Little Shop of Wonders – Last Shop Standing

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The 21s century hasn’t been kind to the independent record shop. With the rise (and fall) of high street stores of HMV and Virgin Megastore, and the continued domination of the MP3, the little record stores that could are beginning to die out. Even with the current vinyl revival, over 500 record shops have closed in recent years. But even with closures, there’s still an outpouring of love for these ramshackle record shacks. Last Shop Standing is an examination, and celebration, of the unique camaraderie and ingenuity that could be found in indie record shops up and down the UK.

Crowd-funded by music lovers and shot over the course of a month, Last Stop Standing embodies the spirit of the shops that it idolizes. Shops up and down the country, from Glasgow to Yeovil, are all given their chance to shine and explain the charm that lies within the racks of vinyl and music memorabilia.

Though there are some brilliantly informative talking heads, (Johnny Marr, Paul Weller, Richard Hawley, Billy Bragg) this isn’t a film about celebrities. It’s about the shop owners. As such, the authenticity and insight on hand is brilliant. First hand accounts of the trials and tribulations of these storeowners are simultaneously euphoric and heartbreaking. The admittance that they’re a dying breed particularly tugs and the heartstrings. The closure of the 105 year-old C.F Hudson’s in Chesterfield is one such moment that packs a searing emotional wallop. And yet, the owner’s enthusiasm for vinyl and the simple pleasure of actually buying music is infectious.

The discussion of how the Indie record shop suffered “death by 1,000 cuts” is worth paying attention to. Record pushing jiggery-pokery of the 80’s, and mistreatment by the music industry as a whole is examined, and there are sobering questions posed by Last Shop Standing. While some shops are closing, others are beginning to buck the trend.

Record Store Day is one the catalysts for this latter day vinyl revival. The emotional connection of records is also a contribution to the allure of the record shop. The combination of the art, feel and, obviously, the sound of the vinyl record is linked to the success of the record shop. The personality of the owners is also, rightly, pointed out as one of the allures of the indie shop too.

On the whole, Last Shop Standing is a must for any real music fan. Though it’s a little short, clocking in at a slim 50 minutes, it’s packed with feeling. It’s not solely an exercise in nostalgia, but rather a celebration of the tireless spirit of the record store owners. The next time you’re passing a record shop, go in and have a mooch. This film will convince you not to bother with your Amazons or your Tescos, but rather your Apollo Records or your Acorn Musics as the place to be. The kazoo version of the Bee Gee’s staying live is totally worth watching the whole thing through, regardless of the rest of the content.

Past Master – Citizen Kane

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The dark, foreboding towers of Xanadu is an enduring image. The giant pleasure palace began life as a towering monument to ambition but was destined to become a crumbling, corrupt shadow of it’s former self. Xanadu’s impressive rise and fall mirrors that of its owner Charles Foster Kane.

The story of Kane is one of rags to riches to isolation. Told through flashbacks, interviews and newsreel, Citizen Kane plots the attempts of journalist Jerry Thompson to document life of the reclusive newspaper magnate and unravel the truth about his cryptic last words.

Orson Welles’ timeless meditation on the effects of power still resonates to this day – especially in uncomfortable light of a post-Leveson world. Kane’s journey from idealistic firebrand to a bloated figure of corruption remains a master class in filmmaking.

Welles really is the star of the show. Writing, directing and starring in his first feature film, Welles manages to harness the visual language of a medium that was completely new to him to dazzling effect. For a feature film debut, Citizen Kane takes some beating.

A monumental screen presence, Welles’ turn as Kane is enthralling. The metamorphosis from the youthful newspaper owner to his older, unrecognisable self is presented with such conviction and believability that Welles threatens to outshine the rest of the cast. Luckily a solid cast, particularly Joseph Cotton’s Jedediah Leland, ably supports him.

Renowned for it’s technical innovations, Citizen Kane is a visual triumph. Pioneering deep focus and crane shots – including expert use of miniatures – demonstrate Welles’s knack for framing images on screen.

Liberal use of light and shade, particularly in Xanadu, is used masterfully throughout the entire film. Thompson’s face is perpetually draped in darkness – a proxy for the audience as they ponder on the mystery of Rosebud.

Time hasn’t been kind to all aspects of Kane, however. A lot of the Forties sound design is grating, particularly the shrill tones Dorothy Comingore’s Susan. Which is a shame, because Comingore’s spirited performance and interplay with Welles is one of the film’s greatest strengths.

While Kane’s super mansion may have ended up as a decaying monument to days gone by, Citizen Kane stands as the opposite. Driven by the astonishing Welles, complete with pitch perfect direction and cinematography, Kane remains one of the ultimate examples of the power of Cinema. An enduring classic.