hugh do you think you are?

At the risk of sounding like the sort of prick who keeps coming up with anecdotes about how terribly quirky and unconventional he is I should probably explain the thought process that got me started on the project I’m starting (or, more accurately, about to start blogging about having actually started it a couple of weeks ago).

I’ve been watching quite a lot of Pointless recently. For those unfamiliar with the show, it’s a British daytime quiz programme presented by Alexander Armstrong (the urbane-est man in the world) and Richard Osman (the tallest man in quizzing or possibly the quizziest man in tallness) in which pairs of contestants compete to get the lowest score possible by finding the answers that other people couldn’t. On one episode of this show, an clue on a round the theme of which I can no longer remember involved the phrase “… who wrote the poem Funeral Blues”. And I was surprised to discover that only about fourteen of the hundred people asked got the answer WH Auden. The reason I was surprised that so few people knew this, despite the fact that Auden isn’t exactly at Taylor Swift levels of popularity these days, is that Funeral Blues did quite specifically feature in the classic 1994 Britflick Four Weddings and Funeral.

This led to my having a really strong desire to watch Four Weddings and Funeral, which I did. And this led to my having a really strong desire to watch, um, every film that Hugh Grant has ever made. I’m not sure quite why I had this reaction because Four Weddings and a Funeral isn’t actually a very good film. In fact, thinking about it, that’s probably why I had such a reaction. Because, Four Weddings, and indeed Hugh Grant, sort of embody this peculiar idealised England of the late-Major / early-Blair years that I somehow have a tremendous nostalgia for while also being aware that it almost certainly never existed.

Also: I just really like doing pointless shit that nobody else cares about. Which might also explain why I’m so very invested in a quiz show that is literally called Pointless.

It turns out that because Hugh Grant began his career in the early 1980s, hilariously billed as ‘Hughie Grant’ in 1982 Oxford University produced dramedy called Privileged a lot of his, for what of a better term, juvenilia is actually quite difficult to access. We get very used to the idea that everything that’s ever produced pops up instantly on Amazon or Netflix, or illegally on Youtube, but that simply wasn’t the case 35 years ago.

As a result my excursion into the Grant canon has necessarily been restricted to those titles I can actually source. This means I’m having to start with the 1987 movie, Maurice, and will need to skip some shorts, some straight-to-TV movies, and some other things you just plain can’t find any more. Because Hugh Grant’s entire filmography crosses four decades I’m not getting through the whole thing in one sitting (also, I may not get through the whole thing at all, you might have noticed I’m notorious flaky).

This instalment, which I am loosely dubbing The Colonial Years, will stretch from 1987 to 1988 (Jesus fuck, he was in a lot of things in the late 80s) and cover the films Maurice, White Mischief, Lair of the White Worm, and The Bengali Night. For those who are paying attention, this means I’m skipping over two of his 1988 outings, those being Rowing With the Wind in which he played Lord Byron (though I am still trying to source this because Hugh Grant playing Byron must be the best thing ever) and The Dawning, in which he plays a bloke called Harry, but which unfortunately appears only to be available as a Region 1 DVD. For those of you who are disgustingly young, DVDs are an entertainment medium from the past, and regions were an ill-fated attempt by their manufacturers to control international distribution.

Anyway, let’s get going. Because Hugh Grant won’t watch himself.

Maurice

Happily, this project starts off with a film that is actually genuinely good (this state of affairs does not last long). Maurice is, of all things, a Merchant Ivory adaptation of EM Forster’s book of the same name, which he wrote between 1913 and 1914, but which was not released until 1971 after his death on account of how it was super gay. It’s not considered one of his best novels, partly because it’s probably not, but partly because it’s just uncomplicatedly romantic, essentially ending with the gay protagonist, and his gay partner, sailing off to America, where they live happily-ever-after as gay lumberjacks. I read somewhere (but I can’t remember where so I might just be making it up) that Forster did write an epilogue in which Maurice’s sister shows up in America and is all like “ooh, we’re so disgusted by how gay you are, you big gay” and he’s all like “whatevs” and goes back to being a gay lumberjack, but Forster felt that even that undermined the thing he was trying to do, which was write a gay lovestory without any sort of social or personal compromise. I mean, unless you count going off to be a lumberjack in America as a personal or social compromise, but even that has this sort of Eden vibe.

Anyway, Maurice the film is actually fairly close to the book. Hugh Grant does not play Maurice – he’s not going to get the starring role in anything until The Bengali Night and that—spoiler—isn’t going to be a triumph. He’s cast as Clive Durham, Maurice’s first love, who he meets at University, and with whom he has as intense, long-lasting but ultimately platonic relationship. Clive is a bit of a difficult character, both in the movie and the book, because he’s very close to occupying the treacherous bisexual role. There’s basically always a character in that type of story (and the ‘young man is gay at Oxford before the Great War’ is a surprisingly well-populated subgenre in British fiction) who is involved with the protagonist at University, always has a delicate, artistic temperament, and two, five or twenty years later shows up having completely divorced himself that part of his life and settled down into a miserable sham of a marriage with a ruthless social climber.

