My Five Favourite Opening Lines

It was very hard to choose these five opening lines – I could have chosen another five altogether! Would anyone like to add some more?

  1. “Ennis Del Mar wakes before five, wind rocking the trailer, hissing in around the aluminium door and window frames.” Brokeback Mountain by Annie Proulx.
  2. “All night long he would walk the ship, from bow to stern, from dusk until quarterlight, that sticklike limping man from Connemara with the drooping shoulders and ash-coloured clothes.” Star of the Sea by Joseph O’Connor.
  3. “While I was still in Amsterdam, I dreamed about my mother for the first time in years.” The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt.
  4. “‘All good things must end,’ said Frances Price.” French Exit by Patrick de Witt.
  5. “It was love at first sight”. Catch 22 by Joseph Heller.

PRIMROSE by Patrick Kavanagh | from Complete Poems

“Upon a bank I sat, a child made seer

Of one small primrose flowering in my mind.

Better than wealth it is, said I, to find

One small page of Truth’s manuscript made clear.

I looked at Christ transfigured without fear –

The light was very beautiful and kind,

And where the Holy Ghost in flame had signed

I read it through the lenses of a tear.

And then my sight grew dim, I could not see

The primrose that had lighted me to Heaven,

And there was but the shadow of a tree

Ghostly among the stars. The years that pass

Like tired soldiers nevermore have given

Moments to see wonders in the grass.”

The Lady of Shalott by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

I wonder how many of you out there remember this poem – you’d have to be a very mature person (like me). I’m sure it’s not on any school syllabus today. But it was great fun to read and study, especially (obviously) for teenage girls. It’s a great story, and a love story too. I really enjoyed all those old, narrative poems. I’ll write down a few verses here to give a flavour of the words and the rhythm of this long poem.

“Four gray walls, and four gray towers,

Overlook a space of flowers,

And the silent isle imbowers

The Lady of Shalott.

But who hath seen her wave her hand?

Or at the casement seen her stand?

Or is she known in all the land,

The Lady of Shalott

The story tells of this poor lady who has been cursed. If she looks out of her window, down to Camelot, a curse will fall upon her; she doesn’t know what the curse is, and so she continues to sit in her room and weave.

And moving thro’ a mirror clear

That hangs before her all the year,

Shadows of the world appear.

There she sees the highway near

Winding down to Camelot.

Well, gentle reader, the inevitable happened –

His broad clear brow in sunlight glow’d;

On burnish’d hooves his war-horse trode;

From underneath his helmet flow’d

His coal-black curls as on he rode,

As he rode down to Camelot.

She left the web, she left the loom,

She made three paces thro’ the room,

She saw the water-lily bloom,

She saw the helmet and the plume,

She look’d down to Camelot.

Out flew the web and floated wide;

The mirror crack’d from side to side;

The curse is come upon me, cried

The Lady of Shalott.

When she goes down to Camelot she finds a boat and floats down the river singing to her self, and as she sings she dies. When she was found, no one knew who she was, but the knight was moved to comment.

But Lancelot mused a little space;

He said, She has a lovely face;

God in his mercy lend her grace.

The Lady of Shalott.

No one knows why this lady was cursed. According to google, it wasn’t important! I wish I could write it all down here but it is indeed very long. I’m glad to have read it again myself – after so many years!

In reply to Becky’s Would You Rather Book Tag (A Couple of Bees) https://wordpress.com/read/blogs/180580439

Q. Would you rather read classics for the rest of your life or Y/A novels?

A. Classics please, I’m way too old for the latter.

Q. Would you rather have a kid like Holden Caulfield or Huckleberry Finn?

A. Huckleberry Finn, I wouldn’t be able for the other fellow!

Q. Which Hogwart’s House would you rather be placed in?

A. Ravenclaw – they have the nicest colours – blue and bronze.

Q. Would you rather live in the world of 1984 or Fahrenheit 451?

A. Fahrenheit 451. I couldn’t bear to live in the world of 1984.

Q. Would you rather live in the world of Narnia or a kingdom in Game of Thrones?

A. I’d prefer Narnia. The world of Game of Thrones would be too dangerous!

Q. Would you like to have unlimited money for e-books or a $5,000 Barnes a Noble gift card?

A. The gift card. I got a book token for quite a lot of money many years ago. I had a ball!

Q. Would you rather live in your favourite fictional world for a day or be able to visit said world whenever you want but only as an invisible observer?

