Monthly Archives: July 2011

Prag

Mads Mikkelsen in Prag

If only people wouldn’t insist on dying far away from home! It’s so much harder to deal with any kind of feelings if you are surrounded by people with different behavioural expectations. Mads Mikkelsen as the Dane in Prague to pick up his dead father experiences some rather Kafka-esque people when he least expects it.

His character Christoffer didn’t know his father well, and doesn’t really mourn him all that much. He mourns more for the lost father from 25 years earlier. But the hospital staff order him to be sadder and to spend longer with the corpse. That is after Christoffer has had to climb in through a window to even get in, and after having to avoid the little whizzing coffin-carriers they use.

His wife Maja has come to Prague with him, but then doesn’t come along for the bewildering meetings. The father’s solicitor turns out to be almost as crazy as the hospital doctor. And the empty house is anything but empty.

Mads Mikkelsen and Stine Stengade in Prag

Maja has her own problems, and the marriage is slowly breaking down, or seems to be. Two Danes in Prague isn’t the most natural combination. It appears there’s more than one secret about good old Dad. It costs a lot of money (bribes?) to take dead people out of the Czech Republic. And when they go there is no saying where they’ll end up.

Despite its sad premise, it’s an enjoyable film. Very Mads Mikkelsen-heavy, seeing as there is only him and his wife, their son on Skype, plus the seemingly deranged but caring Czechs.

But whatever you do, don’t order the goulash on a Tuesday.

Mannen från Mallorca

Mannen från Mallorca

Mannen från Mallorca

Mannen från Mallorca

Mannen från Mallorca

Mannen från Mallorca

I suppose you need to know your Lucia celebrations on the 13th of December in Sweden to fully appreciate the scene where the singing children are striding through a post office mid-robbery in Bo Widerberg’s film The Man From Majorca.

Somehow I suspect I appreciate it all the more for being an exile who can’t have enough traditional behaviour, especially if it takes place in my old place of work. Well, not precisely ‘my’ old place, as this was set in Stockholm 6 (‘Post offices have numbers?’, Daughter said incredulously), and I never worked there. However, I could give you a long and almost complete list of all the post offices I did work in.

Other than the Lucia in the post office bit, this is a fairly average Swedish style police film, and was probably one of the earliest of what now seems to be the norm for Nordic crime on both small and large screens.

I first came across it late one night on BBC2, back in the 1980s. We’d just bought ourselves a video recorder, so recorded the film and watched it at a more sociable hour. I suppose I must have been feeling a little homesick, or something, because the beginning in the post office really got to me. I knew exactly what it was like on the inside of the counter, except in my day I never had a robber or murderer jump in with the parcels. On the whole, that’s a good thing.

Policemen Johansson and Jarnebring are the ones who end up chasing the cold and calculating robber. They keep stumbling on clues and it doesn’t take them too long to work out who did it. The hard thing is proving it, and in true Swedish style there’s a lot of dirty politics going on in both the police force and in Government departments, and the ending is an interesting one.

Mannen från Mallorca, Johansson & Jarnebring

This is a film full of big name actors, including Sven Wollter (most beautiful man in Sweden…). His partner Tomas von Brömssen is the more vulnerable, being lonely after a divorce. Watching him watching the Christmas Eve Disney special on television in the company of the ex-wife and children and the new husband is very painful.

No Nordic crime is complete without a well pickled drunk, and Sten Lonnert does a good job getting hopelessly lost in a monologue about boxers during his ‘interrogation’ by Tommy Johnson, who himself hides a little bottle of something in the bookcase at work.

After all these years, it was good to force Offspring to watch the film, and it’s a relief to see how well it has aged. Were it not for a lack of mobile phones it could have been set today. And that post offices no longer exist.

Allsång with Måns

Oh happy circumstance (hah) which brings us to Swedish television on the day of Allsång at Skansen. Yet again. Do we specialise in Tuesday arrivals? (The fact that Tuesdays are so predictable that we know that Allsång will be followed by Midsomer Murders, is scary. Daughter was too tired to even contemplate Midsomer. Besides, it’s now the wrong Barnaby. As if the phrase ‘the right Barnaby’ is possible.)

