Saturday, 12 September 2015

Currently posting as...

If anyone's wondering where I've vanished off to, the answer is Greece.  I'm currently to be found here and will be blogging there for the next month.  Don't forget to come and check it out!

Saturday, 5 September 2015

Three days, now!

It's very close, now; in just three days time I'll be on my way to Heathrow.

I seem to have managed to be very organised indeed - which is good, don't get me wrong!  I was brought up by a chronic worrier and it did rub off, as it was bound to; I don't usually worry about travelling until the last minute, but this is a much longer trip than usual and I did set out quite early on to plan as much as I could well in advance.  The upshot of this is that I find I'm going to have to look for things to do, to fill in the time until Tuesday morning, so that I don't end up staring out of the window and brooding.

There is always the possibility of things happening that I can't control (strikes, bad weather, volcanoes and so on), but I've done my best to plan around everything I can.  I think that's as much as one can reasonably expect of oneself.  I still need to give myself a pedicure, water my house plants, and pack my bag.  That certainly won't take three days; so today I think I might go to the cinema.  A good silly movie, or even a bad silly movie, should take my mind off things.  

Thinking of movies, I took three dvds to the British Heart Foundation donation box on Wednesday.  Three disappointments.  One was "Les Mis", about which I was grumbling a few weeks ago.  One was "Star Trek Into Darkness", which was a muddle and lacked all the panache of the first "Star Trek" reboot.  And the third was "Midnight in Paris", which could have been terrific and was all the more disappointing because of that.

I have to admit I'm not a huge Woody Allen fan.  I was once; he was very funny about thirty-five years ago.  But his films haven't made me chuckle much since "The Purple Rose of Cairo".  I'd bought "Midnight in Paris" because a) it was reduced to three quid in a sale, b) it has a tremendous cast, and c) I was really intrigued by the premise.  It sounded magical and fantastical; and I do love the magical and fantastical.  I didn't really register who it was directed by, I just thought "Time travelling in Paris at the stroke of midnight?  Oooh!" and picked it up. 

Well, the cast is tremendous.  All the historic characters are stunningly well cast, and they all play their roles - many of them just tiny cameos - with an intensity and seriousness that the thin script doesn't really deserve.  Marion Cotillard is luminous and intelligent, as usual, and brings all her quietest subtlety to a part that seems to have been written as a completely empty-headed fantasy.  And the historic sections all look fantastic, too.  The sets!  The costumes!  The cars!  The locations!  Sheer eye-porn.  Especially the costumes, crikey yes. 

And the time-travelling premise is magical.  But the magic is barely noticed; you have to enter into it imaginatively for yourself, because it's hardly explored at all.  In fact nothing is really explored; there's no psychological depth at all, and no emotional depth, much less emotional truth.  The hero's one moment of realisation is cringemakingly clunky.

Then the awfulness of his present-day life is so heavily emphasised it becomes embarrsssing.  I've never been one for the comedy of embarrassment; and in this case it embarrassed me for the film-makers.  One can see pretty much right from the start that the hero and his fiancee are wildly unsuited to one another; so wildly unsuited that it beggars belief they would ever have reached the point of getting engaged in the first place.  The process of their break-up is both obvious and heavy-handed, and one feels not a jot of remorse for them.  One is left feeling they were barely directed at all; "Just be a dumb well-meaning guy, and you, dear, just be a shallow bitch; thank you!"  The hero's reaction to discovering he can time travel is to gape vacuously once or twice, and then just accept it; he barely even seems excited, much less confused or scared, or stirred in any way.  And all he does with this extraordinary opportunity is get drunk a few times and get one person to critique his half-finished novel. 

The whole film smacks of having been scarcely thought about at all, as though the process of writing and filming it had been conducted while deeply engaged with something else.  It managed somehow to be both self-indulgent and at the same time terribly thin.

It could have been so much more, because the idea is a clever one and could have had both heart and soul, if any heart or soul had been shown towards it; and the cast are really very good.  If only the script-writer and the director had been bothered to do more than trot through the motions. 

Yes, I know one can end up in deep trouble with time travel stories.  But if others have known that, and still gone ahead, and come up with stories that had depth and strength (e.g. "Looper"), then I'm sure a different treatment of this story could have achieved the same thing. 

Such a shame.  Well, hopefully it will make a couple of pounds for the BHF.