Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Preview: White Material

Yesterday I went to Light House Cinema in Smithfield to see a preview of White Material, a film by the director of Chocolat, Claire Denis. I enjoyed it - but with some reservations.

Before discussing the film I should mention the venue. I like Light House; it's got a wonderfully spacious feel to it, almost as if it's an art gallery rather than a cinema. It is, to quote the website, a "commercially operated cultural cinema which presents a diverse and individual programme of the best Irish, independent, foreign-language, arthouse and classic cinema". And in my opinion, it does a good job of balancing its commercial aim and cultural aim.

So, the film: you might love it or hate it. It is very... French. It has a gentle, slow, disarmingly calm lack of pace to it; there is a plot, but it seems almost incidental. The setting, the characters, the insightful moments - these are the heart of the film. There is movement, even moments of change, but the film is not really a narrative.

The film is set in an unnamed African country. The Government fights inconclusively against rebels, ordinary people flee their homes or turn to banditry, and society seems to be falling apart. The protagonist is Maria Vial, a white Frenchwoman running a coffee plantation. The film is first and foremost a depiction of Vial's determination - or obsession - with keeping her plantation, regardless of the increasing turmoil and danger around her. (She's a bit annoying at times, to be honest!)

If you like that sort of film, go see this. You'll love it. If however you're looking for the thrills of Blood Diamond or the raw, vicious horror of Last King of Scotland you'll be disappointed.

The film opens in Light House on Friday 2nd July.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

PhotoIreland Festival

Something new! PhotoIreland is a new festival, and "aims to become Ireland’s International Festival for Photography". Have a look at the programme - good variety of exhibitions and venues.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Dun Laoghaire Festival of World Cultures

The 10th Dun Laoghaire Festival of World Cultures begins on Friday 23rd July. You could plan ahead, but personally I'd suggest just turning up (if the weather is good!) and seeing what takes your fancy on the day.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Coffee in Dublin

I love coffee; but I hate bad coffee, and the world - or at least Dublin - is very well-supplied with bad coffee. So, each week I'm going to review a different cafe in the hope of finding coffee worth drinking. Let me know if there's someplace you'd recommend.

(I'm writing this blog entry around midnight; research into the best cafe / coffee shop in Dublin has already commenced...)

Planning limits hurting Dublin's development

One of the features of Barcelona that struck me immediately when I visited the city earlier in the year was its density: without being filled with skyscrapers, it nonetheless felt as if the city made intense and efficient use of land. Far from being grim or utilitarian the result is a city full of beautiful buildings - it says something that an apartment block (Casa Milà) can be an architectural masterpiece and a tourist attraction.

Would Casa Milà be allowed in Dublin? Would it be blocked for changing the character of an area? Or for being high-rise? In Dublin, anything over four stories seems to be regarded as a towering monstrosity, and (in my opinion) there is too little recognition for the idea that changing the character of an area might be a good thing.

Apart from the architectural and cultural consequences of our city's planning limits and status-quo bias, there is a real impact on the city's economy. There's a good opinion piece in today's Sunday Business Post by Gina Quin of the Dublin Chamber of Commerce discussing the economic damage caused by the current planning rules in the city centre. It's a topic the DCC have discussed before, and one I've a lot of sympathy for. Planning rules should focus on quality (including architectural merit), not arbitrary restrictions on height or number of stories.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Summer Sensational

There's been some talk recently about having a second Culture Night each year. And as good an idea as that is, to me it seems as if that concept is already bettered by this: Temple Bar's 'The Summer Sensational', from July 8th to 11th. That sure is one long and varied list of events; and it's convenient that the festival is spread over several days instead of crammed into a single night.

Friday, June 25, 2010

RTE Summer Lunchtime Concerts

Nice idea - a series of lunchtime concerts in the National Concert Hall, running each Tuesday to the end of August.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Art exhibitions in Temple Bar

I dropped into the No Grants Gallery a few days ago. There's an exhibition by Andrew Pike until the end of June. I don't like to be critical of anyone's art but... it just wasn't to my liking.

On the other hand, I very much liked A Landscape of Known Facts in Project Arts Centre. It's a cinematic panorama, and finishes on Saturday.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Coming (back) soon...

I'm off to Sweden tomorrow for a week, so posts will resume on Monday 21st June.

This means that unfortunately I'll miss the Street Performance World Championship in Merrion Square from 17th to 20th June.

