The White Book (of the Year)

Can I be honest? Up to December, things were looking quite bleak for a possible winner of Book of the Year 2017. It wasn’t because I’d read less: Goodreads, a site to keep track of your reading history, told me I’d read more than in most years of this decade. Still, not much jumped out – most books had been awarded three or four stars, so my taste hadn’t gone off either.

Before announcing the winner – not a real surprise given the picture on the left (yes, I found a way to add new pictures) or the title of this piece – let’s briefly mention the runners-up. The Familiar by Mark Z. Danielewski is a book project of 27 volumes (hopefully) and last year volumes 4 and 5 were released. To be honest, Hades wasn’t my favourite book in the series, but volume 5 (Redwood) reads a lot faster than youd’d expect from the 880 pages of each volume has. A reading experience with a unique look, the book is experimental in look and lay-out, The Familiar is not as tough a read as some might expect.

Honourable mention n°2 is It’s not me, it’s you by Stephanie Kate Strohm. Highly enjoyable! Student Avery Dennis has to do an oral history project about something that happened in modern history and interview some eyewitnesses. Avery has a peculiar pick: recently dumped by her boyfriend just before the prom, Avery decides to find out why she can’t keep her boyfriends (even though she’s usually the one to end the relationships). And so she decides that her project should be about her dating history. What makes Strohm’s book such fun, is the way it’s written: like a word per word account, a tapescript occasionally interrupted by an author’s note in italics (the author being Avery and not Ms. Strohm, as you clever readers would’ve understood without this bracketed addition, without any doubt). Sure, the plot is quite obvious (the prom problems will get solved and near the end Avery will understand that geeky friend who’s accompanying her all the time is boyfriend material), but it’s the way to the climax that makes It’s not me… such a nice read. Trouble is, when looking at the author’s biography, we found another novel written in the same style (of tapescripts with notes) and that made us enjoy this book just a bit less.

But once December reared its murky head, along came a book that did tick the buttons: four stars, but also somewhat different from the rest. And that is how Han Kang‘s The White Book earned the award of book of the year.

To begin with, it’s not easy to categorize the book. The texts look more like poems than a novel, but poems, they are not. Perhaps, the best description would be musings. A collection of musings. Which is how the book starts: the narrator lists a series of white things. Objects or events that she links to the colour white. From sugar cubes to the bandages wrapped around a newborn child.

Later in the book, we discover the baby connection is not that random and that the narrator tells the story of an older sister, who only spent a couple of hours on this planet and of her mother, who was desperate to keep the baby alive. Had it not been for the death of this infant and another baby that didn’t survive, she would never have been born, Kang tells us. And thus the book tells us of the fate of this older sister, while at the same time being a dialogue with the unlucky baby.

The White Book isn’t told chronologically and the story is occasionally interrupted by pictures (see left – picture by Connor). The musings are brief, often less than a page. And because the next story always begins on the right side of the book, there is a lot of white in the book. (Hence the link some people make with poetry.) And while that slows down your reading, it also makes you savour the text more. Makes you think about the colour white and the many associations.

Han Kang won the Booker Prize in 2016 with The Vegetarian. This book is quite different from that award-winning book or Human Acts, but that is what makes it stand out. We have read and bought a lot of literature, poetry and books about poetry, but we didn’t have a book like The White Book. Another gap filled and, because of that, another award given. Book of 2017 is Han Kang’s The white book.

And if you excuse us, we have lots of Black Mirror and movies to catch up on.

Hartley, Cronenberg and the postmodern odyssey

The idea of posting short movies throughout June was a good one, with only thing we’d overlooked: the next post would be the 400th one. Congratulating ourselves could be done easily and cracking open a bottle of bubbly goodness likewise, but the Avenue felt such an occasion couldn’t go without a special post. It didn’t take long to find a topic – especially not after watching Cosmopolis – but it was clear this wouldn’t become a mini review. So now, with a bit of delay, post n°400.

