Thursday, 3 July 2014

How To Be Good With Chopin

I have to firstly excuse myself for this title, which I couldn't resist posting. Is it a good joke or a weak one? You can tell me after you've read through this entry, which is a review (or two) in disguise.

I found Nick Hornby's How To Be Good at the library and having enjoyed reading About A Boy to an uncool degree (must admit this phrase I copied off one of my inspirational people), I couldn't wait to take the book home to read. After all, Hornby's writing is not that complex or heavy reading despite the fact that I am sure each single word in his books has been written and re-written and changed and tossed here and there till it gives the impression of perfect coincidence but is merely a brilliant writer doing his job well.

So I have to say I was a little disappointed when I got to the end of this book and had yet to be lured into loving the characters. Unfortunately I would have to class this book as 'Too much trouble to getting nowhere'. The insight into the main character's mind is good, that is to say I do believe it to be not only realistic but sometimes also something one can relate to. I also believe that Hornby's intention with this novel, same as with About A Boy, was to present character development rather than to provide the reader with a story and an ending. In which case he got the message across loud and clear. But it did seem to me as I read through that something was going to happen, which never did. It left me hanging on from page to page, waiting, and waiting, and reading on just in case. Because let's fact it, it is very interesting to read what Hornby has to say about a person, but his characters in this book could have done so much more, been so much more, and gotten something other than 'It's going to be ok' in the end.

Which brings me to a lovely film I've seen this week and which also shows that it is going to be ok in the end (though it apparently isn't as I got to know through history research following the viewing) . I am talking about an oldish film, Impromptu (1991) starring none other than my dishy Hugh Grant. But this time he takes on the role of Chopin in an interpretation of a character who would be offended at the word 'dishy'.

Despite not being a romantic comedy, which is the genre that most people associate with Hugh (probably because it is those films that he is best known for), he gives a brilliant interpretation of the very reserved Chopin, a famous historical person who I must admit I had never before bothered looking up. But following the film, I was too curious about the accuracy of the film as well as the accuracy of the acting. So google Chopin I did, to find a string of adjectives about his character that I realized had been embodied to perfection by the blue-eyed Hugh, the eye colour being one of the physical attributes of Grant's portrayal that was inaccurate, given that Frederick Chopin's eyes had, in fact, been brown.

Same goes for the nose. Chopin's was a big nose of which he was conscious in his over-sensitivity to all around him whilst Hugh's is a smallish nose that does not get in the way and quite suits his delicately male features. I would, before becoming so studious about film-making and writing, have found this lack of physical resemblance a disappointment and a lack of accuracy, but I can see now that it is not the facial features but the mannerisms and interpretation of a character that can make or break the story and in this case I have nothing but praise for the thirty-year-old Hugh Grant that honestly has nothing to do with being so smitten by him as that he yet again pulled off a character to perfection. For in this film it seems to me that the characters of Chopin and George Sands are what define the film's very nature and story.

I have been blabbing about Chopin for half the entry and yet I see now that I am still to give an outline of the film. Judy Davis plays George Sands, a woman writer who feels more comfortable in male attire but despite her string of lovers gets so smitten by the foppish Chopin for his angelic music that she is willing to do anything to win his love, even if it means becoming more feminine. Meanwhile, a 'friend' is looking to steal him away, an ex-lover vows to kill whoever she is in love with and the so-desired man himself seems too enshrouded in his private world to chance letting anyone into his life, least of all the too-forward George Sands.

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