August 20th, 2015


The Perfect Cocktail Affair

Still on Russians, apparently, I went to see the Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Yes, the reviews have been poor, but as I’d been watching the Girl From U.N.C.L.E. the only way was up, oh dear, yes. And I was a properly official and ticketed card carrying fan. Why, I still have an old Man From U.N.C.L.E. car sitting atop my bookshelf, next to the Tardis.

So, off I went. It wasn’t too bad. Not at all. It ticked the Man From U.N.C.L.E. trope boxes: camp villain, ex-Nazis, some ‘innocent’ they co-opt into their adventures (more often than not, not so innocent) and the exotic locales (for reals this time) and even near as dammit a volcano lair.

What really amused me though was it seemed Guy Ritchie wanted to make a 60s film, got the rights to Man From U.N.C.L.E., but, to these eyes, seems to have made a massive love letter to ITC. It was so very, very The Protectors, The Saint, The Thunderbirds, Callan, The Persuaders, Department S and Danger Five. So very Danger Five. So Danger Five I was disappointed when the swarthy villain didn’t die with the words ‘two parts vermouth’ on his lips. Nor did Mr Waverley fetch the sit-down gun. But it did have Nazis and euro-tropes, so I think my Danger Five comparison is more than valid. (Oh, and I’ve not seen the Sandbaggers for years, but maybe a bit of that, too).

Anyhoo, quite unfairly, since it was evoking my ITC tropes so hard, I was mildly annoyed there wasn’t speed boat chase down the Venice canals, or fights atop alpine cable cars, but that’s just me, perhaps going a little too far with the flow (did I mention I was in Gold Glass and had ordered a couple of glasses of an Italian red, because Man From U.N.C.L.E.).

As for the boys, don’t mind ‘em, bit of a fan, though in truth I’ve mainly worked my way through their back catalogues on planes. As for the romance, and I’m talking the boys here, well, I’m wondering what they were trying to do here, I mean, it was so obvious I’m not sure if I was supposed to be offended and laugh like it was some off-colour joke or wait for a happy announcement.

Still, despite thinking it was being played cruelly for laughs, as per both Sherlocks, by bully writers, I found it rather sweet. Certainly the rather sociopathic Solo (who seemed much more Neal Caffrey than Napoleon Solo, and yes, that bothered me) seemed to find himself surprised that he was fond of Illya, and the saving of Illya from drowning, not to mention the gift of the watch when Illya had come to kill him, they weren’t just literally disarming scenes but the biggest most purple pieces of romance I’ve seen on screen all year. Hell, I’ve sat through four to five series supposedly hetero couples and seen way less romance than that. Swoon, in other words.

And what’s with making Illya a psycho all of a sudden? Not happy about that. Yes, he used to be callous and strange, but he was being played by a Scot – grin. (Have you ever seen McCallum in any of his 50s films like Violent Playground? I suspect Guy Ritchie has). So I can see where they fetched the idea from, but I’m not happy. Bit of a trope and exactly the sort of thing my younger fan-ficcy self would have written, so I sneer on it a bit now (not that I ever write now, nor did I ever write well, which is why I sniff at anything that whiffs of something I might have written, as in not good and extremely amateurish and obvious).

But overall, yes, the standard Man From U.N.C.L.E. plot didn’t quite stretch to movie-length size, but it looked good, the guys were cute and well cast (well, they didn’t cast The Rock as Napoleon, so anything other than that is a bargain, in my shattered by shocking casting opinion) and I’m not too fussed about getting The Protectors served up instead of Man From U.N.C.L.E.. Not really. Maybe the nazi dinosaurs will show up in the sequel?

Then I went to see the V&A Julia Margaret Cameron exhibition at the gallery. She of the wistfully high Victoriana photos. Lots of people posing in drapery. It was all very, very Pre-Raphaelite, and hardly surprising as a Rossetti (not Dante or Christina) popped up, as did Tennyson. In fact the photos for Tennyson’s Idylls of the King were very, very like drawings by Rossetti, and I’m not just saying illustrating the same scene in the same poem the same, but the exact same costumes and poses, including that rather unique and exotic helm. It made me think anyways. Not the curators, though, who couldn’t even tell there were two different coloured roses in one photo, or seemed vaguely aware of the different processing techniques. Ah, well, just look at the pretty pictures.

So I did, and I enjoyed it.

It’s fun, running away early/on-time and instead of sweating for hours in unpaid overtime, seeing some art, or the Man From U.N.C.L.E.

It’s been a while. A year in fact, since the great retrenchment. I figured I needed to, I don’t know, celebrate, ease of the pedal a bit, just for a bit (though the larger part of me always thinks knows that the moment I relax for a second, that’s when they’ll get me. Because they do. They did).