A. The latter, I think. I always fancied a cloak of invisibility – and I’d like to visit Winterfell.

This was a lot of fun, and thanks to Becky of A Couple of Bees for thinking it up. Anyone else like to answer these questions?

An excerpt from “Undermajordomo Minor” by Patrick de Witt

This is Patrick de Witt’s third novel, completely different from the previous two. It isn’t quite a fairy story; some of it is surreal, nightmarish, incredible, but all totally delicious. I was in awe of the author’s creativity and the wonderful dialogue and prose.

Mr Olderglough opened his eyes. “There were once were twenty souls in our employ here, boy. Can you imagine it? Coachmen, waiting maids, porters, a cook, a nurse. All gone now, alas.”

“I thought you’d said Agnes was the cook, sir?”

“Originally she was the chambermaid. When the cook left us, then did Agnes step forward, claiming a deft hand.”

“But it seems you take issue with her cooking, is that correct?”

“Not so far as she knows. But in my private mind, yes, I am unenthusiastic.”

“And why do you not speak with her about it, may I ask?”

“Because I dislike unpleasantness. Also there is the fact of my being somewhat afraid of her. And then, too, I’m not much interested in eating.” He looked at Lucy. “Are you?”

“I like to eat,” Lucy said.

“Is that right?” Mr Olderglough shook his head, as if to accommodate an eccentricity. “Personally, it never held much sway for me.”

Lucy said, “May I ask what became of the others?”

“Well, they’ve gone away, haven’t they?”

“But why have they, sit?”

“I suppose they thought it the wisest course of action, is all.”

Mr Olderglough looked wistfully about the room. “Twenty souls,” he said, “and here, what’s become of us? Well, we’ve got you in our company now, boy, and this heartens me, I can tell you that much.”

Lucy was not so heartened. He followed Mr Olderglough to the larder; the shelves were all but bare. There came from the corner the scratching of rodents, and now began a thumping, squabbling battle, a lengthy affair concluding with the agonized squeal of the defeated: high and sharp at its commencement, distantly windy at its resolution. Mr Olderglough wore a satisfied expression, as though the outcome were favourable to him. Drawing back his cascading forelock, he said. “I find the constant upkeep of the body woefully fatiguing, don’t you?”

10 More Magical Movie Moments

1. 4 Weddings and a Funeral: 1994

Written by Richard Curtis who also wrote Love Actually and Notting Hill among others. Directed by Mike Newell whose movies crossed all genres, including Donnie Brasco, Love in the Time of Cholera, Great Expectations, and Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire.

The moment for me in this movie involves Rowan Atkinson who plays a clergyman. At one of the weddings the character played by Kristin Scott Thomas tells him that his first wedding is like the first time one has sex. Rowan Atkinson’s face is good enough on its own but he gives this small embarrassed laugh, more of a snigger, a small sound which he repeats while turning his face away. How does he do that? It seems so creative to me. I’m laughing here as I’m writing . . .

2. The Beast with Five Fingers: 1946

This horror movie was a short story in the first place, written by W. F. Harvey and then became a screenplay writtend by Curt Siodmak. Rober Florey directed the movie. He directed other horror films as well as the first Marx Brothers feature, The Cocoanuts.

The story revolves around a death, relations and a will. The left hand of the corpse is cut off and begins to creep around at night and to play the piano. The film is in black and white and the hand glows as it moves. I saw this movie when I was about ten and it haunted me all my youth and gave me many nightmares. The moment that stands out is when a friend, played by Peter Lorre, catches the hand and tries to throw it into the fire but it leaps out and strangles him. I can just about stand to think about it now!

3. Schlinder’s List: 1993

Such a wonderful movie altogether, and my favourite moment is when we first see Oscar Schlinder (Liam Neeson) as he enters a room full of people. The camera is behind him at head level so we can appreciate how tall and imposing a figure he was. I loved that. The film was directed by Spielberg, and adapted for the screen by Steven Zaillian. The original book was called Schlinder’s Ark and was written by Australian writer, Thomas Keneally.

4. Babette’s Feast: 1987

This Danish movie was directed and written by Gabriel Axel who based the screenplay on the short story written by Karen Blixen (with whom I share a birthday!). In Danish – Babettes Gaestebud. It is set in the 19th century and tells the story of two sisters living in a village in Jutland in West Denmark. They are members of a very strict Protestant sect begun by their father, and we get their sad back stories as the movie goes along. Babette arrives at their door in the middle of a storm. She has escaped from the war in Paris and has a letter of introduction from Philippas’s old suiter, Papin. Babette keeps house for them. When she wins the French lottery she offers to cook a real French meal for the sisters and all the villagers, who live sober, controlled lives without much laughter. The moment I enjoyed the most is the kitchen scene while Babette is cooking; the heat; the smells; the tastes; it’s a magical scene. This movie is in my top ten list and won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.

