Saturday, April 01, 2006

Syriana/tourists

I went to see Syriana on Thursday - very powerful - it makes real what you know abstractly is going on in the world and so it is more shocking than an article in the press. I thought it was a bit unnecessarily difficult to understand - as a lot of people have complained. I think I understood most of it, but often you were shown things happening and then later it was explained why. It wasn't necessary - SOME more explanation could have been given earlier, so that you could focus on what was happening rather than wondering about what you'd just seen. It was all complicated enough with overlapping stories. Apparently the publicity people realised how confusing it was because the press were given far more extensive notes than usual.

Clooney's role was that standard one in so many American films, the aging, experienced guy who doesn't like playing by the official rules and has little respect for his superiors, e.g. Dirty Harry. In this Clooney is warned not to cause trouble at an interview, but, after biting his tongue for a while, can't help telling the youngish black woman some home truths about the situation.

I didn't find it very plausible that, given his experience, he needed advice from an ex-colleague, but it helped with the explanation of what was happening. While Clooney played a less attractive role than many of his films, putting on some weight for it, he was presented as rather heroic, e.g. saying nothing in the torture scene, most people will at least give false information in such circumstances.

But it is great that a film like this is made at all - and in America; it's a powerful criticism of the existing system. All credit to Clooney for using his muscle in the business to help get films like this and "Goodnight and Good Luck" made.

After this I had a meal in Cafe Rouge in Soho, which has French waiters, but I'm afraid the one who greeted me lived up to the stereotype of French arrogance. He said there wasn't a table for one, yet we were standing by two tables for four, one with one guy, the other with a member of staff flipping through magazines! I pointed to the a free place at the member of staff's table and the waiter just wandered off. At the end I didn't leave a tip - and overcame my English tendency not to make a fuss and went up to the counter and in front of another waiter I said to him: "Next time use more imagination when I ask for a table for one, there were six free places there." He just stayed quiet and I walked out, glad I'd spoken out, the wine helped.

Having had a couple of glasses of wine I was into my easily annoyed Englishman mode :-) There was a party of Japanese partly blocking the pavement outside a theatre. I touched one guy's elbow - he was looking at his mobile phone in the middle of the pavement - and said "excuse me". At least he said "sorry" and got out of the way. Further on a group of young Italians was entirely blocking the pavement, so I just pushed through the middle - why should I risk my life walking in the road - some of the girls yelled something in Italian after me - tourists !

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