Monday 15 August 2022

Marriage and a Postcard

 Now I'm no longer paid to watch the stuff, I seldom look at anything new on television. Rashly tuning in to the new BBC1 drama Marriage last night reminded me how little I'm missing. Lord, it was dreadful, about as exciting as watching paint dry, and far less good for the soul. The dialogue, what there was of it, was often inaudible (as is the fashion these days), and vast oceans of time passed while nothing happened apart from someone tackling a sachet of tomato ketchup or mayonnaise with their teeth, or walking to or from a car, getting into or out of it, joining a queue, standing about, zzzz... And it was as mystifying as it was dreary – as is also the fashion, as if forcing us to work out what is going on somehow makes whatever it is intrinsically more interesting (it doesn't and it ain't). After about three quarters of an hour, a potentially interesting storyline finally hove into view when we met a young woman who we are asked to believe is the adopted daughter of the couple whose Marriage this is, though there was no chemistry whatsoever among the three of them. The daughter's new boyfriend is apparently a coercive controller, but I shan't be watching to find out how that, or anything else in this dreary drama, plays out. As usual, good actors (Nicola Walker, Sean Bean) were wasted in this, let down by a woefully inadequate script and a lifeless production. 
  As it happened, the night before I had caught Clive James: Postcard from Paris, a film he made in 1989. It was a reminder of how much fresher and faster and smarter this kind of thinking man's travelogue was in those days. No sooner had he arrived in Paris than Clive was being driven around the streets of Paris at suicidal speeds by Françoise Sagan, no less. It was edge-of-seat stuff, and it was hard to work out how on earth they managed to film it, let alone how it got past the lawyers. Things quietened down a bit after that, but there were none of the longueurs that punctuate similar films today, and none of the silly stunts that producers feel obliged to inflict on presenters (see Michael Palin, Portillo et al.). And of course, Clive James being Clive James, the script, if sometimes glib, was intelligent, insightful and funny. There'll never be another – and if there was, he wouldn't be allowed to make films like Postcard from Paris

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