Monday, 30 April 2012

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

..... The answer is, it's on at the Landmark Art House cinema complex in West Los Angeles - a mere 16 miles from south-central (where I am staying) to west LA. A swanky new and up-market complex offering 11 screens showing a really good range of films - including Monsieur Lazhar. I saw this at a 9:30 screening on a Sunday night in the 24 seat Screening Lounge Auditorium kitted out with leather sofas and armchairs - nice:

The film stars Ewan McGregor as Dr Fred Jones - a government expert on Salmon, Emily Blunt as the investment consultant Harriet Chetwode-Talbot and Kristin Scott-Thomas as the PMs Press Officer Patricia Maxwell - Alastair Campbell in a skirt if you will. The premise of the story is straightforward. A wealthy Yemeni sheik (Amr Waked) who owns estates in Scotland and has a passion for Salmon fishing, wishes to introduce the sport to Yemen as part of a scheme to irrigate the desert and bring prosperity to his people. Dr Jones feels it is laughably unfeasible and the government are desperate for a good news story from the Arab world to deflect the pain of the losses in Afghanistan. Dr Jones is coerced into taking the project on and in the end it becomes his all consuming passion.

Along the way, the plot is deftly played out by the cast with great sensitivity and at times humour. This is a different kind of romcom - one that knows what it's about and isn't afraid to laugh at itself with the characters from time-to-time actually saying "yes - that was an attempt at a joke". There are a number of romantic and power relationships that play out in the film. The only sex scene in the film is portrayed with more comedy than intimacy and underlines just how much of a rut the staid academic Dr Jones has allowed himself to fall into. The project saves him from the insular world of the academy and awakens his spirit, senses and love in ways that they have never before experienced. It is more than the Yemeni desert that sees transformation!

The flies in the ointment are the local tribes-people who see the sheik's project as a sell-out to Western ideals and values and something which is anti-Islamic. They plot to sabotage the scheme. Added to this, Harriet's love interest gives a small insight into the tensions that are playing out in too many military families these days.

The story takes many twists and turns but is expertly navigated by the cast and Director Lasse Hallström. It deftly moves between comedy and weightier moments with characters that are believable and beguiling with McGregor, Blunt and Waked all giving performances that display a tenderness in their characterisation. It builds towards a climax that is a painful choice for Harriet - but you never quite know which way it will go - although I for one had my hopes and they were met. There is a high degree of decency portrayed by this film's characters - a kind of chivalry of a by-gone age. There is also a lot indecency portrayed by the politicians - nothing that In The Loop hasn't already given us. I imagine this will appeal more to British audiences - although the Americans I watched it with last night seemed to laugh along and enjoy it.

If this is still playing anywhere near you and you haven't seen it - please try and make the effort. If you have seen it - go and see it again! I await the opportunity to buy it on disc and commend it to you unreservedly giving it a 8.5/10.


Hordur said...

There is still an increase in booked salmon fly fishing trips in Scotland according to the guides there and fisheries. tight lines, Hörður

Duncan Strathie said...

Thanks for the interesting comment - it's good to know.

I imagine trips the other way have not increased in popularity - unless you are in the US Special Forces!

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