A foul afternoon of driving rain pushed us through the doors of Cinema City to catch ‘My Old Lady’, starring Kevin Kline, Kristen Scott Thomas and the incomparable Maggie Smith. We sat in the back row and watched the film above the nodding heads in fifty shades of grey. Kevin Kline plays a penniless, ex-alcoholic, never-to-be-published New York author who inherits a rambling run down Parisian apartment from his philandering father. He thinks he’s in the money but finds out that he’s also inherited a sitting tenant in an equity release arrangement, French-style; she can’t be evicted and he must pay rent to her. Step forward Dame Maggie as the feisty old madame with her foot in the door and Kirsten Scott Thomas as her brittle spinster daughter. It’s a salutary tale of how your parents fuck you up (along the lines of the Philip Larkin poem) and how not to let the truth get in the way of a fine romance. Set in the trendy Marais district of Paris, the BBC production oozes cool Gallic va va voom laced with arty pretensions. The film has had mixed reviews but we found it well worth stepping out of the rain for.
The advantages of joining the club at Cinema City are free tickets and 10% off at the bar, both of which are guaranteed to drag us out into the drizzle. Our latest freebie at the flicks was the musical blockbuster, ‘Les Misérables,’ adapted from the all-conquering stage musical. Les Mis follows the fortunes of on-the-run ex-con, Jean Valjean, ducking and diving his way to redemption from the final defeat of Napoleon in 1815 to the abortive Paris uprisings of 1832. Anyone who is familiar with the Victor Hugo tale will know the misery of the revolting masses is relentless. The film slaps on the despair with a technicolor trowel from the epic opening act right through to the desperate insurrection of the final scenes. The historic ex-Royal Naval College (now university) at Greenwich is used to great effect as the grand backdrop to the bloody revolution. I presume the lofty burghers of Paris didn’t provide the right tax breaks to the production company.
The complicated score of Les Mis requires pipes of semi-operatic quality and it was entertaining watching various Hollywood divas straining to hold a tune. Apart from Russell Crowe’s flat notes, on the whole it wasn’t half bad, and Anne Hathaway’s exquisite performance as the luckless Fantine was a tear-jerking revelation. The film is 2 ½ hours long which befits one of the longest novels ever penned. The Glums canters the distance well enough. Misery was never so much fun.
Roll up, roll up. Love it or loathe it, the Olympic circus has come to town. Uniquely, London is the only city to have hosted the over-bloated jamboree three times – 1908, 1948 and now 2012. Ironically, given the current double dip recession, it was the 1948 beano that was called the ‘Austerity Games’ as it was held barely three years after the end of the Second World War; a grim time when Blighty was bankrupt, on rations and in the red to our generous Yankee cousins. Remarkably, the debt was only finally settled in 2006.
At the 11th hour, it hardly matters whether the 2012 Olympiad will be a monumental waste of taxpayer’s cash that will put London in hock for decades or a monumental celebration of civic renaissance that will leave an enduring legacy. I know the site of the Olympic park well. Before the transformation it was a polluted post-industrial shit hole. I think it was worth winning the Games just to see the smug smile being wiped off former President Chirac’s arrogant face when London pipped Paris into second place. Did you manage to get tickets? Me neither. We have a plan B. We’ll be watching the opening ceremony from a balcony overlooking the stadium. It pays to have a dear old friend with a posh penthouse in the right part of town. Last time, the Middle Kingdom presented an epic spectacle of precision and uniform behaviour from a cast of thousands. This time, I’m hoping for something a little less regimented with a little more panache, diversity and individuality. A few gongs in the bag would be nice too.
To commemorate the start of the Games I give you the British diving team being sexy: