Thursday, 24 December 2009

Prologue and fuge

Two films, both alike in dignity
In fair culture where they set their stage

Enough of that. Anyway, there are two films I've seen recently that both startlingly similar and yet I make no claim of stealing.

A couple of weeks ago, the wife and I went to see Me and Orson Welles and thoroughly enjoyed it. The film was funny without being obvious, intelligent without overreaching, well-acted without being showy. Technically proficient, you might say.

Last night we saw The Red Shoes at the BFI. It's a beautifully shot, witty, touching if slightly melodramatic in a 1940s way. Considering it was made in 1948, that is perfectly acceptable. And half way through I realised I was watching the same film over again. Only better, more carefully shot.

Perhaps the love triangle is of eternal interest, how someone can get in the way of love, or misunderstand passion for love. From a male perspective, you are obviously meant to associate with the spurned lover. Although the compose marries the ballerina in The Red Shoes, he is spurned because he cannot replace her love of dancing. And in Me and Orson Welles, it is Me who fails to understand that Sonja is not like anyone he's ever met. She is willing to sacrifice a little bit of herself in order to make something of herself. As, I guess, is Victoria Page.

These films don't offer consistent, eternal truths. On the other hand, they manage to avoid being male dick fantasies of the type found in Love Actually. Whilst it's a perfectly pleasant film with many humorous scenarios and performances, it is almost entirely about a world of male fantasy that just doesn't exist. And somehow it is regarded as a "chick flick" (appalling term, used under protest).

Funny then that a film like The Red Shoes which is from a magical realist perspective can have more to say about life and love than one that portrays several ordinary relationships.