entertainment

More, more world wide watchables

Maltese: The Mafia Detective (Italy, 2017)

Delighted to have the random selector pick out this Italian cop drama. There doesn’t appear to be many Italian shows featured, not in proportion to German ones, say. The Italians are naturally theatrical: whatever they do, however mundane, like ordering a coffee, it all seems like a catastrophe which could have been averted. It’s as if argumentative is the default dialogue style. Maltese: The Mafia Detective is no exception.

The story is set in 1976. Commissario Maltese is a Sicilian born detective who’s been working in Rome for the last twenty or so years. His boyhood best friend, also a senior cop, is getting married and so Maltese returns to his home town. After a family dinner, his friend and his fiancee are shot by a hitman on their way home. Maltese, suspecting Mafia involvement, is determined on justice and requests a secondment to take command of his old friend’s squad.

Despite what I say in the first paragraph, this is a polished drama with a good script and storyline; nothing is too implausible.


Inspector Falke (Germany, 2016)

Like I said above, it seems German shows are over represented on Walter Presents.

Inspector Falke is not a stereotypical German: he’s scruffily dressed, doesn’t drive a nice car, he drinks glassfuls of full-fat milk instead of coffee, he gets easily stressed and doesn’t appear to be intellectually, emotionally or psychologically in-tune with his rank. My first impression was he isn’t played to be a likeable character but as the show progressed, I felt more sympathetic towards him.

But the show is really odd too. The first episode deals with something quite mundane, normal grist for the procedural mill. Thereafter though, in each subsequent episode, Falke, and his more reasonable partner, find themselves dealing with all kinds of implausible police cases like hi-tech espionage, an anti-terrorism plot, and a mass hostage situation.

Judging by the last episode, there must be a follow up series but it’s not available on All4 yet.


Locked Up (Spain, 2015)

The Spanish title being Vis-à-vis (Face to Face), and often I don’t understand why they need to tinker with titles for the benefit of English speakers. I mean, Locked Up – how ham-fisted was that committee meeting? It’s also, I feel, a tad condescending.

Never mind, this is good telly, if a trifle on the long side – 35 episodes over two series. For me, when things run on for too long I tend to develop viewer fatigue, the drama begins to feel like a soap opera and I can sometimes detect diminishing performances in the key players. There is also a tendency to “jump the shark”. I’d say this just about manages to survive to the last on the plausible side of shark jumping but I trust there’s not a further series in the offing.

It’s a drama set in a women’s prison but with a parallel story running on the outside with police and family. There’s also a third angle, presented within the series, which takes the form of interviews of the principle actors in character, as if a documentary or a journalistic piece on women prisoners was being made by persons unseen. This is strange as it offers some light relief from the tense and often harsh drama, but is compelling too as it offers backstory to the drama as well as commentary on prison life for women.

Without giving too much away, the story is centred on Macarena Ferreiro, a young naive businesswoman who finds herself sent to a high-security prison for fraud and embezzlement after her boss hets away with the firm’s cash. Naturally, she is out of her depth and a target for the harder, experienced lags. Matters are made worse for her when she accidentally finds information on hidden loot from a robbery committed by a cellmate. She then becomes the focus of Zulema Zahir, a ruthless murderer and the most fearsome inmate on her cell block. Intense stuff to begin with and manages quite well up to the end.

(oh, no – I’ve just noticed two further series, another sixteen episodes. Not yet available here and likely won’t be watched by me anytime soon.)


Maltese: The Mafia Detective (IMDb)

Inspector Falke (IMDb)

Vis a Vis (Locked Up) (IMDb)

Advertisements

More World Wide Watchables

More from All 4’s Walter Presents…

Deadly Money (Germany, 2018)

When this one came up on my random selector, I thought there must have been a mistake. One series and only two episodes, less than 50 minutes apiece?

It’s a concise drama explaining a fictional version of the 2008 banking crisis. A high-flying executive investment banker expects to take over as CEO.

It’s portrayed as a ruthless business and our banker has to secure a big deal with a Middle Eastern organisation to improve the bank’s share price. He has a team of acolytes to help him but one in particular is a young protege, Tom, who has a talent for maths. Things appear to be going their way but, as we know from the real events, it’s all a dodgy business.

