Harry Potter and the Smoking Diptych

July 29, 2011 § 1 Comment

Or, My Two Most Recent Viewings:  Harry Potter, and Smoking/No Smoking.

I liked them both, in very different ways. I  would have preferred if the HP series had been a bit more thoughtful and a bit madder, made by someone like Tim Burton and making full use of his talent for weaving a dark fairy story. But the special effects are great, the story is exciting, the ’19 years later’ fulfilled all my needs for a happy ever after, and Rupert Grint (Ron) and Tom Felton (Malfoy) are great actors. I was sad not to see any Lavender Brown, actually, as I thought she and Helena Bonham-Carter were the only redeeming points of the sixth film.

Oh shh, they made loads of money, I’m sure they don’t mind if I’m a bit harsh.

Smoking/No Smoking was on for just two days – whereas we all know Harry Potter will be showing for the next ten years – at the BFI, which has awesome stuff all the time and is really worth a visit if you’re in London. It’s an adaptation of Alan Ayckbourn’s Intimate Exchanges, and is actually two films which follow the different chains of events set off by whether Mrs Teasdale has a cigarette or not. This is no Sliding Doors, though – Alain Resnais, the director, makes theatre-cinema, achieved by having two actors play all the parts (surprisingly subtle and adding a nice dose of irony) and limiting the camera’s reach – in Smoking, for example, we see the couple in their living room, but the shot is through the open window so that the audience doesn’t leave the garden, giving the illusion of a limited acting space. In my mind, this film has only two negatives:

1)      Both films are over two hours long, and to see them one after the other was a bit much. They’re so long because they include multiple ‘Or perhaps …’ scenarios. It’s a strange mix of realism and surrealism seeing that on screen, as it both reminds you that you’re definitely watching a fiction, and sticks more truly to the not-so-clear-cut nature of real life. While we’re talking about surrealism, the plays are set in Yorkshire, but the characters speak French. Just roll with it.

2)       I’m almost positive the film isn’t available on DVD. If I’m wrong, someone let me know where to get hold of a copy!

Have you seen Harry Potter? Did you like the series, and what would you have done differently?

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