In the book, things are very much from Maurice’s point of view so we never really get a sense of why Clive is the way he is—you can read a lot of self-loathing out of the text, but it’s hard to really understand where his sudden emotional breakdown and subsequent decision to be totes straight now comes from. I presume this is because Maurice himself doesn’t really understand. In the movie, Clive’s nervous collapse is specifically contextualised against the background of an old Oxford friend being imprisoned and sentenced to hard labour for gross indecency, which sort of makes him a bit more sympathetic. It means we aren’t being asked to condemn him simply for being with a woman in later life (which, in this sort of story, often gets presented as a betrayal in and of itself, which is uncomfortable and biphobic). Instead, it commits the film more strongly to an interpretation in which whatever Clive’s identity is he consciously decides to protect himself by living the most conventional life he can. Part of this, apparently, involves growing a moustache. I’m not sure I was ready to see Hugh Grant with a moustache. As much as I enjoyed this film, and I do actually think it is a good film, I’m not sure any of my memories of it will remain untainted by the fact it contains Hugh Grant with a moustache.

Even if you are not trying to watch the complete canon of Hugh Grant (and, let’s be honest, who would do that) this film is genuinely watchable. And for a gay love story filmed in the 80s based on a book written before the First World War it’s surprisingly sincere. Apparently, it had a pretty troubled production, and Merchant Ivory got quite a lot of shit for putting out a gay romantic film in which neither the protagonist, nor his partner, ends up dead or in prison. I mean, it’s 2017 and in a lot of mainstream culture we still are only just getting to the point where you can have a gay love story that’s basically just told the same way as a straight love story. And here’s Merchant Ivory doing it in 1987. There’s kissing, and soft focus 80s movie sex scenes, and I honestly don’t know how they got away with it. Maybe everyone was just too distracted by the fact the film also includes Hugh Grant with a moustache.

I’m going to rate these films by goodness of film and Hugh Grantiness of film.

Maurice gets 5 out 5 for goodness in that it’s actually really good and not even in a “for 1987 way”. I mean, you have to like Merchant Ivory movies but, if you do, you’ll really enjoy it.

It gets 4 out of 5 for Hugh Grantiness because he’s quite a major character and he’s quite Hugh Granty (in that he plays a posh English bloke who went to Oxbridge, he’s hesitant about things, and spends a lot of time lying around looking pretty with big blue eyes). I couldn’t decide whether the film should gain a point or lose point for the moustache so you may treat this as either a 5 or a 3 depending on how much the idea of Hugh Grant with facial hair terrifies you.

White Mischief

Hugh Grant’s second 1987 outing is White Mischief. First of all, this film gets a +1 bonus to its Hugh Grantiness rating for the fact Hugh Grant plays a character who is actually called Hugh. According to the Wikipedia filmography for Hugh Grant, the Hugh in question is Hugh Cholmondeley, the 3rd Baron Delamere, who was an extremely influential figure in the colonial history of Kenya. He was active in recruiting settlers to East Africa, helped to found the so-called Happy Valley set (around whose antics the film revolves), coined the term ‘white hunter’, and was a pioneer of the dairy industry. He also, however, had been dead for ten years at the time the film was set, and not in a ‘tragically young in a hunting accident’ kind of way. In a ‘he was born in 1870 and the film is set in 1941’ kind of way. All of which makes casting the 28 year old Hugh Grant in the role a little bit of an odd choice, especially since the rest of the film is actually quite historically accurate. And, given that, Mr Grant’s character is just credited as ‘Hugh’ in the actual movie, I think it’s probable that it was just a different guy who happened to be called Hugh. Sorry Wikipedia.

In any case, I watched the whole of this film, even though Hugh Grant was only in it for 85 seconds, saying goodbye to Diana Broughton (the feisty blonde woman who the film is mostly about). It’s also got Charles Dance and John Hurt in it, and is kind fascinating in a deeply colonialist sort of way. It’s based around a real group of decadent expats who lived in a  place called Happy Valley in Kenya, who basically spent all their time getting off their faces, and fucking each other. And the plot, such it is, revolves around a very real incident in which one of their number (Charles Dance) was murdered by a party or parties whose identity or identities remain unknown to this day. Quite why we should give a fuck, I’m not entirely sure. I mean, I guess it was Tywin Lannister, but this is group of people who, in 1941, instead of fighting to stop Hitler were banging and taking smack on land that they stole from the native Kenyans (I’m aware that his oversimplifies the complex history of the British colonial presence in East Africa). It’s one of two films on this list that are based on true stories, and in the case of both the true stories they are based on are slightly more interesting than the movie.

Goodness of film. Two or two and a half, maybe? Like it’s fine. And you get to see Charles Dance dancing which is worth it just for the opportunity to shout “Charles Dancing” at the screen. Also, because of what I suspect was the writer’s / director’s inability to imagine anything more decadent than putting on the clothing of the opposite sex there’s a scene in which all of the characters (except, randomly, the heroine who they presumably thought—incorrectly—would be less hot in a suit) attend a cross-dressing party, which means you get to see a bunch of quite famous British actors in really half-hearted drag. And it’s sort of fabulous, especially Charles Dance who is sporting a slinky black number and actual pearls. And, like the moustache in Maurice, I couldn’t decide whether I should give it plus 1 or minus 1 for the dialogue, which is stilted in a way that I think requires a genuine talent to produce. I’m not sure I ever heard two characters say sequential sentences that actually connected to each other. It’s all “pass the sugar darling” “do you think the rain will come soon” “I’m so terribly terribly bored.”

Hugh Grantiness of film: 1.5, including the plus 1 for Hugh playing a character called Hugh. Seriously, he’s in it for, like, one scene. And he barely even gets flustered at anything.

Lair of the White Worm

For those keeping track,  Lair of the White Worm comes after The Dawning and before Rowing in the Wind, neither of which I was able to acquire. The Lair of the White Worm, however, is available online through Amazon. Interestingly you can buy it and rent it for the same amount money. That should tell you something about the film. The other thing that should tell you something about the film is the reason you seem to be able to access it via Amazon streaming service is that it is now being distributed by Starz. It is a very, very, Starzy film.