In true German style, the Frankfurt finance quarter appears here as a highly polished, ruthlessly efficient, awesome monster. It makes Wall St. look like the City of London, and the City of London look like the Post Office.


The Team (Belgium, Denmark, Germany, 2015)

I think, perhaps they bit off more than is chewable with this international crime drama. Three senior detectives and their respective bagmen – or women in most cases – go after a Lithuanian human trafficker following a spate of identical murders of sex workers in each of the detectives’ countries. This latter guy has aspirations about being a city banker, running his own respectable bank. Reluctantly, on the nefarious business side, he is in partnership with his ex wife, a rather callous bitch on her own terms.

It’s not bad but it’s not as cool as old Walter made it out to be. One problem I had with it was because the three protagonists had different native languages, interaction is done in English and it sounded a little awkward, like people reading something they didn’t fully understand. Of course, this is probably what would happen in real life, difficulty in communicating, and had they played it that way all would be well, but they didn’t. Also, there were implausibility issues, but I’d let that go as its a drama, and each detective had a messy life story running concurrently, which was, well, messy.

Hey, dismiss those niggles and it isn’t a bad series, and a majority of lead roles for women for a change.


Liberty (Denmark 2018)

Set in Tanzania in the 70s, I initially thought this was made in the 70s. Or my broadband wasn’t functioning as it should. It had a real low-fi feel.

Centred on a social group of Scandinavian expats comprising of exploitative businessmen and do-good aid workers, the brevity and abrupt changes in fortune of the characters saves the drama from being a soap opera in my view. Everyone’s life is dysfunctional and everyone’s hopping into his or hers neighbours’ bed, but fear not, there’s only a modicum of explicit sex.

The main story is the friendship between Christian, the teenage son of aid workers, and, Marcus, the “houseboy” servant of a neighbouring couple. They share an interest in music and getting stoned. Marcus makes mix tapes to sell on the side and aspires to be a DJ. The two then have the idea to set up a dance club in town. They name it “Liberty”.

With the adults falling out and falling in with other spouses, Christian drops out and falls more in with the Tanzanians. Naive, exposed and vulnerable, he finds he has to deal with violent rival forces and a corrupt police force, all the while testing his new friendships.

Yes, I had to check the year of production. 2018. But it’s the 70s. Africa is backwards and corrupt and the whites are exploitative and openly racist. Nevertheless, it’s a drama which has its moments.


Mama’s Angel (Israel 2016)

I have to say this is more like it. If it were a stick of seaside rock, it might have plausible written right through it. Yet there is still a great sense of tension.

The setting is a suburb with a mixture of white and black residents. The police chief has a twenty-two year old daughter in a casual relationship with a young Ethiopian art student who himself intends to leave to study in Holland. The police chief in turn has a tense working relationship with the able head of the criminal forensics team. While she is away undergoing surgery, a seven year old boy from a neighbourhood family turns up dead on a nearby hill, beside a monument upon which someone has recently sprayed graffiti. The police chief exploits the absence of the capable forensics head to arrest and accuse the Ethiopian of murder, ignoring all other likelihoods. When the forensics head returns to work, she finds she has this mess to contend with.

So if the Ethiopian didn’t do it, who did? Our suspicions are teased.


Deadly Money (All4)

The Team IMDb

Liberty IMDb

Mama’s Angel IMDb

Labels are for luggage

Thinking about the previous post, Willem de Kooning’s aversion to being labelled inspires me to write about my own disregard for labelling. Honestly, I don’t know my abstract expressionism from plain, old abstractionism. I read a book by the late and erudite art critic, Brian Sewell, in which he said, all paintings are abstracts, really. I had a tutor once who explained how impressionism was coined as it was known as a preliminary stage in traditional painting techniques and not, as I thought (and still do to be honest), a sense of something being seen concisely without the need for ansolute realism. But why should we care? Shouldn’t we either like something or not, and to hell with whatever school the thing belongs to?

In my youth, in my corner of the world at least, there were two types of music you’d listen to (okay, three if we include classical music but this wasn’t part of youth culture). There was Pop and there was Rock. You effectively picked your camp and were judged by it. The fact that my music loving Uncle introduced me to soul music was something I didn’t reveal to my mates; it was a private indulgence.

