Monday, December 19, 2011

Adventures in Cinemagoing, December 2011

The late, lamented Gerald Stewart once wrote: "Rather than his directorial efforts, I prefer Martin Scorsese’s work as film enthusiast, preservationist, historian, and keeper of the flame."

I agree totally, having just enjoyed his amazing three hour love letter to cinema Italiana, My Voyage To Italy.
It's as good, as detailed and as deep as a book, and the man's insights into the films, both analytical and autobiographical, are fascinating.
I'm constantly amazed by the breadth and depth of his knowledge and appreciation of cinema, from Michael Powell to Antonioni to Hammer horror, and none of it guesswork.
Quite why so little of that leaks back out when he gets behind a camera is a mystery indeed.
I can see that Taxi Driver is a great film, and Mean Streets probably is, but neither are films I feel any need to see again: surely one standard of great cinema. The only Scorsese film that ever calls me back is The King of Comedy. And how a man who knows and loves as much as he does about classical Hollywood could possibly have made something as crass as Cape Fear is simply inexplicable to me.
This enigma was uppermost in my mind at the cinema last night as I got my first sightings of the trailers for two movies that have had my discerning fellow classic film bloggers reaching for the superlatives like they're coming into fashion: The Artist and Scorsese’s Hugo.
Of course, one should never judge a film by its trailer (they’re usually much better than the movie) but I confess I saw precious little to attract me about Hugo. It looks like a Spielberg film, with that new-fashioned fantasy look that somehow manages to dribble out of the boring CGI effects and spatter the actors too, so the whole thing takes on that strange, sharp, grey, metallic quality of computer-aided joyless magic. I can't care. And I didn’t much like the book either.
The Artist, on the other hand, looks so amazingly good I scarcely dare to dream that it might live up to its promise – could it, even? This really could be what I’ve longed for for years: not a pastiche, just a new old movie.

Old movies are the safest bet at Christmas, but we didn’t manage It’s a Wonderful Life this year. Our local cinema advised us to get our tickets early because “they sell out faster than Comet”. I have not the smallest idea what that means, but we did as advised, and settled down for a delightful evening, beginning with mulled wine and mince pies, and then a carol concert. So far, so lovely. Then, when the film started, the speakers farted and died and the film became virtually inaudible. We left after ten minutes, on the promise of a second showing with the same tickets.
In the event we couldn’t make it, so we swapped our tickets for Les émotifs anonymes. Utterly delightful. I like a romantic comedy as much as the next husband, but they rarely if ever actually make me laugh out loud. Parts of this, however, are really, really funny, and all of it is adorable. Incredibly warm performances from Isabelle Carré and Benoît Poelvoorde. The latter, a lifetime ago when I was a first year undergraduate, was a student-wall poster perennial on account of a wretched film called Man Bites Dog, but he has latterly aged and thickened into one of the most charming actors on the planet. What a face! Made for movies. And he made the entire audience laugh by saying "Hugde".
I cannot recommend this one enough; a delight from first frame to last.

I got my favourite ever reader’s comment last month.
It’s from the prolific Anonymous, who often drops in with something oblique to say, sometimes to offer me all sorts of interesting products and services, sometimes to tell me that my post helped him with an exam.
This time he looked in on my post on Patricia Roc and had this to say about it:

There is no doubt that Patricia Roc was a formidable movie star. However I would like to say that she had also very beatifull and elegant figure and the best woman legs up today.

He could be right. Or do you disagree? Who do you think has the best woman legs up today?
Suggestions in the comments please…