Not that long ago I wondered why they didn't show more television programmes and then discovered that they do actually show a fair few of them (I have a few more suggestions too). And last night I went to see one of them.
Mark Gatiss (clever chap) has adapted one of MR James' ghost stories (The Tractate Middoth) for the BBC to be shown at Christmas. He grew up watching BBC2's traditional ghost stories at Christmas and his contribution (his directorial debut) brings the idea back to our screens - it's brilliant. I have to confess the work of MR James was unknown to me but in the later Q&A Mark highlighted the humour in his work as well as the horror and this was definitely clear in the production. There were lots of funny touches and we all had a good giggle (the screen, NFT1 has a capacity of 450 and it was packed - it's really fun watching television programmes on a big screen with a big audience).
There was a properly unsettling bit on a train though, scary yes but more disturbing, and rather well filmed so that it crept up on you. Mark mentioned a particular type of camera thingy that they used to achieve certain effects - I think it was a Lensbaby. A couple of people next to me jumped and I was surprised that I didn't but I might have had my eyes closed at that point...
We also got to see Mark's new documentary on the life of MR James and I think after you see it you'll wish that Mark would run holiday tours of French churches and cathedrals and the English countryside. I'd definitely sign up for that! Anyway it was a warm portrait of an interesting character.
We then had a Q&A with Mark, John Das (the producer), cast members John Castle and Sacha Dhawan and hosted by Neil Brand who presented the wonderful BBC Sound of Cinema series on BBC Four recently (also produced by John Das).
Given that it was a bit of a special event I bookended it with the loveliest journeys I can take in London. I walked from my office near Mile End to Tower Gateway and took the heavenly RV1 bus to Royal Festival Hall. It's the finest bus journey in London and passes Tower Bridge and London Bridge station before heading off to Southbank / Waterloo / Covent Garden. Afterwards I took the Thames Clipper ferry home and saw all the lovely twinkly lights of the Thames.
- The Tractate Middoth BBC2 9.30pm Christmas Day
- MR James: Ghost Writer (straight after Tractate Middoth) BBC2 10.05pm Christmas Day
- BBC Press release for Tractate Middoth and MR James: Ghost writer
- On a bus back from the BFI as I type - mini review of the event
"Plus, more shallowly, lots of lovely suitness, many scenes of Gatissian bike riding in said suit, and acres of page turning hand porn. If only I could gif with my eyes. Several moments that got quite a laugh too - as well as making the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end."