Assassination Classroom: Graduation

Last year, Assassination Classroom, screened in Cottage Road, was one of the unexpected (for me, at least) triumphs of the whole festival. We’d gone to it knowing that it sounded dead weird (an octopus like alien appears on Earth and becomes a school teacher. His class have the rest of the year to learn how to kill him) but not knowing much else about it. And it was great. Not just, a bit of good fun but really, entertainingly, memorably great. And utterly silly.

So the sequel came with some expectations to live up to. Could one of our favourite films of last year possibly keep up the quality? The answer is: yes, mostly.

Assassination Classroom: Graduation is a somewhat different film to the first. Whilst the first was a series of escalating madcap scenarios in which the class might kill the teacher, this one has a (relatively) more straight-faced tone. We trade in some of the more slapstick elements for a quite wonderful superhero backstory parody (think Wolverine!), a love interest and grittier fighting. This does mean its not quite the same ridiculous fun as the original, but I don;t think they really could have sustained that. Instead of just trying to do the same but more, we get a pretty decent superhero film – much like Deadpool this both teases and lives up to the superhero tropes – with a dash of yellow octopus thrown in.

I definitely wouldn’t recommend starting here – you need to see the original first – but this ticked all the right boxes. Excellent stuff.

Drinks
Kirkstall Dissolution Extra IPA. Excellent as ever.

Francesca

I love giallo. It’s a genre very dear to my heart that does a lot of what I love in film. The soundtracks are incredible. The imagery is stunning. The plots all walk a perfectly fine line between cliched tropes and unexpected twists. Some of my absolute favourite films came from this golden era of Italian film-making – from the likes of Argento, Bava, Fulci

In recent years there’s been a gentle revival of interest in the genre. Thankfully it’s not been too wholehearted – I don’t know how I’d have reacted to a mainstream American love for the giallo in the way the Walking Dead has done with zombie films. Instead, its been mostly indie films and niche genre pieces that have returned to the giallo. Cattet and Forzani’s two features Amer and The Strange Colour of Your Body’s Tears are amongst my favourite films of the last few years. Despite this, they’re without doubt sophisitcated reinterpretations of giallo. They have all the stylistic quirks – the leather glove, the singsong soundtrack, the knife, the nightmare, the heavily-mascared eyes – but they play upon all of these to create more complicated, nuanced stoy lines.

How refreshing then to find film-makers taking the giallo film head-on, warts-and-all, in all its glory. Francesca was made last year, but you wouldn’t know it. The film looks aged, the soundtrack clangs and scrapes, the plot is absurd yet chilling, the violence is gruesome and sudden, the police are incompetent and slow. It ticks all the boxes.

If you don’t already love giallo I find it hard to imagine that you’ll be bowled over by this. If you do, though, this is a treat. Martin Grund, the lead fanomenen programmer, described it as “the kind of film you wish Argento was still making”. If you know what that sentence means, I imagine you’ll love this.

Drinks
Kirkstall Dissolution Extra IPA, another of my favourite beers. The Hyde Park really does have a well stocked bar.

Xam Duo, Let’s Eat Grandma and Anna Meredith at the Belgrave

When the Belgrave first opened I remember asking someone what it was like. “So hipster”, they replied, explaining it was full of beardy, glasses wearing, craft-beer drinking fans of obscure bands. We did both, of course, fit that exact profile (although obviously WE weren’t hipsters). It feels fitting then, that the Belgrave was the scene of one of my most hipster gig going choices yet: going to a gig having only ever heard of the band at the very bottom of the bill.

Xam Duo, my reason for going, are half made up of Matthew Benn from Hookworms. Whilst they bring a very full on onslaught of noise, Xam Duo are a bit more refined – gentler and (whisper it) even a bit jazzy. Their continually evolving and developing single song sprawled over half an hour as percussive noises, keys and saxophone drones faded in and out. I would have happily seen them play for a lot longer. They’ve got an album on bandcamp which I’ll have to investigate soon.

They were followed by Let’s Eat Grandma, who’s name is basically their strongest point. I’m pretty disinclined to be rude about bands – I’d always much rather focus on positive experiences and ignore the less good bands – but I really can’t just pretend Let’s Eat Grandma don’t exist (however much I might like to). They were excruciating. Style was far outweighing substance as they flicked their hair around the stage moving from one instrument to the next. All the tunes are pretty thing and the lyrics even worse. The rapping was just embarrassing. In fairness to them, they are very young. Maybe at sixth form battle of the bands they’d top the bill. But judged as a real, touring band they fall very far short.

The only baffling this is why so many people around us seemed to love them.

If I was beginning to doubt the sense in coming to a gig on the strength of the support, Anna Meredith more than made up for Let’s Eat Grandma. I’d only had a chance to give the briefest of listens to her album so didn’t have a very clear idea of what to expect and was absolutely blown away. Anyone who brings a cello on stage gets a pretty good mark in my book but both a cello and a tuba? You’re just off the scale. She and her band were absolutely fab. They thundered through their set and looked like they were having a great time throughout.

So, I went to see one band, found another I loved and know to steer well clear of another. Not a bad score really.

Drinks: Ilkley Hanging Stone Stout – good, dark beer that manages to avoid running into the higher ABV numbers. A stout you can drink a few of.
Kirkstall Dissolution IPA – always a safe bet. Great stuff.