I must admit that since I moved to deepwestcountryland, New Year’s Eve has often passed me by; but this year I spent it with one of my oldest friends and her partner. And what a jolly time we had, watching Amy Winehouse, looking distinctly odd, Lily Allen and Paul Weller on Jools Holland’s annual BBC TV musical love-in.
We agreed that in 2007, despite the fact, that we all tend to fall asleep far too early these days, we should try to get out more and reconnect with contemporary culture. And we could start as we mean to go on by going to the movies.
We wanted to see Miss Potter, but it hadn’t opened at our nearest multiplex. However, Perfume: The Story of a Murderer was showing so, two nights later, we set off from our respective homesteads in Devon and Somerset for the Taunton Odeon. It’s a 50-mile round trip for me, a little less for them. But, as we had all read and all loved Perfume, the book, we reckoned the journey would be worthwhile. Judging by the empty seats in auditorium 7, we are in something of a minority hereabouts.
The other big attraction for us was the presence of Alan Rickman – with whom my friend and I have had some connection in the past - right up there on the silver screen. She had known Alan Rickman in the 1960s and had introduced me to him at a rather smart (and rather snooty) party in Holland Park some 30 years or more ago. This was in the days before he made television viewers sit up and take notice as an unforgettable Obadiah Slope in The Barchester Chronicles – that was in 1982. But, even in the 1970s, the man had presence and knew how to smoulder. All he had to do was stand there - and say nothing.
And then around the time of Obadiah… I realised that Alan Rickman was, in fact, a near neighbour in Notting Hill. Needless to say, he didn’t remember me from the Holland Park party and in all the years that I lived a stone’s throw away from him no words were ever exchanged. Not even when I walked past him with my exceptionally gorgeous black Labrador, who normally stopped people in their tracks.
However, we did share the same hairdresser and once had consecutive appointments. (And Alan had thoughtfully kept the chair warm for me.) Moreover, my young assistants – I worked from home – would regularly report on any Alan Rickman sightings. He always seemed to be sporting the same big overcoat coat that he wore in Truly, Madly, Deeply. Never buttoned, just flapping loosely in the wind – a bit like his hair.
So, it was interesting to see mega-star Alan up there on the screen at the Taunton Odeon. Of course, like my friend and me, he is no longer young. And it was comforting to note that the once very chiselled features are now just a little plumper and the hair – though still thick - is distinctly grey.
Anyway, we thought Perfume was very faithful to the book and had superb music, costumes and sets. But it's over long and its reliance on an off-screen narrator to explain what's happening succeeds only in disengaging the audience. And the penultimate scene - mesmerised villagers indulging in a group grope-fest - verges on the farcical. What is deeply credible in the book becomes truly incredible on screen. Those who’ve read the book will know that it is a very dark tale indeed and the film is not, therefore, for the squeamish. But you could close your eyes during the scary bits and then just sit back and enjoy watching Alan Rickman - the man once chosen by Empire magazine as one of the 100 Sexiest Stars in film history and now old enough for a bus pass.