The Church Of Me
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Kissing in the churchyard, I know a righteous woman

Monday, January 14, 2002
Today, readers, just for a change, I'm going to talk about death. No doubt this is already the most morbid of all blogs, but if blogs are by definition self-indulgent (and what form of expression isn't?), then the contours have to reflect and trace, if not yet supersede, the turnings of one's own life.

Now, an artefact such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer would normally not come within a continent of the Church of Me, but having watched last week's episode (where she finds her mother dead of a brain aneurysm; nearly all of the episode is taken up with the reactions of her family and friends) it is astonishing that from the most unexpected of quarters there should come an absolute understanding of the turmoil in the minds of those left behind when a loved one dies. It was all there; the numbness in sorting out her wardrobe and choosing her burial dress, the split-minute fantasy of the paramedics being able to revive Buffy's mother, only to be dashed by reality, and - most powerfully expressed in the necessarily removed persona of Anya - the confusion and complete inability to deal with what has happened. Not knowing the routine. Not knowing how one is supposed to react. The sudden yet slow elasticity of time.

That having been said, judging by the final shot it's likely that next week they will try to revive her. Nonetheless, even if you were unfamiliar with the pretext of the series, you should still find this a powerfully expressive work of dramatic art.

Possibly more so than "Last Orders," the film. Based upon, but rather condensing, Graham Swift's novel (which in turn anglicised the plot of Faulkner's "As I Lay Dying") about four old Bermondsey geezers who drive to Margate to scatter the ashes of their butcher colleague Jack into the sea, reminiscing about their collective and individual pasts as they go, and reassessing their responses to love, time and mortality. Most of the dialogue has survived into the film. Although beautifully photographed and cinematically coherent, some of the "meat" of the book has gone by the wayside. In particular the failed boxer/fruit-and-veg merchant Lenny seems to have lost an awful lot of his subplots (particularly relating to his daughter) which is a shame as David Hemmings is perhaps the most potent presence in the work (eyebrows worthy of Francis Bacon). But Caine, Courtenay, Hoskins, Winstone and Mirren all give good accounts of themselves (as do the actors/actresses who play their younger selves) and it is a pretty moving film, albeit possibly slightly contrived in its "low key"-ness. I personally found the sequence where they stop off at Canterbury Cathedral very affecting, if only because I remember L and I walking through those same cloisters, down Butchery Lane and through the town just two summers ago, when everything was still good. As a pilgrimage it doesn't match the vision of Powell and Pressburger's "A Canterbury Tale" but it certainly should be seen, provided you read the book straightway afterwards.

Nice, also, to see a sympathetic view of the working classes given the crap generally written about them in soaps and in the media in general. The idiots who scribble for the Sunday Times should take particular note - except of course they gave their film of the week spread to Marky Mark in Rock Star.


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