Life Is Sweet – The Man Who Would Be King – tape 1358

First on this tape, Mike Leigh’s Life Is Sweet.

Aside from this being a great film, I have a particular fondness for it, because I went to school with one of its stars, Claire Skinner, now far more famous for starring in Outnumbered. I still vividly remember spending a lot of time at school with her and Amanda Heywood, writing little plays which we’d then perform for the other children in the class. I particularly remember her ad-libbing an impersonation of an advert for Flash Cleaner that got a huge laugh, thus proving that she was the talented one. I’d like to say that I knew at the time she would be successful, but that’s not the kind of thing you think when you’re nine years old. In a very strange coincidence, just a day after I wrote this entry I got a text from my sister telling me she’d just met Claire, and that she had remembered me and asked after me. I’d originally written here “I wonder if she’d remember me” but now that question’s answered.

Claire Skinner

Jane Horrocks got most of the attention in this as her twin sister, but I always felt her performance was veering a bit to close to parody. And a lot of her lines sound dubbed, as if they decided to change her voice after filming. She’s the complete opposite of her sister, a neurotic mess of ticks and twitches, suffering from bulimia and horrendously low self-esteem. She’s not helped by the generally unsupportive attitude of her family, although she’s clearly hard to live with.

Jane Horrocks

Jim Broadbent and Alison Steadman play the parents. They’re generally happy, but he harbours a desire to do something more.

Alison Steadman and Jim Broadbent

Their friend Timothy Spall is opening a restaurant, the Regret Rien, with the most revolting menu imaginable. Steadman offers to help out at the opening, when his waitress lets him down.

Timothy Spall

The opening is not a success.

Ultimately, this is a small story, with nothing earth shattering going on. If it has a resolution of any kind, it’s just a small change in the family’s attitude to Horrocks, and her attitude to the family. It doesn’t feel like much, but it’s all the film needs. I like it a lot.

After this, over to BBC1 and something a bit more bombastic, with John Huston’s The Man Who Would Be King. Sean Connery and Michael Caine play a pair of former British soldiers turned mercenaries who decide to travel to an area of Afghanistan called Kafiristan with a cache of rifles, and take over the country.

Sean Connery and Michael Caine

In the process, Connery is taken to be the returning son of Alexander the Great, partly by luck and partly because, apparently, Alexander was a freemason like Connery and Caine.

But when Connery starts enjoying the life of a God, Caine wants to cut and run, knowing their luck will run out.

This is all terribly Imperial, with the plucky Brits lording it over the ignorant savages. And it ends with a scene on a rope bridge that was echoed in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

BBC Genome: BBC One – 20th October 1992 – 23:10

After this, there’s a terrible trailer for Psycho – the impression of Mrs Bates is not a terribly good idea.

Then, after the weather, Mark Waddington wishes us all a peaceful night, as BBC1 closes down.

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