The Worst of Both Worlds

The film, ‘The Life of Pi’ has been given nine BAFTA nominations. I went along to see it this week, curious from having read and adored the book, and was thrilled with the film adaptation, so the nominations, as far as I am concerned are justified.

                Whilst in the cinema we were subjected to the usual run of trailers for coming films, including the also nominated ‘Les Miserables’-a film of a musical of a book. Hmm! How has this fashion for making films from stage musicals become so popular? Is there really such a dearth of original stories and ideas that producers and directors are forced to plunder the West End theatres to come up with new projects?

                I have to confess to an enduring dislike of ‘musicals’. I am usually able to become absorbed enough in a good production and story to forget I’m watching a play, but my suspended disbelief hurtles to the floor with a stinging ‘ouch’ the second that anyone bursts into song. There are a few notable exceptions [‘My Fair Lady’ comes to mind] but any performance tagged with the loose term ‘show’ is an out and out no-no for me. Eulogies for ‘shows’ such as ‘Cats’, ‘Phantom’ or the cringingly nicknamed ‘Les Mis’ commonly praise the costumes, the set and the spectacle. Fair enough-if that is what one goes to see.

                Don’t get me wrong. I love good music and regularly attend live performances of a variety of genres. I also love a well written, directed and acted play and would certainly be inclined to see a lot more of these if there were more on. [Those of us who live in the sticks don’t have easy access to the plethora of cultural delights London offers]. But good, plain drama is a rarity, probably due to the number of ‘shows’ doing the rounds instead. ‘Shows’ are worthy vehicles, I’m sure, but to me it is dumbing down culture-a presentation with humdrum writing, mundane music and so-so acting.

                Worse still are the ‘shows’ being made into films! Watching the trailer for ‘Les Mis’ I felt, why not make a serious, non-musical movie from the book [as in ‘Life of Pi’…I shudder to think what a mess that would have been in musical form]. The last simple film of the story was in 1982, a French, made-for-TV version.

                There is a wealth of new writing, and under-represented writing out there. Come on, producers and directors! More plays and films of books please! [But cut out the singing].