Working your way through a book that may or may not be finished this year, some things just add a bit of pepper to your brain. My two favourite directors are Hal Hartley and David Cronenberg. Both released work in 2012, Cronenberg even managed to complete two movies. A Dangerous Method was reviewed earlier, the somewhat controversial Cosmopolis was his second release. Meanwhile, a good start of a sentence and also the title of Hartley’s movie. Reviewing this one would be a bit more problematic. It’s always a lot more difficult to dissect the work of your favourities, but in this case there was an additional hurdle to be overcome: I helped pay for the movie. Surely, if I’d give 8 out of 10 to this film, people might think I was way too subjective to review it accurately. Not talking about it wasn’t an option either (after all, you want people who read this to seek out the movies you like), so up until the end of May it looked as if Meanwhile would get a mini review somewhere in the summer. And that’s when Robert Pattinson needed a haircut…

Allow me to call a character by the actor’s name, it’s quite appropriate here: the poster of the movie was a picture of the main character in his limo, next to three names: Cronenberg, Pattinson and (author) Don DeLillo. All this raises speculations: why “Mr. Twilight”? Or even, why not? Was Pattinson chose because of his name recognitions or was he genuinely interested in shooting a movie with David Cronenberg? After the movie, I still don’t know.

Not knowing is not a bad feeling about this film, I have to admit. Never before – and yes, I watched all of his feature films – did I feel so disappointed when a Cronenberg movie opened. A feeling I couldn’t shake loose during the first half hour. Pattinson is someone who lives far from my comfort zone: I’m not a teen girl, so I don’t adore him. And not being a teen girl, I’m hardly interested in his movies. I had heard people saying Pattinson couldn’t act, but I hadn’t seen proof which could confirm or deny it. Here, a tub of lard could’ve given the same performance and I had trouble coping.
But then something struck me. Especially during a psycho-babble scene I suddenly noticed something. Cosmopolis felt very much like watching a re-enactment of a Bret Easton Ellis book. That author has a clinical style (much like Cronenberg) and is able to tell a story for hundreds of pages, only making you realise at the end the plot was very much a vacuum. Ellis’s books contain a desolate collection of nothingness. So does Cosmopolis: Pattinson’s character is a rich guy (like a lot of BEE characters) with only one thing on his mind: getting to the other side of town to get a haircut.

Hmm, a trip to the barber shop in a limousine and, in the meantime, he meets other characters. Isn’t this very much like a contemporary version of an age-old literary style? Yes, Cosmopolis embodies the postmodern version of an odyssey. No decade-long search for power battling sirens and cruel people, but a trip in a flashy limo across town. Doesn’t sound too intriguing and in fact, it isn’t. You might as well watch paint dry, but who better to make you focus on how a wall copes with drying paint than David Cronenberg? Don’t hope you’ll feel sympathy for the main character: he is as unlikable as any multimillionaire whizz-kid can get. There are a couple of other characters and it’s nice to see how some of them cope with our protagonist, but they’re far from irreplacible.
Much like the story. It focuses on this daredevil trip on a day someone may or may not harm the president and, worse!, our ‘hero’. But all he wants is a haircut. And that’s it. It’s the 400th review and I don’t think we’ve ever given you such a short summary. Oh yes, the assassin will reveal himself at the end of the movie (it’s Paul Giamatti by the way, so if you think you spot him in the background earlier in the film you’re not wrong – and no, that wasn’t a spoiler). Rather than a gun fight at the ranch there’s a lengthy dialogue about why our protagonist needs to die and that is the biggest weakness of the film. Here the movie reveals itself as an adaptation from a book and I can only assume the finale would be more interesting to read than to watch. Like in the rest of the film, not much happens, but there’s a lot of dialogue to go through, especially if you can’t pause. The ending left me cold. Not clinically cold, like the rest of the film, but cold in a bad way. I wasn’t expecting more – really, expect two hours of nothingness if you watch Cosmopolis – but it’s hard not to hum “Is that all there is?” once the credits have started rolling.

