Friday 7th February 2014
Thirty two years ago Janis and I went on our first 'date'. It was the traditional first date in the sense that it was a visit to the cinema. Back in 1982 we had gone to see 'Arthur', in those days you still had a support feature and on that particular night the support was about roller skating in London, the reason the subject remains in my mind but the title of the film has long since vanished is because of the soundtrack which featured The Kinks, Van Morrison and the Yardbirds, the film was being shown about fifteen years after the music had been popular.
Fast forward to last Friday and it is fair to say that if that first date had been as spectacularly wrong as our celebratory visit to the cinema we probably wouldn't be together to laugh at what happened. We had decided to go and see Inside Llewyn Davis the latest Coen Brothers film about a folk singer in New York at the beginning of the sixties. Actually persuading Janis to go involved listening to some Bob Dylan and the cause wasn't advanced much when she laughed during the song 'Down The Highway' and asked me "Do you have some highway shoes?" - this from a person for whom the first two Bruce Springsteen albums are the closest she has ever got to owning folk music.
Anyway having insulted his Bobness we set off to the local multiplex. Looking up at the posters that adorned the entrance there was no getting away from the fact that Inside Llewyn Davis was conspicuous by its absence. Nothing unusual in that, with ten screens and five 'studios' there isn't room for every film on the outside of the building. Inside though there still wasn't any sign of our hero, the electronic board listing all the films on show didn't feature him, the wall planner showing the seating arrangement for each screen/studio didn't feature him neither did the leaflet listing the films for the week commencing Friday 7th February 2014. That date rang loudly and clearly in my head. I had checked the previous day that the film was showing at 12:45 and 4:30 pm but hadn't noticed that the change over day was Friday. Llewyn Davis had left the building, guitar, cat and all.
We stepped outside. "Is there another film you want to see?" Janis asked. To be honest I wasn't even aware of any of the other films on show, none of the titles meant anything as we looked up at the posters, searching for inspiration in the same way we had searched for Llewyn Davis some five minutes earlier.
"That one," I said pointing up at the last but one film, "Matthew McConaughey is always good value, no idea what the film is about though."
Famous last words. The film opens with McConaughey's character Ron Woodroff
enjoying a threesome with two prostitutes whilst watching a rodeo event through the slats of the fence of the indoor hall. Over the next two hours we watch one of the great performances of recent times, an Oscar winning performance not just by one but by two actors as both McConaughey and Jared Leto as the transgender Rayon/Raymond make compulsive viewing.
According to many articles I have read since the film does take liberties with the truth but that doesn't make it any less compelling. McConaughey lost some 47 lbs in preparation for the role and Leto's character offers a sympathetic view of the HIV/AIDS world as stark relief to the macho world that the Ron Woodroff inhabits where gays are called faggots or cock suckers. When the two of them come together for business purposes the vulnerability of both takes the film to another level.
After the film finished we stepped outside the cinema, looked at each other and burst out laughing, not at the film or its subject but at the sheer absurdity of the situation. If we had been caught on camera coming out of a film dealing with this subject matter it would have taken some explaining but these things just happen. When we got home we discovered that we had actually been at the local premiere of the film indeed none of the national papers actually carried a full review until the Saturday morning - I promised however that next time we go to the pictures I will have a back-up plan that includes reading up on what the alternatives to our first choice might actually be about.