Author Archives: Douglas Greenwood

Glasgow Film Fest 2015 – Memphis (Tim Sutton, 2013)

In amongst the airy, ethereal atmosphere of Tim Sutton’s Memphis, there lies promise. An idea that could make this film work in a sort of bizarre amalgamation of Beasts of the Southern Wild and Gummo. Both of those are blinding and beautiful depictions of the deep south that work in their sprawling style. Memphis gets unfortunately caught in between these genres with very little to engage with.

A struggling blues musician arrives in the city of Memphis, exploring its streets and meeting its people who force him to do better by telling him his voice is a gift from God.

Memphis has the laudable talent of looking and sounding sublime. Often, the film is engrossing through its ability to wash over you; visceral and seductive as if you’re in that searing summer setting. It follows the life of a musician inspired partly by the star, the talented Willis Earl Beal in a sort of cinéma vérité style, depicting his almost nonchalance attitude with such an intensity the film itself becomes non progressive. Its finer moments lie in the scenes where Beal isn’t centre stage. Uproarious church sermons, young childhood friendships and a mother with children, telling stories of the city she grows up in. The glimmers of potential here are, unfortunately, overshadowed by a character and script that’s a little too obtuse.

Atmospheric depictions of life in a cultured city are the minor beauties in Memphis – a film otherwise a little too underdeveloped to be engaging.


Memphis plays at the Glasgow Film Festival on Thursday 26th/Friday 27th February. More information here.

Radio 1’s Big Weekend: Saturday 24th May

Glasgow has forever been hailed the home of proud Scottish behaviour. Rowdy, good fun and filled with camaraderie, it only seemed natural that Europe’s biggest free music festival set its next footsteps in Scotland’s largest city.

Tickets for Radio 1’s Big Weekend were released in March and snapped up at uncontrollable speeds, due to the popularity of the acts and the free ticketing policy the BBC has operated since the festival began. A total of 50,000 people arrived at Glasgow Green over the weekend, eager to take advantage of the arrival of massive music names on Scottish shores.

* * * * *

Radio 1’s broad spectrum of listeners invited a varied crowd to the first day of the event. In a very clever effort to get people through the gates early in the day, boy band of the moment One Direction opened the main stage.

One Direction
Whether or not you enjoy their music, the sheer number of people who had heard of One Direction and their fan base resulted in a packed main stage. The crowd was varied, from young children on their parents shoulders, to twenty/thirty-something year old men there just to experience the 1D mania. They had an undeniable stage presence; brilliantly bold urging the crowd to sing along (as if they needed any encouragement). Reeling off hit after hit, you realise that although their music may not be made to appeal to everyone, it inadvertently does. They’ve been responsible for one of the most recognisable music catalogues of the 21st century, and when performed live, it translates to an unassailable crowd pleaser. They are The Beatles of the internet generation, and with Harry Styles misted in a Jagger-esque aura, the mass hysteria you experience is entirely justified.

Hailing from New Zealand, Lorde has gone from writing music in her bedroom to performing to huge international crowds, all before turning eighteen. Her subdued set early on Saturday afternoon was nothing short of beautiful, as she took to the stage in high waist black trousers paired with a white vest. She looked and acted like she meant business. Delivering highlights from her brilliant debut ‘Pure Heroine’, she jolted and swayed her hair in perfect sync to her music. It was like watching a teenage girl dancing around her bedroom, unrestrained as though no one was watching. In turn it felt affectionate and intimate. She feels her music, and reverberates that to every corner of the audience. One of the most touching moments came as she introduced ‘Ribs’, a song she wrote when she was fifteen and realised the inevitability of growing old. She looked out on to a packed crowd, and smiled. She may only be a young woman, but her stage presence and lyricism reflects that of somebody near three times her age. Lorde was Big Weekend’s most innate and expressive performer.

