21 January 2008

In praise of Once

After work on Wednesday this week I noticed that the Prince Charles was screening the Irish film Once, so I took the opportunity to see it a second time, having originally seen it with Craig and Claire in Shaftesbury Avenue a few months ago. On first look, the film is a tiny gem, a thoroughly enjoyable evocation of the simple beauty of great songs performed honestly with verve and passion. The second time around, Once impressed again - its two immensely appealing lead actors, Glen Hansard (of the Irish band The Frames) and young Marketa Irglova are both effortlessly talented and give likeable performances, there are ample opportunities to laugh at the film's low-key humour, and the songs they composed and delivered live to camera in the film are deft singer-songwriter material. Particular favourites include a swooping paean to lost love, Falling Slowly (see link below for a performance on Letterman: America has well and truly embraced Once) and the surging urgency of When Your Mind's Made Up, which we see being commited to tape in the recording studio. And life truly imitates art, because now Hansard and Irglova are a couple in real life. Aww.

This weekend I was fairly out-and-about, having resolved to be more proactive and to take advantage of as much as possible in this busy city. On Saturday I took in the open day at the Middle and Inner Temple, two of the ancient Inns of Court of London (Chaucer wrote of them in 1381). Normally closed to the general public, the Inns had cast open their doors as part of the commemoration of the 400th anniversary of the royal charter granted by James I. Of most interest was the Temple Church with its stone effigies of knights rising from the stone floor, and the Middle Temple Hall, its dark wood panels decked with hundreds of family crests of former members, and a gigantic portrait of King James (from the school of van Dyk) holding pride of place at the head of the hall.

After the Temple I took the Tube south of the river to the Imperial War Museum to explore the war posters exhibition, Weapons of Mass Communication. Some were familiar - 'Daddy, what did YOU do during the Great War?' - while others were more contemporary and comical, like the Blair-baiting Make Tea, Not War.

Today after perusing the shops in Hammersmith and availing myself of a pastry from Marks & Spencers I went to Greenwich to have a quick look at the exhibits (mainly the artworks) in the National Maritime Museum. There was time afterwards for a quick visit to Steve and Fiona's apartment two stops down on the DLR before I headed home to prepare for the week ahead.

Before I go, I can report that I've now booked my next two trips to the Continent. On Friday night I booked my week off in February - I'll be heading to Andalucia in southern Spain to explore and take advantage of the (hopefully) warmer weather. A month or so later I'll be zipping down to Naples for Easter, to take in the marvels of Pompeii and Herculaneum, and maybe Capri and the Amalfi Coast if there's time.

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