Blue is the Warmest Colour

A few posts ago I mentioned that I had just watched Blue is the Warmest Colour and would review it in my next post. I held off doing so because I then decided to buy the graphic novel on which the film is based and wanted to review them together. 

Unfortunately, I am not enjoying the graphic novel very much and am only reading it a glacial pace. It’s not that the story is bad but the style of artwork and lettering are taking a lot of getting used to. I just need to push on: the illustrations have a slightly unfinished and loose feel to them, which I am sure I will get used to, or at least get over, if the story is good enough. As for the lettering – my complaint is against the cursive text employed for the captions containing one of the character’s diary entries. It doesn’t make the writing impossible to read but does demand concentration, which is more than I want to give in the evening – the only time of day when I have time to look at the book. With that said, I looked ahead when writing this post and saw that the diary entries will soon give way to regular capitalised speech bubbles so, I just need to be patient.

Patience is not always my strongest point, so here I am. I hope I will finish the graphic novel, In the meantime, as patience is not always my strongest point, here I am. I hope I will finish the graphic novel, but in case I don’t, here are my thoughts about the film.

In short, I enjoyed Blue is the Warmest Colour a lot. At three hours, it is much too long but as an exploration of the rise and fall and aftermath of a relationship it worked really well. Full credit go to the writers, director, Abdellatif Kechiche, and principle actresses, Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux.

The film follows Adèle (Exarchopoulos) from her mid-teens to late twenties as she has a brief relationship with another student (male) at her school, before falling in love with a girl with blue hair who she saw one day in the street. That girl is a slightly older student called Emma (Seydoux). One night, they meet in a lesbian bar. They become friends, and then lovers. All goes well until Adèle and Emma are driven apart by the pressures of their work. Adèle sleeps with a fellow teacher. When Emma finds out she immediately throws Adèle out of the house. In the last act of the film, Adèle tries to win Emma back, but it is too late: Emma has moved on. The love that once existed between them has been extinguished. They can be friends but no more.

The film contains a number of graphic sex scenes. While some of them can certainly be justified tin terms of the narrative, I’m not sure the same can be said for all. The sex scenes also vary in length, with the longest being nigh on ten minutes long. The obvious chemistry between Exarchopoulos and Seydoux make nearly all them easy to watch but, of course, that is no justification for their presence.

I say ‘nearly’ all of them: the first sex scenes, which take place when Adèle is aged 15 felt very awkward to watch. Why? After all, 15 is the age of consent in France so while the scenes were right on the limit of acceptability, there is no question of the viewer being made to watch underage sex. Here in the UK, however, the age of consent is 16 so the scenes were underage for us, hence the awkwardness.

While watching the film Blue is the Warmest Colour I wondered how the French viewed it. For me, the fact that it was set abroad and, more to the point, was in French, made it something exotic. Okay, not as exotic as a fantasy film set in a faraway land but certainly different. The film is very down-to-earth, however; it is about a real life issue, and is set in equally real life places. Would a Frenchman (or woman) watching this see the film as akin to a kitchen-sink drama? It’s not really important, but I’d love to know.

As I mentioned above, Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux had great chemistry together (both in and out of bed). Physically and in terms of their acting, they were both completely convincing in their roles. It was particularly interesting seeing Lèa Seydoux play a tomboy in this film as I previously only knew her as the far more feminine Madeleine Swann in Spectre

Inevitably, Emma invited comparisons for me with Mary Stuart Masterson’s Watts in Some Kind of Wonderful, and truth to tell, Emma is Watts but from a different angle. And that was fine. Complete originality in a story is both nigh on impossible and unnecessary. The important thing for a writer is to bring something new or different to the tale. How does Emma differ from Watts? She is older. Wiser, perhaps. She definitely has more of the cares of the world on her shoulders.

I haven’t seen many LGBTQ+ films but Blue is the Warmest Colour ranks highly among the ones I have watched. I would put it just behind Carol, my favourite in this genre. I would say that I appreciate the fact that it has – like Carol – a bisexual lead (in Adèle), though I bet if I looked up reviews of the film, they all – as with Carol – call her a lesbian. Anyway, though too long, a very good film, and well worth three hours of your time.

Notting Hill

I mentioned in yesterday’s post that I had just watched Notting Hill.

I actually started watching it on Friday, 8th May and, after watching a little more of it a few days later, finally finished it at the weekend.

On the 8th, I paused the film at the end of the scene when Will Thacker and Anna Scott break into the private garden. I did so because I knew that the sad scenes were coming up and I didn’t want to watch them. Yes, I am that soft.

My softness was aided and abetted by my ability to get distracted easily – to drift from one thing to another, to do the thing that is easiest on my effort.

You might think that nothing is easier than watching a film, but even a ‘simple’ romantic comedy requires thought – and concentration. That’s why, after managing to watch a few more scenes during the following week, I made myself lie down (I watched the film on my laptop on my bed) and watch the film to its finish.

