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amor- Direct routes

Billy clutching Bert

‘Every guitarist comes back to the acoustic eventually,’ Bert Jansch said as i left his flat. ‘They might thrash the electric on stage all night, but when they get home they’ll get out the acoustic lor themselves.’

Edinburgh-based filmmaker Jan Leman, helped by BBC Scotland, has made a documentary, Acoustic Routes, that proliles Jansch, the quietly-spoken compulsive musician widely acknowledged as the first and ilnest oi Britain’s iolk-biues guitarists. Despite being glitterineg premiered at last year’s Edinburgh Film Festival, Strictly Ballroom it ain’t, but Acoustic Routes shares a homespun integrity which could make it an unassuming success on its own terms.

Billy Connolly narrates and participates in the story, which opens at the liowll ln Edinburgh’s High Street (just across the road irom The List oliices). Once one ol a couple oi hubs at everything hip, now it’s rented space, allowed briefly to re-animate the musical ghosts soaked into its

stone walls.

‘I physically stripped all those walls and built the main door,’ mused Jansch in his London-Edinburgh accent (born here, lives there). ‘lt’s very strange to go back to all that.’

Almost everybody important irom the early fills acoustic boom appears or gets due credit somewhere in the action which, like many oi the musicians, moves to London and then America, nostalglcally retreadng old paths and beating down a lew new ones. Bert’s musical companions include Connolly, Al Stewart and Martin Carthy, who dishes the dirt on what really happened with Paul Simon and the Scarboro Fair copyright. There’s a rare chance to see the extraordinarily shy loIk-guru-ol- them-all Davy Graham, some cracking anecdotes irom the more generally-

viewed lolk-daddy-ol-them-all Hamish imlach and a specially illmed duet with longtime American blues hero Brownie McGhee, a frequent Scottish visitor back then.

We see a teenage Bert looking thin and moody in an empty room on the cover ol his lirsi album. By the second he’s evidently able to altord iumiture, much to Connolly’s amusement. ‘Don’t tell Billy,’ smiled Bert. ‘l’d hate to shatter his illusions, but it wasn’t my llat. it was the photographer’s.’

Acoustic Routes’ soundtrack, released soon on CD, has surprise gems peppering a good cross-section ol Jansch-type music lrom Bert’s early days, when Connolly described him as the man everybody wanted to be, through Pentangle to the lull McGhee session, via a heap ol lriends and musical relations.

There’s next to nothing about Jansch the man beyond what’s in the music. But Leman’s understanding oi his subject prevents the movie from degenerating into anorak-worshlp and lets the music- and the musicians- tell story enough. (Ellie Buchanan)

Acoustic Routes is on BBC2 on Monday 25 January at 9.20pm.

m:- Popcorn


When it comes to big screen criticism on the small screen, UK audiences haven’t exactly been well served. There’s the over-enthusiastic American imports that pop up in the early hours, the esoteric Moving Pictures and the comiorable presence oi Barry Norman. Not much, really, lor the popcorn munchers and Coke slurpers oi the multiplexes to relate to.

’Colng to the movies isn't just about sitting down and watching a lilm,’ argues Phlllp Edgar-Jones, co-presenter oi Channel 4': new review programme Moviewatch, ’and so the programmes won’t be just about the lilms themselves, but about the whole experience oi going to the cinema a everything irom eating a stale hotdog to catching the last bus home or sitting in the back row having a snog.’

Along with City Limits assistant editor Tania Guha, Edgar-Jones will

i each week meet up with lour young

cinema-goers irom around the country, who will watch a batch ol new releases, debate their merits without pretension, mark them out of ten and select one as recommended movie of the week. The reviews will be supplemented with other relevant topics and interviews (the llrst programme ieatures Jeil Goldblum and director oi Reservoir Dogs Quentin Tarantino). A writer lor Sky magazine, Edgar-Jones is a native ol West Kilbrlde and former resident oi Edinburgh, and so is enthusiastic about the regional element to the programme. ’Every week it will be coming from a

dilierent cinema in a dliierent town,’ he says. ‘The llrst show is from Manchester, the second from East Klibrlde, then we’ll go to Birmingham, Cardlll, Beliast, all sorts oi places. I think a lot of film criticism is quite parochially London, so it’s nice to get a country-wide perspective on the whole thing.’ (Alan Morrison)

Movlewatch begins a 20-week season on Channel 4, 17 January at 6pm. Scottish Television beglns A Cinema liearYou, a new look at film in Scotland, on 19 January at 11 .Ame.


