Sunday, January 01, 2006

Unsolicited advice from someone who doesn't care whether you take it

Continuing my theme of goodwill and joy to the world, I thought I would recommend a few of the things that have amused me over these few weeks.

Bleak House from my friends at the BBC was thoroughly splendid. Wherever you are in the world, wait for it to appear on your TV screen or DVD store, and watch it. I am not a Dickens fan – more of that later - and I haven’t read the book – I am not a Dickens fan – more of that later – but I think this was probably the best thing on television this year. Charles Dance, Gillian Anderson and Denis Lawson were all spectacularly good, and well supported by Anna Maxwell Martin and Tom Georgeson. It is of course obligatory for Dickens to encourage actors to ham it up, and Philip Davis rose to the occasion very cleverly – usually the whole cast joins in, but somehow the directors managed to avoid this. Timothy West is such a brilliant actor that it is difficult for him not to steal every scene he is in, but in this case the rest of the cast was so good that it was possible to enjoy his performance unreservedly (and never once thought of Bradley Hardacre).

I also watched a repeat of David Copperfield, in which Bob Hoskins gave the nearest it is possible to get to make Micawber believable. The rest of the characters are so preposterous that it is very difficult to watch.It is beyond the capability of any human being with a trace of sentiment in their bones not to split their sides when Dora dies or Emily runs off with Steerforth. When Ham effectively kills himself by swimming out to see, I was hoping he would take the rest of cast with him. How is it that Dickens can be held in such esteem when almost all of his characters are caricatures?

Speaking of Mr Hoskins, I watched Layer Cake, which attempts to recreate the brilliance that was captured in The Long Good Friday. It fails, as will all attempts to rehash Kray-like villains and bring something fresh to the exercise. Not even Michael Gambon could do it, and Kenneth Cranham was so much a caricature that I checked for Dicken’s name in the end credits. If you want to see a film about London gangsters, watch The Long Good Friday and don’t bother with any others.

After many years of putting it off, I watched The Taming of the Shrew (the Burton/Taylor variety) and must confess to having enjoyed it, probably more than any other version I have seen. Of course it was directed by Zeffirelli, so it is no surprise to find it so visually stunning. It is also the first time I have ever seen Elizabeth Taylor give any sort of indication of having any acting ability.

One of the best books I have read for a long time is “Altered Land” by Jules Hardy. These days I find myself looking forward mostly to thrillers, and so it is nice to find something outside that genre that appeals.

As for television, this is the time of year for Christmas specials. Bollocks. So the only ones I can recommend are French and Saunders and Last of the Summer Wine.

As for music, I am sadly out of touch. Regular readers will be pleased to hear that eventually I caught a glimpse of this Blunt chap that everyone seems to be talking about. He was on one of the TV music channels. Unfortunately, when I caught him, he appeared to be trying to get his voice and piano in tune, with little success. I suspect that if he can inject a little more nasal whine into his performance he could become the British Neil Young. I really don’t know why they didn’t show any film of his singing one of his songs.

As for Miss Abi Titmuss who seems to exercise the imaginations of some of my correspondents, still haven’t seen her. If anyone has a recording of her playing Sibelius’s violin concerto, I would be happy to hear it and offer an opinion.


tom909 said...

Vicus, if you want me to keep reading your blog you're going to have to stop going on about Abi Titmuss. Just the mention of her name makes me horny.

Mark Gamon said...

At last! Evidence that the people of Kingsley do care, just a little, about the culture all around us!

And then you go and spoil it all by mentioning Neil Young and James Blunt in the same breath. Sigh...

Re Dickens... Yes, I know: 'two-dimensional characterisation' is a common criticism. It's true of a lot of the minor characters, many of whom are also deliberately comic. He's also hopeless with female heroines. But the major characters (like Micawber) are much more rounded in the books than actors usually give them credit for. You can play Micawber for laughs, but in truth he's what happens when Dickens tries to come to terms with the ghost of his own father's failures.

As for Bleak House, it's wonderful. I mean the book as well as the TV. When you have a spare five minutes, read the description of London that sprawls across the first two or three pages. I haven't come across any finer writing in the English language. Except perhaps the description of Marseilles in the first two pages of Little Dorrit.

Phew. I do apologise. I've came over all serious, and nearly transmogrified the tone of your blog. Shoot me now.

Vicus Scurra said...

Tom, it would be easier were you to supply a list of names that did not make you horny.
Unfortunately, were I to compose around those names I fear that this journal would become even more dull than it already is.
Mark. Dickens. Don't wanna. Ain't gunna. Too many things to read already, and too little time left. And don't blame yourself for the tone - that is my responsibility and I will rectify it shortly.

lghbyebp - another ridiculous Dickens surname.

Mark Gamon said...

Poo. Just TWO pages?

diskr. My imaginary spaceship hard drive.

tom909 said...

Vicus, it would be a long list indeed. For now just don't mention Abi, and of course, the little blonde girl that used to do Blue Peter.

Vicus Scurra said...

Speaking of horny, someone came to this site by keying the words "Mark Adonis" into the search engine.
People wishing to purchase the Mark Gamon 2006 Calendar (discrete poses only) should apply to Mr Gamon directly, and not try to lower the tone here.

Vicus Scurra said...

I read it.
And it is bloody good.
Now leave me alone.