I am happy I did so as the sad scenes passed and the happy ending came. I am angry with myself, though, for having to say, ‘right, Malcolm, lie down and watch.’. It shouldn’t have to be like that. Especially not at my age (49).

Sadly, though, it is. What to do about it? Not watching films is not an option. So, this week I am adapting. Instead of lying down expecting to watch the whole film, I am doing so with the aim of watching at least 45 minutes or an hour of it. If I can watch the whole thing, great, but I am not going to expect myself to do so.

By setting a target, I will – hopefully – make better progress than if I lay down to watch a whole movie, didn’t manage it and got annoyed with myself again. This has already worked with Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, which I watched over the last couple of nights and has got off to a good start again this evening with Blue is the Warmest Colour, so we’ll see how it continues.

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back A Very Quick Review
Tom Cruise is a great action star. His Mission Impossible films are to die for. Never Go Back, however, is a second division picture. While the story holds together well enough, Jack Reacher has none of Ethan Hawke’s wit or charisma. He broods his way through the whole film. I don’t want him to be Ethan Hawke Mk 2 but there needs to be more to him than just his ability to beat up the baddies. 7.5/10

Some Kind of Wonderful

I have two favourite films – two that stand head and shoulders above all others no matter how good or dear to me they are. The two are Some Kind of Wonderful (1987) and The English Patient (1996).

As far as films go, The English Patient has a fairly high profile. It is the screen adaptation of a Booker prize winning novel and won no fewer than nine Oscars.

Some Kind of Wonderful, on the other hand, not only didn’t win awards, but isn’t even its own film – the story is a retelling of Pretty in Pink. Instead of Andie, we have Keith Nelson. Both are outsiders at school. Duckie is replaced by Watts. And Blane becomes Amanda Jones. In the original ending of Pretty in Pink, Andie walked away with Duckie. Test audiences hated this, however, so in the revised version, she fell in love with Blane.

80s teen-film maestro, John Hughes, who wrote both Pretty in Pink and Some Kind of Wonderful, however, was determined to see his original ending on the big screen, so he wrote Some Kind of Wonderful. As a result, Keith and Watts come together at the end.

I first saw Some Kind of Wonderful in 1989 it immediately resonated with me. Why? Because I identified very strongly with Keith and because I fell in love with Watts. Why do I still love the film so much today? I am, after all, now old enough, to be Keith’s father. I guess it’s because although I am no longer a teenager or even ‘young adult’, in terms of my age, I am still the same person as I was then: creative, a bit of an outsider, shy. In essence, I’m still Keith. I imagine the same will be the case should I reach the age of 70 or 80.

Why do I mention the film now? Well, a few days ago, I went on to You Tube to see if there were any videos about the making of the film. I had just watched one about Notting Hill – another favourite film – and was in the mood for more.

I didn’t find a ‘making of’ video, but did get something just as good: a fan of the film visiting some of the film’s locations:

This was a joy to watch! The host, Jordan the Lion (rawwwr) is clearly a big fan of Some Kind of Wonderful as he peppers his commentary throughout with quotes from the film. I’m so happy that I found someone who loves the film as much as I do.

After watching the video, I continued my search on Google. There, I had a bit more success. In 2019, Entertainment Weekly published an interview with the several of the film’s leading cast in an ‘oral history’ of its production. You can read it here. A website I had not heard of before, Moviehole, also published this ‘behind-the-scenes’ account of the film’s making.

Both articles contain some great insights into the making of the film. My favourite concern the development of Watts’ character. Here is what Mary Stuart Masterson says:

This version of Watts presents a much more radical version of the character than the one we see on screen. To be sure, some elements of ‘Keith Watts’ remain in the final film: she still wears men’s underwear and is known only in the film by her surname (in the book of the film her first name is revealed to be Susan) but while still a tomboy, the film doesn’t emphasise either her ‘butchness’ or her relationship with Keith as that of, practically speaking, two guys.

I’m not surprised Watts’ character was softened – ‘Keith Watts’ would surely have been too radical for studio executive to accept in a straight-down-the-line teen romance. On the one hand, I’m not disappointed because I love the Watts that we are given. On the other, what an interesting film it would have been had the original conception of Watts been maintained. It would have allowed Some Kind of Wonderful to transcend its status as teen-romance and offered the opportunity to explore the nature of identity and love in a far deeper way: a way that would have been ahead of its time.

Two Parts of the Whole

Writing this blog is both a compulsion and an embarrassment.

It’s a compulsion because I keep coming back to it no matter how long I spend away. Even though I have fewer readers than Shakespeare had Greek, my heart aches to return.

Why? I have a theory: on Facebook, Twitter, even Instagram, I am writing for an audience. Every photo and piece of text is written with other people in mind. Here, however, because so far people read this blog, I am writing for me; only me. That helps me to say the things I really want to say (or, at least some of them, since I am not yet brave enough to say everything).

Sehnsucht and Wine is an embarrassment because of the amount of time between each post. The last one was published on 27th November. The one before that, 11th September; then, 22nd August and 28th June.

