Monday, May 07, 2007

Knob Jokes with Germaine Greer and Sam Mendes

A friend went to Stratford to see King Lear, last week, and mentioned that Germaine Greer was in the front row. She was on her own (Greer, that is), and was apparently looking around all the time, nervously, presumably to make sure that everyone realised that she was Germaine Greer. I said to my friend something I've noticed before, that people who are forever the centre of attention (whether on TV,the guys who stand up and make presentations, or ASBO kids) are almost incapable of just sitting there, being quiet and watching something. So, it probably wasn't a surprise, given her famous person's-ADD, that she gives Lear such a scathing review. It reads like she was always intending to - and, inevitably, to concentrate on one thing, the naked Ian Mckellen. (Which, of course, is probably why the Guardian sent HER to review it in the first place.) My friend thought it was a er...pointless and gratuitous display, and thought that McKellen clearly just gets off on this. Like a reversal of those old Hollywood "no nudity" clauses, it would be, "I'm only doing this if I can get naked," "can't we go for underwear Sir Ian?, or subdued lighting." "Stark bollock, or the deal's off." Thanks to Extras I think we can now believe the worst of every actor and actress and actually be not too far from the truth. However, I also just watched "Jarhead", Sam Mendes film about the first Gulf war (the one after the invasion of Kuwait - we've since renamed the other first Gulf war as the Iran-Iraqui war). Obviously taking a single soldier's view of the conflict - it's from a memoir - is limiting; but how limiting! I tend to like watching war films (and boxing movies and gangster flicks), clearly in some sort of macho over-compensation for my bookishness, (and yes, there's a guy with glasses, who kind of messes up, and writes porno letters for the Major back to his wife back home), but "Jarhead" was very weak. Mendes' direction is his usual mix of competent fluidity, and episodic predictability - Hollywood clearly sees him as a safe pair of hands, he's certainly no auteur - but, in a film with hardly a woman to be seen, being in the US Marines around 1990 clearly involved mainly around making and responding to knob jokes. (In the showers. "Hey, it's like a penis, but smaller.") As my recent novella begins with a man waking up with an erection, perhaps I shouldn't criticise, but it seems the spirit of Donald McGill is alive and well and in a theatre or cinema near you.

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