Sunday, April 17, 2011
2:11 PM |
The Permanent Foreigner
I had no idea they adapted Christopher Isherwood's celebrated memoir Christopher and His Kind
for the screen last year. I only stumbled onto it while looking for a suitable film to watch on a slow Sunday afternoon in Movie25. But here is Geoffrey Sax's capable film made for BBC 2, which indeed has the feel of smallness of a TV movie production, but transcends that limitation with its witty screenplay, its alluring acting, and the sheer pleasure of recognizing the depictions of real people (that's W.H. Auden! that's Gerald Hamilton!
) and the depictions by actors playing real people who are fictionalized in the many stories of Isherwood's that we love. (It's quite meta that way.) That it tells a very personal story in the embrace of sweeping history (Berlin in the 1930s, during the last years of its splendid roaring, as it inches towards the seething dangers of Nazism..., and here we are in that blazing city with Christopher, and his poet friend Wystan, and the early love of his life Heinz) is part of its charms, and provides both the tension and the workable structure often absent in faithful biopics. It certainly does not shy away from its gay subject matter, and in fact begins with an older Christopher tapping away at his typewriter, making this frank confession: "Berlin meant boys." And boys we get. (Take note of that Douglas Booth as Heinz Neddermeyer. So dreamy.) But what I like about it is the way it gives us a glimpse into the writerly life -- and how the trappings of that life seem so similar for many of us: the creative cocoon of cafes, the cannibalizing of lives of people we know for the sake of our fiction, the requisite rebellion against familiarity and staidness, the juice we long for to feed our writings that we can only get by being an outsider. "I like being a permanent foreigner," Matt Smith's Isherwood confesses to Pip Carter's Auden. I feel that way all of the time.
Labels: books, film, queer, writers
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