Alan Partridge (Steve Coogan) is something of a nonentity on these shores. If there were any justice, his marvellous sitcom I’m Alan Partridge would be as familiar to Aussie viewers as Fawlty Towers.

An “aha!” moment

15:29:PM 23/02/2012
Myke Bartlett

Staying in

Mid-morning matters with Alan Partridge Roadshow DVD

Alan Partridge (Steve Coogan) is something of a nonentity on these shores. If there were any justice, his marvellous sitcom I’m Alan Partridge would be as familiar to Aussie viewers as Fawlty Towers. Instead, Coogan seems best known for playing himself in last year’s bleak comedy The Trip.

As it is, Alan Partridge isn’t a million miles away from that version of Coogan.

A failed TV presenter, forever banished to regional radio, Alan might be seen as something of an alter-ego, possessed by Coogan’s apparent self-belief but lacking any of his success.

The laughs arise from the gap between the man Alan thinks he is and the man we see before us. As with most DJs, he has a pathological fear of dead air, which means he’s disposed of those essential filters preventing our every thought from escaping our gobs.

These six half-hour episodes, created as an online series, give Alan just enough rope to hang himself. Set entirely in his radio studio, there’s nothing in the way of plot to distract from the full horror of our star’s ego. Packed with quotable quips, this is character comedy at its purest, funniest and most painful.

Film

Carnage

Opens March 1, Rated M, 79 min

Civilisation and decency are worn to a thin veneer in this new film from Roman Polanski. Perceptions of the controversial director – child rapist or persecuted artist – can be hard to put aside, so it’s perhaps lucky that there’s little sign of him here. Indeed, the cinematography is practically invisible, any stylistic flourishes kept to a minimum.

Carnage began life as a stage play and Polanski seems happy, mostly, to leave it there. Our four characters are confined to a single set, in real time. As a result, we feel as trapped with these characters as they do with one another.

Two couples, strangers to each other, come together to mend fences after a playground brawl. Both want to make sure they’re doing the right thing, but (as the mutual apologies pile up) it’s clear each couple wants it known they are in the right. All it takes is the merest gesture at moral superiority for this painfully polite neighbourliness to devolve into sniping and bitchiness. A sharp and bitterly witty script manages to twist and turn nimbly, despite its confined settings.

The cast is equally engaging, Jodie Foster and Kate Winslet managing to be simultaneously vile and empathetic. Foster is all too convincing as the unbearably righteous do-gooder responsible for this disastrous tête à tête.

Things might never quite get as nasty as the title promises, but the film is more effective for it, trading high farce for uncomfortable realism. The result is a compelling, unsettling glance in the mirror – one that’s far more entertaining than any of the big-budget spectacles currently gracing cinema screens.

Concert

David Broza with special guest Old Man River

Tuesday March 6, 7.30pm, The National Theatre, St Kilda, $49-$69

Israeli performer David Broza has released an impressive two dozen records across his 35-year career. A virtuoso guitarist, Broza’s style takes in references from flamenco, folk and classic rock. His lyrics – many interpreted from famous poems – flit between English, Spanish and Hebrew, reflecting the three countries in which he spent time as a child. When last in Melbourne five years ago, he sold out Hamer Hall, so best get in quick to grab tickets this time around.

Music

Landless Ali E (Show Off)

There’s something enchanting about this determinedly lo-fi debut from Melbourne’s Ali E. Propelled by little more than an electric guitar and Ms E’s double-tracked, mesmerising vocals, tracks such as opener Lovely Water become oddly hypnotic. Even rockier numbers swirl and spin, so that the minimalist soundscape seems to build into something much grander.

It isn’t difficult to draw comparisons with early P. J. Harvey. There are certainly echoes of Dry in the intimate, stripped-back production and Ms E’s sultry demeanour. But here the grunge and the grit is teamed with an appealing lightness, the sun occasionally breaking through the album’s grey skies.

The best tracks – Landless and So It Goes – manage to shrug off the lo-fi noise to kick into tuneful, rackety pop.

Mykes Space

Listening The Magnetic Fields’ Love at The Bottom of the Sea. Wonderful synth-pop silliness halfway between They Might Be Giants and (very) early Depeche Mode.

Watching To Kill a Mockingbird Blu-ray. One of the greatest films ever made finally gets the home release it deserves. Looks astoundingly fresh for a 50-year-old.

Also Spending every Sunday night for the next month at the Astor Theatre for its Orson Welles season.


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