November 14th, 2003


Barry Norman

The signed photograph is holding steady at £3.00 on Ebay. My interior style tip is that a few judiciously placed signed photographs of old school BBC presenters and personalities really do add something to a domestic setting. Don't aim too high or fancy, keep it believable, and you can even add your own wording to unsigned ones: 'Just how do you do it?, Lesley', 'I owe you a fiver, Peregrine', 'Chop em out, Frank' and so on. It's hard to establish what exactly Barry is getting up to these days, getting on with his life I imagine. Sometimes you don't know if disappearances are actually to do with degenerative neurological disorders. Barry Norman was a great film commentator, he was the only one on tv for about twenty years, and much better than Jonathan Ross, who is himself not that bad, but lacks the authority that Barry once commanded. Barry wasn't pushed to my knowledge, but the days when BBC2 would even consider a 12 week Truffaut retrospective have long since gone. This is a real shame. I suppose a fair amount of foreign language programming has been shifted onto cable and satellite, but it's not the same as one of the big four (or three as it was once) sticking their neck out about high culture. I blame Ecstacy. The media was full of pieces once about how MDMA was rewriting our cultural map in the same way that the LSD-inspired culture once had. It is now crystal clear that these people were utterly off their heads. All that brief heatflash created was an sustained inability to exercise quality control. I don't own a tv, so it's easy enough to avoid. Why do I see this pair of slippers and smoking pipe before mine eyes?...

Anyway, here's my pick of the films I've been watching at home over the last week.

Dark Blue - This wasn't so bad really. It's a shame Kurt Russell doesn' t get more parts. I'm not convinced about the actual nature of the LA riots though. But I don't live in LA, so I wouldn't know. When are Hollywood going to get around to filming more James Ellroy?

Igby Goes Down - Kieran Culkin didn't produce the same gag reflex that his brother does in me and has an affecting enough charm to him. This isn't a bad film. The box touted it as a truly dysfunctional Royal Tenenbaums. It's got some nice touches, but in the end, you're left wondering why on earth you should really care too much about them. High standard of acting though on the whole and Susan Sarandon excels.

Spiderman or is that Spider-Man? By far the best comic book adaptation I've seen in a long time. Well, aside from Ghost World, but that's not quite the same sort of comic. Not too heavy handed.

El Crimen del Padre Amaro didn't really live up to expectations. It's got Gael Garcia Bernal, who was in both Amores Perros and Y Tu Mama Tambien. His exposure in these two mean that this one probably received a wider release than it might have got otherwise. This film isn't in the same league as those two. It got nominated for an Academy Award in the Foreign Language category. It may have sought controversy, but the film itself is quite conservative in structure. The moral quandaries of the various characters aren't entirely black and white, more of an 8-bit grayscale. Father Benito seems very concerned about his sleeping with Sanjuanera, but not his involvement with drug baron Chato Aguilar (who pushes his jacket sleeves in a very Duran Duran wearing Anthony Price sort of way). Father Natalio is just too white, even in his clothing. Ana Claudia Talancon, as the fated Amelia, is a bit too squeaky clean too and has that look of what I take to be an archetypal soap opera Mexican virginal beauty to her. Bernal hovers between white and black and has a touch of the Hamlet indecision about him. Could do better. I squirmed quite a lot while watching it. No, no, you don't want to do that...

Grey Gardens was so much better than I remember it. I caught twenty minutes once but that was it. This one I recommend without hesitation. It's not exactly a feelgood movie, but it is the sort of the film that makes me feel good, although I got a bit weepy at the end. I know that the Maysles got accusations of exploitation levelled at them, but the film is far too much of a celebration. You do very much fall for these two characters. The house isn't nearly as dirty as you might have been led to believe and I'm tempted to start painting sections of the flat in that same turquoise they use almost throughout the house. These people are most certainly not crazy or freakish. They strike me as real people. I think the intent of the film is sympathetic, although you could watch it otherwise. People who care for animals also win my vote anytime. I may be cynical about a number of things, but I hope never about true glimpses of humanity. I wish I had them as neighbours, whatever East Hampton may have made of them. For an autumnal feel, I have temporarily changed my desktop wallpaper from deep sea fish to the cover shot of Little Edie standing outside the house in winter. I may even have some tinned paté for lunch.

There's 31 minutes still left on that photo, get to it!