Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Two films

Last week I went to see the touring production of Emma Rice's ingenious multimedia take on David Lean's film Brief Encounter. Afterwards I remembered that some years ago I had a stimulating argument with my friend Pavlovsky who, like me, had seen both the 1945 film and also a 1956 film called The Bespoke Overcoat.

We differed strongly about the relative virtues of the two, not so much in terms of their artistic merit—we found both of them satisfying—but as serious studies of aspects of the human condition.

Pavlovsky maintained that The Bespoke Overcoat dealt with the eternal verities of life, death and poverty, while Brief Encounter merely depicted hypocrisy and repression among the suburban middle classes and their obsession with respectability.

Nonsense, I said, Brief Encounter tackled profoundly the great themes of love and renunciation, and The Bespoke Overcoat was just an amusing bit of Jewish whimsy.

Looking back on the discussion, we were probably both right.