84 Charing Cross Road

10:00 AM

This week I'd like to talk about something much lighter, cuter and lovelier than last week's movie. All of you letter lovers out there, hold onto your seats - it's 84 Charing Cross Road time.

Now seriously, 84 Charing Cross Road is a favorite here in the Culture Enthusiast's household.  It is a movie adaptation of a book by the same name. This book consists mostly of letters, so it's amazing that the movie turned out to be so interesting. 

Helene Hanff, played by Anne Bancroft - one of my favorite actresses, is a freelance writer who loves reading, specially reading classics in beautiful old editions. She's pratically me.

The only differences between us are: a) her effortless vintage style  and b) her typewriter - with it she can be much angrier. As she writes, she sips water with lemon and smokes - and also talks to the camera.

After scavanging all New York's book stores for cheap editions of English books, she finds an ad of Marks and Co. - a British book store who specializes in out of print books. She sends them a letter filled with her humour and personality. When she receives her first order and realizes the books are not only incredibly charming but also, after the currency conversion, very cheap, she begins ordering books non-stop.

This is a great scene: she is late, so she is leaving her house in a hurry, she even politelly dismiss her friend over the phone, but when she sees that her parcel has arrived, she hurries back upstairs to open it. I just love her excitement. I also get this excited when I receive parcels or letters from my penpals. I used to think excitement was seeing that little (1) on my Gmail account. No, mail rush is the real deal.

Then she keeps ordering books and this turns into a friendship. The contrast between the funny Helene Hanff (I have a feeling that Anne Bancroft, being married to Mel Brooks and all, might be a little bit like Helene) and the dry and reserved Frank Doel (Anthony Hopkins) is very interesting.

It makes us wonder: how could these two have become friends? Can this happen between perfect strangers who never met? 

Unlike other movies about relationships (About a boy, I'm looking at you), 84 Charing Cross Road manages to be funny and charming but not cheesy or cliché - for starters there are almost no children involved and also no singing.

Let me just make a brief warning. I said this movie was funny. Lately, whenever I make a joke, my sister just politely laughs. When I ask if that's not funny, she answers: "Well, it's 'Paula' funny."

After showing this picture to my sister, she said: "Yeah, it's classic 'Paula' funny." 

Basically, 84 Charing Cross Road is not only for the letter-writing lover, but for the writing lover, the used-books lover, the English-literature lover, the London lover, and the vintage fashion lover. 

Plus, if you are looking for dynamite book recomendations, you can read anything Helene reads. 

Have you seen this movie or read the book? I've read on Imdb a lot of talk about platonic love - did you feel they were in love with each other?
For another movie on letter-writing you can check The Shop Around the Corner!

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  1. Have you seen this movie = "Oui"!!


    read the book? = "Ja" !!

    Paula, I just LOVE this movie AND book. If there's one thing I love in a book is the way it shows its story. I love "diaries" books, "letters" books, and "letters&notes&newspapers scraps" (Steve Kugler's Last days of summer).
    I like the way Helene Hanff writes the letters, for it's the way I use to write letters (I just love to keep a humorous mood). I saw the movie AFTER being in London, so, sometimes I think it's time to go back again ...
    "Being used to the dead white paper and the stiff cardboardy covers of American books, I never knew a book could be such a joy to the touch." Once, I bought an English Literature book because of the way the cover felt in my hands ... Ok, the book proved to be good, after all. But books ...! What a delight! (There's also the dark side, watching "Fahrenheit 451". Brrr!!!)

  2. You are right, Helene's letters are just so funny and full of emotion!

    I've never bought a book because of the way it feels. Lucky for you, it was a good book, right? However, I have bought books because of their covers. I know... we are not supposed to do that. But sometimes they make for fabulous decoration!

    Have a lovely weekend!

  3. Wow, I really want to read this book/see the movie now! I never head of it before.


  4. Hi, Andrea! I hope you enjoy it, it's adorable. Tell me what you thought of it later! xx

  5. Hey, Paula!

    I share your enthusiasm for this film, being a Britophile and old book lover! It made me laugh a lot -- and also made me reach for the kleenex box repeatedly!

    I just wrote up my own review on it over at my new blog, "Behind the Silver Screen", if you'd like to take a look: http://www.silverscreenspiritual.blogspot.com

    Pearl of Tyburn

  6. Hey! I didn't know you had started a movie blog, I'll definitely check it out!

    84 Charing Cross Road is amazing, I'm glad you reminded me of it, because it has been a while since I last saw it, probably when I was writing this post. I really should re-watch it since my anglomania is stronger than ever this year!


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