Actually, it isn’t the blog that is embarrassing, but me. Why can I never stick to a regular schedule? There is an answer to this: I never create one. Not a proper one that I can look at and say ‘Right, this week, I turn to turn my attention to x’. I tell myself ‘I will write this here, and that, there’, but never make an effort to keep to the plan. A few days ago, I wrote up a blogging schedule for S&W, Hilaire Belloc and The Second Achilles. If I stick to it, I will write one post for each each week. Ideally, I would like to write it over the weekend but I’ll be happy if it just gets done.

I don’t want this post to be just about me having a go at myself so let’s catch up again.

Coronavirus
The U.K. continues to suffer under the pressure of COVID-19. There was good news at the start of December (the 8th to be exact, on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception) when the first vaccine against the virus was administered. Bad news, however, followed, as infection rates shot up and a new, more virulent, strain of the virus appeared in Kent. As a result, we entered our third lockdown of the year. It remains in place. That isn’t the end of the story, though, as Britain is now pushing ahead with her vaccination process. I think we are currently the leading European country for vaccinations and perhaps one of the world leaders as well. That’s a piece of news that should make us all happy.

Brexit
The U.K. left the European Union last year but the transition process only came to an end on 31st December. From my perspective, it has changed absolutely nothing about my life. Of course, other people will have different stories. Brexit is such an important event in the life of this nation that I feel I should be writing much, much more about it; only, I really don’t have anything else to say. I almost feel guilty about that.

Happiest Season
Watching this was one of the highlights of my December. It stars Kristen Stewart (Abby) and Mackenzie Davis (Harper) as a couple who visit the latter’s family for Christmas. It turns out, however, that Harper has not yet come out to them. The film is a romcom but a bittersweet one as Abby and Harper are forced to keep their relationship under wraps. As you might imagine, doing so almost drives them apart before love wins out at the end. Victor Gerber stars as Harper’s father. As it turns out, Harper is not the only one in the family keeping a secret – thanks to her father, everyone is. Because this is a romcom, though, he is not a villain. He is very cute, however. Dan Levy (John) steals every scene he is in. His character is over the top but he is also a Feste-like figure, speaking the truth to those who need to hear it.

David Hogarth
I attended an online conference hosted by Magdalen College about Hogarth last weekend. I will try and write more about it in another post but I am very pleased to say that the conference was a fascinating event that taught me much about this elusive figure.

During the talks, I took a screenshot of nearly every slide that came up – below is one chosen at random (it shows Hogarth as a young boy; inset is Ben Taylor, the Magdalen archivist who is cataloguing the papers). I look forward to sifting through them.

The reason for the conference is the donation of Hogarth’s papers to his old college by Caroline Barron, who is an emerita professor of History at Royal Holloway University. She is also Hogarth’s granddaughter. What a kind gift to make!

Time for Tenet

The last post took two months to write; this one has taken just three weeks. I’m getting better…

Tenet
A week last Wednesday I went to see Christopher Nolan’s new film. Like most people, I came out thoroughly bamboozled regarding the plot but still enjoyed the picture. The two leads, John David Washington and Robert Pattinson, were very good in their roles. Washington’s Protagonist is a somewhat distant character; he is all about the plot rather than character so I was grateful for Pattinson’s Neil who is a little more of the reverse, whether it is in his clothing choices or warm smile. Since watching the film, I have learnt that John David Washington is Denzel Washington’s son, which I can hardly believe. And what’s more, JDW is 36, so he has been around for a while. It turns out that that Denzel Washington is 65. How time flies.

What was it like going to the cinema? Tense. Because of the coronavirus risk, I umm’d and ahh’d about going for several days before hand. Had it not been for Christopher Nolan, I probably wouldn’t have. I went to an 11am screening in the hope that it would not be busy. Thankfully, it wan’t – there were just a handful of people in the screen. Why did I feel tense? The cinema was very clean and tidy; if the staff’s PPE was anything to go by, Vue take their health and the cinema-goers very seriously. Of course, the answer is that despite the cinema’s best efforts, the virus may still linger somewhere and I may catch it. This was on my mind beforehand, while watching the film, and afterwards. It won’t start to go away until after next Wednesday – the two week mark when symptoms of the illness usually start to manifest themselves.

While watching the film, I wore my face mask. Doing so will never be enjoyable but at least the temperature in the screen was fairly even. As a result, my glasses only steamed up once or twice.

Why next? I really want to see Bill & Ted 3 (it opens on 16th Sept.) but I have to admit I’m umm’ing and ahh’ing about it even harder than with Tenet. I could easily see myself deciding to wait until it appears on DVD or streaming service. The next film that I will do all I can to go and see in the cinema is No Time To Die. The latest trailer for James Bond 25 looks absolutely stunning. The film is due out on 12th November.

