Wednesday, October 19, 2016
Mary and the pictures
I used to go to the pictures (aka the cinema) with my friend Mary. And actually, only with Mary. That was what we did together. That and talk - on the sofa, in the kitchen, in cafes, on park benches, on the phone. At the end of the film, Mary insisted on sitting until all the credits had gone up and the lights had come on. We wouldn't talk about the film until the next day on the phone. That's what we liked....to process it on our own before discussion.
There was, however, one memorable time when we went at her suggestion to see a gritty and depressing Mike Leigh film. I can't recall the title. I've expunged it from my memory. It was an early showing and we sat in the cinema cafe for a drink afterwards. I'd hated the film so much because of the unrelenting misery, that I couldn't hold back, and said: "What on earth would possess anybody to want to see a film like that? Why would YOU want to see a film like that?" My voice was supersonic, high like a tiny bat's voice (if bats could speak). It behaves like that when I'm upset or angry or excited.
Mary laughed. I can't remember what she said, but during the following conversation she did have a realisation that, unlike her - who would relish a film with subtitles about abortion in Romania - I go to the pictures to be entertained, uplifted or moved, not to be harrowed. I don't mean I like lightweight, vapid films. I want something substantial, just not harrowing. So films like Twelve Years a Slave are out and ones like Witness, Pride, Billy Elliot and Richard Linklater's Before films are in. Mary wanted films that made her think and feel, but hated violence, like me. After that episode, when we were fixing up our next trip to the pictures she would sometimes say things like "There's nothing suitable for you this week. I've checked." And we'd laugh.
I'm thinking about all this at the moment, because I went to see Born to be Blue, a film about Chet Baker, the brilliant (drug-addicted) trumpeter. It was well acted and interesting, gritty and tough. A film for Mary. I went because of the jazz angle, and came home wanting to get out my sax. I didn't. It would have woken Dave.
And I'm thinking about Mary because there is a film that I want to see and I don't want to see, and I know for sure that Mary would be going if she were still here: Ken Loach's I, Daniel Blake. It won the Palme d'Or at Cannes, and it's about what real life is like for hundreds of thousands of people in the UK in 2016.
The New Statesman critic said: "The greatest virtue of I, Daniel Blake is its patience in confronting painstakingly the incremental humiliations visited on the neediest in society."
The Guardian critic said: "...a drama of tender devastation that tells its story with an unblinking neorealist simplicity...
I just watched the trailer. It made me cry. The trailer made me cry! See what a wuss I am.
I love you, Mary.