His name has been attached to every one of the world’s most popular songs in the past eighteen months. As expected, all of Pharrell’s recognisable hits propped up in his perfectly slotted set on Saturday afternoon. Opening with the Daft Punk collaboration ‘Lose Yourself to Dance’, he started subdued with subtle groove provoking a swaying crowd. His vocals, whilst there, were barely audible. Perhaps this was an issue with sound (I was near the back of the crowd, and his voice has more intricate flare than booming power), but the half recognisable record was not necessarily the best choice for an opener. Saying this, he ploughed his way through his impressive repertoire of music, dropping in cuts from his latest album including Marilyn Monroe and Happy, and some of his older work. His most bizarre performance came in the form of Gwen Stefani’s Hollaback Girl, a song Pharrell wrote and produced under his early noughties power group, The Neptunes. It got the crowd going, but Pharrell’s effort was questionable on that part. His band, choreography and backing singers were on point, but maybe a little bit more passion from the man himself would work better as a festival gig.

Calvin Harris
Both sub-headline slots on the main stage were filled by Scottish music heroes at the weekend. Whilst Paolo Nutini brought soul to the stage on Sunday night, the world’s highest paid DJ performed on Saturday, setting off pyrotechnics and smoke flares aplenty. Bombastic, non stop and relentless, Harris reeled of his catalogue without a duff note in between. It was an atmospheric, standard set for the DJ. He delivered what the crowd wanted, but was a little afraid to drop something unexpected. Nothing overly boring, nor earth shattering – just standard EDM affair.

Undoubtedly, the most astounding feat of Big Weekend came with Coldplay’s euphoric headline set. Delivering some of the most incredible stage work the city had seen, they effortlessly soared through a rather short set for the stadium band, but included all of their best work and the obligatory new ones. That’s the thing, though. The crowd was more than willing to listen to their new music – it’s as wonderful as the classics. As the lights stretch out as far as you can see, and twisting LED dandelion seeds fall from the sky, you realise that although the spectacle is there, it isn’t necessary with Coldplay’s immense catalogue and charisma. Seeing them live is a mindblowing experience, and as Chris Martin watched the 25,000 strong crowd sing the hook of ‘Viva La Vida’ back to him, it might just be the same for them too.

Radio 1’s Big Weekend Arrives in Glasgow’s George Square

14,000 music fans descended on the city’s George Square on Friday evening, to celebrate the launch of BBC Radio 1’s Big Weekend – a music festival set to take place at Glasgow Green over the next three days.

The BBC had prepared a non stop evening of electronic dance music in the city centre’s iconic square, with performances from the broadcasting giant’s own radio presenters, as well as illustrious international DJs Martin Garrix and Tiesto.

Renowned BBC disc jockeys and presenters Danny Howard, Annie Mac, Zane Lowe and Pete Tong opened up the evening with four varied sets; featuring everything from deep house to current pop music.

Tweeting pictures from the stage, Pete Tong MBE called the crowd “bonkers”, as they danced near non-stop throughout the five hour event.

Special guest Martin Garrix also played a short set, playing both his biggest hits ‘Animals’ and ‘Wizard’, which peaked at number one and number seven in the UK charts respectively. Having turned eighteen just nine days earlier, the sub-headline act barely met the minimum age for entry to the event.

The headliner for the evening, world famous DJ Tiesto, delivered a relentless set featuring both his current and classic music, as lights and video were projected on to the face of the Glasgow City Chambers building.

For more information and reviews over the weekend, check back here with The Glasgow Reporter.

BBC Radio 1’s Big Weekend Glasgow 2014 takes place 23rd-25th May.

Highlights and live stream are available on Radio 1, online, on mobile, via the BBC iPlayer Radio app and on BBC Three.

GFF 2014: 20 Feet from Stardom (Morgan Neville, 2013)


Rarely does a documentary let you be both in awe of and feel pity for its protagonists. In 20 Feet from Stardom, director Morgan Neville does just that. While at some points these men and women make you want to stand on your cinema seat and sing to the heavens, he has a great ability to truly make you realise what life has been like for them.

They stand ever so slightly to the back of the stage, their voices filling records and auditoriums but never truly being the one with all the attention. They are the backing singers of today and of history, brought stunningly to the forefront in this rather rambunctious documentary.

Regardless, 20 Feet from Stardom is a glitzy, powerful affair in giving an in-depth look into the world of backup singers. Focusing on the most famous women and men over the years from Darlene Love to The Waters, it backs up the voice with some fond memories of the past, featuring interviews with Stevie Wonder and Mick Jagger to name a few.

