Pepper on my Paprikash

One of those wonderful moments today. I say wonderful; probably only wonderful for a Film Geek like me who has rethought her Uber Film list. It is a special feeling to find your current Number One usurped by an old favourite. An old reliable that’s plodded along quite nicely for years in my top ten has suddenly nabbed the top spot, previously filled at various points by the following films: Waterloo Bridge, Back to the Future, Beauty and the Beast and Gone With the Wind. But out of nowhere, When Harry Met Sally has sped past these pretenders and crowned itself as Emily’s New Favourite Movie.

I have seen When Harry Met Sally a thousand times, just as everybody else has. Like John Hannah says of The Beatles in Sliding Doors – you learn the lines from this film in the womb, they are so iconic. I was three when it came out, but the same thing sort of applies. For various reasons I felt it deserved a rewatch today ~ I am procrastinating horribly, as leaving my lovely flat very soon and must pack. Am currently surrounded by boxes filled with books (how do I have so many? Four boxes packed so far) ~ but I digress.  I find myself quoting lines from this movie to help friends through life’s problems.You are a bloke who spoiled his girlfriend rotten at the beginning of the relationship but now want to cool it off?

“That’s why I have never taken anyone to the airport at the beginning of a relationship. Because eventually things move on and you don’t take someone to the airport and I never wanted anyone to say to me, How come you never take me to the airport anymore?”

You have a friend who is seeing someone in a relationship?

“I don’t think he’s ever going to leave her.” “Nobody thinks he’s ever going to leave her.” “You’re right, you’re right, I know you’re right.”

You’re scared you’re going to die alone?

“I’M GOING TO BE FORTY.” “When?” “SOMEDAY.” “In eight years.” “But it’s there. It’s just sitting there, like some big dead end. And it’s not the same for men. Charlie Chaplin had kids when he was 73.” “Yeah, but he was too old to pick them up”

You see someone who is having an orgasm in a deli?

“I’ll have what she’s having.”

I think it is unnecessary to explain the story, but I shall quickly brush over. Harry Burns (Billy Crystal) and Sally Albright (Meg Ryan) meet as university graduates and immediately rub each other up the wrong way. Years pass and they frequently bump into each other and a close friendship forms, despite Harry’s previous insistence that men and women could never be friends because sex always get in the way. These two seem to buck that trend. For a while, at least…

I shall not reveal what happens, just in case you haven’t seen it. But you must see it. It is such a wonderful film and sparks so many conversations. Can men and women just be friends? I, for one, have many male friends. And I love them all. But not in that way. I just love male company. Sex doesn’t always have to get in the way. But what if you do fall for a friend? And they fall for you too? Is this the ideal relationship? Yes perhaps, in theory. TV in particular is littered with these couples: Nick and Jess, Daisy and Tim, Ross and Rachel, Ted and Robin. But ultimately, if it goes wrong – you run the risk of losing a friend. And that is a little heartbreaking.

When the friend that you fall for is just that – your friend – it is very easy. They do not ask anything from you, they understand your foibles and can deal with them. I think this is perhaps why people fall for their friends. They seem like a lovely uncomplicated option, as opposed to partners who ask for your time, for commitment and honesty. Friends don’t tend to push that. Meh, you are what you are and I like you that way. But this is the thing. When a friend crosses over into a potential partner (and I have seen this happen so many times) it will become complicated. When a friendship has turned into something else, those people have every right to ask for your time, commitment and honesty. As trying as it is when you have a friend who takes days to answer messages, cancels plans and is somewhat vague – and believe me, I have many male friends like this, it does seem to be more of a male affliction than a female one – it suddenly starts to matter a lot more when that person becomes your partner because you need to know what the ecky thump is going on. And suddenly it’s not easy anymore. Suddenly you don’t look so uncomplicated, because you’re asking for things just as a girlfriend would. You’re not just the friend who pitches up for beers every few weeks, has a laugh and lets it pass if a few messages go unanswered. And suddenly it seems that you’re not so attractive.