Lair of the White Worm makes you feel like you’re watching an episode of MST3K even though you are not watching an episode of MSTK3K. The film features Hugh Grant, as Lord James d’Ampton, the sole surviving heir of the d’Ampton family, which has been cursed since time immemorial (or since, like 800AD or something) by the legend of the d’Ampton worm. I’d say it’s a cheap ripoff of the Lambton Worm, except it’s not really a ripoff, it’s fairly explicitly the same thing, just they changed the first letter of the guy’s name for no reason, which annoys me way more than it should. There’s even a folksong about the Lambton Worm which they put verbatim into the film, except they randomly do a rock version of it and change all the Ls to Ds so it fits the name of Hugh Grant’s character, instead of the name that it actually had and would have been a perfectly acceptable name for Hugh Grant’s character in the first place. Like, did they think people wouldn’t realise he was an aristocrat if he didn’t have a d’ in his name. And what the hell kind of name is d’Ampton anyway? Does it mean he’s from Ampton? Where the fuck is Ampton?

Although the worm is named after his family, Hugh Grant is, at best, the co-star of this film, an accolade he shares with, of all people, Peter Capaldi, who plays a archeologist by the name of Angus Flint. It is, of course, always really hard to see Peter Capaldi in anything without expecting him to go off on a massive Malcom Tucker-like sweary rant at the slightest provocation. Which makes it super disconcerting to see him as a mild mannered archeologist with exceptionally fluffy hair.

I think there was a law in the 1980s that all horror films had to start with an archeologist digging up an unconvincing-looking skeleton. That is how this film starts. It builds a sense of mystery for approximately 12 seconds before Amanda Donohoe shows up as sexy lady in sunglasses and a headscarf who is definitely an evil snake cultist and proceeds to demonstrate this to the audience by immediately popping fangs and spitting poison all over a crucifix. The action of the film, if it can be called action, revolves around Capaldi and Grant ineffectively trying to solve the mystery of the d’Ampton worm, mostly by looking in a cave they already know is empty, while Donohoe (whose character is called Lady Sylvia Marsh, because that’s obviously what you’d be called if you secretly worshipped a snake god and didn’t want anyone to know about it) goes around trying to fuck and/or murder basically anything that moves and crowbarring increasingly heavy-handed snake imagery into every interaction she has with anyone. This reaches its zenith (or nadir, depending on how you feel about this kind of thing) in the scene where she sexily picks up a naive young man on the road and invites him back to her house so he can get out of the rain. We then cut to a scene in which they are playing Snakes & Ladders (oh d’you see), and she has apparently, at some point, got changed into a black PVC lingerie and thigh highs ensemble. I think this sequence might actually have been more incongruous than Hugh Grant with a moustache. And that is saying a lot.

Anyway, the innocent young man meets a sticky end when Lady Sylvia Marsh gives him a poison blowjob and drowns him a hot tub, a transaction she is forced to expedite because she needs to go to the door (I seem to recall still in the aforesaid thigh highs and lingerie get-up) in order to greet Hugh Grant who has come to her house for, I think, basically no good reason. At which point, Lady Sylvia skilfully deflects his suspicions by engaging in ostensibly seductive dialogue that goes something like: Oh I’m all alone, Oh I’m so scared of snakes, Gosh snakes really fascinate me, you know what I really like? Snakes? Do you want to play some Snakes & Ladders. No, I hate snakes. You’re right, that does make my previous comments about Snakes & Ladders a bit peculiar, oh you’re leaving, I don’t suppose you fancy a poison blowjob?

It actually gets worse from there. It turns out that Lady Sylvia is maybe possibly some sort of immortal or something? And that all of the other characters might be the reincarnation of someone. Reincarnations of who? We don’t know, they never really say. Although one of the characters does keep having flashbacks to, um, nuns with their boobs out, covered in blood. Because something something conflict between christianity and paganism something something ancient snake god temple something something boobs. I did mention this was distributed by Starz, right?

The whole film obviously ends with the sexy sexy snake lady trying to sacrifice sexy sexy nun flashbacks lady to her giant snake god and winding up getting fed to her own giant snake god because of course she does. Seriously, that’s why we don’t worship giant snake gods. It’s basically the equivalent of setting up a table in a pro-wrestling match. No-one is going through that table except you. The final confrontation is particularly odd because Hugh Grant’s character is still in the empty hole trying to smoke out the giant snake and according to a conversation he has afterwards with Malcom Tucker that smoking out somehow allowed them to beat the snake god but in the scene it’s not clear at all that it’s having any affect whatsoever. Perhaps even more bizarrely the snake god is ultimately destroyed because Peter Capaldi’s mild mannered archeologist character has a hand grenade with him that has not previously been mentioned at all. So presumably he just goes around with a hand grenade all the time – I guess in case he might need to dislodge a particularly stubborn rock formation.

Oh, also there’s this thing where sometimes if the sexy snake lady bites you you turn into kind of a snake vampire. And as well as having the obligatory 80s horror movie beginning where you dig up skeleton this movie also has the obligatory 80s horror movie ending where you discover that the good guys have been turned into vampires/werewolves/body-snatchers already. Also there’s this dream sequence where Hugh Grant is on a plane and the sexy snake lady is a stewardess and she’s trying to either seduce or murder him or possibly both and he’s holding a pencil which seems to represent his erection. What is this? I don’t even.

