Talking movies, music and other close encounters of the social media kind.
Back in 1996 when I first watched ‘Trainspotting’ – within the first few bars of Iggy Pop’s punk rock anthem ‘Lust for Life’ – you’re thrown head first into a video style music montage and straight into the lives of the four main characters – Renton (played by Ewan MacGregor), Spud (Ewen Bremner), Sick Boy (Johnny Lee Miller) and Begbie (Robert Carlyle). It’s a world of fist fights, cold beer, football, Glasgow Rangers, Sean Connery, train wallpaper, dark nightclubs and pubs, techno dance music, housing project squalor, a dead baby, a dead Tommy, drugs, needles, smack, heroin, Lou Reed and the filthiest toilet in Scotland.
You’d think this would be dark, violent and depressing…but it’s not.
With the driving music of the Iggy Pop, the opening of the film propels you positively forward. Despite the dark subject matter, it feels like you’re on some joyous roller coaster ride. Directed with viceral velocity by Danny Boyle, and mixing a pulsing 90’s techno/punk/british soundtrack featuring Underworld, Blur, Sleeper, Bedrock Feat.KYO, Leftfield, Lou Reed, and Brian Eno – this film totally blew me away when I first saw it. It was a visual and musical battering of the senses – with a breakout performance from Ewan MacGregor (before he became Obi-Wan Kenobi) bold camerawork and direction, and a unique soundtrack that’s one of the best of all time.
It’s indeed one of the best films of the 1990s.
Now 20 years later we visit this motley crew again.
That premise alone was enough to go and watch the film and it was great to see the old gang back together – although not quite all together in their own lives.
Was great to see Spud take control of his life and finally finding his voice, Sick Boy really hasn’t progressed at all and Begbie is still as violent as ever, if not worse. He escapes from prison, obsessed with seeking revenge on Renton who stole the heist money at the end of the first film.
As for Renton – he’s also backtracked, losing his job and missus and coming back to Edinburgh see his father after his mum has passed away.
There’s some great moments; the first time Sick Boy and Renton meet after 20 years at the pub ends up being the one of the best bar brawls ever filmed on screen and the new soundtrack chooses some old classics like Radio Ga Ga by Queen and ‘Dreaming’ by Blondie – but at times the film is patchy and never reaches the heroin addict highs of that first film – and in some respects, it doesn’t want to be. Because this time it’s not about the good times, the drugs and the euphoria of youth – but the passing of time, of ageing and regret, of holding onto nostalgia and the consequences of clinging to the past.
The side-swipe on nostalgia is a main theme throughout: when Sick Boy tells Renton; “Nostalgia – that’s why you’re here – you’re a tourist in your own youth”, not only is he speaking to Renton but also to the audience watching (geez, my blog posts have been pretty nostalgic I must confess). But with it’s flashbacks and clever nods to the first film – it also embraces it.
Favourite scene of the movie? When Renton and his new girlfriend have dinner and he begins to rant the new ‘Choose Life’ monologue. It’s compelling, sad and in today’s social media world of trump tweets – totally relevant.
I just had to compare the two. So here’s the 1996 version :
And below is the new revised version. Whereas the first monologue was spoken by a young Renton with defiance and a touch of revolt , this new version is spoken by an older (but not any wiser) Renton with a hint of anguish and heavy dose of resignation.
So what about the film overall? It’s solid with great performances from all the actors – but hard as it tries, it doesn’t reach the heights of the first film. Like the new version of Lust For Life by the Prodigy – it’s good… just isn’t as good as the original.
But hey, it’s bloody great looking back.
Definitely makes me want to listen to the Trainspotting soundtrack again.
Man, maybe I am hooked on all the nostalgia… maybe I am, as Sick Boy described;
‘a tourist in my own youth’.
…Ahh, f*** it.
Give me another hit.