Curzon Soho is one of my favourite cinemas. Almost equidistant from two of my favourite watering holes , The French House and the Beaujolais. But that day there could be no breakfast gin, midday pint or lunch time Burgundy. I was there to watch the all conquering three hour plus Turkish masterpiece Winter Sleep. And I was determined not to.
Armed with a bottle of water I joined the other oldies for the afternoon session. At 68 I was there to bring the average age down. Not by much. All around fat old couples sat holding hands. As depressing as a Stones farewell concert. Oh death where is thy sting, oh pain thy victory?
Slow and often deliberately half lit the film moved on. Stories as old as time told in a easy paced but never simple way. There was no short hand. Every scene ratched up to a slow fuse drama. Set in rural Anatolia and when we went outside onto the steppes,there was even more drama and spectacle. But inside the provincial tragedies , that those who know Russian drama know well, were played out. The provincial angst of those in the big house set against the desperate poverty of those outside. The director says he was inspired by Chekhov. He is not alone.
The boredom, the conceit, the feudal quagmire, the brick walls. The pitiless circles around which they ran. No one was spared and even the softish landing at the end didn’t cloud the stark and riveting beauty of it all. Here is a film that is and demands intelligence and any art for which the audience has to work is always more enjoyed. There is power,there is swell but there are no waves,the film just rolls powerfully on. And on.
Tenant against landlord, husband against wife, brother against sister, man against boy, steward against peasant, people against nature. No one here was afraid of Virginia Woolf. Even when scenes were telegraphed they were shocking. But at a pace which was adult and articulate not teenage frantic. Brilliant
After, as I scurried across China town to the tube, Suzie Wong’s granddaughter came out the shadows and asked if I wanted a massage. I tried to explain that after my radio therapy this might take longer than she anticipated. She wasn’t phased but when I asked if there was any chance of either of us wearing any Nazi kit she fled into the evening gloom crying “No speakee good English.”Is multi cultural Britain working?
Winter Sleep trailer link