Category Archives: Films

Leeds United’s “Life of Brian” – by Rob Atkinson

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LIFE OF BRIAN

In honour of our frustrated Manager, may I proudly present:

Leeds United’s “Life of Brian”

The “What Have the Bahrainis Ever Done For Us?” Scene, for those conspiracy theorists who maintain that the GFH regime is just more of the same old Bates crap. (With sincere apologies to the Pythons.)

ImageThe interior of COOPER’S house. A darkened room with a very conspiratorial atmosphere. BILLY and BIG JACK are seated at a table at one end of the room. EDDIE, dressed in Activist gear — white robes and a blue & yellow sash around his head — is standing by a plan (of a palatial residence in Bahrain) on the wall. He is addressing an audience of about eight MASKED ACTIVISTS including unsuspected double agent LASH. Their faces are partially hidden.

Eddie: We get in through the underground heating system here… up through to the main audience chamber here… and Haigh’s bedroom is here. Having grabbed him, we inform GFH that he is in our custody and forthwith issue our demands. Any questions?

Lash: What exactly are the demands?

Billy: We’re giving them two days to dismantle the entire apparatus of GFH Capital’s management structure of Leeds United and all related offshore companies, and if they don’t agree immediately we execute him.

Cooper: Cut his head off?

Eddie: Cut all his bits off, send ’em back every hour on the hour… show them we’re not to be trifled with.

Billy: Also, we’re demanding a ten foot mahogany statue of Brian Mawhinney with his cock hanging out.

Big Jack: What? They’ll never agree to that, Billy.

Billy: That’s just a bargaining counter. And of course, we point out that they bear full responsibility when we chop him up, and… that we shall not submit to blackmail.

All: (Applause) No blackmail!

Billy: They’ve bled us Whites white, the bastards. They’ve taken everything we had, not just from us, from our fathers and from our fathers’ fathers.

Big Jack: And from our fathers’ fathers’ fathers.

Billy: Yes.

Big Jack: And from our fathers’ fathers’ fathers’ fathers.

Billy: All right, Jack. Don’t labour the point. And what have they ever given us in return?

Lash: Luke Murphy?

Billy: Oh yeah, yeah they gave us that. Yeah. That’s true.

Masked Activist: And got rid of Bates!

Big Jack: Oh yes… Bates, Billy, you remember what he used to be like.

Billy: All right, I’ll grant you that buying Luke Murphy and getting rid of Bates are two things GFH have done…

Cooper: And Scott Wootton.

Billy: (sharply) Well yes obviously Scott Wootton … Scott Wootton goes without saying. But apart from Luke Murphy and getting rid of Bates and Scott Wootton…

Another Masked Activist: Ticket prices…

Other Masked Voices: Closing Bates FM… cheaper season Tickets… Fan re-engagement…

Billy: Yes… all right, fair enough…

Activist Near Front: And bringing back Radio Leeds…

All: Oh yes! True!

Eddie: Yeah. That’s something we’d really miss if GFH left, Billy.

Masked Activist at Back: Social media – a Facebook and Twitter presence for LUFC!

Big Jack: And it’s nice and quiet sitting in the North Stand now.

Eddie: Yes, they certainly know how to keep order… (general nodding)… let’s face it, they’re the only ones who could in a place like this.

(rueful grins and more general murmurs of agreement)

Billy: All right… all right… but apart from Luke Murphy and getting rid of Bates and Scott Wootton and closing Bates FM and re-engaging with the fans and bringing back Radio Leeds and social media and stewards shutting everyone up and Stadium Security making us sit down or chucking us out…. what have GFH Capital done for us?

Lash: Student tickets!?

Billy: (very angry, he’s not having a good meeting at all) What!? Student tickets?? Oh… (scornfully) Student tickets, yes… shut up!!

Les Misérables – Making A Good Thing Even Better

As a devoted fan of the stage show since January 1988 when I first experienced it at The Palace Theatre in London, I have to confess:  I was extremely reticent over the prospect of seeing the film adaptation.  Perhaps I was unsure of my own ability to switch environments – seeing new faces and hearing new voices, fearful of sitting there for three hours annoyed, and missing my old heroes.  Maybe it was just my inherent small “c” conservatism, an instinctive preference for the cosy familiarity of the “Les Mis” I know so well and have loved for so long.  Whatever it was, I was wrong – and I would now like to don the sackcloth and ashes, and order a large slice of humble pie.

Les Misérables on the big screen is magnificent – even magnifique.  Epic in its scale, it is an assault on willingly-receptive senses right from the off.  The adjustment I had so feared being unable to make was accomplished right away and without protest from my latent prejudices. One immediately noticeable improvement is the enhanced exposition of the movie version – little linkages are made in the narrative of the story that are not apparent – to me, anyway – from countless viewings of the stage show.  The downward spiral of Fantine is thus portrayed and explained more effectively, and the emotional impact is increased.  The same can be said of various other points in the film, where the reaction to unfolding events is unexpectedly raw, largely because what has caused those events to unfold is a lot clearer.

This shuddering impact – the emotional equivalent of a kick in the guts – is never more pronounced than during the suffering and despair of Fantine.  We know what she is going through when we see the show at the theatre.  It’s horrible, and unfair, and we weep for the hapless victim of pitiless exploitation.  But withal, there is an ethereal prettiness about the character even as she labours under the cruelty of fate as manifested by various uncaring men.  It’s a broad brush which paints the picture on the stage, skilfully as it might be done.

Contrast this with Anne Hathaway’s no-holds-barred portrayal of descent into despair, loss and death.  No soft focus here, no semi-comic images of the harlots scene.  There is an ugliness and horror about Fantine’s situation as it plummets downhill, and Ms Hathaway treats us to a smorgasbord of blood, sweat, grime and tears, not to mention snot, spit and coarse dentistry.  Her evocation of innocence and anger at cruel fate is compelling even as it is repellent.  The pathos of her dawning, disbelieving hope as Valjean whisks her away to hospital is palpable, and the skill of the performer is complemented by pitiless close-ups, every nuance of expression and suffering right in your face.  The impact is awesome, in a way that could never be achieved on stage.  You sit there in the dark, and you suffer – vicariously it’s true, but nonetheless convincing for that.

Look out for and beware many such moments of tear-jerking, sob-racking grief in this three hour marathon which yet somehow flies by.  The rebel’s badge placed with unexpected tenderness on the corpse of a young boy, whose sightless eyes rivet the watcher in horror at such waste.  The last two students, cornered by an open window and snarling defiance behind their tattered flag as they face the guns levelled at them, determined on their martyrdom and quite impervious to fear.  Powerful, massively emotive stuff.

This is the magic of the movie treatment of Les Mis.  Time and again, you are drawn inexorably into the inner feelings of a character in extremis, and this applies to heroes and villains alike.  The distinction between the two poles of good and evil is fine, as it should be with any real, human story.  These are three-dimensional characters given full rein by the possibilities offered on the big screen.  Our feelings are not spared, and there is uncomfortably little distance between our perspective and the struggle and conflicts unfolding before us.  But the same also applies to the moments of love and beauty, and to the final message of redemption, and we are warmed by these in equal measure to the shock and grief we experience elsewhere.

Les Misérables is a motion picture tribute to an immortal piece of musical theatre, and as such it has more than achieved its goal, which must – as a minimum – have been to leave the legacy untarnished.  In actually enhancing the experience, it has certainly surpassed my expectations, and I feel that the next time I see the show, it will be with an increased understanding of the story, the characters and the whole phenomenon.  An amazing movie and one I would heartily recommend to anyone – but make sure you’re adequately hydrated, and take plenty of tissues….