Very briefly, in case this incoherent and rambling summary has inspired you to watch Lair of the White Worm (and if the sort of film this film definitely is is the sort of film that you like then you should absolutely watch it) I should mention that it does get quite explicitly rapey at points. There’s some fairly specific ancient fertility god stuff towards the end which is handled with as much sensitivity as you’d expect from everything else in the movie. So if you really like schlocky 80s horror movies but find sexual violence off-putting maybe give this one a miss.

Goodness of film: Like 1 or like 5 but basically nothing in between. It’s a terrible, cheesy, 80s monster flick about a sexy monster lady that sexes people to death brackets one of those people is Hugh Grant close brackets. You know if you want to watch that film.

Hugh Grantiness of film: I would say about 3. He’s got quite a major role, and he plays a bumbling aristocrat, which is basically Hugh Grant’s entire career. Also, he and Capaldi are the only people who can do anything with the atrocious 80s horror movie dialogue – in Grant’s case, I suspect this is because he always sounds like he’s forgotten his lines anyway. I think I’m only giving it a 3 rather than a 5 because he spends quite a lot of the movie in hole and because the eightiesieness and Starziness almost blot out the Hugh Grantiness.

The Bengali Night

Oh dear me. This is the second colonial era film that Hugh Grant appeared in between 1987 and 1988 and, like White Mischief, the story it’s based on is slightly more interesting than the film itself. What’s even more interesting than that is the actual true story behind the not-actually-particularly-true story that the book the film is based on is based on. Basically, The Bengali Night is a terrible film. The only version you can get has terrible picture quality, terrible sound quality, and every single English actor in it looks like they give zero fucks. Hugh Grant can’t even be bothered to give his character a consistent accent.

But, on top of that, it’s just really, really, really skeevy. Potted summary: white European man in his mid-to-late twenties goes to India, fucks 16 year-old girl. It’s based on a book, the plot summary of which is: white European man in his mid-to-late twenties goes to India, fucks 16 year-old girl, then randomly goes up a mountain and fucks a blonde woman. The actual story on which the book is based goes something more like this: white Romanian man goes to India, stays with Indian man, has intense and probably romantic relationship with Indian man’s sixteen-year-old daughter who is already a well-regarded poet and writer in her own right, Indian man asks him to leave, sixteen-year-old goes on to have successful and fulfilling life in India as a wife, a mother, political activist and well-respected intellectual, Indian woman discovers later in life that white Romanian man has written book in which he claims he fucked her when he didn’t, Indian woman is not happy about this. White European director makes film based on White European man’s book. Indian woman is even less happy. Film stars Hugh Grant. Not a career highlight.

So, yeah. Everything about this is fucked up. The film and the context surrounding the film is this vortex of colonialism that is sickly fascinating if you come from a position of sufficient privilege to be sickly fascinated by it rather than just fucking bored and sad. Skipping over the fact that the film itself is a classic “white man goes to hot country and is awesome and bangs a hot babe because of how awesome he is and she’s stifled by her society because her society is objectively worse than western society and her family freak out because reverse racism and shit and certainly not because a guy in his twenties is attempting to fuck their underaged daughter so white man is driven out, everything ends catastrophically because non-white people are not capable of surviving without their white saviour” narrative the meta-text around the film is basically that again. Only worse.

Some bits of the story are actually true in that the author really did live in India, really did live with an Indian man and his family, and really did, arguably, actually fall in love with the Indian’s man daughter. In a weird way, what’s possibly skeeviest about the story is that the skeeviest bits are made up. And, obviously, this is a tricky one because, from a certain point of view it’s better for a bad thing not to have happened but, well, it takes a really special kind of dickhead to lie in a way that makes him sound even more like a dickhead.

To put some actual names on these characters, the white European man in question is called Mircea Eliade and the Indian woman is called Maitreyi Devi, and both of them wrote books about the relationship they had when she was sixteen and he was twenty-something. This is often presented as a kind of “he said she said” but since her book was written only in direct response to his book I’m inclined to assume that her account is the more reliable one. The two elements of The Bengali Night that I found most troubling were the fact that a white European man seemed to be using India as his personal sex party and that the moment the white European man left, Maitreyi’s parents beat her up, locked her in a cellar and then I think possibly died or something? (In the film their fate is relayed to Hugh Grant’s character by a third party about thirty seconds before the credits roll after he’s had the obligatory white man dip in the Ganges). According to her account, neither of these things happened, which suggests that not only did did Mr Eliade live a life that was quite similar to a stereotypical racist and colonial narrative he then wrote about it in a way that made it even more like a stereotypical racist and colonial narrative than it actually was.

I mean, ultimately, The Bengali Night is a 1988 film based on a semi-autobiographical novel from 1933. There was no way it was ever going to have a nuanced portrayal of India or one that treated its Indian characters as real humans with real internal lives. But I think the fact that the girl in the story grew up to be an actual adult woman who had the resources and wherewithal to object to the way she had been portrayed forces us to confront quite how skeevy and de-humanising the whole thing is.  The film taken in conjunction with the background information on the film that I looked up as part of this project leaves you with the deeply discomforting impression that the author/narrator/Hugh Grant character clearly doesn’t particularly think of Maitreyi (Gayatri in the film) as a real human being. But, worse, that he obviously doesn’t realise this.

