strange_complex: (Claudia Cardinale car)
I spent a lovely girly evening with [ profile] ms_siobhan last night. First, we went to Jino's for delicious Thai food and a good natter, and then we proceeded to the Cottage Road cinema for the latest in their series of classic film evenings.

As usual, we started with some pre-film vintage goodies. The Cottage must have bought in a job lot of Rowntree's chocolate adverts, as they were pretty high in the mix. We were tempted by the likes of Black Magic, Kitkat, Matchmakers and Smarties - and I'm afraid I shattered [ profile] ms_siobhan's childhood illusions by informing her that the latter no longer come in cylindrical packets topped by a brightly-coloured plastic cap with a letter of the alphabet on it. We also saw an advert for Nimble, one of the world's first really successful diet foods - in this case, a bread whose lightness was demonstrated by a lady floating off in a hot-air balloon.

Best of all, though, was a late '60s advert for an Italian sparkling wine called Gancia. When the in-laws come round, the advert advised us, "Try to afford Gancia!". Apparently, it cost £1/6/3 at the time, which judging by this inflation converter means it would now cost about £18.00 (depending on exactly when in the late '60s the advert was made). Can we afford that, people? We'll try our best, anyway.

To round things off, we then had a Pathé news reel, featuring a youthful Prince Philip on a visit to Hollywood. He seemed not to be doing anything too embarrassing, but [ profile] ms_siobhan did wince when we saw him being given a commemorative Wesson rifle! Luckily, no-one seemed to have lost any limbs as a result.

I didn't think I'd seen the film itself before, but it turned out I had seen at least the first part on TV. I was just confused by the fact that it is in colour - still pretty unusual in 1953, and the reason I'd assumed that the film which I remembered couldn't have been the same one. The producers were clearly making the most of the opportunities offered, too, as we were treated to lots of brightly-coloured clothes, make-up and indeed one bright yellow vintage car. It is well worth watching for those aspects alone, actually - although [ profile] ms_siobhan and I differed as to whether we preferred Dinah Sheridan's large circle skirts (me) or Kay Kendall's pencil-skirted suits (her).

The main plot concerns two couples participating in the annual London-Brighton vintage car rally. One pair are a respectable married couple, and the other a loveable rake and his latest beau, with much of the plot concerned with playing their rather different lifestyles off against one another. Each couple has its own tensions, but they also end up sucked into a greater rivalry - the urge to beat the other couple in a race back from Brighton to London. Cue all sorts of adventures and scrapes (some of them rather literal) as they run their ancient and eccentric cars as hard as they can manage, getting into trouble with the police, herds of sheep and angry fellow-drivers along the way.

[ profile] ms_siobhan and I were quite surprised to find pre-marital sex being referenced at one point, when the husband from the married couple began getting all jealous about the prospect that his wife might have been 'involved' with the loveable rake before they were married, and she retorted that surely he wouldn't have wanted to marry a woman with absolutely no experience! But it was also made fairly clear that she was really just trying to wind him up to serve him right for being jealous, though, so perhaps that was enough to make the reference acceptable. Other than that, though, the main tone was light-hearted comedy, revolving around slapstick antics with the cars, the ladies' exasperation with their male companions' car geekery, and the perils of the Worst Hotel in Brighton - run by a fantastically prim and pernickety Joyce Grenfell.

Touching, funny and replete with 1950s goodness, you can hardly go wrong with this film. Definitely another winner from the Cottage.

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strange_complex: (Asterix Romans)
Seen with [ profile] ms_siobhan, [ profile] planet_andy and [ profile] big_daz at the Cottage Road cinema. IMDb page here.

Yup, it's another of the Cottage Road Classics. The evening of course began with the usual vintage adverts. We were informed that Shell has the power to lubricate, and that Bobbi perming solution would not give us kinky curls. We also got to see some gloriously 1970s adverts for Coke and shoes, the latter featuring Lulu in some cracking flares. And there was a Fairy liquid ad from the 1950s, featuring a young girl who wanted her mother's used Fairy bottles to play skittles with. That one hardly felt like a novel and exciting view into the past, though, since Fairy draw so much on their advertising back-catalogue anyway in a drive to create a sense of nostalgia and tradition around their product that we are still seeing scenes just like it on our TVs every day.

