We don't need more films for old people. We just need more good films

A week in arts: Why Dame Maggie Smith is wrong about Hollywood, it's not about the economy stupid and anonymous art at the Frieze Art Fair

Share
Related Topics

One certainty of the thespian life is that, when actresses reach
a certain age, they will lament the lack of roles for older
actresses. The estimable Patricia Hodge has added a new twist to
this. In voicing the lament recently, she added that there always
seemed to be roles for the holy trinity of Maggie Smith, Judi Dench
and Vanessa Redgrave. It was the rest of the women of a certain age
who were feeling deprived. I look to Julian Fellowes to bring some
happiness here. He has already brought Shirley MacLaine across the
Atlantic
. Now he must be patriotic and introduce a host of aunts
and great aunts, all with some vicarious claim to the Downton
estate, or maybe old flames of Hugh Bonneville's Lord Grantham
arriving to shame him into coming clean.

This week Dame Maggie herself gave a twist to the debate, saying Hollywood should make more films for "elderly people". Speaking at the premiere of the film Quartet, she said: "It seems to me there is a change in what audiences want to see," she said. "I can only hope that's correct, because there's an awful lot of people of my age around now and we outnumber the others. I don't think films about elderly people have been made very much. But I think of [films like] Cocoon and Driving Miss Daisy and they always seem to be fairly successful, so it's a bit baffling as to why everybody has to be treated as if they were five years old."

She may have momentarily forgotten her excellent cameos as Professor Minerva McGonagall in a certain children's franchise. But it didn't matter too much what Dame Maggie said, the fascinating fact was that she said anything. Dame Maggie's public utterances are so rare, she makes Bob Dylan look a positive chatterbox. So every word from this national treasure is treasured. But on this occasion she may only be half right. Of course, Hollywood has long needed to grow up and make more films which address real concerns. But, what with Dame Maggie's new film Quartet, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, and several other contemporary vehicles about old age, the baby boomers are actually having a mini-boom.

The bigger point, though, is that I feel she is wrong to assume that audiences, whatever their age, only want a mirror of their own lives in art, be it film, theatre or TV. A good work of art is likely to be seen by an audience embracing more than one demographic. At a good film one should be able to look round the stalls and see all ages. I expect that will be the case at the new Bond movie, I expect it will be the case at Quartet. The heart sinks at the thought of Hollywood targeting specific age groups with film treatments that it decides will speak to the needs of affluent old people. Much better to have scripts that carry universal messages. If they are well written, well directed and well acted, the audience will comprise every age group. Maggie Smith is, as Patricia Hodge, says, on camera a lot, and thank goodness for that. But in front of the screens life isn't that gloomy, and audiences are thankfully far from segregated by age. There's still a communal feel in the cinema, and a healthy curiosity to learn about the trials and joys of every age.

It's not about the economy, stupid

The former National Theatre artistic director, Sir Richard Eyre, told students at Rose Bruford College of Theatre and Performance: "Don't let's fall into the trap prepared by the Government zealots of thinking that anything that can't be measured or quantified or traded is to be discouraged and disparaged. We need the arts to help change our world. We need the arts to enable us to put ourselves in the minds, eyes, ears and hearts of other human beings." He is so right. But let's not forget that for years the arts world itself has tried to impress government by stressing "the economic importance of the arts", to quote the title of one influential report. It is good to see that particular line of argument being challenged.

The shock of discovering who painted your purchase

I was struck at the Frieze Art Fair that a few of the booths manned by the world's leading galleries (the Gagosian, for example) just had their artworks on show. By this I don't just mean that they didn't have a price visible (though they didn't) they didn't even have a label saying who the work was by. This certainly added a frisson. One had to pronounce to one's companions, and to oneself, on the quality of the painting without being helped in one's admiration, disdain or downright snobbery by knowing who had painted it. I do hope that those galleries continued to have the courage of their convictions when negotiating a sale, and refused to say who the artist was until the cheque was signed.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Telesales & Customer Service Executives - Outbound & Inbound

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Recruitment Genius: National Account Manager / Key Account Sales

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...

Recruitment Genius: Recruitment Consultant

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We have an excellent role for a...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Pakistani volunteers carry a student injured in the shootout at a school under attack by Taliban gunmen, at a local hospital in Peshawar  

The Only Way is Ethics: The paper’s readers and users of our website want different things

Will Gore
 

Labour's Simon Danczuk is flirting with Nigel Farage, but will he answer his prayers and defect?

Matthew Norman
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick