Off Topic: The Weekly Round-Up
A new feature – often after a week of chatting to y’all there’s a little more that emerges from the conversation, so in the interests of keeping open the lines of communication I’m going to look back at the weekly subjects tackled. I’ll try to do it always on a Sunday.
Middle Of The Road
Yesterday the argument was about the blanding-out of popular culture. Less experimentalism, brave leaps in the dark being too expensive. I attacked the soft pap of easy-listening classics and films providing ‘fan service’ (giving the audience exactly what it wants, even to the point of asking them first).
Also, books are over-researched before they’re published. I recently had a bad experience with a book proposition. The editor asked me to revise an outline (an entirely normal thing to do) then shut down all communication with me after I had revised it 12 times. What she was looking for – and what I was never likely to deliver – was a sure-fire popular hit aimed at twentysomething women. Had I realised this, I wouldn’t have wasted several months working on it.
So I will now do something else. Perhaps it was a good experience; she reminded me that I’m never going to write for commissioning editors looking to plug market gaps. I misunderstood what she wanted, she was not comfortable with admitting it was merely a word-monkey job and the reader gets something that feels like they’ve read it before. We learn from experience and move on – but I always get a sinking sensation when I wonder how many fresh projects get replaced with a market target.
If this week had a theme it was about the popular mainstream versus the indie experimental. Last night was hot and everyone was out and about, so I went to see the play about dying and grief. The Old Vic version of ‘A Monster Calls’ is richly imaginative, with the giant tree formed by rope artists. It is moving, intelligent and immaculately performed – a parable about letting go. The fact that it can attract a sizeable audience (last night’s house was full) is probably down to the success of ‘The Dog in the Night-Time’, which vividly showed how autism affects a boy.
Once these routes are opened up, one success leads to another. ‘War Horse’ leads to ‘Dog’ leads to ‘Monster’ – thus is intelligent family fare created. They say the steps between thoughts must be cut shallow, but people can be led to the unusual. With theatre the problem is expense, so I belong to several clubs that offer cut-price tickets. I tend to avoid the mainstream productions and find the unusual, the less-than-perfect. With cinema I mostly see European films, although who can resist a good Marvel punch-up?
‘The Italian Job’ as Brexit Metaphor
In the comments on this, Colin points out that his favourite scene is probably the quietest in the film, when Irene Handl discusses her son with the gang. Looking back at it now, it feels entirely off-the-cuff. Here it is;