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1 posts from December 2006

Dec 06 2006
Notes on a Scandal Comments (9)

I told an acquaintance that I’d just seen a great Judi Dench movie. Her reaction was that she wasn’t interested if it was a downer. What constitutes a downer—a movie whose themes are so relentlessly dark they con you into thinking the world is far worse than it is, or one whose themes are so realistic they force you to doubt the fantasy world where everybody lives, nobody cries and we really can all get along?

I guess both are downers. It just depends how far up you are to begin with.

I can understand moviegoers who roll their eyes at brutal Nihilism; though I’ve seen some great, gritty flicks of that ilk, I’ve seen a lot more pretentious examples of the bleak-chic genre.

But I’ll never understand why anyone with a brain and without serious issues of some kind would object to a dramatic film that does not shy away from the shadows of the human experience. I like to learn, and knowledge—while always handy—is not always a mood enhancer.

I think it might boil down to how we see our fellow man. People who think there is goodness in every person are likely to be the ones who don’t want to pay to spend a couple of hours being reminded, either realistically or surrealistically, that theirs is not a very sensible theory. Those of us who think there might be some goodness in most people, but that more to the point the word “human” is a synonym for “flawed,” are the ones who enjoy a good cry, a good fright or a good couple of hours with our stomachs in knots in the cinema.

We’re not brave, we’re just not scared; there’s a difference.


The great Judi Dench movie I saw a couple of nights ago is Richard Eyre’s Notes on a Scandal (Fox Searchlight), adapted from Zoe Heller's novel, and while some people have called it an art movie, I think it’s a very commercial movie with an arthouse star and a lot of British accents; there is nothing esoteric about it. In fact, its plot is as easy to grasp as reading a tabloid—its titular scandal involves Sheba Hart (Cate Blanchett), a beautiful blonde school teacher of 35 or so who sleeps with Steven Connelly (Andrew Simpson), a 15-year-old male student. The twist is that her closest confidante at the school, the film’s obscenely dry narrator Barbara “Bar” Covett (Dench), is secretly sexually obsessed with the scarlet woman herself despite being twice her age and exceedingly conservative.


Bar’s the kind of woman people are referring to when they say, “Oh, she’s probably asexual more than anything.” They never are.

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