Tag Archives: Danny Boyle

Rocks In The Attic #848: Various Artists – ‘T2 Trainspotting (O.S.T.)’ (2017)

RITA#848Filming a sequel to one of the greatest films of the 1990s sounds like a bad idea, even when the same director and writing team are involved. Imagine if Quentin Tarantino decided to film a sequel to Pulp Fiction, or David Fincher made Fight Club 2. Sometimes the brilliance of a film relies on the characters existing within the confines of said film, and the film itself existing in the time it was released. To go back and revisit feels like a fool’s errand.

The idea for a sequel to Danny Boyle’s Trainspotting started with Irvine Welsh’s follow-up to his original 1993 novel. Released in 2003, Porno revisits the characters from the first book, and describes the gang’s attempts to break into the world of pornography. While a direct follow-up to the novel of Trainspotting, it also takes ideas from the film adaptation and exists as a sequel to both.

To pull the original team and cast together for the film sequel is a remarkable achievement in itself. Joining director Danny Boyle and screenwriter John Hodge are all the principle cast members from the 1996 film: Ewen McGregor, Jonny Lee Miller, Robert Carlyle and Ewen Bremner. In the intervening years McGregor had become a Jedi, Miller had married Angelina Jolie, Carlyle had become a Bond villain and Bremner had become a character actor for hire in Hollywood.

When I met Danny Boyle at the New Zealand premiere of T2 Trainspotting, I told him I was glad he hadn’t taken Welsh’s Porno as the basis for the script. ‘Yeah, it’s not one of his best novels at the end of the day,’ he replied. Hollywood has already done that sort of thing anyway, I added. “Yeah, you’re right” he said, catching my drift. “A couple of years ago there was a glut of films with a similar premise, like We Made A Porno [Zack And Miri Make A Porno].”

Instead, Hodge’s script begins with Mark Renton’s nostalgic trip back to Edinburgh from Amsterdam, where he’s been living for the last twenty years. Simon ‘Sick Boy’ Williamson is a scam-artist, working alongside his Bulgarian girlfriend Veronika. Francis Begbie is serving a lengthy prison sentence, and Daniel ‘Spud’ Murphy is still addicted to heroin and suicidal following the separation from his wife and teenage son.

The film does play with our nostalgia for the first film, but it never fees mawkish. The lead characters have all grown up, but the situation they find themselves in feels relevant. Sick-Boy’s scam – filming businessmen in hotels with Veronika and subsequently blackmailing them with the footage – isn’t glamorised, and starts to fail just as Renton returns. Spud is at his lowest ebb, with his suicide letter to Gail providing the heartbeat of the film and kick-starting a raft of reminiscences of years gone by. Begbie, unsurprisingly locked up at her majesty’s pleasure, organises an injury from a fellow inmate so he can then escape from the hospital. There’s no real reason for his escape, and on the outside he reverts back to his old ways, bringing his unenthusiastic son to burgle houses in the dead of night.

RITA#848aTo compliment Spud’s nostalgic writings, footage from the first film is also used sparingly. Spud leaves a boxing gym, and finds himself on the same street he ran down with Renton, running from security guards from where they’ve just shoplifted. In another moment, Sick-Boy reminds Renton of Tommy, the friend he introduced to heroin, ultimately killing him. Renton returns the guilt-trip, reminding Sick-Boy of the infant he left to die in their squalid flat.

Interspersed in the film are some brilliant shots of younger versions of the main characters, which begins with the opening credits portraying the main characters as schoolchildren. In a later memory, we see Renton and Sick-Boy scoring their first hit, and a memorial trip to the countryside to honour Tommy reflects an earlier trip with Tommy in tow.

There are also plenty of subtle references to the first film. When Renton enters a nightclub toilet and sees the disgusting state of the toilets, it echoes the moment in the first film where he visits a horrific pub toilet to empty his bowels (and unintentionally lose his suppositories). During the final confrontation with Begbie, Renton crawls out of a hole onto the roof of Sick-Boy’s pub in exactly the same way he emerged from that original Brian Eno-soundtracked toilet-dive. Upon his return to his childhood bedroom, he flicks through the LPs on the floor and drops the needle on Iggy Pop’s Lust For Life before abandoning it on the first drumbeat.

Film sequels shouldn’t be this good. It’s a massive credit to Danny Boyle that not only could he bring everybody back to Edinburgh, but that he could helm a film that’s so reverent to its past and so fresh and innovative at the same time.

The soundtrack manages to do the same, with nostalgia (Queen’s Radio Ga Ga, Blondie’s Dreaming and Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s Relax) sitting firmly alongside newer songs (Young Father’s Get Up, Fat White Family’s Whitest Boy On The Beach and High Contrast’s Shotgun Mouthwash). Most impressive is the soundtrack’s bookended homages to the breakout songs from the first film’s soundtrack: the Prodigy’s remix of Lust For Life, and Underworld’s chopped and screwed remix of their Born Slippy classic, Slow Slippy.

Hit: Radio Gaga – Queen

Hidden Gem: Silk – Wolf Alice

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Rocks In The Attic #653: Various Artists – ‘Trainspotting (O.S.T.)’ (1996)

RITA#653V/O:      Choose life. Choose scoring tickets to the New Zealand premiere of T2: TRAINSPOTTING, with Danny Boyle in attendance. Choose taking along your Trainspotting soundtrack in the hope that you *just might* get it signed. Choose being in the right fucking place at the right fucking time. Choose having a chat with Danny and telling him you’re so glad he didn’t film the second Trainspotting novel (‘Porno’). Choose Danny replying “Yeah, it’s not one of his best novels at the end of the day”. Choose mentioning that Hollywood has done that story since anyway. Choose him catching your drift and saying “Yeah, you’re right, a couple of years ago there was a glut of films with a similar premise, like ‘We Made A Porno'”. Choose a firm handshake. Choose walking away a very happy man. Choose it all!

