Edinburgh Cinema

Edinburgh’s cinemas have their own, different feel. When I visit them, I’ll be writing about both the film and the place, giving you the organic experience. Film critics on the big scale can’t really cater for this, so I hope my reviews bring something extra in this respect.

A Star Is Born

Astarisborn_moviepostercover

A Star Is Born

Before the film review, my background focus on its star. I love the work of Lady Gaga, up to and including the fluorescent brilliance of her album Artpop (2013). It coincided with an important period in my life, a year of upheaval when I realized I wouldn't live to please the norms of others anymore. Gaga's album was a sci-fi orgasm, full of small details on garish, mellifluous canvasses: an affirmation to go crazy and treat your life like art. If I could compare one movie to it – the kind of movie Gaga would excel in – it would be Thor: Ragnarok, a similarly funny, high-camp colourful piece of fantasy. Lady Gaga is the perfect other-worldly, light-hearted, beautiful, larger-than-life persona that would fit into the Marvel universe.

But Gaga has moved away from Artpop, always looking to try new things. This is part of the problem for me now: I liked her highly produced cyborg pop, I liked the just-beyond persona, the ever-changing façade. I didn't need to know what went on beyond this façade, the façade was everything. But after Artpop Gaga produced Joanne (2017), a stripped down style of self-expression with a different kind of singing. The album as a whole feels raw, the songs under-produced and under-written, there's also a harshness to Gaga's voice at times, it's there in fact at the end of Artpop in Dope, a song I find unlistenable. Her Netflix documentary too, in giving us the stripped down Gaga behind the mask left me with an oddly empty feeling. Perhaps this is the sensation that most would feel at that Wizard of Oz moment, when the curtain is pulled back and the icon is exposed in all their banality. But I also feel that some manage 'stripped down' better, while others excel most with smoke and mirrors.

And so to A Star Is Born (2018), a movie directed by and starring Bradley Cooper. Paradoxically, actor/director Cooper is the more believable rock n' roll star in this movie, his voice attractively smooth and growling, his guitar play expressing an emotional physicality. Gaga, meanwhile, sings as she does in her album Joanne, sometimes coming over harshly, in a way that made me feel: I would not listen to this at home.

Given that the film is a kind of musical, the fact that Gaga's singing made me flinch was an indication of the film's limitations. About the story, the film arguably tries to squeeze in too much at too fast a pace. Gaga's character is no sooner 'discovered' by Cooper's established rock star than she's offered a private jet ride to his concert and invited to sing a song in front of a sell-out stadium. An agent immediately wants to represent her; soon enough there's talk of her winning a Grammy for Best Newcomer. These narratives have been kind-of-done before, where a person with potential is languishing in obscurity and given a (second) chance in life: Rocky (1977), My Fair Lady (1965), Pretty Woman (1990). But in these films, the hero/heroin only truly comes into their own towards the end, at the film's climax. In A Star Is Born, the star has already made the big time halfway through, her relationship with her 'saviour' rushed through to the point where you wonder: Why did they get married? Why do either of them care when the relationship goes wrong? Why, in fact, should I care? Not enough has been constructed to make Gaga's success, or her relationship with Cooper, something to worry about. Arguably it's an American-Idol-style success story for the 21st century where anybody can be anything if you dream enough. And then win awards, months after your emergence. But the whole thing feels plastic and unreal.

If the story feels too rushed, I also felt the journey through various genres disorienting. We start off seeing Gaga doing cabaret in a drag bar. Soon after she's singing rock with her future hubby, then weeks/months later, is doing highly processed MTV dance music videos to banal disco. At one point, we see Cooper watching her uneasily, as if the genre is not to his liking. I felt the same. Even Bowie (and for that matter Gaga) didn't switch genres this quickly in their career. Again, the development is crammed in to a degree that's difficult to appreciate.

