No poetry from me again today, just a small appreciation of a movie, the cinema in which I watched it, and a great little restaurant.
My wife had decided that on her birthday she would like to see a movie and go out for a meal. She is proud to share her birthday with President Lincoln (and Charles Darwin), so Lincoln was the obvious choice. Even though I had already been to see it with the older of my two sons, I was happy to see it again, but she said "no" we would go to see Les Misérables on our date-night.
Now whilst I had enjoyed Les Misrables on stage, I wasn't overly looking forward to the film. A few days earlier, I had heard, on the radio, an extract from the film of Anne Hathaway singing I Dreamed A Dream, and I have to say I was less than impressed...
But then we went to see the film, and how wrong could I have been? It was amazing. What I had failed to take into account when listening to the radio, was that I was not listening to a studio recording, optimised for radio or for CD, nor was I listening to theatre production by someone who was first and foremost a musical theatre star, I was listening to a live, on-set recording of the song, interpreted, by someone best-known as an actress, to compliment the mise-en-scène (Now there is a phrase I thought I would never use! Pretentious? Moi?).
Though I was impressed by the cast in general, and, in context, thoroughly enjoyed Ann Hathaway's singing, of those cast members not known as singers, the one that most impressed me was Russell Crowe. Given some of the comments I had read about Mr Crowe's singing elsewhere on the Interweb, I guess that was a salutary reminder to experience things for yourself, make up your own mind about things, and not worry about what everyone else (or the odd pundit with access to the media) thinks.
It is interesting to note some of the other people who might have appeared in the film: Scarlett Johansson, Hayden Panettiere, Evan Rachel Wood, Lea Michele, and Taylor Swift are all alleged to have auditioned for the role of Eponine alone. I cannot begin to imagine Taylor Swift taking on the role of Eponine, but I am immensely curious as to what Lea Michele would have done with it had she been selected. She has after all sung the role before (in Les Misérables in Concert at the Hollywood Bowl) and her first Broadway role was as Young Cosette. That however takes nothing away from my appreciation of Samantha Barks performance which was excellent.
In fact, my only disquiet with any aspect of the film was with the lengths to which Ann Hathaway appeared to have gone to immerse herself in the role. I was reminded of Sir Laurence Olivier's comment to Dustin Hoffman on the set of Marathon Man: "Dear boy, you look absolutely awful. Why don't you try acting? It's so much easier." (Hoffman has always maintained he was out partying at Studio 54 to take his mind off the failure of his first marriage, rather than just staying awake for days on end to get into character, but it's a good story anyway).
Suffice to say I thoroughly enjoyed the film, and at the end, though it may seem an odd reaction for a pair of dyed-in-the-wool atheists, I have to admit I squeezed her hand a little tighter when Hugh Jackman, as Jean Valjean, sings the beautiful words of Victor Hugo that entitle this posting.
Some research (okay, five minutes in Google) actually shows Hugo to be an incredibly quotable writer: change the pronouns and "He never went out without a book under his arm, and he often came back with two." could easily have been written about my wife and "The greatest happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved - loved for ourselves, or rather, loved in spite of ourselves." neatly encapsulates how she makes me feel about myself.
Today's first recommendation is obviously Tom Hooper's brilliant take on Les Misrables (and the only reason I not also recommending Victor Hugo's book is that I haven't actually read it - yet - it's on my mental list of "giant books to tackle one day [maybe when I'm retired]", below A Suitable Boy and above A La Recherche Du Temps Perdu and War And Peace).
My second recommendation is the the cinema in which we saw the film, the one pictured above. The Category "B" listed Dominion Cinema, is an independent cinema located in the Edinburgh suburb of Morningside. Sadly, the interior has been subdivided to create four screens, so you don't get to experience the original opulence or the drama of the big screen. You do however get a good (for a cinema) selection of beers, wines, soft drinks and snacks, and redefined opulence in the form of reclining seats or giant sofas and footstools, with tables for your drinks and snacks.
My final recommendation of the day is the restaurant we retired to after the movie: El Quijote. This unprepossessing place, which is a few minutes drive from Morningside, but within easy walking distance of West End entertainments (the Usher Hall, the Traverse, Lyceum and Kings theatres and the Filmhouse, Odeon and Cameo cinemas), is one of our favourite places to eat because it serves what we agree are the best tapas in Edinburgh.