Film

What's Love Got to Do With It?

Rhys Ifans in Enduring Love

Circumstances may have brought them together, but a single 'enduring' emotion may be driving Ian McEwan's characters toward a deranged date with destiny.

A lot of Sopranos fans were outraged when the series ended back on 10 June. The last episode had its moments, and yet during the final scene, pretty much nothing of consequence happened. And then the screen went abruptly black. Viewers were forced to draw their own conclusions as to what would become of Tony and his family. This angered a lot of people. Personally, I thought it was brilliant. I’ve always enjoyed a little mystery with my media and I like to think I’m creative enough to “fill in the blanks”.

If you’re the type of person who wants everything you read or watch spelled out for you and / or tied up in a tidy explanation, then don’t bother seeing Roger Mitchell’s film, Enduring Love, and definitely don’t read the Ian McEwan novel it is based on.

The book starts out simply enough. On a beautiful summer day in a meadow outside of Oxford, Joe Rose and his commonwealth wife, Clarissa Mellon, are picnicking. As Joe pops a bottle of champagne, he notices a hot air balloon floating by. He senses something isn’t right. As the balloon tumbles past, dangerously close to the ground, it appears unmanned. Then Joe sees a 10-year-old boy who is frozen in fear while his uncle, the pilot, struggles with the ripcord.

As Joe rushes to help, four other bystanders come out of the background. Together they help pull down the runaway vessel. Just when they think they’ve succeeded, a violent gust of wind suddenly pulls the balloon into the air again, with the men still dangling from the ripcord. As it ascends, it becomes clear to everyone that they will have to let go before the balloon gets too high. One by one, they drop to safety – all except someone named John Logan He hangs on too long and eventually falls to his death.

Roger Mitchell’s (of Knotting Hill and Changing Lanes fame) cinematic version of McEwan’s opening captures the sequence beautifully. Daniel Craig plays Joe and Samantha Morton plays Claire (her name is changed from Clarissa in the book). Just as McEwan describes in the novel, the two are picnicking on a green stretch of land when a brilliant red balloon skids past awkwardly. Inside the basket is a lone boy and below, struggling with the ripcord, is his panicked uncle. As if on queue, the four witnesses, as described, come from their corners of the field to help Joe wrestle the balloon back down to earth.

Everything goes along exactly as McEwan writes in his book, but with the added attraction of lush cinematography and an eerie, disturbing silence surrounding the action. As a result, the scene is brought to life with searing and disturbing authenticity. Everything intensifies after the men drop safely from the rope to the ground. We watch in horror as John Logan drifts away high into the air, clinging desperately to life. When he can no longer support himself, we see his miniature body, black against the blazing blue sky, fall into a field hundreds of yards away.

Joe decides to run to where the man has fallen to determine his condition. What he finds once he gets there is unsettling to say the least. In the book, McEwan describes Logan’s lifeless body as sitting upright looking like a “Picassoesque violation of perspective.” The way Mitchell interprets this in the film is highly disturbing and very effective. The dead man sits a little off kilter in the quiet, sunny pasture, innards spilling out of his suit and blood dribbling from his lip. Nearby, a flock of sheep chew their cud indifferently.

As Joe makes his unsettling discovery, Jed Parry, one of the men who witnessed the accident, appears and tells Joe they should pray. Joe politely refuses, saying that praying isn’t his sort of thing. Meeting this man becomes a pivotal moment in Joe’s emotional journey. The content and quiet existence he once cherished is suddenly uprooted. He is plagued by guilt for not being able to save Logan (Could he have done something different to change the disastrous outcome? Did he let go of the rope too soon?), and to make maters worse, Jed Parry begins to make bizarre and intrusive phone calls to him. Parry, a religious fanatic and loner, believes that he and Joe were meant to be together and that the accident happened in order to merge their lives. He begins following him everywhere and waiting outside of his London flat. Jed becomes so focused on Joe that he makes Tom Ripley from The Talented Mr. Ripley look like a mild pest by comparison.

Rhys Ifans is outright terrifying as Parry. Stringy blonde hair hangs in his eyes and he wears a constant look of mild surprise on his round face as he creeps around, turning up wherever Joe does. Now, in the book, it’s unclear if Parry really exists at all. McEwan leads his readers to believe that Parry could be a symptom of Joe’s imagination – possibly the result of some Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Additionally, Clarissa doesn’t take Joe seriously (on the page or the film) when he tells her how crazy Parry is. Instead of support, all she can offer is skepticism.

Naturally, her lack of interest begins to take its toll on their relationship. In the novel, there is more insight into why she doesn’t take Joe’s side. This includes a scene where she accuses Joe of writing the lengthy, cryptic letters Parry has been sending him and reveals that they’re written in Joe’s handwriting (this material is absent in the film). This is a key moment in EcEwan’s story, and for me it is the most interesting part of the book. As you read on, you begin to wonder if she isn’t right and that Parry is perhaps something Joe’s has dreamt up in his own fragile psyche.

In the film, however, Parry is very real and Clarissa never makes the accusation concerning the letters. Ifans makes up for the missing plot twist by upping the psychological ante and serenading Joe with “God Only Knows” by the Beach Boys while a classroom full of his bewildered students look on. This is something that never happens in the book, but is an appropriate and bone chilling addition. Speaking of which, Daniel Craig gives a spot-on performance as Joe. He’s handsome in that professor kind of way, wearing glasses and talking to himself under his breath as he tries to make sense of his secret stalker. At the end of the film, he shares a kiss with Ifans that’s so tense, it made my clench my teeth.

Daniel Craig in Enduring Love

So why is Jed stalking Joe? The question is never really answered, although the film tries to make more sense of it than the book, inferring that Jed is a fan of Joe’s (having read all of the scientific books he’s written). In the novel, Joe’s motivation is more open to interpretation. Whatever the reason, Jed keeps telling Joe that he loves him. Of course this sounds crazy, but the concept of love and what it is reflects accurately on the story’s focal point. Joe keeps asking himself this question, both in the book and in the film: What is love? Is it merely a chemical response that happens to us physically, or is it something more ephemeral and arcane?

Because he’s a man of science, Joe leans towards the more rational explanations having to do with biology when trying to make sense of the question. Jed, who has a hippyish Jesus freak quality to him, relies on the concepts of fate and divine intervention to guide his crazed conclusions. The tension between these two men and the concepts they each represent are at the heart of both McEwan’s and Mitchell’s emotionally charged creations. While neither the book nor the film ever really decides what love is, each does a remarkable job of examining the question. Granted, having to fill in the blanks can be frustrating. But in either version of Enduring Love, it remains fascinating, and fulfilling.

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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