Saturday, April 11, 2009

Weekend Contemplations on Love and Beauty beyond 40...

This time in London, I had kept the weekend free to catch a show on the West end. People I asked for recommendations talked about the latest production at Wyndham’s – Madame de Sade – starring Judi Dench, tho’ they themselves hadn’t seen it yet. (Click here)

Heaving bosoms and washboard tummies`

The play is based on Yukio Mishima’s famous Japanese novel on the life of Marquis de Sade (a decadent aristocrat imprisoned in the Bastille for his lurid sexual escapades) as told from the perspective of the many women in his life. But, despite the salacious blurbs the lukewarm reviews on the free papers I picked up on the tube – left me cold. But then, I am also not a great fan of bosom heaving period and costume dramas in the first place.

So, I gave up the idea of a play and wandered around aimlessly in the Covent Garden – Leicester Square area on a pleasant 14 ยบ C afternoon. After a satisfying pub lunch (pie and mash with a pint of good ale) at the Nags Head, I headed out towards the Odeon. But old age has an uncanny knack of sending untimely reminder slips . Earlier – I could have traversed Central London for hours occasionally hopping into a bus or a short ride on the tube. Wrapping up the day - quite literally - with a satisfying meal of crispy aromatic duck pancakes in Soho China Town. Before long I felt totally drained and even a shot of double espresso at the new Costa’s round the corner couldn’t pick me up. Exhausted, I found myself taking the escalator up the Trocadero Cinemas near Picadilly Circus, buying a ticket for the new Julia Roberts flick – Duplicity, which was showing next.

Due to the effect of the beer or the walk, I am not sure which – I shamelessly dozed off even before the trailers had begun to roll. I don’t know if I was snoring too, since in a near empty theatre there was no one on the next seat to poke me. When I woke up a good 30 minutes into the film, Owen was dropping his signature pick-up line "I excel at remembering people I have slept with; that's been a traditional area of strength for me". The film is at best a slick entertainer about 2 con artists – Roberts and Owen – trying to outsmart each other in their own game of gypping a major drug company with the fake formula of an over-the-counter cure for baldness. Smart cinematography and sharp dialogues are the mainstay of the movie banking heavily on the glamour quotient of the 2 lead actors (tho’ Owen struts around with his bare torso, Julia barely shows any skin at all – but more on that later).

Adolescent fantasies

Duplicity reminded me of another film in the same genre from the 70s – Thief who came to Dinner, Ryan O’Neil played a high-society jewel thief and Jaqueline Bisset was his partner in crime. It’s easy to understand why Bisset, more than the film, had made a deep impression on a teenage mind, which was further indelibly re-engraved in movies like the ‘Deep’ that followed with its stunning opening sequence of Bisset scuba-diving in a wet T-Shirt. That brings me to the all important question – is Julia Roberts really HOT or simply 'pretty'?

I personally think that her looks have been grossly over-rated. She definitely isn’t beautiful in a classical sense – like say Audrey Hepburn of yore, Nicole Kidman, Natalie Portman or a Keira Knightly of more recent vintage. She doesn’t have the heady blend of understated sensuality and over-pouring oomph of an Angelina Jolie. In Pretty Woman, it was her freshness rather than her sexiness and unaffected charm that made her so appealing and caught people’s fancy, than probably the more natural consummate tartalinas such as a Katherine Zeta Jones, Penelope Cruz or a Cameron Diaz would have.

But, then what is it about her that I liked in this movie ? It couldn’t have been her acting – for which she had little scope to display her prowess. Yet, had it not been for her I would have happily slept thru the movie (and still felt that I have got my money’s worth for the £7 I spent on the ticket ) and, most certainly, the images wouldn't have been lingering in my mind even after a month. There was something mesmerising about her character -for which, I savoured spending those 2 hours with her in air-conditioned comfort that was beyond giving my tired feet some well deserved rest.

Magical Menopause or Mid-life fixations

I finally chanced upon the answer in the recent issue of TIME – in which Mary Pols analyses her …… (Read Full Article by clicking here)

“Claire would like Owen to love her, but it’s clear she’d survive without him. Their relationship is not a road to an altar; it’s about being with someone who gets you. It’s mature love in short.

What about being mature in years ? Forty or thereabouts is often the most attractive age for women, when you are old to really appreciate, understand and know how to flatter yourself. But in Hollywood it mostly leads to unintentional vanishing acts or inspires unfortunate experiments with surgery.

Motherhood, by the way, looks good on her. Onscreen – she’s lush and full: any woman who has breast-fed will recognize the source of her Duplicity cleavage. Her Claire makes Owen’s Ray even more swoon-worthy, we know he appreciates a real woman.

If you are nostalgic for the pretty woman in pink-and-black spandex, too bad. Robert’s isn’t shoe horning herself back into a prostitute’s work outfit. She’s too sensible to even try.”

In real-life I know some women above 40 – who fit Mol’s description of Roberts almost to a tee (and, I'm not talking of cleavage here). They carry age, marriage and motherhood on an even keel with a great deal of panache and elan. But, I can’t think of any examples in Bollywood of actresses who have been able to make such seamless transition with age. But we are an evolving lot and I would still place my bet on Priyanka – tho’ I wish she wouldn’t succumb to peer pressure and try getting to size-zero. Well, I may not be a Marquis or an Owen - but at way past 40, I am beginning to understand a thing or two about women, love and beauty.