So how does that compare to Meanwhile, the first “long” movie by Hal Hartley since 2006? Clocking off at only 56 minutes, ‘long’ may not be the most appropriate word, but it’s definitely longer than the short movies Hartley directed after Fay Grim. Also, let’s not forget that Hartley shone with Surviving Desire, which didn’t exceed the hour-long mark either.
Meanwhile also offers us an odyssey, this one taken by Joe, the handyman who can fix anything. So let’s see how he deals with getting keys to the apartment of Hartley’s wife. She is out of town and Joe will look after the place. And Joe may be handy, but he doesn’t care about money. You’ll notice that: along his odyssey through Manhattan Joe will encounter several people and there’s plenty of opportunity to get his hands on some cash, but Joe does not seem interested.

In the short movies Hartley made in the past decade he often experimented with style and storylines, but for Meanwhile he went back to a more narrative format, without forgetting the best tricks he picked up from his experiments. The director still manages to create a vacuum world in which the dialogue sounds natural, but again, like with Cosmopolis, do not expect too much action here: this is a movie about a handy guy who needs to get keys and the people he encounters. The main difference is that Joe is likable.
One of the first people Joe encounters is a woman who wants to jump off a bridge. Don’t expect them to hook up, it’s Joe’s odyssey and even in postmodern times odysseys are undertaken alone. But it is a scene to pay some attention to because it summarizes all that the director embodies: the distilled dialogue, slightly awkward settings and detail to style. It’s not the best work Hartley ever made, but it’s a nice way to spend an hour. Meanwhile is a title that’s very much Hartley in that his earliest feature included captions like “meanwhile” or “two weeks later”. It’s not a return to form, but the next step in the director’s evolution. Much like it’s quite odd to see a severely underdressed woman in a Hartley movie. Yet, for some reason, Joe’s long-haired girlfriend (talk about functional hairdo) does not seem inappropriate.

In a way you could say that of Cronenberg as well: since A History of Violence the director seemed to have wandered off the familiar paths, but the rumour mill told us the Canadian director would now be up for a tv series with a surgeon. The title would be Knifeman and it would star Tim Roth. Eerily enough, Meanwhile was initially also a tv project, but it didn’t work out as planned. In a way, that makes Meanwhile Hartley’s Mulholland Drive. And like Lynch’s movie it’s an idea that, once tv didn’t like it, was rebooted into a movie that included all the director’s personal trademarks.

Meanwhile, 8/10
Cosmopolis, 7.5/10

Best of 2011: part one – the book

It’s 3 January and time for a bonus update. Not only that but also a chance for me to wish all of you a wonderful 2012: Happy New Year! Back to business: it’s the annual tradition of picking your favourites and the Avenue will tell you which were the best liked books, films and music of the year. Today: part 1.

Picking a book of 2011 sounds like an odd thing. Alright, several years ago I was studying literature at the university, so it wasn’t that exceptional I managed to read 108 books in 12 months (my record, so far). 2011 was a bit of an abysmal year compared to that: I clocked off on a tenth of that number (didn’t manage to complete that 11th book). Worse even, my book of the year is one I glanced through but didn’t get the time to read in full (yet – yes, 2012, you know what’s in store), but I’ve decided to label this as my Book of the Year 2011 for two reasons: 1) none of the read books jumped out anyway and 2) I’m already looking forward to reading the rest of this book and I know I’ll like it.

In an earlier post (In time) I already mentioned the British satirical magazine Private Eye existed 50 years. One of their writers made a wonderful book about it and the best reason not to have this on your coffee table is that the thing might collapse. The book is far more than some of the other Private Eye book publications, which were sometimes nothing more than a “best of”. This book features a lot of covers and jokes which were published in the magazine as well as give a detailed A to Z of the past 50 years. The book is stylish and informative and even if you haven’t heard of the magazine (or are not a big fan) you’ll like reading the book – unless you’re Piers Moron.

