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Lights! Camel! Action!

October 5, 2012

I feel epic. And I haven’t even bought any insurance. I’ve been listening to The Killers – All These Things That I’ve Done, a tune that was handed up to me, so to speak, when unexpectedly laid up for a couple of months feeling anything BUT epic. (Hand-me-up music – stuff I learn from my children and their friends. Take this one, for instance – Sleeping Ute by Grizzly Bear: a band I hadn’t heard of three weeks ago but want to hear more of now. I (and you) have Joseph Richardson to thank for that.)

Despite the modern use of the word “epic”, when I hear it the first thing to come to mind is Ben Hur: a vast, sweeping movie with grand themes, an enormous cast, THE chariot race and big, big music. Almost more music than film, in fact.

If you’d seen the cinema release, or if you have the full version on DVD, you’ll know that there’s an Overture (lasting six and a half minutes) and an Intermission (another four and a half minutes), during which on screen are visible, in hollywood epic-style font against a cracked marble-effect background, the words Overture and (you guessed it) Intermission respectively. All in all an extra eleven minutes of stirring Roman music, because three and three-quarter hours of stirring Charlton Heston clearly wasn’t enough.

Please note: you’ll hear nothing from me against “Chuck”, beyond his unfortunate fondness for gun owners.  Chuck has called me “Sir”. This very hand – THIS one – has felt the oaken grip of the man who oakenly portrayed presidents, princes and prophets, and inspired Charlton Heston – the rather odd song and odder video by Stump from which the title of this post is taken.

Intermissions have rather faded from the cinematic experience. The days of one ticket buying you two feature-length films, separated by 15 minutes for the occupants of the back row to catch their breath, are regrettably gone. Even further behind us are the programmes where films like Ben Hur would be paused in the middle, whether or not they had a natural break or specially composed music.

Bizarrely, though, when we saw Toy Story 2 it had an interval. You wouldn’t have thought it long enough to merit one, and I expect the producers believed that too, as there is no obvious point in the plot to take a break. It’s a bit hazy now, but I like to think it ran “‘You killed my father…’ – and we’ll be back after this short break”.

In any event, in that small, very old-fashioned picture-house in Geneva, the lights went up at a random moment, the screen was filled with bubbles like a lava lamp, and the projectionist left his booth and became the man behind the confectionery counter. Once the dozen or so in the audience had taken their ease, he popped back out, briefly assumed the role of usher to get us back up to the auditorium, and set up the second reel. “Welcome back. ‘No Buzz, I AM your father.'”

Now that was an epic moment.


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  1. Great post but you can’t leave us hanging on the suggestion of a Heston rendezvous …

    • Rendezvous – oh how I wish. For reasons I can’t understand or therefore explain, I conceived a fondness for CH from early days. I went to see him give a talk promoting his (not actually awful) autobiography – In the Arena. He signed a copy before my very eyes, handed it to me, looked me in the eyes, shook my hand and said “thank you, Sir”….. did I merely imagine hearing him whisper his room number?


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