Home Life
Nothing much has changed: in the morning, I work; in the afternoon, I read and write. This week has been different, though. It has gone really well. Every week day for several months now, I have written a list of all the things I would like to do during that day. Rarely have I ever been able to tick everything off before day’s end. This week, I have managed to do so for four days in a row! I can’t tell you how extraordinary that is. As a result, I have managed to :-

read a little more of Rob Johnson’s Lawrence of Arabia on War
develop my plot outline for my as yet unnamed Camino Story
write and schedule tweets for my Hilaire Belloc Twitter account (@SineAuctoritate)

every day. I’m very proud of myself for that. I have no expectation about what I will achieve today, or any day into the future: I don’t want to think about that at all. Every day is a gift so I would prefer to focus on where I am and what I am doing now. If I can tick everything off again, great, if not, not to worry.

Books
A new book about Alexander the Great has been published! It’s called Philip and Alexander: Kings and Conquerors and is by Adrian Goldsworthy. He has written several books, mainly about ancient Rome, so is very solid. I can’t wait to get started on it.

Podcasts
I’ve been enjoying listening to Clare Lydon’s and T. B. Markinson’s Lesbians Who Write podcast. On a practical level, it is full of useful writing tips. Its greatest virtue, however, has to be the warmness of the hosts’ friendship. It is very evident in the presentation and makes for nice, homely podcast. If only Christopher Nolan could make a film that was as friendly! I’d like to start listening to at least a couple more podcasts regularly but I don’t know which ones to choose, yet.

Formula 1
The season continues. As I write this, Free Practice 2 is taking place in Tuscany. Tuscany! The F1 circus is using Ferrari’s test track at Mugello. I have visited Tuscany twice in my life and had a wonderful time both times. Well, almost. My first visit (c. 2002) was my first solo trip abroad. I had a two hour panic attack after I arrived. Once I recovered, though, the rest of the trip was fabulous (except for the time an Italian guy swigged my wine outside a trattoria!).

The Path to Rome and Other Journeys

Last Week
It has been a week of up and downs. I won’t go into the downs; I’d rather leave writing about those to another day, but they have certainly made me grateful for the ups.

What ‘ups’ have there been? Chiefly, Duolingo and Efrén Gonzalez.

Duolingo
Last Sunday I reached the one year mark for my streak on Duolingo. For 365 days in a row I managed to earn a minimum of 50 XP every day in learning German. On Monday, I set my account to private so that I would be excluded from the league system and took the day off learning anything. From Tuesday to Friday I started learning at my own pace without having to worry about relegation (I was already in the top league). It was great! No more doing the same stories over and over again just to learn the XP to stay above the relegation zone. I know I should not have been concerned with that in the first place; I am too competitive for my own good.

Films
I think The Bookshop and Corpse Bride have worn me out in terms of watching films while exercising for the next few days, or foreseeable future. I just wasn’t inspired to watch any this week. Instead, when I did exercise (because my Belloc work – see below – is taking up the time that I would use for that), I started watching my favourite Camino series on You Tube.

In 2017, Efrén Gonzalez walked the Camino Francés. He recorded his journey and then uploaded it to You Tube. You can watch it here. It is really well edited and even includes some beautiful drone footage. Gonzalez brings out the joys and pains of the Camino really well. I watched the first five episodes in one exercise session last week and was so lifted by seeing the places that I walked through last year.

Hilaire Belloc The Path to Rome
On 4th June 1901, Belloc left Toul in eastern France at about 8:30 in the evening to begin the first stage of a pilgrimage to Rome that he hoped to complete on 29th June – the Feast of SS Peter and Paul. The Path to Rome is his account of that journey.

Four or five years ago I started reading the book on the anniversary of his departure from Toul through to 29th June when he did indeed arrive in Rome. The book doesn’t contain any chapters but Belloc always states (with only one exception) when his day started and ended so it is easy to follow him on a day-by-day basis.

Almost as soon as I started my tradition of reading The Path to Rome on the anniversary of Belloc’s pilgrimage, I started writing about it. In previous years, I did so on my Tumblr and Twitter accounts. Last year, I followed his journey on this blog.

This year, I created a new Twitter account (@PathtoRome1901) to tweet his journey from there. I was inspired to return to Twitter because the platform has just introduced a scheduling function, meaning that I can now fulfil something of a dream by tweeting his movements as close to the hour as possible in which they occurred.

In truth, this is a fool’s hope. Belloc does sometimes say ‘it was noon when this happened’ but he rarely names the hour so precisely. A lot of guesswork is therefore involved in working out where he is at any given time. Sometimes, you can’t even guess – you just have to plump for a likely sounding time.

Still, I love The Path to Rome to heaven and back so reading and tweeting it is a joy. The latter is also a labour of love. One thing it means I don’t do, though, is read each entry on the appropriate day (as I write this post, I have written and scheduled the tweets for Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday). I wouldn’t have time to both read and tweet it on the same day. That’s a shame but a small sacrifice.

ChurchTalk
Churches open again – though only for private prayer – from this Monday (15th). As matters stand, I doubt I will return to my parish church just yet. I can pray at home, after all. My heart yearns for Mass and particularly confession.

