“Gertrude,” by Herman Hesse

Novel, 1910 A book about a young man and his pursuit of music and love. The universal themes, multi-faceted and gloomy characters, and the determination of the first-person narrator counteract the old-fashioned feel of this book. It’s a compelling read, too, really taking the reader in and building attachment to the story’s twists and turns. A strong example of traditional, engaging writing with much to … Continue reading “Gertrude,” by Herman Hesse

‘Hampstead,’ directed by Joel Hopkins

Movie, 2017 A film whose premise doesn’t promise much, but which in a charming, uncomplicated way, delivers. Yes, this is a film about class and mannered societal behaviour, whose nuances are hard to find and which could be accused of being a little patronising. The film also has a backs to the wall, stick up for the underdog and – very politely – stick it … Continue reading ‘Hampstead,’ directed by Joel Hopkins

“Rebecca,” directed by Ben Wheatley

Movie, 2020 Sumptuous though rather flat adaptation of Du Maurier’s novel, which despite a few fresh touches here and there, never quite comes down as either a full-on romance nor creepy horror. It fails, too, to escape from the shadows of Hitchcock’s classic. Some nice moments, particularly the contrasts between the breezy early scenes on the Med and the claustrophobic atmosphere of Mandalay, although the … Continue reading “Rebecca,” directed by Ben Wheatley

“I Lost My Body”, directed by Jérémy Clapin

Movie, 2019 Animation, telling the story of a boy, Naoufel, who meets a girl. And his hand, which he loses in a work accident. The double narrative follows both the boy, before and after the accident, and the hand’s attempt to reconnect with the body, then look out for Naoufel. This is a film with real power, both in the imagination and execution of the … Continue reading “I Lost My Body”, directed by Jérémy Clapin

“Charade,” directed by Stanley Donen

Movie, 1963 Lavish spy caper in part; in another part, the glimpses of a crueller brutality and corrupt world give what looks like an old-fashioned romantic thriller and uncomfortable and, at times, ill-fitting feel. Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn are their usual feel good, charming selves, although they feel a little lost and silly in a Paris which seems hemmed in and dangerous. The sumptuous … Continue reading “Charade,” directed by Stanley Donen

“Singin’ in the Rain,” directed by Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen

Movie, 1952 Musical set around a famous Hollywood couple making the transition from silent to sound pictures. A film which has plenty of charm and laughs, which looks stunning in places and is generally a joy to watch. Some of the leaps into singing and dancing are a little contrived – as is too often the case in musicals – and the production number element … Continue reading “Singin’ in the Rain,” directed by Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen

“Your Blue-Eyed Boy,” by Helen Dunmore

Novel, 1998 Hugely atmospheric and quite an unsettling book, with a protagonist and her family working through changes to their lives and situations and relocating from London to a marshy place on the coast. The arrival of a face from the past pushes numerous psychological buttons along the way, with the world built up by the first person narrator being chipped away. There’s unease and … Continue reading “Your Blue-Eyed Boy,” by Helen Dunmore

“Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner”, directed by Stanley Kramer

Movie, 1967 A rather dated film exploring racial tensions in a liberal family, which feels very much like a one-location play adapted for film suing a flat, linear approach to its characters and their issues. Ultimately, there’s a happy ending and a resolution which you can see coming a mile off. Quite effective and moving for it though. The real interest is in race and … Continue reading “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner”, directed by Stanley Kramer

"A Damsel in Distress", by PG Wodehouse

Novel, 1919 A typical Wodehouse tale with all the stock characters and many set piece situations which appear all over the great man’s work mean a thoroughly enjoyable, funny and reassuring read. This is a book relying a little more on chance than some of the others and one which also has a feel of a well-planned three act play, though in truth, little is … Continue reading "A Damsel in Distress", by PG Wodehouse

"The Apartment", directed Billy Wilder

Movie, 1960 Unquestionably funny comedy – the best sort – which pulls laughs from a great script and leading players, and yet does so by lightly hopping over heavy duty 20th century loneliness, alienation, infidelity, prostitution, ethics, depression, chauvinism and bullying, to name just a few. Because the film’s so watchable, the corrupt world becomes acceptable and romanticised, really nailing home a few points which … Continue reading "The Apartment", directed Billy Wilder