The Big City about a middle class women from a conservative family in Calcutta getting a job was meant to be my film for December but it wasn’t available so a replacement was found for me – could it be any more different?! Cry-Baby is a 1990 teen musical rom-com written and directed by John Waters.
Set in Baltimore in 1954 teenage culture is divided between the ‘Drapes’ and the ‘Squares’. Johnny Depp stars as rebel Wade ‘Cry-Baby’ Walker who drives the girls wild with his ability to shed a single tear and Amy Locane is Allison Vernon-Williams, the Square he falls for.
Earlier this year I read Thomas De Quincey’s essay Confessions of anEnglish Opium-Eater, where he describes the pleasure and pain of being an addict. In his youth TDQ idolised William Wordsworth, running away from school with a copy of Lyrical Ballads in his pocket and twice travelling to Dove Cottage, Wordsworth’s home, to meet him but turning back when he lost confidence!
Before he describes the pains of addiction he gives us his analysis of perfect happiness, wrapped in a picture of a winters evening with an eternal tea pot, that I think must be set at Dove Cottage.
“Let there be a cottage, standing in a valley . . . Let the mountains be real mountains, between 3 and 4000 feet high; and the cottage, a real cottage;. . .let it be, in fact (for I must abide by the actual scene), a white cottage, embowered with flowering shrubs, so chosen as to unfold a succession of flowers upon the walls, and clustering round the windows through all the months of spring, summer, and autumn – beginning in fact, with May roses, and ending with jasmine.
“Let it, however, not be spring, nor summer, nor autumn – but winter, in his sternest shape. This is a most important point in the science of happiness. I put up a petition annually for as much snow, hail, frost, or storm, of one kind or other, as the skies can possibly afford us. Surely everybody is aware of the divine pleasures which attend a winter fire-side: candles at four o’clock, warm hearth-rugs, tea, a fair tea-maker, shutters closed, curtains flowing in ample draperies on the floor, whilst the wind and rain are raging audibly without.
“Paint me, then, a room . . . Make it populous with books: and, furthermore, paint me a good fire; and furniture, plain and modest, befitting the unpretending cottage of a scholar. And, near the fire, paint me a tea-table; and (as it is clear that no creature can come to see one on such a stormy night,) place only two cups and saucers on the tea-tray: and, if you know how to paint such a thing symbolically, or otherwise, paint me an eternal tea-pot.”
I love this celebration of winter and quietness, just two cups one for him and the other for his “fair tea-maker“, his wife Margaret. These photographs are from the Dove Cottage website and the middle one is of the house ‘servants’ making their way into work one winter!
Rather than a story this felt more a meeting of characters and generations, and the conflict and love between them. The fathers of the old Russia of Nicholas I and the sons of the new reign of Alexander II, with his declaration to liberate his people from serfdom.
On May 20th 1859 Nikolai Petrovich Kirsanov collects his son Arkady from university. When Arkady asks if his friend and mentor can come home with them, we’re introduced to Evgeny Vasilevich Bazarov. Declaring himself a nihilist, Bazarov’s commitment is to science and materialism and sets himself against the older generation whose passion for the arts he dismisses as ‘a lot of sloppy nonsense.’
A film about six metropolitan sophisticates trying to meet for dinner. Exuding status the friends are completely sure of themselves and their place in society but under this bland exterior of flimsy manners there’s greed and lust, drug dealing and military coups all wrapped up in peach chiffon, pussy bow blouses, platform heels and loudly checked suits, well it’s 1972!
For a group of people always used to getting their own way this satirical comedy of manners puts their quest for the most conventional of evenings out of their reach.