As too was watching the Oscar Peterson Show with my mother. I don’t think she was into Jazz really but in those days there was just three tv channels and often not much on.

My taste in rock music would gravitate towards the jazz influenced artists, though I wasn’t greatly aware of jazz at the time. Electric guitars were okay but a sax, a flute, and even a rare horn solo, would turn my ear.

If the advent and brief existence of Punk had any redeeming feature, it was probably to shake up the snow globe of acceptable taste. I felt we came out of it into a music scene devoid of hard labels. Not only was it cool to like anything, it was all available to listen to.

Yet I still hear folk talking about genres in a way which makes me think of olde world cartographers inscribing their charts with the words, Beyond here there be dragons! They have made up their minds and have absolutely no interest beyond what they know and like. That’s fine but you can’t make sound judgements based solely on secondhand labelling.

Labels can be useful in hinting what to expect but that’s all. Experience is everything and by restricting yourself on hearsay and prejudice, you’re likely missing out on a lot.


image: Stack of luggages by Erwan Hesry via Unsplash.com

My playlist is a Memento Mori

Peter Tork, the unusual one from The Monkees, has died. Unusual in that he seemed the least like an actor and the most like a proper musician. He was actually an accomplished folk artist before auditioning for the part, and played bass guitar and keyboards. I just about remember The Monkees; it was youthful, subversive and wacky.

“Hope I die before I get old”, sang The Who‘s Roger Daltrey, around the same time. The words are Pete Townsend’s. Both are still with us. Yet they, and those like them, weren’t meant to die or grow old. It’s all about youth and youthfulness, permanently fresh and stretching out into infinite.

I don’t have The Monkees on my 750 song playlist in the car. I’d happily include The Who but I haven’t got around to it. It has become increasingly obvious that a lot of the artists on my playlist are no longer here. This is partly my fault because my tastes go far back to a time before I was born. Yet so many have fallen off the perch in recent years, not by misadventure but through boring old age.

“He’s dead, oh, she’s dead, is she gone now?, I imagine he’s no longer with us, I wonder if she’s still around…”

Does it matter, listening to dead musicians? The music still sounds good. And I think any reminder of mortality is an awareness of life. Rock on! While you’ve still got breath – live!


image: The Monkees (Peter Tork, far left)

More World Wide Watchables

Here’s a few more international telly dramas featured on Walter Presents…

Contact (France, 2015)

This is another police drama but with a supernatural twist. A frenchman has a gift for sensing people’s memories by grasping an item they’ve recently touched. He’s convicted of a crime in the US but is freed on condition he works for the FBI. However, he has unfinished business in France; the murder of his parents and a missing younger sister. He absconds, returns home and teams up with his police detective brother’s squad, solving crimes while they hunt for the family’s killer and their lost sister.

I didn’t take to this one, unfortunately. Despite the supernatural aspect, the characters weren’t interesting enough and the individual cases were pretty superficial, It just didn’t shine. Although I watched all eight episodes, I was beginning to lose track of events explaining the parents’ killer. Judging by the final episode’s shenanigans, I expect there’s a follow up series but I’ll probably give it a miss.

Sorry, Walter, you can’t win them all.


Sr. Ávila (Mexico, 2013)

This one is a slow boiler and had me wondering at first whether I’d hit a scrappy patch in Walter Presents… However, around the fifth episode it began to gel.

It’s an odd premise that a nefarious but organised firm of assassins in Mexico can operate surreptitiously behind a legitimate funeral business, and their best man, the eponymous “Mr. Ávila”, sells life insurance over the phone. His is just a cover too, to explain his ill-gotten gains from cold blooded contract killings. He also has the cover of an ordinary family man, albeit a wife with agoraphobia and confidence issues, and a wayward son, an excluded loner who sticks out as prey for school bullies. It’s also quickly established that Avila is having a casual sexual relationship with a younger colleague who wants more than a quickie in the office loo.

However, for me, the show gets interesting due to the street-wise and aspiring teenager who blags a position as his killing “apprentice”. By coincidence, he just happens to go to the same last resort school as Ávila’s son. Life gets complicated for Avila.