5. There Will Be Blood: 2007

This movie, written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, is based on a 1927 novel “Oil!” by Upton Sinclair. It stars Daniel Day Lewis as Daniel Plainview, the oil man trying to convince the locals, in a pit mine hole in New Mexico, that this search for oil will benefit them. However he is opposed by Eli Sunday (Paul Dano) a local preacher. The film is magnificent on every front; it is a huge film. The stand-out moment in my memory is when Eli Sunday forces Daniel Plainview to his knees – the faces of those men, the acting, is amazing. It’s the kind of movie that makes me very quiet when I leave the cinema thinking – less than ten euro for all THAT!

6. Gone With The Wind: 1939

I won’t say much about this movie; everyone knows everything about it! It was produced by David O Selznick. The screenplay was written by Sydney Howard, adapted from the 1936 novel by Margaret Mitchell. And I’m sure no one will be surprised when I say the moment in this movie is when Scarlett, in a red, red dress appears in the doorway at Melanie’s party, when she is suspected of having an affair with Melanie’s husband, Ashley. Head up, shoulders back, brazening out the stares.

7. Strictly Ballroom: 1992

This Australian rom com was written and directed by the wonderful Baz Luhrmann (Moulin Rouge and Romeo and Juliette). It was based on a play written by himself and fellow students while they were studying drama in Sydney. It is much more than a rom com of course. For anyone who loves dance movies this one is a must. It follows the lives of two young dancers – Scott (Paul Mercurio) and Fran (Tara Morice) as they struggle to remain partners and to try some innovative moves. For me, the magic happens when the Paso Doble is danced, not by the young ones, but by Fran’s father and grandmother. You’d have to stand up and clap!

8. The Apartment: 1960

Staring Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine, and Fred MacMurray, this movie is a total delight from start to finish. Produced by Billy Wilder, and written by him with I. A. L. Diamond. “Bud” Baxter works for an Insurance Company and in the interests of getting promotion he lends his flat out to his boss for illicit meetings with his mistress. Soon, others want to use the flat as well and Bud’s life gets very complicated. He’s in love with the lift girl (MacLaine) and it all ends well eventually. I’m sure everyone knows what scene I’m going to mention. Of course it’s Bud straining spaghetti through a tennis racket. Jack Lemmon is one of my favourite actors; he can play anything. Look at him in in Glengarry Glen Ross or Days of Wine and Roses.

9. La Belle et La Bete: 1946

I fell in love with this film the first time I saw it many years ago. If you like fantasy and magical scenes you might want to look it up. It is truly beautiful, gorgeous, sumptuous, fantastic, dazzling, and dreamlike. The film was directed by Jean Cocteau, poet and film maker, adapted from a story written in 1757 by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont. It stars Josette Day as Beauty, and Jean Marais as the Beast. One of the stand-out moments (and there are many) is this; Beauty is floating along a corridor in the castle and as she passes, hands holding blazing torches reach out from the wall to light her way. I’m going to have to watch this again now!

10. Some Like it Hot: 1959

In a movie where every scene is one to remember, all I can say is, “Nobody’s perfect!”

I hope any movie lovers who read this have enjoyed the list. I’ll have to do a final one with modern movies this time.

This Friday’s Ulster Poet: Frank Ormsby: One Looks At One (Gate of Heaven, Valhalla, N.Y.)

She steps from behind a tombstone,

is delicately there,

as though shaped from those sad poems

about dead deer.

or simply to stop trembling

and accept the caress

of the way I keep my distance,

muffle the trespass

of even a sudden look.

She watches me sideways,

I ogle a Celtic cross

for as long as it takes to be counted incidental

then not to count. At last I can watch her pass

unscared into the morning, so tuned to place she

is its sole movement. How soft must be the air

in her fine nostrils. How sweet the cemetery grass.

10 Magic Movie Moments

1. Manon de Sources – a film by Claude Berri, and follow-up to Jean de Florette. There he is, Ugolin, (Daniel Auteuil) breaking his heart over Manon, (Emmanuelle BĂ©art) sewing a ribbon from her hair onto his chest. His face – I will never forget it, the pain, the anguish  – I could hardly bear to watch!

