Monday, 10 April 2017

Beauty and the Beast

We had a lovely, and much-needed lie-in this morning before pushing off up to Muswell Hill in the blazing hot sunshine where we had lunch in a greasy spoon before taking ourselves to the grounds of Ali Pally with a cup of tea and a lovely doughnut. We spent a good hour there, lying on the grass, soaking in the sun in the green light. It was rather idyllic. There's a little open air cafe there, run by Italians, which was serving ice cream, and everyone seemed both thrilled and tremendously surprised that it felt like the height of summer. Londoners always seem to go mad for the sun. And whenever I see a scene like that, I'm always reminded of Adele's Hometown Glory: "I like it in the city when the air is so thick and opaque. I love to see everybody in short skirts, shorts and shades."

I learned last night that Ali Pally had been a key location in the UK's answer to the Summer of Love. There was apparently some sort of iconic festival/ love-in up there, which lasted an entire night and featured thousands of wannabe hippies taking acid and dope and getting well-and-truly battered 1960s-style. The following morning, the revellers all traipsed out onto the hillside leading up to the building and stared in awe at the views of London. Far out, man...

We came home, and I did a little work, before heading back to Muswell Hill to watch Beauty and The Beast. The cinema there used to belong to the Odeon Chain. It's a wonderful Art Deco building with glorious original features, but they'd run it into the ground. The loos smelt of mildew and stale piss, the heating was always broken and the chairs were threadbare and uncomfortable. There had been rather too many cheap refurbishments, very much like the majority of British service stations, which, if left how they were designed to look in the early 60s would be style-statements to end all style statements these days. Anyway, about a year ago, the cinema was taken over by Everyman, and high-end restored to resemble some kind of 1930s glamour palace. You sit on sofas. Waiters serve drinks and food. It's a proper experience. Well worth a visit. And not ludicrously expensive.

The film itself was fabulously diverting. I'm not sure Emma Watson was particularly well-cast as Belle. She has such dreadful diction and I would have liked a better singer who didn't rely so much on vocal processing. Also, her pronunciation of the letter d at the ends of words left a great deal to be desired. Very ugly, splashy t sounds. It really doesn't take a lot to train that nonsense out of your voice, and it's so much more of a delicate, sophisticated sound when you do.

It was nice to see Luke Evans singing again. Luke and I worked together on Taboo in the West End about a thousand years ago. He'd recently left drama school at the time and I was in my mid-twenties. He always had a stonkingly good voice, but his career in Hollywood has taken him further and further away from his triple threat theatrical roots.

It was delightful to hear Emma Thompson playing the teapot. I've actually never seen the cartoon, or the stage show, but I am hugely familiar with Angela Lansbury's iconic vocal on the show's title song. I can think of few actresses who would have been able to step into those enormous shoes so comfortably.

The sequence where the (once living) household objects become inanimate was one of the most distressing I've ever witnessed in the cinema! Right up there with Sophie's Choice and ET! I wept like a small child reading The Happy Prince for the first time.

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