And speaking of coming soon: Riverdance will return to Dublin later this month, in the Gaiety Theatre.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Bloomsday

It's almost that time of the year again: Bloomsday is on Wednesday 16th June. Bloomsday is of course the 'anniversary' of the events told in James Joyce's Ulysses. The James Joyce Centre organises a wide range of events each year to celebrate Bloomsday; this year they begin today (Saturday 12th) and run to the 16th.

Details here. I can't overstate how much I approve of the concept of turning a full Irish breakfast into a cultural event. Genius!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Importance of Being Stylish

It seems I'm not the only one to have compared the wonderful red dress worn by Stockard Channing in The Importance of Being Earnest to the style of the "Mother Monster", Lady Gaga. Fans of Stockard (and at least one other reviewer) also spotted the resemblance.

In the interest of accuracy over speculation, I asked the production company about this. It is, perhaps unsurprisingly, just a coincidence. The costume designer would have worked with the director and actress to create a costume that fitted with the character and the production.

I for one approve of the result. It might not be Gaga, but it's good.

Reminder - Taste of Dublin is back!

It started today, and runs until the end of this coming weekend. Website here.

Restaurant: 10 Thousand

I find it amazing (and comforting) that even in these hard times there are still new restaurants and cafés being opened.

Over the weekend I popped into a new Japanese restaurant on Lower Liffey Street. It's called "10 Thousand" and is, as far as I can tell, a spin-off from the nearby Chinese restaurant of the same name. The area is now becoming a bit of a 'cluster' for Japanese cuisine: this new restaurant is directly beside Kokoro Sushi and close also to Yamamori Sushi on Lower Ormond Quay.

So how does 10 Thousand compare? Well, the prices are very reasonable: I went for a special offer of €6.95 for seafood cha han and miso soup - one of the cheapest Japanese meals I've ever had. However, the menu is fairly simple and limited compared to Yamamori and other more established Japaneses. (It's hard to compare against Kokoro - it's a very slick little take-away sushi bar.)

Service was fast and efficient, and while not exactly warm it wasn't unfriendly. The decor... felt a bit Chinese, to be honest.

I'll have to try 10 Thousand a few more times before I can judge whether it can match the competition.

Update, 05/09/2010: I went back recently. Same conclusions as initially - a bit cheaper than the competition but not quite as good.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Importance of Being Earnest

Just back from seeing Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest at the Gaiety Theatre. Initial impressions: I enjoyed it. The acting was good, the set was fine, the way the set was changed for each new scene was superb, and the costumes varied from functional to utterly, shockingly, stunningly beautiful. The star actress, Stockard Channing (of The West Wing), wore two of the most impressive dresses I've ever seen. The red one was particularly striking; I immediately found myself thinking of Lady Gaga. (And yes of course that is a compliment. Lady Gaga's sense of style is second only to her musical talent.)

It's been a while since I've been to the theatre - I love the cinema - and I'm always a little anxious that older plays, written during very different times, will seem dull, worthy and outdated. I found with this performance that this wasn't a problem; sure, society has changed a lot, but not so much that we're unable to comprehend how it used to be or empathise with the characters. The specifics of social expectation and acceptance change, but it's not as if wealth or social class have become irrelevant.

The best measure of a comedy is simply whether it's funny, and it was. The dialogue is good - the play wouldn't still be performed if it weren't - but the actors to their credit added to the comedy. Channing's momentary difficulty in removing a scarf was either an exceptionally naturalist piece of acting or a wardrobe malfunction turned into a lovely bit of improvisation. Anyway, I enjoyed it. And so did the rest of the audience.

After the show I briefly had a look at what other reviewers had to say. One liked the set changes but concluded: "However, this ultimately remains a production that seems squarely pitched towards keeping a broad audience well satisfied." Wow, well there I was thinking that entertaining the audience was the point of the show. I was already familiar with the play, but as far as I'm concerned someone who's never even been to the theatre before should be able to enjoy a performance: and I'm sure that in this case, they would have.

Any negatives? I suppose the Gaiety could sell hot whiskey in the upstairs bar... but as for the play, no criticisms. It's everything Waiting for Godot isn't: funny, enjoyable, and worth seeing.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Dublin Shakespeare Festival

The Dublin Shakespeare Festival starts today.

NB If you were already planning to go to this, check out the announcement on the website - some of the venues have been changed.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Mutefish

I heard this band (Mutefish) playing in Temple Bar recently. They were good, real crowd pleasers. Not Lady Gaga good, but good.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Whiskey

If you like whiskey, you probably already know about the Celtic Whiskey Shop on Dawson Street, Dublin 2. But if you haven't been there, check it out some time. It's got a good variety, a wide price range, and friendly staff.