And there is a second series. I am averse to follow ups but in fairness, the plot takes on a different direction. Here, Ávila’s foil is his assistant, the cool and seemingly sinister Ivan. It’s darker, slightly less plausible, but nevertheless entertaining.


Neviditelní (The Invisibles) (Czech Republic, 2014)

A comedy drama. A subset of the human population evolved a gene which allows them to breathe underwater. These are people of the water nation and guardians of the world’s water, though derogatively they are referred to as “nixes”. They have their own religion, running parallel to Catholicism but worshipping John the Baptist instead. Avoiding war and conflicts, they have lately gone underground, hence the invisibles, but in the 21st century, in Prague, perhaps their day has come to take their rightful place in the world.

This notion is given a lift by the failed suicide-by-drowning of a prominent charismatic businessman and lobbyist, Ivan Lausman, under police investigation for illegal activities. It appears he has an incredible affinity for water. Could he be their promised “messiah”?

Lots of fun.


Contact IMDb

Sr. Ávila IMDb

Neviditelní IMDb

Lists: What are they good for? I know, let’s make a list…

I’ve made a start boxing up stuff in preparation for our house move. Lidl’s “Unwaxed Lemons” boxes are a good shape and size for CDs; you may find me in the supermarket, furtively decanting nets of lemons from the top box into the one beneath.

While packing the CDs, I thought I’d make a list at the same time. I don’t like list making but I have a fear of buying a CD I already have. This is a bit nonsensical and made worse by the fact that it’s been a while since I listened to a CD; I’m content to stream these days. But, who knows, I might be tempted by an offer.

It’s become a truism that there’s an app for everything and I didn’t want to be typing out each damn artist and title. The first few CDs I picked up had barcodes….hmm, interesting… but I went down the voice-recognition-transcription route instead, using the Evernote app. on my phone.

It worked so well, it made me chuckle – even when it made the occasional mistake. I was really impressed when it heard me say “J.J. Cale”, initially transcribed it as JJ Kale, then, within a nanosecond, corrected it perfectly. It must have learnt it from some other user, I suspect.

Unfortunately, my little collection of lesser known African artists defeated it. Or maybe it was my bad pronunciation. No matter how many times I said (shouted!) the name of the Congolese singer, “Tabu Ley Rochereau” into my smartphone, sounding increasingly like, and eventually surpassing, Peter Seller’s Inspector Clouseau, Evernote insisted I was simply saying “Table Lay Rush Hour”. Eventually, I had to type it out myself, just to keep the peace.


As I say, I’m not big on lists but sometimes they can be interesting. I had been looking at a poem on the Lit Hub blog this morning and I noticed how it went into a kind of list of things in the middle part, for about six lines, before returning to its main theme.

I admit that often I regard a lot of poetry as being lists: it’s all that stacking up of words, I guess. I think it was the writer, William S. Burrows, who sometimes wrote using a technique of cutting out words and rearranging them on his desk to make a new work. I also read it was a method adapted by musicians such as David Bowie and Ian Dury. You can hear it in the latter’s Reasons To Be Cheerful Part 3; it’s a list rearranged to form a lyrical piece.

Then there’s My Favourite Things, crafted by lyricist, Oscar Hammerstein II, and Paul Weller’s That’s Entertainment, a song I’ve always regarded as hauntingly resonant.

Cole Porter’s I Get A Kick Out Of You is essentially a list. Only three items though, each with accompanying explanatory words underneath, comparing his true desire with the thrills which come into many an over privileged lifestyle.

Leonard Cohen’s Bird On A Wire is another which sprung to mind; a list of similes, if you can bear it. And Billy Joel’s We Didn’t Start The Fire; who could forgot that one?

There are so many, I imagine the list is endless but it’s that which gets left off any list which makes lists infuriating.

And that’s why I don’t like them. (Lists, not the songs – they’re okay.)


image by Elijah O’Donnell via Unsplash.com

Reasons to be Cheerful, Part 3

My Favorite Things

That’s Entertainment

I Get A Kick Out Of You

Bird on a Wire

We Didn’t Start The Fire

Further World Wide Watchables

A continuing review of dramas from Walter Presents… discovered on All 4.