When Carlo Maria Viganò burst onto the scene two years ago he seemed to have something important to say. Nowadays, though, he increasingly resembles a character from a Dan Brown novel. He has hit the headlines again with the claim that ‘that restrictions to prevent the spread of Covid-19 were part of a Masonic plot to establish a new world order.’ (The Tablet). Because of course.

In the last few days, Church Militant – to which I will not link; you can Google them – has accused the Archbishop of Washington D.C., Wilton Gregory, of lying over an attack on Donald Trump’s visit to the Pope St. John Paul II shrine last week. In so doing, it called him an ‘African Queen’. African because he is black, and queen because he is allegedly gay.

I saw Church Militant’s response on Twitter to criticism of this racist and homophobic appellation, which was that it was fine because that’s what homosexual seminarians used to call him.

Where does one start with this wicked and spiteful nonsense? Church Militant don’t deserve to have the name ‘Catholic’ in their title. They are as bad as the Militant organisation that ruined Liverpool in the 80s. Every member of it, every supporter of it, ought to get him and herself to confession. I want to hate them but all that would do is ensure that the cycle of hatred continues. So, I gotta pray for them, instead. This is all the more needful because I’m a sinner, as well. Maybe one day one of them will pray for me.

In the meantime, I hope Archbishop Gregory is gay and that this was known as he progressed up the clerical ranks and that because he was celibate it was not seen as a reason to hold him back let alone push him out because then the Church would be a lot more loving and open armed body than it currently gives the impression of being.

Books (I)
I can’t end this post on an angry note so let’s talk about books.

A few weeks ago I finished Anthony Beevor’s account of The Second World War. It is very long (just over 900 pages) and very readable. So much happened in the war that despite its length the book almost feels like a glorified overview. When I closed it for the last time, these were the things uppermost in my mind:

  1. All the leaders – political and military – made big, big mistakes. We were very fortunate that Hitler’s were the biggest of all
  2. Allied soldiers committed war crimes. Only a few and not for the same reason as the Nazis (for example, some Allied soldiers summarily executed Nazi guards after entering a concentration camp and seeing what they had done there) but it still happened
  3. The Allies were sometimes hardly that (unsurprising in respect of the USSR and Britain/USA but surprising in respect of Britain and USA) and some of the generals had monumental egos.

I learnt a lot from the book – chiefly about the Pacific campaign, about which I hardly knew anything, the eastern campaign (of which I only knew a little), and one or two other aspects of the war. For example, I never knew that only the Red Army entered Berlin at the end.

Books (II)
Over the past few months, I have been engaged in a programme of cleaning my book shelves and getting rid of books I no longer want. I have got rid of a lot. As a result the shelves are now looking a little more tidier and cleaner. I’m sad to have got rid of so many books but I decided to do so because I knew I would never read them. I only want to keep those that mean something to me. It doesn’t matter on what level, but they have to mean something.

A Post About Lives

Protests Continue
The ‘Black Lives Matters’ protests have well and truly supplanted the coronavirus as the current Big Thing. We can only hope that COVID-19 does not make a comeback over the next few weeks.

In my last post I predicted that the protests would soon die out and that nothing would change. Watching footage of mobs pull down statues does make one think that something more profound and long-lasting is happening but I am not going to abandon my prediction just yet.

This is because I believe that whatever future the protesters want to see, they won’t get it by staying on the street. Not in America, not in Britain. At some point they will have to enter the democratic system either directly or through those already there.

In fairness to the protesters, it is too early for them to have done that, but I think, ultimately, they will need to do so. Their only alternative would be to simply overthrow the current order by force of arms, and I don’t see that happening.

Statues: Stay Up or Come Down?
This question can only be answered one statue at a time. What can be said in general is that mobs should certainly not be involved in the decision making process. Those who pulled down the statue of Edward Colston in Bristol should be ashamed of themselves. Their actions were profoundly anti-democratic and anti-rule of law.

If Colston was that bad an individual then there should be no problem in either persuading the local council to remove it or seeking election with a promise to do so themselves.

I read on Twitter today (so a little pinch of salt, just in case) that Bristol Council has in the past debated removing the statue but been unable to come to a final decision. That’s not an excuse for mob action but an inspiration to get involved in politics in order to get the decision one wants.

The United Kingdom is a democracy. The only way she will remain so is by embracing democracy completely and utterly, not by allowing anyone or group retreat from it whenever they have the chance. A failed state and tyranny lies that way.

J. K. Rowling
The Harry Potter author caused a great deal of controversy with the tweet, below.

The reason why the website referred to people who menstruate is because people who are pro-transgender believe that transwomen can menstruate. But how can they if they were not born female? I found this post on Quora useful in terms of understanding. Perhaps predictably, the answer depends on how one defines the word ‘to menstruate’: does it refer to the discharge of blood or to the symptoms surrounding that discharge?

Depending on which definition one takes, J. K. Rowling is both right and wrong to believe that the website should have said ‘women’ instead of ‘people’.

