Kooky horror show: Tilda Swinton and Ralph Fiennes in Wes Anderson's Grand Budapest Hotel
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What’s the secret to a long and happy relationship? Disagree about everything

My friend Emma worships Wes Anderson; I can’t stand him – so we were looking forward to a good row after The Grand Budapest Hotel

I went to the cinema this week with my friend Emma Kennedy to see the Wes Anderson film. He only makes the one – the one in which the characterisation consists of giving an actor glasses and a moustache, the plot is someone telling you what happened in their dream and it all takes place in a world where everyone is kooky so no one is.

Now this is where Emma and I differ, Anderson being her favourite film director and my least. You have never heard two people argue about a film until you have heard Emma and I argue about The Royal Tenenbaums. Still, I am always willing to be persuaded and I thoroughly enjoy disagreeing with Emma, so on that basis we went to see The Grand Budapest Hotel.

It was as I feared and I spent a bleak hour and a half clutching a glass of wine for comfort while all around me people linked arms and chuckled warmly at the wry cleverness of it all. Oooh, a pink hotel! Look at their lovely suits! Oh, he’s drawing on a little moustache, how delightful!

As we leave the cinema, Emma is lit up with joy, while I am basically Muttley from Wacky Races, head down and muttering incomprehensible syllables under my breath: “Grrr, effing nimby-namby nonsense . . . Whimsical piles of tosh . . . Grrr . . .”

Emma is unperturbed, gleeful even. “Look at you, you’re like the dad in Steptoe,” she says happily. And I scowl at her happily. Neither of us budges an inch.

You see, I think it’s good to disagree. I’ve always hated that Kenneth Tynan quote, “I doubt if I could love anyone who did not wish to see Look Back in Anger.” I picture poor Mrs Tynan, trying to stick up for herself: “Darling, I just don’t fancy it, all that complaining and self-pity. Can’t we go to see something funny instead?” Or even: “Look, I’ve read the reviews – this Jimmy Porter sounds like a shit and the women have no good lines. For those reasons I’m out.” Nope, it wouldn’t have washed in the Tynan household.

It’s an attitude I see all the time on Twitter, which is usually one of my favourite places. People are forever banging on about how they couldn’t love anyone who didn’t appreciate this particular film or record, as if that were a very grown-up marker of taste, or passion, or commitment, or something or other. Whenever I make a disparaging remark about a new movie, I am unsettled to get a flood of replies saying, “Thanks, I’ll save myself the ticket price,” or, “Phew, won’t be going to see that then!”

“No!” I want to shout. “Do go. Don’t take my word for it. It’s sweet that you value my opinion but it’s more than likely that on several things – possibly even important things and very possibly this film – we might disagree.”

I’ve told this story before but it bears repeating. On one of my first dates with Ben (who I’ve lived happily with for over 30 years), we went to the cinema but, failing to agree on a film, went in to different screens: he to see Southern Comfort, I to see Tess of the d’Urbervilles. That might strike some as unromantic or revelatory of a deep incompatibility but to me it says the opposite: if there is a key to the success of our relationship, it’s been our ability to agree to differ. He loves football, I like the garden; he adores University Challenge, I prefer Strictly Come Dancing; he runs, I walk. We’ve learned not to recommend a book to each other, counting on the fingers of one hand instances when we’ve both enjoyed the same one. It’s almost as if we’re different people or something.

But this just won’t do nowadays. We live in adversarial times, in which we’re encouraged to look at a thing, come up with an opinion and stick to it. When we encounter the opposite view, we’re supposed to throw stones at it and then run away. Not me, buddy. I’m proposing a greater, Zen-like tolerance for all the foibles and failings of those we love, so that we reach a higher plane where we can even allow for the continued existence of people who like Wes Anderson films. Peace.

Tracey Thorn is a musician and writer, best known as one half of Everything but the Girl. She writes the fortnightly “Off the Record” column for the New Statesman. Her latest book is Naked at the Albert Hall.

This article first appeared in the 14 April 2014 issue of the New Statesman, Easter Double

ANTONIO OLMOS / EYEVINE
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How Ken Loach's radical vision won him a second Palm d'Or

In Loach's films, authenticity is everything, and when his quest for realism pays off, there's nothing as raw in all of cinema.

On 22 May, at the age of 79, Ken Loach became the first British director to win the top prize twice at the Cannes Film Festival. His previous Palme d’Or, in 2006, was for The Wind That Shakes the Barley, which dramatised the British occupation of Ireland and the origins of the IRA. This time, he won for I, Daniel Blake, the story of an ailing carpenter wrongly declared fit for work by the callous UK benefits system. No wonder Ed Vaizey, the culture minister, could issue only the most grudging acknowledgement, alluding vaguely to “Brit success!” in a tweet that failed to mention either Loach or the film.

