Times A Wastin

Well lets start off with the run down of my free time. Following my viewing of Star Wars I made a follow up trip to the cinema the next day and saw the movie Bridge of Spies. This is a Spielberg film starring Tom Hanks and produced by the Coen brothers, so its got a pretty stellar vantage point and unlike the other Coen brothers’ movie based on a true story, this one actually is. Tom Hanks plays James Donovan, a family law lawyer who is pretty much conscripted into being the token lawyer for a guy, Rudolf Able played by Mark Rylance, who is facing arrest for espionage charges of working for the Russians. Donovan however refuses his position as token lawyer and actually does the job of being the defendants representative which is a bold and morally justifiable move, but a dangerous one to make in the 1950s America with “Reds under the beds” paranoia running rife. This subject which is not ignored in the film and we become witness to the paranoia when we see Donovan’s family home come under attack by outraged citizens believing him to be a commie sympathiser and also at his sons school where the class is shown the infamous and much parodied “Duck and Cover” Public Information film. The court case and its preparation takes up a good third of the movie and the pace of the film is akin to a slower version of Tinker Tailor Solider Spy with very mundane events becoming part of the narrative. While much to many people’s citizen’s disgust Abel escapes the death penalty, it shows a fortunate level of hindsight when an American Pilot with a ridicules name is captured when attempting to photograph installations behind the Iron Curtain and an exchange is needed to be arranged. This is when the momentum picks up and Donovan is shipped to Berlin during the building of the wall to oversea the transfer. A sub-plot involving an economics student who gets caught on the wrong side of the wall is added and leads to a clever powerplay where Donovan negotiates a plan to get the student from the Stassi and Gary Powers from the Russians, it is a complicated affair which builds to a slow burning climax at the titular bridge where in my opinion the real tension arises in what exactly is going to be Abel’s fate once the exchange is made, will he be executed/imprisoned or allowed to return to his home and family. Thanks to my youthful interest in the Cold War and the Soviet Union I was very aware of the significance of which of the exchange options would mean, but for others it might not be so clear. What is curious is how the Soviet Government operatives are played in a much more positive light to the cold hardened CIA men who seem very deterministic, no doubt this is in order to show a positive progressive side on the behalf of the Soviets in contrasts to the brutality on the streets of East Germany. Mark Rylance puts in a wonderfully reserved performance as Abel whose is calm through out his ordeal as he is a professional and no doubt accepts discover and arrest as an occupational hazard, Donovan questions him on why he never appears to be worried to which he gets the brilliant reply “would it help?” The only time we see the mask slip is when he is walking across the bridge towards his employers as he really is in unknown territory there. If the film has a flaw it is that more time could have been spent with the imprisoned student to get a better feel for his story as I felt his sub-plot was undeveloped, but like Hitchock’s Topaz, the film is way past the half way mark before the titular McGuffin is even leaned towards.
The Bottom Line: An excellent slow burning cerebral spy thriller much in the John le Carré and Len Deighton mode, if you are after a cold war James Bond adventure this is not the film for you.

When not working I have been generally chilling out with many visits to Tom and Mike at the Mytton and Mermaid and one occasion we were reminded how long it has been since we last did any Trigonometry. I even managed to catch up a few times with Levi, whom these days I see even less frequently then Pete, so it was nice to catch up. Amusingly it seems as Levi’s beard has grown longer mine has been getting shorter as I have been trimming it back a lot of late for various reasons, principally to make it easier to shave off as I have a feeling that maybe well be a necessity in the not so distant future. Mike is his usually curmudgeonous and opinionated self, we wouldn’t want him to be any otherway, but it would seem that his presence will be lacking for the forseeable future as during the week he is going to be London based for an indefinite period.

Music wise I have been making use of the local HMV store and purchased six albums: Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers Live st the Care Bohemia Volumes 1 and 2, Miles Davies: My Funny Valentine and Cookin’ at the Plugged Nickel, Djangology, a 1949 by the legendary three fingered jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt which reunited with Stephanne Grappelli and a compilation entitled The Golden Age of Big Band Swing.
I have also finally tracked down the album Earl Hines meets Stephanne Grappelli album which features a beautifully haunting rendition of “Over the Rainbow’, which has special significance to me as it was a track on the two discs Andrea made for me to listen to on the Plane en route to Michigan. The inbuilt wistful dreaminess of the sound which is reflected through the melancholy tone set by the great pianist and violinist atill haunts me even to this day…

Anything else to say? I don’t so for now so toodly bye.


2 thoughts on “Times A Wastin

  1. We have Bridge of Spies ready and waiting on the DVD, something to watch this evening perhaps. I was always a lover of the spy occurrences and read them all, Philby, Burgess, Macclean. George Blake was my favourite, that was really something completely different. An escape from an english prison and making his way to Russia via East Berlin. Later even giving an interview to the BBC from his Russian Datcha. I remember the Gary Powers incident quite well, although I was just 14 at the time. I have just read “Leaving Berlin” by Joseph Kanon, a spy story about life in East Germany in the years after the war when the airlift to Berlin was actual.
    Of course Mr. Swiss showed interest in your jazz records. He is an Art Blakey fan amongst others. He still has memories of Ronnie Scott’s Jazz club during his London year. I didn’t know him then, and probably would not have been interesting as I was still in school at the time. He is older than me (8 years).
    Interesting article.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I vaguely recall reading about the case you mentioned. Kenny Ball’s autobiography tells the story of a Russian fan who made the perilous journey over the Iron Curtain.
      As you mentioned Mr Swiss is/was a drummer it doesn’t come as much as a surprise he is a fan of Art Blakey, the Jazz Messengers was in many ways a university for the budding Jazz musician.

      Liked by 1 person

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