A Very Nearly Snuff Movie 


Hello Gadabout fanatics. I would apologise for my recent lack of blogging output but you almost certainly haven’t noticed and it seems a shame to draw attention to it. We’ve spent the last few months lolling in London and I’m ready to once again take a sideways look at life as a Location Independent design professional with a fistful of dreams, a bitch-sack of attitude and a travel pack of Kleenex in case I get the sniffles.

We visited the ICA (Institute of Contemporary Arts) last weekend to watch a film called The Portuguese Nun, which we hoped would provide an insight into our next destination. The film is set in Lisbon which should give you a big clue as to where Susie and I are headed! Just to be clear: we’re going to Lisbon in Portugal.

The Portuguese Nun is the story of a French actress who plays a nun living in Lisbon in a film within the film. I don’t think it’s giving too much of the plot away to say that nothing happens for two hours and then it ends. It aches to appear profound and moving but fails by trying much too hard. When every frame is filled with ‘significance’ and the characters are constantly on the verge of dreamy tears there is very little nuance and the whole becomes a sludge. It could also have done with a Queen Latifah cameo in my opinion.

Desmond, the tiny albino Rastafarian, was my favourite character in the film.

About three quarters of an hour in, the unmistakable rumble of snoring tumbled from the back of the auditorium. This seemed to grow in defiant, sleepy venom in direct proportion to the increasing self-importance of the film. You could not find a more damning critical verdict unless you count a dirty protest.

Soon Rip Van Winkle (‘Winkle’ heh heh) was noisily overshadowed by a chap a few rows in front who let out a series of loud sighs and groans. I felt his pain and would have initiated a fist bump if I’d been a bit closer. However, his critical gimpering gradually grew more prolonged and even I thought he may be taking things a little far. My underused female intuition detected that something was wrong when a woman sitting near Mr Grizzly jumped up and hastily scrambled to the aisle before dashing to the exit. She swiftly returned with two staff members to what was now a scene of some commotion. It appeared that the disgruntled grunting was not a comment on the film’s pretensions but rather a symptom of a possible heart attack.

The man was slumped alarmingly in his seat while his head lolled forward onto his heaving chest. This was not as erotic as it sounds. By this point the whole row was standing and the aisle crowded. Unbelievably, somebody behind took this opportunity to tut. Their enjoyment of the film was compromised by people trying to save a man’s life. I was very tempted to tut the tutter but was concerned that my tutting may be interpreted as a supportive tut of the tutters tut and I might get tutted. If you write the word tut enough I find it completely loses any meaning. Tut.

As far as I could tell, the only medical attention administered was the loosening of the scarf inexplicably wrapped around his neck. Personally I’d have gone the extra mile and completely removed it. However, it seemed to do the trick as his eyes fluttered open and he stared straight ahead with a glazed, bewildered expression. Having sat through an hour of The Portuguese Nun, most of the audience had the same look on their fizogs, so he was given a clean bill of health by the seventeen year old usher who urged everyone to sit back down.

The hubub settled to just a bub but I continued to keep an eye on ‘Scarf Man’ and within minutes he was in a similar state. His wife occasionally glanced at him and asked if he was okay. His rattled breathing and body spasms seemed to be their code for “yes, I feel wonderful darling, don’t worry about me you just enjoy the film” as she was reassured enough to sit back and looked on the verge of cracking open a bag of Revels.

A Q&A with the director, Eugène Green immediately followed the film. Eugene (as I call him) was immensely likable, funny and modest. This made me feel bad about my curmudgeonly response to his movie and I tried to convince myself that I had enjoyed it after all. However, the truth is that I would be fooling myself and even worse, I would be deceiving you my loyal, heavyset, reading public.

Desmond interviews Eugène Green for 'The Rasta Review Show'.

Most questioners were generally positive but one woman took umbrage at a plot point she perceived as an affront to reality. In the film, the actress meets a 10 year old boy and after about three minutes they form an unshakeable bond, so she adopts him. The questioner was happy to accept this as authentic but what rankled was that the boy didn’t attend school. She pointed out that children in Portugal are required to go to school by law. In effect this transcendental film was ruined for her because the social services aren’t shown getting involved. If I know Eugène (and I don’t) the child missing school thing was probably a metaphor for suppressed menstruation anyway, but ‘Eugè’ thanked her for the question and explained that basically ‘it’s a film’.

The Q&A was by far the most entertaining part of the afternoon but was soon over. As we left, I looked back at ‘Scarf Man’ who was now sitting with his head lolling back instead of forward. This encouraging sign had his wife supportively reaching for the Maltesers.

The Portuguese Nun is currently showing at a cinema near you assuming you live close to the ICA in London.



2 Responses to “A Very Nearly Snuff Movie ”

  1. I just discovered your blog through “Prêt a Voyager” and this post got me laughing to tears. I’m getting you in my Reader. Thanks for the laughs.

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