The empty chair belongs to Cosmo Landesman, Sunday Times film critic and all-round loon. We were having a low-budget lunch in Soho on Friday when he decided that the fries served with his burger weren't freshly made but had come out of a bag. No, no, insisted the waiter. Yes, yes, said Cosmo. I had a taste, and they seemed fine to me. After more wrangling, Cosmo was invited to visit the kitchen to see for himself. He came back unconvinced, although he did get a free plate of fries for his trouble. Oddly enough, those ones did taste like oven chips.
Afterwards, as I was treating myself to a day-off, I wandered over to the National Portrait Gallery to see the much-lauded David Hockney retrospective. Didn't really enjoy it. First of all, the galleries are far too small to cope with the crush of people. (Art critics, with their glasses of wine and leisurely press views, tend to overlook practicalities like that.) As for the work, I came away with the overwhelming feeling that I'd been subjected to a succession of styles - lots of impeccable craftsmanship, but no soul. Perhaps it's something to do with the fact that so many of Hockney's sitters are self-conscious members of the culturati: looking at them is like listening to the Upper East Side types in a Woody Allen film.
Frustrating, in the end, because whenever I see Hockney being interviewed he seems a genuinely profound and likeable character. I want to the work to move me, but it simply doesn't. (Although I did like the portraits of his parents. My favourite piece of all was the photo-montage of Billy Wilder lighting a cigar.) It was only after I left the gallery that I remembered I'd once spent several weeks staring at Hockney's California landscapes when I worked as a gallery attendant at the Royal Academy in the early 80s. Those didn't do anything for me either. So perhaps it's time to just accept the inevitable.
BTW, Cosmo loves Borat:
At 2am, my wife woke up and said, “Why are you laughing like a madman?"
He doesn't think I'll like it because I can't stand that other British titan, Ricky Gervais. But I intend to follow his recommendation and grab a ticket as soon as possible.