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Christmas Mysteries: A Sherlock Carol @MaryleboneTHLDN

A mash-up of Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol and Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes would seem an unlikely pairing. Yet it provides a surprisingly fun Christmas-themed adventure. These two Victorian tales (albeit separated by about 40 years) provide the basis for an inspired adventure at Christmastime that just also happens to turn out to be a murder mystery as well. With lavish costumes, a few spooky set pieces and some good old-fashioned stage trickery with lights and a lot of smoke machines, it is hard to resist. It returns to the Marylebone Theatre for Christmas after a run there last year.  The premise is that after Holmes sees off the criminal mastermind Professor Moriarty, he is left adrift in London. People thought he was dead, and he might as well be. Disinterested in the misdeeds of other Londoners, Holmes has even given up on his friend Dr Watson. It's almost as if he has become a Scrooge. Or half a Scrooge, moping about shouting, "bah" in respon
Movie: Pride and Prejudice

On Friday night I caught a preview at the National Film Theatre of Pride and Prejudice - the new version with Keira Knightly. Keira is on all the posters for this flick, but the real thing that everyone in the cinema was talking about was whether Matthew MacFadyen would be any good as Mr Darcy and especially if he could match up to Colin Firth.

I had an open mind about this as I had only just recently seen MacFadyen in Henry IV (Part 2) at the National. He played the role of Prince Hal in this production and while he was very good, in Part 2 this role doesn't give him much to do except for walking around becoming more and more regal. I had it on good authority from A that he was much more interesting role in Part 1, but still I could see that he had the necessary sour-puss face required for Mr Darcy.

The National Film Theatre had just renovated the main cinema to improve the sound and acoustics. As the cinema is located underneath Waterloo Bridge one once could hear the rumble of busses from time to time. But as the film started I wondered whether the sound improvements just increase the volume of the film as from the opening credits we were blasted with Dolby Surround of Jean Yves Thibaudet on the piano. It was like Apocalypse Now meets Jane Austen.

Anyway it didn't take long for the story to unfold. At two hours there wasn't a moment to spare and so the film seemed to run at breakneck speed. But one thing that seemed to be a little odd about the film is that despite the gorgeous cinematography, only Keira was allowed to be bathed in perfect light and have makeup. It was a little jarring to see Keira and Rosamund Pike (playing her sister Jane Bennett) in the same room and have a headshot of Keira looking beautiful and gorgeous in perfect light and makeup and then to cut to Rosamund looking like she just got out of bed and lit by a fluro tube. Jane is meant to be a little mousy but I didn't think that meant she should look like a rodent. The other actors didn't fare much better. In key scenes with MacFadyen every skin blemish and open pore was clearly visible on his face but Keira looked beautiful and had a warm-lit glow on her (even if the scene involved heavy rainfall). I said to the others that it was impossible to compare MacFadyen with Colin Firth simply because he had the disadvantage that he didn't have Keira's makeup artist or lighting.

All told however I did like the movie. The comedy was played up in this film and you almost felt like hissing when Judy Dench came on screen as Lady Catherine De Bourgh or snarling at the near cameo role of Rupert Friend as the dastardly Mr Wickham.

Post Film Analysis

I had seen the film with A and his friends An and Ro. Ro is American and in his spare time had brushed up on the BBC Seriesbefore the film so he had done his research. This research was useful as it meant that we could have a detailed conversation about the film and the mini-series without having to mention New Orleans. The relief effort (or rather, the complete lack of it that has led to possibly thousands of deaths and anarchy) has sort of become the latest thing to ridicule Americans about - so much so that most here are pretending to be Canadian. Anyway after the film we headed to the new Southbank area beneath Festival Hall for a bite to eat - only to find out that they were packed so we crossed Waterloo Bridge into Covent Garden to find less crowded fare.

This walk allowed for much post film analysis. A was much more ambivalent to the film but I suspect that was because nobody could beat Colin Firth is his view. How can one argue with that? Colin has that mature, country look and has perfected the art of looking sullen so it is a hard act to follow. MacFadyen though has youth on his side. If he had better makeup and lighting I would add to this his looks but alas this was not meant to be.

But over a dinner of gourmet burgers there was a general consensus amongst the rest of us that it was good movie and we would give MacFadyen the thumbs up - even if he didn't have the same makeup stylist as Keira. There were other actors in this film who were fabulous - particularly Brenda Blethyn and Donald Sutherland as Mr and Mrs Bennett. They were mercifully far more subtle in their characterisations than in any previous filmed version I had seen. Oh and the countryside did look lovely, whether it was misty wet or sunny. GNER are offering special deals to get to Lincolnshire, Peak District & Derbyshire where it was filmed.

Film Antidote: Le Dernier Métro (The Last Metro)

On Saturday A and I went to see another Catherine Deneuve film at the NFT again. Honestly, if we go there too often we will have to start wearing dark turtlenecks and let our hair go shaggy so we look like the other cinephiles there...

But anyway, The Last Metro was much more serious than Pride and Prejudice, but quite terriffic in that way that only the French can make films. Well worth the return visit...

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