Thursday, 3 February 2011

A trip to London

I must have an ITIN number so that I pay tax in this country rather than America as far as writing royalties go, and the only place to get one is the IRS Dept of the American Embassy in London. Though it will probably be years before I earn enough to repay the cost of rail and hotel expenses, I don’t want tax men of either country chasing me for back payments. Collected writerly opinion suggests a visit is easier than trying to obtain the number via postal methods, so I got the train south on Sunday afternoon and spent the afternoon walking from King’s Cross to Westminster Abbey, and settled down to enjoy Evensong. The service was memorable for many things, including the sun setting through the south windows, the sound of the choir and how much of the responses I remembered from my churchgoing youth.

Caught the tube to Whiteley’s after a swift Chinese meal and saw the film Black Swan. The cinema was full, and most of the audience seemed to have brought their dinner with them. The man next to me came in armed with some heavily spiced food that smelled that he ate very slowly, so that for ages I had the monotonous sound of him crunching his tortilla chips in my ear.

Natalie Portman gave a fine performance as a dedicated dancer going through some kind of mental breakdown. Considering her intense, controlling on-screen mother, was there any wonder?

Much of the time the girl was hallucinating, which fooled the audience (well, this part of it at least) about what she had done and what she had imagined. Being of a slightly squeamish disposition, I got to be very quick at closing my eyes and covering my ears, and because I did, I don’t really know if the disasters I anticipated actually happened. The episode with the nail file and the older ballerina, for one; I saw her staring at the file, and closed my eyes. Judging from the shocked gasps around me, the nasty thing happened as I expected. We’re all programmed to be afraid of sudden loud noises, and the film made ample use of the fact to punctuate dramatic moments so I rocked back in my seat a few times, too.

The film effortlessly held my attention from beginning to end. The make-up and costuming of the Black Swan’s first performance to a paying audience was truly amazing, and the end a total surprise. Because of the mix of hallucination and reality, I wasn’t sure what really happened at the end, but because many people will still want to go and see the film, I won’t say more so as not to spoil it for them.

To be continued.

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