Catching Up—Gluttony, Stoicism, and Delirium

25 11 2006

What else have I been up to? Well, yesterday, of course, I had the as-promised Thanksgiving dinner with my buddy. It was almost a disaster. We had a reservation for the Thanksgiving buffet at a country inn. When we got to the inn, though, it was mobbed. About an hour late, we were finally seated. Ugh. I also didn’t enjoy jockeying for position with other buffet-goers in the long-ish lines for turkey and pumpkin pie. I’m thankful (ha!) I don’t have to do that very often. The food was fairly good, though.

On Wednesday night, I saw The Queen—the film starring Helen Mirren. It tells the story of how British Prime Minister Tony Blair helped Queen Elizabeth II save herself from herself after the death of Princess Diana. QE2 viewed Diana’s death as a private family matter, and, apparently, she didn’t initially see how her failure to grieve publicly was hurting the Crown. Blair, the young modernizer (and, ironically, leading a party with not-insignificant republican sentiment in it), badgered her into doing what needed to be done.

The Queen has gotten raves, but I can’t honestly give it more than three stars (out of four). Mirren is superb. She manages to look like QE2, and Mirren makes you see how QE2 submerges everything in the service of British stoicism. That said, The Queen mostly portrays the Royal Family as unidimensional cartoon characters. Prince Charles comes across as a vain dimwit. Prince Philip is a dithering idiot. The Queen Mother is merely irascible, if sort of delightfully so. I’m no royalist, but it’s silly to portray real, accomplished people so lamely. (See, for example, the Wikipedia entry on the Queen Mother. She was no cartoon figure.) In this setting, it’s easy for the young Blair—played by the, um, deliciously handsome Michael Sheen—to come across as the only capable figure in sight. It’s all just too easy. I enjoyed The Queen, but I don’t think it’s a brilliant film. Enjoy it for the performances of Mirren, Sheen, and Sylvia Sims as the Queen Mother. Be careful, though: The plot will hit you over the head.

Last weekend, I attended a performance of the Cirque du Soleil show Delirium. I’m a huge fan of Cirque du Soleil, and Delirium was my sixth Cirque show. Unfortunately, I guess I have to say it was my least favorite Cirque experience. Going in, I knew that Delirium was different. The typical Cirque du Soleil show is a sort of upscale, crazy circus, featuring amazing acrobatics, droll clowns, and a vaguely Surrealist theme. In the big top (er, sorry, that’s the Grand Chapiteau), the music is not normally front-and-center. Still, I love the music, which is avant-garde and sung in imaginary languages.

In Delirium, the music is supposed to be the focus, and that had me excited. Unfortunately, Delirium‘s music is far too straightforward. It’s something you might hear on Broadway or, actually, in some lesser venue. The music is in English, and it’s all too familiar. The acrobatics and visuals are stunning, as always (although since Delirium isn’t performed in the big top, Cirque is limited by how much it can do). But the music keeps getting in the audience’s way. It just seems silly to pair something so, well, mundane with the unusual human activity occurring on the stage. At one point, the Everyman—whose dream Delirium is supposed to be—expresses relief that what’s happening is only a dream “because this is really, really weird.” Unfortunately, Cirque forgot to write the “really, really weird” soundtrack to Everyman’s dream.




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