Måns Zelmerlöw

Anyway, Allsång is now presented by one of Daughter’s many loves, Måns Zelmerlöw, so simply could not be ignored, even on an evening after a day after about three hours of sleep. I suppose he was all right, but I do hate it when southern Swedes feel they need to ‘posh up’ their accents by dropping their real accents. You can tell, and it is so not charming.

As usual I didn’t know any of the people involved. Bo Kaspers Orkester sounds like a ‘dance band’, but appear to consider themselves ‘real’ musicians, who apparently would not be seen dead in Allsång. Quite. (Good thing they weren’t dead, I say.) So I guess the name is ironic.

Vocalettes

Måns sang a duet with opera singer Malena Ernman in the shower. Quite good, actually. Very evocative with the shower, and Måns managed a passable attempt at opera. The Vocalettes met with approval. The song about the English Navy at Vinga lighthouse met with almost complete bafflement from Daughter. I’ll clearly have to give her a lesson in Kal and Ada and Beda and Co tomorrow when she wakes up.

I hardly ever like rap, and I much preferred the nerds wearing overalls and old style track suits. And the good old song Bättre och bättre is still good. And old, so Daughter had problems with it. Could be the lack of sleep, I suppose.

It still fascinates me how Swedes of all ages will go and sing badly on television like this and feel no shame. And how do they manage to have marvellous weather every single time? Stockholm looks great. I believe I have finally twigged why there is always a large group of pretty teenage girls at the front. Bet they get ushered in to brighten things up.

And what was that man doing with the courgette?

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, part 2

Snape

The wait was shorter than it seemed. We went for the first local screening of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, part 2 to get in before school ended for the day and especially to avoid the end of term.

The cinema had actually been screening the other Harry Potter films in the days leading up to The Day, which is good for people needing reminding, or even for the unlikely person who has never bothered but who has suddenly seen the light and wants to join in, however belatedly. I could have done with it myself as far as part 1 was concerned. Barely remembered how far we’d got or what had happened.

Hermione, Ron, Harry and Ollivander

It didn’t even feel too much as if we began in the middle, for a film that began in the middle. Dobby is dead and Harry is sad. And determined to get going with the remaining Horcruxes. More Polyjuice to get into Gringotts, and Hermione as a polite Bellatrix was a sight to see. Not so sure about Harry’s face-dive into Snapes’s memories, but it was necessary for the plot.

Neville

Harry and Ron and Hermione do a good enough job, but the winner of both book and film has to be Neville Longbottom. Who’d have thought he’d turn out so well? Maggie Smith as McGonagall is also a sight for sore eyes, along with her comfortable Scottish accent. I know I shouldn’t make too much of a relatively small part, but I’m just so grateful she survived. Maggie Smith, I mean. After the first film I had this sudden witchy premonition that someone wasn’t going to make it, and the faces that flashed before me were hers and Richard Harris’s.

It’s actually a major feat that they could make so many films with child actors and have them ‘all’ there at the end. I know one or two have fallen by the wayside, but other than that it’s worked well. Thought Crabbe had had a colour change, but he appears to have been written out.

Ginny and Mr Weasley

I was surprisingly touched by the deaths, which is more remarkable for them not really happening on screen. We see everyone dead afterwards. I’d almost go so far as to say that not enough is made of those deaths. Could be they want to skirt the issue in order not to upset young viewers, but you could easily miss quite how many dear ones perish.

But I suspect that’s not why the Retired Children’s Librarian had read in her paper that ‘people will be sad’. I think they meant ‘what will we all do now that Harry Potter is over?’ Yes, what will we do? This kind of thing is never coming back.

(Photos © Warner Brothers Entertainment Inc)

Touch wood

He had to pay for the bridge. They’re funny – those Americans – whether the CIA or any other part of the alphabet. The agent who should be dead, but is instead driving across the Severn Bridge to a seemingly separate Wales. And Captain Jack Harkness who should be anything but ‘dead,’ is not feeling so great.

