Saturday, 1 October 2011
I don't know about another year, it feels like another lifetime since I was an avid cinemagoer, a self-proclaimed film buff. It was a time when I used to be annoyed by people who noted 'Film' as one of their interests on their CVs when what they meant was they never missed the latest Bruce Willis crash bang whallop extravaganza at their local multiplex. I - I would grandly assert - was a serious film enthusiast. I had studied European film, Shakespeare on film and I had written a dissertation about 1950's Hollywood musicals. I had a long-standing love for Jimmy Stewart. I refered to him as Jimmy. Because I was a proper film buff.
That was a long time ago. The mini-beast years have not been kind to this pompous cinephile. Not only do I no longer find the time or money but when we do manage to sit down to watch a film at home I frequently fall asleep. In my defence, I think this is perhaps to do with the kind of film we have a tendency to watch. Unlike my approach to books, I am not a film snob. I actually quite enjoy a bit of crash bang whallop, a 'switch off your brain' popcorn film. The problem with watching this kind of film at the moment is that after the brain switches off the rest of the body follows. In fact I am much more likely to stay awake if my brain is engaged and I have to concentrate, or if my emotions are stirred by real characters rather than the superficial emoting of the Beautiful People.
Recently I have been feeling a real need to reconnect with the arthouse and the worthy. Last night I persuaded Fanf to watch Another Year, Mike Leigh's latest masterpiece. It's deeply moving, beautifully acted and terribly sad. I love Mike Leigh, I think he is such a humane writer/director; he does not judge and allows all his characters dignity. He takes ordinary people and he quietly reveals the drama and the emotions in everyday lives. In Another Year Leigh,typically, observes the interactions of a group of family and friends, most of whom are nearing retirement. Not an age group often given much attention. The film explores, amongst other things, happiness, loneliness and the limits of compassion. I found myself near tears several times, mostly because of Lesley Manville's character, Mary. At the end of the film, many of the principal characters are gathered round the dinner table. In the final moments the camera focuses on Mary, gradually the sound of chatter fades away and you watch her, in silence, as she tries to look happy and interested but all you see is how lonely and how isolated she feels. What you don't hear or see is the happy ending from a different jauntier film. Leigh shows us that one person's happy ending can be somebody else's sad ending.