January is the time of year when the TV companies unveil their most treasured projects for that mythical captive audience huddled round the log-fire. What with satellite dishes and global warming the mass audience ain’t what it used to be, and judging by the first batch of new series, both BBC and the independent stations seem content to rest on their laurels with established favourites, and leave the innovative new stuff for the minority channels.

Spender (BBCl) returned and remains eminently watchable , despite the fact that the plot and actual detective work are hastily cobbled adjuncts to the main themes. What Jimmy Nail (who writes as well as stars) is interested in are loving and witty close-ups of Geordie blokedom, and relentless celebration of male bonding on the seamier side of the city. Spender is seventeen shades moodier than Morse and pulls sharper birds to boot. What a shame that they all turn out to be wrong sorts who cause him misery. He’s never really been one for fully-rounded investigations of the female psyche has Jimmy Nail, as anyone who heard his ‘Ain’t No Doubt’ hit will have realised. Never mind Spend, your mates’ll never let you down.

’I grew up in the 70s watching Allen reclining in his armchair, pulling away on a lag and sipping whiskey like a kind oi satanic Val Doonican.’

The cosy misery of smug coupledom was tackled acutely in Steven Moffat’s superior sitcom Joking Apart. Robert Bathurst plays Mark Taylor, an undeniably irritating comedian who lives his life by the punchline, a habit that inevitably persuades his wife to dump him for another man. In the midst of dialogue that crackled in a way rarely achieved by British comedies, and a couple of painfully funny set-pieces at a funeral and surprise party, Moffat slipped in some accurate and pointed barbs at domesticity and relationships. He’s grasped one of the secrets of effective comedy, that truth is funnier than fiction. The one qualm is that Bathurst doesn’t really convince as a stand-up, he’s just too

clean-cut, boyish and vulnerable.

Not so Dave Allen (Scottish). I grew up in the 705 watching Allen reclining in his armchair, puffing away on a fag and sipping whiskey like a kind of satanic Val Doonican. I missed a lot of the gags then but recognised the quality of the man. Allen’s material is often very familiar, obvious or weak , but his delivery makes every hackneyed punchline a joy. He loves language and uses it with a mastery that eludes all those brash new stand-ups. It’s slightly disconcerting to find he’s become a non-smoker with the zeal of the convert, but his ability to carry a rambling tale remains unrivalled.

‘Spender is seventeen shades moodierthan Morse and pulls sharper birds to boot.’

What is it with Scottish Television anyway? Their latest offerings are either Gaelic (and thus paid for by the generous Government funding) or desperately cheap. Shadowing was an example of the latter, made by Edinburgh independents Skyline for the price ofa pint by the looks of it. It’s a half-decent idea and the presenters, Kevin and Andrew MacDonald (who resemble the Proclaimers with posher accents) wear their lack of finance on their sleeves as a virtue. Unfortunately wacky shots of sound-booms and woefully unedited interviews pail as a device after about five minutes. The finished programme looked like a half-decent application for a place at film school, but was hardly worth halfan hour on national TV.

Equally unconvincing was BBC2’s attempt to translate The Guardian’s popular column into a TV show in Notes And Dueries. The entertainment in the newspaper version comes from the tortuous pretensions or ludicrous triviality of the questions, coupled with the sanctimonious right-on-ness or pointless erudition of the answers. TV isn’t the right medium for the pompous chattering classes who fuel the column. It’s only really worth watching in the hope that someone will ask how Clive Anderson managed to make a lucrative career out of interrupting his guests with facetious one-liners. (Tom Lappin).

62 The List 15 - 28 January 1993