Furthermore, in a year that was so warped, a satirical non-fiction book might be the most deserving of our crown Book of the Year. Especially in the UK, where superinjunctions and the phone-hacking scandals domineered the headlines, 2011 was very much a year of the press anyway.

So Private Eye: the first 50 years – an A-Z by Adam MacQueen is our book of the year and here’s the writer himself on Canadian television to tell you more about it:

Next up: the movies of the year and you’ll read more about those on 10/01.

Easy A

My busy work schedule of the past months has one advantage: by the time a movies is finally reviewed, I’m able to incorporate the DVD review. Today Easy A, branded as just another modern version of classic literature – a genre which really took off with Amy Heckerling‘s Clueless and is now so old it’s allowed to have sex in lots of countries.

Talking about sex, that’s the big issue in Easy A, with an “A” referring to Nathaniel Hawthorne‘s classic novel The Scarlet Letter. The book has been filmed before, with a good silent version and a lacklustre adaptation starring Demi Moore. And for once, you don’t need me to tell you this: protagonist Olive (Emma Stone) reviews them for me. And they are not the only movies mentioned in the film: Olive – and, let’s be honest, director Will Gluck, have a soft spot for the romantic teen movies of the 80s, the John Hughes era.

Ned and Stacey and Sideways star Thomas Haden Church teaches Olive and her classmates about the classic book where a scarlet “A” indicates the adultery of a woman. Soon thereafter, Olive saves a gay boy who isn’t ready to come out of the closet by fooling everyone into thinking he’s her boyfriend. Sadly, one good deed leaves to another and soon the outcasts line up to be her boyfriend. By this time, Olive’s reputation has gone from being invisible to being the school slut and Olive chooses to wallow in her new reputation: she pins up a giant red “A” on her chest and “sluttifies” her wardrobe. The new Olive has been born.

Sadly, that’s the most credible part of the film: girls still can’t do a fourth of what boys do before being labelled a slut. Then again, Easy A doesn’t aim for credibility: it’s a moral play rather than a documentary. The biggest proof of this is by having someone who’s over 25 portraying a pupil. Before the movie was released, the film received a lot of criticism for this, by people who didn’t realize the film was actually satirizing the tons of movies and shows where 30-year-olds still pretend to be students.

It’s just one of the things you can learn by listening to the commentary track on the dvd, done by Will Gluck and Emma Stone. Easy A is one of the few examples where the commentary track is better than the film. Gluck and Stone don’t take the commentary too seriously and seem to have a lot of fun. Too much fun for the censorship committee, who occasionally stop the recording and tell the duo to start again. In the track this means you’ll hear a short pause, followed by the duo’s announcement that they are “back again”. Emma Stone occasionally jokes about the real and uncut commentary they’ll also record, which is why someone purchased this domain name. The duo also mention the many fights they had on the set: apparently the best way to communicate was by calling each other names. A bit like the “leaked” tantrum by Emma Stone in this clip then:

Listen carefully and you’ll hear Emma Stone laugh.
The commentary also singles out goofs and Gluck’s obsession with oranges (there’s apparently one in every scene) and makes it an easy task to sit through the film again.

Which is oddly enough not always how I felt during my initial viewing of the film as some of Easy A feels too artificial. Maybe it would’ve helped if I’d known the film wants to be a moral commentary rather than a modern comedy version of a classic novel. Keep that in mind if you want to watch it and there’s no reason why not to. It even allows you to access the bonus treat: the commentary track.

7.5/10 (My initial score was 7, but time and the commentary track have forced me to be more kind. Now there’s a first…)

It’s Bloomsday, people!

Bloomsday is a commemoration observed annually on June 16th in Dublin and elsewhere to celebrate the life of Irish writer James Joyce and relive the events in his novel Ulysses, all of which took place on the same day in Dublin in 1904.

And because it’s Bloomsday, here’s a bit of James Joyce where you didn’t expect it… Air War by Crystal Castles is apparently an excerpt from James Joyce’s work.