The whole thing gives the impression of having been written by someone who believes himself to have a profound love and respect for India and the Indian people while also treating the whole place like it’s basically a giant theme park. Perhaps the thing that most encapsulates this is that when he wrote the original book (which was always intended to be at least partly fictional) Eliade changed his own name (Hugh Grant’s character in the film is called Allan) but didn’t change hers. And while I’m aware that one should not too easily read symbolism into small gestures or unconscious errors surely nothing signals that you don’t really think of someone as real quite as much as writing a fictionalised account of an event in which you still use their full actual name. Especially when you realise that Maitreyi Devi was kind of a big deal. She was a philanthropist, an activist, a writer, a poet and a philosopher. But in the book and the film she’s just this sixteen-year-old girl whose only meaningful achievement was falling in love with a white guy. And it clearly didn’t occur to Eliade that she would ever be anything else.

So.

Goodness of film: 0. It’s colonialist and boring.

Hugh Grantiness of film: 2. I mean, it is Hugh Grant playing a slightly confused European man, which is, again, the only job he’s allowed. But he genuinely can’t seem to decide what accent he’s doing (if I’m being charitable, I might suggest he’s deliberately trying to signal which language his character is speaking by which accent he does, so he speaks with something approaching a France accent around the characters who I think who are supposed to be French, and an English accent around the Indian characters to whom I think he’s supposed to be speaking in English but mostly it’s just confusing) and, well, not even Hugh Grant could imbue a role like this with anything approaching grace or charm.

I’m really glad that the next movie on the list is based on a Barbara Cartland novel and Hugh Grant plays a highwayman.

watching

41 Responses to hugh do you think you are?

  1. Jay Lewis Taylor says:

    Suspect that the reason for D’Ampton is that the real-life Lambton descendants (yes) objected – as you would.

    • Alexis Hall says:

      That seems plausible, although odd given that the story on which it is based is old enough to be a legitimately and undeniably extant folktale. He would sort of be the equivalent to changing the name of Dracula in case the descendants of Vlad the Impaler complained.

  2. EmmaT says:

    Oh my god YES to all of this. That I have never thought of this or done this before is a travesty. (Although it sounds like some of his early films were also a travesty.)

    • Alexis Hall says:

      Yes, I remember finding a blog a few years ago in which somebody decided to do the Year of Cage, which I suspect would actually be a more interesting project since Nick Cage movies are famously variable whereas Hugh Grant movies are all fairly similar. Still not stopping me though.

  3. Gillian says:

    Are we going to argue about the amazingness of Four Weddings and a Funeral?

    FWAAF is probably around one of three movies I will stop and watch – every time – when I come across it on TV. Not only is it peak Hugh Grantiness at his bumbling, stuttering, hair swooping finest (although Notting Hill is excessively Granty and is one of the other movies I will stop and watch when I come across it. Oh god, I’m seeing a pattern here) but it also features John Hannah. JOHN HANNAH!! <3 <3

    Anyway, I'm looking forward to reading more of your adventures in Grantiness.

    • Alexis Hall says:

      I think the thing about Four Weddings is not so much that it’s a bad movie, but that it seems completely uninterested in doing any of the things that good movies do. It’s got a bewilderingly vast cast of characters most of whom have, like, two lines. The romantic leads talk to each other about three times and yet, for some reason, we invest in this remarkably strongly. I’ll go into this in more depth when I make it that far but basically I think the whole film is written in shorthand.

      John Hannah is the best though.

  4. you know exactly who this is says:

    I am genuinely semi-offended that not only did you not invite me to play along here (I mean maybe these things are more sourceable in the US, you don’t know) but that this is the first I’m hearing of this wonderful endeavor. I thought you liked me.

  5. Annie Crow says:

    This is awesome and thank you. Maurice (both book and movie) were hugely important to me when I was in college, in the early 90s. I had not remembered Hugh played Clive. I reread Maurice recently and yes, it’s not Forster’s best but still, sigh. “And now we shan’t be parted no more, and that’s finished.”

    Lair of the White Worm is unique in its awfulness, even for that type of movie. I think your description of it being a MST3K movie (without the benefit of being a MST3K movie) is spot on. Again, had not remembered Hugh was in it.

    So looking forward to to your continuing this project.

    • Juliet says:

      Wait, Annie, you mean you watched Lair of the White Worm for some other reason, other than a Hugh Grant binge? 😮

      Regarding Funeral Blues … maybe some people just didn’t know the title of it? If I’d heard the first line, or if someone had asked me who wrote the funeral poem in Four Weddings, I’d have known it was Auden, but I wouldn’t have known from the title.

      I love ‘Maurice’, both the book and the film. I first read the book around 1980. It was the first happy-ending gay romance I ever read, and for a long time I thought it was the only one that existed back then. Now I know there were others, but not many.

      Ampton is near Bury St. Edmunds, although it clearly ought to be between Southampton and Northampton. But that’s England for you. Like North Parade being south of South Parade.

    • Alexis Hall says:

      I think it probably indicates something about Mr Grant’s filmography that your primary reaction to his performance in the films I’ve discussed so far is to forget he was in them.

      Joking aside, I suppose you could argue that this says positive things about his ability to actually act, rather than to just do the Hugh Grant thing, which he sort of descends into later in his career.

  6. Askewe says:

    My future self thanks you, should I ever find myself in the unfortunate position of thinking, Should I watch Lair of the White Worm? And because now I know the answer to that question is unequivocally no, I’ve sort of gained two hours or so of my life I would otherwise have lost, and therefore can now spend two hours doing something else completely pointless entirely guilt free, since I’m now ahead, yeah?