There was a lovely moment on New Girl‘s last episode. Jess loves her birthday and is hoping her boyfriend (previously friend) Nick has planned something exciting for her day. He hasn’t (he has organised a surprise party, but not until 7. He was hoping to sleep until then). Jess is unaware of this and is baffled when his exciting plans for her day involve her getting a diabetes test and picking up rocks in the park. She affirms that she never wants to be the type of girlfriend who demands something of her man, or is seen as high maintenance. As long as he’s tried, that’s all she cares about. But as the day goes on and she is more and more disappointed by his lack of preparation, she tells him that he’s ‘doing great’ then promptly runs off for a little cry. Women who get together with their male friends (and I’m sure it works similarly the other way round or in same sex relationships) are constantly trying to tread the line between being uncomplicated, cool and breezy (ie: the women that these men fall in love with) and not feeling as though they’re doing so at the expense of their own self respect. Or at the risk of feeling walked over. We cannot always just be ‘cool with it’ if we feel we are not being treated well. We have heard many of our male friends moan about girls in the past – too needy, too moody, too angry and we are terrified of being thought of that way. But at what point is enough enough? At what point do we say “er, actually – I do ask for your honesty, your time and commitment” without the fear of being dumped? I think the friend/relationships that work are the ones that get past that point. That transcend from asking for nothing to mutual respect.

Friends falling in love should be the best thing in the world. But it is important to remember to treat that person with the same level of respect as you would do with anyone else you enter into a relationship with; a woman you met at a bar, a man you bumped into in a museum. Crossing the line from one thing to another is very difficult and requires care. But with honesty and communication it can be done. And to prove it, I leave you with this speech from the film that inspired this blog.

“I love that you get cold when it’s 71 degrees out. I love that it takes you an hour and a half to order a sandwich. I love that you get a little crinkle above your nose when you’re looking at me like I’m nuts. I love that after I spend the day with you, I can still smell your perfume on my clothes. And I love that you are the last person I want to talk to before I go to sleep at night. And it’s not because I’m lonely, and it’s not because it’s New Year’s Eve. I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.”

when harry

“I don’t want to be worshipped. I want to be loved.”

Whilst on tour in Ireland this month, we were blessed with several days off. Rather pleasant, to find oneself on a sort of holiday with good friends, especially a holiday in a secluded cottage with a stunning view of the sun setting each evening; burnt orange flooding the endless sky.

Being ever the traditionalist, one Wednesday morning ~ seeing a fire lit and tea poured ~ I decided to settle under the duvet (for that, read hog the sofa to the sighs of castmates) and watch an Old Film. I had brought The Philadelphia Story with me, the George Cukor classic, based on Philip Barry’s play. Katharine Hepburn had starred in said production and did the same in the film version. It ultimately saved her career, following her unfortunate moniker of ‘box office poison.’ We meet Tracy Lord (Hepburn) on the eve of her wedding to newly monied business magnate George Kittredge. She was previously married to CK Dexter Haven (Cary Grant) but their tempestuous partnership resulted in divorce when her “disregard for human frailty” exacerbates his drinking problem. This new union excites the American media and they send over reporter Macaulay ‘Mike’ Connor (James Stewart; him again – incidentally he won an Oscar for his performance. He plays an hilarious drunk and manages to make Cary Grant corpse) and photographer Liz Imbrie to cover the wedding. Dexter, helping them to gain access to the family, accompanies them. Over the course of the day, Tracy finds herself caught between three men – her fiancee, her ex-husband and an increasingly smitten Mike. Who will she wind up with?

The three men treat Tracy utterly differently. Mike, the cynical poet, sees her as an earthy intellectual with a spark that matches his own “There’s a magnificence in you, Tracy. A magnificence that comes out of your eyes, in your voice… you’re lit from within. You’ve got fires banked down in you, hearth-fires and holocausts.”  George sees her as a far off Goddess, to be worshipped. “You’re like some marvellous, distant queen. You’re so cool and fine and always so much your own. There’s a kind of beautiful purity about you, like a statue.” However, just like a 20th Century Angel Clare, once Tracy’s own frailty is uncovered and his view of her purity dispelled, he promptly loses interest. So who does Tracy end up marrying? The man who knows her faults and loves her anyway. The man who sees her as a human being. CK Dexter Haven. As Tracy herself says, she doesn’t want to be worshipped. She wants to be loved.

This, unsurprisingly, set me to thinking. Many of my friends – and indeed my own – relationships have ended because one party believes the other is not the person they fell in love with. But what if they are? What if it is simply a case of falling off a pedestal once frailty is uncovered? They begin as a deity; lofty perfection to be worshipped. Then soon, they find themselves scrambling in the dust like other mere mortals. Seemingly no middle ground. Simply to be adored or to be dumped. While in some relationships people can change to the detriment of a coupling, in others it is simply the beholder that sees their partner differently.

