When We Were Very Young

For reasons that escape me, a number of years ago I bought a boxset of Daphne Du Maurier novels. I must have thought this was good plan, because I then bought a second, and a couple of novels not included in either. I also bought the collection which contains the story that was the basis for ‘Don’t Look Now’. The most Hitchcockian of novelists – with perhaps the thought that Du Maurier was a Cornish Patricia Highsmith. The grand plan, being anal, was to read the novels in chronological order of publication, but that never happened and the boxes sat by my bed, gathering dust. So I picked another one at random. Du Maurier Plaque

Daphne du Maurier, I’ll Never Be Young Again (1932)

I’ll Never Be Young Again is very much a book of two halves. In the first, Call-Me-Dick is about to throw himself into the Thames, having been estranged from his Famous Author Father for writing pornographic poetry. For the sake of the first person narration, he is rescued by Jake, a young man recently released from jail having served a sentence for manslaughter. The two decide to go to Scandinavia — partly working their passage, partly tourists. Call-Me-Dick is plainly a dick, he being miserable and contrariwise half the time and it’s a wonder that Jake doesn’t drop him in the nearest fjord at the fjirst opportunity.

In the second half, he settles in Paris, initially adrift, sacked from job after job, pretending to be a writer, and set up at first by selling his rights to the pornographic poems. Think Henry Miller without the explicit sex scenes. Somewhere along the line he picks up an American music student, Helva, who becomes his partner and muse and is generally messed around by Call-Me-Dick.

It’s a brave thing, to have a protagonist and first person at that who is such a whiny. It’s pretty episodic, of course, with a vague theme of growing up and becoming accepted by one’s father. Jake isn’t sure he wants Call-Me-Dick to grow up — perhaps he’s a bit of a manchild too.

What would have made the characters grow up? There’s no shadow of war on the scene — assuming CMD is twenty in 1932 (when the novel was published), he would have been two to six when it took place. Too young to fight, obviously, but still a shadowy memory? If it’s set even earlier, then even more of a memory. I began assuming that there was a Victorian setting — the manslaughter, the fog on the Thames — but there’s a gramophone and then there’s cars and the characters go to the cinema. Early twentieth century then? Are there mentions of phones at the end? It’s all a little … closed in.

Inevitably, there’s some amateur psychoanalysis to undertake – du Maurier, the bisexual, putting herself into the viewpoint of a man who moves from effete to pugilist (Jake was a boxer, who defended a young woman’s honour, incidentally.) there’s a sense of CMD being picked up by Jake and an odd love-hate attitude to the sailors, a sense of CMD throwing himself at the ladies that I don’t think Jake echoes.

The novel, in that alibi-ing, disavowing dance, even has a character ask CMD:

“Are you a sodomite?” […]
“No, I haven’t sufficient rhythm.”

Oscar Wilde was accused of “Posing as a sodomite” (or, rather, a somdomite, the Marquis of Queensbury being presumably better at rules than spelling). Late in the novel, we learn that CDM’s dialogue in his novel (or is it his play?) is meant to be Wildean. Hmm.

This is a mixed bag — some exciting scenes of action, some dull scenes of domestic life, a very weird ending where the joke seems to be on Dick. But, after all, this was her second novel.

Gucci Gucci Goo

Blood Cells (Joseph Bull and Luke Seomore, 2014)

So there’s a moment when a character in this film explains to someone that the light from those stars was shining years ago and has only just arrived — then and now. For that matter, the light from the cinema screen left microseconds ago — then and now. And the film was made a year or so ago — then and now. Cos that is just like memories innit — then and now.

So Adam (Barry Ward), the first man, the elder son, is haunted by the death of his father some years ago due to fall out from the BSE crisis and frankly he’s gone off the rails. There is no farm any more, he’s got a string of women across the UK and still does bits and pieces of casual farmwork. But now, Aiden, the younger son, is having a baby, or his partner is, and Adam’s got to go home and get his shit together.

So obviously he looks up old friends and ex-lovers, because that’s the best way to get one’s shot together. There’s hitchhiking past pylons, there’s bus journeys past pylons, there’s car journeys past pylons and there’s taxi rides past pylons and there’s walking past pylons.

If you like pylons, then we have a movie for you.

The rest of us not so much.

Shit gathering seems to involve much drinking and gate crashing birthday parties of 18 years olds and hanging out with jailbait girls. Adam seems to prefer young women — although the woman in Rhyl is not quite that young. I guess he hasn’t quite grown up — and we see Adam and Aiden in flashback as children too. Then and now.

We get a lot of shots of characters from behind — which is as well because Ward kept reminding me of Greg from the 1970s version of Survivors. The back of the neck keep us focused. Of course, if he were a Sontaran he’d have a probic vent that we could use to knock him out. Ward has one of the finest back of necks I’ve seen all week.

So it turns out this was a debut film — and whilst the debut Slow West was a long 84 minutes because it was packed with details, this is a looooooooooooooooong 86 minutes because it’s packed with the back if necks and bloody pylons and windfarms for variety.

So it also turns out that Gucci funded this micro budget film as part of the Venice Biennale and it’s the first British film to be so funded. I hoping it’s the last as Gucci should stick to fragrances rather than film making because this is a stinker.

Imagine if filmmakers made fragrances. HAL9000 by Kubrick. Competition with The Duke of Burgundy, which listed its perfumes as I recall. And was Citizen Kane in comparison.