It does something that a lot of documentaries fail to do: inform. Incorporating stock footage from the past that will be nostalgic to many, it also delves into the current lives of some of music’s most forgotten voices.

20 Feet from Stardom is a rushing, sass-filled affair that is impossible not to love. Get on top of your seats, ladies and gentleman: you’re in for a real treat here!

20 Feet from Stardom has its UK release on March 28th

GFF 2014: Starred Up (David Mackenzie, 2013)



I woke up this morning still to find myself in the confined space of Starred Up. Isolating, dangerous and cutthroat, it’s a realistic outing into the prison genre after years of being near destroyed by hyperbolic stories and substandard acting efforts (we’re not pointing fingers, Mr. Dyer).

Surpassing the young offenders institutions, Eric winds up a high risk inmate at a British prison. His 19 year old mind still racing from the outside world, he struggles to understand how this incarcerated world works. As he meets his fellow inmate father for the first time in years, tensions heighten to an unbearable levels as he forms a rivalry rather than embracing the only recognisable figure.

Credit is most due here to the sublime Jack O’Connell, whose lead performance as Eric is absolutely astounding. His work here embodies a vindictive, violent figure who veers on the edge of being so infamous he becomes vulnerable. O’Connell’s undeniable skill almost effortlessly melds into this role, as if he’s been waiting to play Eric his whole life.

What makes Starred Up so different from its prison depicting predecessors is the fact that its solid script veers into the shocking but never overdoes it. The characters feel familiar, yet not clichéd. This is Jonathan Asser’s work. His first feature outing as a screenwriter is due almost entirely to his work as a prison therapist before he wrote the film. The very little that seems predictable is perhaps a true depiction of what prison life is really like, and we as an audience have been the ignorant ones after all.

Starred Up is a vindictive, stark piece of British cinema that refuses to let go days after you’ve seen it. Cold and haunting, you will never look at prison dramas in the same way again.

Starred Up has its UK release on March 21st

GFF 2014: Night Moves (Kelly Reichardt, 2013)



Night Moves is an example of a film that works so tremendously well using very little. Set in an isolated American town, it uses a sparse landscape and accomplished cast in presenting a film that slowly burns its wick, choosing to avoid sparking up dynamite.

Three friends band together in the hopes of bringing down a local dam in an act of eco-terrorism. On the surface, it would seem all had been thought through, but there’s one thing they did not even begin to consider.

It feels all very real and non contrived. As these three characters converse, their words seldom steer towards a clichéd use of condemning words for the goverment. That dialogue is there, but it is used sparingly, surrounded instead by something that feels familiar; as if these activists are just normal rather than preachy.

Dakota Fanning subtly shines alongside Jesse Eisenberg, whose quiet, irregular voice differs from the usual rambling character he usually depicts. Both give wonderful performances, especially Fanning, who must be on her way to getting some Academy recognition at some point. It all feels and looks very natural, and that intrinsic feeling is down to two things: its performances and its cinematography.

The subtlety doesn’t last much past the first half of the film, after a torrid realisation hits the group. It suddenly steers away from being tense and gorgeous to something strangely psychotic and overly dragged out. It’s a real shame, considering the first half is so striking.

Night Moves is undoubtedly worth seeing due to its subtlety and enchanting cinematography in the first half, but as soon as the surprise hits, it’s a little bit more self indulgent.

GFF 2014 – The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared (Felix Herngren, 2013)



For the most part, we’ve left mainstream comedy films to the Yanks. Veering towards grandiose affairs of humourless slapstick, or a smartly written, well acted features, they rarely meet anywhere in the middle. The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window and Disappeared is an example of a film doing just that.

On his one hundredth birthday, Allan climbs out of his window in a care home he reluctantly lives in. Intent on escaping to somewhere new and alone, he takes the bus to a small, almost non existent town, meeting people along the way. As the police start to track down his whereabouts, he leads a life of inadvertent crime, innately telling stories of his past on the way.

Although it lends a lot to the likes of Forrest Gump, The 100-Year-Old Man is simply a warm, well intended film to watch. It doesn’t try to involve needless backstories (apart from his past, obviously, which isn’t necessary but a beautiful anecdote that runs through it), but sets forward on this story that shows comedy holds no language.

