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If you want to go to the cinema on your own - or, with friends, of course - then see my recommendation below.

For once a really good film aimed at the over 50s. Very unusual these days. But CALENDAR GIRLS (1 hr. 48 mins. cert.12a) is the virtually true story of a small group of WI members from a quiet Yorkshire village who decide to produce a calendar showing them doing the usual WI activities - tapestry, cooking, flower arranging etc - but posing in the NUDE in order to raise money for a Leukaemia Research Fund after the death of the husband of one of the friends.

calendar girls

Their courage and sheer chutzpah turned a local story into an international media phenomenon and inspired millions of women worldwide. In fact the Calendar Girls raised well over half a million pounds, but the media spotlight changed their lives forever. A truly excellent cast of women 'of a certain age' brings this poignant yet highly amusing story to life. Helen Mirren plays Chris, the ringleader, based on the real-life Tricia Stewart and Julie Walters is her best friend Annie, based on Angela Baker whose husband died of leukaemia. Other characters - played by Celia Imrie, Annette Crosbie (One Foot in the Grave and pensioners' supporter), Geraldine James, Penelope Wilton - are either heavily fictionalised or entirely fictional. Definitely not just a women's film (my Steve enjoyed it enormously), it's a very moving, dramatic tale that has been made into a well-crafted British film and more than worthy of a visit by you all! A 2004 calendar has been produced using 6 of the original WI women alongside 6 of the cast from the film.

FOR A THEATRE TRIP, Try...

The great all-kicking, all-dancing, all-singing, high-flying HIGH SOCIETY at the Open Air Theatre, Regent's Park. Ian Talbot has directed this musical with verve and appreciation not only of its musical qualities but also the story line. On the whole his actors can sing well, which is always an advantage with such lovely songs as 'Who Wants to be a Millionaire,' 'True Love' and, of course, the title song. Although the wind, on the night I was there, made the sound a bit wobbly, the choreography and the costumes were excellent as was the lighting with the light from little houses glimmering through the trees. Run now extended to 13 September: go see!

high society

The lighting was also imaginative in Edward Hall's all-male A MIDSUMMER'S NIGHT'S DREAM at the Comedy Theatre. On an extremely hot evening it was good to have air-conditioning. In their white costumes, the actors athletically bounding around the stage, the production reminded me of Peter Brook's legendary "Dream" in the 60s. The men were very obviously young men dressed as women - own hair styles, no bosoms. A striking Bottom was transformed into a neighing ass complete with an extremely long, sort of woollen penis.

GRANNY AND THE GORILLA at the Open Air Theatre, Regent's Park provides a great opportunity for some inter-generational bonding and a daytime trip. Exciting, well-acted and accessible to all over 6s - although my grandchild of 5 thought it ace and his mum awarded it 9 out of 10!

granny and the gorilla
     

Two super events for all film lovers and students of films: I hope that covers many of you! You can take advantage of both if you are within easy reach of London. The 2003 London Film Festival is almost on top of us with, once again, some excellent films on offer. It's a real opportunity to see films that will have a commercial showing now or in the near future as well as some unusual ones that will have to wait awhile before finding a cinema. It runs from 22 October to 6 November 2003

This year there is also something called Education Events giving senior citizens a chance to go to free screenings and workshops connected with the film Summer Madness. Free screenings include, on 21 October, a new restoration of David Lean's poignant film of a middle-aged secretary (Katherine Hepburn) on a visit to Venice and the very new Dogville, directed by Lars von Trier, starring Nicole Kidman, on 27 October. Telephone 020 7815 1434 to pre-book.


In the main programme and on general release in November is THE MOTHER (cert.15. 1 hr. 51 mins.), a moving story written by Hanif Kureishi, which looks closely at families who can't communicate. It says important things about mothers and grandmothers in particular and features an outstandingly realistic portrayal by Anne Reid of the mother who is left alone - but remains sexually charged - when her husband dies on a visit to their children in London.

A new Canadian-French film, THE BARBARIAN INVASIONS (99 mins.), directed by Denys Arcand, is well-worth seeing, too. Dealing with death and reconciliation, it has a much more optimistic tone than the subject suggests. It's won many awards and had me in tears!


The other event is KILL BILL (cert. 18. 1 hr. 50 mins.), the latest Quentin Tarantino opus. Showing an outstanding knowledge and demonstration of a whole range of film genres, it's like being on a wild roller coaster as image upon image and sound upon sound rain down. I took Stephen with me as I thought it would be so violent that I would have to cover my eyes for the gory parts of it - if I had, then I would have seen about five minutes! It was, indeed, violent, but in an unrealistic, visionary manner. Hard to describe, it MUST be seen (on a large screen) to appreciate it.

Carlie Newman    
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