Yet this isn't to say that A Star Is Born is a poor film, given its ambitions to craft a fame-related fairy tale. It's glitzy and has its tender moments, not least the ending, when I felt tears come to my eyes. But the tears that I felt were for Bradley Cooper's character; Gaga as his foil is just too much the super star, at home in stardom, for me to worry about what happens next to her. In truth, there's something invincible about Lady Gaga, a would-be Marvel superhero wrongly located in this ostensibly personal journey that feels just too impersonal.
First Man
BlacKkKlansman
 

Comments

No comments made yet. Be the first to submit a comment
Guest
Tuesday, 17 September 2019

Captcha Image

My Latest Posts

August 21, 2019

Hearty by Emma Frankland

Hearty by Emma Frankland Raw and dripping with punk aesthetic, this one-woman-show's one-woman emerges in ripped tights and a T-shirt that paraphrases loudly the words of anti-trans theorist Germaine Greer: Lop Your Dick Off. My first impression of Emma Frankland is edgily uncertain and in awe, her Lady-Gaga-looks combined with Heath Ledger's mesme...
August 21, 2019

Pronoun, Pass, & Amnesty International

Transgender drama: Pronoun To be clear at the outset, this was the production of a youth theatre group, not a highly resourced team of experienced, professional career actors – although some of the performances left a powerful impression, and the show as a whole achieved some remarkable moments. Pronoun , written by Evan Placey, follows the transit...
August 13, 2019

Transgender Dance: Sound Cistem

Transgender Dance: Sound Cistem It starts with a heartbeat, the dancer-directors Lizzie and Ayden in slow-motion entry, setting the scene of a nightclub featuring two young transgender bodies who are in fact multiple. Sound Cistem is theatrical dance set to a series of pulsing, dance-floor rhythms and the voices of several trans interviewees projec...
August 04, 2019

Drone by Harry Josephine Giles

Drone by Harry Josephine Giles The blurring of human and machine reiterates here in a comedically surreal, startling performance by the performance poet Harry Josephine Giles. Drawing on visual and aural effects, Giles presents the disturbingly evocative middle-class arc of the life of an electronic, military drone. With Giles as both narrator and ...
August 03, 2019

Burgerz by Travis Alabanza

Burgerz by Travis Alabanza Playing currently at the Traverse Theatre is Travis Alabanza's poignant and comic one-person show, a thought-provoking meditation created out of a jarring personal experience. Back in 2016, Alabanza, a non-binary person of colour, was abused in a London street, with a burger thrown at them by a stranger. The show's series...
August 03, 2019

While transphobes get more hateful, I become more freckly

While transphobes got more hateful, I became more freckly Written weeks after the conference Transgender: Intersectional/International There's nothing good to say, even the films I enjoyed watching this past week, Midsommar and Apollo 11 , I've lost the Sunday will to write. Perhaps Brexit Britain will become like the village cult in Midsommar , bu...
June 09, 2019

Dark Phoenix, John Wick 3, Godzilla: my reflections

Three fantasy movies within three days: X Men: Dark Phoenix; John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum; Godzilla: King of the Monsters The Lacanian feminist Kaja Silverman says about cinema, we go because we need the affirmation, to see the things we hope to see and fail to see in the real world. In Lacanian-speak, Silverman says we go because 'the desire ...
June 02, 2019

Personal Reflections on Transgender: Intersectional/International

Personal reflections on the conference Transgender: Intersectional/International (28-29 May) ​​Note: these reflections do not represent anyone else who contributed to Transgender: Intersectional/International I got involved with Transgender: Intersectional/International in order to create an LGBT/queer space that accommodated discussions on racism,...
April 28, 2019

Gina's Moving Castle

Saturday afternoon 27.04.19 Enough with marking papers. Enough about conferences. Outside is a blue sky. There's a book shop nearby, my temple, its owners are trying to remove stickers of transphobic messages pasted on their door. Yesterday I met a guy who'd been set upon by a group of 17-year-olds. He still had the scars, and the trauma. They saw ...