Thursday, June 23, 2011

Kicking over the Traces

I saw two films recently that appealed quite independently of any inherent merit; they reminded me that film for me is chiefly an escape into another world, enhanced (ideally) by womb-like warmth, darkness and silence except for what's happening on the screen.

In Water for the Elephants a would-be vet is just about to sit his final exams in a sepia-tinted library, where it seemed the students sat so close round oak tables they couldn't help but see one another's answers. Just as he's unscrewing his fountain pen some fusty old men in suits arrive to say his father is dead. Cut to where lawyers are explaining his father's farm is forfeited to pay debts. Cut to him jumping on a moving freight train at night and nearly gets beaten up - it transpires that he's leapt aboard a circus train.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Stranger Tides starts with Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow arrested for disguising himself as a judge. He ends up, manacled to a chair, in front of a bewigged Richard Griffiths as King George, in the wonderful painted hall at Greenwich Naval College. Cut to his escape in a coach through the grounds, with a startled dowager Judi Dench, then he's driving a truck of burning coals and scattering the street crowd.Cut to some sword play in a tavern. Cut to scrubbing the deck on a pirate ship, with the bosun's whip whistling round his ears.

I think you can forgive films almost anything if the openings are as exhilarating as this - minimal preparation and straight into the action. I came away from both regretting that I hadn't run away to the circus or to sea. Either seemed to promise a life that was colourful, companionable and full of incident.

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