My life in the movies

This is admissions week in the High Doganate. I shamefully admitted to not having read Wodehouse on Tuesday; today I will admit to not watching movies. Never say never, however: I did see some movies as a young man (mostly with the object of taking girls to them), and am aware that they are still being made. I read about them sometimes. Why, just this week I have read two such articles. (This one, and this one; both recommended.)

In the event of war crimes trials, I shall have to admit that I reviewed movies once, for a daily newspaper. But that was a very long time ago, and let me assure gentle reader I made a fool of myself trying, and was soon fired.

My last effort in this regard was in 1987, when CBC Radio asked me to review a version of Little Dorrit that went on for six hours. Or maybe it was eight, or longer. They’d heard I had read the original novel, which no one else had, and perhaps thought I could sit still for the duration. My review consisted of explaining how much of Dickens’s sprawling, sentimental epic had to be omitted to fit the time; how unconvincing the (celebrated) actors were in the principal rôles; how inappropriate the Verdi soundtrack; how badly the director had captured a kind of poor-house Gulag, within which, as in Solzhenitsyn’s, the human spirit is rising. More generally: everything of value in the novel had been lost, and what a waste of time and money. I did however praise one passing animated backdrop of early Victorian London, so scrupulously accurate that it made me think, “Good Lord, this place once existed!”

Unfortunately, it turned out, the New York Times had just exalted the production, and so dissing it was now forbidden. I could not be persuaded to change my own views. At the last minute my pre-recorded comments were canned, and I was replaced by the programme’s producer, who used all my material to give the impression he had seen the movie himself, but methodically reversed each of my critical judgements. This did not bother me, for by 1987 I already knew what the CBC is, and besides, they paid me.

The last movie I had seen before that was, Blade Runner, in 1982. I was impressed by that but, alas, no one asked for my opinion. I would have said it was a brilliant and entirely successful depiction of modern urban life. Looking back, I still think so.

Snippets of movies I have seen on the Internet, when curious to discover what people around me are talking about. It takes about three minutes, I find, to gather everything one needs to know. Longer would involve unconscionable self-abuse. (Well, I think I slipped and watched several snippets of The Big Lebowski.)

Perhaps I have seen another movie, in the last thirty years. If so, I have forgotten.