I have been in relationships where I have been properly adored at the beginning. Not going to lie, there is something lovely about someone viewing you as an angel, but goodness me, it’s hard to live up to. And doesn’t the halo lose it’s shine quickly? Seemingly overnight, I dropped from the pedestal from which I’d been placed onto the muddy ground below and I was never sure why. Is it because of my selfishness? My horrible ability to cry easily? Am I just plain annoying? Veiled insults begin, eyes rolling at every word I say, running me down in front of friends under the guise of banter ‘Why are you being so sensitive? It’s just a joke.’ Gone was the girl who warranted love notes, hushed work time phone calls and adoration. I didn’t think I’d changed at all and it baffled me. Like Desdemona “What shall I do to win my lord again? … I know not how I lost him” none of us who have ever experienced this will know what we can do. But we will try to placate and work our way back up to that pedestal if it takes all of our self respect. Shutting up about our job if it bores you, not nagging, keeping opinions to ourselves. But the pedestal cannot be reached, no matter how hard we try. Once knocked off, it’s a no go area. But is this us genuinely turning into co-dependent shadows of our former selves, or is it that we are no longer the untouchable bronze statue to be admired from afar? I have seen vibrant, brilliant friends – both male and female – reduced to quivering wrecks trying to live up to the impossible bar their partner has set for them. I should mention here, in my past matches, I don’t place the blame completely at the other person’s door. I know I was not perfect. I just wish I knew what the trigger was, so I could fix it.

I must admit, these experiences have made me wary of relationships and I think go part of a way to explain my current single status. If someone is to nice to me, I don’t trust it ‘oh yes, you like me now – but how long before you discover how annoying I am?’ And I am far too sensitive about gentle mocking of me – ‘oh, it’s begun again, has it?’ I never wanted to be someone who loved warily, but I fear that is inevitable for most of us who have the baggage of previous relationships.

Perhaps – like Tracy and Dexter – the best match for us all is our best friend. No worshipping, no pedestal, just entering into a union with a clear knowledge of the other’s frailty and loving them for that as much as their shining qualities. Tracy may be an “unholy mess of a girl” and Dexter a recovering alcoholic, but they know each other inside out. And they are human.

Annex - Hepburn, Katharine (Philadelphia Story, The)_06



Hill of Beans

It’s been a veritable age since I last put pen to paper and contributed to this blog. When I say pen to paper, I mean of course fingers to keyboard – but the latter fits in less with my romantic sensibilities. I have finally been back with the theatre company, larking about in the Emerald Isle for a couple of weeks. Now I’m back in London, I find myself wondering how quickly I can escape back, open a small seaside shop and live Happily Ever After.

But I digress.Today’s post comes courtesy of one of the most beautiful films of all time: Casablanca. Incidentally, one of the most stirring scenes of any movie ~ in my opinion ~ appears here – “Die Wacht am Rhein” drowned out by “La Marseillaise;” a heart rending show of loyalty and patriotism that would have hit a nerve with the audiences of 1942 – three years before WWII ended. I dare you to watch and not feel a thing.

Casablanca. We’re in Vichy controlled Morocco and embittered nightclub owner Rick (Humphrey Bogart) owns the Café Américain – a melting pot of refugees, police, German officers and those desperate to escape overseas. In  sweeps the beautiful Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman) and the reason for Rick’s bitterness is revealed. “Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she walks into mine.” Some years earlier their passionate love affair in France was cut short when Ilsa left suddenly and without explanation. She now arrives in Rick’s cafe with a husband in tow – Victor Lazlo (Paul Henreid) – a famous fugitive resistance leader. Their only hope of escaping and carrying on their fight against the Nazis lie with Rick. Will he help them? Or has he been too damaged by the past?

I shall not reveal more of this story, or any of the details – as I always say, I urge you to watch. Part love story, part war tale, it is one of the all time greatest. However, I must hint at the end; for this is the point of this post. Rick stands with Ilsa at the airport, Lazlo waiting for her on the plane. Should she stay in Casablanca with her great love? Or leave with Lazlo to continue the fight? Despite his heart breaking, Rick urges Ilsa to get on the plane. “Inside of us, we both know you belong with Victor. You’re part of his work, the thing that keeps him going. If that plane leaves the ground and you’re not with him, you’ll regret it. Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life.” 

So I find myself wondering; is true love really about self sacrifice? I don’t necessarily limit this to romantic relationships, but love in all its guises. If you truly love somebody, do you always put their happiness before your own? Parents of children – I have heard tales of people losing the sense of who they are once they give birth, giving their whole being to the person they created, losing closely held dreams in the process. But is this right and to be expected? Is this the ultimate self sacrifice?

