Sunday 20 January 2008

Saturday slump

I don't watch a huge amount of telly. But when I do, I don't approach it in constructive, multi-tasking fashion. I don't knit, or iron, or mend things, or do anything useful at all. I simply slump. On a sofa. Surrounded by cushions, with my feet up on a stool, and a glass of wine to hand.

Sorry. It's not an edifying image. And it explains why, unlike some of my more industrious fellow bloggers, I have no sumptuous photographs of glorious scarves and socks and shawls to post here for your delectation. All I have to show for my telly-time is the odd cork or two and maybe, if I'm lacking in willpower, the wrappings from the fair-trade, dark chocolate cherry brandy liqueurs which the Mersea Co-op was selling off after Christmas at £1 a box. One pound!! A box!

Well, what's a girl to do, I ask you? That's about 5p a choc! And nowhere near their sell-by date yet. And delicious. And plain chocolate is immensely beneficial, medically speaking. Lowers blood-pressure and everything. I don't think it contains any calories, either. Well, not any I care to be informed about. So, anyway, I stockpiled.

And so the scene is set. I sort through the vast array of zappers, wondering which one will actually turn the telly on and select the channel I want to watch. I press a few buttons and, lo! It is ER!

Now I can't stand Casualty and I seriously hate Holby City and I avoid TV Soaps like the very plague. So why do I love ER with such devoted and undying passion?

It is, I assure you, nothing to do with the fact that it once starred George Clooney because - alone amongst women - I do not and never have found Mr Clooney attractive. In fact I find the general adulation of his acting abilities rather mystifying, too.

Goran Višnjić as Dr Kovac is an entirely different matter, however - I freely confess. Sigh. Yet he's not in the current series, and I'm as enthralled as ever. Maybe it's the lightening speed of the action, the quick-fire dialogue, the high-calibre acting, the intense, dense, claustrophobia of so much of it. Maybe it's the refreshing unslushiness (for a US production) of its handling of death, disaster and love. Perhaps its the non-formulaic approach to the construction of each episode. The show rarely looks tired or shows its age.

After ER it was time to enjoy that thrilling crackle as a brand new DVD was relieved of its cellophane. Inspired by the recent heartfelt outpourings from Kitchen-lovers over on Elaine's blog (Kitchen as in Michael Kitchen, that is) I acquired a copy of Stephen Poliakoff's early TV film Caught on a Train, starring the fascinating Mr K and the divine Peggy Ashcroft.

I've long been a fan of Poliakoff's work - especially Shooting the Past , Perfect Strangers , The Lost Prince and Gideon's Daughter - though I did find a couple of his most recent offerings a trifle hollow in comparison.

Caught on a Train, which dates back to 1980, when Poliakoff was only 28, did not disappoint. Everything about it is wonderful! The 'train-movie' scenario, with its deliberate echoes of The Lady Vanishes and Murder on the Orient Express , is the perfect setting for what is essentially a dialogue (with some bizarre and occasionally nightmarish interruptions) between Kitchen's character - a young publishing executive en route to a book fair in Linz - and Ashcroft's imperious Frau Messner - a feisty, domineering relic from a bygone age, who is travelling home to Vienna.

Kitchen is excellent - though it's interesting to note that how much more at home he seems with himself now that he's older. There were odd moments in this film when he almost appeared unsure of quite what to do with that extraordinarily expressive mouth, and the powerful gaze of his unusual eyes.

But the film is made - completely dominated and overwhelmed - by Peggy Ashcroft. Perfectly cast as the spoilt, fastidious but now impoverished daughter of a Nazi-sympathising family, she is absolutely stunning and immensely beautiful.

It's a great film, and compared with some of Poliakoff's later work, it's neither too grandiose in its ambition nor over-long in its execution. It must have been quite amazing to have encountered it when it was first aired (which unfortunately I did not).

I recommend it wholeheartedly.


Anonymous said...

I had quite forgotten about this wonderful work and can remember watching it when it was originally broadcast.
Many years ago I used to work with a young woman who was a friend of two young actors (also friends together)- Michael Kitchen and Stewart Wilson. This was about the time their careers were beginning to blossom and it was clear that she was confident that they would be successful. How right she was.

Rejuvenating Hands said...

Hi Juliet, I see we have a few things in common, one of them being Goran Visnjic. I know exactly what you mean about dear 'ole George...
take care

Juliet said...

T - well, your (LUCKY!) friend could clearly spot talent. They're both brilliant and both gorgeous. You didn't keep in touch with her by any chance, did you? Perhaps you could invite her (AND her FRIENDS, of course) over to the island one day . . . ?!

debz - hi and welcome. Just visited your blog and, gosh, see what you mean - I think you have an even more severe case of GV disease than I do!

Cath said...

Caught on a Train is brilliant, I completely agree. I did see it when it first came out and it doesn't seem all that long ago. And now we have Foyle and Mr. Kitchen, to my mind, is much yummier now than he was then.

Juliet said...

Cath - you're absolutely right - he's a very good example of a man who's improved considerably with age. Did you see him au naturelle in 'Falling'? Very yummy indeed!!!

Anonymous said...

I didn't see him in 'Falling', Juliet, as we were in America when it aired. Disappointing, as I hear it was very good. The last thing I saw him in (apart from Foyle) was a wonderful comedy drama called 'Alibi' where he accidentially kills his wife's lover. I wish he did more comedy drama as he's really superb at it.

Cath said...

Just to say that that last comment was 'me'. Didn't realise I wasn't signed in.

Juliet said...

Hi Cath - don't worry, I guessed it was! I didn't see Alibi - and it seems to be only in Region 1 format on DVD :(

Falling is available, though, on Amazon at -I really do recommend that you put it on your birthday/Christmas list - it's superb and you'll see MK as you've never seen him before (in various respects).