Every now and again the beetle of popular culture scuttles underneath my protective eiderdown and bites me on the big toe. Something in a national newspapers catches my eye and won’t let go. It rings a bell, tugs a lead, pushes a button and tweaks an earlobe. ‘What ho!’ it cries, ‘Look at me! Give me attention! Over here!’ (or words to that effect).
In light of this, I am at present unable to deny knowledge of a certain film awards ceremony which took place a day or so ago, during the course of which crudely carved golden statuettes were passed from one set of hands to another, as part of a bizarre annual ritual which may or not have something to do with Oscar Wilde (not, I think). One of these statuettes, I have reason to believe, was given to an actor going by the name of Sean Penn, on the basis that his performance in a film called Milk was, to all intents and purposes, superior to the performances of other man appearing in various other films. It’s complicated – and I don’t have time to go into it. In any case, this Penn fellow doesn’t interest me in the slightest. No, the thing that caught my eye was the title of the film. Milk.
On further investigation, it turns out that the bell this film-title rang was most certainly not the bell it was hoping (or I was hoping it) to ring. Which is to say that the ‘milk’ to which this film refers is a person and not the celebrated life-enhancing liquid we all know and most of us treasure. More importantly, the film does not have any relation whatsoever to Milk! – the title of an unfinished opera by Keng and Brodsky, the ‘inimitable heroes of the 1960’s Russian light opera scene’. I know, I know: it is a tragedy of woolly mammoth-like proportions. Milk is not Milk! The great Keng and Brodsky (R.I.P) have not arrived in Hollywood. It is sad but it is true.
Still, who’s to say that, a few years down the line, Milk! may not follow in the wake of Milk? Two very different ‘milks’, to be sure – though I struggle to see why the latter should have been made at the expense of the former. The plot of Milk!, after all, is charmingly simple. In the words of Keng and Brodsky fanatic, J-P Sertin: ‘the story is about a man who has no milk, and strives to get some’. And it ends with what, all things considered, promises to be a fine cinematic climax: a monsoon of milk, battering down upon the hitherto hapless hero. Milk, milk everywhere – and all of it quite drinkable. A great closing scene, no?
Of course, we do have to contend with the fact that Milk! was left unfinished. But then, if Adrian der Linger’s word is anything to go by, J-P Sertin has been trying to right that wrong for some while now – although it looks as though he continues to see it as a theatrical, rather than a cinematic venture. A pity, for I could still see it as a film – indeed, I thought I had, only to see that I hadn’t, as indeed I haven’t, at least not outside of the cold dark cinema of my inner mind (the place where popcorn fears to tread).
More on Milk! here (about seven paragraphs in, for those who cannot stomach slow openings). More on plain old Milk elsewhere.