I have had two TV experiences this week that are, as it were, on the opposite ends of an artistic spectrum. The one was seeing the film "The Lives of Others" (for the third time); the other was seeing a programme hosted by Michael Winner.
I was once asked, at dinner on holiday, by someone who doesn't like silence but who's always in the party spirit and wants everyone else to be even if they hate parties (like I do, though I recall saying this once long ago to be told "It's probably because you're never invited". Sod.), I was asked what my favourite film was. I said "Casablanca". But later, thinking about it, not trying to play along with the party-er, I changed my mind and thought "No, not Casablanca but City Lights by Chaplin". Now, after seeing "The Lives of Others" I've changed my mind again. Is there a finer film than this? I can't think of one. It's about a Stasis stooge of a man, working for the East German government before the fall of the wall, who is without a soul but who finds his when he is appointed to spy on a couple of artists..... which doesn't tell you anything about how beautifully this is accomplished, how heartrending the story is, how thrillingly its story unfolds, how it is constructed so cleverly, how the music underlines the action without intruding upon it..... Heaps of other reasons. It makes one feel, not sad, but uplifted spiritually.
Then there's Michael Winner and his programme in which he goes to people's homes, eats their food, makes notes as he eats, then at the end tells them what he thought of the meal and awards stars to them. I could not turn the damn thing off; it was how a rabbit must feel when a stoat approaches it; I just found it horribly fascinating. There he was at the large house of an elderly Scottish couple, upper middle class, standing like some grotesque, large garden gnome while the party of people chatted away merrily. No one welcomed him, he said; no one spoke to him (they said they had), and, though he had said the food was generally good he wasn't going to give them a single star because they didn't make him feel he was welcome. For God's sake, you don't talk to a garden gnome do you?
The other family he gave one star to, not because the food was any good - it was dreadful, I could do better myself (that's how awful it was), but because he was given a good old fashioned, hearty welcome and he had a good time. Some restaurant critic he must be.