A Room with a View
It was pleasant to wake up in Florence, to open the eyes upon a bright bare room, with a floor of red tiles which look clean though they are not; with a painted ceiling whereon pink griffins and blue amorini sport in a forest of yellow violins and bassoons. It was pleasant, too, to fling wide the windows, pinching the fingers in unfamiliar fastenings, to lean out into sunshine with beautiful hills and trees and marble churches opposite, and, close below, Arno, gurgling against the embankment of the road
E. M. Forster — A Room with a View
I’ve written in earlier Reflections of my love of film and cinema. Over the past week or so, I’ve indulged that love.
Visits to cinema include a trip to the Little Theatre in Bath, of which I am a member, a visit to my local cinema and finally a viewing in the cellar of a wine merchant.
The visit to the Little Theatre was to see Wes Anderson’s ‘The French Dispatch’. It would not be a film to everyone’s taste, given it is another beautiful example from Anderson of a film that veers to the eccentric with a distinctive visual and narrative style. I very much enjoyed it.
My wife joined me for the trip to our local cinema to see ‘One Night in Soho’. When it comes to cinema, Sarah and I have differing tastes; however, based on what we had read, this was a film that appealed to us both. Sadly, we were both disappointed by what we watched. I won’t give any spoilers, and while there were some engaging elements, overall, neither of us felt it would be a film that lived long in the memory. For my part, it failed the principal rule of offering characters in which you could believe and with whom you could identify. And, most importantly, characters for whose outcome you cared.
It was the Bristol Film Festival that took me to the wine merchant’s cellar to watch a classic film. And that film? ‘A Room with a View’. Made in 1985, it turned Merchant Ivory from respected Art House filmmakers to recognition and appreciation from a wider audience. The film might now seem a little dated to some. Still, the overall quality of the offering means I forgive that. Who could better a script that is based on a work by E. M. Forster? Or the sublime acting of Judi Dench, Helena Bonham Carter (in her breakthrough role), Daniel Day-Lewis, Julian Sands, Denholm Elliott, Simon Callow and Maggie Smith. And what a setting. My love of Italy and my affection for Florence undoubtedly help my appreciation of the film. I just wallow in the sumptuousness of the scenes set in the city and surrounding Tuscan countryside.
This week will see me book an offering for next year’s Festival. There is much from which to choose. Right now, I favour either ‘Apollo 13’ in the Bristol Planetarium or ‘1917’ in the Bristol Museum. I’m also tempted by ‘The Third Man’ back in the Wine cellar. Overall, there are thirty-six different films spread across fourteen varied locations. So many classics in so many exciting venues.
I also caught up on TV with a couple of much-loved films. One was the ‘Exorcist’. I have shared my memory of first seeing that film in an earlier Reflection. I know every twist and turn in the story, and yet unlike ‘One Night in Soho’, I am pleased to watch it over (and over) again. Script, cinematography, acting, direction, special effects, and score all come together to create a classic.
Last but by no means least came, ‘Don’t Look Now’. The film is not faithful, in all aspects, to the Daphne de Maurier short story, but it certainly captures its atmosphere. It’s a film, along with the ‘Exorcist’, I first saw on the Big Screen in my teens. Just like the ‘Exorcist’, ‘Don’t Look Now’ still both holds me, and unsettles me, on every viewing.
Unlike many people, Venice holds no great attraction for me. People are enthusiastic about its light, its sights and its maze of intertwining streets and canals. Not me. Regular readers will know of my love of Italy, and a reason Venice doesn’t gel with me might be because to me it doesn’t feel like Italy. One meets few Italians and fewer Venetians there, with four out of every five people a visitor.
Venice is also the only place in Italy where I feel both exploited and manipulated. My wife summed it up when she offered that the buildings of Venice offer the viewer a facade, and the whole city has now become one. There are two exceptions. The small bar my wife and I stumbled upon where the gondoliers drank. They were both welcoming and engaging conversationalists. The other was the renowned Harry’s Bar. The bar that gave the world Bellini and Carpaccio. On one visit the bar undercharged me. When I pointed out the mistake, the maître d’ happily said that the error was theirs, so the extra drinks were on the house.
Of course, my jaundiced view of Venice may also be coloured by watching ‘Don’t Look Now’, ‘Death in Venice’ and reading Ian McEwan’s, ‘The Comfort of Strangers’. All play on the darker heart of Venice. Certainly, on my first viewing of ‘Don’t Look Now’, long before I first ventured to Venice, it coloured the city in my mind. But unfortunately, those colours were not bright and light.
So, to this week’s music. I’ve already used a theme from the Exorcist and decided against the range of 60s music that forms the musical backdrop to ‘One night in Soho’ (even though for me that music was the most enjoyable element). I also thought of ‘Laura’s Theme’ from ‘Don’t Look Now’. Instead, I chose this from the soundtrack of ‘A Room with a View’. The aria ‘O Mio Babbino Caro’ from Puccini’s opera Gianni Schicchi (it also includes scenes from the film)