Wednesday 23 October 2019

Frank Coughlan: 'Movie magic continues to cast its spell'


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Frank Coughlan

Frank Coughlan

The picture show should be on its last legs. Since the middle of the last century, its decline has been predicted with gloomy authority and the nodding of wise heads. It was confidently forecast in the 1950s that television would see it off. Why go to a draughty old flea-pit when you can welcome the world into your comfortable living room?

Ever since, a variety of competing attractions - from videos and DVDs to gaming, streaming and downloads - have ganged up on the old fun palace and threatened to raze it to the ground.

However, here we are now with, according to box office receipts for the UK just released, more and more British people opting to patronise darkened auditoriums, enthusiastically willing to suspend their disbelief for a couple of hours.

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In fact, cinema attendances in Britain have returned to the peak of the early 1970s. The US has also had a bumper year, and the last available numbers crunched in Ireland hint at a similar upward trend.

One of the most critically acclaimed films of this year has been 'Roma', written and directed by Alfonso Cuarón, which chronicles a year in the life of a middle-class family in Mexico City during the 1970s.

Cuarón has form. His 'Children Of Men', released in 2006 and based on a PD James novel, is one of the more chilling and smart dystopian dramas I have seen.

I can't wait to see 'Roma', and really I don't have to because even though it only opened in Dublin cinemas earlier this month, it is already available to watch on Netflix.

However, I have decided to hold off a few days and catch it in on the big screen instead because it merits that sort of respect and is owed that level of undivided attention.

No pausing to boil up the kettle or settling down with the takeaway ('Who ordered the sweet and sour?) or reflex-pawing the smartphone to sneak updates of @lfc or #Brexit.

Just sitting there in the dark and in the moment: an experience that is, at one and the same time, solitary and, by the nature of the medium, shared.

I can't tell exactly why the old picture show is enjoying this renaissance. It would take a lot to convince me that the industry is making better movies than it was a few decades ago.

However, it might be that at a time when the world seems even more dysfunctional, nasty and unsettled than usual, retreating to a magic room for a few hours is a sort of cheap and cheerful therapy.

Better still, movies constantly throw up makey-up grotesques, and Bond villains such as Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin and cartoonish toff Jacob Rees-Mogg, but they always get their comeuppance in the final reel.

It would be well worth the entrance fee for that alone.

Paris still can't beat comforts of home

Our daughter, halfway through her Erasmus year in Paris, flew home for Christmas at the weekend.

She was glad to be back too, if only to get away from the gilets jaunes, but more particularly because her flight rode the Storm Deirdre rollercoster all the way from Beauvais.

However, she loves the great city and, one term in, now feels familiar enough to see herself as something more than a tourist, though still a little less than a resident.

I even thought she carried herself with a modest touch of French insouciance through Arrivals, and her sense of individual style suggests that Paris is slowly seducing her.

However, within a few hours of settling in, she was couch-binging endless 'Friends' re-runs in her favourite jim-jams and contemplating ordering a spice bag for dinner.

Lots done, Paris. More to do.

Irish Independent

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