“Bronze by gold heard the hoofrons,
steelyringing imperthnthn thnthnthn.

Chips, picking chips off rocky thumbnail, chips.
Horrid! And gold flushed more.

A husky fifenote blew.
Blew. Blue bloom is on the
Gold pinnacled hair.
A jumping rose on satiny breasts of satin,
rose of Castille.

Trilling, trilling: I dolores.
Peep! Who’s in the… peepofgold?
Tink cried to bronze in pity.
And a call, pure, long and throbbing. Longindying call.

Decoy. Soft word. But look! The bright stars fade. O rose! Notes
chirruping answer. Castille. The morn is breaking.
Jingle jingle jaunted jingling.
Coin rang. Clock clacked.

Avowal. Sonnez. I could. Rebound of garter. Not leave thee.
Smack. La cloche! Thigh smack. Avowal. Warm. Sweetheart,

When love absorbs. War! War! The tympanum.
A sail! A veil awave upon the waves.
When first he saw. Alice!
Full tup. Full throb.
Warbling. Ah, lure! Alluring.

Martha! Come!
Clapclop. Clipclap. Clappyclap.
Goodgod henev erheard inall.
A moonlight nightcall: far: far.
I feel so sad. P. S. So lonely blooming.

The spiked and winding cold seahorn. Have you the? Each and
for other plash and silent roar.
Pearls: when she. Liszt’s rhapsodies. Hissss.”

Millennium 3: The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest

Welcome to post n°300 of Avenue Kurtodrome. Not that I was counting, the directory informed me of this joyous occasion. Seems like about the time to catch up with unlucky Lisbeth Salander. How would she be faring these days? After all we left her almost dead at the end of Millennium 2: The girl who played with fire. The final film is upon us, but – given Lisbeth’s troubled past – are we sure there’ll be an happy end?

The future doesn’t look too promising: in this third film Lisbeth is jailed for the things that happened in the second film. She’s about to be sent to court and almost every sign shows she’ll be sentenced for a lot of years. On the other side of the court, Lisbeth has to face the corrupt people that got her in this situation in the first place.
The future may look bleak, but Mikael Blomquist doesn’t seem eager to give up. Lisbeth was one of the few people who backed him when he was in jail (see film 1), now he can do the same. Whether Lisbeth likes it or not.

The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest has other titles. In some countries the book is called “Justice”, which is an a-typical title for a Millennium book (given that they’re usually longer). The original title, Luftslottet som sprängdes, translates as “The Air Castle That Exploded”. Can Blomquist and Salander blow up the cover of corruption? Can they expose the criminal tentacles? Questions that’ll make you hope: yes. Because the Millennium books take a stand against injustice. Whereas the first book (Men who hate women) mainly tackled the subject of misogyny, the final film is fighting social injustice and corruption.

This makes this third chapter, together with the first, the most critical of our society. The second film mostly gave us a better insight into the troubled past of Lisbeth Salander, but now the focus is on Lisbeth, Blomquist ànd society.

This makes The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest a somewhat better film than the second chapter, even though it – like its predecessor – does show it was made for tv (unlike the first chapter, which was modelled as a mainstream European movie). Still, there’s nothing wrong with being made for tv (some of the best films were made for tv). The ending does drag on a little too long, but this may have been because of the theatrical version. The television movies were shortened for a theatrical release and there are just too many ties that deserve a knot before the trilogy can be closed. It seems likely that the extra 30 minutes of the tv versions will add extra material that’ll make the end’s length seem more in proportion to the rest of the film.

And now that the good things have been mentioned: what a shame that the Belgian movie company decided to postpone the film, allegedly because the Easter holidays weren’t the best time to show bleak mainstream films, but actually to have the third film’s release coincide with the dvd release of the second film. The third film flopped and here (as well as in several other countries) journalists declared the Stieg Larsson franchise virtually dead. We, as experienced admirers of the movies, know better: promotion may help or kill a film’s lifespan in the cinemas, but it doesn’t say anything about the film’s qualities.

