On Thursday the boy and I managed to blag our way into Luna's soundcheck at The Islington Academy in London. We were up on the mezzanine, Lee spotted us!
They later played Fourth of July. Luna! Playing Fourth of July pretty much to just me! And the boy. Sadly I decided to record that on my phone so it looked and sounded dreadful - and it really wasn't - it was beautiful. I applauded. Alone. And quietly.
I guess this might be the last time I talk about my Favourite Hitchcock film - I've talked about it in my posts on The 39 Steps and Young and Innocent - and neither of those films have a 10 because ... what if I love The Lady Vanishes more!?
In 2012, the BFI had a Hitch season ~ it was their little bit of cultural Olympics. Hazel and I went and saw quite a few of them (at least 12, maybe more). One of the highlights was seeing The Lady Vansihes in a full NFT 1 - there was something beautiful about being in a room full of people watching this film - most of whom knew it, and knew it well.
I do love the film - Iris and Gilbert are lovely together (although Gilbert is such an arse at the beginning it's a wonder she tolerates him at all). I love the way the dialog fizzes ("cut it out kid, you're not drugged") - I love the stereotypes ("tea time, well all the English will be there") - I adore the fight in the luggage car ("don't stand hopping about there like a referee, cooperate. Kick him, see if he's got a false bottom") - I adore the model work, the sets, the gags and the happy ending.
But it's not a 10, and it's probably not my favourite Hitch film - I think maybe The 39 Steps got short-changed after all.
... although when we saw all those films in 2012 the only one I rated 10 then was... Young and Innocent!
It's probably one of those three though. Except... there's Shadow of a Doubt...
I've long maintained that Young & Innocent might be my favourite Hitchcock film, I rated it 10/10 when we saw it at the BFI in 2012 - but the big screen is invariably worth a point or two on a score. It's probably not a 10 film - and probably not my favourite Hitch film - not with The 39 Steps and The Lady Vanishes in the frame. But it's still a sweet and wonderfully paced gem.
The plot is shallow and won't hold up to too much scrutiny - but of course the plot is not the most important thing in a Hitch film. The leads are adorable, Nova is so funny and enthusiastic, and Derrick pulls off the charming male lead that Hitch's British films did so well. The sets are fantastic, particularly the mill. The car falling into the mine workings is genuinely hair raising stuff. And scattered around all of this are charming little set pieces - the Burgoyne family meals, Erica trying to clean up Robert's wounds after a brawl, and lots of lovely throwaway lines -
"I left my papers in the car go and get them for me."
"Get them yourself!"
"Well, ordinarily I would but if I was seen beside that thing I'd have to resign."
"Towser, we've left Towser behind!"
"It's all right, he's keeping up."
"I think it's very nice to have ladies company for a change."
"Don't you have lots of it? I thought lorries were very popular."
"We've got to get a look somehow."
"What about dancing around?"
"Can you dance?"
"No, of course not, duckie, but I don't mind having a go. It's only half walking, anyway."
BUT the best bit doesn't have Nova or Derrick, or sets or cranes, or hair-raising thrills! No, the best bit is a beautiful model shot when they arrive in town trying to locate Old Will the china mender. It has trains and bridges and buildings and ends on lovely little model versions of Erica and Robert.
You can show me all the flashy CGI you like but there is nothing more beautiful than a model shot like this one - I've probably said it before but I will again. A model is a real thing, it exists in real space and is shot with real film and even if it doesn't look perfect it always looks real. CGI might look more accurate (although often doesn't) but it never looks real.
That famous crane shot in the Grand Hotel is pure brilliance - Hitch throws it in so casually and the timing of the twitch is perfect - not because it's a revelation, we already know who the murderer is, we know where he's sitting and we know he's got a twitch, and is going to twitch. So Hitch is giving us all of this for kicks! It's a freebie "I'm not telling you anything, I'm just showing you how good film can be.
Young and Innocent is wonderful. No, it's not my fave Hitchcock film, but I'll never get tired of watching it.
Last time I watched Sabotage I rated it highly, I think I was charmed by the London locations and by the cast - the three leads are all great. This time, without allowing myself to be distracted by all that, I was somewhat cooler on it.
The film ends with a bit of a whimper - OK, a cinema blows up, but somehow it blows up without any suspense, without risk to any good guys, and without any close involvement. We pretty much don't care that it blows up at all - particularly after we're informed that the audience all got out safely - and we're informed of that - we don't get to see it. Compare this with the wonderful chaos after the shooting in the theatre at the beginning of The 39 Steps.
The bus explosion that Hitch expressed regret for is actually a treat, a bit harsh to kill poor Stevie (and the puppy) but still beautifully told, and the way Stevie haunts Mrs Verloc makes his death seem important - even if, ultimately it goes nowhere.
Verloc's murder is tense but the film, frankly, dies along with him.
Oscar Homolka is great as Verloc, strangely managing to earn a little sympathy even if we can't fully understand the pressures he is under to carry out the sabotage. Sylvia Sidney has a face made to express damp-eyed pain and it does it so beautifully. And John Loder is another of those cheeky, charming leading men, that Hitch delivers so well.
2017 was another year where I watched a lot of films and pointlessly rated them.
Pointless because ratings are affected by so many thing some of which have little to do with the actual film - e.g. mood, environment, time of day or day of week etc. But I do it anyway. So here's how 2017 went:
I rated 277 films, the mean rating was 5.87 and a median of 6
32 were silent films, 210 were in English, others were in: Bengali, German, French, Hindi, Italian, Japanese, Russian, Swedish and Tamil.
I rated two films 10:
Some Like it Hot
Hazel and I went to see Some Like it Hot at the Rivoli Ballroom in Crofton Park - a fantastic 1950s ballroom that perfectly suited the film. It wasn't a perfect presentation: it was a DVD projection; they manipulated an interval into the film to flog a few drinks; they bafflingly decided to play 80s music before and in the interval (Come on! You're showing a 50s film in a 50s ballroom - think about it!)
BUT for all that, seeing the film in a room full of people just highlighted what a gem it was - maybe it's not a 10 film (although maybe it is), but the setting and being part of a crowd made it a 10 film for at least one evening!
Cléo de 5 à 7
We've been latecomers to the genius of Agnes Varda - we'd seen a film at the NFT in 2013 but hadn't really followed up on that until this year. The other 10 film was her second film Cléo de 5 à 7. If I'd read the synopsis before watching the film there's a chance I may not have watched it at all - here's Wikipedia's...
[The film] follows a young singer as she waits until 6:30pm to hear the results of a medical test that will possibly confirm a diagnosis of cancer. The film is noted for its handling of several of the themes of existentialism, including discussions of mortality, the idea of despair, and leading a meaningful life.
But it's a beautiful story, beautifully told.
I saw four other Agnes Varda films during the year - and every one was a gem and might have got a 10 if the fancy had taken me!