    • Alexis Hall says:

      That is exactly how it works 😉

      Although I confess I’m not sure under what circumstances you would ever sincerely ask yourself the question “Should I watch Lair of the White Worm?”

      • Askewe says:

        Lol, now, being perhaps an ever so slightly contrary person, this totally reads as a challenge. I’m thinking I may need to host an Unintentionally Awful Horror Movies Night (although I suspect we should just cut to the chase and rename it Mostly Hammer Movies Night). There goes my time credit after all… 😉

        • Annie Crow says:

          No, no, no, Lair is much worse than any Hammer I’ve seen. Have a schlocky horror movie night for sure, but feel free to leave Lair out of it. (I believe I had to be bribed to sit through to the end.)

  7. Lotta says:

    I approve this project! (Not that you need my approval). One of the first films I watched with Hugh Grant (in the early nineties possibly) was (possibly) a straight to tv sort of thing. I have only scattered recollections about the film, but Hugh played a thoroughly unlikeable character. It takes place in a vineyard, possibly French, during WWII, and Hugh possibly sides with the enemy and also rapes a girl. I should really look it up. One of my favourite Hughs is from Bridget Jones’s Diary. I think he does arsehole rather well.

    • Lotta, that one’s got Hugh Grant’s character as a Nazi, or at very least a collaborator. I remember watching part of it too, and it meant I couldn’t see Hugh Grant in anything else without thinking he was going to turn evil and rape someone. He has a moustache in it too.

      I looked around on the internet and it’s “Till We Meet Again”, with Grant playing the character of Bruno de Lancel. Someone’s put it up on Youtube at https://www.youtube.com/user/zenigeva/videos

    • Alexis Hall says:

      Well, that sounds like one to look forward to :/

      I suspect that this will become more apparent as I work through the filmography but I do feel that Hugh Grant’s career seems to have had a trajectory along the lines of “play actual characters in films, play Hugh Grant in films, play a guy who used to be or is pretending to be Hugh Grant in films.”

      • Lotta says:

        “play actual characters in films, play Hugh Grant in films, play a guy who used to be or is pretending to be Hugh Grant in films.”

        That sounds about right! But there are some real gems in later films, like Music and Lyrics, that I really liked.

        I can’t remember if I’ve actually watched Maurice the film, but I did write a paper on the book while at uni. I should definitely watch it, if only for the moustache.

  8. Bev Sutherland says:

    I love Pointless [the presenters not so much ], and watched that particular episode myself. I was genuinely shocked at the amount of people who did not know that heartfelt and wonderful poem was written by W H Auden, and of course I know it from 4 Weddings. It made me cry when I first watched and heard it, and has made me cry every time since.

    I’ll leave you with your Hugh Grant fascination as I definitely don’t rate him as an actor, but my fave of his was Sense and Sensibility with Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet. Beautifully acted and photographed, and kudos to Emma T for her script…with which she won an Oscar of course.

    • Alexis Hall says:

      How can you not like Alex and Richard? They are completely adorable.

      I think one of the things that’s really interesting about Pointless is that it involves that secondary game of trying to guess what other people would know, which is fascinatingly difficult. There was one a few weeks ago where they had haiku descriptions of TV shows and both Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones scored in the mid-to-low twenties, which came as a complete shock to me. But, as Richard Osman pointed on that episode, the thing about Game of Thrones is that people who like it are really, really into it. But people who don’t have just not heard of it at all. It’s very hard to judge what percentage of the things you think everyone knows are things that everyone actually knows and what percentage of them are things that are only well-known among the small and self-selecting group of people you choose to interact with.

      Also, for what it’s worth, I’m not sure this project is meant to be a tribute to Hugh Grant’s sterling work as an actor so much as his sterling work as a guy who is Hugh Grant.

  9. Maarja says:

    I have never seen any of the movies you speak about (though I’m now certainly planning to watch Maurice), but I found this post highly entertaining. It’s nice you’re willing to sacrifice yourself for your readers’ amusement. 😉 Also, in case you didn’t know, it’s possible to unlock your DVD player so that it shows all regions – I did this many years ago, so don’t remember the details, except that I googled and then had to use a very long and complicated code, but anyway, it worked. So you might get a chance to watch even more Hugh Grant. 😉

    • Alexis Hall says:

      Given the scope of this project, I might just accept not being able to watch some things for DVD region issues, since the alternative is to buy a DVD player (I normally watch DVDs on a console), try to chip it and probably fuck it up, and use it exactly once because 99% of my TV watching is done on streaming services these days.

      • Maarja says:

        All right, that’s a good point, I suppose… I only dared do it because it was a rather cheap DVD player we’d actually bought simply because the salesman said there was a way better model coming in a year or so, so it wasn’t worth it to buy something more expensive. Though, of course, now we’ve used it for 10 years or so and haven’t invested in anything fancier. 😀 And nowadays there’s Netflix etc anyway.

  10. Lennan Adams says:

    This post is so entertaining and watching the (mostly) complete ouevre of an actor is such a great idea. I can’t get over the snakes and ladders (oh d’you see is so perfect here lol. SNAKES AND LADDERS! Haha) and your comment about setting up a table in a wrestling match made me laugh.
    Of this list I’ve only seen the White Worm movie and Maurice and I apparently don’t remember anything about TLotWW including Hugh Grant. I’m exactly the right age for Maurice (saw it in our local indie theater when I was 17/18) and it really meant a lot to me and my friends. We loved it so hard (and all the M&I movies.) Now I want to watch it again * heart eyes*
    Anyway this is such a cool project, I’m excited for future posts!

