but how many British films are? I found some of the hallucination scenes with Doctor Rossi overcooked and I’m still mystified by the animation in the end credits but my only real complaint about Filth is that since watching it I’ve had David Soul’s Silver Lady stuck in my head, involuntarily repeating itself again and again. And Lust for Life that song most definitely ain’t.

So far into 2013 this is the most gripping British film I’ve watched by a distance and McAvoy’s performance is also easily the best, in fact, it just edges his turns in The Last King of Scotland and Atonement as his career best to date and an obvious contender for awards. One Scottish bookmaker has offered 33/1 on Filth winning the Oscar next year for Best Film which I’m not particularly tempted by but I really wouldn’t be remotely surprised if McAvoy picked up a Bafta. He would undoubtedly deserve it.

Opens Scotland Sept 27/Rest of UK & ROI Oct 4.