Monday, 5 May 2014

NOT wasting your life watching tv (True Detective, Hannibal)

To kill some time while waiting for a good new contract I started watching the US version of House of Cards. Loved it. I loved it so much I immediately started writing something on it for this for this blog.

In the meantime started watching the original BBC version. Liked it a lot. I began including a comparison between the two versions of  House of Cards in the blogpost I was working on. (Completed House of Cards blogpost will go up tomorrow)

Meanwhile, started watching NBCs Hannibal
Got sucked into making notes on that as well  - I've been a fan of Thomas Harris's books since summer of '85 when I was training to run the Book Department at Forbidden Planet Oxford street.

NBCs Hannibal is I think the best Thomas Harris adaptation since Micheal Mann's Manhunter (1986) and is comfortably better than Oscar winning Silence of the Lambs (1991) and Ridley Scott's movie (2001). It seems to be following the spirit of the Thomas Harris books surprisingly closely and is stylised much like Manhunter but trades the 80s garishness for a painfully restrained David Fincher/Lynch menu of moods and colours. It helps that Mads Mikkellson forgets Anthony Hopkins music hall Oscar bait version of the Dr Lector.
Additions to the plot of the books (like Eddie Izzard as a precursor surgeon serial killer and Gillian Anderson as Lecktors own, quite mysterious analyst) seem to be entirely in keeping with Harris's plots and timeline. By the time you reach the end of S1 Hannibal is so good you may well have actually stopped caring about how close it is to the books anyway. Creepiest thing about it? All the food looks delicious

All the unrelenting murder on screen was by now was broken with occasional breaks for The Daily Show and the new Cosmos - both excellent.

While collating notes on all the above I started watching True Detective in the background. Really only because it was recommended by my sister, I have no normal enthusiasm for the average cop show.
I was watching True Detective in the background for maybe about 60 seconds - then did virtually nothing else for the next 48 hours.

For much of its short length True Detective S1 is as good as The Wire. The two principal leads Matthew McConaughey, Woody Harrelson put in career defining performances and create with the writer Nic Pizzolatto, and sole director Cary Joji Fukunaga the two best new characters I've come across for years.
Doomed detectives Martin Hart and Rustin Cohle  kidnap the viewer completely for a holiday in an apocalyptic Louisiana that makes True Blood look like Hollyoaks.

Far from being a set police story, for nearly all it's length this first series (of what will be an anthology show with different characters and plot each season) looks like developing into the most subtle and disturbing Lovecraftian adaptation ever filmed. References to Robert W. Chambers' The King In Yellow suggest the Louisiana 'Old Time' religion the detectives uncover isn't from Louisiana and is way way older than they think.This sets up a climax in the 8th and final episode 'Form and Void' which looks as if it will go Angel Heart by way of the Wicker Man. Perhaps inevitably I found the end disappointing - but I will be astonished if this is the last we see of Martin Hart and Rustin Cohle.

I tried so hard not to keep writing on this show and almost feel like I'm possessed by a cult myself on the subject. I will merely present this - as heard played in Camden Barfly last night before headlining band (Beasts), the stunning opening music (T Bone Burnet) and credits to True Detective, a montage of post hurricane catastrophe and Lovecratian blues.

I am very relieved to say that since this run of fantastic content, House of Cards (review will follow), Hannibal, True Detective everything else I've started watching, including C4's highly rated Utopia, Orphan Black, The Tunnel .. has been pretty crap in comparison. Perhaps whatever hold those shows had on me has run it's course. What I can tell you is that in two or three weeks of selectively watching decent tv - instead of vegetating passively at the mercy of moronic tv schedulers - didn't feel like I was wasting my life at all.

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