The film itself is a French comedy classic. Actually, I'd never heard of Monsieur Hulot before this showing came up, but apparently the character was a HUGE phenomenon in his day, with a whole series of films and a massive popular following. More recently, the films have provided direct inspiration for Mr. Bean, both in the sense of presenting a central character who is awkward and accident-prone, and in the sense that they have very little dialogue - mainly just gestures, facial expressions and occasional trivial chatter.

M. Hulot is definitely not the same as Mr. Bean, though - thank goodness, because I can't stand Mr. Bean. Where Mr. Bean is creepy, childish and mean-spirited, M. Hulot manages to seem quite sweet and well-meaning even while he is also gauche and absent-minded. I've never felt the slightest scrap of sympathy for Mr. Bean - only an urgent desire to change channel or, failing that, leave the room. But though M. Hulot certainly does things which are annoying (like inadvertently setting off an entire shed-full of fireworks while everyone else is trying to sleep), he does also at least try to be polite and gentlemanly and thoughtful. He even turns out to be unexpectedly good at tennis - not because he has any real skill, but because he faithfully mimics some rather odd racket movements demonstrated to him by the lady in the tennis shop, and they turn out to be a winning formula. By the end of the film, quite a few of his fellow vacationers have had enough of him, mainly because of the fireworks. But others bid him fond and enthusiastic farewells, in terms which suggest that they've secretly rather enjoyed his little antics.

The film has no plot as such, which is why dialogue isn't really necessary. But it more than makes up for that in characterisation. It comes across as an extended bout of high-quality people-watching, interspersed with idyllic shots of a French seaside town and overlain with lilting summery music. We simply follow M. Hulot and his fellow holiday-makers about their day to day business, dropping in and out of people's conversations, picking up on their funny little quirks, and then shifting our attention onwards. The little boys playing naughty tricks on the beach, the bossy mother, the pretentious intellectual, the young woman in search of romance, the jolly English tennis coach, the bored restaurateur, the military veteran reliving his greatest moments. They're all lovingly sketched out and beautifully played off against one another.

It's a tradition at the Cottage to round off classic film nights by playing the national anthem and projecting a picture of the Queen (or occasionally one of her predecessors) onto the screen. In deference to our French cousins, though, this time we had the Marseillaise and a picture of the Arc de Triomphe instead! And then it was out into the evening air (and a huge cloud of dandelion-seeds) to walk home, laughing once again over all our favourite moments. The moment when he got a stuffed fox stuck on his riding-boot; the moment when he was flipped into the harbour by a tow-rope; the deflating tyre at the funeral; the man who dropped his pen in a fish-tank, carefully rolled up one sleeve but then accidentally stuck the other arm in to retrieve it; the paint tin washed in and out by the tide; and so on and so forth. Not the sort of comedy I usually think of myself as liking - but somehow here done just right.

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strange_complex: (ITV digital Monkey popcorn)
I saw this last night at the Cottage Road cinema with [ profile] ms_siobhan, [ profile] planet_andy and Rachel WINOLJ (AFAIK). It was another of the Cottage's Classic film nights, like when we went to see Meet Me in St. Louis before Christmas, so once again we were treated to adverts from the 1950s to the 1980s before the film - though not, alas, a Pathé news reel this time. We got instructions on how to behave at a drive-in movie, two Hamlet cigar adverts, a very surreal cereal advert featuring a couple dressed as the people in the American Gothic painting singing about how great their cornflakes were, and a seductive soft-focus advert all about the pleasures of eating Wall's ice-cream in the sun, with a heavy emphasis on the posterior of a female bicyclist wearing tight blue satin hot-pants.

The film itself is an Ealing comedy. I didn't think I knew it, but recognised the plot point about trying to smuggle gold bullion out of the country disguised as souvenir Eiffel towers, so maybe I have seen snippets of it on TV at some point. Anyway, it was great, especially on the big screen, with lots of comic misdemeanours, farcical chase scenes and cracking characters. I especially liked the game old lady in the boarding house who had picked up loads of criminals' slang from reading detective novels; and the scene with Alec Guinness and Stanley Holloway desperately attempting to leap on a cross-channel ferry, but having to work their way through a series of bureaucratic ticket officials, passport controllers, customs officers and foreign exchange dealers first. It reminded me painfully of some of my experiences in Schiphol airport, which it seems to be impossible to negotiate via anything other than a painful combination of mad dashes and frustratingly-slow queues.

The end credits threw up a surprising link with the last film I watched, too. I'd thought one of the characters in the opening scene looked rather like Audrey Hepburn, but assumed that it couldn't be, since her role was so minimal - all of about 10 seconds and two lines. But, sure enough, the credit list confirmed that it was indeed her, two years before she shot to fame in Roman Holiday. Her very brief scene is in this Youtube clip if any of you would like to see it for yourselves.

