For those whose time had run its natural course in 2003, a toast to my great uncle Norman and my great auntie Millie.
Last night we went to see Hayao Miyazaki's wonderful Spirited Away, one of the best films of the year, certainly the top animation, just nudging out Belleville Rendezvous, and towering above Finding Nemo. The film is brimming with potent imagination, both visual and in storyline. The environment is totally believable and the characters are human, even the non-human ones which dominate the film. It can be favourably paralleled with Alice in Wonderland in concept, but less manic and more amazing. I haven't been to a film in a long time that produced sounds of awe from the small audience. Perhaps The Return of the King will reproduce that experience... A good Miyazaki site is Nausicaa.net.
My four-times great grandfather, James Ewing, fell off the edge of a cliff one foggy night in 1883 and was discovered the next morning, sprawled on the rocks. Ten years later his son, Alexander, placed his head on the tracks in front of an express train and was decapitated. Another twenty years on, Alexander's niece, Mary, picked up the lodger's shotgun in the kitchen and it accidentally fired into her chest. She staggered into her husband's arms and then died... (a few months later, the same gun went off, again accidentally, and killed the lodger too).
And maybe this is one of the reasons it didn't quite spark. He was funny, but not side-splitting as he has been before. The Brighton Centre is a big cavernous venue and I was sat in the east wing, so it felt like he was talking to someone else, not me, and these reasons probably contributed also. This is the fifth time I've seen Eddie live - twice at The Hawth in Crawley (which were truly hilarious) and also as part of the 'One-word improv' tour in Tunbridge Wells. All these were before his mega(ish)-stardom. More recently I saw him in 'A Day in the Death of Joe Egg' at the Comedy Theatre, also very good. So, a bit disappointing this time round, but he still pulled strongly at the chuckle muscles. The last time I was in the Brighton Centre was for the World Science Fiction Convention in 1987.
It's one of those magic moments on film that hits you totally. The atmosphere is snapped back when Watanabe's companion for the night jumps up saying "That's the spirit!", turning emotional awe into a laugh.
Linda is an American researcher who is making fascinating discoveries on Edna Purviance (Chaplin's leading lady 1915-1923, see the amazing ednapurviance.org) and we added a few more little bits thanks to the collection (white gloves donned), which I have been wanting to see since the days of my now defunct ChaplinUK website and its Edna section.
The festival itself was wonderful. We met up with some old Chaplin Society friends including Dominique (and Emeline) from the south of France, and Dave Johnson who runs Famous Flying Films (check out The Koala Brothers on Wednesday mornings, BBC2), as well as Peter Jewell of the Bill Douglas Centre. The festival itself consisted of short discussions with Paul Merton, Carl Davis and Kevin Brownlow and the film showings, of course, all accompanied live by the London Philharmonic Orchestra and conducted by Carl Davis - 'City Lights', 'The Circus' and 'The Kid', with the shorts - 'The Cure', 'The Adventurer' and 'The Immigrant', as well as rare screenings of 'How To Make Movies' and 'Kid Auto Races'. The Festival Hall was packed every night with everyone in stitches, absolutely the best way to see Charlie Chaplin.
Charlie and Edna in The Immigrant (1917)