Simon Callow on Simon Gray – Elements of the Surreal

20 Apr

Our Le Cine Anglais film and supper “club” (not really a club, because of course it is open to all), kicked off with a season of Simon Gray’s films.  To date we have seen A Month in The Country, Running Late and After Pilkington.  Tonight we get to see Simon Callow and Stephen Fry in the much acclaimed Old Flames.  What strikes one about all these films is the sense of the surreal.  Perhaps A Month in the Country is most grounded of these, but we still witness elements of it. 

After Simon Gray died in August 2008, Simon Callow wrote a wonderful tribute to him and captures the essence of Simon’s surrealist tendencies brilliantly.  Simon Callow will be attending the screening of Old Flames tonight and will be answering the Q+A at the end of the film.

“It was the phantasmagoric element in his idol Dickens that he valued above all others, the endlessly transmogrifying metaphors, the fantastical distortions, the elements of the grotesque, all underpinned by a great central humanity: and this was what characterised so much of Simon’s work – in a different key, of course, from Dickens’s, and on a different scale, but still recognisably the same. It was what we both loved in Dickens, and what I loved above all in Simon and  his work. Conversation with him was often free-associatingly surreal, hilarious and slightly dangerous.

     It was this dimension that was so rarely explored in productions of his work. Of course, there were in his output straightforwardly well-made plays, but many more of them were predicated on an awareness of the oddity of things when viewed from another angle. Dickens had a word for it: “mooreeffoc”, which is simply “coffee room” seen from the other side of a glazed door. I believe I introduced Simon to this coinage, but he jumped on it: it was what he was about. His sense of the sheer strangeness of things was acute.”


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