by Robert Forryan

I love the cinema, but, like football, it can let you down as often as it lifts you up. There are times when a film can be the equivalent of seeing your team go 0-3 down in the first 15 minutes and knowing that there is no way back. The other evening, though, I had the equivalent of a 6-1 win. 

The film we went to see was ‘L’Homme Du Train’ starring Jean Rochefort and Johnny Hallyday. Yes, that Johnny Hallyday; the one who was once France’s only rock star. The tiny theatre had sold out so word must have gone around Ipswich that this was worth seeing. It was. 

Hallyday plays a world-weary bank robber who arrives late one evening (by train) in a small French town. The streets are deserted and the only hotel is closed. No towns can ever be as empty as French towns. By chance he comes to meet Rochefort who plays an elderly bachelor living in a grand and well-furnished town house. Rochefort puts him up and the film is primarily about the relationship that develops between the two opposite characters. Rochefort is a gentle, retired teacher who loves poetry and has led an extremely sheltered life. As a sub-plot we learn that Hallyday has come to meet some hoodlums and to rob the town’s bank. 

Over a few days Rochefort and Hallyday come to envy each other’s way of life. Hallyday likes the cultured, quiet charm of Rochefort and takes to smoking a pipe and wearing slippers. By contrast Rochefort feels he has missed out on life’s excitements and wants to test himself. When he learns about the bank raid he offers to help but is turned down, very gently. 

It doesn’t sound much of a story but it is very funny and the joys are in the acting, characterisation and cinematography. And you could sense that everyone in the cinema enjoyed themselves. I said it was like a 6-1 win. It would have been 6-0 but the opposition got a late consolation goal by virtue of the ending. Otherwise it was perfect.

I wonder if any of you heard David Gilmour on ‘Desert Island Discs’ recently? I’ve never liked Pink Floyd but I thought Gilmour sounded a really nice, unpretentious guy; and unpretentious is not a word I would normally connect with Pink Floyd. He didn’t seem to have been affected badly by his wealth and success. I liked the fact that Sue Lawley suggested that the members of Pink Floyd are generally unknown as people, untouched by celebrity status, hiding behind their ‘arty’ LP covers and not having their photos all over the place. Gilmour says they always thought having their photos taken was silly.  

His choice of eight records was as near to my own taste as any I’ve ever heard: ‘Waterloo Sunset’, ‘Dancing In The Street’, and Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell, Tom Waits and Neil Young. And, best of all, ‘Ballad In Plain D’. You may remember that some months ago I wrote for this magazine defending ‘Ballad In Plain D’ and it was great to find someone else who likes it so much. I bet it’s never been chosen on ‘Desert Island Discs’ before. Gilmour said he always liked Dylan’s love songs. Me too, David, me too. 

It was mentioned that Gilmour now does live solo acoustic shows for small audiences which sounded very relaxed and yet dignified. I do wish Dylan would go down that route instead of so many electric guitars and so much volume…

My reason for writing about a film and a radio programme is that I don’t have anything else to say and I missed last month so I need to post something to keep my membership; but I have to say I don’t know whether I should try to hang in here. I have been writing on Dylan-related themes for over 12 years now, beginning with ‘Homer, the Slut’ in 1991. I know this is short-term compared with some of you and bears no relationship to the several pages that JRS commits to month after month. Nonetheless, I think I may be about ‘written out’. At bottom, I feel a deepening malaise – a waning of enthusiasm for Bob Dylan and, particularly, his recent work. It would not be the first time I had ‘gone off’ Dylan for a number of years. Maybe I’m not sufficiently obsessive to keep it going. This has been coming on for some time. Most of my recent articles for ‘Judas!’ and ‘The Bridge’ were drafted two or three years back and have just been polished up for publication. 

It’s something that’s been on my mind for a while and as a result I emailed Andrew Muir over Easter. Here is an extract: 

Which brings me to the main point. I think the time has come for me to say goodbye to the Dylan writing. I have become so disenchanted with the drift of Dylan’s ‘art’ and I truly feel out of kilter with the community that has developed around it… maybe now is the time to quit… 

…it’s all very sad but I don’t feel a part of this any more. 

And after I'd sent it I wondered if I'd ever been a part of this.