Either way, Rowling is entitled to her view, as are those who believe the opposite. What is more important here is how the two sides talk to one another. Is it with respect? With a desire to inform or with a desire to put down?

Of course, it ought to be with respect, and with a desire to inform.

Unfortunately, public discourse around trans issues has become corrupted. Why? Perhaps because the two sides have become so utterly entrenched in their opinions/prejudices that they only see the bad in those on the opposite side, and speak accordingly. Why has this happened? Perhaps because supporters of trans people don’t want to be put down like they and/or their brothers and sisters in the LGBTQ movement were for so many years before finally achieving their breakthrough and so have decided to approach the issue aggressively? Perhaps because their opponents spoke aggressively towards them first? I don’t know the answer. I do know, though, that one day, the two sides will need to find peace in their disagreement (because there always will be disagreement). If they don’t, neither side will ever achieve justice for their cause.

Films
The Bookshop (7.9/10)
Emily Mortimer plays Florence Green, a widow, who decides to open a bookshop in a small northern town in England. She does so despite opposition from Violet Gamart (Patricia Clarkson), a rich local woman, who wants the premises for her own purposes.

Opening it, however, turns out to be only half the battle, and unfortunately for Florence, she loses the second half. Mrs Gamart gets the premises. But then… well, I won’t spoil the ending, but suffice to say, although Mrs Gamart wins the battle, she doesn’t wan the war.

The Booskhop isn’t a bad film but I struggled with it. For a long time it was just so plain; so kitchen-sink. Once again, the ending saved it.

Would I watch it again? Part of me thinks not but I have to remember that when I first saw Lost in Translation I thought it the most boring film ever. Like The Bookshop nothing seemed to happen in it; it was all so dull. Now, however, it is one of my most favourite pictures.

Corpse Bride (8/10)
Animation directed by Tim Burton starring Johnny Depp as Victor, a young man who accidentally marries Emily, the corpse bride.

Once again, I struggled with this picture. Again, it wasn’t bad, but I suspect watching it during the coronavirus crisis possible wasn’t the best idea.

In truth, the film is very sweet love story. The puppets were beautifully made and the animation top-notch – I still can’t believe it wasn’t a digital production.

Veni Sancte Spiritus

Sainsbury’s
Yesterday, I toddled off to Sainsbury’s and found virtually no queue to get in. Such a queue as there was wasted no time in moving forward and I was able to start shopping within five minutes of my first arrival.

What can we put this down to? Well, although lock down remains in effect, restrictions on movement continue to be eased so that may be one reason.

I suspect, however, that I just got lucky. When I left the store about twenty/twenty-five minutes later, the queue had grown again – although happily only to about the length it was when I joined it last week.

While I am on the topic of Sainsbury’s – the store where I shop has now put up clear plastic partitions between the self check-out machines. As someone behind me said, they made the self check-outs look a bit like voting booths. I don’t like the partitions – even though they are transparent, they feel very confining and vaguely sinister; I don’t know why.

***

Home Life
It has been a good-difficult week at home.

Good because everyone remains well; difficult because, especially as the week has gone on, I have found myself with little motivation to do anything creative. I have had ideas but when it comes to writing them down – no. All things considered it’s a little bit of a miracle that I am writing this. Perhaps I am more motivated than I realise.

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A B&B in Dorset
As I was writing the above, I saw a business card sticking out of a book on my desk. I pulled it out and found that it belonged to this B&B cottage in Dorset. I can’t remember which year I stayed at the cottage but I do remember enjoying my stay there. I hope the couple who ran it (David and Jackie Charles) are still there. The cottage is a little way outside of Dorchester; I remember walking along the winding road to get there from the pub in the pitch dark: a bit of a thrill! Fortunately, the thrill never became a nightmare and no cars suddenly appeared from around the bend.

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America
A few days ago a black man named George Floyd died in police custody in the city of Minneapolis. During his arrest, a police officer restrained him by placing his knee on the man’s throat. Floyd’s death is the latest to involve a black man being killed by (white) officers or white people. Rioting has followed his death. I predict that the violent protests will soon fade away. In a few weeks or months from now, another black man will die at a white person’s/police officer’s hands but whatever happens in the immediate aftermath, nothing will change then, either.

America, such an innovative country yet so utterly unable to find an answer to her ills.

Actually, that’s untrue. She knows perfectly well what the answers are but is unable or unwilling to apply them. I’m tempted to say that for as long as Donald Trump is president, she never will, but, here we are after eight years of President Obama. What was he doing? What could he do?

Once upon a time I respected America, looked up to her, even; yes, she had faults but she was a country that was always seemed to be striving forward. The Trump Presidency ended that perception. Under him, the country has chosen to look backwards.

