Posted Monday, January 7, 2002

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 That is one of the advantages of the absurd labels with which Mr. Justice Gray qualified (or rather disqualified) my private opinions as an Englishman, in his perverse judgment on the Lipstadt libel case: I am now free to express them.





Monday, January 7, 2002
(London, England)

AT 2:10 p.m. a somewhat distraught Jessica tackles me in the office. Tomorrow she returns to school, and she has discovered that today is her last chance to see the mega-movie Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone at the Odeon at Marble Arch. A check of the newspaper shows that the final showing is indeed at 2:15 p.m. It is 2:30 p.m. as we arrive, breathless, and pack into the half empty theatre.

The film is spectacular, and needs little commentary from me as most people have already had a bellyful over Christmas of the J K Rowling good luck story, her secret marriage, the books she writes, the billions she earns, and all the rest. The film is pure joy: Eton College meets the Wizard of Oz.

BookJessica however has read all four Potter books twice through already and is beginning a third reading. She is a Harry Potter expert.

I have been writing until five a.m. and look forward to putting at least part of the three hours in cinematic darkness to good effect, but the noise of the movie destroys all such dreams: There is spectacular Dolby surround-sound, coming at me from every angle, as the screen fills with ghosts, cats, trolls, bats, and a three-headed slavering giant Rottweiler called Fluffy. I had forgotten moreover how hard it is to stretch my legs in a movie theatre. An Odeon has less leg-room than a long-haul American Airlines flight (though it is somewhat safer).

I keep half an eye on the movie for all the wrong reasons. As a High Court-authenticated and fully-fledged anti-Semite and racist I am alert to all the movie's undertones -- like the beautifully crafted Goblins who are the bank tellers and cashiers in the Gringott's Bank sequence, with their evil, leering faces, shifty eyes, and pointy ears.

What pleases me most surprisingly, being of vintage 1938, is the moment when Harry dashes magically through the King's Cross Station brick pillar which is the entrance to "Platform Nine and Three-quarters" and finds himself on a secret railroad platform boarding a train hauled by a genuine old 4-6-2 English steam locomotive; it took me straight back to being a four-year old at Mrs. Hall's kindergarten in Shenfield, clinging to the playground railings each lunch hour and marveling as the Gazelle, or Springbok, or Flying Scotsman thundered past.

Most pleasing of all, at least to my ear, are the 100 percent pure southern English accents of the schoolchildren in the movie.

Every British television and radio channel now feels obliged to dumb-down and use provincial, preferably Midlands or even Newcastle accents for its announcers. But in the entire Harry Potter movie it is all pure English elocution, and there is not an American accent to be heard.

Has Hollywood at last tired of using English actors only to portray the Klaus von Bülows, the cunning villains, and the Nazi mass-murderers? I hear from one of Jessica's friends, who goes there, that many of Harry's fellow pupils in the film were recruited, like Harry himself, from Sussex House school in Sloane Street, just round the corner from Harrod's, and the shameless sloaniness of their English voices is a delight for unabashed court-certified racists like myself to hear (even if the script does have Harry say at one time that Hermione "has gone to the bathroom" where any real English boy would have said "lavatory").

Talking of which, however, it is laughable to observe how this movie's producers belatedly realized that they ought to plant a few token Black faces among his fellow-pupils, just like the obligatory Blacks who now people southern English television screens: certain scenes have obviously been shot or reshot and pasted into the movie at a relatively late date, as the boys and girls are entirely White throughout the rest of the movie.

Indeed, as something of an expert on such tampering, I readily detect that in one of the closing sequences a Black girl's face has been grafted digitally into one crowd-enthusiasm scene, using the same techniques that put Tom Hanks as Forrest Gump into the 1960s presidential photo-call (and for all we know the Rev. Osama bin Laden into those recent videos).

When, I wonder, as Jessica clutches my hand and steers me back out into the Hell that is sales-time Oxford Street, will producers be able to make films freely again, without this kind of "positive discrimination" Diktat from political-correctness advisers?

That is one of the advantages of the absurd labels with which Mr. Justice Gray qualified (or rather disqualified) my private opinions as an Englishman, in his perverse judgment on the Lipstadt libel case: I am now free to express them, where others who feel the same way aren't; and express them I do.

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