2. Raging Bull, Scorcese of course, with Robert de Niro. I loved the opening sequence of this movie – De Niro shadow boxing to Intermezzo from Cavalleria Rusticana by Pietro Mascagni. A dreamy, misty, unforgettable image.

3.Billy Elliot, directed by Stephen Daldry and written by Lee Hall. The best scene (for me) in this movie is the last one, where the grown up Billy is preparing to go on stage to dance in Swan Lake. The viewer only sees him from the back, wearing a cloak. Someone behind him removes the cloak revealing his broad, strong back and he looks magical, majestic, magnetic.

4. La Cage aux Folles, a film by Eduard Molinaro, adapted from the play by Jean Poiret. I loved this movie so much, mostly because of Michel Serrault who plays the part of Albin, a female impersonator in a night club run by his partner, Renato. When Renato’s son is to marry into a very conservative family, Albin has to pretend to be truly masculine. He has to practice – he dons a man’s suit and makes an entrance. He has to cross the room and sit down, and oh, how he does it. It makes me laugh and cry at the same time. For his inability to play masculine, for his whole-hearted attempts to get it right, for his utter humanity and lovability. I have seen the American version of this movie as well and it copies every scene religiously; the cast even resembles the French cast – except for Albin. To play Albin there is only Michel Serrault!

5. Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds – not a scene in this one, only a few moments, when Brad Pitt, impersonating an Italian lifts a casual hand and says – Arrivederci – priceless!

6. Death in Venice, by Luchino Visconti, adapted from a short story by Thomas Mann. Dirk Bogarde plays the part of an aging musician (a writer in the story) travelling for health reasons when he falls madly in love with a beautiful boy staying in the same hotel with his family. He attempts to look younger; he gets his hair and moustache died very black. One day when he is following the boy through the narrow streets he feels weak and sits down in the rain; the hair dye begins to run down his cheeks. It’s like a painting, a very sad painting. And over all the strains of Mahler’s 5th. (One movement of it, I forget which one. I bought the CD but I only liked that one movement.)

7. Glengarry Glen Ross, (from the play by David Mamet) stars two of my favourite actors, Jack Lemmon and Al Pacino. Jack Lemmon plays Levane Shelley, a salesman no longer young, who has lost his touch. There are younger, smarter men in the game now and Al Pacino is ruthless. All day, every day, they chase leads. The moment for me in this film is Levane in a phone box desperately trying to clinch a sale. his face furrowed, almost in tears, with anxiety. I don’t know how actors do it; I believed every word out of his mouth.

8. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, the first Ang Lee movie I saw, filled me with awe. I’m not generally a lover of Martial Arts but I loved every moment of this film. And what I remember best is the scene of a battle which takes place in the tree tops; the combatants swaying in the branches. The trees are so green, so graceful, balletic almost and truly beautiful.

9. Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? Even writing down that title makes me laugh a bit. The Coen Bros are wonderful and I’m a fan of all their movies. In this one, the moment I can’t forget is when The Soggy Bottom Boys are performing at a music festival. I love George Clooney because he plays the clown so well – and him so good-looking! And I loved all the music throughout.

10. Fellini’s Amarcord. The whole film is wonderful but there’s a scene where a ship is coming into harbour; it’s night time and the ship is lit up with myriad lights, like something out of fairy land.

So this is my list of ten best cinema moments. Do you agree or disagree? And what are your favourites?

10 movies/series as good as, if not better than the books.

  1. Death in Venice – I read the short story, but oh, that wonderful movie!
  2. Gone with the wind – again, unforgettable movie.
  3. The Godfather – I read the book decades of years ago. I couldn’t read it now but the movie is still terrific.
  4. The Forsyte Saga: I have this (in three volumes) three times over the years, but I have to admit that the very first series, with Eric Porter as Soames, was tremendous.
  5. Brideshead Revisited – who could forget that wonderful series, so rich and deep and colourful, every character perfect.
  6. A Room with a View. I have read all of E M Forster’s books, and I have seen the movies but this one in particular is an absolute joy and delight.
  7. Misery. I find it almost impossible to read Stephen King – he’s too much for me – but Misery was a great movie – I’ve never trusted Cathy Bates since!
  8. The Shining – again a great movie. Who could ever forget Jack Nicholson?
  9. The Shawshank Redemption. I think I’ve seen it three times, I’ve only read the short story once.
  10. Brokeback Mountain. When I first read this book, I thought it was the loving-est love story I had ever read and I made everyone I knew read it too. I worried about a movie coming out but it was great, the two guys were marvelous and it looked lovely too.

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