Wednesday 30 January 2019

I haven't done too well with my January resolution to post here more regularly; maybe I'll liven up now spring is in sight ... at least I'm telling myself it is because I've got vases full of daffodils and Scilly Islands narcissi and a pot of hyacinths opening up. (What is it with supermarket hyacinths ... I love the scent but it doesn't seem to be as strong these days?)
I feel as if I've been hibernating but I have ventured out to the cinema, so here's a round-up. My Sunday morning cinema pal had a previous brunch date so I ventured out on my own this week to see Green Book - the true(ish) story of a black concert pianist and his Italian-American chauffeur-bodyguard on a two-month concert tour of the American South in the 1960s - which I thoroughly enjoyed, despite some snippy reviews suggesting that it's patronising; I thought it tackled racial prejudice in the segregated south with a light touch. And it'll reach a much broader audience than, say, The Rape of Recy Taylor ... okay, that was one of the best films I saw last year - but so gruelling, it was never going to get a wide distribution.
I'd never heard of The Green Book which was a kind of Michelin Guide for black Americans listing hotels and restaurants where they would be welcome. Even the Wikipedia entry makes shocking reading. It reminded me very much of this Persephone book, The Expendable Man. (Warning: link contains spoilers ... just read the book!)

Last night I saw Boy Erased, based on another true story about the son of Baptist parents who is forced to undergo gay conversion therapy. There's a trailer here. It's an interesting story but this time I'd agree with the Guardian's 2* (maybe I'd give it 3*) Too slick - too American - and I could do without Nicole Kidman as the mother.  I couldn't help comparing it with the last film I saw about religious fundamentalism breaking up families; and Apostasy was infinitely better ... as ever, it got very limited distribution. (I persuaded a friend and her daughter to go and they agreed with me - one of the best films of last year.)

I was looking forward to A Private War - about the awe-inspiring war correspondent Marie Colvin - but this excellent documentary (coming soon on BBCFour) was far more gripping.

What else? Well, I went to see Alien ... 40 years on and boy, does it look dated - but I still jumped in all the right places.

As for All Is True ... what an extremely dull poster ... I felt a bit so-what about this film about Shakespeare's retirement to Stratford and family life after the fire at the Globe. But it does look sumptuous - a real sense of living in candlelit shadows - and Judi Dench is terrific as Anne Hathaway.    But I think I nodded off so it didn't pass the all-important snooze test!

Tuesday 8 January 2019

I've tried - quite recently I tried again - but I've always given up on Claudine/Colette after a few pages. And I kind of agree with Willy's verdict in the film: 'It's too cloying. It's too feminine.' Anyway, it's not for me.
As for the film - my first film of the year - it had all the ingredients ... but I was snoozing just resting my eyes by the end. Fabulous frocks and Art Nouveau interiors - and Dominic West is fun as the preposterous Willy - but it's still a bit wooden. As for Keira Knightley, this quote pretty much summed it up:
'You have the most beautiful teeth.'
'Like an alligator.'
Whatever she's in, I find myself riveted by all that 21st century dentistry. Still, I suppose if they hadn't cast Keira, it would have been Lily James - and that's no better.
But if you're looking for a movie this week, I'd choose The Favourite instead.

Monday 7 January 2019

Fun afternoon (albeit painfully cramped) at the tiny Orange Tree Theatre this afternoon listening to Martin Jarvis (in his stockinged feet because of squeaky floor covering!) recording a couple of Just William stories for the BBC. I was expecting an audience of small, scruffy boys but apart from a very few - out with grandparents and looking rather bored - well, let's just say that most of the audience could have travelled there on their bus passes. (As did I. I love my bus pass!)
I felt a bit sad that little boys no longer read William; but I've tried to coax them and they don't want to know.

Tuesday 1 January 2019

I had to chivvy myself out the door this afternoon to do something - anything - after far too many days spent eating and drinking and playing board games and not once up and out for a walk or breath of fresh air.  (I spent Christmas in my natural bad-habitat with a family of night owls, all of us livening up and getting our second or third wind at 3am but regrettably not so perky before noon.)
Of course, I didn't stride out for a bracing hike today but I did manage a gentle amble from Leicester Square tube to the National Portrait Gallery (don't mock me!) where Gainsborough's Family Album proved utterly enchanting and a perfect Last Exhibition to ring out 2018.
And there were the artist's daughters, Margaret and Mary, carefree little girls chasing a butterfly in the painting we all know best ...

Playing with each other's hair ...

Then they're growing up so fast and looking serious and restrained, training to be artists themselves (a career plan that comes to nothing) because Gainsborough, who has been ill, is worrying about their future security and prospects.
Even so, he was longing to be free from 'tea drinkings, dancings, husband huntings &c' so he could devote his time to painting less lucrative landscapes and his music.

The girls do become young ladies of fashion but all that youthful joie de vivre has vanished. Mary's marriage lasts only two years and her mental health deteriorates so her younger spinster sister becomes her carer.

The daughters' story is heartbreaking but the family album embraces a vast extended family. (Even 'Scheming Jack' the ne'er do well brother, always on the scrounge, whose portrait is jokingly inscribed Gainsborow.)

There's Mrs Gainsborough - the artist's wife - seen first as a rosy-cheeked teenage bride who was pregnant on her wedding day - but fast forward and she's turned into a long-suffering matron with an irascible temper who is nevertheless a brilliant business manager for her philandering husband.

Then there's the artist's sister Sarah, all starchy frills and furbelows and social aspirations ... which made me wonder what kind of domestic bliss it was for her unpretentious carpenter husband - who looks as if he'd be perfectly happy with a pipe and a pint.

There's a sweet little niece  whose life - I hope - turned out more happily than her cousins'. And I think this is the artist's cousin's mother-in-law ... in her best bib and tucker and making the most of the family connection.

It always seems so poignant thinking, there they were - so full of life and idiosyncrasies - and now they're dead. And what on earth would they think of a straggle of visitors in a gallery on New Year's Eve more than 250 years later?

Happy New Year everyone!