Although, Jack sounds much more British, now that he’s in the company of real Americans. Strange that they are letting Gwen and Rhys get away with being so very Welsh in what is now a fun and exciting, but very American, television show.

We liked it, but it’s not Torchwood as we know it, more Men in Black with some Holby City thrown in.

All over the world people are not dying. That’s not as good as it sounds. But whether it calls for the CIA is a different matter. And the amusing gags work because they are poking fun at the differences between the two countries involved. I hope Wales will win, but suspect it won’t be allowed to.

Gwen Cooper and baby

Gwen and Rhys have done a good job of disappearing along with Torchwood, and an even better job of stashing their cupboards full of weapons for when the ramblers come calling. She should have shot them. Then Gwen wouldn’t be running around with baby in one hand and gun in the other. Cute baby, and far too amenable to this secret agent existence.

But you know how you should be careful what you wish for? Well, maybe Jack is finding out that immortality wasn’t so bad after all.

And how reassuring to find ourselves on the wrong side of the Atlantic yet again. It’s only natural that the US should get to watch anything at all before us poor cousins in the UK.

Family prom

If I’d known that by having the wine and not drinking all of it, they could have poured it back into the bottles and returned it to the shop, thereby saving money, I would have. (This is obviously not true. The Hallé are suffering financially, but this was more by way of amusing idea to bring it home to us how frugal they are being.) But since I don’t drink wine, I didn’t. Hopefully they saved even more on that.

Because it’s all about saving money these days. That’s why we come and stuff envelopes for the Hallé, and it’s also why the only classical music concerts we go to tend to be our free reward ones. And I’m almost totally sure Andy Ryans was only joking when he said every pound saved goes towards his salary. Although, in a way that must be true.

The concert started with a Suite from Carmen, which was nice. You can’t beat The Toreadors, really. The only problem as I’ve mentioned before is that they have put double bass player Roberto Carrillo-García at the back.

Then for Saint-Saëns’ Carnival of the Animals they moved Roberto closer, which was great until that Mark Elder (Sir, I mean) came and stood in front of him. All I could see was the swirly top bit of his double bass peeking out of Sir Mark’s shoulder. He only shifted out of the way when it was Roberto’s solo in The Elephant. Which was lovely.

Mark Elder was there not to conduct, but to read the poems by Ogden Nash to go with the music. You’d think that on his day off he’d want to be off, but there he was. Right in front of Sr Carrillo-García. Admittedly, he was wearing holiday type clothes, although the Resident IT Consultant said he was being Saint-Saëns. Sir Mark. Not the Resident IT Consultant.

If I’d been Andrew Gourlay I’d have felt intimidated conducting in front of the ‘boss’, but he did well. (Though I still wonder quite how helpful all that waving is.) I’ve decided I quite like Carnival of the Animals. The audience was full of children, and I hope they liked it too. I often think that just because a piece has a more ‘childish’ title, doesn’t mean it appeals to children any more than other music.

It wasn’t just The Elephant which was enjoyable. The Cello solo was almost as good, and the weird piano pieces were funny. For someone who doesn’t do applause all that much, I clapped quite a bit, until I realised that with RSI that isn’t advisable.

The second half consisted of Ravel’s Mother Goose and Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet. Suites, both of them, so presumably (she says hopefully) not the full works?

But speaking of full, the Bridgewater Hall was pleasingly full. Not totally, but nicely busy. And all those children will hopefully grow up and continue going to concerts. Hopefully the Bridgewater Hall will still be there for them.

Happy Birthday, Michael and Rocky!

That’s Michael Weatherly who is 43 today, and Rocky Carroll who is a little bit older at 48. Also today. I was reading recently about this idea that if you ask people about their dates of birth, you are very likely to find two that share the same day, even in a small group.

So, in that ‘small’ group of NCIS agents, we do have a hit for the 8th of July.

I expect they are returning to work on season nine soon, and I hope Michael and Rocky and all the others have had a good holiday. Making other films, and that kind of rest. I can just about manage to wait for September, but please get on with it!

DiNozzo

Vance

(Photos © CBS)