My favourite moment of 2017 was meeting director Danny Boyle at the New Zealand premiere of T2: Trainspotting. I’ve come a long way in twenty or so years of record collecting, from having nothing autographed aside from a Clint Boon LP, to having a couple of early ZZ Top records fully signed by the band, the soundtrack to The Hateful Eight signed by Quentin Tarantino and Zoe Bell, the soundtrack to Death Proof also signed by Zoe Bell, and now this – the soundtrack to Boyle’s 1996 breakthrough, Trainspotting.

I’m not 100% sure how Newmarket’s Broadway cinema manages to attract these big-name Hollywood directors – it was the same venue at which I met Tarantino a year earlier – but I hope they continue the trend.

The Tarantino event was advertised as a meet and greet, so getting something signed was almost guaranteed, but the T2: Trainspotting event was only supposed to be a showing of the film introduced by Boyle. I took my copy of the soundtrack along, just in case.

When we arrived at the cinema, Boyle was being interviewed by the local TV station at the entrance to the foyer. The place was packed, with people making good use of the free drinks and food that were being offered by hospitality staff. Our small group – myself, my wife, my brother and a friend from work – found a spot among the crowd.

I glanced over at Boyle – now being interviewed by a different TV station – and thought that the chance of getting an autograph was slim. But then I saw him autographing something for somebody, and I took my chance.

I approached with my soundtrack and Sharpie in hand, expecting to be shooed away. A member of his team turned to greet me.

“Hi there, would you like Danny to sign that for you?”

This was going to be easier than expected.

“Yes, please!”

She tapped him on the shoulder just as he was wrapping up an interview with Kate Rodger, the TV3 film critic who pronounces Gal Godot as ‘Gal Gad-eau’ as though she’s French (Rodger is seemingly incapable of doing any basic research, let alone use the fucking internet).

RITA#653bDanny turns around.

“Hi there,” he says in his soft northern drawl.

We have our quick chat and he signs my record. The best thing about being with friends is that they all got their phones out and so I have a good photographic document of the moment.

Of course, in my nervousness, I forgot to tell Danny I was from Oldham, just a dozen miles away from his native Radciffe. I also forgot to tell him how much I appreciated him for reinventing the zombie genre with 28 Days Later, or how if you watch 127 Hours in reverse it turns into a lovely film about an amputee who finds his missing arm in the desert.

Most importantly, I didn’t tell him that his opening ceremony to the 2012 London Olympics was one of the few things that has made my heart truly ache with homesickness.

Hit: Lust For Life – Iggy Pop

Hidden Gem: Deep Blue Day – Brian Eno

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Rocks In The Attic #589: Nino Rota – ‘The Godfather (O.S.T.)’ (1972)

RITA#589.jpgAll hail the greatest cinema in Auckland – the Event cinema on Broadway in Newmarket. Not only was this the location where I met both Quentin Tarantino and Danny Boyle, but last Friday night they played The Godfather.

For a long time, The Godfather has been among my favourite films. I first saw it around the age of 17 or 18, and was immediately obsessed with it. It was probably the first film I was obsessed with as an adult. Prior obsessions as a teenager included the likes of Die Hard, Lethal Weapon, Terminator 2: Judgement Day and Aliens, so The Godfather was definitely a step-up, being such a decorated film and a more serious one at that.

I don’t know why the film struck such a chord with me, but it’s something I’ve never become tired with. I have a number of books on the film – Peter Cowie’s The Godfather Book and Mario Puzo’s original novel being early targets, and Harlan Lebo’s The Godfather Legacy being a happy find in more recent year. The soundtrack of Nino Rota’s score sits on my record shelves – a strange Australian pressing with a murky green cover – and of course, I have the Coppola Restoration of the trilogy on blu-ray. At University, I remember walking through a field to the supermarket with my housemates, feeling like Michael walking through Sicily accompanied by his bodyguards.

Seeing a film on the big screen is always a different prospect than watching at home though. You notice things that you would never have noticed in hundreds of home viewings – a character’s glance, a line of dialogue, the way the light falls on an object outside of the immediate foreground of a shot. It’s also nice to see it in a room full of people. The screening I saw was almost sold out, and full of much younger people than I was expecting.

As a film, it shouldn’t be so good. It goes against so many cinematic rules. The lead protagonist is clearly Michael, yet we don’t see him until a good five or ten minutes into the film, and even then he is introduced as a supporting character. Vito is initially offered as the film’s hero – or anti-hero – but his gunning down towards the end of the first act provides the film’s first challenge, a shake-up to decide not only who is going to become the patriarch of the Corleone family, but also the film’s lead protagonist.

By the end of the film, Michael’s actions have transferred him from protagonist to antagonist, and the stone-cold denoument where Michael’s study door is slowly closed on Kay, is matched only by the ending of The Godfather Part II where he sits alone to contemplate the terrible things he has done to his family.

Speaking of which, I’ll be seeing a screening of The Godfather Part II this Friday night. Same cinema, same seat probably. Leave the gun; take the cannoli.

Hit: Main Title

Hidden Gem: The Pickup