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18 September 2008

Southbanking on It

Note to self: when the BFI programme describes a film as "a weepie" it probably isn't sensible to wear eye makeup. Still, the huge, 400-seat screen at the Southbank was pretty empty (especially odd given that the ticket guy told me they had moved the showing from a smaller screen) and mostly populated by lone movie goers, which is always comforting for a lone movie goer. On a Thursday afternoon, a fiver buys you a very comfy seat with plenty of legroom in front of a huge screen to watch the latest installment of Clint Eastwood season. No ads or trailers either, which is always nice.

The film, of course, was The Bridges of Madison County, the only other Eastwood film I've seen being Play Misty for Me (which is great--a much better, more realistic portrayal of obsession than the similar Fatal Attraction). TBoMC reminded me a lot of Brokeback Mountain, only with Iowa playing the role of stunning, background scenery (certainly not the "featureless sweep of corn" Bill Bryson describes his home state as). As for the film itself, well, it's always nice to see which accent Meryl Streep will next pull out of her seemingly infinite hat, and her character's Italian accent was pretty spot on and she is warm, funny and spontaneous. Eastwood, meanwhile, was very sexy in a charming, confident, low-key way. There isn't much to the plot--'60s Iowa and lonely housewife is left alone for a week by her family; she helps a lost driver find the eponymous local bridges for a shoot he is doing for National Geographic; they fall in lurve but only have four days until her family returns--oh noes; he asks her to leave her unhappy life behind; she says yes but means no; big tears happen as she gets a couple more chances to change her mind but knows she can't; lurves Clint for the rest of her life; writes it down in a diary for her kids to read after she dies, also commanding them, in her will, to scatter her ashes off one of the bridges, which was where Clint's were scattered--but it manages to fill over two hours without dragging. The whole plot is framed by the sub-plot of the then grown-up children receiving the diaries, reading them together, being shocked by their dear mom's second life and then being delighted that they finally got to know her better and applying the lessons mom left them with to their own lives. 

I didn't like the overarching moral sentiment, but then I wouldn't. What would I know? Some of the script is a bit over-wrought, too--"This kind of certainty comes but once in a lifetime," "I don't want to need you, 'cause I can't have you," etc., some of which being rather reminiscent of Brokeback's "I'll never quit you" (and yes, I know TBoMC came first but I watched it much later)--but overall, 'twas irritatingly moving.

The BFI is a great place to see a movie, anyway--so unlike so many of the big, nasty cinema chains--and I'm probably going to become a member, as long as I remember to do so before my birthday, when I cease being, by their definition, a young person. With the cafe and "mediatheque" (in which you can watch loads of archived movies and TV shows), it would be easy to spend a whole afternoon there, even without the Slow Food Fest taking place on the Southbank (mmm...churros...).


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