Kate Jackson: the second coming

Back from the brink of indie obscurity

‘INTRIGUED’ is how I approached Kate Jackson’s performance at last month’s Secret Garden Party.

I’ll admit, I once had a girl-crush on the Long Blondes’ front woman. She’s filed under ‘People I Wish I’d Been In 2005′ alongside The Duke Spirit’s Leila Moss.

To be honest the love affair isn’t over. Last month I bought Once and Never Again for 50p at a record sale just for sentiment’s sake.

This lingering romance is not unusual among an era of Sheffield graduates whose university nights were spent dancing to the city’s most underrated indie band of the noughties.

The five piece – whose short tenure came to an end in 2008 when songwriter Dorian Cox suffered a brain haemorrhage – regularly thrilled crowd upon Leadmill crowd with rebellion-rife lyrics about failed romances, escapism and the double-edged sword of love.

As the band’s star, Jackson counselled the pissed off youth of the mid-2000s like an older, wiser, way cooler sister. For many, Secret Garden Party was the first glimpse of Jackson since those gin-fuelled days.

She marched on stage still looking the part – knee-high boots, neck-scarf, and a wedge of kohl lining her eyes. But at 32, Jackson has moved on from the monochrome-clad caricature she played four years ago.

Granted, debut single Wonder Feeling fails to live up to its name with a slightly second-hand feel for all its references to motorways and railway stations, but the flicks and quirks of Jackson’s unique voice are still unmistakeable and songs like The Atlantic show off her powerful range.

The post-punk aggression of her formative work has been traded in for fuzzy guitars and glam-tinged melodies owing more to Stevie Nicks than say Chrissie Hynde.

Evidently, this is new territory for the singer, so those hoping for a blast from the past may be disappointed. On the plus side, she’s never looked more comfortable in her own skin.

To read more about Kate Jackson, go to superior music blog A Negative Narrative for her photo intraview.

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Catch-up: Leeds International Film Festival

From Effie to Cathy: not much of a stroppy leap.

DOZENS of films have already graced screens across Leeds this week as the city celebrates its 25th annual international film festival.

Kicking off the opening gala was an adaptation of Bronte’s classic novel Wuthering Heights – a masterpiece which has tortured generations of GCSE and A-level students with its verbose layers of allusion.

But if you’d plonked them down in front of Andrea Arnold’s version of events I doubt anyone would have got less than an A grade in their exams thanks to an over-zealous use of the camera’s lingering gaze – y’know, for those who need it spelling out.

One thing worth mentioning: I never thought of Bronte’s work as a particularly hairy piece of literature but in Arnold’s hands there’s such a heavy-handed fixation on tangled tresses, matted fur and coarse manes that it borders on abuse of the metaphor.

In small doses, the attention to detail is  necessary – the first time Heathcliff and Cathy touch, seemingly insignificant, is by way of sharing a horseback ride. Sure, the second her wild locks tickle his face as they gallop across the moors, he is clearly and unashamedly in lust. But there’s no need to hammer the point home with such regularity.

On the other hand, some of the constant camera abuse is balanced out by the stripped down aesthetic – there’s very little in the way of fancy technology employed and the wilderness of the moors is captured by frame-after-frame of no-frills filming.

Stark white skies meet verdant green fields, hand-held cameras capture first person rambles over the hills, and if the camera crew had a wind muffler in the van, it certainly wasn’t used as they scaled the moors to capture moody scenery. 

The theme of ‘the wild’ – a key feature in the novel – is rarely far from the action. The characters snap with short tempers, the horses bray and rear uncontrollably, and the brisk winds batter the actors’ faces and carry away their words.

Not that Heathchliff was ever particularly chatty mind – some of the scenes are punctuated with brusque Yorkshire put-downs and half-intelligable threats of violence but not much else of note. 

But of all the oddities of the film, the one that jars most is the casting of Heathcliff with a black actor.

At the crux of Bronte’s novel was straight up class prejudice – Heathcliff was an outsider first and foremost because he was a poor orphan. In Arnold’s adaptation, the hatred towards the young rogue is explained away with scenes of blatant racism, which is an unnecessary re-write at best.

Jarivs: A-OK...

Over in music documentary land, The Beat is the Law – Fanfare for the Common People, takes the audience on a decade-by-decade breakdown of Sheffield’s burgeoning music scene from the 70s to present day, putting Brit-poppers Pulp at its heart.

If you ever wondered what occupies the space between the Human League’s “Don’t You Want Me Baby” and Pulp’s “Common People”, this film tells you.

Carefully weaving industrial revolt and its effect on the arts scene in the Steel City, The Beat is the Law takes you on a journey that stops off for a chat with Cabaret Voltaire, ABC and obscure house and dance acts, Chakk and Clock DVA.

For music buffs with a love for the bizarre, this social commentary on a South Yorkshire city’s battle with the death of its industries is an epic history lesson.

Golden Owl competition entrant, The Other Side of Sleep offers a truly disturbing account of a youngster’s battle with sleep deprivation.

In echoes of Sarah Kane’s play 4.48 Psychosis, a teenager wakes in the woods wrapped in a duvet and lying next to a corpse.

She wanders through the film like a zombie, occasionally nodding off and waking up covered in scratches. It’s never altogether clear what’s real and what’s fantasy – we’re led to believe she has committed a dreadful murder but the film employs a dreamlike atmosphere which acts as a constant and confusing mistress throughout.

I'm sure the director had best intentions too...

Finally – and I won’t labour the point too much – the fact I fell asleep three times during Romanian new wave effort, Best Intentions, probably speaks louder than words.

While there were moments of pure absurdist theatre – not least a psychiatric patient who lurked magnificently in the background wearing a rabbit mask, – the monotony of the plot dragged the film into the ground.

As a fan of experimental cinema and a lover of the avant garde, it was a disappointment to see moments of brilliant camera work wasted on mundane dialogue.

More to come: Finisterrae, Together, Shut Up Little Man.

Visit http://www.leedsfilm.com/for more info.