February 11th, 2012

The Woman In Black (1989)

Susan Hill hated it.

Why?

No idea. Perhaps it annoyed her that it was so much better than the book.

That's unfair. You haven't read the book.

I've read other other things by her. I found them unsatisfactory. 

And the film is satisfactory?

Very much so. The scariest thing ever committed to celluloid.

Really?

Well, there are other contenders, but this is a neglected gem. 

Explain.

Lots of atmosphere. A meticulous recreation of period (early 1920s). Low-key, naturalistic acting.  An inspired choice of locations. A slow build up of tension, a slight releasing of tension (very cunning) and then the most tremendous shock. Followed by a scarcely less tremendous aftershock. The film makers  (writer : Nigel Kneale, director: Herbert Wise) have understood how the classic ghost story works. The principle is very simple: the more we believe in the world we're being shown the more we'll believe in the supernatural incursions- and the more frightening we'll find them.

Are you saying the remake is unnecessary?

I haven't seen it, so no. But I'll bet it's not as scary. 

Prince Charles On Hubert Parry

Prince Charles was on TV last night, presenting a programme about the composer Hubert Parry.

I can't get terribly excited about Parry. To me he sounds like wallpaper. Pink floral wallpaper with big, droopy roses. 

As for Charles-  how sure he is of his reception, how endearingly he twinkles, how wry his mouth becomes when it has to utter disagreeable words like "Modernism" and "Stravinsky"!   If it weren't for composers like Parry, he said, we wouldn't understand the human condition.

Hello, Head of Arts Programming? We haven't met, but I'm an old man with time on my hands and a thing about Victorian music. (No, sorry, I don't have any relevant qualifications). Please give me half an hour in the middle of the evening to talk about a composer who doesn't get played any more.