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Montpellier, France
Writer, actor, artist, teacher, exploring the world and its levels in fiction, poetry, memoir, photography, fine arts.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

"T2 - Trainspotting" boggles the mind

Danny Boyle’s new film "T2 Trainspotting" is a flamboyant hoot. Just check out this trailer! (There are more on the film's FB page.)

“Shoo-er yu cunt unnerstanna wurrud th’r sane mowust uh th’tame…” – but it doesn’t matter that much. Boyle delights in tropes of his 1996 cult film, and in the complicated relationships among the surviving troupe of low-lifes fans will remember from the original. The success of exuberant, flashy, utterly watchable “T2” is in part that Boyle doesn’t seek to imitate, but to surpass. He does so, creating a gripping, funny, violent, vulgar, trashily intellectual piece of post-modern filmmaking.

“First there was an opportunity, then there was a betrayal.” That’s the theme in a nutshell. Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor) returns to his hometown after a 20-year absence and at once confronts long-postponed consequences of his past. One by one, we are re-introduced to Mark, Spud (Ewen Bremner), Sick Boy (Jonny Lee Martin) and Begbie (Robert Carlyle), as their stories intersect. Sparks fly – and blood, and other fluids, but I don’t want to spoil the astonishing fun of it all.

The film is visually arresting: fast, loud, kaleidoscopic, and often incomprehensible despite the floating subtitles that appear at the start, an ironic nod to the complaints of non-Scottish audiences about “the language barrier” in T1. I had a brief hope the titles would run throughout, but no; once they disappear you’re on your own to make sense of the story by riveting your attention to the action and vivid settings.

Kid videos and snips from the original film create an almost poignant sense of the passage of time. All of the characters in their unique ways deal with being suddenly middle-aged, and the world they live in has definitely moved forward as well. Some time sequences get confusing. For instance, at the end of a knock-down bar-fight between Mark and Sick Man, Mark walks away from the pool table without a scratch on him, as Sick Man sits on a bench at the side of the room. The floor is spotless, not a trace of upturned furniture or shattered glass. Is this a jump ahead (or back) in time? Or is it Boyle poking fun at the trope of the barroom brawl? Probably the latter, but one grins a little uncertainly.

Another question: has celebrity ruined Ewan McGregor? I hate to ask, because I love Ewan McGregor – who doesn’t? But of the four characters (a fifth, Tommy McKenzie, played by Kevin Kidd, dies in the first movie but makes an appearance in a flashback), McGregor stands out, and not in a good way. His screen presence is self-conscious and faintly unconvincing, as if he barely had his lines memorized. I noticed this quality in him in his recent appearance on Stephen Colbert: like a man talking to himself in the mirror.  I wonder what’s going on.

Anyway, if you are a T1 fan, don’t miss T2. Or even if you never saw the original, you'll find everything you need in this “sequel.” Take it as a cartoon, a send-up of itself, a mockumentary about a generation of Edinburgh’s heroin underground facing mid-life crisis. It’s funny, memorable, and cathartic – a must see for your inner demons.

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