The third and final film has something to say. Forget the hype and listen to the message.


Buy one announcement, get one free

Two “So wh…?” questions you may be asking right now…

1) So when is the Avenue returning with new updates?
Pretty soon as promised: in fact we can pin a date on it: Easter Sunday. Today is the 1st of April and for the rest of the month there’ll be one post every three days, so expect the next article on the 4th, then the 7th, the 10th, … and then your basic math skills should help you out to complete the cycle.

2) So why hasn’t there been a review of the third Millennium film?
Because the Belgian distributors in all their managing wisdom have delayed the film to mid May, mainly because the Millennium films aren’t Easter holiday material or something. Yes, why go and see something decent if you can watch the latest Jennifer Aniston vehicle? Oddly enough, the two-month long delay was considered press material and made it into several newspapers, proving only how popular the Larsson books are (but not popular enough to be shown around Easter then…).
This delay may just be the stupidest decision since they ditched Orphan in favour of Alvin and the Chipmunks 2. Granted, that is some kind of horror too… Anyway, see you in May for the review of Luftslottet som sprängdes (The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest).

And see you on Sunday for the next brand new Avenue update!

Millennium 2: The girl who plays with fire

Math lovers all over the world will be able to confirm that after part one often a second part will follow. But rarely does this happen with the speed of Stieg Larsson‘s trilogy Millennium. Having just waved the first part (Men who hate women) goodbye last autumn, we barely got time to overcome our New Year’s hangover: the second part, The girl who plays with fire, was released in January 2010. Try and see it in a hurry, unless you want to see the sequels back to back… yes, the third instalment of the trilogy will arrive in European theatres in March.

The director of Flickan som lekte med elden, the original Swedish title of the film, found himself in a position you won’t envy him for. Not only did Daniel Alfredson have to justice to some of the most popular books (me thinks it’ll be easier to name the countries where you won’t find a Larsson book in the Top 10), he also had to follow in the footsteps of Niels Arden Oplev, whose Men who hate women was so good it raised the bar for European thrillers. Rather him than us, don’t you agree?

Contrary to what a friend of mine assumed: Men who hate women was also made for Swedish television in a lavish three hour long two-parter. Thirty minutes of non-essential story were cut out for the film version, but originally it was also a tv movie. That The girl who plays with fire looks more like a made for tv movie only shows how good the first part really was. In fact, for a tv adaptation of a novel The girl who plays with fire isn’t all that bad, it’s just that it fails to reach the parameters its predecessor had set.

In this second instalment we meet up with investigative journalist Blomkvist again, this time on the lookout of more men who hate women: Blomkvist’s magazine, Millennium, is on the verge of publishing an issue concerning women of Eastern Europe, forced into prostitution. Lisbeth Salander is having more fun, but she returns to Sweden after finding out that Bjurman, the sadist who got a free tattoo from Lisbeth, has made an appointment to have his warning on his stomach removed (yeah, you learn a lot from hacking). Little did she know that by returning to Sweden, she allows herself to become the centre of a conspiracy. Not before long, Lisbeth Salander is wanted for murder and it’s up to Blomkvist to save her skin.

The girl who plays with fire is a clear reference to Lisbeth Salander, as anyone who’s seen the first film will know. This second instalment reveals more about Lisbeth’s murky past, but by doing so, it turns itself more into a regular thriller. If in my previous review I mentioned that noone was looking forward to the American remake of the Millennium trilogy, it now looks as if the second part already looks like a Hollywood thriller (with the exception of course that Hollywood won’t make them this gritty and bloody). The climax of the film is simply so outrageous I felt disappointed. Surely this couldn’t be how Larsson had written the finale…?

