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Cinematic Excursions

Martha and I rarely go to the cinema these days, despite qualifying for cheap tickets under the senior citizen’s concession, but we’ve been twice in the past week.  Since these were unusual events in our calendar, I thought I’d share with you my opinions of the two films we saw.

The first was The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, based on the first of Stieg Larsson’s trilogy of bleak and graphic thrillers, and a remake of a Swedish-language version released two or three years ago. 

I preferred the Swedish film; it was sharper, grittier and in my view less self-conscious about the sex scenes.  The bohemian and fiercely unconventional anti-heroine, Lisbeth Salander, played in the first film by Noomi Rapace, was far more impressive than the same character in the second one, played by one Rooney Mara.  I left the theatre with no more response than that I’d just watched a competent, grim and rather exploitative work.  I should add that my enjoyment – if that’s the right word – was rather undermined at times by my neighbour in the next seat, an elderly woman, who squirmed in embarrassment and tut-tutted through all the ‘naughty bits’, especially the one depicting anal rape.  What had she been expecting?        

The other film we saw was The Iron Lady, a so-called biopic of Margaret Thatcher, covering the grocer’s daughter’s rise to power, her fall from grace at the hands of vengeful – and, it has to be said, humiliated – colleagues, and the decline into dementia in her retirement years.  Of the latter there is far too much, the point hammered home ad nauseum.   

I would rather have seen more of the woman during her years in 10 Downing Street, especially her prickly relations with cabinet colleagues, such as Michael Heseltine and Geoffrey Howe, who appear in brief snatches, and only then as ciphers rather then personalities.  Overall, the screenplay was ordinary, the story unfolding rather episodically, laced with contemporary newsreel clips, giving us precious few fresh insights into Mrs. Thatcher at the top of her game.

That left nothing to focus on but the performance of Meryl Streep.  As an impersonation it is remarkable, and riveting. Of course, one expects nothing less from Streep, who always exercises immaculate technical control over all her characterisations, sometimes irritatingly so – one can always hear the wheels turning in her head.  This one is no exception, but it must also be conceded that there were fleeting moments when she did actually persuade me that I was watching Thatcher herself.  There can be no higher praise.    

Martha tells me the next film up is Steven Spielberg’s War Horse.  I’m rather dreading it, especially having enjoyed the astonishing puppetry in the stage production; Spielberg is undoubtedly a master craftsman, but ever since Jaws unashamedly scared the pants off us, his work has almost invariably suffered from cloying sentimentality. 

Equine suffering on the battlefield is a theme calculated to melt us into warm butter.    

We shall see – but I can’t say I haven’t been warned.

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