Just how long is ‘rather long’?

This past weekend was the annual l’Abri Film Festival – an event I went to for the first time a year ago, and thoroughly enjoyed. I’d planned to go again this year, but sadly circumstances overtook me and I couldn’t make it.

By way of making up for missing a slew of quality cinema, on Saturday night a friend took me to their local video store to rent a film so that I’d have at least watched one film over a weekend when I might otherwise have seen five or six.

Obviously, the first comment to make about this is that we went to an actual video store (well, more appropriately, DVD store) – I had assumed all such places had ceased to exist! Not so! On Brick Lane (at the end nearer the 24/7 bagel shops as opposed to the curry houses) you’ll find Close Up (can you see what they did there?), a self-named ‘film centre’ which goes way beyond the Blockbusters of yesteryear.

That would be the American section. (Credit.)

For a start, they have a brilliant shelving system. (Friends will be aware just how important a methodical shelving system is to me…it’s a major outworking of my OCD.) Yes, there’s a new releases section right by the door, but the rest of the many, many films are organised firstly by country/region, then chronologically (e.g. ‘American 1980s’), with dedicated sections to specific directors, actors or authors. (To be fair, my OCD didn’t cope so well with ‘Dickens’ being a similar category to ‘Leigh’, but never mind.) But seriously, how many places do you know with a dedicated Palestinian film section?! Fabulous.

We made our selections with the assistance of excellent advice from the (rather cute) guys behind the counter, who also complimented us on our first choice of three films – Margaret. In fact, his enthusiastic praise of the film resulted in us choosing that one to watch over the others, but we realised we should have paid attention to his other comment – that it was ‘rather long’

Turns out that by ‘rather long’ he meant ‘a three hour marathon of a film that is only available on DVD in the Director’s cut which remained unreleased for seven years’. Half an hour in, Cathers thought to check the length on the box and we then spent some minutes checking that we’d correctly translated 175 minutes into ‘practically 3 hours’. Having begun the film at 9.30, this was going to result in a very late departure from Bethnal Green.

However, that’s not to say it wasn’t worth spending three hours watching it. To be honest, if we hadn’t of checked, I’m not particularly sure we’d have noticed just how long it was. Perhaps it could have been shorter had some of its dreamy New York City shots been cut, but to be honest, who doesn’t like a shot of NYC in the autumn? It’s rather intense, to the extent that the two of us found ourselves yelling at the screen at various points, having a go at both the teenage protagonist and adult characters who had made stupid errors.

I’m trying to work out if Matt Damon was especially hot because he was playing a preppy teacher….

What confused us though, was just how young Anna Paquin (the main character, though surprisingly not called Margaret) appeared to be, given that the film had only been released this year. Turned out the film was actually made in 2005 (also explaining just how young and especially hot Matt Damon looked), but that a couple of lawsuits had resulted in it being held up. That, and the fact that an agreement couldn’t be reached over how to get the film to a more practical theatrical release length. Thank goodness I had access to IMDB and Wikipedia while watching the movie, so I wasn’t distracted throughout it by this pondering.

And the film? Well, aside from a teenage lead whose neck you want to wring on a regular basis, yet is strangely compelling; the film is well worth the three hours. Chronicling the impact of watching an horrific road accident upon a teenage girl, it manages to be both hard hitting and entertaining while assuring you that you never, ever, want to be a teenager again.

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