    • Alexis Hall says:

      I’m amused at the number of people who’ve seen this film but haven’t remember Hugh Grant is in them, although to be honest Hugh Grant is probably the least memorable thing in Lair of the White Worm (although his moustache is probably the most memorable thing in Maurice. So wrong. So very, very wrong).

  11. Purba Falgunii says:

    You are awesome 😀 this Just made my day after a sleepless night.

    About Lair of the White Worm (I did not watch it and have no intention of watching it): I want to give it 3 at a crazy snake related movie scale. there are all kind of crazy hilarious snake related movies in Bengali and I am pretty sure in Hindi too. In fact if I remember correctly the most business successful Bengali (Bangladesh) movie of all time is a snake (nagini) movie.

    About Bengali Night: I am very impressed by your observation and analytical power. You derived things correctly (in my standards :)) just from the movie? I have read both books in my early teen almost 20 years ago. I could be wrong: the first book was kind of show off, and badly written (could be the translation). He uses her real name and narrates her sexual desire which made me really angry even then. Because even now teenage girl commits suicide in back home for less. Most part of Indian Subcontinent are very conservative and social pressure is huge.

    About the book by Maitreyi Devi, it is well written and very sweet and romantic. I don’t think I read many Bengali books from woman’s point of view. She clarifies her points (as far as I remembered, what is not true in Mircha’s book) at the beginning of the book but it never impacts the story line. I I were her, I probably wound just list a bunch of swear words. I admire her courage.

    Have a good weekend!

    • Alexis Hall says:

      I did actually order Devi’s book because I felt so bad about having paid money for the film – I might skip the other one. The whole meta-story behind the film, and the book he wrote, is just so messed up.

      I confess I’m not very up on Indian cinema but the snake film sub-genre definitely seems to be a thing in western horror movies. I’m sure Hammer did a couple, and they made approximately 6000 Anaconda movies, and then of course there was Snakes on a Plane. I would agree that Lair of the White Worm is about a 3 on the crazy snake-o-meter but it might go to a four just for the Snakes & Ladders scene.

      • Purba Falgunii says:

        I am not very up on Indian cinema or any cinema, actually I watch tv/movie rarely. But still I had watched a ridiculous number of snake movies in my childhood. Trust me, those are more complex and strange than any Anaconda movie. Like snake time-travels( or teleport), transforms to beautiful women (in black leather tights and tops), steal a baby or gets pregnant, causes temporary separation, get punished by snake queen (Goddess Manasa?). Also there is always a snake charming dance :). There are some very good books about snake charmers life in Bengali but those movies are seriously ridiculous 😀

        I have read Devi’s book in Bengali, one of the first romantic books I have read (compare to other form of romance media available 20 years ago like crazy snake movies :D). Recalling the book somehow reminds me those magical teen-age days. So basically I am super biased about the book 🙂

  12. willaful says:

    My mother — who does not like owning things — actually bought a dvd player that plays multiple regions, just so she could watch the British show “Rock Follies” and its sequel. Which are admittedly damn fine.

    “Four Weddings and A Funeral” is actually the only Andie McDowell movie I’ve ever been able to stand, probably for exactly the reasons you mention — she’s not in it all that much.

    • Alexis Hall says:

      I think I’m having a bit of a British fail here because I’ve got no idea what Rock Follies is.

      As for Andie McDowell, she’s not really an actor I have strong opinions about one way or the other. I was genuinely shocked at how little she was in Four Weddings and a Funeral, though, weirdly, nobody is in it very much.

      • willaful says:

        !!! Well, it is pretty old. She originally watched them on PBS in the 70s. But you should see if you can dig it up, because it’s marvelous. (The first series, anyway.) The soundtrack albums are wonderful, too.

  13. I adore your ramblings, even when they’re about an actor I don’t care terribly much about (sorry, I know I’m the worst). Though even if I did love Hugh Grant, my main takeaway would still be…regioned DVDs aren’t a thing anymore? This is fantastic news, and I’m very grateful to you for letting me know. I’d stopped bothering to try to get hold of British TV and movies years ago, and I see some shopping in my future.

    Unfortunately, I’m afraid I’ve got be That Guy for a second (read: hour) here, because you’ve touched on a pet peeve that’s pretty fresh in my head because I was ranting about it recently. When you describe Maitreyi Devi as someone who “goes on to have successful and fulfilling life in India as a wife, a mother, political activist and well-respected intellectual,” I have to ask: why do wife and mother come first in that list? We know from the other things you said that she was a poet, writer, political activist, and intellectual, so it seems odd to focus first on her “success” at performing traditional gender roles.

    To take it a step farther, why is it relevant that she was a wife and mother at all?

    Allow me to navel-gaze at my own questions (since I’m typing this in a box and you can’t stop me, and my alternative to ranting is to actually do some work). Firstly, you mention “wife” because we’re conditioned by society to view a woman’s worth in relation to the man she’s attached to. Women are urged to marry rich, powerful men to elevate their status, because no matter what prestigious career they may have for themselves, the assumption is that the career will be dropped or put on hold when children enter the equation.

    “Mother,” of course, is there because we as a society have an unhealthy obsession with parenthood as the ultimate personal achievement. Your life’s work isn’t complete until you’ve made a person with your genitals upon which to imprint your values, ideals, and neuroses. Ideally more than one person, because what’s overpopulation in the face of the life-changing satisfaction of a nuclear family?