It may stretch out a little, at nearly two hours long, but The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared is a joyously comic film that has its heart in exactly the right place.

GFF 2014: Stranger by the Lake (Alain Guiraudie, 2013)



As the sun sets over the water in Stranger by the Lake, you are reminded  how cinema can greatly embody multiple genres. Presenting itself as an erotic story of lust and danger, it simultaneously ventures in to something voyeuristic and uncomfortably mysterious.

During a hot summer, gay men swarm to a secluded lake that they use as a cruising spot. Surrounded by woodland and with the water stretching far across the lake, Franck, a young seemingly impressionable man who’s fresh out of work, spends his summer meeting men with whom he simply talks, and to others bares his sexual being. When he meets Michel, an attractive, golden skinned strong swimmer, he falls desperately in love with him. But when he witnesses him from the forest drowning a former lover in the lake, Franck is forced to choose between his twisting mind and his throbbing heart.

The film never leaves the boundaries of the lake and the forest, enclosing you and capturing you for its entirety. What by day feels like a glorious, sunny beach turns torrid and unsettling as the moon rises, captured beautifully by the film’s great cinematographer, Claire Mathon. The script, whilst simple, is achingly effective. The characters, each valuable and stunningly realised by their respective actors are what carries this sometimes sinister love story. Franck, played by Pierre de Ladonchamps, teeters cautiously on the edge of lust and infatuation, engulfed almost entirely by Michel (Christophe Paou), whose caustic, stark performance makes you realise exactly what Franck is falling for.

Credit is due to Stranger by the Lake’s brilliant director, whose alluring use of symbolism and minimalism has created a story that, while at times sexually gratuitous, has become an exemplary piece of daring French cinema.

It may be uncomfortable territory for many, but for those who can let go of tabooed thoughts for just a short while will be washed over and drowned by Stranger by the Lake.

GFF 2014: The Double (Richard Ayoade, 2014)



If there’s a topic that Richard Ayoade tackles with impeccable skill, it’s infatuation. In his break out hit, the 2010 coming-of-age drama ‘Submarine’, he created a film about two young teenagers hopelessly in love but surrounded by break up and melancholy. In his latest feature, The Double, he once again creates an unrequited infatuation, but never veers into the obsessive.

It tells the story of Simon, a timid man who day by day is ignored and forgotten by his co-workers and mother. As all he yearns for slips from his hands, a man walks into the office. His name is James. Confident and daring, he could not be more different from Simon, apart from the fact that he looks identical to him. As James teaches Simon the ways to entice the woman he loves, James carries out a deceitful act of sabotage that drives Simon to insanity.

The Double presents itself as a ‘comedy’ on paper, and bar the few and far between lines of dark humour, it could not be further from it. Haunting and psychotic, it verges on this fine tightrope of insanity that drags you with it as it teeters off either side. It’s a bizarre turn for Ayoade, whose comic background would suggest he couldn’t make a thriller as fine as this, but to his credit he does it seemingly effortlessly, and with a sensational amount of skill. In fact, it wouldn’t be ridiculous to suggest that Ayoade’s effort here makes him one of Britain’s best modern directors. It lends itself, through its harrowing score and masterful cinematography, to the horror greats of the seventies and eighties. It’s bizarre, at times terrifying but with each and every frame drags you into the pit of your seat.

The performances, particularly Jesse Eisenberg as the both shy and vindictive leads of Simon and James, are scarily good. Eisenberg gives a career defining performance. The dual aspect of it also gives Mia Wasikowska, as the Simon’s love interest, a character that’s both caustic and charming. She’s a fine young actress and gives a performance that’s one of her own personal bests. There are numerous other cast members that crop up over the ninety minute runtime, both Wallace Shawn and Noah Taylor make great appearances as delusional co-workers, and Ayoade has even squeezed in roles for his Submarine alumni Yasmin Paige and Craig Roberts too.

The Double owes just as much to those in post production as it does to those during the filming of it. With an impeccable British direction, great international performances and a script and score to die for, The Double is truly one of the most enticing, interesting and genuinely excellent films of the year so far.

The Double plays at the Glasgow Film Festival on both Saturday 22nd and Sunday 23rd February