Les Beaux Mecs (Tony’s Revenge) (France, 2011)

I’ve read many times that one good thing about watching non British and non American drama is that the actors faces are unfamiliar and so their characters are more believable. While I don’t think I enjoy “foreign language” shows especially for this reason, it is probably true.

So, what do you know when I recognise the protagonist in Tony’s Revenge as the guy who played the politically aspirational Afghan crime lord, “Colonel” Amanulla in the brilliant Kaboul Kitchen. The actor is Simon Abkarian.

In Tony’s Revenge, he plays convicted mobster, Antoine “Mad Tony” Roucas, who makes an impromptu prison break with his cellmate, an uppity street gang delinquent named Kenz. His motivation for this is his sudden belief that his one time friend, Guido, who he thought murdered, is actually alive and well.

The drama follows Tony’s quest for the truth and to settle old scores, relying heavily on Kenz for support. Intertwined with this is the back story of Tony’s early life, his introduction to organised crime and why he has to settle those old scores.

It’s typically french in the way it balances nimbly between serious and comedic, the comedy mostly provided by the interplay between Kenz’s street attitude cool and Tony’s old school, cold cool attitude to gangsterism.

It has its moments and is entertaining on the whole.

Les Beaux Mecs IMDb


Crow’s Blood (Japan, 2016)

As I pick these shows purely at random, counting off the list with a random number generator, it’s a lottery which one comes up. I was quite pleased to find a Japanese thriller.

As Walter himself describes it, this is a drama filmed almost as a real life manga, with horror story tropes used to great effect. It’s somewhat Sci-fi too.

It’s set in a girls’ school when a new student arrives whose personality is peculiar and a bit sinister. She is the only daughter of a doctor who, for ethical reasons, was prominently against stem cell research until the daughter was involved in a life threatening road accident. Turning to his adversaries in stem cell research, they develop a means to save the daughter but the process has unforeseen consequences. Cue the horror-thriller events.

I’m not usually impressed by horror-thrillers but this is pretty good though in danger of getting ridiculously OTT at the end.

Crow’s Blood IMDb


Professor T. (Belgium, 2015)

Another drama from Belgium in Dutch (mostly), with a smattering of French, and the occasional English phrase oddly echoed in the subtitles. I was disheartened to find it stretched over three seasons and steeled myself to go only as far as the first, but I was wrong. It didn’t turn out to be a flog-it-to-death concept at all. Each series brought in something new to the drama.

Essentially, it’s a crime drama focussing on a team of police detectives solving homicides. During one case, they enlist the help of academic criminologist, Professor Jasper Teerlinck, a renowned genius in the field but one who also suffers acute OCD and doesn’t suffer fools at all gladly nor tactfully. He solves the case with Holmesian expediency and is soon employed by the force as an official criminologist and criminal profiler.

Not much special in this, it may even seem to borrow from other police dramas, but the Professor’s OCD and the cause of it are played out dramatically as surreal illusions which recall similarities to Dennis Potter dramas – The Singing Detective etc.

There is, I think, a precise blend of seriousness and comedy which works exceptionally well. It’s entertaining and the characters are engaging. I can’t imagine anyone else playing Professor T as well as actor, Koen de Bouw, his measured facial expressions and delivery are perfect to a T.

Professor T. IMDb

History, Prehistory and Everything Before and After

Ours is not as bad as H.E. Bates’ Larkin’s house where there was always a TV on in every room, but the one telly we have does seem to be on a lot. Mostly, I tune it out but sometimes it worms its way past my unconscious defence.

As it did yesterday. It was showing a medieval drama, a jousting event where armoured blokes upon armoured horses charged at each other, aiming poles at the other’s delicate body parts. And at other times on foot, hacking at each other with huge broad swords. Apart from the jousting scene, you could tell it was a medieval setting because all the poor people were dressed in sackcloth and rags. A funny thing though, a lot of them were exceptionally clean shaven and had nice haircuts, and all of them had really clean faces and hands, as if they’d just taken a hot bath or shower.

