A change of plan today, and not one for the better. I was supposed to be at Eden Court for Henri-Georges Clouzot’s Inferno, a movie about the director’s failure to make a movie. I like stuff like that and think, for instance, that Lost In La Mancha, the movie about Terry Gilliam’s failure to make his Don Quixote movie was far more interesting than Gilliam’s film could possibly ever have been.
Sadly though the print of Inferno that has turned up at Eden Court is without subtitles for half its length. I think they must have fallen off in transit or something and that there’s a courier somewhere with a load of words in a bag wondering where they belong.
I am proud to announce that I have an O Level grade A in French, but I earned it a long, long time ago and my French these days is pretty much only sufficient to explain in French that I don’t speak French. I once bought a roof rack in the French equivalent of Halford’s right enough but I don’t think I’m up to movie dialogue standard.
It’s a shame. I’m not massively familiar with Clouzot’s work, but what I’ve seen is undeniably brilliant. Les Diaboliques (1954) is an effective and unsettling film with, if you don’t see it coming, a dead good twist towards the end. Le Corbeau (The Raven, 1943) is a pretty cynical portrayal of the fallout brought about by a series of anonymous letters in a small French town. It was perceived after the war as being very critical of the French people as a whole (which in fact it is) and that led to it being very difficult for Clouzot to find funding for films subsequently.
His tour-de-force of the three movies I’ve seen though is Le Salaire De La Peur (The Wages Of Fear, 1953) which sustains a ludicrously high level of tension for two and a half hours as a bunch of men desperate for money agree to drive two trucks of nitro-glycerine to a remote South American oil field to blow out a fire. The roads are extremely rough and the nitro is extremely volatile. The slightest jolt might detonate it. It’s a beautiful set up and is ruthlessly thrashed to its limit by a director who seems to be cutting the template for every action film that followed for the next half century.
There’s a sweaty cynicism and almost exuberant nihilism to it too which looks as though it might have inspired some of Sam Peckinpah’s best moments.
No Inferno then, but there may be a print available on Monday night. We’ll see. So I thought I might stay in tonight instead and re-watch There Will Be Blood, but after dinner I fell asleep on the sofa right in the middle of Mastermind and now I’ve woken up confused and irritable. I may just go to bed, get some proper sleep and start again tomorrow.
I feel slightly unsettled at the moment, partly because it’s an emotionally annoying time of year for the psychologically tractable such as myself. Christmas and the New Year are now defunct. All trace of them has been efficiently expunged from the shops with the single exception of the Christmas card recycling bin in Marks & Spencer. Does this serve any purpose? Do they scrape the glitter off for re-use? Or is this just one of those meaningless sops to make people feel a bit less like the Earth-raping horizon-deniers they so clearly are?
Bye-bye Christmas unfortunately means Hello St. Valentine’s day and this is bad news for those people like me who are socially maladroit, funny-looking and, for all I know, funny-smelling too and have thus failed to make even basic provision for having a partner.
I don’t know how many Valentine’s Days in a row I’ve been single for now, certainly more than one, and whilst it shouldn’t really bother me I find it feels a bit like a hobnail boot stamping on my heart every three seconds for about four weeks until February 14th has finally gone, the 15th has arrived and everyone can fire up their curmudgeonliness generators again.
There is an age at which a single man can present a dashing, rakish face to the world and to hell with any detractors. But then there’s an age slightly after that at which being single and childless just starts to look a bit weird, and however secure your (by which I mean my) self-image is, it becomes a bit difficult not to feel a bit detached and disenfranchised.
So how come I’m single at my age then? Is it a lack of charisma? It could be. I’m naturally quite quiet and shy. In fact a lot of my furniture has more pizzazz than I do, but I don’t think that’s it. Is it my looks? Again it could be. An uncompromising cleaning regime in my flat has left me with many mirrors which are now so clean you can literally see your face in them, and it’s rarely good news.
I had my head shaved right back to the wood last Spring to remind myself what my skull looked like. It wasn’t a bad look exactly but I did resemble a little bit one of the criminal deviants from Alien3 or possibly O’Brien from Nineteen Eighty-Four.
I’m growing my hair out now, but it’s not really helping that much. Now I look like O’Brien from Nineteen Eighty-Four going to a fancy dress party as the Cowardly Lion from The Wizard Of Oz.
You get judged a lot on your personal appearance today in this country. I don’t expect it’s unique to this place and time but I am really noticing it just now. It’s part of the whole superficiality thing that gets me down about the media and young people and all those other folk I don’t like.
It seems to be an OK ambition to have these days to want to be a star, or a celebrity. There are people who have no idea about what they really want to do, but who do know that they want adulation, acclaim, money, chattels. It’s sad because the ones that get this wealth or attention seem frequently to find it unbearably disappointing, all the more so for it being unearned.
I read an interview with David Beckham once. I actually quite like the lad. He’s got a talent and he seems at least to have the good grace to enjoy his privileged position. But in this interview he said that his hobbies were clothes and cars, and that made me a bit sad. How many clothes can you wear, I thought, and how many cars can you sit in before you start finding it all just a teensy little bit of a let-down? How many spherically-breasted pinheads can you have sex with before you start getting bored? It might be a lot, but it is a finite number. There is only so far that people, places and things can take you. After that it’s your interior landscape that is going to get your attention.
Good job we can all do something about that, me included.
My memory of the end of There Will Be Blood (which I am now perky enough to maybe stay up and watch) is that Plainview is sitting alone, smashed out of his mind on booze in his opulent mansion. He gets Eli to renounce God and then kills him. “I’m finished,” he says. And it’s a brilliant way to end a brilliant film, posing that question: What do you do when you’ve got everything you want?
It’s what Isaac Watts said of Alexander the Great, that he “wept for want of more Worlds to conquer”.
I only know that because it’s in Die Hard.