The actor and Cannes jury member Donald Sutherland, on the other hand, called I, Daniel Blake “an absolutely terrific movie that resonates in your heart and soul”. It was an incongruous delight to see Loach posing before swarms of paparazzi. He usually disdains such frivolities; he might be red but he’s hardly red carpet. “As a film-maker, you’re forever involved in things that constantly inflate their own importance,” he once complained. Artifice, hyperbole and celebrity hold no appeal. Even film-making itself is full of irritating impediments. “If Loach could make a film without a camera, he would,” said Trevor Griffiths, who collaborated with him on Fatherland (1986).

Authenticity is everything. Unusually, Loach shoots in sequence, even if it requires moving back and forth at great cost between locations. In the days of celluloid, he would forfeit much of his fee to buy more film stock so that his beloved improvisations could roll on and on. When I visited the set of Carla’s Song near Loch Lomond in 1995, Loach gave the actor Robert Carlyle a good-natured ticking off for speaking to me between takes. “I’d rather he didn’t talk to anyone,” he said, “because then he’ll start thinking about things in terms of technique and who he really is, and it’ll all become conscious.”

When the quest for realism pays off, there is nothing as raw in all cinema. Think of the chilling attack on a family home by loan sharks in his 1993 drama Raining Stones, one of the films that began his most successful period, or the climax of Cathy Come Home, made for the BBC in 1966 and arguably his most groundbreaking film. As Cathy (Carol White) has her children taken off her by social workers and police, Loach films the entire traumatic episode in a wide shot with a hidden camera to preserve the reality. The movie led directly to the founding of Crisis.

Conversely, Loach at his worst can be one of the most simplistic sentimentalists out there. The characterisation of the salt-of-the-earth heroes in recent films such as Jimmy’s Hall and Route Irish, or the pantomime-villain Brits in The Wind That Shakes the Barley, shows what happens when action is overpowered by agenda.

Born in Nuneaton, Warwickshire, Loach read law at Oxford but became seduced by theatre directing and acting: he was in a revue for which Dudley Moore composed the music, and understudied in the West End in One Over the Eight. He joined the BBC in 1963, where he brought extra earthiness to Z-Cars before finding his ideal outlet in The Wednesday Play slot that went out after the news. “We were very anxious for our plays not to be considered dramas but as continuations of the news,” he said. He made ten TV films under that banner but it was with his second movie, Kes, in 1969, that he took flight, proving that the gritty and the lyrical need not be mutually exclusive.

His politics was fully formed by this point. Though he has rejected claims that he is Marxist or Trotskyist, he admits that the analysis to which he turned after his disillusionment with Harold Wilson in the mid-1960s was a Marxist one. “The idea of a class analysis was the one we identified with,” he said of himself and his collaborators the producer Tony Garnett and the writer Jim Allen. “What we realised was that social democrats and Labour politicians were simply acting on behalf of the ruling class, protecting the interests of capital.”

This stance was consolidated by a series of run-ins in the 1980s, when he saw his work banned and thwarted by political forces. The transmission of his four-part 1983 television documentary Questions of Leadership, which asked whether the trade union leadership was adequately representing its members’ interests, was delayed and blocked by Labour string-pulling. Which Side Are You On? – a documentary about the miners’ strike – was rejected because of footage showing police violence.

Since his full-time return to cinema in the early 1990s, acclaim has eclipsed controversy. Even if he had not won a Palme d’Or, his stamp is all over other directors who have won that award in the past 20 years. The Belgian social realists Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne (Rosetta, The Child) have never hidden their debt to him, while recent winners such as Jacques Audiard (Dheepan) and Cristian Mingiu (4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days) exhibit his mixture of directness, compassion and realism.

If there is anything that defines him, it is his fight, which has made it possible for him to remain one of cinema’s angriest and most effective voices. “In the long term, I guess I’m optimistic because people always fight back,” he said. “The reason to make films is just to let people express that, to share that kind of resilience because that’s what makes you smile. It’s what makes you get up in the morning.”

“I, Daniel Blake” is released later this year

Ryan Gilbey is the New Statesman's film critic. He is also the author of It Don't Worry Me (Faber), about 1970s US cinema, and a study of Groundhog Day in the "Modern Classics" series (BFI Publishing). He was named reviewer of the year in the 2007 Press Gazette awards.

This article first appeared in the 26 May 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The Brexit odd squad