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Laurence Inman’s Blog

MUSING ON MOVIES

23-07-2009

It sounds unlikely, but the old curmudgeon was persuaded to go and see the new Harry Potter movie the other day. Of course, it set him thinking about Michaelangelo, Renoir and Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost’.

If it weren’t for the existence of younger relatives I would never have found myself watching Harry Potter and the Lost Three Hours Which Will Never Return last Friday night.

It was okay. Special effects. Alan Rickman. Maggie Smith. Jim Broadbent. Michael Gambon. Harry now has grey hair and walks with a stick. Hermione gets more interesting as the series progresses.

I was struck by how much the good/evil imagery seems to derive from Paradise Lost. I’ve just been re-reading it. Now that I don’t have to make reams of notes, or have T S Eliot in my ear telling me that Milton is crap and couldn’t write an English sentence, I quite enjoyed it. It’s very dramatic and sexy stuff. In parts it reads just like a Hollywood blockbuster screenplay.

The Fall is a fascinating concept. Milton never lets us forget that it was entirely our own fault. The suggestion that the serpent, Satan, is within us all the time, is irresistible, (if you’ll forgive the pun.)

The Deadly Sins kill no one but yourself. It rings true with common experience. Robert Burton produced the Anatomy of Melancholy out of it. If you lie, cheat, flop in bed all morning, eat molten grease, get pissed, chase unattainable women – it is your own inner self that shrivels up. The only way to deal with it is to make yourself more hateful, and then....

I love the idea that there is one lethal, forbidden act which, when performed, lets all the other dark stuff in.

For me, it is when one person lends another one a quid and demands one pound ten pence back the following week.

That single thing is the cause of all the trouble, and always has been.

One night last week I also watched again La Regle Du Jeu, directed by Jean Renoir in 1939.

This is one of those great works of art which seem slight and unpromising, which appear to surrender everything they have on their first viewing. But they don’t. They plant themselves in your imagination. They grow, they flower, they bear new fruit over and over again.

I first saw it in 1970. My mate Andrij, who ran Film Soc at Manchester University, insisted that it opened every season. He said, ‘Just watch it. Don’t talk about it. You won’t want to spoil it by talking about it. You won’t want other people’s ideas about it bothering you.’

He was right. Discussion is pointless. How could you try to tell someone else what to feel about Michelangelo’s Pieta ?

Even as I was watching it for the first time I was aware that I was thinking it was a silly, light confection, but that there was something else stirring in my memory and imagination. It has never left me alone.

Watching it again was at once like greeting an old friend and seeing something new and surprising about them and their approach to life.

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