Or has it? Trump lost the popular vote. He became president due to the Electoral College system. And I like to think that the people who voted for him – or most of them, anyway – probably didn’t vote for him because of his character but because politically speaking he offered them something that Hilary Clinton didn’t. This uncertainty means I can’t dislike the country but I’m sad that I can’t view her as once I did: with admiration. The West needs a great America: someone has to be able to stand up to the substantial threats posed by Russia and China. The E.U. should, but won’t. The world needs a great America because in being the best version of herself, she shows the world what it is capable of. I hope one day the U.S.A. finds a president, politicians, police officers who are able to meet that challenge. Make America great again, indeed.

Saving Mr Banks (8/10)
Disney film about how Walt Disney secured the rights to Mary Poppins from its author, P. L. Travers.

1961. P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson) has run out of money. Her agent (played by Ronan Vibert) advises her to sell the rights to Mary Poppins to Walt Disney (Tom Hanks). She refuses. Travers can’t bear to let her dearest creation go. Her situation is so bad, however, that in the end she does agree to go to Los Angeles to discuss Disney’s proposed script for a film. She goes, she criticises, she returns home. But even as Travers makes her way to the airport, Disney realises why Mary Poppins means so much to her. He follows her back to London. At Travers’ home, Disney not only tells Travers what he has discovered but reveals how she and he are both connected far more than they knew. This leads to Travers finally signing on the dotted line and the film being made.

I found all but the last half hour of this film difficult to watch. This was because Travers seems to have no redeeming features. She is all recalcitrance and general horridness. What kept me going were the flashbacks to her childhood. As a girl, Travers was a different person. Her life was not easy, and got worse, but it was for a time better, and so was she. The last half hour of the film is when the truth comes out. It is revelatory and freeing for her and me. The screenwriters did really well, there. I would recommend the picture just for the last section. That’s being a bit unfair! The whole film is good and well worth your time.

Delicacy (8/10)
Audrey Tautou plays Nathalie Kerr, a happily married young woman whose husband dies suddenly. For three years, she mourns him. Then, one day, probably while thinking of her husband, she kisses the office nobody. He is overwhelmed and all of a sudden in love. He bravely asks Nathalie out. She accepts and this being a romantic comedy, love blossoms against the odds.

Delicacy is a funny, sweet, and very French film. For proof of this, see the final scene: the hide and seek game in the garden. I won’t spoil it here but suffice to say it involves philosophy. So French.


Faith Seeking Understanding

Correction: In my previous post, I said that Sunday 24th May would be the first anniversary of my arrival home from Santiago. Actually, it was Saturday 23rd. Either way, I didn’t get round to writing my One Year On blog post. I haven’t forgotten it, though, and I hope to write it very soon.

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I live in London, U.K. and the weather here has been very pleasant indeed for the last week or two. I have even had to sleep on top of my duvet (though under a blanket) on a couple of occasions. British weather being what it is, we enjoy the good times while we can as it is very possible that the sun will decide that’s your lot and the rest of the summer will be grey and wet.

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Lock down continues… kind of. Restrictions are being relaxed now and some people are returning to work. The streets, however, still remain pretty quiet. I can tell that there have been changes, though: the queue to get into Sainsbury’s is now shorter.

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After lock down started, the government designated churches as ‘non-essential’ places; as a result, they won’t re-open until July, at the earliest. I read a while ago that the government did not originally intend to close churches: it was happy for them to remain open for private prayer. The bishops, however, petitioned for them to close them completely.

Why would they do this? Well, you might say, because of the infectious nature of the coronavirus, of course. But in respect of private prayer, with appropriate social distancing, face masks, and hand wipes this should not be a problem

In regards Catholic bishops, I suspect that our churches are closed because the majority of bishops – or perhaps just those at the top – do not think as fathers – even though that is what they are supposed to be, both to us and their priests; rather, they think as managers. Their priority is not to let anything happen that could damage the Church in the eyes of the world. Again, I suspect that they petitioned the government to close the churches because they were scared that if a priest or member of the faithful was proven to have contracted the coronavirus on Church property this would be a scandal to the world.

I ought to be really angry about this. I’m not. Firstly, it would be a scandal. Secondly, I have no proof that my suspicion is correct. Thirdly, given how many scandals have hit the Church over the past few years, I can understand their caution. I hope I’m wrong but it’s a nagging feeling that I can’t get rid of.

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The Interpreter (7.8/10)

Be warned – I spoil the ending of the film below.

I watched this film straight after The American. First George Clooney, then Nicole Kidman – when it came to visions of beauty, my cup overflowed last week.

The eponymous character is Silvia Broome (Kidman) who works at the United Nations in New York. One night, she overhears what appears to be an assassination plot against Edmond Zuwanie, the controversial leader of a fictional African country named Matobo, who is about to visit the UN to give a speech. She reports what she heard but isn’t trusted by secret service agent Tobin Keller (Sean Penn).

It soon appears that Keller has good reason not to trust Silvia, for although she professes her belief in diplomacy, it turns out that that she wasn’t always so peace loving. Throughout the film, Silvia lies, fudges and dissembles in order to hide the truth from Keller. In the end, however, events force her to come clean. This coincides with Zuwanie’s arrival at the UN for his speech. Zuwanie is very nearly killed but not in the way you’d expect.

