Saturday, March 23, 2013

The -isms are everywhere

Last night I watched a 1969 movie, The Magic Christian, on You Tube.  I was led there when someone put up a Face Book entry of a short excerpt featuring John Cleese, Peter Sellers and Ringo Starr.   The excerpt took my fancy.  

In it, Peter Sellers who plays the part of an wealthy business man, Guy Grand, takes his newly adopted adult son, played by Ringo Starr, to an art gallery in London. 

Guy grand had adopted his son, whom he calls Youngman, after meeting him by chance in a park where both men took to feeding the ducks.  Youngman has lived as a vagrant sleeping in parks with no money or good fortune to speak of until Guy Grand meets him, falls in love, in a ‘paternal way’ and then takes him under his wing. 

The two then go off both to spend money and to demonstrate how easily people can be bought for any price.  The film’s theme song is that old Beatles number, which I still enjoy, If you want it, here it is, come and get it, but you betta hurry ‘cos it may not last….

In the art gallery Guy Grand and Youngman inspect a dark portrait painting with the air of experts. Grand asks the proprietor whether it’s a Rembrandt.  It is indeed but as yet it is unauthenticated Dugdale/John Cleese tells the two Grands.

‘It’s extremely dark,’ observes Guy Grand.

'Rembrandt was a master of light and shade,' Dugdale says by way of explanation.  
'What is this exercise in light and shade worth?' asks the older Grand. 
‘It’s to be sold at auction,’ says the well spoken and po-faced Dugdale but we expect to get ten thousand pounds. 
 ‘I’ll offer you fifteen thousand,' says Grand.  At which stage Dugdale stops the conversation he had been enjoying with some other fellow in a suit, and turns his full attention onto Grand who ups his offer to thirty thousand pounds in response to Dugdale’s suggestion that he/Dugdale has been advised not to accept any offers prior to auction.  The price seals the deal.  Both men spit on their hands and shake by way of contract. 

Grand then tells his son that this is a marvellous example of French painting at which Dugdale interjects,  'Rembrandt was Dutch.' 

Guy Grand then takes out a pair of scissors and cuts through the canvas to remove a small square that features the nose of the character in the Rembrandt painting.  Dugdale looks on horrified.

Guy Grand then offers the square of canvas to Youngman and urges his son to put it in his pocket as an excellent example of a French Rembrandt nose.  As the two men walk off leaving an awestruck Dugdale behind them, Youngman turns back and urges Dugdale to keep a look out for ‘a good French ear’.

Very Monthy Python-esque you might say, a feature of the humour we enjoyed in the 1970s, British humour, that takes the Mickey out of the upper class and is deeply iconoclastic.

Somehow it fits in well with the crazy week we’ve endured here in Melbourne with our politicians seemingly going berserk.  Leadership spills and the like. 

I despair of politics, the cut and thrust, the constant lobbying for power.  And here in Australia, I can’t help but think there are quite a few men in positions of power who are finding it hard to take orders from a female politician, whatever her merits. 

Everyone acknowledges our prime minister is tough but that sort of toughness seems to intimidate or disturb many people.  It’s not womanlike, so to speak. 

That’s my pet bug bear at the moment, but I must be wary.  On the airwaves throughout social media there are so many different takes on so many issues that seem to me to be gender based, race based and/or age based.  

The –isms are everywhere.  I dare not add to them with my own prejudices.


Jim Murdoch said...

I watched the clip featuring Cleese. I honestly don’t remember seeing it before although both Ringo Starr and Peter Sellers looked familiar so I probably have. Marvellous cast list. I have to say I do enjoy watching films from that time period. I watched The Cherry Picker the last time Carrie went to the States featuring a very young Lulu (but I was more interested in the small part played by Spike Milligan). Not a very good film. The cameo by Terry Thomas was probably the best thing in it. If you enjoy this kind of thing you really should look out for Milligan’s The Bed Sitting Room, again with a wonderful cast.

