Friday 28th November
In February I will have been alive for 60 years. Well over the mean for the species. Of course, in this age of compulsory youth, everybody tells you how young they feel and it is true that the thin subjective streak knows no time – that the old man that steps onto the Central Line at Liverpool Street has no distance at all from the 7 year old boy who took the tube to Ealing Broadway from Chancery Lane. But as dawn rises and I travel on it is difficult not to feel old. When I first went to Geneva in January 1967 I knew every twist and turn of London’s underground to the north and west. Now I wander through strange stations like Stratford making unexpected connections to the Jubilee Line and then changing again at Canning Town for the equally recent pleasure of the Docklands Light Railway. I arrive at the City Airport (where we were one of the first to film in Melancolia (1988) quicker than if I had taken a taxi. However, contemplating all that capital and labour expended in my adult lifetime has the monkey of age feeling heavy on my back.
I read Bazin on the plane, the great Bazin who we mocked in our youth as a theoretically naïve empiricist, the idiot of the family. But we were the idiots for Bazin’s elegant writing conjugated the variables of film-making – industry, art, technology with a depth and sophistication that our own analyses desperately needed. But my mind is not on Bazin, it is racing and angry. Every time I think I have achieved Stoic wisdom and that the venal mendacious and corrupt politicians of New Labour are incapable of disturbing my equanimity, some new outrage destroys my inner enlightenment to render me an eye-bulging spittle flecked angry old man. The police have raided the House of Commons and detained an MP for 9 hours. It is impossible to believe this. So desperate have these third rate spinners become that in the attempt to snuff out tomorrow’s gossip column they have sent the physical force of the state into the heart of the legislature.
My mind is calmed in Geneva by the efficiency of the train station at the airport (more new capital and labour) and the familiarity of the central station Cornavin in whose forecourt Le Petit Soldat first saw the heart stoppingly beautiful Anna Karina. Geneva seems a little less prosperous than the one I have fixed in my mind, but this may simply mean that there not as many cafes serving Swiss wine, what I’m looking for, as there once were. But I find one and after ordering two decilitres (another pleasure of the Swiss café – you can drink exactly the amount you require). I phone Denis MacShane ( MP for Rotherham schoolfriend) – some badinage about having heard the fendant at midnight and then I learn that the whole affair is even more sinister as the contemptible Speaker is now quite obviously a creature of the government.
Pleasant lunch with pleasant young researchers at the University of Geneva, Patrizia Lombardo ( Professor of French at Geneva, colleague at Pittsburgh 1987-1994) has organised a typically elegant session. It is a great relief to talk with students and Faculty who assume that film and literature are interrelated.
The next morning I’m at the airport in good time. In enough time to send a postcard to Godard congratulating him on the title of his new film, which I’d learnt the day before was Socialism. It is remarkable that as capitalism visibly founders and founders in the way that Marx predicted, there is no voice in the developed world raised for socialism. Godard, as always is ahead of the curve. Later I sit gazing at the Jura mountains where I lived 41 years ago and have an airport moment. Luckily it is brief and the Paddington Express (more capital, more labour) whisks me home for lunch.