    And of course, “wife and mother” is there to counter a narrative of a woman shamed, degraded, and victimized. What better way to show that Mircea Eliade didn’t “spoil” her than by telling us that even though he publicly embarrassed her with an account of their sexual adventures, she found a man who loved her (and had sex with her) in spite of that?

    And you know the worst part? Because of all this nonsense, if you’d left out “wife and mother” entirely, many readers would have been left with the impression she died alone and unloved, and would have, despite her achievements, felt a faint pang of pity for her. “Political activist and writer” doesn’t sound alluring, after all–writers are a notoriously reclusive and slovenly bunch, and “political activist” sounds dangerously close to “feminist.”

    This is, of course, not to dismiss the opinions of women who truly do identify as wives and mothers. If a woman wishes to define herself by the services she performs for other people, that’s a valid identity and should be respected and celebrated. But if you don’t know the woman in question well enough to know how she identifies herself, it’s generally safer to leave “wife and mother” out of the equation entirely, or at the very least leave it until after you’ve listed the things she’s achieved for herself.

    • Alexis Hall says:

      Fair points, I probably didn’t articulate that well enough.

      For what it’s worth, the reason I put “wife and mother” first and also made a point of mentioning them explicitly was because (and I didn’t make this explicit enough in the article) one of the many skeevy colonialist themes in The Bengali Night is pretty much the opposite of what you suggested your reading would be. The issue isn’t that the audience assumes that if you don’t specifically say she gets married that she dies alone and unloved it’s that the audience assumes that if she doesn’t marry the good white man that she is inevitably forced to marry a bad, abusive Indian man and hates it. Basically I thought it was important to mention that she married someone else and had a perfectly successful domestic life alongside her literary and political career, not because I wanted to highlight that she wasn’t ruined by her relationship with Hugh Grant’s character but to highlight that, despite what the book and film try to strongly imply, Hugh Grant’s character was very much not the love of her life. And, secondarily, that despite the assumptions we tend to make about non-European societies, that she was able within her culture to pursue all of the many goals she had in her life (which included some that might be considered conventional and socially conservative) and that the fact that the white European man wasn’t around to protect her in no way got in the way of that.

      • I’m happy to hear that. When a man (particularly a white cis man) who seems to not be an asshole makes a statement that enforces harmful gender roles, I usually assume he’s just echoing his societal conditioning without thinking about it, because let’s face it: they usually aren’t thinking about it. They’ve never had to, because they’ve never been on the receiving end. Given that you’re you, it doesn’t at all surprise me that your statement was made with thought and purpose and was merely poorly phrased.

        I’d have said something along the lines of: “went on to become a political activist and well-respected intellectual, and was happily married to an Indian man.” I think that would get across that she found love and success within her society despite the meddling of the skeevy white man, without defining her as a “wife.” Or at least if it had been phrased like that, I wouldn’t have gone on a 600 word tirade.

    • Askewe says:

      Casey Cameron, YES! Totally OT, but while we are at it, can we please stop newscasters from defining women’s worth by their children, and defining the seriousness of crimes committed by them or against them by the number of children they have? Ex. Driving under the influence is bad with one child in a car, but newsworthy with five. Hurting a mother of one is bad, but a terrible, terrible thing if she has four or more children. Why?? I’m pretty sure that having more children doesn’t alter their worth as individuals? Nor does more children make you a somehow proportionally better (or worse) person or mother! And I say this as a mother of five (who, tbh, spends just as much time as any other mother (ie most) scratching my head and thinking wtf?)… Please world, stop defining women by their reproductive capacities. /rantover 😉

      • Dear god, yes. I want to scream every time a news report mentions that a “beautiful mother of two” was killed. Why should we care any less if she was a “skilled pianist” or a “lifelong hermit”? Or for that matter, simply “woman”? What matters is she’s dead, not that we have one less pretty face to look at in the world, and I’m sure her parents, siblings, and close friends are mourning her every bit as much as her children are.

        When I go, if my obituary says, “Casey was a beautiful wife, mother, and writer,” I swear I will rise from the grave just to find the bastard who wrote it and deliver a lecture on feminism.

        • Askewe says:

          I suspect I may be safe on that one: it’s even odds any epitaph of mine will read “I guess it wasn’t such a good idea after all”, while my partners next to me will read “I meant it as a joke!”. So there probably won’t be space for the wife, mother etc part.

          Although… I was asked to list my occupation on each child’s birth certificate. As I’d recently finished studying before the first, then became a stay at home parent and later home educator, I decided to have some fun with it (because hell would freeze over before I put ‘housewife’ or ‘mother’!). So they read things like ‘household CEO’, ‘CEO {family name (hyphenated, of course lol)} Enterprises’ etc. The Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages apparently drew the line at ‘Regent, {family name} Dynasty’, or whatever exactly I put (I can’t remember exactly after Regent, I was sleep deprived, obvs ;-)) – it came back ‘Self Employed’ lmao. I was terribly disappointed, mainly because I’d had fun imagining some poor statistician somewhere trying to work out which category to put Regent in when collating parent occupations (self employed, it turns out…). Perhaps I should have just put ‘Activist for Equality’? 😉

  14. Lisa says:

    Love this post! I watched Lair of the White worm back in the late 80s, but must have blanked it out because I can remember nothing of the plot. I found a clip tonight of Peter Capaldi playing the bagpipes while pursued by a zombie/vampire/policeman, and it was just brilliant, and made me consider giving the movie a second chance. Looking forward to the early 90s Hugh Grant installment (my autocorrect wants to call him Hugh Granny), esp Impromptu, which I saw during a film festival and thought was the height of sophistication and glamour…

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