One day and one visit to the library later it turned out the film copied the book’s denouement, with the exception that Larsson – clearly he must’ve assumed he was asking a lot of our suspension of disbelief – wrote the scene with lots of care and detail. What looks quite improbable can be explained and if you’re a bit gullible, it may even make sense. Also, Larsson made sure it wasn’t mentioned how much time goes by between the build-up and the outcome. The film is blunter: in the lead-up it’s night (pitch dark), in the conclusion it’s obviously beyond dawn. Had the director been more subtle, the conclusion might have made sense, now it looks like a bloodier version of a typical Hollywood finale.

And that is the main flaw of this film: Flickan som lekte med elden lacks subtlety. It still deserves a score that’s better than average, but 2010 will be a pisspoor year if this ends up in my top 10.


Millennium 1: Men who hate women

The United States have their hard-boiled detectives and film noir types, but what have the Europeans set against that? Cranky old men in the UK and Scandinavia. Frost, Wallander, Morse… that sort of thing. Lately, the Scandinavians have been busy to ‘invent’ a crime subgenre that benefits from the European diversity. (In case you didn’t know: it generally means that directors need an investment from a couple of countries, countries that in turn ask the director to have a bit of their glorious country inserted into the movie. Thus the European thriller was often an artificial and convoluted creature.) In 2004 the Danish made a crime series (The Eagle) that detailed the maffias and corruption in several countries and for once the result didn’t seem contrived. The series starred von Trier regular Jens Albinus, had music from Jacob Groth and several episodes were directed by Niels Arden Oplev. The latter two helped create the first film of the Millennium trilogy: Men who hate women (a.k.a. Män som hatar kvinnor a.k.a. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo). The signs were good and thanks to the international popularity of the books, there was no need for artifical funding by several European countries. Everyone was happy to honour Stieg Larsson and keep the books as Swedish as possible, so as not to upset the millions of fans.

The Millennium trilogy you see, is based on the three books by journalist Stieg Larsson. Besides being good books, the series also benefited from Larsson’s early death. Larsson wasn’t the best journalist in the world, his friends tell you in the several documentaries on the DVD, but he was devoted to exposing corruption and misogyny. Thus he created three books starring the middle-aged journalist Mikael Blomquist and punk hacker Lisbeth Salander. (Both are in a way versions of what Larsson hoped to be: an relentless investigative journalist and a ballsy person.) Blomquist is on trial for slander and she’s asked by a company to investigate whether he’s honest or not. They don’t meet.
Blomquist is sentenced to a couple of months in jail, but this doesn’t have to happen immediately. This is when Blomquist (played by Michael Nyquist)  is asked to investigate the mysterious disappearing and possible murder of a mogul’s niece. Blomquist accepts the offer, not only because the vanished girl used to be his babysitter. Blomquist soon finds out he’s not particularly welcome in this remote village, where a lot of people have a hidden agenda and/or connections to the extreme right. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, Lisbeth Salander concludes Blomquist isn’t the worst egg in the world and offers her help. It’s the birth of an unlikely duo.

There are many good things to say about Men Who Hate Women, but some deserve a special bit of credit. First and foremost the writers, who decided to make Lisbeth Salander’s character more prominent (but without betraying the nature of Larsson’s novel). Equally important is Noomi Rapace, who leaves a lasting impression as the gutsy but troubled Lisbeth Salander. And finally composer Jacob Groth, who went to Eastern Europe to hire the help of one of the biggest choirs, so the film would have a score that may be subtle but stands out. Despite the financial support of a lot of European tv networks it gave this film the feeling of a grand Hollywood production, whilst keeping the grittiness Hollywood films will never have.

Because yes, the title is not Men Who Hate Women without reason: what has happened (and happens) to Lisbeth and several other women is not the sort of thing you can talk about during the next family dinner. And unlike a lot of American films the violence isn’t glorified or beautified. No, it’s shown as brutal and vile as it is. At the same time, Lisbeth Salander isn’t exactly a princess herself: she is raped and takes revenge by returning to the rapist and tattooing a warning message on the rapist’s stomach. Probably not someone who’ll go topless to the beach next summer.
But it’s exactly this sort of behaviour (the fact that both Blomquist and Salander have their serious flaws) that makes this film so believable and good.

