Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The Fall

How the weather changes from day to day. Although this is definitely Autumn (or Fall in the US) most of the trees still have green leaves. There's a horse chestnut that I can see from my window that has golden leaves but I can also see silver birch, hawthorn, magnolia and mountain ash with leaves still unturned. The temperature is 65, the sun is shining and the wind is still. Yesterday, the day was grey and wet. Solidly overcast, cool (about 50) and dark; the motor cars had headlights on all day. I didn't venture out but watched a couple of videos.

The first was an old Morse, the one about the masons set to the background of The Magic Flute. Marvelous music! Morse finds himself accused of murder. One of the villains was Hugh McDairmid who Star Wars fans will recognize as the villain in Episode 3. This was Morse at his best. For once he was not the most intelligent person on view. Of course, being Morse, he falls for, not one but, two women of a certain age. The first is murdered and the second wants to murder Morse. What is satisfying is that it is Lewis who is the hero.

The second was Young Adam. This is another of those Scottish movies starring Peter Mullen. Ewan MacGregor is a young drifter, Joe, working on a coal barge who finds a young woman's nearly naked body (Emily Mortimer) in the River Clyde. The fourth principal is Tilda Swinton (straight from Narnia and Constantine), she plays Ella, wife of Peter Mullen and apparently a downtrodden 1950s woman who has given up on life.

This is a bleak, unhappy movie. None of the characters are admirable. The enigmatic title seems to suggest this. These are people in whom the fall is self evident. Joe clearly knows something about the body in the Clyde. He treats it with a reverence uncharacteristic for a working man, and then at the tea table he eulogizes her in words too subtle, too poetic, too complicated for a working man. We learn that he is a failed writer who was once the live-in lover of Mortimer, but not before he has begun a blatant affair with Swinton behind the back of her husband.

This aspect of the film will put a lot of people off. The nudity is full frontal and the sex is ugly. I would not recommend this film to young people. Yet it does not titillate. The sex is cold and selfish. Joe is promiscuous. He seems to be able to charm any woman, rather in the way that Michael Cain did in Alfie, but without the humor. Joe performs coldly and efficiently. He betrays Swinton just as he as betrayed Mullen.

The film is very well crafted and the acting is tremendous. It won 4 Scottish Baftas and you can see why. But I kept imagining what Joe would be like now. He was born in, say 1936. He would be an old man of 70 were he still alive. I would expect him to be unmarried. He might be dead; if he'd continued smoking at this rate he probably would be. Probably he wouldn't have a home, but would drift from hostel to hostel, sometimes sleeping rough. He would still be drinking but no longer reading. He would have known many women but have loved none of them. Many women would have loved him, though more recently they would have coupled with him fro pity's sake rather than for love. Some of them may have borne his children but he would not know about that.

He would have been wandering all this time trying to forget that he had been born beautiful with brains. He had received an education. But he had eaten the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and chosen evil. He would still remember the face of the innocent man who had been hanged, whom he had declined to save when he might easily have done so.


Anonymous said...

Yeah, Morse is a gem. John Thaw, who played Morse, died not that long ago from esophageal cancer, from what I hear was perhaps due to somewhat heavy drinking. The last 'Morse', called I believe, "A Remorseful Day" (nice play on words), anticipated the good Inspector's death, but this time from a bad heart. I believe that Mr. Thaw and everyone else associated with Morse knew he was mortally ill, but that is just conjecture on my part.

So, cancer has taken another great from us. When will it end?

(BTW, I have all of the Morse's that are available on DVD in my collection. I've watched about 1/2 of them. I want to ration them so I can see the last on the day I pass away!)

Anonymous said...

magic carpet have also been seen in modern literature, movies, and video games, and not always in a classic context. In his comic fairy tale Prince Prigio, Andrew Lang makes one of the hero's christening gifts a magic carpet. Poul Anderson's Operation Chaos features an alternate America in which flying carpets are a major form of transportation, along with brooms. In Super Mario Bros. 2, an enemy named Pidgit rides on a flying carpet. A flying carpet is also a character in the 1992 Disney film Aladdin