Thursday 1 March 2018

Brookner Goes to the Movies

Once, I saw an announcement of an evening at the National Film Theatre that seemed made for Anita: an assemblage of the very earliest film footage shot in and around Paris. I rang her, and was a quarter of the way into my excited proposal when she cut in with, 'No, I think not…' I felt clumsy, blundering, as if I had crossed some social line. I had; and never made such a suggestion again. 

She wasn't someone you could ever really imagine at the cinema. None of her novels, as far as I can recall, contain visits to picture houses. But we know in her youth she accompanied her Paris landlady:
One of my duties, whenever I took up momentary residence in the rue des Marronniers, was to escort Mme de Blazac to the cinema in the rue de Passy. For these occasions Mme de Blazac wore a thin thread of lipstick and a dab of violet scent, but she rarely appreciated the film, preferring to hark back to films she had once enjoyed with her husband. Maria Chapdelaine: had I seen that? The question was always the same, as was the answer. By way of compensation I would indicate a table at a nearby café, and Mme de Blazac, greatly daring, would order a Dubonnet. This brought a little colour to her pallid cheeks, and I would imagine I could see the pretty and fatally innocent girl who had attracted the lounge lizard husband.
London Review of Books, 19 June 1997

And we have her slightly pained account of a visit to a screening of Abel Gance's epic silent film Napoleon, which she found disorienting and migraine-inducing. Getting outside was evidently a relief, but also a let-down:
Trapped in an auditorium as crowded as the National Convention, sustained only by an in-house sandwich which left one almost as starving as the Paris mob, one rose to cheer to the echo, prepared, if necessary, to sit it out to the end of time, and restored unwillingly to the smallest of lives, among the sex shops and pizza parlours of Leicester Square.
 LRB, 16 April 1981

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