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Maurice (Peter O'Toole) and Ian (Leslie Phillips) are a pair of veteran actors whose comfortable daily routine is disrupted by the arrival of Ian's brash grand-niece Jessie (Jodie Whittaker). Filled with erotic longing, Maurice takes the teenager under his wing, but is surprised to discover how little he actually knows now that his own life is drawing to a close. Co-starring Vanessa Redgrave and Richard Griffiths. The drama reunites director Roger Michell (Notting Hill), screenwriter Hanif Kureishi (My Beautiful Laundrette) and producer Kevin Loader, the team responsible for the highly-acclaimed film The Mother.
 

 Venus

March 14th, 2006

With Nic Gaster, editor of Venus and two of my previous films. Our rushes trawl continues. It is grueling and feels endless but surprisingly creative. By watching the rushes together we often arrive at a completely new strategy for how to cut the scene, and this strategy is often determined by how the film is evolving in the wider sense alongside our minute examination of the dailies. For example, yesterday we went through all the stuff from the first scene in the café and discovered that we had massively over-cut it. Nick, obligingly, had included in his assembly all the cut-aways of pill bottles, overhead shots of tablets tumbling across the table and liberal use of close-ups. This I would expect him to do, as I had shot the damn stuff. But it’s wrong in the context of the opening of the film: feels too eager to please, too comedic, and yet not truly funny as a result. Have suggested a much more relaxed approach, using the wide tracking shot longer and dumping much of the detail of hands, pills, waitresses’ legs, etc. It does hurt our heads and we can only do it for a few hours at a stretch but it is very creative work and gives us a real chance to rediscover the film together.

Later…

I had taken Joe Shepherd, my teenage godson, into the cutting room and he had spent the morning, as a complete novice, cutting from scratch a scene in the next room with Kim, Nic’s son and assistant. Kim chose a scene at random. I had expected a rough and ready account but watching it through, had to conclude without reservation that it was a much better cut than ours. More lively, holding the wide shots for longer, more radical, more interesting, and just better. How annoying.

March 15th, 2006

Showed the whole film to Joe this morning. He is our very first “virgin”— someone who knows nothing of the film or its evolution.

He was suitably unimpressed.

As the credits rolled he enquired:

a. Was it a tame fox?
b. Was Jodie actually from up north?
c. Would old boys like them really read The Guardian in its new Berliner style format?

Said he liked it but it got a bit boring.

Hmmm. He is probably right.

I tried to remain calm and sent him out to buy coffee.

Nic and I rather enjoyed it…especially up until the boy’s arrival at the flat. Spent a couple of hours lashing away at the second half of the film. This morning the film was 106 minutes. By tomorrow I think it will be 100…our target weight.

March 17th, 2006

Another screening. I found the first half dragged. But by and large, the second half is working and all laid out in the right order. The only ghastly section that remains is from the row in the café to the ambulance crew. Hanif and I went for a drink after. I say: ”I don’t know if it’s funny, that’s all. The first half should be funny and if it’s not, we’re fucked.” “But the second half is so powerful and moving.” I reply: “But that’s because we can do the powerful stuff. That’s what we do. Being funny, that’s hard.”

 
 

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