Ending Spoiler Alert!

In the denouement, Silvia herself tries to assassinate Zuwanie. She isn’t the ‘real’ assassin – she simply takes advantage of the situation after the real one is apprehended. Although Silvia has good reason to kill Zuwanie – he is responsible for the deaths of her family – I didn’t believe in her as an assassin. This is because the film cloaks her tragic background and subsequent hatred for him up until the moment of their confrontation. As a result, her character felt too lightweight for the role of killer. It was almost as if a character from a light drama had suddenly been dropped into a heavyweight thriller.

Out of This World

Hey, here’s me checking in. How are you?

As I write these words, the clock reads 6:46am so I have beaten my previous early post record by a clean twelve minutes. In these days of lock down we get our pleasures where we can.

Who am I kidding – I would have mentioned this anyway; it’s an easy way to get into the post, after all (blogging-wise, there’s nothing worse than knowing that you want to write something but don’t know how to start).

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So, how are things here? Well, my parents and I remain well, for which I give thanks. Overnight, one of my fillings fell out. I wasn’t surprised – the same filling has come out several times before. The shape and, I think, shallowness, of the filling has made it an impossible one to stay in. My tooth doesn’t hurt so I might just leave it be until my next scheduled dentist’s appointment.

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Last Sunday was the first anniversary of my arrival at Santiago cathedral at the end of my first Camino. As soon as I am able, I will write a post about this. I know part of what I want to say so just have to work out the rest before I put finger to keyboard. Next Sunday is the first anniversary of my return home so I shall try to do it by then. If you want to know how I felt last Sunday, though, well, I teared up when I listened to ‘Santiago de Compostela’ on The Way soundtrack. This music covers the arrival of Martin Sheen et al at the cathedral and the swinging of the Botafumeiro, which always moves me deeply when I watch the film. Here is the music:

I feel so much for people who intended to walk the Camino this year but whose plans were scuppered by the coronavirus. I hope all of them are able to reschedule to next year or the year after.

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Yesterday, 19th May was the 85th anniversary of T. E. Lawrence’s death following a road accident: he was riding his motorbike home down a country road when he turned a corner and was forced to swerve to avoid two boys on bicycles. Lawrence was launched from his bike and suffered head injuries that would prove to be fatal.

Unsurprisingly, there is a conspiracy theory regarding his death as a car was seen driving away from the scene of the accident, but I don’t think it has gained any traction among Lawrence scholars. At least, not among the few that I have read. A new film about Lawrence is due out soon – Lawrence After Arabia; judging by its IMDB synopsis, it will take a deep dive into the conspiracy theory:

Retiring to his cottage in Dorset Lawrence hopes to forget his past fighting in Arabia but soon he is drawn into political intrigue and his many enemies begin to plot against him. Was a motorcycle crash an accident or attempt at assassination by the British Secret Service? 

IMDB

According to IMDB, Lawrence After Arabia is due out on 16th October this year so going to see it might just make a nice early birthday present for me.

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Apollo 13 (9/10)
I have wanted to watch this film for ages but couldn’t find it streaming anywhere. While I was looking through our DVD shelf the other day, I found that we owned a copy of it. A very nice surprise! The film is as good as its reputation. Tom Hanks leads the way as Jim Lovell, captain of the ill fated Apollo 13 mission to the moon. The acting, script, special effects, music… everything about this film is pretty much spot on.

The American (8/10)
Okay, the facts:
Stars: George Clooney and the Italian countryside.
Directed by Anton Corbijn.

The American is about an assassin named Jack who is ambushed by unknown assassins outside his Arctic hideaway. He manages to kill them but is forced to kill his lover: she didn’t know his profession and there can be no loose ends.

Jack heads south to Rome where his handler tells him to go a small Italian town and await further orders. Not long later, Jack is given another job: to make a rifle for another assassin. He does so, but realises that it is to be used on him. In the denouement of the film we see what he does to get out of this very unpromising situation.

Anton Corbijn is a photographer so The American looks very good. I mean, George Clooney is in it. It is set in Italy so of course it was going to look good but under Corbijn’s directorship it looks even better. The story is told very tightly. Music is used only sparingly. This means we really focus on Jack – despite knowing so little about him – and become much more unsettled than we would if we were watching a Bond or Jason Bourne film.

I found the denouement of the film quite confusing. One or two parts of it still are. On the whole, though, I enjoyed the picture. It was very different to standard Hollywood fare, and while I like that, too, I appreciated this.

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Finally, Monday just one (18th May) was the one hundredth anniversary of Karol Józef Wojtyła, more well known as Pope St. John Paul II. Fifteen years on from his death (15 years already!) I still miss him. He was pope when I became a Catholic so will always be special to me – even though nowadays I am not as right on in my Catholic views as I used to be. I think in the end it will be people like him (rather than many living clerics – and laymen for that matter) who keep me in the Church. Pope John Paul: Ora Pro Nobis!