To be fair, I guessed it was a semi-comedy drama. What gave it away, and what drew my attention to the telly in the first place, was during the jousting tournament the crowd were all chanting Queen’s “We Will Rock You”, and in a subsequent scene there was an incongruous electric guitar solo – not acted out in the scene, thank god, but on the soundtrack.


During the above faux historical drama, I had begun listening to another podcast about the planet Venus. Early on in our history, Venus was considered to be Earth’s twin, it being close to Earth’s size as well as being our neighbour (Mars is much smaller). It’s also most noticeable in the sky having a highly reflective atmosphere; it appears as a star. Early on, people imagined it contained life and, as it was closer to the sun, its life would be consistent with that of hot, tropical jungles.

That idea was binned once scientific evidence established how hostile its atmosphere actually is: mostly carbon dioxide and so thick, the pressure at ground level would crush a human being, and so hot it would melt lead. Mars seemed a better bet for life after that.

One of the three scientists giving account of the planet gave a short description of how planets formed around the sun, beginning with a swirling of space dust, eventually sticking together by electromagnetism and then gravity, the sun then reaching ignition point, and the residual turning forces of swirling matter making everything revolve and orbit. For Venus and Earth, the period from adhering and coagulating dust particles to a proper orbiting sphere would be around 100 million years. At that would just be the beginning.


I was thinking about my primary school and how I remembered a lot of lessons about prehistoric life. We began with fossils of trilobites and ammonites, those funny looking segmented and spirally sea creatures, then the fishes and amphibians, and eventually the rise and decline of the reptiles – dinosaurs! – and ending with a few early mammals.

It seems to me now how each of these periods in Earth’s past is a distinct portion of the Earth’s life simply because of the huge passage of time each had taken. The Earth has had many lives, so to speak. It may have many more ahead, possibly without us.

And there I was, marvelling at those significant names from England’s “Dark Ages”, and how they seem to dabble in politics and culture as much as we do, and write books about it all. And, well, yes, but it’s only 1400 years ago. Nothing in time. When we’ve barely 100 years each in which to experience existence, how inconceivable is a passing of a million years!


It’s extraordinary to me to think how Earth has sustained some form of higher life for so long, and mostly, if not all, by chance. What are the odds? Do you think we’ll come face to face with aliens from another planet? Across time and space, as vast and hostile as it appears, and to coincide with our time here?

I don’t.

The World, AI and Memory (and a bit of telly)

An interesting piece on AI from Learn Fun Facts, a blog I follow.

Should we worry about the doomsday scenario of AI and robots taking over the world? Maybe it’s inevitable. Maybe they’ll be welcome to it, once the devastating effects of climate change are realised.

My binging of the Walter Presents… archives of World telly drama from the All 4 app, continues. I’ll list a short appraisal below but the most recent drama was the brilliant Tabula Rasa from Belgium, though spoken in Dutch. It’s a nine one hour episode series, complete with no sequel – the kind I like. It has a clever plot with several twists along the way, and one big one midway which I doubt many viewers would predict. The opening titles are very stylish too, you sense you’re about to see something worthwhile.

Tabula Rasa is latin and translates as Blank Slate. In this drama, this is a metaphor for memory. Our protagonist suffers from amnesia following a traumatic experience. This means she fails to remember anything after the trauma very quickly and relies on keeping a notebook in lieu of a normal working memory. (This is similar to the guy in the film, Memento, who wrote notes on his body.) Whenever she needed to verify something, a person’s identity, for instance, she would rush through the pages of her book trying to find the relevant note or drawing.

This is, more or less, how AI data retrieval works, isn’t it? I mean, it’s more refined and therefore extremely efficient, but nevertheless the same. I don’t think anyone yet knows precisely how the human memory works – or doesn’t work, sometimes – how all that data is squirrelled away within the grey stuff. And it’s very energy efficient.

Imagine having to rely entirely on note taking for memory. Or, say, keeping a blog. In time, it would become enormous, and probably unusable. Long before then, you’d probably be chucked off WP for using up your storage allocation; you’d have to start paying and, in no time, bankrupt yourself.

What a marvellous instrument the old brain is. I ought to look after it.


