Thursday, 20 March 2014

The Film Club by David Gilmour

published 2007

from regular guest blogger  Colm Redmond







[The narrator’s son, Jesse, and his new girlfriend are of high school age.]

One day he brought a girl home. Her name was Rebecca Ng, a Vietnamese knockout. “Nice to meet

you, David,” she said, holding my eye.

David?

“How’s your day going?”

“How’s my day going?” I repeated idiotically. “So far, so good.”

Did I enjoy living in the neighbourhood? Why, yes, thank you.

“I have an aunt who lives a few streets over,” she said. “She’s very nice. Old country but very nice.”

Old country?


Rebecca Ng (pronounced Ning) was dressed to the nines, spotless white jeans, maroon long-collared blouse, leather jacket, Beatle boots. You had the feeling she’d paid for these clothes herself, an after-school job in a Yorkville boutique, Saturdays serving drinks to ring-removing executives in the bar of the Four Seasons Hotel (when she wasn’t polishing off an early credit in calculus). As she turned her head to speak to Jesse, I caught a whiff of perfume. Delicate, expensive.

“So here we are,” she said.




observations: This true story ought to have been a novel. A dad lets his 15-year-old son drop out of high school in return for a simple promise: to keep away from drugs, and watch films with his dad. Three, of his dad’s choice, per week.

The first third of the book is brilliant: funny and charming, and packed with entertainment and sometimes insight. Not insight into what teenage boys are like, because there’s nothing special about this guy, no matter what his dad thinks. Nor into affairs of the heart, because the son and the dad seem equally clueless on that. (Early on he describes his ex-wife as “the kindest woman I’ve ever known” – nothing wrong with that, till you realise a few pages later that he is now re-married, and picture his current wife’s face as she reads the book.) But on fatally-attractive females, and film, it’s pretty good.

Author David Gilmour – no connection with Pink Floyd – is among other things a film critic, and judging by what he says about some films I like, he knows his stuff. (In other words he shares some of my tastes.) He also has a good turn of phrase. Jesse is “a boy with a white, untannable face in which you could see the arrival of even the smallest upset with the clarity of a slammed door.” And it’s really interesting to read about a film, pick up some insights and neat trivia, and find out how the teenager reacts to seeing it for the first time.

But that part gets drowned out by the rest, standard stuff that is not inherently interesting to us: his own career, and Jesse’s jobs, love life and attempts to be a musician. The boy’s main foil is the gorgeous but unlikable Rebecca, on whom Gilmour seems nearly as fixated as his son. He describes no one else’s clothes gratuitously, but always details her outfits, and sometimes the effect she has on adult males who see her. And although the extract above pins her down, quickly and vividly, you have to take it on trust that he’s describing her in terms of accurate clichés, not merely projecting stereotypes onto her, some racist and some sexist. The rest of the story supports his first impressions, it’s true; if this were a novel you’d say he’d justified it all. But it’s not. And that’s undeniably a problem: because the story is true it kind of bumps along, and isn’t very coherent or neat or paced. But still, you like Jesse and care about him and it pulls you with it.

Yorkville is a very, very high-end shopping district in Toronto.


The pics are of another North American-born oriental knockout, Lucy Liu: Rebecca reminded me of her, in all her various charming outfits. You get the impression she would leap at the chance to do a tastefully saucy photoshoot like the main pic. She would definitely love that coat, worn by Liu as Joan Watson in Elementary (as was the third outfit). Of course, if anyone mentioned that it looks like she’s naked underneath, Rebecca would claim to be perfectly astounded…

Thanks to Amy Newton for the book.

For more from the guest blogger, click on his name below.

10 comments:

  1. Did those snazzy coats catch my eye.........nah, let's be honest it was the legs and the smile. Probably not a book for me - and yes I did think Pink Floyd once I read the author's name.

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    1. Well, it is a sensational photo. After my success at luring a previous author onto the blog, I'm hoping to hear from the subject of the pics this time...

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  2. Haha - I wish you luck with that one..........if she calls and you're busy, my number is 077.........

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  3. Moira - Thanks for hosting Colm.

    Hello, Colm - What an interesting bargain with a teen: an exchange of quitting school for staying off drugs and watching films. I have to admit that I'm biased about that. Perhaps its my academic background. At any rate....those clothes really are lovely, and you're right; it's easy to pick up the kind of person Rebecca is just from the bits you've shared. Still, I want the leather jacket.

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    1. Rebecca certainly dresses well, like Lucy/Joan, from what we know. Men and women equally impressed for different reasons, kind of thing... You probably wouldn't want your son to fall for her or your daughter to be her rival for a boy, but I don't think she's a bad person. Presumably she is real but whether that's her real name or not, I've no idea.

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  4. Colm: Gilmour is well known in Canada. I had not heard of this book. My thoughts on his actions can be summed up as irresponsible.

    While I live almost 3,000 km from Toronto I have been in Yorkville many times. If Rebecca is paying for her own clothes and buying in Yorkville she must be getting a special discount in the store she works in for no average teenager is able to afford Yorkville.

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    1. I would never have predicted that a solid 66.66% of commenters would be mainly exercised about the premise of the book rather than my chances with Lucy Liu, the clothes, Rebecca Ng: Goodie or Baddie? etc. I can't defend the plan but I'd say in slight mitigation that a lot of thought went into it.

      Bill, I guess Rebecca is a hard-working driven kind of gal who aspires to shop in Yorkville, and meanwhile works there - because she can look the part - rather than in the kind of clothes shops she buys from herself. My detailed researches into Yorkville [on Wiki...] revealed a fact I omitted, that at one time a couple of streets or arcades there had the highest per-square-foot retail rental value in the world - or something like that.

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  5. Well, I found the photos of Lucy Liu the most interesting here. I love her in Elementary and I love watching what she wears. I can see that a book about a guy watching movies with his son could be interesting but not too sure about the whole premise. I don't know, maybe I will try it, I like books about movies almost as much as books about books. AND it isn't long and it is Canadian.

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    1. Tracy I think anyone who's interested in film would love much of this book. It made me want to re-watch quite a lot of films and catch up with a few I've never got around to.

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  6. Movies present a visual portrayal of people’s attitude from any era. Even Birth of a Nation was an invaluable film historically. Right or wrong, it speaks to attitudes and feelings that a lot of moviegoers had at the time.

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