Finally, we were once again invited to stand and salute for the national anthem - but this time it was George VI who was projected on the screen in front of us, rather than a youthful QEII like last time. The film stock was clearly very old, as you could hardly make him out through the dust and scratches, but there he was in glorious technicolor with a Union Jack flying proudly behind him.

Another brilliant evening out, and once again I can't wait for the next time.

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strange_complex: (ITV digital Monkey popcorn)
I saw this on Wednesday evening at the Cottage Road Cinema with [ profile] ms_siobhan, [ profile] planet_andy and [ profile] big_daz. Classic film nights are a regular feature at the Cottage Road Cinema, and it's not just the film itself you get to see, but a Pathé news reel and some period adverts as well. It was ace! We saw news items about a new cable-car being opened in Wales, and another about Russian plans to import British cattle for breeding, the not-terribly-subtle subtext of both being effectively "Three cheers for good old Blighty, and down with everyone else!" Then we saw adverts for local fabric shops, record emporia and restaurants, all conveniently located in Caernarfon in the early 1960s. Finally - and best of all - we were wished a very Happy Christmas and a Gay 1964 - in tinsel. Whereupon I had no option but to punch the air in post-ironic joy.

Also, there was a film! I've seen isolated chunks of it before, as you do when channel-hopping, so knew I was in for a lavish technicolor Saint Judy-fest (as [ profile] ms_siobhan quite rightly calls her) - and in that I was not disappointed! I was kind of assuming the film would turn out to have some kind of a plot when seen all in one go, but honestly the efforts in that direction were a bit half-hearted, really. It's more like a series of set-pieces, and quite a few turns of events never really get explained or followed up properly. Not that that matters, because the set-pieces are ace. I think I possibly liked Saint Judy beating up the insipid, generic boy next door best of all... though it was a bit more disappointing when she later agreed to marry him. :-( Also, there were some great lines - especially from the little kid, Tootie. Like, "I have to have two kinds of ice cream. I'm recuperating." So, really, who cares about the plot.

Finally, as the credits rolled, the Cottage Road Cinema put the last touch to the period-appropriate atmosphere by playing 'God Save the Queen', and projecting a youthful picture of Her Madge onto the screen. And because it was the kind of place where everyone was really getting into the Classic spirit of the thing and doing the same, [ profile] big_daz and I stood up. It made for a perfect end to the evening - and I can't wait for the next one.

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Doctor Who

Saturday, 9 June 2007 19:53
strange_complex: (TARDIS)
Well, that was a bit gaze-y an' all, after The Elephant Man last night. And very clever, too.

In fact, I will come right out and say that I think the current season of Doctor Who is, in a different way, now actually as good as Buffy at its best. That's pretty much the highest accolade I can think of for a cult TV series. I'm astonished and enrapt every week.

On a not-very-related note, you've all seen the Irn-Bru Goths advert, right? If not, clicky-clicky. It's so cute.

strange_complex: (Default)
I've been wanting to post the following scan of a postcard I brought back from Hong Kong for ages, largely for the benefit of [ profile] gamahucheur, whom I know collects similar posters / postcards from Shanghai. However, until [ profile] angeoverhere told me about Photobucket, I believed I had no way of hosting it to post it up here (at least, not without spending money!).

Now that the problem is solved, I present my favourite one out of three postcards I bought, reproducing advertising posters of the 20s and 30s from Hong Kong. They are basically all along the same lines: they show pretty, Chinese girls using Western-style products, which are generally cigarettes or alcohol. The reason this one is my favourite, though, is the expression on the girl's face. While the others look demure and beautiful, this one offers just the hint of a sulk. She looks for all the world as though she's saying, "You took my country away, and all I get is these lousy cigarettes".

Picture under here )
strange_complex: (Default)
Cool! I just saw an advert for Wanadoo, who have obviously launched some kind of new music service. It featured a middle-aged, grey office guy going round the office and then into a meeting, with his face painted up like Gene Simmons! Wicked! Every now and then, he would stick his tongue out, in a very post-modern, 'I am not a sex god at all' kind of way.

The music for the ad, sadly, was not KISS, however. I know I recognised it when I saw the ad, but I've forgotten what it was now. All kind of faded from my mind next to the suit in Gene Simmons make-up.

*wanna see it again now!*


strange_complex: (Default)

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