And hardcore fans of the film should watch out for the DVD, which is the extended version of the film (as shown on Swedish television). For the film, a subplot that wasn’t necessary was deleted, reducing the cinema version by 30 minutes. This puts Men Who Hate Women closer to The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King which did a similar thing and luckily not closer to a lot of other European films which could only get support from networks if they’d added extra footage (read: bonus fodder) so the networks could broadcast the film as a mini-series (thereby filling their schedules for two or three weeks, but reducing the film’s power – but it’s not as if networks tend to care about quality).

Millennium 1: Men Who Hate Women may be bold and brutal, but it’s good European cinema. The Americans, who are not too keen of the brutalness of the film, have announced they’ll remake the film in 2011. It’s already the least anticipated movie of the decade. Misogyny isn’t a fun subject and this film proves you can show it in a film, without reducing yourself to the level of the 80s rape revenge movies like Extremities. Mainly because most abused women aren’t Farrah Fawcett and fairy tale endings don’t always exist in real life. We may seem civilized but underneath this thin layer of manners lies a dark world. Thus spoke Stieg Larsson.


The Book 100

They call me an avid reader even though I don’t even read a third of the amount of books I used to read. The BBC compiled a list of the 100 most beloved books in Britain. Occasionally on blogs you see this list with a twist. The books you’ve read yourself are in bold, the titles in italics are the ones you own but haven’t read. The rest is neither bold nor italic. Here’s my list (because it doesn’t always have to be about movies here). If you want to, you can list the numbers you’ve read in my comment zone below.

1. Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
2. The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien
3. Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
4. The Harry Potter Series – JK Rowling
5. To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
6. The Bible (well, to some extent)
7. Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
8. Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell
9. His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman
10. Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
11. Little Women – Louisa M Alcott
12. Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy
13. Catch 22 – Joseph Heller
14. Complete Works of Shakespeare
15. Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier
16. The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien
17. Birdsong – Sebastian Faulks
18. Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger
19. The Time Traveller’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
20. Middlemarch – George Eliot
21. Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell
22. The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald
23. Bleak House – Charles Dickens
24. War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy
25. The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
26. Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh
27. Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28. Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
29. Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll
30. The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame
31. Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
32. David Copperfield – Charles Dickens
33. Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis
34. Emma- Jane Austen
35. Persuasion – Jane Austen
36. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – CS Lewis
37. The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
38. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Bernieres
39. Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden
40. Winnie the Pooh – AA Milne
41. Animal Farm – George Orwell
42. The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown
43. One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44. A Prayer for Owen Meaney – John Irving
45. The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins
46. Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery
47. Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy
48. The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
49. Lord of the Flies – William Golding
50. Atonement – Ian McEwan
51. Life of Pi – Yann Martel
52. Dune – Frank Herbert
53. Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons
54. Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen
55. A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth
56. The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57. A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
58. Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
59. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon
60. Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61. Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
62. Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
63. The Secret History – Donna Tartt
64. The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold
65. Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas
66. On The Road – Jack Kerouac
67. Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy
68. Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding
69. Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie
70. Moby Dick – Herman Melville
71. Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens
72. Dracula – Bram Stoker
73. The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett
74. Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson
75. Ulysses – James Joyce
76. The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath

77. Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome
78. Germinal – Emile Zola
79. Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray
80. Possession – AS Byatt
81. A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens
82. Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell
83. The Color Purple – Alice Walker (I was forced in school)
84. The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro
85. Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert
86. A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry
87. Charlotte’s Web – EB White
88. The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom
89. Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90. The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton
91. Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
92. The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93. The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks

94. Watership Down – Richard Adams
95. A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole
96. A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute
97. The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas
98. Hamlet – William Shakespeare
99. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl
100. Les Miserables- Victor Hugo

Conclusion: I do read a lot of books, but apparently not the British favourites.