I have no experience of this, although as stated in previous post, I desperately hope to some day. I have experience only of romantic love, and it is on that I muse now. When you truly love somebody, the urge is to put their happiness before your own. How often have we heard the mutterings ‘as long as they’re happy, I’m happy.’ But at what point does this become destructive? Do we have the right to wonder when our own feelings are going to be tended to, or is this just too selfish? Is true love the abandonment of our own needs and the taking on of another’s?

Truthfully, I don’t know. In relationships, I have often wondered if my wanting the same care and attention I have tried to bestow upon my other half is indicative of my own selfishness rather than anything else. Surely, if you love somebody enough, you wouldn’t be worrying about how you are feeling? Or is this utterly naive – if we are prepared to sacrifice our own happiness for somebody else, shouldn’t we expect the same thing from them?

But then again, perhaps the thoughts of a twenty-something blog writer don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. I paraphrase, naturally.

Image: FILE PHOTO: 70 Years Since The Casablanca World Premiere Casablanca


The Blue Danube

I write this sitting in the kitchen sink. No; I jest ~ that would be eminently impractical and wet, seeing as ours is currently blocked. I write this sitting in my North London flat. My flatmate is working in the kitchen. The sounds of his 100 Wartime Memories album float through the divide and I note with slight amusement that I know all of the words to these songs and yet remain wholly ignorant to the current top ten. (Steps aren’t cool anymore, are they? Do people still say cool?) (Is the top ten still a thing?)

How odd it is to be twenty-eight and have a frame of reference at least seventy years out of date. I often find myself feeling a sub-intellectual dolt when topics of current affairs arise, but I can chat for hours on Hitchcock’s use of mise-en-scène or Hepburn and Tracy’s love affair. (Note – if you haven’t read Katherine Hepburn’s Me, do so. Her frank revelations of their relationship are beautiful).

I was on a date about a year ago, a twenty-something London tradition I do not look upon with great fervour. Unless sparks fly, it becomes a formulaic box to tick off – ‘at least I’ve tried, nobody can say I haven’t’ – with too much talk of siblings and television and not enough connection. This chap however, was fairly pleasant and the evening didn’t involve as much clock watching as per usual. (This sounds bloody awful, but I’m not a hideous date. I don’t sit there tapping my foot, or anything. And I always offer to split the bill). It culminated in a walk along the Southbank, an area of London I actually adore.

The night before, I’d watched Goodbye Mr. Chips for the fiftieth time. The 1939 version that is; don’t get me started on Peter O’Toole (God rest his soul) and as for the Martin Clunes version… no, this is the solid gold Robert Donat and Greer Garson original, based on the book by James Hilton. Hilton writes beautifully and optimistically; his Random Harvest is wonderful (I will talk of the touchingly romantic film version another time) and he won an Oscar for his Mrs Miniver screenplay ~ clearly he and Greer Garson made a wartime Dream Team).

Donat’s Mr Chipping and Garson’s Kathy only share a relatively small amount of screen time. They meet and fall in love whilst on a mountain – he: shy, reticent and courteous, her: vibrant, chatty and personable.They continually bump into each other around Europe whilst both on biking holidays – “We always seem to meet in a mist!” – until the inevitable happens and they marry. Unfortunately (SPOILER) Kathy and their child both die a year later… but we shan’t think of that just now.

Whilst bound for Vienna on a boat, both Chipping and Kathy both comment on the brilliant blue of the river. Their companions point out wryly – “The Danube is only blue to the eyes of people in love.” Strauss plays on and a beautiful romance is born.

Anyhoo, I’ve digressed. There I was, with this perfectly lovely man, walking along the river in London. We stopped and consider the river in silence and he steals a look at me. I think this is the bit where a kiss happens, or something. Oh dear. I glance at the Thames and it is dull, grey and milky. I understand there is no Strauss legend connected to it, but surely this indicative of something? Wouldn’t it at least be all shiny if I were meant to be with this nice man? I laugh awkwardly, slip away and say I have to be in an early meeting. I don’t have meetings. I run off and don’t call him again.

My point is, have old films and their idea of romance tainted my view of modern relationships? Is it possible that there is no ‘Here’s looking at you, kid’ no ‘You want the moon, Mary?’ no Blue Danube? Did I let go of a thoroughly decent bloke because of Robert Donat?

Probably, yes. But I’m quite happy with my incurable romanticism. Life would be a little duller if it weren’t in black and white.