Sunday, 22 June 2008

Emotions in the 1940s

Today has been an odd day, in the sense that I seem to have spent most of it in the cinema.

Oxford has the usual range of big corporation style cinemas - Odeon dominating the centre of town, whilst Vue offers cheaper tickets if you can be bothered with the drive. There is, however, a little cinema in Jericho called The Phoenix which specialises in art house, foreign language and smaller budget films that might not make it on to general release. I remember seeing 'Mrs Brown' there, before the world caught on and recognised it for the gem it is.

At the moment the cinema is having a David Lean phase, and on Sundays is showing double bills of his films. Today I watched Celia Johnson admirably repress her emotions in 'This Happy Breed' and 'Brief Encounter'. Sigh - I do love her so, she expresses more in a single move of her head than almost anybody else of that era. It's such a joy to be able to watch these old films in the place they were meant for. I often feel I was born in the wrong decade, as all my favourite films were made in the 30s - 60s - although I suppose I wouldn't have appreciated them as I do now (although I swear if a grandchild of mine starts raving about Keira Knightly the way I do about Katharine Hepburn or Judi Dench, I will disown them so fast, it'll make their heads spin!)

Which leads me nicely on to the other film I watched today (at the same cinema) which was 'Edge of Love', a biopic of a portion of Dylan Thomas' life, and his relationships with Sienna Miller and Keira Knightly.
Let me make something quite clear about Ms Knightly. I greatly dislike the woman. This, I will freely admit, is partly to do with jealousy (she's my age, she's world famous, she's beautiful - if you think tall, gangly, rather thin women beautiful), but it also has a lot to do with the fact that I think she's a terrible actress. She does this thing with her lips (which I've noticed Renee Zelwegger do too) whenever she's trying to be particularly sexy, that makes her look like she's pouting whilst dealing with a rather heavy cold. When in doubt over an emotion, pout - this seems to be her motto. (I won't go into the travesty of the 2005 Pride and Prejudice ... that's a rant for another post).

Having said all this, I watched 'Atonement' and loved it. This might have something to do with the fact that it wasn't her film, she didn't have to carry it. But the 1940s seems to reflect the best of her. It suits that slightly repressed, Celia Johnson quality her voice has, and the fashion suits her boyish frame too (because like Grace Kelly before her, no matter what the film is, Keira will always be a good person to show clothes off on. And 'The Edge of Love' is set in the 40s, and to help matters she has to produce a Welsh accent - which she does rather well, and somehow manages to detract from the pout (which I saw rarely, although she still manages to move her lips without moving her teeth a millimeter).

'The Edge of Love' is an interesting film - directed by a man (John Maybury) who would love, should he ever get the chance, to direct silent films. This shows. The best parts are the parts between the language, when it's looks that say more. And he uses cracked glass to shoot through, so we see a distorted and messy image that so well reflect the emotions in the film.

This is a world away from the lives that Celia Johnson portrayed in those films designed to bring a touch of happiness to the lives of people in the grip of war. Well worth watching should you find yourself with a couple of hours free!


Paul said...

"Brief Encounter" was a good film!

oxford-reader said...

It's just got so much understated class, I love it!
David Lean was a fantastic director too, and he could do almost anything.