I: If you make a film about an obscure 19th-century poet who (insofar as she’s famous AT ALL, for 1% of viewers, it’s because SHE) NEVER LEFT HER FRONT ROOM, which is one thing you have in common… If you choose to make a film about her, you cast a 90s also-ran from Sex And The City because she looks a bit like her, and you make it OVER TWO HOURS LONG – surely it was a tribute to your reputation that ANYONE WENT AT ALL!
R (no 14 on The Green) invited me for the Christmas ‘waifs and strays’ lunch, with TD (‘famous’ filmmaker) and Stacie (who I’d met before at Poetry Plus, the Manningtree Red Lion ‘poetry and a pint’ evening, run by R…).
It was really kind of R, who’s an ex-military man (the Royal Artillery Corps or whatever, one of the ‘best regiments’, he says…) who then became a long-distance lorry driver and then – by his own admission – went a bit funny in the head, about the age of 65. Now – as the ex-mental patients on the block – we have some (very, very mild) ‘fun’ with it. (He, for instance, has marmite for breakfast Monday-Friday and homemade marmalade at weekends, just to shake things up a bit. I say: All very well, but what will you have when you get to MAS – having used MAR up? Mascarpone… ? Etc etc…)
R is totally in AWE of TD as a GREAT FILMMAKER, whose work – as an ex-military man – he doesn’t understand AT ALL. Which just PROVES what a great filmmaker he is… Etc Etc… (I – having interviewed TD 30 years ago, in 1988, for City Limits – no longer have such illusions. Having gone in to his Peabody flat near Bunhill Row in 1988 thinking he was ‘great‘, I came out bewildered, believing he was just an oddball who happened – by accident – to have made a great film, but almost certainly wouldn’t again if he didn’t get over his weird obsession with the unmannerly behaviour of his neighbour’s children… which, 30 years on, he still hasn’t…)
But I digress…
I used, pre-stroke, to defer to TD. But now I see him as just another ME person (a sub-Donald Trump, in other words…). He just doesn’t CONCEIVE of a world in which HE isn’t the only person who matters. (In spite of invitations, for instance, he’s NEVER SEEN a film of mine. Why on earth would I? It’s not about ME…)
At first – at Christmas lunch – he was quite chipper, telling ‘jokes’. (We always ‘joke’ about Talking Pictures and how great/terrible it is…) But then – and this is SO, SO predictable for Mistley people – he became maudlin, saying: ‘I may not make another film…’ (OF COURSE HE WON’T! He’s 72…).
He bemoaned the fate of his latest, A Quiet Passion (which S, another ‘fan’, has seen twice and will again, not having quite ‘got’ it).
TD said: I promoted it and promoted it, I did cinema interviews etc etc… At one I did there were only 3 people there… And IT STILL WASN’T a smash hit…! What did I do wrong?
To which I said: D’you really want me to tell you why?
He: (dumbfounded) YES!
He: (disbelief) You REALLY think so?
I: I’ve got brain damage. What do I know?
So, just another Christmas lunch…