I’m definitely getting more nostalgic. I’m always saving stuff from the seventies to watch, old Top of the Pops and the like. I’ve just written a book review in which the protagonist is a fourteen-year-old boy and I say in the review, “There’s a fourteen-year-old boy inside me right now;” I’m not sure he’s the real me but he’s an important part of me. I never get nostalgic for the eighties or the nineties; it’s always the seventies. I watched a three-part documentary about that time recently and it really was a bleak time (every bit as bleak as it is in the UK right now) but I never noticed any of it, the strikes, the petrol shortages, the blackouts, the three-day week. Oh, I supposed I noticed it but none of it bothered me. What’s going on just now doesn’t bother me nearly as much as it should. I fret far more about my inability to write.

Unsurprisingly I don’t know much about Australian politics. I do know you’ve a female Prime Minister but I’ve forgotten her name; I forget everything; I can just about remember our Prime Minister’s name. The big thing here at the moment is Scottish independence. They’ve set the date for us to vote if we want to stay part of the UK or not. Without getting into a big discussion on the subject I’m actually not sure what all the fuss is about since we have our own laws and our own parliament; it looks like we have the best of both worlds if you ask me. At the end of the day I don’t much care; ma wee vote wilnae make much difference wan way or another.

Unknown said...

It has even featured on the news over here and JG must feel utterly exhausted. Can they just let her get on with the job and squabble (if needed) after the election?

ellen abbott said...

Ah yes. When a man is forceful, he's showing leadership. When a woman is forceful, she's a strident shrew.

Kirk said...

I saw The Magic Christian years--actually, decades--ago, and enjoyed it, but I wonder if I would now. The idea of a millionaire demonstrating that anyone can be bought seems kind of obnoxious to me. I mean, I don't recall Seller's character ever having HIS integrity put to the test, yet he feels it's his duty to test everybody else's.

But, as I said, it's a long time since I've seen the movie, so maybe I'm just forgetting something that redeems his character.

Anthony Duce said...

Enjoyed your post. I’ll have to see the movie.. As for the politics.. I’m getting so tired catering to old white guys. They need to grow up.

Elisabeth said...

I wouldn't dismiss your vote so readily, Jim. Every vote counts as they say. Here in Australia where voting is compulsory it's even more significant.

We had a referendum here years ago about Australia becoming a republic with a president as its head. You may have heard. And despite the fact that many many people want to lose our connection to the British monarchy at the end of the day more people voted to maintain the status quo because they could not agree on how to appoint a new president, whether by popular vote or through parliament.

And so change is hard to bring about. People might want it in theory but they fear the unknown in practice. Better the devil you know...

Maybe nostalgia feeds into this. The safety of the past, however awful it may have been at the time, seems more desirable given we've lived through it. It becomes familiar and in some aspects seemingly safe.

Thanks, Jim

Elisabeth said...

The rumble over politics continues Kath, though there's been a slight lull with the parliamentary recess.

I'm with you, though: why can't people just ;let the PM get on and do her job. This constant undermining does no one any good.

Thanks, Kath.

Elisabeth said...

I agree, Ellen. There are at least two standards: one for men and one for women. I wish it were not so but it seems to be a throw back to patriarchal ways with long roots.

Thanks, Ellen.

Elisabeth said...

I think you may be right, Kirk. Seeing the film for the first time now it seemed strangely indulgent and the main character did not have his motivation tested. He was rich and could therefore be holier than thou.

If the film were produced today I suspect it might need more layering, though who knows, such attitudes still apply. The self appointed can till judge those seen to be inferior or poor or less deserving. Such tendencies also goes back a long way.

Thanks, Kirk.

Elisabeth said...

It takes time, Anthony, for those 'old white guys' to grow up, if they ever do. And I suppose all we can do is point out the hypocrisy as loud as and as often as we can, and growth or disappearance might follow.

Thanks, Anthony.