Sunday, February 12, 2006

Don't Take No For an Answer

So embarrassing on Thursday, when I got into a sold-out screening on the coat-tails of two much more assertive companions. It was 'Shanghai Story', at the Vue Cinema in Leicester Square, on Thursday.

I arrived half an hour before the film was due to start and saw it had already sold out. I joined the queue all the same, because Susie Wong the organiser was supposed to send me tickets for several films, including the night before's gala, and they hadn't arrived.

The young woman at the box office looked through the envelopes, with no luck - all Chinese names. She even made a phone call to an office somewhere in the building. I had taken out my press card, only received only the week before on the strength of my Goldsmiths course, and a thin woman with a German accent who was standing nearby saw the card and heard the assistant tell me I could wait in the foyer untilt 'the organisers' arrived. From then on she stuck to me like a limpet, relating her backpacking adventures and asking me could I get her a ticket.

Next came Eva the French woman from my Chinese class, whom I'd arranged to meet. She stood in the foyer declaiming loudly about how much she wanted to see the film, why didn't they screen it more than once, she had come a long way, etc.. She also waylaid a couple of passing employees, one young man in particular to whom she gave several arguments as to why she should be let in. 'Oh, you see, it's a sell-out and it would be illegal to sell teh seats again', he explained.

Eva is tall and slender and has long hair with blonde streaks, despite being in her mid sixties. She was dressed in a long black coat and beret and with her French accent and imperious manner could well be mistaken for a former film star - Brigitte Bardot's less nubile sister, perhaps. She has the manner of someone who is used to getting her own way.

Then the troup of 'organisers; arrived, headed by Susie Wong, who is a little old lady now although I am told she is the original character on whom the Shirley MacLaine film was based. She look startled when I stopped her and told me I hadn't even asked for a ticket for this particular show. Meanwhile Eva was accosting a good-looking mid-thirties man whom I suspect ws Chris Berry, Susie's film consultant, who was escorting the pretty young female director. She was due to give a talk session at the end. He soon came back from the screen to say the auditorium had plenty of seats. At the start time the young employee escorted us, now twelve in number, to the audotorium. Not only did we get in, but it was free.

When I told Eva that I would never have been so pressing, she said 'Ah, but sometimes when you really want something you have to go all out to try!' Just to think, I usually just slink away with a shrug!

It wasn't a particularly good film - too much money put in by Shanghai companies, I expect, so there were some extraneous outdoor scenes which slowed the narrative, and it was too sentimental, in parts. I wasn't too sympathetic to a family who although they had been persecuted under the Communists seemed to have done quite well, still living in their original house in the French Concession district, albeit it sharing the kitchen now with an elderly couple. The old matriarch whose last illness had caused her children to gather had even managed to conceal some valuables from the Red Guards, although her husband had been killed.

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