A quick summary update of my Walter Presents.. viewing, most recently watched first,

Tabula Rasa (Belgium, 2017)

A woman suffering short term amnesia is a suspect in a missing person’s case, and probable murder. She is committed to a clinic where, with the aid of a notebook, she struggles to make sense of the situation and events from her recent past. A stylish and clever psychological thriller utilising several horror story tropes.

Blue Eyes (Sweden, 2014)

A political drama about the rise of right wing factions, both legitimate and terrorist. It’s general election time and the plot centres on two women, one a newly appointed civil servant finding herself in the middle of ongoing political corruption and the strange disappearance of her predecessor, the other a single mum who, wanting to avenge the murder of her activist mother, joins a new extreme right wing group. A good thriller.

The Mind of a Murderer (Germany, 2017)

Following the death of his family, a police detective returns to work as a new head of a city crime unit. His methods are unconventional and puts him at odds with his subordinates who themselves have personal issues which affect their work. The quirkiness of the chief character just about raises this drama above average.

Kabul Kitchen (France, 2014)

A not too outlandish comedy about an ex-international journalist, Jacques “Jackie” Roberts, who quits journalism to make money running a western style restaurant and bar in Kabul, during relative peacetime. His estranged daughter turns up unexpectedly as an NGO, and the local criminal boss decides to be his friend and equal business partner, but his problems don’t end there. A very entertaining double series carried admirably by the lead actor.

Norskov (Denmark, 2015)

A policeman returns to his economically impoverished hometown, recruited to clean up its high drug related crime. There, he reunites with two old friends, one serving as the town’s mayor and the other runs his own building contractor company. A brooding Scandi drama, slow at times, maybe, but deep enough.

Spin (France, 2012)

Les hommes de l’ombre, (the shadow men), the original French title is better. Three series of this political drama centred on the work of a spin doctor, his adversary and one time partner in business, and the assorted politicians he mixes with. Not much politics seems to happen oddly, it’s mostly about politicians climbing, and sliding down, their greasy poles. Nevertheless, good plots and well acted performances.

Tainted (Brazil, 2014)

A disgraced police officer finds work as a bounty hunter, working for an ex-colleague’s sideline business. Meanwhile, he attempts to find the evidence to clear his name and get back to living a legitimate life. So-so, macho cop kind of thing.

The Cleaning Lady (Argentina, 2017)

Conscientiously efficient professional cleaner, Rosa, is contracted to clean up an assassination scene by the local mafia. She does such a good job eliminating all the evidence, she inadvertently becomes the mob’s go to cleaner of choice, thwarting the efforts of the two detectives investigating their crimes. I thought this was going to be a comedy, but no, it’s completely straight. I quite enjoyed it too.


My other Walter Presents reviews can be read here.

Aunty on Animation

It would seem that the BBC of late hides its lights under the bushel of its online only output – the iPlayer.

Following on from the very worthwhile bio documentary on British DJ David Rodigan and Reggae, another documentary caught my attention, another perennial interest of mine: stop-frame animation.

With CGI, stop-frame animation is likely seen as a niche and probably quaint pursuit. When it can take years to produce a five minute film, the first question on unsympathetic lips must be, why bother? It’s like the audience I was in, listening to an Oxford busker perform a longish piece on a didgeridoo. He was, as the didge goes, very accomplished but I overheard a boy whisper to his friend, “Uh, I can do that on my Casio”. I guess you get it or you don’t.

And so it is that stop-frame animators, to the informed at least, have the status of artisan and artists, not mass produced manufacturers of cartoons by computers.

As the programme explains, there is something quintessentially British about British animation historically. I think it’s possibly because there are no rules but also, as explained, there is no money. Anyway, I love it.

Here’s a couple of my favourites featured for those unable to view BBC iPlayer. If you can get it, the link is below.

This is from Osbert Parker’s Clothes (1988).

In this animation, he used a collection of vintage clothes and props laid out across his apartment floor in a sequence planned from a storyboard.

As with any stop-frame technique, the clothes are slightly rearranged before each subsequent shot – you get the picture.


Joanna Quinn is an amazing draughtsman. Such exquisite drawings and detailed expressions on her characters’ faces.

This is Girls’ Night Out (1987) about a group of Welsh factory workers visiting a male stripper event.

Click on either image to see the clip.


Secrets of British Animation – BBC iPlayer