Film Review: Rocketman (2019)

Elton John gets in on the self-produced musical biopic game, meaning Rocketman is gonna take a long long time to get anywhere near the truth

“People don’t pay to see Reginald Dwight… 
they pay to see *Elton John*!”

I always find there being something a little suspect about the subject of a biopic being intimately involved behind the scenes, that sense that you’re only being permitted to see a carefully curated version of this particular story (cf Tina the Musical, On Your Feet onstage; Bohemian Rhapsody most recently on film). And Rocketman ultimately proves no exception, with Elton John executive producing and husband David Furnish getting a producer credit, and Wikipedia thus offering up a substantial list of deviations from what actually happened

You might argue that as the film, written by Lee Hall and directed by Dexter Fletcher, isn’t a documentary, it doesn’t need to concern itself with an absolute fidelity to historical record. But I just find it fascinating this need to embellish, so much being smuggled under the umbrella of ‘creative license’ that can’t always be explained away with the ‘needs’ of filmmaking. Things as fundamental as changing the inspiration for Reg Dwight’s stage name from his mentor Long John Baldry to John Lennon, or claiming that ‘Daniel’ and ‘I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues’ were the songs he auditioned for with Dick James when neither had been written yet. At what point does that creative license start being straight-up dishonesty? Continue reading “Film Review: Rocketman (2019)”

Review: DiaoChan – The Rise of the Courtesan, Above the Arts

“Was woman not created equal to man?”

DiaoChan – The Rise of the Courtesan offers a rare opportunity for London audiences to delve into Chinese classic theatre, with Ross Ericson’s free adaptation coming from part of Romance of the Three Kingdoms, acclaimed as one of the Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese literature and among the oldest novels in the world. So it aims to be an epic piece of storytelling but this Red Dragonfly/Grist To The Mill production, also directed by Ericson, actually works best in its more human, intimate moments.

As the Han Dynasty comes to a violent end, ambitious general DongZhuo seizes power in 189AD by installing a mere boy on the imperial throne and rules by default as chancellor, protected by his adopted son, the great warrior LüBu. Among the few who oppose him is the government minister WangYun but it takes the enterprising nous of a singing girl in his household named Diaochan to come up with a plot to defeat their enemies and simultaneously secure her rising position in society, breaking out of the usual limited historical roles for women of courtesan and concubine. Continue reading “Review: DiaoChan – The Rise of the Courtesan, Above the Arts”