Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Silent Scream

I've seen everything at the cinema that I want to see, and it's half term, so unless I line up for Alvin and the Chipmunks - The Squeakwell, current multiplex offerings are pretty much exhausted.  And so I find myself on the BFI site buying tickets for 'the most romantic film ever made' - Letter from and Unknown Woman which I suppose is romantic if your idea of a hero has Herman Munster sideburns enhancing the Grecian 2000, and a penchant for anonymous one night stands with women who are instantly forgotten afterwards.  Sounds like a date on Guardian Soulmates to me.  Nevertheless I clicked and bought for Friday night.

'Oh, and there's an Ozu festival on,' urges Editorial swooningly, after he'd finished raving about how wonderful the other film was.  'Go and see Tokyo Story...'

Un(fortunately?) - it wasn't playing when I wanted to go.  'They only have Late Autumn...'

'That's amazing too - see that instead.'

As my mother used to say when I invoked priviledges other friends were allowed which I was denied '...if they stuck their hand in the fire would you do that too?'

Good point mother, but it was one which I remembered too late, after I had taken advice from the resident Editorial film critic and yet again, like a gormless sheep on the eve of Ramadan, clicked and booked.

This is how I come to find myself drowsy and hungry after a very, very late Saturday night and extremely early Sunday that began with a 6am fire-alarm that had me huddled on a cold street in my hastily donned clothes outside a hotel, sitting in the back row of the tiny studio cinema at the South Bank being hugged claustrophobically tightly by over-enthusiastic central heating and the collective carbon monoxide produced by two dozen highly excited film buffs.

Lights dimmed.

The credits rolled.

I am gripped with European-supermarket, empty-trolley excitement (oh yes, the unexplored world of foreign films also fills me with the giddy anticipation of a new date with silver-templed, Guardian Soulmate Lothario types who may, yet, turn out to be almost normal...)  watching the interminable opening sequence of Japanese ideographs projected on a hessian screen, as Late Autumn unfolds at the speed of a double amputee doing origami.

And let me tell you.  Ice melts faster.

My eyes start to droop.  My head sinks towards my slumped chest and startles me awake.  I think about dead babies, world hunger, Haitian earthquakes, war in Afghanistan, Mossad Spy Rings, the opening scene from the Hurt Locker  - anything with explosions - all in a vain effort to wake myself up - but still the actors on screen are sitting exactly where they had been five minutes or three days earlier, the women smiling eerily like Stepford Wives, answering the beetle-like men in high reedy, complaisant voices.

Lukewarm sits silently beside me, like a mourner at a funeral for someone he didn't like - his big footballer thighs struggling to stay daintily within the confines of his seat.

Poor b******.

He takes me to a Chelsea match and I take him to see Japanese paint drying - okay beautifully shot, classic, cinematic, arty, seminal, Japanese paint, but nevertheless, paint: slow - slow - slow drying matte magnolia paint.

The rest of the audience is immobile, whether because they've been turned to stone by boredom or from rapt attention, I cannot say.  I'm afraid to look at Lukewarm to see how he's reacting in case he is dead.  Instead I tough it out and go back to continue my fight against sleep, pinching my skin on my inner arm to jolt myself awake.

About a decade later one of the smiling Japanese women that we've been trying to marry off in real time announces with a happy expression of cowlike acquiesence that she has decided, after all, not to get married (sorry about the plot spoiler) at which my heart shrivels to the size of a walnut.  After all this now, now, you've changed your mind!

I don't think I will be taking Lukewarm to any more films.

To anything, in fact.  I mean, how less enthusiastic can you get than lukewarm?

'Oh Marion, what prompted all the self improvement?' says Nel, my Bafta-winning, film director friend.  'I remember sitting through all these things at film school pretending that I understood what made them so brilliant and just feeling stupid.  I felt stupid for most of my twenties now that I come to think of it.  Ozu has made one good film and that's Tokyo Story.. I've got the whole boxed set if you want to borrow it.'

I consider taking exception to the implication that my foray into the beard-stroking film world is an anomoly in my viewing history, but the risk of having the ruddy boxed set thrust into my hand is sufficiently prohibitive to strike me mute.

And this weekend? Well, Alv-in, Si-mon, The-o-dore...  I mean, how bad can it be?