It’s really funny how little things can inspire you to get off your arse and do something. Not ‘ha ha funny’, rather, the scary but deeply motivational kind of funny that makes feel like all the planets have aligned for a microsecond.
I don’t think I understood or appreciated the true value of art until now. Wait a minute; I’m not talking about paintings and ballet and opera and antiques – that’s still above my head (for now – one can aspire). I’m talking about something unique and beautifully crafted, that’s unleashed on our hypercritical world to be totally absorbed and cherished.
Or massively pied and forgotten about.
In this case, it was a story. Well, a continuation of a story – and a visually compelling/cherish-able one at that, to say the very least. Nae pies here.
I saw Trainspotting 2 the other night. And it made me want to write. Any rhyming there was entirely unintentional, but hopefully adds some kind of melodic significance to the point.
HOLD ON. Before you switch off, at the prospect of reading another rambling (and slightly late to the box office table) ‘home-schooled critic review*’, hear me out:
The movie works magnificently on a number of levels. Bullet-points are probably the best way to articulate this, so I don’t miss anything (and because attention spans are seriously waning** these days):
- Trainspotting 2 is a sequel. Bear with me. Nine times out of ten, they’re shite. They normally stumble around a nostalgia that reeks of the desperate little brother/sister*** who couldn’t quite match their shining older sibling’s storytelling ability, but tries nonetheless to re-tell the same fable, lacking any of the originality, excitement and poise. Not T2. Wow. Boyle, Welsh, McGregor et al collectively nailed it. In fact, I was more engaged with this one than the first. Trainspotting, the original, shocked and excited me as an awkward 13 year-old lad. But Trainspotting 2 well and truly perma-scorched itself into the back of my retinas in a way that only a scattering of movies have done in my lifetime. YES, they came close to crossing the ‘don’t try it again just for the sake of it’ line with Renton’s rebooted Choose Life monologue – but, surprisingly, rocked the absolute hell out of it second time around. Better and more brutal than the first – and a very perfect dystopian commentary on our ‘connected’ society (whatever the fuck that means).
- The soundtrack, IMHO, rocked beyond that of the first movie. It cleverly remixes some of the original movie’s tracks (with enough rosy hue to get you excited), but also introduces a number of other, classic and modern pieces that complement the on-screen savagery, beautifully. I hummed and tapped the choons when I got home that night, and bought the soundtrack on iTunes the very next day – mostly so I could dance round the kitchen during my LSB-w/c cook-off (Lorne Sausage Bagel with cheese – seriously, try it). The album purchase wasn’t part of my Apple Music package and set me back a whopping £10.99, but, I didn’t care. I wanted to re-live it all, again and again. My 18-year-old self would be cringing, not just at the dancing, but the fact I’d PAID for music. Who does that!?! I’ll tell you who, 32-year-old me, with a quiet fear for the now way more powerful, yet strangely invisible internet music police, but also out of sheer admiration and gratitude for this awesome aural amalgamation of beats.
- It’s entirely an Edinburgh story and film. There’s nowt better than seeing your hometown on the big screen. It fills you with pride. Particularly when you’re reminded of its humble grandeur and volcanic beauty (the Arthur’s Seat scene made me beam).
- It’s a mental rollercoaster; hurling the full spectrum of emotions at you (some I had never before experienced, like ‘angrow’ – a confusing mixture of anger and sorrow – only made-up words can accurately describe Boyle’s drug-taking scenes). I also haven’t laughed out loud in the cinema for years and the Loyalist pub bit made me guffaw. Ironically brilliant, on a number of levels.
- The visual effects are ace. Particularly in a day and age where CGI is the norm, and quite often done to death. The first film used some nice yet properly horrifying animated pieces (remember the dead baby on the ceiling?) Well, number two does it just as well for me, with the likes of some lovely wee stop-start camera masterpieces that enhance the banging soundtrack and brilliant narrative.
But I guess this could all be considered insignificant, even trivial when you think about how subjective film can (and always should) be. Movies probably move us in profound ways and move us all in profoundly different ways) because they connect with us, and our lives, on a much more personal and subconscious level.
For me the best takeaway wasn’t actually the music, or the effects, or the ‘ride’. Likewise the most message wasn’t really one of drug abuse, friendship, revenge or extortion. It was growing up. Mic drop. It was kinda rites of passage-type stuff. A nostalgic reflection of what was, and what could be. And how they’re deeply intertwined (whether we like it or not).
My childhood movie memories have been constructed with the solid pillars of 80s coming-of-age classics, and their associated anthropologies. Think The Goonies, Stand by Me, and The Lost Boys.
But there’s one big difference – watching those films as you’re growing up isn’t the same as seeing them when you’re grown up. Cue penny-dropping moment.
Seeing Renton, Sick-boy, Spud and Begbie reminisce about the good times and the bad, forced me to do the same. And despite their inevitable, downward-spiralling and melancholy outcomes, it made me feel really good.
Take a pinch of forgotten pride for your city, some nostalgic warmth and mix with a stark, but strangely reassuring reminder that you’ve ‘grown up’ – and you get a great feeling. So great, that I wanted to share this experience.
I think that’s what makes good art. Something that affects you (and alters your perception of things) on a deeper level. Something that makes you do something. Evidently this works both positively and negatively. I wouldn’t shy away from the fact that on occasion, video nasties (as they were called when I was growing up) can encourage those who’ve lost their way on the path to explore, and act on, the much darker and more dangerous sides of our psyche.
But for me, and hopefully others of the same age & breed, this trip down memory lane (mega pun intended) was surely nothing but a good thing.
Thank you, Trainspotting 2. You’ve woken up something inside me. You’ve helped me realise that I’ve grown up, some things have inexorably changed, but that’s totally cool and life’s kinda what you make of it.
*One of those incoherent, and mostly self-righteous social media posts, that vaguely critiques some form of art/content, with the writer’s primary agenda being one of ‘I saw this/tried this/did this before you, so check me out’. All hail the trend-setting fountains of knowledge, who ironically (and annoyingly) struggle between your and you’re. Wankers. And this proves that I’m now totally one too. Fuck.
** Apparently, human attention spans (how long something actually locks our true focus for) are now a whole second behind that of the goldfish – our woeful seven seconds plays deputy to their solid eight. For actual real. I blame banner ads. What were we talking about?
***For the record, my brother and sister aren’t desperate. They’re both rather lovely. And can both tell a jolly good story. But I’m still way better… at everything. Including life.
[Headline image credit to Film4]